Mindanao Times » H. Carlos C. Mordeno http://mindanaotimes.net Wed, 19 Sep 2018 01:50:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.25 Mindanao 2015: A violent year for Lumads First of two parts http://mindanaotimes.net/mindanao-2015-a-violent-year-for-lumads-first-of-two-parts/ http://mindanaotimes.net/mindanao-2015-a-violent-year-for-lumads-first-of-two-parts/#comments Sat, 02 Jan 2016 04:45:10 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=21803 ]]> On Sept. 1, in Sitio Han-ayan, Brgy. Diatagon in Lianga town in Surigao del Sur, members of the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani allegedly killed three Lumad (indigenous peoples) leaders: Emerito Samarca, executive director of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev); Dionel Campos, chair of Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu); and Mapasu member Datu Juvello Sinzo.

The incident, which forced some 3,000 residents of Han-ayan and neighboring villages to flee to the sports complex in Tandag City, the provincial capital, caught the attention of media as well as the Senate committees on justice and human rights, and cultural communities, which held a public hearing on the killings in Tandag on Oct. 1-2.

But the killings of their leaders were just among the problems the Lumads had to face; they also had to contend with other attacks such as the closure, burning and occupation of their schools allegedly by soldiers and fellow Lumads who have joined paramilitary groups.

Moreover, a fact-finding mission conducted weeks after the Han-ayan killings concluded that an economic motive lies behind the attacks against Lumad communities — the entry of mining companies in ancestral domains.

Lumad schools under attack

Statements coming from the military accused Lumad schools, including Alcadev, as fronts of the New People’s Army. Reports said that in some areas the military has converted schools for Lumads into camps forcing the teachers and students to abandon them. In some instances, schools were destroyed, burned and ransacked.

In a statement issued on Nov. 14, Rius Valle, spokesperson of Save Our Schools Network said their group documented 95 cases of attacks on schools reportedly by soldiers and paramilitary men all over Mindanao since September 2014.

Rius cited efforts by government to “militarize” education [in Lumad areas]. He said in Northern Mindanao, the 4th Infantry Division “tapped about 125 Lumad soldiers for an education program which will be provided by the Department of Education. By the end of the year, they are scheduled to be deployed in 35 pilot villages where they are said to organize their respective Alternative Learning System units”.

He added that Dr. Josephine Fadul, Davao del Norte Schools Division Superintendent, requested the closure of three Lumad schools in the province before the opening of school year 2015-2016, and the construction of a new public school with soldiers as para-teachers.

Reports quoted Fadul as saying she based her request on the failure of the three schools to renew their permits to operate for the current school year and to obtain clearance from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. She also clarified that tapping soldiers as para-teachers was just one of the options and not final.

But Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan, in a statement dated 29 May 2015 said the Department of Education should not allow itself to be used in the Armed Forces’ counterinsurgency campaign.

“If Dr. Fadul does not see the value of these tribal schools and if she is proving to be a hindrance to the development and learning of the lumad children then the DepEd is no place for her. She should explain,” Ilagan said.

Another school for Lumad children was closed on Oct. 23 in Barangay White Kulaman in Kitaotao, Bukidnon.

SOS Network in Southern Mindanao said village officials forcibly closed and destroyed the gate of the school named after slain Italian missionary Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, an anti-mining advocate, in the company of soldiers in civilian clothes.

In a press release on the same day, the 403rd Infantry Brigade in Malaybalay City said “no soldiers were involved in the closure” of the Fr. FaustoTentorio Memorial School run by the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI). The military said it was the barangay council led by barangay chair Felipe Cabugnason that closed the school for “lack of legal documents such as permit to operate, and as threat to the safety of the people living in their barangay.”

The closure of the school named after Fr. Tentorio was not to be the last attack on schools for Lumad in Mindanao. On Nov. 12, a teachers’ cottage of the Alcadev school in Barangay Pad-ay in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur was burned. SOS Network blamed the military for the incident, an allegation denied by the Eastern Mindanao Command which said in a Nov. 13 statement that the perpetrators disguised themselves as soldiers of the 23rd Infantry Battalion.

Karapatan-Caraga said Alcadev temporarily closed its school in Sibagat after the killing of Samarca and his companions and after its teachers and students were warned they would be massacred.

Barely two weeks after, another Lumad school in Barangay Mangayon in Compostela town, Compostela Valley was turned into a camp for a platoon of soldiers.

Blood for minerals?

