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Radyo Mindanao (January 16, 2019)

Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper (Jan. 21-27, 2019)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Bangsamoro plebiscite 'peaceful' despite grenade attacks, harassment of voters

COTABATO CITY – Grenade attacks, harassment and intimidation marred Monday Bangsamoro plebiscite in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines.

A grenade exploded outside the house of a judge in Cotabato City in Maguindanao province, and another was lobbed, but did not go off on the roof.

Reports said the judge was allegedly a known critic of the Bangsamoro Organic Law or BOL, but police said the attack which occurred ahead of the referendum may also be connected to his work.
And a third grenade in front of a polling precinct was also detonated by soldiers in Cotabato, whose mayor, Cynthia Sayadi, led residents in opposing the city’s inclusion to the proposed Bangsamoro region which would be run by the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF if the new organic law is ratified.


No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attacks, but authorities are holding a member of the MILF Mohalidin Usman after he was linked to the deadly New Year’s Eve bombing outside the South Seas Mall in Cotabato.
He was arrested inside the compound Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao during President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit in Cotabato City on January 18. The 25-year old man, according to authorities, is a member of the pro-ISIS group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which broke away with the MILF. Usman’s family denied all the accusations against the suspected bomber.

Several men, believed to be illegal or so-called “flying” voters, were also mauled outside a polling area in Cotabato after being caught by vigilant residents trying to cast their votes. At least 5 dozen teachers also did not report for election duty after receiving cell phone messages threatening them with harm should they go to work.

Murad Ebrahim

Murad Ebrahim, the MILF chieftain, cast his vote at the Simuay Junction Central Elementary School in Darapanan in Maguindanao’s Sultan Kudarat town, a stronghold of the rebel group. Supporters took turns in shaking his hands as they greeted him, who arrived with a group of bodyguards.

The 71-year old rebel leader said it was his first time to vote and that he was happy and enthusiastic. “As a revolutionary, we are prepared for whatever scenario, as long as the democratic processes is conducted in good manner, without intimidation, without cheating, we are determine to accept whatever is the result (of the plebiscite).”

“Now if when and if BOL will not be ratified, then we will continue to struggle until the (peace) agreement is implemented. It is the duty of the government to implement the agreement. We are only a partner, but the main responsibility is with the government, they have to implement the agreement,” Ebrahim said.

NO TO BOL

Cotabato City, along with Isabela City in Basilan province; and Sulu and North Cotabato provinces strongly opposed to be part of the new Bangsamoro region.

In Isabela City, a pregnant woman sought police help after a man grabbed her ballot and tore it to pieces inside a polling precinct. She said the man was angered by her rejection of the BOL. The still unidentified man escaped after the incident.

Referendum in Sulu’s 19 municipalities were peaceful, according to authorities, saying, there were no untoward incidents.

Sulu Governor Toto filed a petition with the Supreme Court questioning the legality and constitutionality of the organic law. And the Philippine Constitution Association or PHILCONSA filed also filed a separate petition with the Supreme Court to declare the organic law as unconstitutional, null and void.

Both petitions questioned the creation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region or BAR to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.

Constitutional framers argued the 1987 Constitution only recognizes one autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao. The creation of a Bangsamoro political entity is contrary to the Constitution which created only provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays, and autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras, according to PHILCONSA.

“When R.A. 11054 abolished the ARMM and created the BARMM, a new and distinct territorial and political subdivision in lieu thereof, without first amending the Constitution, respondent’s legislative and executive departments violated and/or amended Sec. 1, Art. X of the Constitution, without jurisdiction or authority, with grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack of and/or in excess of jurisdictions.”

“The legislative and the executive departments, creations of the Constitution, must observe and stand beside the Constitution and not act above, defy or supplant it,” PHILCONSA said.

Peaceful, Respect Outcome

Rey Sumalipao, election regional director, said the conduct of the plebiscite is peaceful. “The plebiscite is peaceful, it is really peaceful,” he said.

Salvador Panelo, the Presidential spokesman, said Duterte would respect whatever the result of the plebiscite will be. “The President would respect whatever decision the public makes during the plebiscite and comply with the sovereign voice of the people in Mindanao.”

“We are hopeful that the BOL, which would pave the way for a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, would be ratified. The President has already urged the voters to vote yes for peace and development in Mindanao,” he said.

The Commission on Elections said the total number of registered voters in the ARMM plebiscite is 1,980,441 and 71,124 in Isabela City, and 113,751 in Cotabato City. Another referendum is set on February 6 for Lanao del Sur with 352,494 registered voters and North Cotabato with 286,867 voters.

