Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Villa Lacida Beach Resort, Linamon, Lanao del Norte
June 23-25, 2006
“Institutionalizing Maranao Traditional Structure for Peace and Development”
Through the support of The Asia Foundation (TAF), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities Inc. (RIDO)

The training delve on sharing of peace-building efforts in local context; workshops on conflicts from the community; barangay justice system and its legal causes; input on conflict transformation and peaceful approaches to resolving conflict; identification of good practices and mechanism in resolving disputes in their respective areas; Islamic way for peaceful approaches in resolving conflict; identification of external factors affecting peace-building initiatives; and identification of concrete intervention of Moriatao Sultan sa Marawi in dispute settlements and other peace-building initiatives.

This workshop aimed to
Ø Identified the Strength, Opportunities , Challenges and Recommendation for strengthening Local structure and Mechanism for disputes settlement
Ø Identified the good practices and mechanisms in resolving disputes in the Communities
Ø Identified the external factors affecting peace building particularly in resolving conflict
Ø Appreciated the key elements of peace initiatives and enhanced skills in conflict resolution both Islamic, traditional and other approaches
Ø Identified the strategies in conflict resolution and peace building to be advocated by the Sultanate of Marawi.
Ø Updated the Elders for the Status of Moriatao Sulutan sa Marawi , Its efforts and coming endeavor
Ø Updated the Elders for Local and regional level for the peace building initiatives

For a long term result, this seminar is also at:
-formation of MSM grassroots-based peace advocates
-The traditional and local peace advocates become effective facilitators in peaceful resolution of conflict in their clan and their communities
-reduction of incidence of disputes in their clan and their communities
-the local and traditional peace advocates are actively involved in their respective clan and barangays as well as work with other peace advocates at the macro level

Moriatao Sultan sa Marawi (MSM)/ Descendants of Sultan sa Marawi have conducted meetings and consultations, clan genealogy, reunion and grand gathering, peace and development initiatives, peace caravan, sports peace, training and workshop for elders, women and youths on conflict resolution. Atar also updated them that resolved rido cases were fully documented.

With the mission to attain for peace and development, MSM hope to access basic services and livelihood program; revive traditional values and install good mechanism in enthronement procedure as well as TJS; capacitate council of leaders in conflict resolution; provide avenues for generating self-reliance of the members; and empowering clan members to participate local peace and development initiatives.

For more information on this, contact Hamiddulah Atar, executive director of RIDO Inc. 063-2254219 & 09186236493

Aleem Ali Oto Batuaan spoke on the Islamic way of peaceful conflict resolution

(An input delivered at a seminar workshop on Conflict Management at Villa Lacida Beach Resort, Linamon, Lanao del Norte
June 23-25, 2006
“Institutionalizing Maranao Traditional Structure for Peace and Development”Through the support of The Asia Foundation (TAF), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities Inc. (RIDO)

Islam as a religion is a religion of peace. The Quran says that Allah almighty is a God of peace and Muhammad is a messenger of peace.

The Koran as the basis of truth brings message of peace. Even the daily prayers of Muslims are concluded with Salam. The salutation of Muslims is peace.

Islam demands that a Muslim believer must live and die in peace and for peace. This is imperative for the communities in this world be an abode of peace of all races.

Batuaan also discussed many customary practices of Maranao tribe within the context of Muslim Personal Code. The latter deals on Muslim civil rights, including the rights of succession and on marriage. He cited stories as examples to deepen the discussion.

He also mentioned the approaches to resolve conflicts and relate these to real life:
a. Faith
b. Brotherhood
c. Charity
d. Generosity
e. Patience
f. Honesty

Sultan sa Marawi Asgar Sani (transcription of his speech at Conflict Management seminar)

(Sultan Sani graced the seminar-workshop on Conflict Management for Council of Elders of Moriatao sa Sultan sa Marawi (Descendants of Sultan sa Marawi) initiated by Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities Inc (RIDO) at Villa Lacida, Linamon, Lanao del Norte last June 24-26, 2007)

He reckon his childhood days, in 1940s at Commonwealth time, that it was more peaceful than today. There were no kidnapping, crimes and violence. As a child he felt safe then. Today, farmers as producers of food have nothing to eat.

Asgar also called for electoral reform. Election, for him, destroys the political system of the government. He said that in other countries, flying voters are prevented by having a national ID system which serve as an identification of every electorate.

Sani also reaffirm the importance of Salsilah in tracing genealogy or family ties. This is a potent tool for conflict management and transformation. He challenged everyone to be effective parents at home by educating children of best values. Good values today are eroded. He also emphasized the importance of sending children to school but also challenge the state to perform its mandate and to fully support for the full development of children’s potential. He also encouraged Muslims to be faithful and to be of better understanding and relationship with Christians.

Sultan sa Pantar Abdurahman Sultan speech

Our forefathers were more effective in resolving conflicts. Harmonizing the modern and traditional system of solving conflict seems bit impossible to achieve. Before, there were no conflicts that will not pass at the torogan of Sultan. The present system spent money to pay lawyers than spend for conflict resolution. Before, people work to solve problems heartily in the name of God. I believe that MSM can resolve conflicts and restore the traditional system. It is possible to harmonize the customary and traditional systems of solving problems. Long ago at the time of conquest, Americans directed their soldiers to destroy the fort, destroy their sultan, and destroy their igma and taritib.

Carino Antequisa of CAFOD lectured on Conflict Transformation

(Carino Antequisa of CAFOD lectured on Conflict Management to a Seminar Workshop on Conflict Management at Limano town, Lanao del Norte; June 23-25, 2007. The seminar is initiated by Reconciliatory Inititiative for Development Opportunities Inc in partnership with USAID and The Asia Foundation (TAF)

Conflict defined
Conflict is an expressed struggle between at least 2 interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce rewards, and interference from the other party in achieving their goals.

In a picture seen, participants said that they viewed the photos as a picture of stone and water, ice and water, animal or horse, cow, goat. These depict varied perceptions of people to the same object. In another image shown, the image shows a readable letter ‘lift’; others didn’t see it.

Parties of the conflict must be known; what are the incompatible

There are two ways of settling issues. These can be done through conflict resolution, conflict management, and conflict transformation.

Conflict resolution means settling issues but not resolving relationships.

Conflict management
-recognizes that conflict is ongoing and has be dealt with
-based on the assumption that we can control conflict because it came from people
-it goes beyond resolution (tri-lateral relationship)

Conflict transformation
-recognizes that conflict changes everything-it changes selves, feelings, relationships, ideas etc.
-seeks to know and identity patterns produced by conflict
-includes both resolution and management
-seeks to change at various levels where conflict happens:
(There is a pattern to avoid talking on points of disagreements.)
>relational (you with another or others)
>structural (family, schools, organizations, etc.)
>cultural (beliefs, traditions, technology etc.)

-swearing to the Koran and to God means that you are restoring relationships with whom we are in conflict and reaffirming relationships with God. This is the best way of resolving relational problems

- in modern days, few people engage in mediation because its costly

There is a need for MSM to strengthen the structures of Maranao tribe because this mechanism is eroded.

