Timorese journalists protest outside Philippine embassy over Ressa arrest

Timor-Leste Press Union president Francisco Belo condemning the arrest and charge of “cyber libel” against Rappler publisher Maria Ressa. Image: Antonio Dasiparu/TLPU

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The Timor-Leste Press Union has protested in front of the Philippine Embassy in the capital Dili in solidarity with indicted Journalist Maria Ressa over her “persecution” and in defence of freedom of the press.

Rappler CEO and editor Maria Ressa is known and respected for her work as a journalist in bringing the plight of the suffering people of Timor-Leste under a quarter century of Indonesian occupation prior to renewed independence in 1999.

The Timorese journalist protest was broadcast by the public broadcaster RTTL.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer, one of the leading Philippine national dailies, reported today that Ressa had accused President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration of acting like a dictatorship and using the law as a weapon to muzzle dissent.

READ MORE: Rappler’s Maria Ressa sees threat to democracy

“What we’re seeing … is a level of impunity that I frankly haven’t seen, and I’ve been a journalist for more than 30 some odd years,” Ressa said after posting bail in a Manila court on Thursday.

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Ressa, who was selected by Time magazine as one of its Persons of the Year last year, is the head of Rappler Inc., which has aggressively covered Duterte’s administration.

Rappler publisher Maria Ressa speaking at a media conference after her release on bail in Manila. Image: Philippine Daily Inquirer

She was arrested Wednesday over a libel complaint from a businessman. Duterte’s government claimed the arrest was a normal step in response to the complaint and had nothing to do with press freedom.

Universities condemn arrest
University leaders and student groups in the Philippines have also condemned the arrest of Ressa, saying schools must defend the truth and press freedom, reports Rappler.

Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) president Father Ramon Jose Villarin and De La Salle Philippines president Brother Armin Luistro urged the universities’ communities to speak out and defend democracy.

“The university shares Maria’s challenge to shine the light on power and be brave in witnessing to the truth. Veritas liberabit vos (The truth will set you free),” Villarin said.

“Lies and false promises of unbridled power, when met with silence, will only make us a nation of slaves,” he added.

Luistro urged Lasallians to “vote with their feet” in the upcoming 2019 elections and make their voices heard to defend press freedom.

Ressa was arrested in connection with a cyber libel case filed by the Justice Department.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Student Council and ADMU publication The Guidon denounced the arrest, saying students would continue to hold the line with Ressa and Rappler.

‘Make our voices heard’
Here are the statements of support from various schools:

Brother Armin Luistro FSC, president of De La Salle Philippines:

“Let’s give our all out support as Lasallians to Rappler. Let’s defend press freedom. Let’s make our voices heard. Let’s vote with our feet and stand with Maria Ressa!”

Father Jose Ramon Villarin SJ, president of Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU):

“In my statement of 13 October 2017, I had occasion to ‘call on everyone in the community to defend our democratic institutions” and to state that “[t]his call to defend our democratic institutions is not even a matter of political partisanship or persuasion. It is a call that is borne out of our conviction about what is right and just and truly democratic.’

“While such pronouncements then pertained to government institutions in particular, the same should be said with regard to freedom of speech, of expression and of the press. No less than the Philippine Constitution recognises ‘the vital role of communication and information in nation-building’ (Constitution, Art. II. Sec. 24) and ‘the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press’ (Constitution, Art. III, Sec. 4).

“There are several rights and freedoms necessary for a democratic society to function. The right to life, the right to due process, the sweet freedoms of speech and of the press – all of these were once considered sacred, inviolable. But as of late these have been called into question; mocked, attacked, degraded.

Rappler, and its brave leader Maria Ressa, have consistently held the line against the erosion of these liberties. It is journalists like her who keep us all informed about the state of our nation, covering different areas of our national life, contributing immeasurably to the wealth and value of our country.

“Too often these days, it is they who wage daily battles against fake news, expose corruption and bring to light illegal practices and wrongdoing by those who lead us.”

