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Canadians face military harassment while on fact-finding mission in Philippines

Another fire hits Catbalogan, incurs P5M damage

Uy seeks DILG inquiry vs. Grey’s murder raps and alleged drug involvement

Abduction victim of NPA found dead in Catarman

Health authorities campaigns for Filariasis eradication in Eastern Visayas

Heightened red alert is still hoisted over Basey Police Station

Daza chairs Northern Samar AIDS Council

Solon seeks automation of polls

Victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines commemorated by Korean musicians in Hong Kong

Bishops, clergy visit Naval to join Episcopal ordination anniversary celebration of the bishop of Naval


Blessing, dedication rites for Guinsaugon housing units held

By BONG PEDALINO (PIA Southern Leyte)
November 21, 2006

BRGY. MAGBAGACAY, Saint Bernard, Southern Leyte  –  Exactly nine months to the day the mountains came crashing down, a new barangay Guinsaugon has gradually evolved out of the vast expanse right here in this barangay.

On Friday, November 17, a ceremonial house blessing and dedication for 100 housing units under the Japan Emergency Grant Aid, in cooperation with the DSWD and Habitat for Humanity, was held here attended by Gov. Rosette Lerias, DSWD Usec Violeta Cruz, Vice-Mayor Felix Lim, and other visiting top Executives from the private sector and from Habitat who had helped in the actual physical work for the houses.

A total of 165 duplex dwelling units intended for 330 surviving families of Guinsaugon have been built in this sprawling space.

The Gawad Kalinga’s 100 houses had been turned-over and already used by the beneficiaries about five months ago, while the 130 units undertaken by the Red Cross were still ongoing, according to a local Red Cross personnel.

The other set of 100 houses sponsored by Japan was also in the finishing stages of completion, but this was already blessed and dedicated in a formal ceremony as many of the units were already occupied.

Romeo Esguerra, President of the Guinsaugon Homeowners’ Association, was visibly touched by the outpouring of assistance they had received that he was almost speechless in his testimony.

But Esguerra managed to voice out the desire of the people living in the new community regarding their need for sustainable livelihood.

Gov. Lerias readily responded to Esguerra’s call, saying that a hygienic fish drying machine will be coming soonest for the livelihood of the people living in the new settlement.

Gov. Lerias also expressed her heartfelt thanks to all the donors who left their comfort zones in the city and did not hesitate to offer their help for the reconstruction of lives deeply affected by the disaster.

She said the past tragedy must be viewed as a “reminder that God must be the center of our lives.”





Justice for Palo massacre victims dawning

November 20, 2006

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte  – Presiding Judge Mario Nicolasora of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Palo, Leyte ordered the acquittal of eight (8) accused of charges of illegal possession of low powered firearms during the promulgation hearing on the afternoon of November 17, 2006.  The acquitted farmers included Richard Margallo, Baltazar Mardo, Ferdinand Montanejos, Artemio Amante, Eulogio Pilapil, Ronilo Orcida, Arniel Dizon, and Fe Muriel Dizon-Obejas.

Joselito Tobe, one of the accused and secretary general of the Concerned Citizens for Justice and Peace, died in prison before the said promulgation.

Following the order, the detainees were released from the Leyte Provincial Jail located at Kauswagan, Palo, Leyte on the afternoon of the same date.

Dawning of justice

In an interview, Alex Garcia Lagunzad, secretary-general of human rights organization KATUNGOD-SB, described this recent development as a dawning of justice to the victims of the Palo Massacre – to those who were brutally killed, for the kins of the dead, the wounded and the survivors.

“This also means that we, along with the victims are in a moral high ground to pursue the filing of counter-charges against the elements of the 19th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army who perpetrated the mass killing”, he commented.

“We are still to dig into the circumstances of the death of Joselito Tobe who died in prison at the Kauswagan Provincial Jail as there could have been possibility of a foul play”, he further said.  It could be remembered that Tobe along with two other accused received death threats while in detention.

Ginlalauman namon nga makasuhan, mapapagbaton, ngan mapatukan han kaangayan nga sirot an mga kasundaluhan nga nagmasaker han mga inosente nga mga parag-uma (We are expecting that the soldiers be brought to the bars of justice, charged, made to answer and convicted for their brutal massacre of innocent farmers”, he said.

The Palo massacre, almost a year after

It can be remembered that last November 21, 2005, elements of the 19th IB PA headed by team leader 2LT. Luel Adrian Benedicto open fired at a group of farmers and killed nine (9) peasants including an eight-month pregnant mother at Brgy. San Agustin, Palo, Leyte.