The facilitator pointed that the court is retributive; not restorative. He also challenged them that it is maybe impossible to restore relationship but “we can develop what was practiced before.” Despite this, it is imperative for traditional leaders to look into the possibility of merging or harmonizing the traditional and modern system of resolving conflict.

The peaceful approaches of resolving conflict:
negotiation and mediation
problem-solving/decision making

Basic Skills in Communication
1. probing
2. listening (effective and active)
3. observing
4. telling (non-aggressive)

IN the deliberations, some relevant points were raised: can we stop destructive messages (e.g.loaded messages) Sometimes, facts are loaded with millions of opinions. And sometimes, opinions can ignite conflict.

2. negotiation is a direct talk between two parties while in mediation a third party mediates in the conflict of two-parties. This is the western concept. In Asian countries, mediators offer opinions for possible resolve.

3. in negotiation, we must consider hopes, positions and interests of parties.

4. dialogue is a series of talk leading to the resolution of problems.

5. Connections are important. In this election, family ties become a potent tool in getting support. Credibility in governance is related to families and clans.

After the input, an open forum ensued. In this part, major points raised are:

in Maranao conflict resolution, they negotiate for amounts and communicate for amounts. Leaders for this mediation and negotiation, should be clothe with sincerity and neutrality. Matters on money should be discussed later part of negotiation because amounts are fix.
Genealogy is affirmed as a vital document to resolve conflict and as a tool for strengthening the Maranao customary or traditional system of conflict resolution.
Bapa traces the relationships of elders and his historic togetherness with some prominent leaders of Lanao del Sur province as schoolmates in their childhood days. He also summarizes the input with emphasis on the imperativeness of family ties.

Hamidullah Atar on Situationer on Conflict and Peace-building efforts in Local and regional Context

(Hamidullah Atar gave updates to Council of Elders of Moriatao Sultan sa Maraw (Descendants of Sultan sa Marawi) on the present situation of the peace process between GRP-MILF during the Seminar-workshop on Conflict Management at Villa Lucida, Linamon, Lanao del Norte last June 23-25, 2006 )

Historical Perspective

Common Bond:
-prior to their coming of the Chinese, Indian, Arab and Indonesian traders, Mindanao was populated by people of Malay origin
-13th century traders introduced Islam
-deep impact in the Sulu archipelago

The Colonial Intrusions
- in 1521, Ferdinand Magellan landed and claimed the region for Spain
- Spain introduced political, economic and social reforms allowing very limited Filipino participation in government
- After Spain was defeated, a treaty granted the US authority over the Philippines
- WW II intervened and the Japanese forces landed in 1941
- Independence was declared on July 4, 1946

Bangsa Moro Struggle

1968- creation of MNLF which resulted to the crafting of 1975 Tripoli agreement
- signed on December 23, 1976 with the help of Libya and organization of the Islamic conference (OIC)
- agreement to create autonomous region in Mindanao
- 13 provinces and 9 cities as possible areas under ARMM; will follow constitutional process
- signed in Manila on September 2, 1996 with the help of Indonesia and OIC
- provided the present ARMM
- created transitory mechanism (SPCPD), consultative council and SZOPAD

1984- MILF itself declared itself as a separate organization
1989- creation of ARMM, only 4 out of 13 provinces
1996-final peace agreement signed by GRP and MNLF,Misuari was elected as governor of ARMM

1997-GRP-MILFinformal agreement for general cessation of hostilities
2000-president Estrada announce all out war against MILF
2001-Arroyo declared all out peace policy
2003-up to date GRP-MILF peace negotiation in Malaysia

Projected GRP-MILF Peace Agreement
-will acknowledge unique history and identity of Bangsamoro people
-will recognize and protect Bangsamoro rights to their land and natural resources
-will ensure Bangsamoro’s direct participation in socio-economic development efforts with their Ads
-will explore workable formula for Bangsamoro self-governance.

Three major aspects in the GRP-MILF Peace Agreement

Security aspect (ceasefire)
-implementation of GRP-MILF ceasefire agreements
-establishment of ceasefire mechanisms
-now being implemented by both sides

Humanitarian, Rehabilitation, & Development Aspect
-commitment to respect human rights
-assistance and development of conflict-affected communities
-implementing guidelines already signed

Ancestral Domain Aspect
-critical issue in the negotiations
-discusses Bangsamoro identity, culture, traditional lands, long-term solutions for Bangsamoro people etc.

Accomplishment in the three aspects of the Peace Agreement
Security Aspect
Joint Ceasefire Committee (CCCH)
-monthly joint meetings to strengthen ceasefire
-fact-finding and verification of ceasefire-related incidents

Local Monitoring Team (LMTs)
-functional 13 provinces
-operating arm of joint CCCH

International Monitoring Team
-60 members from Malaysia, Brunei and Libya
-observes implementation of ceasefire and socio-economic assistance in conflict affected communities

Humanitarian, rehabilitation and Development Aspect
-Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) fro Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF) completed in September 2004
Ø -MTF program to be implemented after signing of Peace Agreement
Ø Capacity-building programs for Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) personnel
Ø GRP inter-agency Technical Working Group (TWG) to partner with BDA for projects in MILF communities

Discussion divided into 4 strands:
A. Concept
B. Territory (area of coverage)
C. Resources
Ø Concept, territory and resources discussed during 7th Explo Talks (April 18-20)
Ø Governance discussed during 9th Explo Talks (September 15-16)

General principles
Ø Rights of Bangsamoro people and other indigenous groups of Mindanao
Ø Self-governance rooted on distinct political/cultural history
Ø Appropriate/workable self-governance institutions for Bangsamoro people
Ø Bangsamoro homeland
Ø Adherence to IHL and HR instruments
Ø Common definition for AD and ancestral land (AL)
Ø Joint determination of extent of Bangsamoro AD
Ø Utilization and development of resources within AD/AL

CURRENT STATUS of the Peace Agreement
a. Ground Environment
Ø Armed encounters are drastically reduced
Ø Regional economy is picking up due to improving ground situation
Ø Solid cooperation vs. criminality
Ø Civil society and community role in peace process proven effective; more involvement needed in other aspects
Ø Strong local and international support for peace process
b. Negotiations Environment
Ø Peace negotiations is moving forward
Ø High level of trust and confidence between negotiating Panels
Ø Sincerity between GRP and MILF mechanisms (CCCH, AHJAG, LMTs, IMT); 2-year ceasefire still holding
Ø Malaysian facilitators play active role
Ø Peace talks entering a critical stage; root-cause problems must be addressed
Ø Parties open to observers in formal talks; guidelines drawn up
Ø Utilization and development of resources within AD/AL