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Don’t be silent,’ says defiant Maria Ressa in fight for press freedom

Rappler publisher condemns Duterte government’s “abuse of power”. Video: ABS-CBN

By Iris Gonzales in Manila

The Philippine press has seen many dark days but Maria Ressa’s arrest this week is among the worst.

It signals dangerous times for our country’s democracy, 33 years since it was restored in 1986.

Ressa is a veteran journalist who founded the news website Rappler – and a thorn in the side of President Rodrigo Duterte.

READ MORE: Journalist’s arrest in Philippines sparks demonstrations, fears of a wider crackdown

The feisty journalist, hailed as Time Person of the Year for 2018, was arrested around 5 pm on Wednesday, February 13, by officers of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Maria Ressa … “You have to be outraged like what I’m doing now.” Image: Maria Ressa FB

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The arrest warrant was issued by a local court the day before in connection with a “cyber-libel” case filed by the Philippine Department of Justice against Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr.

The case relates to a story published in May 2012. However, the cyber libel law the story allegedly violated was enacted in September 2012 – some four months later.

The Justice Department filed the case following a complaint lodged by business person Wilfredo Keng, whom Rappler identified in an article as having alleged links to illegal drugs and human trafficking, based on intelligence reports.

‘Abuse of power’
Ressa described her indictment and arrest this week as an “abuse of power” and “weaponisation of the law” against a citizen. She had to spend a night at the NBI office because her warrant was served at 5 pm – a time when government offices were already closed, making it impossible for Ressa to post bail.

The following day she was granted temporary liberty, after posting a P100,000 (US$1900) bail bond at a Manila court.

“These legal acrobatics show how far the government will go to silence journalists, including the pettiness of forcing me to spend the night in jail,” she said.

While Keng had every right to seek redress in the courts, Ressa’s arrest indicates a readiness of government officials to use their power and weaponise the law to go after individuals they perceive as enemies or threats.

Every journalist or critic of the administration is vulnerable. Every action which the government may not like may be put under scrutiny and brought to court.

Let us not forget that President Duterte’s critic, Senator Leila de Lima, is still in jail because of trumped up drug-related charges.

This time, it’s Ressa who is being harassed by the government. But she won’t take it sitting down.

‘Be outraged’
“I’m saying and I’m appealing to you not to be silent, especially if you’re next. You have to be outraged like what I’m doing now,” she said minutes after posting bail.

In a statement, Rappler warned: “No one is safe.”

Apart from cyber-libel, Ressa and Rappler are facing five tax cases. In December 2018, Ressa posted bail twice over alleged violation of the Tax Code. Rappler has also faced revocation of its corporate registration papers by the Securities and Exchange Commission

But, headed by some of the country’s best investigative journalists, Rappler said it would not be cowed by attempts at intimidation and vowed to continue its journalistic duties. ‘We will continue to tell the truth and report what we see and hear. We are first and foremost journalists.’

Ressa’s case will come up in March but her lawyer JJ Disini said they would file a motion to quash and question the information regarding the cyber libel case filed against his client.

The Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, a group of journalists, bloggers and other cause-oriented individuals, has condemned what happened and strongly denounced the continuing harassment of Ressa.

“Her arrest,” it said, “is a betrayal of the guarantees of press freedom and freedom of expressed enshrined in the Constitution. More, its callous execution is an indictment of a weakened justice system; its devious grounds a dangerous fabrication that affects not just journalists, but everyone.”

The international Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have also denounced Ressa’s arrest as “an outrage”.

What happened to Ressa can happen to anyone in my country. Every freedom-loving Filipino must realize this and should stand up against any action that will curtail our freedom as individuals.

As Rappler says, we must all hold the line.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Philippine website editor Maria Ressa held on ‘cyber libel’ charge

Award-winning journalist, publisher and editor Maria Ressa (left) being arrested in Rappler’s newsroom yesterday. She was being kept in detention last night. Image: Maria Tan/AFP/RSF

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The Paris-based global media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned yesterday’s arrest of Maria Ressa, editor of the independent Manila-based news website Rappler, on a “cyber libel” (defamation) charge.

It is referring the Philippine government’s “repeated persecution” of this journalist and her website to the United Nations Secretary-General.