The farmers were gathered for a “balik-uma” or re-cultivating a land awarded to them by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) as its farmers-beneficiaries.  These farmers were affiliated with the DAR-accredited San Agustin Farmers-Beneficiaries Cooperative (or SAFABENCO), Alang-alang Small Farmers Association (ASFA) and Bayan Muna party-list.

The soldiers alleged that these farmers were armed as they were members of the New People’s Army (NPA) on which they based the charges of “illegal position of firearms” which was recently dismissed by the MTC.

It could be remembered that there was a widespread public outrage over the incident, not only from the local community but also from the national and international front. Many responded by sending solidarity statements as well as material and financial support to the victims.

Grateful for the assistance

In the courtroom, all the accused were teary-eyed upon hearing the presiding judge reading the judgment of their acquittal from the charges against them.

“We are very grateful for this day, especially those who have extended assistance to prove our innocence on the accusations hurled against us.  We were unjustly imprisoned and had it not for them, we could still be still in jail,” Fe Muriel Obejas who lost her husband on the fateful incident said.

The accused extended their thanks to the pro bono lawyers of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Leyte Chapter, Legal Aid Committee headed by Atty. Eli Laboga and Atty. Alberto Hidalgo.  They were represented during the hearings by defense counsels Atty. Federico Triste and Atty. Claro Robert Morantte.

The quest for justice persists

Meanwhile, Atty. Federico Triste, one of the legal defense counsels from the legal aide program of the IBP Leyte Chapter said that the quest for justice does not end in the acquittal and the subsequent release of the accused.

“There is still another case pending at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) which the same named respondents face for Illegal Assembly…  It is still going trial on the merits,” he said in an interview by the local media.

A case of Illegal Possession of High Powered Firearms docketed at the RTC was previously dismissed by the court.

It was known that the accused were just temporary out of detention by posting bail.  The bail bond were put up from cash and property lent by concerned individuals who believed in the innocence of the said farmers.

“Tabang Palo” Campaign

Meanwhile, KATUNGOD-SB through a campaign network called “Tabang Palo” (Help Palo) is still calling on for assistance from everyone to help the victims seek for justice, especially in the filing of counter-charges against the perpetrators.

“Again, we are knocking at your generous hearts for help. We need your help in the realization of our filing of the counter-charges against the military men responsible for the unlawful and undemocratic attack. Lawyers from the IBP informed to prepare money that will be used in the filing (expenses for the necessary filing fees; mobility of witnesses to and from the courts, lawyers and paralegals; procurement of papers; and documentation expenses) and sustaining the case. It is in that regard we are asking for assistance again,” an appeal-letter from Tabang Palo said.

“We do hope that with your continued support, we will finally give justice for the victims of the Palo Massacre”, it further said.





Samar to join OTOP Visayas Fair 2006

November 20, 2006

CATBALOGAN, Samar  –  The municipalities of Daram, Marabut, Basey, Jiabong, Calbiga and the City of Calbayog from Samar will join One Town One Product (OTOP) Visayas Fair 2006 on November 22-23, 2006 at the SM Trade Halls, Cebu City.

This was bared by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Samar, Officer-in-Charge Ruthelma Samonte to PIA, today.

The lady director added that regions 6, 7 and 8 have pooled their resources together to support the big trade fair.

Similarly, the six LGUs of Samar have shown interest to showcase their OTOP and hopefully gain significant sales and exposure in the event.

Based on a letter to local chief executives of the participating LGUs, DTI Undersecretary Carissa Cruz-Evangelista stated that OTOP Visayas Fair is a product showcase and trade fair highlighting the OTOP Philippines Program, a flagship project of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with the LGUs as its lead implementing arm.

It further mentioned that OTOP’s aim is to strengthen countryside development by promoting entrepreneurship and creating jobs. The letter further stated that no less than PGMA will grace the event as a staunch advocate of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the regions.

The trade fair also aims to generate significant sales; train producers in dealing and negotiating with local and foreign buyers and exporters and develop 5 new exporters from among the participants.

When asked if Daram’s dried squid stands a chance as against Cebu ’s products, Samonte said that all Samar OTOPs stand a chance.

Samar OTOPs that will join the trade fair besides Daram’s squid are the flourishing tourism in Marabut; Tikog and Gifts and Toys Handicrafts (GTH) of Basey; Mussels in Jiabong; Pili based products from Calbiga and Tinapa from Calbayog City. Others SMEs who have also signified willingness to join and sponsored by the Advocates for Philippine Trade Fair Inc. (APFTI) are the Quiseo of Mayet’s food product from Gandara and Basey Handicrafts from Basey, Samar.

Samar DTI OIC expressed gratitude to the LCEs for responding to their call. Meanwhile, DTI Regional Director Cynthia Nierras has allotted some P120,000 for the activity and has also vowed to shoulder 50% of the booth rental for all the participating SMEs in the whole region.