Plebiscite updates were not available on the website of the poll body. The website https://www.comelec.gov.ph/ cannot be accessed as of press time. It was unclear if it was hacked or not, but it showed a notice, saying, “Web server is down.”

MILF 

The plebiscite is a result of the March 2014 interim peace deal between the MILF and Manila. The rebel group vowed to surrender a third of its huge weapons stockpiles if the organic law is ratified.

Rebel forces have tripled if not doubled due to its massive recruitment in the South taking advantage of the peace talks with the Filipino government at the time of then President Benigno Aquino and now President Rodrigo Duterte.

It now boasts of heavy armaments, including anti-aircraft machine guns, B40 anti-tank rockets, mortars and assorted high-powered rifles, and an army of civilian supporters, many of them counting on the prospects of better life with the new Bangsamoro region under the MILF rule.

For his part, Ebrahim said the decommissioning of weapons is part of the accord and vowed to implement it. “The decommissioning process is part of the agreement and as part of agreement, we are bound to implement our side. And we assure the people and the government that once the process will be implemented as a condition for the decommissioning then we will immediately undergo decommissioning (process). Our fighters are already well aware of this and they have expressed their full support for the decommissioning process,” he said.

MNLF

Ebrahim’s group originally was part of the Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari, but broke away in the late 1970s, and fought the democratic government for the establishment of a separate Muslim homeland.

Misuari eventually signed a peace agreement with Manila in September 1996 and after the accord agreement was signed, he became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region. But despite the peace accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.

Under the peace agreement, Manila would have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the south and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.

In 2001, Misuari’s loyal forces and former rebels who joined the Philippine Army following the September 1996 peace accord, attacked a key military base in Jolo town and civilian targets in Zamboanga City in an effort to stop the government from calling an election in the ARMM.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and was eventually pardoned and released by then President Gloria Arroyo in exchange for MNLF support to her election bid as well as her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004. He also ran thrice for governor in Sulu even while under detention, but lost miserably.

Now, when Duterte became president, he ordered police and military not to arrest Misuari – his friend and political ally – saying he would talk peace with the MNLF, and even invited the former Libyan firebrand in the Presidential Palace to talk about peace. (Mindanao Examiner)


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Ama at anak, pinatay sa Maguindanao

KIDAPAWAN CITY - Patay ang isang ama at kanyang menor-de-edad na anak na lalaki matapos silang ratratin ng mga di-kilalang armado sa bayan ng Mamasapano sa magulong lalawigan ng Maguindanao.

Ayon sa pulisya, naganap ang atake nitong Sabado sa Barangay Dabenayan. Nakilala ang mga mga nasawi na sina Alimudin Bansuan, 41; at Gaga, 11, na kapwa nakatira sa Barangay Rosary Heights 3 sa Cotabato City. Galing umano ang mga biktima sa Barangay Libutan ng naturang bayan.

Pauwi na ang mag-ama lulan sa isang puting kotse) alas-10:15 ng umaga ng tambangan ng mga armadong naka-sakay sa motorsiklo. Sinabi naman ng pamilya ng mga biktima na wala umanong kalaban si Alimudin o banta sa kanyang buhay.

Nitong Biyernes lamang at napatay rin sa ambush sa Barangay Macaguiling sa bayan ng Sultan Kudarat ang dalawang kalalakihan na sina Dungag Macabangon at Bryan, kapwa mga residente ng Town Site sa bayan ng Parang sa Maguindanao rin. Nakaligtas naman ang isa pang kasama nila na patuloy na nilalapatan ng lunas sa bahay pagamutan na pag-aari ng pamahalaan.

Ang dalawang magkahiwalay na ambush ay nangyari sa kabila ng may mga naikalat na mga pulis at sundalo para sa gagawing plebesito ngayong araw hinggil sa Bangsamoro Organic Law. (Rhoderick Beñez)

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Man brutally murdered after arrest of Sayyaf in Jolo

PAGADIAN CITY – A man was brutally murdered in the southern Filipino town of Jolo hours after police arrested a suspected Abu Sayyaf militant from his home.

Police were investigating whether the killing was connected to the Thursday capture of the pro-ISIS militant allegedly involved in a string of ransom kidnappings in the restive region.

It was not immediately known whether the militant was also involved in kidnappings in nearby Sabah in Malaysia. The identity of the murdered man and the name of the militant were not made public by the police because of the ongoing investigation.

Police also seized a rifle and a pistol, including 2 hand grenades and methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu from the house of Hayudini in the village called Kajadtian. (Mindanao Examiner)


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Heavy rains did not stop Cebu Sinulog fest, devotees join parade

CEBU – Heavy rains on Sunday did not stop Catholic devotees from participating in one of the Philippines’ grandest religious festivals in Cebu – the Sinulog.