Chosen as one of Time Magazine’s “persons of the year” in 2018, Ressa was spending last night in detention after being arrested at Rappler headquarters by agents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) armed with an arrest warrant issued on the basis of online defamation case filed last week.

READ MORE: Rappler CEO Maria Ressa arrested for ‘cyber libel’

“It seems that her arrest was left until the end of the afternoon with the deliberate aim of keeping her in detention overnight,” RSF said.

According to her colleagues, the judge said there was no time to handle the bail request until today.

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The Philippine Justice Department filed the case against Ressa and Rappler on February 6 over an article published in 2012 about alleged ties between a Philippine businessmen and the then president of the country’s Supreme Court.

The charges, which carry a possible 12-year jail sentence, were brought under a cyber crime law that had not yet taken effect when the article was published.

‘No place in prison’
“Maria Ressa has no place in prison and the judicial persecution to which she is being subjected is becoming increasingly unacceptable,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Digging up an old case that was dismissed in February 2018 is absolutely absurd and confirms that this is not justice but an attempt to gag a media outlet and editor recognised internationally for their professionalism and independence.”

Deloire added: “We are asking the UN secretary-general to intercede as quickly as possible to end this harassment. At the same time, we ask the court that handles this case to dismiss all the charges against Maria Ressa and Rappler.”

This is the sixth charge to be brought against Ressa in more than a year of systematic judicial harassment.

Four charges of tax evasion and failing to file income tax returns were brought against Rappler and Ressa last November. A fifth charge, described by RSF as “completely spurious”, was brought in December.

Ressa is one of the 25 members of an international panel created at RSF’s initiative last year that drafted an international Declaration on Information and Democracy.

On the basis of the declaration, the leaders of 12 democratic countries launched a political process on November 11 aimed at providing democratic guarantees for news and information and freedom of opinion.

Media freedom awards
As well as being one of Time Magazine’s “persons of the year,” Ressa also received the 2018 Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists and has become a symbol of the Philippine media’s fight against intimidation by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Philippines is ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Press freedom groups around the world, including New Zealand’s Pacific Media Centre/Pacific Media Watch, condemned the persecution, with Pen America saying the arrest showed the Duterte government was “desperate” to silence critics.

“Maria Ressa, along with her colleagues at Rappler, has fearlessly exposed the abuses of the Duterte government, even in the face of relentless harassment,” Pen said.

“By arresting her on these absurd and baseless charges, concerning an article published 7 years ago and prior to the enactment of the very law under which she is being charged, the Philippines government has exposed how desperate it is to silence critics and stamp out independent journalism in the country.

“We call on the Duterte government to immediately drop these charges and release Ressa. Investigative journalism is not a crime.”

#Journalismisnotacrime

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Killings, arrests as military ‘flush out’ Mindanao environmental defenders

An international non-government organisation, The Global Witness, has reported that 48 individuals were killed in the country last year, a majority related to agribusiness. Image: Philstar

By KEN E. CAGULA in Davao City

The massive human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples or Lumads and peasants are designed to silence the opposition to the continuing operations of large-scale mining and plantations in Northern Mindanao and the rest of Caraga Region.

This was the assessment made by the environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment or Kalikasan PNE.

“The military is trying to flush out the opposition to mining and plantation interests in Northern Mindanao and Caraga region,” said Kalikasan PNE coordinator Leon Dulce.

READ MORE: Philippines had highest number of killed environmental defenders in Asia

Dulce points out that these Lumad and peasant leaders are the environmental defenders that continue to stand and oppose the large-scale mining and plantation operations in areas of Mindanao.

At present, these environmental defenders are protecting around 243,163 ha of forest and agricultural lands within their ancestral domains and farmlands against the encroachment of these extractive and destructive projects in Northern Mindanao and Caraga Region, he said.

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Hundreds of Lumad residents from Sitio Manluy-a, Panukmoan, and Decoy in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town in Surigao del Sur fled from their homes after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted a series of artillery bombardment and harassments last month.

On January 24, two Manobo farmers identified as Randel Gallego and Emel Tejero, all residents of Km. 16, Brgy. Diatagon went missing after they were allegedly fired upon by soldiers while hauling abaca products.

