Monthly Archives: August 2008

With People Arming in Mindanao do we Expect a Civil War?

Civilians are now arming themselves after series of MILF attacks to various towns and villages in 4 provinces of Mindanao. This creates a high demand for firearms and ammunitions. ABS CBN news online reported that there is now a shortage of firearms and bullets in Mindanao. According to the report an M14 rifle is sold at P90,00 and an M16 Armalite rifle, between P50,000 to 70,000. 

Recently scores of innocent civilians had been killed when rebel MILF forces attacked provinces, towns, and villages that are against inclusion in the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. The attacks came about following the Supreme Court’s ruling to stop temporarily the signing of the MOA-AD deal. 

As reported, Philippine National Police chief Avelino Razon allowed civilians to defend themselves with available arms in their possession. This may have come about as the PNP fears similar incidents to happen where civilians were helplessly killed by the rampaging MILF forces. Licensed firearm owners are now taking out their guns, especially when they join night watches. Also reported is the setting up of checkpoints and blockades by cities and municipalities threatened by MILF attacks. 

Also in the headlines of the news this week is the resurgence of the dreaded Ilaga vigilante group which claim to have 10,000 members mostly poor farmers. The word Ilaga comes from the Hiligaynon term for a rat. The dreaded armed group already fought MNLF forces in the past. This time they pledge to kill 10 rebels for every civilian killed by the MILF rebels. According to the news, the Ilaga vigilantes do not only protect Christians and Lumads but also non-combatant Muslims. Most of the members of the groups come from Panay  and Negros who already settled in Mindanao. The Movement for the Reformed Ilagas are found in the hinterland of North Cotabato. People who have been associated with the Ilagas in the past were commander toothpick and Norberto Manero who was sentenced to jail for killing an Italian priest. 

As of now people make use of whatever firearms they have like World War 2 vintage rifles such as Mi Garand, Carbine, Thompson sub machine guns, bolt-action Springfields, and 12-guage shotguns which they now clean and polish ready to defend themselves and their villages.  

But the Commission of Human Rights fear of the escalation of violence in this part of the country where more innocent people will be caught in the crossfire.

Likewise the Philippine National Police is distributing firearms to civilian volunteers which they organize and train as auxiliary police to help the military and police guard and protect their villages. 

Is the government preparing the people now to an all out war against the Muslim rebels? But where will this lead conflict lead us to in Mindanao? Will this lead us to a civil war or a religious war between the Christians and Muslims? I hope and pray not.

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No signing of Moro homeland deal because of flaws according to Malacanang

Finally Malacanang admitted there are flaws in Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) which could have been signed between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Malaysia last August 5, 2008. Not unless these should be addressed properly, Malacanang will not sign the agreement. Press secretary Dureza said that the government will instead seek to renegotiate the agreement with the MILF.

 

But as far as Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita is concerned, the government will not push for a renegotiation of the flawed MOA-AD. The government would rather have it reviewed first. The review is necessary in the light of continuing violence in done by the MILF in Mindanao. And that the Solicitor General had to inform the Supreme Court that the government is no longer interested to pursue with the agreement due to critical views and the atrocities committed by the MILF to innocent civilians in Lanao Provinces, Sarangani, and North Cotabato.

            

Critics said the MOA-AD, which would have expanded the autonomous region for Muslims in Mindanao, deal was unconstitutional. If signed and approved in a plebiscite, it could have granted the MILF nearly all the elements of an independent state where Muslims exercise wider economic and political powers. They will also be entitled to 75/25 sharing of wealth from exploitation of natural resources. And this is not acceptable to a greater majority of the Filipinos.

 

Because of the government decision not to pursue with the accord anymore, some MILF field commanders got frustrated and started attacking and killing civilians to pressure Malacanang into signing the deal.

 

But the chief of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Al Haj Murad Ebrahim  warned Wednesday that hostilities in some parts of Mindanao could escalate into a full-blown war if the military and Moro rebels do not arrive at a ceasefire agreement.

 

This comes when Malacanang offered 10 million pesos for the capture of two MILF field commanders who lead in attacking various villages and municipalities in the provinces of Lanao, Sarangani, and North Cotabato. Scores of civilians have wounded and massacred in those MILF attacks.

 

The MILF chief said their peace negotiators are aware that it would take constitutional amendment for the agreement to become binding. He warned that using constitutional process to “water down” on the agreement that had been worked on for the past 10 years is unacceptable to the MILF. The recent massacre of civilians, burning of houses, and looting of their properties only shows the growing frustrations of the MILF on the scrapping of the MOA-AD.

 

He also cautioned the government that while the Muslims could not speak with their mouth they speak with the barrel of their guns. However the army chief vowed for strong military action against the rebels.

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Almost two months now after the ill-fated MV Princess of the Star went under the sea, the Board of Marine Inquiry tagged error of judgment by the ship captain led into the capsizing of the ship as shown in their initial findings. No matter what, “the ship is always under the full responsibility of the master.” Earlier it was the PAGASA that was scored on for faulty weather forecasting. In fact Sulpicio Lines, owner of the MV Princess of the Stars, had put all the blames to PAGASA  for the tragic sinking of their ship.  

Below is the complete story from ABS-CBN News Online

BMI: Captain’s ‘error of judgment’ led to ‘Princess’ tragedy

The captain of the ill-fated MV Princess of the Stars committed an “error of judgment” when he allowed the vessel to sail despite the worsening weather condition last June, initial findings of the Board of Marine Inquiry’s (BMI) investigation into the capsizing of the ship showed. 

“Human error is the principal mistake, neglect, [or] lapse in this part of the tragedy,” BMI vice-chairman Capt. Demetrio Ferrer said in an interview on ANC.

Ferrer maintained that “a ship is always under the full responsibility of the master”. Weather bulletins from PAGASA were just a “contributory factor” to the sinking of the ferry off Romblon that killed hundreds of its passengers, he added.   

Weather bureau PAGASA had been blamed by Princess of the Stars’ owner, Sulpicio Lines Inc., for the tragedy. Ferrer, however, said marine officers should not solely rely on PAGASA bulletins. 

He pointed out that for one, every ship captain has instruments in order to determine the severity of the weather condition. 

He also cited a provision under the International Safety Management (ISM) Code prohibiting a ship from going inside a storm or crossing during typhoons. ISM provides an international standard for the safe management and operation of ships and for pollution prevention.  

“All public agencies are duty-bound to provide services to people such as the safety matter aspects. In our international maritime rule, the master or the company, or other merchant marine officers will not just rely on other sources,” Ferrer said. 

The BMI has ended its hearings on the tragedy. Ferrer said the agency will still have to compile other pieces of evidence before they can come out with recommendations. 

Ferrer said the BMI recommendations will focus on proactive measures so as to prevent a repeat of the incident, admitting that the current system in the local maritime industry needs “overhaul.” 

The Princess of the Stars capsized off San Fernando town in Romblon at the height of bad weather brought by typhoon Frank on June 21. It sailed with 864 passengers and crewmen from the port of Manila the night before.

 If it investigation points at error of judgement on the part of the ship captain as the one to blame in the capsizing of MV Princess of the Stars, the owner Sulpicio Lines is not yet absolved of civil liabilities. It has to compensate still the victims, and may still face other kinds of lawsuits for reasons of negligence.  

 

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