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NPA attacked SAMELCO personnel

Reported case of Meningococcemia in Samar kills 1

Foreign human rights community looks into Samar’s military atrocities

Thousands join Peace Rally in Samar’s capital

Samareños want lasting peace

2 Samar military raids kill 4 NPA rebels

LGU officials silent on Samar militarization

Petition for the return of Balangiga Bells launched

Villagers in Samar accused military for abuses

Zero mining in Samar island




In Catbalogan: Controversy on vacancy of entire ABC posts settled; election deferred

October 3, 2005

CATBALOGAN, Samar  –  The issue on whether it is legal or not vis-à-vis the resolution earlier passed by the Catbalogan Association of Barangay Chairmen (ABC) vacating the entire seats and positions and setting the date for the election of new sets of officer has been put to rest.

This after the Department of Interior on Local Government (DILG) and the Liga ng mga Barangay national headquarters in Pasig City issued guidelines and provisions not allowing the ABC here to “reorganize” considering that they were still in position in a hold-over capacity.

Under the “hold-over capacity,” a DILG insider said, an incumbent ABC official may hold his office even after his position expire on the last day of November 2005, until the winning successor be proclaimed on the next election.

Of this, the source said, the supposed election on September 26 slated by the ABC through their 2-page unnumbered resolution was deferred. They were advised to wait for the next barangay election, which has been postponed to November 2006.

Meanwhile, the controversy that shocked the populace and political observers here stemmed when the Catbalogan ABC officers tendered their “mass resignation” and issued a resolution declaring all their respective positions vacant and set for date for the election of the new set of officers last week at the Cocina de Cabral, this town.

The Catbalogan ABC officials said in their resolution, “the term of office of (all) officers of this Association expired on August 15, 2005 co-terminus with the term of office of the Barangay Chairmen, and no new election has since been conducted to elect a new set of officers of the Association, so as to hold a new set of officials for the Association, as all Barangay Officials of this Municipality are discharging their offices in a hold-over capacity, there is legal necessity to declare that all said positions as vacant.”

They added, “(and because of) this declaration of vacancy of all positions, there is need to set a date for the election of a new set of officers of the Association.”

The resolution appointed barangay chairmen Kenneth Abad as acting presiding officer, Felomino Cabarriban, Claudio Del Monte and Juanito Basal as chairman and members respectively of the election committee on the supposed September 26 election.

Talks on the issue looms when it was discovered that the date of approval of the resolution was “erroneously” dated September 29 instead of “August 29.” The controversy enthused further especially when it (resolution) was speculated, “designed” to “terminate” the representation of provincial ABC federation president Joseph Escober as an “ex-officio” member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Samar.

Board Member Escober

But, up to this writing, no one of the 47 out of 57 village chairmen who signed and supported the said resolution dared to admit or to point out as to who really “authored” the resolution and “masterminded” the intent if true.

Unconfirmed information, however, reported that majority of the ABC officers could have been “influenced” allegedly by Catbalogan Mayor Coefredo “Tekwa” Uy. It was learned Escober defeated Uy in their last election for the Catbalogan ABC presidency despite the huge amount of money spent by Uy when he was still the punong barangay in Catbalogan. Efforts by this writer to reach Uy for his comments regarding the issue yielded negative.

On the other hand, the Municipal Liga ng mga Barangay Vice-President who is now acting President Calixtro H. Rosal, issued a “stern warning” to his colleagues to observe proper procedure if they want to divest Escober of his authority and mandate to represent the ABC in the Provincial Board to avoid “disciplinary sanctions” in case there is illegal acts in signing the “erroneous” resolution.

“We all know that we were elected through an election on July 15, 2002 and we assumed office on August 15, 2002 and our term (should only) end on November 30, 2005,” Rosal said in his memorandum addressed to all ABC officers attaching all the letters and guidelines sent by the national Liga and the DILG.

Meanwhile, Escober, who is up to now silent to answer media queries, earlier wrote a letter dated August 31, 2005 to the Liga ng mga Barangay national headquarters in Pasig City asking for “clarifications” as to whether it is legal or not that the present Liga can undertake “reorganization” by their own capacity.