Parallel Considerations
Ø A just solution to a social issue rather than a palliative cure to a political problem
Ø Peace Agreement that will benefit ALL Bangsamoro people
Ø Bangsamoro concerns shall be resolved while maintaining the rights of Lumads, non-Moros, other constituents
Ø Traditional IP-Moro agreements shall be respected
Ø GRP-MILF peace process shall have ownership from ALL Mindanaons by hearing all sides
Ø MILF peace negotiations shall complement gains in 1996 MNLF Agreement
Ø MILF peace negotiations shall give due regard to ARMM
Ø Workable arrangement for Bangsamoro self-governance shall be found
Ø Peace Agreement that will bring genuine development to Bangsamoro and other areas
Sustaining Gains
Ø CCCH-IMT shifting to advocacy work
Ø Fresh batch of IMT members; socio-economic monitoring
Ø Workable policy on ridô
Ø Refocusing relief assistance efforts
Ø Preparation for MTF implementation
Ø Ongoing trainings for BDA through the help of Malaysia & WB
Ø Seminars/Forum on AD
Ø More GRP-MILF partnership with civil society and community
Ø Interfaith Dialogue

How Partners Can Help?
Ø Support for recognition of Bangsamoro people
Ø Strengthen support and partnership on ceasefire and relief/rehab/dev’t activities
Ø Help establish/strengthen local conflict-resolution mechanisms
Ø Provide helpful recommendations/inputs to Panels on substantive agenda items
Ø Facilitate more dialogues and consultations to broaden awareness on peace process
Ø Advocate/lobby in support of GRP-MILF peace process
Ø Constantly remind Panels that civilians/constituents are the actual 3rd party in the peace talks

Comelec receives CoC copies of PPCRV from 3 Lanao Norte towns

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Tuesday, 26 June 2007 23 09 06

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/26 June) -- The second division of the Commission on Elections in Manila today received copies of the certificates of canvass (CoCs) of Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan towns in Lanao del Norte from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and Liberal Party during a hearing on the contested votes for the congressional post of the 1st district of Iligan and Lanao del Norte. The second division composed of Commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Nicodemo Ferrer and Jaime Tuazon asked lawyers of both parties to write their positions in a memorandum and submit it within five days.
Lawyer Voltaire Rivera, who attended the hearing for congressional candidate Vicente “Varf” Belmonte of the Genuine Opposition, said the Comelec will now decide whether to use the authentic copies they brought or the alleged tampered CoCs “in proclaiming the genuine representative of the 1st District of Iligan and Lanao del Norte.”
The GO asked Comelec to “set aside the tampered CoCs from Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan towns.”
Lawyer Dino Quijano of Lakas-CMD who also attended the hearing in Manila, told DXLS that Lakas-CMD lead lawyer Pete Quirino Quadra argued that the Comelec has no jurisdiction to hear the controversy and must deny the petition of the GO lawyers.But while Quadra argued that Comelec has no jurisdiction, he also motioned that Imelda Dimaporo be proclaimed as the winner using the Statement of Votes based on the alleged tampered figures of Maigo and Bacolod towns.
According to the final, unofficial count of Namfrel as of 5 pm May 19, Belmonte got 58,962 votes against Team Unity-backed candidates Angelique Dawn Badelles (45,670) and Imelda Dimaporo (42,956).
In a statement, the Iligan Movement for True Democracy, Belmonte’s support group, alleged that on May 19, “poll watchers from the opposition were disallowed to enter the provincial legislative building where provincial canvassing was being done."
"The following morning, our lawyers found out that three ballot boxes from the towns of Bacolod, Maigo and Kauswagan were forcibly opened," the group related.
The group alleged the votes from the three towns were tampered and that based on these tampered votes, Dimaporo was now leading.
Ms Dimaporo, the outgoing governor, is wife to reelected 2nd district Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, the governor before her, and is mother to Khalid, the incoming governor.
The special provincial board of canvassers in Lanao del Norte has set aside the tampered CoCs of Kauswagan because the padded figures for Dimaporo exceeded the total number of voters in Kauswagan, making it statistically improbable.Lawyer Manny Salibay, counsel of Belmonte, explained to reporters that “Comelec has no power over pre-proclamation cases for representative except if there are manifest errors in the certificates of canvass which maybe corrected by the canvassing board motu propio or upon written complaint of interested person, or by the Comelec in a petition filed or upon proper appeal from the ruling of the board of canvassers.”
Lawyer Sixto Brilliantes, lead counsel of Belmonte, also said the petition to dismiss the case arguing lack of jurisdiction is a “prohibited pleading under the Rule of Procedures of Comelec.”
“Under the law, the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, composed of three judges and six congressmen, will have jurisdiction on election protest only if there is already a proclaimed representative," explained lawyer Arthur Abundiente, counsel of GO.
In the case of Lanao, the special PBOC has not proclaimed a winner yet because Comelec made a directive to “proceed with the canvass… but not to proclaim the winner.” The directive was signed by Nicodemo Ferrer who also sits at the second division of Comelec now.
Meanwhile, Bishop Elenito de los Reyes Galido together with priests in Iligan city and Lanao del Norte celebrated mass at Saint Michael's cathedral Monday night “for truth to prevail.”
Bishop Galido urged the faithful to pray for the Holy Spirit to intercede, "enlighten and inspire those who are working for truth.”
“We may have fears, doubts and uncertainties but the Holy Spirit is our only refuge and our salvation. We must continuously pray,” he said in his homily. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 26 June 2007 23 16 53 )

Sukhran sa MindaNews

Traditional leaders to Bossi kidnappers: "set him free"

Written by Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews
Tuesday, 26 June 2007 20 58 01

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/25 June) -- Traditional leaders in Lanao and Zamboanga peninsula have asked abductors of Father Giancarlo Bossi "to set him free without political considerations or ransom."
Bossi was kidnapped in Payao town, Zamboanga Sibugay last June 10 by 10 armed elements while on his way to officiate mass in a neighboring barangay.
Sultan sa Marawi Asgar Sani appealed to kidnappers "to free the priests because you will not get anything from it."
Sani, who was attending a three day seminar-workshop on Conflict Management for Council of Elders of Moriatao Sultan sa Marawi (Descendants of Sultan sa Marawi) and the Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities (RIDO) Inc. at Villa Lacida, Linamon, asked kidnappers "that whatever political motivations and misunderstanding you had that you resorted to this criminal act, please disregard it. I appeal to you that you should free the priest in the name of our religion, Islam," he said.
"Free the priest and make him safe," he added.
“It’s a mockery of our faith that you did this. We the Sultanate are working for peace and we discourage actions that can only ignite Muslim and Christian misunderstanding."
Timuay Fernando Mudai of Peksalabukan Bangsa Subano (PBS) who is working with indigenous communities in Zamboanga peninsula to strengthen their traditional system for peace and development, also called on abductors to “free Fr. Bossi the soonest possible."
"Apo Mikpongon, the creature of heaven and earth, did not value abduction. It is the deed of Kindagow (evil)," Mudai said.
"We do not have exact information of his location now but we know that he was abducted by a younger brother of Commander Kiddie, a known leader of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)," Mudai said.
Mudai said the Prelature of Ipil had sent an emissary to determined Father Bossi’s condition.
Onsino Mato, a traditional leader from Mount Canatuan who is now in Tungawan, Zamboanga, "also asked abductors not to harm the priest."
Mato said the gukom or judicial body of Subanon community in Zamboanga peninsula joined with peace advocates of Zamboanga city in a prayer rally for the priest's freedom last Friday, June 22.
In Lanao provinces, Adona Orquillas, member of the provincial local monitoring team also discussed with Bangsamoro Development Agencies (BDA) officials of MILF.
"MILF sent Mohammad Nassif, an operation officer, to look into the whereabouts of the kidnappers. We will be updated of whatever developments there'd be in time," she said.
Lawyer Arthur Abundiente, professor of College of Law- MSU-IIT, called on people through his radio program Panglantaw over DXLS station, to be vigilant if politicians will make use of the priest's rescue for political bargain or concession.
He said kidnapping activities in Lanao had become the biggest cottage industry and abductors were left scot-free after victims were freed.
"The local governments have not pursued abductors to penalize them for this criminal acts," said Abundiente.
"Ironically, they have condoned this by paying board and lodging fees for the release of the victim. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)