Dead farmers
The families of the two farmers found their dead bodies at a military detachment six days after they were reported missing.

The 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army claimed that Gallego and Tejero were killed in a clash between soldiers and the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

But human rights advocates belied the military’s claim, saying that the two were unarmed civilians.

“The Lumad communities in Lianga are standing firmly against the coal and gold mining exploration and development projects attempting to grab lands and resources from their ancestral lands ensconced within the Andap River Valley Complex. For this, they are constantly being attacked by the military,” Dulce said.

These areas in Surigao del Sur are one of the largely militarised areas in Caraga region, prompting the exodus of IPs out from their lands due to the continuing presence of soldiers and paramilitary groups in their communities.

Kalikasan PNE also slammed the “illegal arrest” of Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organisation and Ireneo Udarbe, chair of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Northern Mindanao Region on January 28.

The police named the two leaders as “top NPA leaders” which Kalikasan PNE said is a “repeated accusation” to justify the illegal arrest.

“Goaynon and Udarbe are stalwarts of the struggles of indigenous people and peasants against agri-industrial plantations in Northern Mindanao. They have also effectively exposed military-affiliated indigenous paramilitary groups such as the New Indigenous People’s Army Reform who have been attacking Lumad lands to pave the way for mining deals,” Dulce said.

Martial law
With the continued declaration of martial rule, Kalikasan PNE said that attacks against environmental defenders continue to worsen.

At least 28 cases of environmental-related killings in Mindanao were recorded by the group since it was first declared by President Rodrigo Duterte in May 23, 2017.

They noted the “growing trend” of killed defenders vilified as members or supporters of the NPA

“The Duterte government is trying to depict our fellow environmental defenders as rebels or terrorists to justify the militarization of their bastions of natural wealth. We demand that Goaynon and Udarbe be freed and that military troops wreaking havoc in Lianga be withdrawn as soon as possible.

“Justice for the murdered defenders must be delivered and the bloody reign of Duterte’s martial law over Mindanao must be lifted immediately,” Dulce said.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Asia-Pacific journalists plan strategy for gender-based violence reporting

Former Pacific Media Watch editor and now Tagata Pasifika journalist Alistar Kata (left) and AUT masters research student Pauline Mago-King from Papua New Guinea who attended this week’s gender-based violence media workshop. Image: Star Kata/Instagram

By Pauline Mago-King

Seventeen women journalists from the Asia-Pacific region gathered in the Victorian capital of Melbourne this week to work on an empowerment strategy for reporting on gender-based violence against women.

Organised by the Canadian-based Centre for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), the workshop on gender-based violence against women (GBVAW) at Monash University was a key step toward ensuring better collaboration with the media.

The media plays a vital role in influencing the attitudes toward gender-based violence, especially in environments where the development of women and girls is overlooked.

“A world without violence is possible.” Image: Pauline Mago-King/PMC

Within the Asia-Pacific region, a common thread is the vulnerability of women and girls in the face of gender inequality and sociocultural norms identified by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).

From Papua New Guinea to the Philippines, putting gender-based violence into context remains a challenge in terms of recognising women’s rights as human rights.

The Rutgers University-based centre has been instrumental in raising awareness of the issue through its 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign.

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It has recognised the need for journalists in different spaces to be well informed and equipped on covering the issue.

Support needed
The centre says journalists need support when it comes to reporting challenges such as data, resources and logistics, newsroom culture, and state accountability.

Throughout the two-day workshop, journalists shared their experiences in reporting gender-based violence against women and highlighted the gaps that could be filled in their countries.

News framing of survivors was stressed as essential toward changing a culture of victim-blaming.

Women journalists themselves are vulnerable when covering stories on gender-based violence.

Although strategies on improving gender-based violence coverage are still a work in progress, the centre’s workshop provided a needed forum for Asia-Pacific journalists.

Papua New Guinean television journalist Quintina Naime found suggestions on improving reporting on gender-based violence especially helpful.