Liga national president James Marty L. Lim, in his reply to Escober letter, however said that “reorganization per se is not favored within the context of the Liga” citing some provisions of their Constitution and By-laws.

“We hope that these would serve to amply settle your present concerns,” Lim said on his letter to Escober copy furnishing the ABC association.

By this guidelines coming from national offices of both Liga and DILG, it was reported that an “agreements” has been made last week thereby made the issue finally settled.

But the issue on the “intent” of the resolution and the alleged “maneuver” to take the place of the current ABC federation president remained unresolved until no one comes out to share a story.





Sacked farm workers in Mindanao forced to eat poisonous frogs to survive

September 30, 2005

HONG KONG  - Unfairly dismissed agricultural workers and families in Mindanao, southern Philippines, are being forced to eat poisonous frogs and ground corncobs to survive, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reported on Wednesday.

The workers in Alabel were among a group sacked after protesting against the failure of the Sarangani Agricultural Company to distribute land to them in accordance with a government order. They have been living in hunger and abject poverty since 2003, the Hong Kong-based regional rights body said in an appeal.

If they have no other food, the people collect Hawaiian frogs at the riverbanks and cook them, Leonilo Baldecantos, 46, said.

"Even though they are aware that Hawaiian frogs are poisonous if not prepared and cooked properly, they are forced to eat them to fill their hungry stomachs," the AHRC said in its 'hunger alert'.

Other victims said that they have resorted to grinding up corncobs and cooking these as a substitute for rice, the AHRC reported.

While the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and provincial authorities are aware of the case, they have not given any assistance, despite a provincial campaign to eradicate poverty and hunger.

According to the hunger victims, they had approached the DSWD and been interviewed in March and April 2004, but did not qualify for assistance.

In letters to the DSWD and Sarangani Governor Rene A Dominguez, the AHRC called for immediate action to ensure that the affected persons could obtain sufficient nutritious food until getting an alternative means of livelihood.

"It is the responsibility of the governor to take steps to advance the interest of his constituents, particularly where there is an urgency caused by the grave poverty afflicting many of the persons affected by this land dispute [with the Sarangani Agricultural Company]," Payal Rajpal, AHRC project coordinator, said.

Rajpal noted that under the Social Reform and Poverty Act of the Philippines the authorities are obliged to intervene in order to ensure that the victim's basic needs are met.

The AHRC has been issuing hunger alerts since 2004 as a part of its urgent appeals programme, aiming to highlight the connections between food shortages, starvation and other fundamental human rights in Asia.





Congress endorses SINP bill to the Senate for approval

September 29, 2005

CATBALOGAN, Samar   –  After hearing the “unequivocal” and “conflicting” stands of both mining enthusiasts and environmentalists regarding the enactment of the Samar Island Natural Park bill, the House Committee on Natural Resources finally endorsed the bill to the Senate Wednesday, September 21, this year.

Nicanor “Nick” Arjon, advocacy officer of the Samar Island Biodiversity Project (SIBP) based here informed that the said bill has been forwarded from the lower House to the Senate by Rep. Leovigildo B. Banaag, who chairs the Committee that “weight” the arguments of the two opposing parties.

“If the Senate will pass this bill as ease without any comments or altercation then this will be carried out easily,” Arjon told this publication. He, however, quickly explained that, “(but) if they have another version contrary to the bill approved by the Lower House, a bicameral proceedings will take place.”

Congressman Banaag, who represents the first district of Agusan del Sur, decided to carry out the bill but with few remarks and recommendations. During the first hearing held on May 25, 2005, Banaag urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) management to conduct a comprehensive study on the best land use option in the contested area within the proclaimed Samar Island Natural Park.

In a series of committee hearings, many civil society actors claimed the solon “favored” them when the latter apparently heeded the clamor of the Samareños as they quoted him saying, “the will of the Samareños must prevail.”

Rep. Banaag mediated in between the “hottest season” discussions of the civil society groups led by the Samar Island Biodiversity Foundation (SIBF) and the Samar Island Council for Sustainable Development (SICSD) against the mining groups represented by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CMP) headed by certain Philip Romualdez.

