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Monday, July 31, 2017

Cassava output up in ARMM

COTABATO CITY - Cassava production in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) continues to rise due to a growing domestic industrial demand, the regional office of the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAF-ARMM) said. 

Based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority covering the 1st quarter of 2017, Northern Mindanao was on top among cassava-producing regions with 189.41 thousand metric tons annual harvest, or 32.1% of the national output. ARMM came next with 16.9% and Cagayan Valley with 16.6%.

Dr. Albert Usman, regional cassava coordinator of the DAF-ARMM, said the provinces of Lanao Del Sur and Maguindanao are the top cassava producers in the region. The two provinces’ harvest is sold mainly for industrial consumption.

Cassava from Basilan and Tawi-Tawi is generally used for food, the DAF-ARMM official said, noting that cassava is considered a crop with high economic potential that can have a significant contribution to the region’s agricultural output.

He said cassava is regarded as the third most important food crop in the tropics, after rice and corn. Valued by small-scale farmers for its tolerance to drought and infertile soil, the crop is essentially eco-efficient.

Dr. Usman also emphasized that DAF-ARMM, through its Gender and Development (GAD) unit, has conducted a series of training sessions on cassava food processing in Talayan, Guindulungan and Sultan Mastura towns in Maguindanao.

Such training, he added, could expand the livelihood opportunities for residents in rural communities and at the same time boost the production of the crop in the region. The training focuses on improving the lives of less-favored sectors of the rural population by means of utilizing available farm crops, like cassava, which is abundant in the region’s agricultural areas.

The participants were taught how to make cassava cake, cassava jelly, cassava puto taktak, and other cassava-based products and delicacies. The program also caters to the needs of the farmers such as giving machinery and cassava graters.

GAD focal person Ramla Macatabang said the training is also geared at empowering women and youth to gain basic skills in cassava food processing for entrepreneurial activities, increase their productivity, and to improve family income.

Based on DAF-ARMM data, the training program attracted 148 active participants in the towns of Talayan, Guindulungan, as well as in Sultan Mastura. The training program is currently implemented in the provinces of Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan. (Bureau of Public Information)
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Cotabato girl, who came from bible study, killed in motorcycle hit and run

NORTH COTABATO – A six-year old girl who just came from a bible study was killed after she was hit by a speeding motorcycle on a highway in Magpet town in North Cotabato province in southern Philippines, police said on Monday.
Police said the driver escaped after killing Aicel Hermosa on the village of Doles and his motorcycle was found abandoned in the neighboring village of Binay. The motorcycle’s license plate was removed, police said.
The incident, which occurred late Sunday, was witnessed by the girl uncle, police said, adding, the still unidentified motorcycle driver sped away and leaving the bloodied victim on the highway. The girl’s father, Rogie Hermosa, was at work when the incident occurred.
Police said it launched a manhunt for the driver. (Rhoderick BeƱez)
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DepEd-ARMM assists schools affected by Marawi crisis

COTABATO CITY - The Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DepEd-ARMM) has drafted recovery programs and plans and conducted initial damage assessment for schools adversely affected by the Marawi crisis.

Alfhadar Pajiji, DepEd-ARMM Assistant Secretary, said the department will be providing e-learning assistance, psychosocial first aid, and a feeding program for school children affected by the crisis. 

Based on initial damage assessment, schools with buildings partly, or entirely, destroyed in the Marawi fighting are as follows: Ibango Elementary School, Marawi Pilot Central School, Dangcal Elementary School, Lower Dansalan Elementary School, Dansalan National High School, Raya Madaya Elementary School, Disomangcop Elementary School, Marinaut Central Elementary School, Banggolo Central Elementary School, and Madaya Lilod Elementary School. 

Damage in those schools were initially estimated at P120 million. In pursuit of the recovery program, DepEd-ARMM and the region’s Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH-ARMM) signed a Memorandum of Agreement where the design and construction of school buildings was assigned to DPWH-ARMM, said Pajiji.

As of July 27, DepEd-ARMM has been operating 11 Temporary Learning Spaces as alternative schools in six municipalities with 3,289 school children and 122 teachers. Based on current estimates, 132 schools with 22,714 students and 2,933 teachers have been affected by the Marawi crisis.

The e-learning assistance is a regular project of DepEd-ARMM under its computerization program intended for Geographically Isolated and Disadvantage Areas (GIDA). Secondary schools under GIDA have also been included in the current response to the crisis. 

The department’s assistance to affected schools also includes solar panels with batteries to store power, seven tablets, and a laptop, said Pajiji, adding, the distribution of hygiene kits, relief goods, food items and medicine are also part of the initiative.