Aside from Han-ayan residents, the evacuees who fled to Tandag on Sept. 1 after the killing of Samarca, Campos and Sinzo included people from 26 other villages in the towns of Lianga, San Agustin, San Miguel, Marihatag and Tago. A month after, around 1,000 Lumads from Barangay Mahaba in Marihatag town also evacuated due to a military operation that involved paramilitary elements.

The five towns, along with Cagwait, form the Andap Valley Complex, the site of several clashes between government forces and the NPA since the Martial Law years that have caused evacuations and human rights abuses blamed on security forces.

A report on the results of an international fact-finding mission conducted on Oct. 26-30 linked counterinsurgency in Surigao del Sur to the entry of mining interests in the province. It said the central motive behind the Lumad killings and military operations is “the rich mineral resources in the Andap Valley Complex around which these communities and municipalities are clustered”.

The report said mining companies have put in place their mining machinery and security outposts “while the communities are in forcible evacuation”.

It added the communities and their organizations have resisted “destructive mining of their ancestral lands,” and the coal-rich Andap Valley Complex “is declared by these and other environment and indigenous peoples’ organizations as Ancestral Land At Risk of Mining site (ALARM site) since 2009 that must be protected to preserve the Manobo communities that thrive within the valley”.

According to http://www.doe.gov.ph/PECR5/index.php/area-1-surigao-del-sur (accessed on Nov. 13), the operating permits granted to mining firms cover areas within Andap Valley Complex, the towns of Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen and Lanuza and Tandag City, as well as Sibagat, Bunawan and Trento towns in neighboring Agusan del Sur.

Some leaders of Lumad paramilitary groups have also ventured into mining. For instance, Calpit Egua, who is based in Sta. Irene, Prosperidad town in Agusan del Sur, runs a small-scale gold mining operation in parts of San Miguel. The mission report said Egua has been accused of forcing local communities to recognize his claims on farmlands and gold mine areas. A military report on the Sept. 1 killings in Han-ayan admitted that Calpit leads an armed group that operates in San Miguel.

A MindaNews report (Oct. 9) quoted Jomar Bocales, a member of the paramilitary group that allegedly killed Samarca and company, as having said Calpit also runs a gold mine site in the boundary of Barangay La Purisima in Prosperidad and Barangay San Juan in Bayugan town, Agusan del Sur.

Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Civil Relations Service, said during the Senate hearing that the NPA had allowed the datus (tribal chieftains) to negotiate with logging and mining companies on the “sharing between how much money they get from these companies”. But sometime in 2004 and 2005, the NPA decided it should be the one to negotiate with the companies, an arrangement that the datus “resented”.

Ola Almgren, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Manila, likewise cited the link between the exploitation of natural resources and the human rights violations against the Lumads.

Almgren, speaking at the Progressive Ideas and Perspectives Learning Series session on Dec. 8 in Malacanang, said pressures exerted by mining and logging interests have threatened the survival of the Lumads “given the inextricable ties between their life and their land”. He shared the mission’s view that such pressures have resulted in serious abuses “including threats, displacement and loss of life”. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)

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SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS| Six-million dollar questions on the Mamasapano tragedy http://mindanaotimes.net/someone-elses-windows-six-million-dollar-questions-on-the-mamasapano-tragedy/ http://mindanaotimes.net/someone-elses-windows-six-million-dollar-questions-on-the-mamasapano-tragedy/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 02:16:22 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=3875 ]]> MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews) – Social media has been awash with commentaries on the clash on Sunday (January 25) between members of the Special Action Force, an elite police unit, and armed groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Perhaps it would be more accurate to use the word “clashes”, as it appears from news reports that the policemen first engaged the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and later the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In what’s obviously a lopsided battle, the SAF lost some 50 of its men in one of the worst reversals of the country’s security sector. The last time government forces sustained a high number of casualties in a single day was sometime in 1992, when around 40 Army soldiers were killed in an ambush by New People’s Army rebels in Surigao del Sur.

(Im)balance of forces

The SAF members went to Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano to get – most likely dead or alive –Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan of the Jemaah Islamiyah and Filipino Basit Usman of the Abu Sayyaf. Marwan carries a $5-million bounty on his head and Usman a million dollar prize.

Military sources claimed that the BIFF is coddling Marwan, who is said to be an explosives expert, and Usman. The BIFF broke away from the MILF a few years back owing to disagreements on the conduct of peace talks with the Philippine government. Its followers comprise one of two MILF units that staged attacks after the Supreme Court struck down the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain as unconstitutional.