Over 2 million people from various parts of the country and even from abroad, joined the Sinulog parade in Cebu City.

Colored floats and different costumes by contingents many of them carrying the infant Jesus, snaked throughout the city’s roads and chanting “Viva Santo Niño” while security forces enforced tight measures around Cebu.

Image may contain: one or more people and crowd Re-electionist Senator JV Ejercito. 

Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, who is seeking re-election, also congratulated Cebu officials for the rousing success of annual festival which showcased the talent of the Cebuanos’ interpreted in various activities and programs that entertained the spectators.

Ejercito said he admires the Cebuanos for preserving and promoting the Filipino rich tradition and culture through the Sinulog Festival using modern style of performances and displays without losing its religious roots and content, which is a deep expression of honor, faith, and complete devotion to the Beloved Santo Niño.

“We Filipinos should be thankful to the local officials of Cebu and their partners in the private sector and all the Cebuanos for giving us a very lively, joyful, and memorable Sinulog Festival every year and I hope this will inspire us to contribute our share, whether individually or collectively, in promoting and preserving our rich heritage amid rapid social transformation and modernization,” he said.

Cebuanos, just like those in Mindanao and Luzon, are strong supporters of Ejercito, who is included in the top 12 of the recent SWS senatorial survey.

For over three decades now, the Sinulog Festival, a traditional celebration in Cebu City held every third Sunday of January, is to honor the Santo Niño which many devotees believe performs miracle. (Cebu Examiner)


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HOT OFF THE PRESS: The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper Jan. 21-27, 2019



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OPINION: Dirty tricks on Cusi, et al. won’t wash by Jun Ledesma

NOT TOO long ago a wrote a piece about the headline of a  Manila-based tabloid  “Abante” and its website which facetiously assailed the integrity of Energy Sec. Al Cusi, PNOC Pres. Reuben Lista and TRANSCO Pres. Melvin Matibag. I was initially curious about the issues they raised against Matibag which to me are patently incredulous. The author of the headline story alleged that the Transco President was asking for millions of pesos from electric firms in Mindanao to be connected to the Transco grid in Visayas. In the same story the writer claimed that Matibag was demanding for a share in the payment of right of ways  from property owners where the Transco transmission cables and towers were erected.

I was quite amused with how the story ran. I recalled that just about that time I warned about the creeping destabilization moves and oust-Duterte  plot from political, religious, media and ideological forces that had connived  to discredit the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte. The story that was headlined by Abante was however ridiculous and flippant in that there was not even an inch of a power cable that would connect Visayas and Mindanao and the National Transmission Corporation (Transco) power pylons and cables had been  there for years before the new appointees of Duterte assumed. Right there and then i knew there’s a wrecking crew parading as investigative journalists that is on the job for some party of interest.

Some oligarch are hanging on to the thin thread of whatever bit of power-influence remains  when the corrupt Aquino administration exited.  They were testing the waters under the Duterte regime.

I didn’t know that the Philippine National Oil Company, its President, former Admiral Reuben Lista, was also an object of the same character assassination by the same publication and writers. As we all know, PNOC is also under Cusi’s Department of Energy. The pattern of the insidious attacks on the integrity of the officials of the  agencies under DOE and Cusi himself had become obviously a crass demolition job  although the architect of the nasty attack remains incognito. We could however surmise that only those with rabid interest on the assets of PNOC and other agencies under DOE must be behind the vicious and libelous news.

Cusi, Matibag and Lista have become victims of fake news both in print and social media where they were crucified as if they had committed graft and are facing charges in the Ombudsman.  Because they do not have friendly access to the mainstream media they did a last recourse: asked the National Bureau of Investigation to probe into the concocted charges against them. What I learned of late is that the NBI found no single complaint, administrative or criminal, filed against the three in the Ombudsman or the Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations. In short the attacks on the integrity of Cusi, Matibag and Lista were just to damage their reputation as public officials. Any which way you look at the news story there is no mistaking it partakes of a veritable cyber-crime and libel.

The era of character assassination often funded by the influential and the famous to exact fear on government officials and cow them to grant their demands in varied  forms of contracts  had ended with the start of the Duterte administration. Just do it in a conduct which is right, legally defensible and make sure your company and the people representing your firm have legitimate credentials.  Remember Manny Pangilinanan demanding for a refund of P3-billion  from the government in exchange for  the return of Cure frequency to NTC?