Passionate reporting
“Coming from a country with diverse cultures and where domestic violence has become a norm, I’m privileged to have met other influential female journalists who are passionate about reporting on gender-based violence issues affecting the most vulnerable in society,” she says.

“I’m encouraged that my contribution will contribute to the professional development and networking opportunities of journalists reporting on the issues. I’m privileged to have represented Papua New Guinea and PNGTV.”

Other countries represented in the consultation were Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, New Zealand, Philippines and Samoa.

The centre will continue to convene with journalists from other regions to improve reporting of gender-based violence against women and to hopefully change attitudes.

The centre has already hosted workshops in the South Asia and Middle East regions.

It is hoped that the dialogue emerging from all these workshops will help develop a tool or guideline that will assist journalists in tackling the issues.

Pauline Mago-King is a masters student at Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre researching gender-based violence issues in Papua New Guinea. She was a participant in the gender-based violence against women workshop.

Participants at the Asia-Pacific workshop on gender-based violence against women. Image: CWGL/PMC

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Philippine website accused in ‘absurd’ seven-year-old media libel case

“This indictment is evidence that the law has been weaponised – the NBI’s own lawyers recommended the case be thrown out,” says Rappler CEO Maria Ressa. Image: Rappler

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the latest “absurd charges” that the Philippine Justice Department is planning to bring against the news website Rappler – this time libel charges in connection with an article posted in 2012 – and has called for the case to be dismissed.

The Justice Department has announced that Rappler, its editor and CEO Maria Ressa, and one of its former reporters, Reynaldo Santos Jr., are to be charged over a 2012 article about alleged ties between businessmen Wilfredo Keng and the then president of the country’s Supreme Court.

The charges, which carry a possible 12-year jail sentence, are based on the complaint that Keng brought five years later, in October 2017, under a cyber-crime law that was enacted several months after the article’s publication.

READ MORE: DOJ to indict Rappler for cyber libel

The National Bureau of Investigation dismissed the complaint in February 2018 because the law was not retroactive and because of a one-year moratorium on filing complaints, but reversed its decision the following month.

The Justice Department is reviving the case on the grounds that a principle of “continuous publication” can be applied to websites.

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‘Grotesque persecution’
“The judicial harassment used by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to persecute Rappler’s journalists is becoming grotesque,” said Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“It would be almost laughable if it weren’t for the terrible judicial precedent that this decision would set, if upheld. We urge the court that handles this case to show independence and wisdom by dismissing it once and for all.”

The authorities have been systematically targeting Rappler for more than a year with the aim of intimidating its journalists. Four charges of tax evasion and failing to file income tax returns were brought against Rappler and Ressa in November.

A fifth, “completely spurious”, charge was brought in December, said RSF.

In January 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that it was revoking Rappler’s licence on the grounds that it had violated a ban on foreign ownership of media outlets, spuriously claiming that, by issuing Philippine Depositary Receipts to raise funds, it had sold some of its stock to foreign investors.

RSF referred this “unacceptable attack on media independence” to various international bodies.

In response to Rappler’s appeal against the SEC decision, a court ruled in July that the website should be allowed “reasonable time” to resolve any dispute about its financial structure.

The Rappler reporter assigned to covering the Malacañang presidential palace was meanwhile denied entry to the palace in February 2018 on Duterte’s personal orders.

The Philippines is ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

The Pacific Media Centre collaborates with Reporters Without Borders.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Bishops slam ‘cycle of hate’ they say is destroying moral fabric of Philippines

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Archbishop Romulo Valles (right) and vice-president Bishop Pablo Virgilio David address the media in a press conference yesterday. Image: Maria Tan/Rappler

By Paterno Esmaquel II in Manila

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has slammed the “cycle of hate” in the country as seen in the Jolo Cathedral bombing that killed at least 20 people – among them churchgoers – in Mindanao.

“The recent bombing of the cathedral of Jolo where scores of people were killed and several more were injured is a further evidence to the cycle of hate that is destroying the moral fabric of our country,” said the CBCP in its pastoral statement after its 118th plenary assembly over the weekend.

The CBCP statement was signed by the conference president, Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, and read by its vice-president, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, in a press conference yesterday.