Sukran sa MindaNews

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Civil society on Fr. Mercado's decision: wise, best

Written by Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews
Thursday, 21 June 2007 09 08 06

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 June) – Civil society groups welcomed Fr. Eliseo Mercado’s decision at noon today to decline the chairmanship of the government peace panel in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Guiamel Alim, chair of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) said, “I think that is the best decision that he could make.”
Fr. Mercado, he said, “was just too willing to help”
“He respects the decision of the MILF. I hope the MILF will be able to find another (Secretary Silvestre) Afable,” Alim said.
It was a “wise decision in the best spirit of dialogue, a positive sign to help in the process of peace agreement,” said Fr. Angel. Calvo of the Claretian Fathers, the lead convenor of Mindanao PeaceWeavers, an umbrella organization of several peace coalitions.
Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, deputy executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue said she could only say, “Alleluia, Alhamdullilah.”
Fr. Mercado’s earlier acceptance of the chairmanship, as announced by Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza on Saturday afternoon, was greeted with mixed reactions from civil society groups and the MILF.
Various groups had also urged him to reconsider , saying he was better off as mediator rather government negotiator.
Within the Oblates of the Mary Immaculate (OMI), the congregation to which Fr. Mercado belongs, reaction was also mixed, but most Oblates were reportedly against it.
The Oblates are assigned in mostly predominantly Moro provinces such as Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and parts of Sultan Kudarat. The congregation runs the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City and the Notre Dame colleges in these areas and radio stations as well.
Fr. Roberto Layson, chair of the OMI’s Inter-Religious Dialogue, has repeatedly declined to comment since Saturday afternoon, claiming consultations among the Oblates were going on. But early Wednesday morning, he told MindaNews, “I think Fr. Jun (Mercado’s nickname) should politely give up the post.”
“In fact, the Oblates in Cotabato and Kidapawan, during their community deliberation yesterday, were almost unanimous in rejecting Malacanang’s appointment of Fr. Jun as chief negotiator because of its far-reaching ramifications in our apostolate,” he said.
“Personally, as a priest, I am contented with playing the role of a mediator rather than as a negotiator in which you have to take the position of a particular party. Fr. Jun represents the Church. The Church is not a party to the conflict. It is the government. The MILF should talk to the government and its representative,” he said. Fr. Ramon Bernabe, the OMI provincial, told MindaNews early Wednesday morning they were going to issue a statement after a meeting scheduled for Thursday.
Fr. Mercado announced his decision not to accept the chairmanship Wednesday noon. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)
Last Updated ( Thursday, 21 June 2007 09 16 38 )

Fr. Mercado declines gov't peace panel chairmanship

Written by Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Wednesday, 20 June 2007 12 17 40

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 June) -- Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr, who was named by Malacanang on Saturday as the new peace panel chair in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), has decided against accepting the chairmanship of the panel “on the basis of objections of the MILF.”
Fr. Mercado told MindaNews in a text message at 11:34 a.m. today (June 20) that he had communicated with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and had clarified the objections they posed and “you may announce that I decline the nomination on the basis of the objections of the MILF.”
In a telephone interview at 11:50 a.m., he said had “seen the validity of the MILF’s objections.”
The MILF had said the changing of Afable was a “bad signal for the peace process.”
“Trust has been (earned) over the years then a newcomer comes in suddenly. He will start from number one. But of course, that’s GRP’s (Government of the Republic of the Philippiens) prerogrative,” MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews in a telephone interview Saturday afternoon.
On the replacement of Afable by Mercado, Iqbal said on Sunday it was a “setback” and that while they “respect and highly regard (Fr. Mercado),” the job of a chairman is “strictly state matters. There is separation of church and state in the Philippines."
MILF peace panel member Datu Michael Mastura said the peace negotiations had been downgraded with the naming of a churchman when previous chairs were Cabinet men.
Ebrahim sent a letter to the Philippine government through the Malaysian facilitator but details of the letter had not been divulged.
Fr. Mercado, who is presently in Manila, and Ebrahim communicated and discussed “clarifications behind the objections,” he said.
He said the Ebrahim informed him they would rather see him head an independent body that would monitor and assess the implementation of the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF.
On Tuesday afternoon, Presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye Malacanang was quoted by GMA News TV as saying the choice was “not yet final” and Malacañang was still looking for the replacement of Afable.
Bunye was also quoted as saying that the announcement of Fr. Mercado's appointment did not come from him.
Dureza, who heads the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the office which has jurisdiction over the peace panels, announced Fr. Mercado’s appointment Saturday afternoon.
In a four-paragraph statement, he said the Palace had named Fr. Mercado as the new peace panel chair vice Afable “who relinquished his post over the weekend.”
Dureza said Fr. Mercado’s chairmanship “will ensure a seamless transition and a continuity in the efforts to move forward the peace negotiation with the MILF.”
Dureza said that last Monday, “we got feedback about the MILF’s concerns about him (Fr. Mercado) so now we’re trying to clarify these concerns because it is important that the new negotiator is welcomed by the other side.”
He said the Palace had not issued Fr. Mercado an official appointment as yet “but he remains our choice.”
Fr. Mercado told MindaNews Tuesday afternoon that he was aware of the objections posed by the MILF and that these concerns, which were also his concerns, were being addressed.He said among these concerns was the alleged downgrading of the peace process in that the former chairs were members of the Cabinet. Fr. Mercado was supposed to be the fourth government peace panel chair under the Arroyo administration.
The other concerns are participation of the peace panel chair in the Cabinet meetings, complete trust and confidence of the President and complete authority within the mandate given by the President.
In his “opening note” emailed to MindaNews early Monday morning, Fr. Mercado said, “I wish to thank President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for her trust and confidence for giving me the mandate. She assures me not only of her Government’s policy of the ‘Primacy of the Peace Process’ but more so of her unstinting support and commitment to the Peace Process and my leadership as Chief Negotiator of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines in our continuing peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). I shall brief her and the Cabinet on a regular basis on the progress of the Peace Process. To show her support and commitment, she has given me full power and confidence to write the specifications of the mandate that need to be added to the existing one.”
Fr. Mercado said he was still writing the additional specifications which he said, includes the concerns raised by the MILF.
On Wednesday noon, however, Fr. Mercado told MindaNews he had made his decision not to accept the chairmanship. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 June 2007 16 45 52