Sangkay Incorporated, an organization of Samareños residing in Metro Manila, Haribon Foundation, Conservation International, Foundation for Philippine Environment, among other church groups, supported the stand of the SIBF and SICSD.

This group of Samareños believed that the island’s mineral resources is one of the richest in the country, and that “it must be preserved.” But the mining enthusiasts say otherwise. They concluded that these minerals should be “mined” in a responsible way so that it can help the country’s economic disease.

And because of this opposing belief, the SINP bill suffered several postponements at the Lower House but now it has been moved one step higher, at the Upper House.

Meanwhile, SIBP Project Manager Manolito Ragub said Samar Island is one of the richest in terms of mineral resources in the country today and it has the only known bauxite deposits in the Philippines with sufficient volume and high alumina content.

Ragub said, in one of his publicly made report, the island was declared a mineral reserve in 1977 and about 220, 000 hectares have been earmarked for such. “(And) that is one reason why on-going conflict between those who favor extraction and those who want to keep out mining from the forest because the 119, 200 hectares of the reservation overlap with the SINP,” he said.





Peace rallyists brave the rain to oppose communism

September 22, 2005

CATBALOGAN, Samar  - Despite heavy rains, some 700 peace rallyists composed of former members and supporters of the communist New People's Army (NPA) in Pinabacdao town raised anti-Communist slogans and reminded their townmates never to be fooled again by the godless ideologues.

"Pag Mawara na an Komyunista, Mauswag NA Kita"; "An CPP‑NPA Atuhan Ta" and "Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anak Pawis, Gutom na ba Kamo?" were some of the slogans the protesters fervently raised to dramatize their protest. This was highlighted with the burning of the communist flag which symbolized the breaking of the yoke of communism which have burdened them for a long time already.

Enrico Gacusana, a barangay official of an interior village of Calbiga who joined the rally, said the people should never be afraid to express their disgust over the Movement since they are on the side of truth.

He recounted how the rebels dictated them on how to make justifications for the money they take out of the barangay coffers for the honorarium of the barangay officials so that it may appear legal when they submit liquidation reports to the Commission on Audit (COA).

Likewise, he told his fellow protesters how the NPA rebels butchered a stolen cow after several leftists groups staged an anti‑government rally at Samar's capital a few years back. "Sigurado ako nga waray pa kamo kahingalimot hito nga hitabo" (I'm sure you haven't forgotten this incident yet) he reminded the crowd in the vernacular.

A barangay captain in one of Pinabacdao's interior barangay recalled how his family suffered when his two children got seriously ill while he was in the mountains of Samar with the rebels fighting with the government forces but he never got any assistance from them.

"Ngan tungod hini, diri ako kakapuyon pagpinanumat han mga tawo han panguwat ngan waray pulos nga mga panaad han mga miyembro han Kagi‑usan" (And because of this, I'll never get tired of telling the people on the deceptions and empty promises of the communist rebels), he said.

Pinabacdao Mayor Mario Quijano expressed his sympathy with the protesters citing their earnest desire for change. He said that for more than 30 years they have been exploited by the rebels without improvement in their living conditions are but natural to get feed up with their promises.

He urged the barangay officials and the military to "put our act together" so that development will take place in this town.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Bonifacio Ramos, commanding general of the army's 8th Infantry Division, assured the people of Pinabacdao that the army will do its best to protect the people from enemy incursions so that they will be able to live a peaceful life without fear from the rebels.





Australia launches new education initiative for Bohol and Northern Samar

September 21, 2005

PASIG CITY, Philippines  -   The Australian Government will provide A$3.87 million in grant to a new project that will assist the Department of Education (DepED) to improve the quality of education leadership and management and provide basic education and livelihood opportunities for out of-school youth and their families in Bohol and Northern Samar.