The DepEd-ARMM, in coordination with Gawad Kalinga, also dispensed hot meals to 1,000 school children on July 5. The feeding program is ongoing and has served 2,800 people. The feeding initiative was reported as very successful during its initial intervention last month in Saguiaran town in Lanao del Sur.

Aside from students, 1,400 teachers are also being provided with psychosocial first aid. “Ganoon din po yung plano natin sa ating mga teachers, because we are pretty sure also na hindi lang ang mga learners ang affected pati na rin ang mga guro,” Pajiji said.

Pajiji said DepEd-ARMM has been continously exerting efforts to ensure the welfare of the school children and teachers affected by the crisis. (Bureau of Public Information)
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Sayyaf beheads 7 hostages in Basilan province

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Police on Monday said 7 people seized by Abu Sayyaf had been found dead and decapitated in the restive province of Basilan in southern Philippines.
Their decomposing bodies were discovered in separate areas in Lantawan town where the militants abducted them last week. The victims’ families, police said, had identified and claimed the cadavers.
Two of those beheaded were pro-government militias Roberto Lacastesantos and Renato Casiple and the others - Mamerto Falcasantos, Rene Sanson, Hernando Sally, Nestor Divinagracia and Ely Divinagracia - were loggers.
Their families demanded justice for the brutal murders. The military and provincial government did not issue any statement, but security and government officials previously trumpeted the surrender of dozens of Abu Sayyaf fighters in Basilan since last year and claimed the militants were on the run due to relentless operation against them.
Those who surrendered were also provided financial aid and livelihood program while others allegedly helped the military in the operations against the Abu Sayyaf, blamed by authorities for the spate of killings and ransom kidnappings in Basilan. (Mindanao Examiner)
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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Cops kill Ozamiz mayor, wife and 10 others in 'firefight'

PAGADIAN CITY – The mayor of Ozamiz City and his wife, and 10 others were killed early Sunday in an alleged firefight with policemen serving search warrants, officials said.
Officials said Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and wife Susan were both slain in the fighting, including the others who allegedly opened fire on policemen and sparking a gun battle in the house of the politician. His daughter, Princess who is the incumbent vice mayor of Ozamiz, was also arrested by the police.
Several high-powered weapons and suspected crystal meth were allegedly recovered from the politician's house and also from the house of Councilor Ricardo Parojinog, the mayor's brother. He was was not at home when policemen raided the place, but 5 people had been arrested inside the house.
President Rodrigo Duterte previously accused the mayor and several members of his family as involved in the illegal drug trade, which the politician strongly denied. His daughter was also linked to jailed drug lord Herbert Colangco. Police said Parojinog was also maintaining a private army. (Mindanao Examiner)
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Saturday, July 29, 2017