Sukhran to MindaNews

CHR lawyer says anti-terror law presumes the innocent is criminal

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Thursday, 21 June 2007 08 50 57

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/20 June) -- The passage of the Human Security Act disrespects universal humanitarian values and presumes the innocent is a criminal, lawyer Abet Ursua of the Commission on Human Rights office here said in a forum on “Human Security Act and its Implication to Peace” at Berds Theatre Mall today.
“The definition of terrorism under this law is very broad that it almost covers all crimes under the Revised Penal Law,” said Ursua, one of five reactors.
“Arrest without warrant contravenes the constitutional guarantee that no person shall be arrested without valid arrest warrants from the court,” he said.
Ursua pointed that there are only three countries which have legislated laws relating to terrorism. “These are superpowers United States of America, United Kingdom and a country pretending to be a superpower, Philippines.”
Daniel Conejar, Mindanao coordinator of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) explained to participants the substantial details of the law and the corresponding penalties that would be imposed against suspects.
The Human Security Act or RA 9372, an act to secure the state and protect the people from terrorism, is a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 2137 and House Bill No. 4839 passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives on February 8, 2007 and February 19, 2007. It was signed into law on March 6, 2007 by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Conejar warned the law could trigger more human rights violations. “The law could be used for surveillance of suspected members of a rebel group and be a tool to suppress the people’s voice against raging community-based issues,” said Conejar.
Demy Plando, a human rights lawyer, also commented that the enforcement of these laws might disregard legal procedures and might not be able to protect suspects against torture at the time of investigation.Said Sheik, a member of the provincial local monitoring team (LMT) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel, said the people “must work hard and pray for God’s guidance because terrorism as a global issue is done by opportunists who have access to sophisticated weaponry.”
“The Moro people are suffering the effects of trauma from wars and from martial law… we still need to know and study how we should react on this matter,” Sheik said.
Mila Arienza, executive director of Research, Communication for Justice and Peace (RCJP), commented that “the law will inevitably sideline our human rights. We used to have total war policy and low intensity conflicts from previous administrations… this law is just another face of it.”
Arienza feared that the right to peaceful assemblies and expression will be curtailed and advocates for peace and development might be persecuted.
“Let’s not forget that terror is done by movements supported by agents who have access to armaments,” Arienza added.
Some 60 participants attended the forum which was organized by Ranaw Disaster Response, Rehabilitation Assistance Center in partnership with Volunteer Service Overseas and Lanao Alliance of Human Rights Advocates. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mixed reactions greet Mercado's appointment; MILF says it's a "setback"

Written by Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews
Monday, 18 June 2007 00 16 51

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/17 June) - Mixed reactions greeted the appointment of Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., OMI, as the new peace panel chair in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a move the MILF considers "a setback."
MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal kept mum Saturday when told Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza had issued a statement announcing the appointment of Fr. Mercado as new peace panel chair. Iqbal broke his silence only at 12:20 Sunday noon with a text message to MindaNews that read: "it's a setback. Regarding Fr. Mercado, we respect and highly regard him but the job is strictly state matters. There is separation of church and state in the Philippines." Last Saturday, his immediate reaction to President Arroyo's acceptance of the courtesy resignation of his counterpart in the panel, Secretary Silvestre Afable, was "it's a bad signal for the peace process." "Trust has been (earned) over the years then a newcomer comes in suddenly. He will start from number one. But of course, that's GRP's (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) prerogative," Iqbal said. Fr. Mercado, a known peace advocate, headed the Independent Fact-Finding Mission that monitored the implementation of the government-MILF peace talks until the talks collapsed with the "all-out war" waged by the Estrada administration. He was also part of the Quick Response Team that rushed to the scene where alleged violations of the ceasefire are reported. Fr. Mercado declined to comment on the reactions. He told MindaNews there is no schedule as yet on the takeover but he was going to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on Monday for briefing. Amina Rasul, excecutive director of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy, said, "on the positive side, Fr. Mercado is a highly credible peace advocate who has intimate knowledge of the issues. He can help guide government to reach effective solutions. On the negative side, he is not a member of the GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) Cabinet. If anything goes wrong, a government outsider makes for a good scapegoat." Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, deputy chief of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, said she is worried over the choice of a Catholic priest as this could be perceived as a religious conflict when it's not. Lawyer Zen Malang, executive director of the Moro Law and Policy Center, said he is "not really sure what to make of Fr. Jun (Mercado) as a replacement. He has been gone for sometime. I don't know where he stands now on how to resolve the conflict but what I really cannot understand is why Malacanang chose this time to replace the chair, now that there is rapport between the panels. Or did Sec. Afable really want to resign because he had lost hope on how to move the peace agenda in Cabinet meetings which would raise the question: what makes Fr. Jun think he can? These are all speculations so the sooner we know the reasons behind Sec. Afable's resignation, the faster we can make sense of the impact of these developments." Guiamel Alim, executive director of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society said "it is either Afable has problems with GRP (Philippine government) of Malacanang with him. Otherwise, the MILF is already comfortable with him. Fr. Jun must first believe that agreement is possible. That he can spell the difference." "Fr. Jun must lay down his alternative plan to GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) or GMA will tell him how things should be. This makes sense if he accepts the chairmanship. If he can make a breakthrough, then he will not go down in history as part of a failure," Alim said. MILF peace panel member Datu Michael Mastura could not hide his disappointment. He said Fr. Mercado was chair of the Quick Response Team in 2000 but "was ineffective n stopping military assault of Camp Abubakar in 2000." "From Cabinet man to church man," Mastura said of the three former government peace panel chairs under the Arroyo administration – Jesus Dureza, then Presidential Adviser for Mindanao; Peace Process Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Presidential Communications Director Afable)
"Am doubly concerned government outlook is churchy treatment of the peace process. This is the height of insensitivity of the missionary thrust for over three centuries. Now new setback in our more informed generation to deal with alienation of the Bangsamoro people," he said. Mastura said Fr. Mercado's stand is clear in that the latter considers the 1996 government-Moro National Liberation Front "Final Peace Agreement" as his "north star." Mastura said Fr. Mercado thinks of the "government-MILF agreement as an appendix." MindaNews columnist Patricio P. Diaz said that whoever will be the chair of the GRP panel is secondary. "It is the policy and the policy makers -- collectively called 'Manila' -- that hold the fate of the GRP-MILF peace negotiation, during and after," he said. "As I see it, the RP panel chair has an unenviable role -- persuading the MILF to tone down its position and convincing Manila to relax its non-negotiable stand on the Constitution, besides dealing with hawks in Congress and the military," he added. "Surely, Father Jun needs endless prayers," Diaz said. Fr. Mercado in a a paper titled "The 10th Anniversary of the Historic Final Peace Agreement between the GRP and the MNLF - A Personal Note," read during the 1st Memorial Lecture on the GRP- MNLF Final Peace last year, acknowledged the gains, failures, gaps and lapses of the Sept. 2, 1996 peace agreement which he described as the "North Star.' "Take hold of that North [WINDOWS-1252?]Star… for without it we shall be lost and our compass will have no use. In fact that review has already begun today… and God- willing… from here we shall rise again – this time, no longer as separate and divided but together…!" Fr. Mercado said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

sukhran to MindaNews

Responding to the mission of Peacemaking

Written by Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., OMI
Monday, 18 June 2007 09 31 40

(Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, Jr., OMI, e-mailed this “opening note” to MindaNews early morning today, June 18, on his new role as chair of the government peace panel in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The MILF, however, says Fr. Mercado’s appointment is a "setback" ).