"Stop the killings now!" marchers in Hong Kong demand

By Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
November 20, 2006

HONG KONG  –  Hundreds of people on Sunday marched through Hong Kong as part of an international day of action to demand that the killings of human rights defenders and social activists in the Philippines be ended without delay, and the perpetrators of killings be brought to justice.

"Stop the killings now!" cried over 400 persons who walked from the central district to the Philippines consulate.

The marchers, from religious, labour and human rights organizations based in Hong Kong, including four major Filipino alliances, the Filipino Migrant Union, Philippine Independent Church, Helpers of Islam (Filipinas), Thai Regional Alliance, and the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers, called on the Philippines government to stop denying the extent of the killings and start doing something about them.

"If the government spent as much time and effort to end the killings and investigate those that have already occurred as it does in trying to deny responsibility then many lives could already have been saved," Bruce Van Voorhis of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a co-organiser of the event, told the gathering.

The participants carried banners and posters with the photographs of victims, including Archbishop Alberto Ramento of the Philippine Independent Church, who was stabbed to death at the start of October.

The hands of the military and other state agencies could be clearly seen in the pattern of killings, speakers said.

"Why is it that only peasant and union leaders, human rights activists and others working simply for the benefit of ordinary people are being murdered?" Rey Asis of the Asian Students Association said.

"We are outraged that not even one killing has been solved," Asis said.

Human rights groups have put the number of killings in recent years at over 750; however, police investigators and government officials in the Philippines have consistently played down the scale of violence.

"It is normal to be faced with denial and hostility when plainly stating that such barbaric acts are going on in a society almost daily," Basil Fernando, executive director of the AHRC, told the demonstrators.

"Some people, such as the president in the Philippines, will have their eyes and ears closed for as long as possible, until they are forced to open them," Fernando said.

"Shout louder and they must hear, they must see," he urged.

"End the killings now!" Fernando reiterated.

Angkhana Neelaphaijit, a human rights defender from Thailand whose husband was abducted by the police in 2004, also addressed the crowd.

"We have the same kind of injustices in Thailand and I want to assure the people of the Philippines that we share their experiences and their determination to fight," Angkhana said.

The marchers laid flowers at the front of the photographs of victims before dispersing.

Later a delegation from the march went to the consulate to present the findings of the report on the killings of the Hong Kong Mission for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines.

The report is available online at:

The mission's report, which was prepared after an investigation in July, has had to be updated due to the relentless killings that have occurred since.

The Hong Kong-based AHRC has issued appeals on the killings of at least six persons and attempted killing of three since the start of October alone.

The international campaign calling for an end to the killings has gained speed in recent months.

An online-petition demanding an end to the killings has so far attracted almost 6000 signatories from all around the globe.

The petition can be read and signed at





Borongan LGU, DTI resolve abnormal fuel supply

November 19, 2006

BORONGAN, Eastern Samar  –  “Let us help one another, support each other’s interests for the benefit of all Boronganons.” Thus, said Mrs. Eleanor Alido, DTI Provincial Chief here, in an urgent meeting, today, with Borongan municipal officials and representatives of Petron, Shell and Caltex companies.

Alido’s appeal was a positive and gentle reaction to an “out of stock” notice posted visibly by a gasoline station which caused apprehension among the motorists and vehicle operators in town. It likewise, resulted in a so-called chain reaction because motorists started swarming the two other gasoline stations in town.

The abnormal situation Thursday, prompted DTI to arrange for an urgent meeting Friday, with the owners of gasoline stations in order to ease out the problem and eventually help them address the situation, should the perceived shortage of fuel supply becomes a serious reality.

The proactive DTI officer stressed that one step to resolve a problem in gasoline supply would be a municipal ordinance which will effect equal rationing of the petroleum products. In the same light, she expressed hope that an out of stock notice should no longer be posted as it would be disheartening to know that so and so was penalized for an offense, the Lady DTI officer jibed.

It must never occur, Alido said, because RA 8180 so prescribes that any gasoline station must maintain a certain level of inventory before their stock is totally spent. It was learned later however, that the notice was relatively inaccurate and people need not overly react so as to stand up in a long queue to avail of fuel.

Mr. Sonny Uy of Borongan Caltex admitted though, that they almost run out of stock due to the abrupt increase of customers. However, the young manager assured that the problem at hand was just an isolated case. Further, he ascertained that the delivery of supply is underway and that normal operations can be expected soon. He also called on the public not to expect instant reduction of prices as soon as television networks announce price rollbacks. The stations must wait for the official order from the company supervisors who are stationed in Tacloban City.

With some steps being considered by Borongan LGU, DTI and the three gasoline stations in Borongan, the problem of abnormal supply will soon be in the dust bin.



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