Duterte in a side remarks during his speech at NEDA anniversary said that he will release the BIR revenue investigators to conduct a probe on PLDT/Smart  empire. In less than 24 hours Pangilinan  meekly complied. In the case of Lucio Tan, he dutifully paid his tax liability and he got a pat in the back. Duterte went on to praise him for making Philippine Airlines worthy of carrying the Philippine flag.  Of course we all know what happened to  the mighty owner of Mighty Cigarrettes.  What am saying as a piece of advice to businesses men who wants to pull a fast one: Do not stretch your luck too far. (Jun Ledesma)

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Anti-BOL, Pro-MILF to vote in Bangsamoro plebiscite

COTABATO CITY – With the Bangsamoro plebiscite set on Monday, Muslims in Sulu province and Isabela City in Basilan, and Cotabato City in Maguindanao, vowed to reject the organic law which the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF is strongly pushing.

The MILF, which signed an interim peace deal with Manila in 2014, is expected to rule the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region should Muslims voted in favor of the Bangsamoro Organic Law or BOL (Republic Act 11054) which shall replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM.

  Anti-BOL advocates in Isabela City in Basilan province. (Photos courtesy of Akbar Mutamad Jann)

ARMM is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces. A second referendum has been set on February 6 with several towns in North Cotabato with some 286,867 voters and 352,494 voters in Lanao del Norte, are included in the proposed Bangsamoro region. For January 21 plebiscite , the total voters in ARMM is 1,980,441 and 71,124 in Isabela City and 113,751 in Cotabato City, according to the Commission on Elections.

Majority of Sulu’s over 830,000 Tausug population led by their political leaders Governor Toto Tan and his father, Dr. Sakur Tan wanted out of the autonomous region and wanted to be part again of Zamboanga Peninsula or Region 9.

Sulu along with Basilan and Tawi-Tawi were all originally part of Region 9 following the signing of the 1986 peace agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari and the Ramos administration. After the accord, a referendum was held following the 1989 signing by President Corazon Aquino of the Republic Act 6734, and amended in 2001 which paved the way for another plebiscite which included Basilan and Marawi City.

Nur Misuari and MNLF

Misuari is also opposed to the BOL and the government’s peace talks with the MILF even in the beginning because he wanted to perpetually be the governor of the ARMM.

After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region. But despite the peace accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.

Under the peace deal, Manila would have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the south and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.

In 2001, Misuari’s loyal forces and former rebels who joined the Philippine Army following the September 1996 peace accord, attacked a key military base in Jolo town and civilian targets in Zamboanga City in an effort to stop the government from calling an election in the ARMM.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and was eventually pardoned and released by then President Gloria Arroyo in exchange for MNLF support to her election bid as well as her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004. He also ran thrice for governor in Sulu even while under detention, but lost miserably.

Now, when Duterte became president, he ordered police and military not to arrest Misuari - his political ally – saying he would talk peace with the MNLF, and even invited the former Libyan firebrand in the Presidential Palace to talk on the podium about peace.

Revolutionary Government

Last year, the governor of Sulu filed a petition with the Supreme Court questioning the legality and constitutionality of the BOL. The Philippine Constitution Association has also asked the High Court to reject the BOL, saying the law violates the 1987 Constitution that mandated only one organic act for Muslim Mindanao.

An oral argument on the controversial law has been scheduled next month, according to reports. The Tan patriarch has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to make good on his threat to establish a “revolutionary government,” so he could quickly reconfigure the country’s regions and shift to a federal form of government.

“Only through federalism you can configure the territories that will constitute the federal states and not cluster only the laggards together like the five provinces in the ARMM. Now they say that (BOL) it is also federalism na i-isang region ang gagawin sa BOL, but it is not, it is an isolation, because it will only be constituted by five provinces that are laggards, so it is only through federalism that you can mix the laggards with the affluent, otherwise, these laggards will never progress.”

“Kaya para mas mapadali ang federalism, dapat mag-declare na tayo ng revolutionary government to make things easier. So anong nangyari, sandali lang ay nagawa na yun Constitution natin. So the President can now appoint members of the commission that will draft the new Constitution and then come up with the new government and then come up with the form of government that we will have. Instead of a unitary form of government then we can have a parliamentary-federal system of government,” the elder Tan said, adding, “It is far better than creating a monster like the BOL.”

Federal Government

Duterte has repeatedly vowed to push for a change in form of government – from presidential system to federal – and even threatened to make Mindanao a federal region if lawmakers fail to amend the Constitution to pave the way for new federal government.