From Abu Sayyaf to civilian life, teenager tells his story

BASILAN PROVINCE - While Mindanao is generally peaceful, there are areas on the island mired with a long history of terrorism, and civilians and law enforcement officers both suffered from violence causing fear and anxiety to entire communities.
Properties were destroyed and lives of people were disrupted. The atrocities were perpetrated by lawless individuals including teenagers – some have joined the bandits, or terror groups, as young as 9 years old. Many of these bandits and terrorists, however, have quietly returned to the fold of the law.
For instance, more than 80 members of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan province recently surrendered to the government and have renounced their previous activities. One of them is 18-year-old "Habib." Raised in Tipo-Tipo town, Habib became involved with the ASG at a young age. He was a 14-year-old Grade 4 pupil when some members of the ASG asked him to buy food in the public market until it became his daily routine before going to school and after classes.
“Inuutusan ako ng mga Abu sa Baguindan na bumili sapalengke, araw -araw na yun, hanggang sa hindi na ako pinauwi sa amin,” Habib said. With regular access to the ASG’s camp in Barangay Baguindan in Tipo-Tipo, he became a full-fledged member of the group. The ASG’s Baguindan camp was recently overrun by government troops.
Habib said ASG members receive a monthly allowance, but it did not prevent him from leaving the group. “Sa loob ng kampo, ‘pag single binibigyan ng P5,000 kada buwan, ‘pag pamilyado naman P10,000 - hindi na mahirapan maghanap ng pera," Habib added.
Habib is the 5th of eight siblings. His father died when he was six and his mother went overseas to work when he became an ASG member. "Wala na akong tatay, wala rin dito ang nanay ko, ang mga kapatid ko nag-asawa na, kaya mas okay na sa akin sumali sa ASG,” Habib said.
Habib recalls many experiences inside the camp during his four years as a member of ASG. He was generally assigned as an errand boy who helped in the day to day needs of the ASG - he buys food, he cooks, and he helps in the preparation of weapons before an operation.
He was once assigned to abduct a female hostage from Tipo-Tipo. "Kung may mga kini-kidnap, dadaan ng Zamboanga, may tao na maghihintay sa port pa lang ng Zamboanga, tapos iba naman may maghihintay sa Isabela. Pagdating ng Isabela ididiretso sa Lamitan, saka pupunta ng Tipo-Tipo. At kami naghihintay sa Baguindan," he said.
When asked how ASG members treat the victims, Habib said: "Noong ako ang sumundo sa babaeng na-kidnap, gusto ko siya patakasin kasi kawawa lang, pero sinabihan ako ng mga matatanda kong kasama na kapag pinatakas ko, ako daw ang papatayin ng grupo."
Habib, along with his young peers, also witnessed ASG leaders beheading hostages inside their camps. He added that the group’s leaders would first ask for volunteers among them to do the beheading.
"Maraming beses na ako nakakita ng pinupugutan na hostage kapag walang mabigay na ransom, kasi kapag may pupugutan na kailangan namin manood lahat, magagalit ang commander kapag hindi namin pinanood," Habib explained. "Kung magpapakita ka ng awa sa kanila (hostages), o ng takot sa mangyayari, ikaw ang pagdidiskitahan nila (ASG leaders)," he narrated.
He said the commanders, especially the senior leaders, would usually do the beheading when hostages cannot pay for their ransom. Habib said he was also assigned in combat against government soldiers in 2016 in Baguindan. "Kapag may baril ka, matapang ka."
Habib said he led a violent life full of uncertainty until he yearned for a decent and peaceful life as a civilian. "Gusto ko tumakas pero hindi ko alam paano kasi natatakot din ako," he added. He said he saw an opportunity to escape during his last participation in an encounter against government troops in Baguindan last year.
"Pagkatapos ng giyera sa Baguindan, yun na yung pagkakataon na naisip ko na tumakas at sumuko," he said. "Pagod na kasi ako sa buhay sa loob ng kampo, gusto ko ng mag-aral, nami-miss ko na ang mga kapatid ko, gusto kong lumabas na hindi natatakot at kailangang magtago," he said.
When he finally reached home, he saw his mother has just gone back home for good. "Ang saya-saya ko nung nakita ko nanay ko na nasa bahay na, kasama ang mga kapatid ko," he said. "Kaya sumuko na talaga ako para mas maging maayos ang buhay namin lalo na andiyan na ang nanay ko."
He said he wants to go back to school and become a policeman. "Pag nakapagtapos na ako gusto ko maging pulis para ako naman ang po-protekta sa taga Basilan laban sa mga Abu Sayyaf," he said.
Today, Habib is one of the returnees who underwent psycho-social interventions, debriefing, dialogue with the military and government officials, and a brief course on farming to help them reform and start a new life. (Bureau of Public Information)
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19 soldiers killed in Marawi ambush – Islamic State

Islamic State claims killing 19 soldiers in the besieged city of Marawi in southern Philippines. 

MARAWI CITY – Local ISIS militants have killed 19 soldiers in an ambush in the besieged city of Marawi where security forces are battling jihadists straight for over two months now, the Islamic State said.
The Islamic State made the announcement on Friday through its Amaq News after the deadly attack on a group of government troops sent to fight the militants. The Philippine military did not issue any statement regarding the claim.
Fighting has entered its 3rd month and President Rodrigo Duterte said it may be over soon, but there is no sign the militants are backing down. The local jihadists, composed of Abu Sayyaf fighters and members of the Maute clan, and other pro-ISIS groups are also being backed up by foreign militants – some came from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, according to the Philippine military.
Just recently, Amaq News also released a video clip showing local ISIS militants fighting security forces in Marawi. The two-minute clip showed a small group of fighters led by Omar Maute firing at soldiers from a house they occupied in a village at the heart of the city. 
Maute and his elder brother Abdullah were previously reported by the military to have died – along with nearly 400 militants – in clashes with army soldiers, although security officials provided no proof of this, except for intelligence information allegedly provided by civilians. 
In the video, militants – armed with automatic weapons and sniper rifles, could be seen firing at soldiers, but it was unclear whether there had been casualties in the fighting. It was unknown whether military officials had seen the video which was released by ISIS website on July 20. 
The military said over 100 soldiers have so far died with more than 900 wounded in the battle since May 23 when local militants occupied Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur in the Muslim autonomous region. The extremists have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and vowed to put up a caliphate in the troubled region. 
The military insisted that over 500 militants were also killed in the battle, but officials gave little or no proof at all to back up the claims, although dozens of civilians were also slain in the battle that displaced some 200,000 people. (Mindanao Examiner)

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

61 MNLF recruits heading to Lanao Sur stopped in Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Philippines authorities intercepted dozens of Muslims, including four teenagers, recruited by the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front and heading to Lanao del Sur to train and become soldiers, police said Wednesday.