I have barely arrived in the homeland after years of foreign stint. While still “firming” up my foothold and dreaming of my holidays and rest in Hawaii, a challenging mission is given me. The convergence of events and the timeliness of presence and availability can only point to the Divine Providence. All the things happening in the past few days – disconcerting and consoling as well – give witness to the presence and the work of the Spirit of God who is all Mercy and Compassion.
The first thought that came to my mind when called upon to respond to Mission of Peace Making is the phrase from the late Pope John Paul II: “Peace is not an option, it is a duty.” I felt the meaning of this phrase when I was offered the opportunity and the grace of peacemaker thus allaying the initial fears and apprehension that accompany the call.At the beginning of the mandate, let me briefly state the following…
First, I wish to thank President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for her trust and confidence for giving me the mandate. She assures me not only of her Government’s policy of the “Primacy of the Peace Process” but more so of her unstinting support and commitment to the Peace Process and my leadership as Chief Negotiator of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines in our continuing peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). I shall brief her and the Cabinet on a regular basis on the progress of the Peace Process. To show her support and commitment, she has given me full power and confidence to write the specifications of the mandate that need to be added to the existing one
Second, I wish to express that though I am religious, I am NOT a Messiah! I cannot promise the fruit, but I can promise you that I will do my outmost to the cause of Peace. For the in the final analysis after all is done and said including our fine statecraft, genuine and sustainable Peace is a gift from God and the work of people of goodwill. Thus I wish that all people of goodwill become stakeholders to peace and pray for lasting Peace.
Third, at the early stage, I give my commitment to make the many and varied tracts of peace making as inclusive as possible. We need you participation and your input. While you may know that I am a man and a religious with strong ideas, opinions and beliefs, but people who have worked with me know also that I am very open not only to listen to other views but also ready to revise or discard my own strong opinions if warranted. Thus, I assure you that the GRP panel under my leadership shall listen to your input and shall welcome your participation. I firmly believe that we need to build PEACE CONSTITUENCY not only in Mindanao but in the entire Philippines to make Peace sustainable.
Fourth, I wish to thank Secretary Silvestre Afable and his team for their great and wonderful work. Rest assured of the continuity of the process as Secretary Jesus Dureza articulated in his Saturday announcement of my appointment, the changing of the guards guarantees a seamless transition. It is not only a continuity of the work but we shall use the work and the commitment of Secretary Afable as our “benchmark” in our continuing peace process.
All people of goodwill can be involved in peace making… actions, words, thoughts and prayers. Let us all be peacemakers! I wish to conclude this short note with two quotations: “Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called sons and daughters of God.” (Matthew 5: 9) and in one of the traditions of the path (tariqa), it is said that “Peace is the remembrance of God”.

Iligan celebrates 57th charter day

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Saturday, 16 June 2007 21 12 47

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/16 June) – In celebrating the 57th charter day celebration of the city, Mayor Lawrence Cruz called on “all people regardless of political, religious and social inclinations to be unified with our cause for peace and development, for us to be happy." Cruz said the presence of people from various sectors in the program this morning and the parade of floats in the afternoon “is an expression of unity which is vital for development and progress. We hope that we will be able to forge unity as we will work to reduce poverty incidence and improve our social services.”
The city government expected reelected Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan as its guest speaker but the president of Lafarge Group Company and Iligan Cement Corporation graced the occasion instead.
Cruz explained that the company donated a parcel of land for Gawad Kalinga’s housing projects.
Professor Geoffrey Salgado, history teacher of Mindanao State University-IIT shared the history of Iligan city and its ups and downs the past 57 years. He reckoned the times when the city became industrialized but later succumbed to economic depression resulting to closure of several firms. Iligan City used to pride itself as the “Industrial City of the South.”
Today, the city government also recognized and awarded the “Best Iliganons” who garnered national prominence based on their contributions as social workers, businessmen, sports enthusiast and the like. Fifty seven top taxpayers of the city were also recognized for their help in alleviating the city’s economic conditions.
All of them were awarded with plaques made of bamboo.
The celebration also highlighted choral songs and folk dances.
A basketball tournament was also held as well as a trade fair.
At the city plaza this morning, photos of Iligan’s past were featured in an exhibit. AMogn the photographs featured were Iligan’s officials, lifestyle, resources, the majestic Maria Cristina Falls and Mandulog bridge. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)