It’s not clear how many policemen carried out the operation to get Marwan and Usman. Reports on the number of casualties varied, with the number ranging from 44 (the figure given by PNP) to 50. Twelve operatives were wounded, the PNP added. The MILF on the other hand said 64 policemen belonging to two unnamed units died.

Based on these figures it is likely that around 100 SAF members joined the operation. With their training, they are suited for the job. Their commander however possibly overlooked at least three things: (1) they were entering an area, most likely a camp, where enemy forces are concentrated and hence, the high possibility of being outnumbered and outgunned; (2) they would be handicapped by their relative unfamiliarity with the terrain; and (3) their presence in large number could be easily detected, if not by the rebels themselves, then by their civilian supporters.

The disparity in the number of casualties – 44 policemen (PNP figure) and eight rebels – suggests that at least two of these factors were present. Assuming that both sides had the same number of fighters the rebels still enjoyed an edge with their superior knowledge of the terrain. And if the policemen’s presence had been tipped off to the rebels, they (policemen) had clearly lost the element of surprise and were instead placed at its receiving end.

Blurred details

One of the things that have remained unclear is this: Against which group did the SAF sustain a bigger number of casualties? How many policemen died in the encounter with the BIFF, and how many were killed in the subsequent clash with the MILF?

Authorities implied that the encounter with the MILF occurred when the police operatives unintentionally entered their territory. As MindaNews (January 26) reported: “Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas said the SAF operatives were going to serve warrants of arrest against the targets who were reportedly in the area of the BIFF but because of the maneuverings, apparently got inside an area of the MILF where a misencounter occurred.”

Roxas’ statement carries a host of meanings. What exactly did he mean by “maneuverings” in the BIFF area that led the policemen into an MILF lair? If the government forces already had in sight the BIFF camp, they could not have strayed into an MILF area except if Roxas used the word “maneuverings” as a clever substitute for withdrawal after being outfought by the breakaway group. The same statement implied almost total ignorance of the area on the part of the policemen.

Another possible operational lapse has emerged too: There seems to be no extraction point, a must in all commando-type operations, which may explain why many policemen were killed as they tried to get out of hostile territory. It would help to know if the surviving policemen were rescued within a contiguous area or in different spots that are quite far from each other. If there was an extraction point, intervening events could have prevented the remnants of the SAF from reaching there. For instance, confusion and demoralization might have set in after some of the commissioned officers died.

Who ordered the operation?

Had the operatives succeeded in getting their targets, or had the number of government casualties were not this high, nobody would have cared. But several policemen died, and it remains unsure if their targets, Marwan in particular, died during the clash. As such, authorities are now obliged to explain the whole thing. Secretary Roxas and PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina told media they had no knowledge about it and that it would be tackled by the board of inquiry.

The denials by both top officials raise an interesting, if intriguing, question: Who was behind the operation? It is doubtful that Director Getulio Pascua Napeñas, the head of the SAF who was relieved following the Mamasapano clash, acted on his own since the deployment of a large number of personnel from their headquarters to a province down south could not have happened unnoticed by higher officials.

If Napeñas did act on his own as SAF chief, what motivated him to do so? Without naming names, Roxas said he was not discounting the possibility that the bounty for the targets served as incentive for the operation.

Now here’s the initial scenario: Roxas and Espina knew nothing about the operation. As SAF chief, the operatives who went to Mamasapano naturally took orders from Napeñas. The final piece of the jigsaw is to know who ordered – or maybe coaxed – Napeñas into sending those young men to their death. Is our mystery guy a government official or an outsider?

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SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS| PNoy’s wild card? http://mindanaotimes.net/someone-elses-windows-pnoys-wild-card/ http://mindanaotimes.net/someone-elses-windows-pnoys-wild-card/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 05:22:57 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=2094 ]]> MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews) – It looks odd that despite the string of accusations of graft hurled against Vice President Jejomar Binay he has remained in the Cabinet as housing chief. Recently, President Benigno S. Aquino III even gave him a prominent role in the rehabilitation work for areas hit by super typhoon Yolanda. “Daang matuwid” has never been this straight.

And here’s more: During the Asia Pacific Economic Conference meeting in Beijing this month Aquino told reporters he would prefer that the Senate stop its investigation of the charges against Binay so it could focus more on its legislative work.