He said the current unitary system has spelled so much trouble. When he was mayor in Davao City in southern Philippines, Duterte had been strongly campaigning for the establishment of a federal form of government and in many of his public appearances and speeches the President said federalism is the next best thing for the country.

Duterte also vowed to step down – even before his term ends on 2022 – as soon as the new federal government is fully functional. “Do not be afraid of a dictatorship because I will not be the one,” Duterte said.

He also cited the precedent set by Corazon Aquino, who established a revolutionary government soon after leading an uprising in 1986 that ended the Marcos dictatorship. Aquino sacked all elected officials, abolished Congress and tore up the 1973 Constitution in favor of a provisional charter. She handpicked a commission to write a new Constitution, which was ratified by plebiscite in 1987.

Double-edged Sword

But Duterte’s rhetoric statement is also a double-edged sword. While he campaigns hard for the establishment of a federal government, Duterte is also urging Muslims to ratify the BOL. And the MILF insists that BOL should come first before any change in the form of government even while its leaders headed by Murad Ebrahim and their army of mujahedeen do not recognize the Philippine Constitution and had no experience in public governance.

During his visit to Cotabato City on January 18, Duterte told thousands of pro-MILF supporters: “Your approval of this law will not only serve as an expression of your desire to end more than half a century of armed struggle in the region. It will also serve testament of your determination to bring genuine peace and development in Muslim Mindanao to an autonomous government that truly represents and understands the needs of the people. Mga mahal kong Moro brothers and sisters, Magboto kayo ng Yes.”
ARMM

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, a strong advocate of BOL, also urged his constituents to support the BOL and participate in the plebiscite because it is the answer to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro.

“Ang yes (vote) sa BOL ay yes sa ating mga pangarap. Kung may BOL, mas malaya ang pamahalaang Bangsamoro na magdesisyon para sa sarili. Bukod pa rito, ang BOL ang pinaka-sagisag ng tagumpay ng prosesong pangkapayapaan. Kung mara-ratify ito, magiging malinaw ang mensahe sa lahat, tapos na ang gulo. Kung may BOL, mas malaya ang pamahalaang Bangsamoro na mag-desisyon para sa sarili. Mababawasan na ang paulit-ulit at mahabang pasahan ng pakiusap at pagmamakaawa sa pagitan natin at ng Maynila. Mas mapapabilis ang pagbaba ng serbisyo ng gobyerno,” he said.

“Ang BOL ang pinaka-sagisag ng tagumpay ng prosesong pangkapayapaan. Kung mararatify ito, magiging malinaw ang mensahe sa lahat - tapos na ang gulo. Bagama’t kailangan pa rin bantayan at kailangan pa ring ingatan, masasabi nating narito na ang kapayapaan,” he added.

Cotabato City

In Cotabato, Mayor Cynthia Sayadi, who is fighting the city’s inclusion to the proposed Bangsamoro region, said she received many reports that pro-BOL campaigners were harassing residents into voting for the ratification of the organic law.

“I received harassment complaints from my people by Bangsamoro plebiscite campaigners. Number one is the abuses, abuses from the people who wanted the BOL to win in the city…all of those who are supporting the inclusion of (Cotabato to Bangsamoro autonomous region), the Bangsamoro Organic Law,” the mayor said.

“The city will reject BOL and that is based on the consultations with the people, consultations with the different sectors and not just my voice, it is the voice of everyone that I consulted,” she added.
Cotabato is where the seat of the ARMM government is located even though the city is not part of the Muslim autonomous region. And there were reports that Ebrahim and other rebel leaders - who took advantage of the peace process - have allegedly invested heavily in various businesses in Cotabato and that is why they wanted the city to be part of the expanded autonomous region.

Isabela City

The same sentiments are also felt among residents in Isabela where Vice Mayor Cherryln Akbar is also leading in the campaign against the city’s inclusion to the Bangsamoro autonomous region. She said the BOL will only benefit the MILF and its interest in the region.

“Look at actor Robin Padilla who came here to campaign for the BOL. Why, is Robin Padilla from Isabela City, does he know the predicaments of the people here?” she said during a speech at a huge rally January 18 attended by thousands of people.

She also took a swipe on lawmakers who approved the BOL and now insisting us to be a part of the new autonomous region. “If our children are sick, if we do not have rice on the table, did any of them congressman come here to help us?” the mayor added.

All the ARMM governors, except Tan, are all campaigning for BOL – Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao; Jim Saliman of Basilan; Soraya Adiong of Lanao del Sur; Rashidin Matba of Tawi-Tawi and the four politicians were all strong supporters of President Benigno Aquino and defeated presidential candidate Mar Roxas. (Mindanao Examiner)


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