DepED Officer-in-Charge Fe Hidalgo and Australian Ambassador Tony Hely will sign today the agreement for the implementation of Stage I of the Strengthening Implementation of Visayas Education (STRIVE) Project from October 2005 to February 2007. The signing ceremony will be held at the DedED Central Office and witnessed by officials of DepED and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

In Bohol and Northern Samar, Stage I of STRIVE will assist DepED in improving the quality of education leadership and management leading to more efficient and effective resource utilization, and assist the delivery of basic education programs to bring out-of-school youth back to school and provide them and their parents with functional literacy and livelihood opportunities.

Ambassador Hely said the implementation of STRIVE further confirms Australia’s commitment to its continued strong support to the country’s basic education system through Australia’s Development Cooperation Program with the Philippines. The development cooperation program aims to reduce poverty and promote sustainable and equitable development.




Manobos voluntarily flock to San Jose de Buan

September 20, 2005

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan, Samar  - The sleepy town of San Jose de Buan, Samar sprang back to life when Manobo tribes, indigenous people thriving in one of the barangays of said town, decided to seek temporary shelter in the town proper.

Hon Mayor Macario Rebato of San Jose de Buan along with 34IB personnel distributes relief goods to the Manobos.

Contrary to some reports coming out from militant sectors, the natives said that they voluntarily left their places of residents to give way to the clearing operations being done by the military to flush out insurgents seeking shelter in the area. This is supported by a representative of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) who interviewed them.

The Command is cautioning the public to be vigilant as some of these issues are being used by the CPP/NPA/NDF to malign the government particularly the men in uniform to advance their cause.

The men and women of the 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army is here for the eradication of insurgency to achieve peace and ultimately, development. Cooperation and unity by all agencies and sectors are needed for the future of Samar.





“KANGAY Summit” indorsed resolution creating the Samar Island Tourism Council

September 19, 2005

CATBALOGAN, Samar  -  Participants from the local government units and private sectors of the three provinces of Samar Island finally indorsed the creation of the Samar Island Tourism Council in the first-ever held tourism summit on September 5, 2005 at Breadmix Conference Hall, Calbayog City. It was called “KANGAY”, a native dialect which means solidarity or unity.

Assessed as a very successful summit, this was initiated by the Hon. Mayor of Calbayog City who has presented to the body the “One Island, One People, One Culture” concept. It was intended to respond to the challenge of putting Samar Island in the growing national and international tourism market.  It is also the desire of the said council to rebuild the island’s image and strengthen its competitiveness in attracting foreign visitors, stimulating domestic tourism and meeting the tourism industry’s development requirements.

“This can only be done by protecting and preserving the environment, its socio-cultural heritage and the welfare and rights of Samareños. It is therefore imperative that a Tourism Council through the Department of Tourism be formally organized and concerted efforts of all stakeholders be solicited,” Mayor Sarmiento of Calbayog City further stressed.

In the said summit, the respective governors of the three provinces were supposed to give a situationer and explain details of their tourism programs and activities. However, only representatives were sent eliciting questions as to the willingness of these governors to really undertake the said project.

Video presentations, particularly from the City of Calbayog and Northern Samar were applauded. Samar SP Committee on Tourism chairman Hon. Sonny B. Salurio, however, failed to deliver a power point presentation. Mayor Sarmiento expressed optimism that this undertaking will really push the province to more tourism opportunities. He expressed thanks to the private sector for explicitly manifesting support to the project.

Meanwhile, Hon. Phineas A. Alburo, Undersecretary of the Department of Tourism, who acted as the keynote speaker, assured the Samar Officials of the Department of Tourism’s support. He commented that Samar really abounds with natural attraction, but has not come up with concrete and definite programs to attract tourists. He called on all stakeholders to put their acts together in order to move forward and develop its tourism industry. He encouraged everyone to think of one product or a specific image to be locally and internationally recognized.

In related developments, Ms. Karen Tiopes, Region VIII Tourism Director acknowledged the efforts of the local officials in boosting Samar’s tourism industry. She considers this undertaking as a serious matter and fully recognized the role of tourism as a potent vehicle towards a progressive island.

