TIPO-TIPO, Basilan, August 2007: The province had lapsed into yet another one of its seemingly interminable wars after suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf fighters killed and beheaded Marine troopers who were searching for kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi.
But Tipo-Tipo Mayor Ingatun Estarul had much more on his mind as government troops geared up for an offensive in nearby Albarka and refugees began streaming into his town. The children, Estarul said, are missing school again.
THE LONG road to peace takes a short detour to Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, this weekend as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) holds what it calls the “Bangsamoro General Assembly” at its center of gravity in Central Mindanao.
Throughout the week, social networking sites and mobile phones were abuzz with messages about the movements of contingents from all over Mindanao. “Allahu Akbar! Four truckloads of participants on the way to the General Assembly,” wrote one participant on Facebook. By the middle of this week, hotels in nearby Cotabato City were already fully booked, as reporters, diplomats, and travelers, visitors, and participants prepare for what could be a show of unity, a show of support, or a show of force by the MILF.
JUST A few weeks after the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao Massacre, where 58 people including 32 journalists were executed in a remote barangay in Ampatuan town, officials of the Firearms and Explosives Division (FED) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were surprised to receive a deluge of applications for gun amnesty from one particular province in Mindanao.
Every once in a while, the national government offers a gun amnesty to the general public. These amnesty offers are a general pardon of sorts, where people with loose or unlicensed firearms are allowed to have illegal guns licensed and registered in their names.
But this batch of applications raised a red flag among officials of the PNP-FED, the agency tasked with regulating gun ownership and use in the country.
MAGUINDANAO:The Quest for Justice is a documentary produced by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism on the second anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre. After two years, the Ampatuans have allegedly ramped up efforts to reach a settlement with the families of the victims. The families of the victims continue to hold out against the proposed settlement, even as they try to survive from day to day. In the meantime, the Ampatuan clan continues to wield clout in the region with its vast resources and continuing political influence.
TEN months, nine lives, and a flurry of finger-pointing and paper work later, the controversy over the media coverage of the 2010 Luneta hostage-taking incident by the country’s biggest and most influential television and radio networks has come down to feeble fines of P30,000, and a virtual slap on the wrist.
The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), the national association of owners and operators of radio and television stations in the country, has levied fines on two major television networks and one radio network for broadcasting information that it ruled could have compromised police efforts to rescue the hostages during the day-long hostage-taking incident at the Quirino Grandstand on Aug. 23, 2010.
The media are not only failing to regulate themselves; more importantly, some media organizations are actually depending on the government to intervene, in effect eroding the very principle of self-regulation itself.
IF MONEY is the root of all evil, particularly in the corruption-tainted Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), then perhaps the government might do well to deny soldiers access to cold cash.
At the same time, however, it must make sure that the logistics and supplies get to the battlefield in the right quantity at the right time.
Or perhaps the government might require that all military contracts for goods and services be covered by a strictly enforced electronic procurement system.
As well, if the logistics system is good and efficient, the government might ban the conversion of funds and congressional insertions in the AFP’s budget altogether.
NORTH COTABATO – While senators and generals in Manila were bickering over who got more millions in pabaon among outgoing chiefs of staff of the Armed Forces, Sergeant Rolly was wondering why his meager salary had thinned some more.
And then his pay check showed that General Headquarters (GHQ) had made deductions for several loans that he never took out.
Sergeant Rolly is just one of more than 100,000 soldiers who have kept their ears cocked to the ongoing Senate investigation into the staggering amounts that some generals have allegedly stashed away in bank accounts and prime real estate here and abroad.
EIGHT YEARS ago in 2003, the PCIJ had exposed how the soldiers themselves were arming the enemy, by selling bullets and guns at fat discounts to rebels. To make matters worse, the transactions transpired at the very heart of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) command: the General Headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo.
That early, a New People’s Army (NPA) cadre code-named Ricky visited Aguinaldo on and off to purchase wares of war from soldiers. The bullets went for P5 a pop, even though the government at the time spent P14 to make or purchase each one.
The sale of guns and bullets by some soldiers to rebel groups and warlords is an old cottage industry, according to contacts from the NPA and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Then and now, government arsenals have become a dipping pond for rebel groups, thanks to soldiers given to making quick money.