READ MORE: The real culprits behind the Philippine cathedral bombing

The bishops in their statement noted “how the culture of violence has gradually prevailed in our land.”

“Lately, we have also been on the receiving end of cruel words that pierce into the soul of the Catholic Church like sharp daggers,” said the CBCP, in apparent reference to the tirades of President Rodrigo Duterte against the Catholic Church.

-Partners-

“We have silently noted these painful instances with deep sorrow and prayed over them. We have taken our cue from Pope Francis who tells us that in some instances, ‘the best response is silence and prayer,’” said the CBCP.

‘Conquer evil with good’
Archbishop Valles stressed it was important to “conquer evil with good,” as the title of their statement said.

On the Jolo Cathedral bombing, Valles told reporters: “Such incident is very sad, very tragic – almost difficult to imagine that man can do that to his fellow brothers and sisters, but yet as believers, as Catholics, we must go back to our faith, look inside our hearts how to respond to this evil deed…with good. That is the strength of our faith in this situation especially it’s a Catholic cathedral that was bombed.”

Asked if the President’s words had contributed to this “cycle of hate,” Bishop David answered, “I think your guess will be as good as mine.”

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, who sat in the same press conference, added that the Jolo Cathedral bombing “jeopardises the peace process in Mindanao, especially after the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which in effect is really a peace treaty, a peace agreement, between the government panel and the armed groups of the Muslim communities.”

“We hope that this bombing of the cathedral will not sidetrack us, the majority communities of both Muslims and Christians, from the path of lasting peace through the Bangsamoro Organic Law,” Archbishop Ledesma said.

The CBCP said, “In the midst of spiritual warfare, Saint Peter admonishes us to ‘be sober and alert’ especially when the enemy attacks ‘like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.’”

“As members of God’s flock, we must learn to be brave, to stick together, and look after one another,” the bishops said.

Paterno Esmaquel II is a Rappler journalist.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

At least 20 killed as two bomb blasts hit Jolo Cathedral in Philippines

Bombs minutes apart tore through a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, in the southern Philippines region of Mindanao at the weekend. Video: Philippine Daily Inquirer

By Rambo Talabong and Mara Cepeda in Jolo, Philippines

At least 20 people were killed as two explosions rocked the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu, yesterday, just days after the historic Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was ratified paving the way for self-rule by the Muslim majority region.

This revised death toll, sent to reporters last night, comes hours after Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police Chief Superintendent Graciano Mijares earlier reported a death toll of 27.

In his latest update, Mijares said the following died in yesterday’s Jolo Cathedral bombing:

  • 14 civilians
  • 5 from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
  • 1 from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)

READ MORE: Military will ‘crush’ Jolo attackers

Soldiers and civilians are among the dead and wounded in twin explosions that rocked the cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, on Sunday. Image: PTV Twitter

Mijares also said at least 111 individuals were wounded:

  • 90 civilians
  • 17 from the AFP
  • 2 from the PCG
  • 2 from the Philippine National Police (PNP)

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Casualties evacuated
The ARMM regional police said casualties “were immediately evacuated” as the AFP and the PNP secured the area.

The PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) earlier said two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were used to bomb the cathedral.

According to the ARMM regional police, one IED exploded inside the cathedral, and another at the entrance.

PNP spokesperson Senior Superintendent Bernard Banac said that the second explosion happened as AFP personnel responded to the first explosion.

The people of Sulu province, which includes the city of Jolo, narrowly voted against the Bamsamoro law, although it was supported by 85 percent of the vote overall in the provinces and districts taking part in the referendum.

Malacañang and top government officials condemned the twin bombings.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo vowed that the military would “crush” the perpetrators of the bombing and several politicians also extended their condolences to the victims’ families and called for justice to be served.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are already on heightened alert and have vowed to “thoroughly investigate” the bloody incident.

Rambo Talabong and Mara Cepeda report for Rappler news portal.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Typhoon Usman and nightmarish Christmas holiday times in Bicol

Flooding of ricefields and villager homes beside the causeway between Vinzons and Labo in Camarines Norte, Bicol region, during Typhoon Usman on 29 December 2018. Video: Café Pacific

By David Robie

It was nerve wracking, and at times really scary. The wind howled and bowled over grown trees, the rain fell in a continuous deluge, and electricity was cut for the best part of three days.