Sukhran to MindaNews

Friday, June 15, 2007

COMMENT: At the Price of Conscience

Written by Patricio P. Diaz / MindaNews
Wednesday, 06 June 2007 00 50 38

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/5 June) – The Movement for Truth and Justice and Peace, organized by the religious groups and civil society, are leading residents of Iligan City in mounting protests against the canvassing of the tampered Certificates of Canvass from Bacolod, Kauswagan and Maigo – three of the seven municipalities composing the first district of Lanao del Norte that includes Iligan City. (MindaNews, June 4)
Before the canvass, Vicente “Varf” Belmonte (GO) was leading Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo (Lakas-CMD) by 17,000 votes; after, Dimaporo led Belmonte by 7,000 votes. In Iligan City, by the Namfrel Count, Belmonte won against Dimaporo by a margin of 22,938 votes. The election was a three-cornered fight among Belmonte, Dimaporo and Nikki Badelles (TU).
Despite the vehement objections of the lawyers of Genuine Opposition, the Commission on Elections – disregarding the evidence of forcible opening of the boxes containing the CoCs -- ordered the canvass of the questioned CoCs but not to declare a winner, obviously until the National Bureau of Investigation has ascertained if the CoCs had been tampered.
The three boxes were forcibly opened last May 19 inside the legislative building in Tubod, the capital of Lanao del Norte, wrote MindaNews (May 21) citing a report of Iligan Movement for True Democracy which the NBI later confirmed. Tubod is under the full control of the men of Dimaporo, the outgoing governor.
The order to canvass had neither logic nor sense. Why canvass but not proclaim? The GO lawyers argued that the tampered votes gained legitimacy when canvassed and could be a valid ground for the winner to petition for proclamation. The restraint will be “until ordered by the Commission” – an order fraught with all possibilities.
The Commission ordered the provincial board of canvassers to submit the COCs from the tampered ballot boxes -- if found with discrepancies – “to the NBI for technical investigation if alterations were found”. This is puzzling, unnecessary and arbitrary.
The case of the tampered ballot boxes is, by inference, covered by Sections 235 and 236 of the Omnibus Election Code. Nowhere is there a reference to the NBI. They prescribe solutions to be done by the board of canvassers. Only when none of these is possible, will the board of canvassers bring the matter to the Commission for final resolution.
In the case of the forcible opening of the ballot boxes from Bacolod, Maigo and Kauswagan, these had been brought to the attention of the Commission, hence its memorandum to the Provincial Board of Canvassers. And, what were found inside the ballot boxes?
Quoting the GO lead lawyer, MindaNews (June 2) reported: “The original figures of the COC were ‘snowpeaked’ (erased and changed), numbers of votes were altered, signatures and ink used which appeared in CoCs were different compared to other authentic CoCs held by Namfrel (National Movement for Free Elections), majority and minority parties.”
The tampering of the CoCs in the ballot boxes was evident. With reference to Sections 235 and 236, the CoCs with Namfrel and the two parties, all authentic copies of the tampered CoCs, should have been used for the canvassing.
More Evidence
The most compelling evidence of tampering is the difference between the figures in CoCs from the forcibly opened ballot boxes and the authentic copies in the hands of Namfrel and the two political parties. No NBI findings can reverse the logical and inevitable conclusion.
Figures in the authentic copies with Namfrel and the two parties show the following: Badelles had 7,285 votes in the three municipalities; Belmonte, 7,149; and Dimaporo, 7,851. The total valid votes cast (TVVC) for the three, 22,285.
In the CoCs inside the forcibly opened boxes: Badelles, 985 votes; Belmonte, 819; Dimaporo, 26,213; TVVC, 28,017.
Badelles lost 6,300 votes; Belmonte lost 6,330; Dimaporo gained, 18,362; and, TVVC, increased by 5,732. This increase could have been taken from the votes of the two other candidates who, by Namfrel Count, got insignificant votes in the whole district – Leo Zaragosa, 5,715 and Jojo Borja, 274 or a total of 5,989 votes.
Dimaporo’s 18,362-increase is the total of the votes that Badelles and Belmonte lost plus the increase in TVVC. (6,300 + 6330 + 5,732 = 18,362)
Before the canvass, the authentic copies with Namfrel and the two parties showed Belmonte leading Dimaporo – in round figures – by 17,000 votes; after the canvass, Dimaporo led by 7,000 (, June 3). According to Namfrel Count, Belmonte had a landslide in Iligan City – 35,381 against Badelles’ 21,886 and Dimaporo’s 12,843.
The TVVC had to be increased and padded on Dimaporo’s votes to give her an impressive margin of 7,000 plus. The votes shaved from Badelles and Belmonte would have given Dimaporo only 1,000 plus winning margin.
In Conscience
Belmonte has a strong case but he could lose the election and his clear mandate. The forcibly opened boxes and the evidently tampered CoCs, following strictly the Omnibus Election Code, should have been sealed and set aside. However, the Commission ordered the canvassing of the CoCs paving the way for a possible proclamation of Dimaporo.
In conscience, how can the commissioners be arbitrary? They know that the integrity of the CoCs can be determined, as a last recourse, by the ERs; and, that of the ERs, by the ballots with the Commission having the last option. Why let the NBI determine the integrity of the CoCs when the board of canvassers should do this -- and the Commission, if necessary?
Dimaporo may take advantage of the arbitrariness of the Commission and her nearness to Malacañang, and petition the Commission to proclaim her the winner. Let no one be surprised if the petition will be granted even before the NBI could submit its findings.
Should this happen, can Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo – reared as a Christian but now a devout Muslim – raise her head high to exult in a false mandate bought at the price of her false Christian-Muslim conscience?

(Sukhran to MindaNews)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

COMMENT: Glaring Conspiracy

Written by Patricio P. Diaz / MindaNews
Thursday, 14 June 2007 02 26 33

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 June) -- What could be a glaring conspiracy between the Commission on Elections and candidate Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo (Lakas-MCD), the outgoing governor of Lanao del Sur, appears to be unraveling to its plotted end. The latter may be proclaimed representative-elect of the first district of the province despite objections from the evident winner, Vicente “Varf” Belmonte (GO).
Last June 1, the Commission ordered the canvassing of votes from Bacolod, Kauswagan and Maigo in spite of evidence that the boxes containing the certificates of canvass were forcibly opened last May 19 in the capital town of Tubod. Belmonte’s objections were ignored.
The Commission’s order was puzzling. As inferred from Section 237 of the Omnibus Election Code, the CoCs from the three towns should have not been counted but sealed in the ballot boxes for safekeeping. A comparison of the questionable CoCs with the authentic copies that had been given to the political parties and Namfrel positively indicated tampering by vote padding and shaving or dagdag-bawas.
The restrictive portion of the order to canvass – not to declare a winner – was toothless. The inclusion of the evidently tampered CoCs in the canvass clothed them with the authenticity that could be a legal basis for Dimaporo to petition for her proclamation.
That was what exactly happened.

Loser to Winner

According to the authentic copies of the COCs from the seven municipalities and Iligan City which compose the first district of Lanao Norte, Dimaporo was the poor third with more than 17,000 votes behind Belmonte. The questionable CoCs catapulted Dimaporo to 7,764 votes over Belmonte (, June 9).
Lawyer Elcid Javier, lead counsel of Dimaparo, has taken the offensive. In his quest to have the Comelec proclaim Dimaporo, he said that “the Comelec’s decision to canvass the disputed CoCs only indicated that there was no fraud”.
In the same report, “The commission on Elections (Comelec) has yet to decide whether or not to proclaim Lanao del Norte Gov. Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo as the winning candidate in the province’s first congressional district.”
The Comelec has put Belmonte on the defensive. Under the election laws, the Comelec orders contested votes counted after having resolved all questions of fraud. When it ordered counted the questionable votes, it strengthened the “no fraud” position of Dimaporo.
Can Belmonte stop the Comelec from eventually proclaiming Dimaporo? The burden now is very much heavier than before the counting of the questioned CoCs. Should the Comelec so decide, Belmonte will be left with the only remedy – election protest that will drag on forever.
After delivering the one-two-three punch, will the Comelec wield the coup de grace? Very probable – in the name of peace!
Two Lanao del Norte officials – Vice Gov. Irma Ali and Mayor “Nonoy” Mequiabas, president of the province’s mayor’s league – “have warned that prolonging the proclamation of the congressional winner might worsen the tension between opposing camps”.
The warning fits squarely into the glaring conspiracy. Could all these have been done if Dimaporo were not a Lakas-MCD candidate?

