The conflict in Maguindanao

THE social media and coffeeshops are abuzz with talk over President Benign S. Aquino III’s admission yesterday, January 28, that there was a lack of coordination in the clash that killed more than 40 policemen in southern Philippines.

The President, in his message to the nation, declared a national day of mourning for the deaths of at least 44 members of the counter-insurgency Special Action Force of the National Police who were tasked to capture two terrorists in a covert operation that ended in disaster.

Police Director Getulio Napeñas, who was relieved after the incident, admitted that he did not coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines before launching “Oplan Wolverine” that aimed to capture Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” a reported Malaysian terrorist.

Marwan, who is considered as the Osama bin Laden of Southeast Asia, has a $6-million bounty on his head offered by the United States government.

“Operation Neptune Spear” is the covert US Navy Seals operation that led to the death of al-Qaida chief Osama bin laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on March 2011.

Maguindanao is once again in the news. Six years ago, a similar incident also occurred in one of its towns, Ampatuan, when more than 50 people were killed, 32 of them journalists, in what is now known as the Ampatuan Massacre.

It seems that we are reminded of Maguindanao only when killings occur. But what is there to understand about the seemingly never-ending cycle of violence in Maguindanao?

Is Maguindanao or the entire Mindanao region only a refuge for terrorists or is it a land full of promise yet neglected by the government? We hope that this series of articles and video documentary that we have compiled for your easy browsing would at least make us think about Maguindanao beyond the Mamasapano clash.

SEVERAL days after the deadly encounter between members of the National Police’ Special Action Force and soldiers of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, President Benigno S. Aquino III will address the nation.

What will he talk about especially amid reports that he authorized the operation to capture two wanted terrorists that have reportedly sought refuge in Mindanao?

We will be live streaming the event via the RTVMalacanang channel.

THESE are the top five government agencies with unused relief funds after Typhoon Yolanda (international codename Haiyan) struck the Philippines last year.

By now, the destruction wrought by the strongest typhoon ever recorded in modern Philippine history has been well documented.

In its wake, Yolanda had left at least 6,200 killed, 28,600 injured, and thousands more still buried in the rubble. Some 550,900 houses were destroyed and 589,400 more were damaged. In all, almost 16 million people were affected in 591 towns and 57 cities in 44 of the country’s 80 provinces. These figures are based on the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (NDRRMC) situational report dated April 3, 2014.

INFOGRAPHICS by Cong B. Corrales

INFOGRAPHICS by Cong B. Corrales

CLICK on the photo below to read “A lot of money, impact too little too late” on our Disaster Aid microsite.

A CHILD PIGGYBACKS on her mother in one of the villages devastated by the storm in Tacloban City. This photo was taken a week after Haiyan made landfall in Tacloban and other parts of the Visayas, killing thousands of people | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

A CHILD PIGGYBACKS on her mother in one of the villages devastated by the storm in Tacloban City. This photo was taken a week after Haiyan made landfall in Tacloban and other parts of the Visayas, killing thousands of people | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

TODAY’S papers reported that one of the suspects in the mauling of actor Vhong Navarrao last year was arrested by the justice department’s National Bureau of Investigation.


Ferdinand Guerrero was nabbed in a Makati City condominium along Ayala Avenue according to a report published on the website of the Philippine Star.

[Read full text of “Missing suspect in Vhong Navarro case nabbed”]

Navarro, also known as Totoy Bibo, was mauled in a Taguig City condominium on January 22, 2014 after he allegedly tried to rape commercial model Deniece Cornejo. Aside from Guerrero, martial artist Simeon “Zimmer” Raz Jr. and businessman Cedric Lee were also charged with grave coercion and serious illegal detention.

Three days ago, January 24, 2015, someone was murdered four years ago.

Gerry Ortega, a journalist, was shot in cold blood in Palawan after his final broadcast.

He died on the spot.

While his case had the potential of being resolved swiftly compared to most cases of media murders, it has dragged on for four years now.

Authorities captured the gunman, Marlon Recamata, only minutes after he fled the crime scene. Recamata immediately confessed to the killing, and directly implicated the former Palawan governor as mastermind. However, following the preliminary investigation, a panel of prosecutors from the Justice Department absolved the Reyes consortium, including Joel Reyes’ brother and co-conspirator Mario Reyes, and four other accused—a decision that was reversed by a second panel, but nonetheless dragged the case on. – “A voice silenced: Gerry Ortega, a case study of impunity in the Philippines”

This PCIJ production, “Murder in Paradise: The Doc Gerry Ortega murder” takes us back to one of the more controversial killing of a journalist that involved a former Palawan governor.

What happened to the Gerry Ortega murder case?

According to Rupert D. Mangilit of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines:

Ortega’s case reflects the sorry state of journalist killings in the Philippines since 1986. While 171 media workers were murdered in cold blood, a dismal 16 convictions have been made. Among those who have been sentenced are the small fry behind the murders — the gunmen, the lookouts, the drivers — but never the masterminds. In the last four years under the Aquino presidency, 32 journalists, including Ortega, have lost their lives.

Click on the image below to read the full article of Mangilit originally published on the website of the International Federation of Journalists on November 13, 2014.

Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

DAP funds flowed to government agencies after Typhoon Yolanda left a trail of death and destruction in 44 provinces across the Philippines.

In this infographics by PCIJ multimedia deputy producer Cong B. Corrales, you can see the top 10 government agencies that received DAP funds for “calamity” projects post-Yolanda.

INFOGRAPHICS by Cong B. Corrales

INFOGRAPHICS by Cong B. Corrales

Know more, read more of our stories on our Disaster Aid microsite.

The hidden costs of war in Mindanao



THE CLASH between rebels and policemen that led to the deaths of more than 60 members of the elite Special Action Force in Mindanao has once again drawn attention to the southern Philippine island.

Questions are now also being raised if the incident, which Interior Sec. Mar Roxas said was a misencounter, could affect peace efforts after the signing of the final agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF.

The deaths of the SAF troopers highlighted the fact that war costs lives, an ugly fact in the decades-old conflict that has rocked Mindanao since the 1970s.

INFOGRAPHICS by Cong B. Corrales

INFOGRAPHICS by Cong B. Corrales

Beyond the deaths of soldiers, rebels, and civilians in Mindanao, however, there is another more tragic cost of war: its effects on children.

In this 2012 article written by former PCIJ Multimedia Head Ed Lingao, Mindanaoans weighed in on the effects of war on the future generation.

“If the children are allowed not to get an education, they are prone to be criminals in the future,” he remarked during our brief encounter. “Our observation way back from 1972 up to the late 1980s is that the active lawless elements of today are the product of those babies born at that time.” – Tipo-Tipo Mayor Ingatun Estarul

January 26, 2015 · Posted in: Disaster Aid, General, In the News

Today’s Top 10

Foreign government donors and UN agencies that helped us

DO YOU know what countries donated money to the Philippines for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda? How much did they give? These infographics give us a glimpse into the flow of aid from abroad based on information gathered by the PCIJ from embassies of donor countries.

top10_foreigngovt_donors copy

INFOGRAPHIC by Cong B. Corrales

And how about aid coming from United Nations agencies?

top10_UNdonation_yolanda copy

INFOGRAPHIC by Cong B. Corrales

More details [Who, what, why, how much“] on our Disaster Aid microsite.