Vinzons, a small town of about 44,000 people in a remote corner of mountainous Bicol in the Philippines, was “marooned”.

The ricefields to the north and west and south of the town were flooded, the Labo River had broken its banks and the Pacific Ocean was encroaching to the east.

Once was a rice field … a flooded area beside the Labo causeway, swollen by the Labo River and looking like the open sea. Image: David Robie/PMC

Our Christmas present – Typhoon Usman – had turned us into a virtual island.

Typhoon Usman … daily media reports of death and destruction, but Vinzons was largely cut off for communications.

People turned up my wife’s sister’s home with horror stories. Flooded in the middle of the night. Awakened by floodwaters lapping at their bedside. Waist deep in water.

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And the fears of electrocution were very real.

Rumours were rife of deaths in the Vinzons district.

The 360 km road from Manila to Vinzons through the rugged Bicol mountains. Map: Google

Communications blackout
But it was hard to get accurate and verified information with a communications blackout. Internet was down. No television and cellphone reception difficult.

Our planned trip to the impressive Mayon volcano, 206 km southwards past Naga was cancelled. We would never have made it.


Flooding at the bridge to Magcawayan school … after the waters had dropped. Video: Café Pacific

What was really happening? I called in at the local community radio station, Radyo Katabang 107.7FM, tucked away in a rooftop shack.

However, it was Christmas time and although the radio was on an emergency generator, the skeleton staff were relying on networked programming from Manila, 360 km away on the Pan-Philippine Highway – itself blocked by massive road slips.

Technician Michael Sarical holds the fort at community Radio Katabang. Image: David Robie/PMC

I drove around with my wife’s lawyer nephew in a “Judiciary”-plated four-wheel-drive vehicle to get a sense of the devastation in the district.

A small military detachment – a truck and soldiers – arrived to guard the emergency rice supplies and other foodstuffs as they were being dispensed by volunteers at the Vinzons Town Hall.

Soldiers awaiting orders at the Vinzons Town Hall. Image: David Robie/PMC

By December 30, the typhoon – now downgraded to a “tropical depression” (still very depressing, actually) – had eased and children were out in droves playing in the flooded streets in spite of the risks.


“Fun” on the flooded Vinzons streets. Video: Café Pacific

Plugged into news
And we were now plugged into the newscasts again. It wasn’t quite as bad as we had thought – only one death in Vinzons (out of a total of 122 across Bicol, the island of Samar and the Central Visayas).

Volunteers at the Vinzons Town Hall prepare relief food packs for evacuees. Image: David Robie/PMC

At least 57 of the dead were from Camarines Sur province, mostly from a landslide in the town of Sagnay, reports the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

At least 18 of the dead were from Albay, 15 from Camarines Norte (our province), eight from Sorsogon and seven from Masbate.

Of the 23 missing people – presumed dead, 20 were from Camarines Sur, and three from Tiwi, Albay.

Bicol relief officials also said nearly 31,000 people had sought shelter in six evacuation centres.

One Municipal Social Welfare Development (MSWD) official I spoke to in Vinzons, Irine Cribe del Rio, said a total of 641 families (2185 people), had been sheltered during the storm, mostly at Vinzons Elementary School.

Clean-up time in a Vinzons market shop. Image: David Robie/PMC

Crops devastated
Although they went back to their homes – if still standing – their freshly planted rice fields and livelihoods were devastated.

An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty, reports The Guardian.

The most powerful was Super Typhoon Haiyan which left more than 7360 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in 2013.

Yet, remarkably, in spite of the hardships the community is full of smiles and laughter.

David Robie and his wife, Del, were on holiday in the Vinzons town of Bicol when the typhoon struck. They assist a local school through a support project.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Bangsamoro Islamic troops choose peace via historic Philippines vote

By Sofia Tomacruz in Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao

Battle-scarred they might be, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have faced their toughest campaign yet.