Other than the workshop which enabled the group to identify possible tourism strategies, the summit was further highlighted by the SIBP presentation on Samar Island’s Bio-diversity. A very entertaining cultural presentation in songs and dances from the Calbayog’s Sarakiki group was also performed with USec Alburo and Director Karen Tiopes and more other guests enjoying the Kuratsa dance. Due to its limited time, the open forum which was previously planned was dispensed with. The Body finally moved for the approval of the resolution indorsing the Samar Island Tourism Council. However, the election of the council’s officers was reset until such time that the attendance of the governors be assured.





Three Bishops to attend Committee Hearing on SINP House Bill No. 2529

September 16, 2005

BORONGAN, SAMAR   -  Last September 12, 2005 at Bishop’s residence the Board of Directors of the Samar Island Council for Sustainable Development (SICSD) held their quarterly meeting.  The primary objective of the Council is to advocate the protection and preservation of the remaining forest in Samar Island and to promote alternative conservation compatible livelihood.

During the meeting, the final draft of the SICSD Constitution and By-Laws was finally approved and is ready for registration at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The most pressing issue that the Council perceived during the meeting was the National program opting to revitalized mining industry around the country and that is to include Samar island whose bauxite reserved is the only in the country.  According to Don Mabulay, Co-Project Manager of SIBP, there is a need to remind and make a last appeal to the Secretary of DENR Michael Defensor regarding the cancellation of the two (2) MPSA’s inside SINP before resorting to the last option that is to secure legal remedy in Court.

However, the Lower House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources chaired by Hon. Leovigildo B. Banaag has invited the SICSD President Dr. Jaime F. Sanico and the three (3) bishops of Samar Island namely; Bishop Jose S. Palma of the Diocese of Calbayog, Bishop Leonardo Medroso of the Diocese of Borongan and Bishop Emeritus Angel Hobayan of the Diocese of Catarman to attend the committee hearing for the SINP House Bill No. 2529 on September 21, 2005 at Ramon V. Mitra Building, Batasang Pambansa, Quezon City.  The three Bishops will be joined by the SIBP Project Manager Manolito D. Ragub, Co-Project Manager Jose A. Mabulay Jr., Legal Expert Erwin Ambal and Assistant Communication Specialist Dixon Bernales to present SIBP/ SINP valuation results, management plan and other livelihood conservation compatible alternatives for various stakeholders inside and outside the protected area.





Villar lauds U.S. Court decision for pedophile to pay restitution to Filipino victims

By OSV/ Philippine News Service
September 16, 2005

Senator Manny Villar, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs, lauds the recent decision of a district court in the United States (US) to compel a convicted pedophile to pay restitution to his victims in the Philippines.

"The decision of a US court in favor of the Filipino victims of a pedophile based there is really a welcome development and should be commended. I earlier expressed alarm over widespread incidents of pedophilia in our country which often involved foreigner or tourists most of whom were never apprehended and still manage to come in and out of our country," says Villar, President of the Nacionalista Party.

It was reported that earlier this week, US District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled that 61-year-old Edilberto Datan should pay $16,475 to the eight Filipino teenagers whom he sexually abused while he was on vacation in the Philippines.

Villar also commends the international humanitarian organization World Vision particularly its child sex tourism prevention project and the new federal law in the US called ‘Protect Act’ which is aimed at fighting exploitation of children abroad.

"Like terrorism, the fight against child abuse and exploitation has gone global. We should coordinate with international agencies and organizations all over the world in dealing with pedophiles that victimize children of different nationalities," cites Villar.

Villar is actively supporting the strict enforcement of anti-pornography laws in the country particularly Internet-based child pornography. Villar filed Senate Resolution 297 recently directing the Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations to conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, into the alarming level of Internet-based child pornography.

According to Villar, "More often than not, criminals who sexually abuse or exploit children or minors are also engaged in pornography. These two go hand in hand and should be dealt with together." The US pedophile who was charged also pleaded guilty of producing child pornography materials outside the US.

Villar also filed Senate Resolution 303 that aims to assess the role and capability of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other law enforcement agencies in addressing the alarming proliferation of cybersex in the country. Villar’s committee, together with the Committee on Public Information and Mass Media chaired by Senator Bong Revilla conducted a public hearing on the issue of cybersex last month.



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