At least 27 people, who were recruited from the restive province of Basilan, were held by the police in the village of Guiwan in Zamboanga City late Tuesday after residents tipped off authorities on their presence. They were supposed to travel to the town of Madamba in Lanao del Sur and train at MNLF’s Camp Jabari Nur. They arrived in Zamboanga on a private boat.

Police said 34 other recruits were also intercepted by soldiers and policemen at a checkpoint in Ipil town in the neighboring province of Zamboanga Sibugay. They were also heading to the MNLF camp. Most of them were recruited in Basilan, Sulu and Zamboanga City to become members of the Philippine Army after their MNLF training in Lanao del Sur where security forces are battling local ISIS militants.

But the government has no integration program for MNLF members, although some 7,500 former rebels were admitted in the military and police in 1995 after Nur Misuari, the MNLF chairman, signed a peace deal with Manila.

Misuari is also wanted by authorities on rebellion charges after MNLF forces attacked Jolo in 2001 and Zamboanga City twice - one in 2001 and in 2013 - and some fighters also joined the Abu Sayyaf in pillaging Ipil town in 1995.

It was unknown whether the recruits paid money to become members of the MNLF or whether it was a scam perpetrated by unscrupulous people pretending to be leaders of the former rebel group. The MNLF did not issue any statement in connection to the recruitment of Muslims in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rep. Djalia Hataman explains ‘NO’ vote on Martial law extension

 “MARTIAL LAW is not just feared by the Moro people, it is abhorred,” Anak Mindanao (AMIN) party list Rep. Sittie Djalia Turabin-Hataman said in her latest Facebook post on July 23.
The lady lawmaker, wife of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman,  raised her negative vote during the joint Congressional meeting held on July 22 to decide on the five-month martial law extension sought by President Duterte.
Rep. Hataman’s announced negative vote made her  the lone elected Muslim official to have openly rejected the military rule and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus imposed by the President.
She said that while others looked at Martial Law as “curtailment of freedom, for us it was the curtailment of lives.”
“When scores of individuals went missing in other parts of the country, Moro people were wiped out by  the thousands, as communities,” Rep. Hataman said.
“And  long after Martial Law was gone, we remained under the hawks of its shadow. Tanks and uniformed men remained our everyday sights (with) the fear and abuses and violations that came with those sights,” said the solon from Basilan.
She declared  that military solution would not  address fully the question of terrorism-bound extremism, citing the successful stride of persuasive military and civilian authorities’ conduct of massive socio-economic and infrastructure projects in Basilan that have attracted at least 84 Abu Sayyaf combatants to surrender in batches this year.
Rep. Hataman said she, her ARMM governor-husband and other relatives had been targets of threats by extremist militants, but they opted to sustain non-military remedies that do away with the loss of lives. (By Ali Macabalang. First published in the Manila Bulletin.)
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Duterte Doubles Down on Abusive ‘Drug War’

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE vowed that his “war on drugs” Will continue “unremitting as it will be unrelenting into his second year in office.
Duterte issued a stark warning to suspected drug dealers, whom he characterized as “beasts and vultures,” that they had a choice of “jail or hell” if they persisted in allegedly illegal activities.
In his second State of the Nation Address, Duterte accused activists who have documented serious human rights violations linked to his drug war of “trivializing” the campaign by demanding respect for legal process.
The President also declared he would require presidential approval for any investigations by the Commission on Human Rights of alleged security forces abuse and the Office of the Ombudsman. He also pledged to push for the reinstatement of the death penalty, justifying it as “not only about deterrence, but also retribution.”
Duterte’s drug war, which Human Rights Watch claimed to be a police-led extrajudicial execution campaign, has resulted in the deaths of more than 7,000 people since he took office in June 2016. Duterte has glorified those deaths as proof of the “success” of anti-drug measures that have disproportionately targeted urban slum dwellers.
Human Rights Watch has shown government claims that the deaths of suspected drug users and dealers were lawful are false. It said that interviews with witnesses and victims’ relatives and analysis of police records show a pattern of unlawful police conduct designed to paint a veneer of legality over extrajudicial executions.
More positively, Duterte expressed strong support for the enforcement of the country’s Reproductive Health Law and for women to be able to obtain family planning hormonal implants, the sale and distribution of which are currently under a Supreme Court restraining order.
He also urged the full implementation of the Magna Carta of Women, a comprehensive women’s rights law, and made a commitment to increase assistance for overseas migrant workers. With respect to the environment, he promised to strictly check the operations of mining companies. (Carlos Conde)
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