Armed with nothing but a first-time vote, young troops from the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces prayed they would win the decades-old struggle for autonomy and independence through yesterday’s ballot.

More than 150,000 former combatants of the MILF are among the 2.8 million people who have registered to vote in the plebiscite, where the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and the creation of a new, expanded Bangsamoro region will be decided.

WATCH: Sofia Tomacruz’s video reports and live updates from Rappler

New role? MILF chairman Murad Ibrahim (left) will likely become the Bangsamoro region’s chief minister if the organic law is ratified in yesterday’s referendum. Image: Malacañang file

MILF leader Al Hajj Murad Ibrahim cast his vote for the first time in the historic referendum seeking to ratify the law that will give more autonomy to the Philippines’ Muslim minority.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) is seen as the solution to the decades of separatist conflict in Mindanao, a region plagued by poverty and violent extremism, reports Arab News. More than 120,000 people have died in the conflict.

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“This is my first time to vote,” said Murad. “During the height of the war, we never thought that this would happen. But after the progress of the peace process, we see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

It took the leader of the MILF, formerly the biggest Muslim group in the country, only a few minutes to case his “yes” vote.

First time vote
“I am happy that at least for the first time, I have exercised my right of suffrage,” he later said, adding that his participation in the voting signals the commencement of their transition from a revolutionary into the democratic process.

Like Murad, thousands of MILF fighters, along with their families, also trooped to polling centers yesterday to take part in the voting process, many of them for the first time.

“We are hoping that with this development, we can finally achieve the aspiration of our people for peace, progress and a good life in this part of the country and in the entire country,” Murad said.

Murad said that after the plebiscite, “hopefully the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the transitional government, will be immediately established and we will start to organise our government structure and after the BTA, a regular government in 2022.”

Murad said that once the BOL is implemented, their priorities would be education, medical services, social services,and infrastructure, adding that education was their top priority.

“For more than 50 years of war, many of our people have not obtained education. We cannot really progress if our people are not educated,” he said.

Murad said that as long as the vote is conducted in a fair manner with no manipulation, intimidation or cheating, they are “determined to accept whatever is the result.”

Chief minister
A chief minister will head the BTA and this position will likely go to Murad.

Before he talked peace with the government, Murad was a fearsome MILF commander.

Murad’s decades of rebellion began in 1972 when he joined the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by former University of the Philippines professor Nur Misuari.

A group within the MILF disagreed with Nur over a peace deal with the government and broke away in 1981. This group became the MILF.

Murad became the head of MILF’s army, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). He commanded at least 12,000 men.

When MILF’s then-leader Hashim Salamat died in 2003, Murad took the reins.

After years of fighting government forces, the MILF began peace talks with the Arroyo and then the Aquino administration.

Signing witnessed
In 2012, Murad witnessed the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which laid the groundwork for the BOL.

The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country but Mindanao has a significant Muslim population.

Many regard the region as their ancestral homeland, dating back to the 13th Century when Arab traders first arrived, and over the decades various rebel groups sprang up demanding the right to self-rule.

Mindanao has seen a huge amount of violence in recent years – mainly between the army, Muslim separatists and other rebels.

The violence has left Mindanao one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.

The entire region of Mindanao is still under martial law, which was implemented in 2017 after clashes between the army and militants linked to IS.The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country but Mindanao has a significant Muslim population.

Ancestral homeland
Many regard the region as their ancestral homeland, dating back to the 13th Century when Arab traders first arrived, and over the decades various rebel groups sprang up demanding the right to self-rule.

Mindanao has seen a huge amount of violence in recent years – mainly between the army, Muslim separatists and other rebels.

The violence has left Mindanao one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.

The entire region of Mindanao is still under martial law, which was implemented in 2017 after clashes between the army and militants linked to IS.

If a majrity of the millions of voters from Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Cotabato City voted “yes” include their areas in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), a second voting day will take place on February 6.

This time, in Lanao del Norte – except Iligan City – and 7 towns in North Cotabato.

If a majority of voters in all areas agree to their inclusion, the new BARMM will be comprised of the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Cotabato City, 6 towns in Lanao del Norte, and 67 barangays in North Cotabato.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media