Of course, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano and company ignored Aquino’s message. The principle of separation of powers has nothing to do with it. They (Cayetano and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and their sponsors) want the charges against Binay tackled before the blue ribbon sub-committee over an indefinite period for them to remain in the glare of public attention in the run-up to the 2016 elections.

Yet, even if Cayetano and company have insisted on continuing the probe into Binay’s alleged penchant for overpricing government projects they could not play down the implications of Aquino’s statement. Like the wintry winds from the north in this time of the year, the President’s words from Beijing must have sent a chill to Cayetano and other Malacañang hopefuls.

They have reason to be wary of Aquino’s game plan. At this stage where the outcomes of the Senate probe on Binay are yet to unfold the President apparently sees it fit to keep his cards close to his chest. Secretary Mar Roxas’ drumbeaters are eagerly propping him up as the Liberal Party’s contender in 2016, but Aquino chooses to sit back and wait how things will play out. Strangely enough, he remains non-committal to Roxas but seemingly soft on Binay if his message from Beijing were an indication.

I have misgivings too about how the Senate probe has become a circus and would rather see the vice president hailed to court to resolve the issues with finality. But I doubt if Aquino has the same intent – to see Binay face the Sandiganbayan. It sounds more like he wants Binay to think that the Palace is not privy to the campaign against him just in case the next survey still shows the vice president ahead of the race.

And now Roxas’ camp is floating the name of Senator Grace Poe as the secretary’s running mate in 2016. Poe told media no formal offer has been made for a Mar-Poe team-up. It means Roxas’ allies simply want to know if the proposed tandem could improve his chances at the polls. In 2010, Aquino’s popularity failed to work wonders for Roxas, who lost to Binay. But maybe a Mar-Poe formula would work to his advantage this time? Let’s see.

Meanwhile, Aquino is yet to lay down his cards.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at hmcmordeno@gmail.com.)

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SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Investigations as distractions http://mindanaotimes.net/someone-elses-windows-investigations-as-distractions/ http://mindanaotimes.net/someone-elses-windows-investigations-as-distractions/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 05:46:02 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=996 ]]> MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews) – It should be clear by now that the Senate investigation into the accusations against Vice President Jejomar Binay and his family members are not really “in aid of legislation”. Yes, it’s good that alleged wrongdoings by high officials are brought out and subjected to scrutiny so that the people may get an idea of the character of their leaders. Something has gone wrong however as the investigation progressed and held the public in a trance.

No, it’s not that a contender for the 2016 elections is obviously staging the Senate show in the hope of demolishing Binay and boosting his own stock. That hasn’t happened though, and so the show must go on and on and on until they find something that will deal the vice president a crushing blow.

What has happened instead is that the public has lost sight of the bigger picture. All eyes are now fixed on Binay, no one is minding anymore the other issues surrounding the use of public funds. Like horses with blinders on the both sides of their heads, the people are only seeing part of President Aquino’s bumpy “daang matuwid”. Unfortunately, no one notices the bumps.

Thanks to the blinders – aided in large part by partisan media – nobody seems to mind that PNoy’s journey to good governance has taken tricky detours. For while our eyes were fixed on blabbermouths named Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes – who are as eager as Binay for the presidency – the President’s allies in Congress effectively rendered useless the Supreme Court decision that declared the pork barrel system unconstitutional. It was a move that strengthened what others would call Aquino’s fiscal dictatorship.

Here are the lump sum figures in the 2015 national budget over which the Executive has complete control: P378.6 million in Special Purpose Funds, P123 billion in Unprogrammed Funds, P118 billion in Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund, and P20.9 billion in Grassroots Participatory Budgeting to be channeled to the Department of Interior and Local Government of Secretary Mar Roxas, who is aching to get back at Binay come 2016. Worse, Congress has changed the definition of “savings” to allow Aquino to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program.

Aquino conveniently forgets that pork barrel – whether lodged in Congress or in the Executive – remains the biggest source of corruption. Furthermore, it reinforces the shady tradition of patronage politics, and weakens the system of checks and balance among the branches of government. Congress will always kowtow to PNoy’s wishes because he has usurped its power of the purse. But that’s no big deal for pork-hungry lawmakers who depend on it for their political survival.

Surely, the amount that will be lost to kickbacks and commissions from the president’s pork barrel will be many times greater than the reported overprice of a government building in Makati. So, where are our anti-graft advocates? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at hmcmordeno@gmail.com.)

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