(“Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You may e-mail your comments to '

Sukhran to MindaNews

Independence Day in Iligan: 2 parades for truth and justice, vs electoral fraud

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Wednesday, 13 June 2007 08 09 45

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/12 June) -- There were two parades here today, the first by the city government to celebrate independence “anchored on truth and justice,” and the other to protest electoral fraud.
The employees of city government and its agencies, led by mayor Lawrence Cruz held a traditional civic-military parade around the city at 7 a.m.
As traditionally done, bands played at the city's Freedom Plaza where the parade ended and where a short program was held."True independence is always anchored on truth and justice,” the mayor said.
At 9:30 a.m., members of the multi-sectoral group, Movement for Truth Justice and Peace (MTJP) who converged at the city's post office, also marched down the streets "to commemorate the day within the context of truth and independence."
Members brought placards and streamers urging the Commission on Elections en banc to set aside the three allegedly tampered certificates of canvass (CoCs) from the towns of Bacolod, Maigo and Kauswagan and not to use it as basis for proclaiming the representative of the first district of Iligan City and Lanao del Norte.
The National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) count had shown Varf Belmonte leading the race in the first congressional district with incumbent governor Imelda Dimaporo placing third. But the alleged tampered certificates would have Dimaporo leading.
Dimaporo’s husband, Abdullah has been proclaimed re-elected congressman of the 2nd district while their son Khalid has been proclaimed governor.
“We expressed our will through our ballpens but even our votes were erased by snowpake and easily tampered or altered in exchange for money,” said Aisah, a Moro mother.
"I may live and die with this fraud and lies but what will happen to our children if we will allow cheats to lead us... the power-that-be is playing us like toys," she said.
Fr. Nasser Zaragoza, parish priest of Bacolod, Lanao del Norte and co-convenor of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), urged the government “to investigate who forcibly opened the three ballot boxes and those who ‘snowpaked’ the CoCs... and enforce penalties to these offenders in accordance to the law.”
Fr. Albert Mendez, head of PPCRV-Lanao, also bared they and Iligan Diocese’s Vicar-General Jemar Vera Cruz, head of the MTJP, have been receiving death threats through text messages.
Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo in an interview with DXLS Sunday, criticized priests for their alleged political bias for a politician he did not name.
"We are not bad administrators and our history is good," he said.
But Father Zaragoza said the participation of the church “is based on the moral issues on the turnout of election.”
“I will go on fasting if those who tampered the CoCs will be declared the representative of our district," he said.
The protesters raised their clenched fists and sang "Bayan Ko.”
Councilor Chonilo Ruiz said, "with the law in our favor, we will win in this fight."
Lawyers of the Genuine Opposition, led by Sixto Brillantes, have already filed their petition before Comelec to set aside the tampered CoCs.
Brillantes also bared that "they are contemplating to file criminal charges against those who tampered the CoCs for electoral sabotage under R.A. 9369.
"Its just a matter of pinpointing those who were responsible for tampering the CoCs,” he said.Rep. Dimaporo argued that the petition of the opposition should be filed at the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 14 June 2007 07 59 51 )

Sukhran to MindaNews

Saturday, June 9, 2007


After tampered Certificate of Canvass from the towns of Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan of Lanao del Norte were canvassed despite vehement protest of opposing lawyers, the people of Iligan city and first district of Lanao del Norte organized themselves into a Movement for Truth, Justice and Peace (MTJP).

This movement is now an umbrella organization of religious, civil society, local government officials, barangay- based support-groups, and media workers that is founded on their deep faith for the triumph of truth.

Since June 2, 2007, the movement “demanded to the Comelec en banc to exclude the tampered ballot boxes of Kauswagan, Bacolod and Maigo as basis in proclaiming a Representative to the House of Congress for District 1 Lanao del Norte.”

We also ask Comelec en banc to proclaim our representative that is truly chosen by electorates of Iligan and Lanao del Norte as reflected in the authentic copies of CoCs held by Namfrel/PPCRV, majority and minority parties;

We also pleaded parties in this electoral exercise not to “commit acts inimical to the essence of democracy and fair play”.

As part of the movement’s activity, for this week, we call on lovers of truth to:

1. encourage all residents of Iligan and 1st district of Lanao del Norte to sustain lighting candles for truth in front of the church, at home or along the highways every 6 p.m.

2. enjoin everyone to do NOISE BARRAGE at home and to “blow horns for truth” among public utility and private vehicles every 6 p.m.

3. sustain information sharing via text messaging and internet.

4. conduct Focus Group Discussion (FGD) with video documentary shows at the barangay level to educate electorates on their rights as voters and on the present election crisis in First District of Lanao del Norte as part of electoral reform agenda of the movement.

5. We invite media workers to undertake coverage on activities undertaken by MTJP; send media advisory to Manila-based media outlets (e.g. ABSCBN, GMA, ABC, ANC et. al.)

We enjoin everyone to participate on the following slated actions:

a. June 10, 2007 – Candle for Truth March
7:30 p.m.; converging points at city Postal Office

b. June 12, 2007 – join the Independence Day Celebration’s Parade
Theme: Kamatuoran, kagawasan” (this is part a showcase to the world that fighting for truth against electoral fraud is a best value for Iliganons)
6 a.m.; Iligan City High School Ground
9 a.m. city plaza
c. June 16, 2007 – join the Araw ng Iligan Parade
MTJP will have “Float sa Kamatuoran”

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Iliganons troop to streets over disputed congressional race

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Tuesday, 05 June 2007 00 57 05

ILIGAN CITY -- Iliganons trooped to the streets this morning and blocked the national highway between 8 and 10 a.m. to protest what they called a fraudulent election in the congressional race in the first district of Lanao del Norte.

Protesters under the umbrella of Movement for Truth, Justice and Peace (MTJP) -- conceived by religious leaders, local government officials and the civil society of Lanao del Norte and Iligan -- marched towards the provincial office of the Commission on Elections in Barangay Palao and demanded why the Comelec is giving weight to the supposed tampered certificates of canvass.

The COCs in question were those coming from the towns of Bacolod and Maigo, which were canvassed on June 2 despite protest from lawyers of the Genuine Opposition (GO), who insisted that the "tampered COCs" be excluded as basis for proclaiming the winner of the congressional race in the first district.

They instead suggested that the representative to be proclaimed should be the one "truly chosen" by the people of Iligan and the first district of Lanao del Norte "as reflected in theauthentic copies of COS held by Namfrel/PPCRV and minority parties."

But as they held protest outside the Comelec, the office was closed although there were a few staff inside. A soldier also sat at the door way."We are now standing on Comelec's ground that is supposed to be an edifice of our sacred votes.

Sadly, this has become an instrument of cheating," lamented city councilor Moises Dalisay Jr..City Mayor Lawrence Cruz said he was angered and disgusted with the attempt to manipulate election results. He urged Iliganons not to be afraid to fight against the moneyed and those with firearms "because we are on the side of righteousness.

"He pointed out that the "authentic copies" of Namfrel/PPCRV showed that opposition candidate Varf Belmonte won as congressman, way ahead of rivals Nikki Badelles and Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo, the administration candidate whose husband Abdullah was reelected representative of the second district and neophyte son Khalid as her successor as governor.

Cruz said counsels of the opposition will appeal to central office of the Comelec to exclude the alleged tampered COCs from being canvassed. "Iligan will lead the struggle against electoral fraud," he said.

"Those responsible of committing this criminal act must be penalized," the mayor added.For the past three days, Iliganons have lit candles outside the St. Michael Cathedral in a prayer vigil. They displayed election results as gathered by Namfrel/PPCRV.

Dr. Melchie Ambalong, co-convenor of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the Peoples Electoral Alliance for Credible Election (PEACE), pointed out that the Iliganons outrage was "purely political" and not hatred towards the Maranaos, apparently referring to the Dimaporos.

"The people are angry because they were cheated," she stressed. A Maranao youth leader, Cae Amerol, seconded Ambalong. "We Maranaos also don't agree on cheating," said the rallyist from the Sumpay Mindanao, Inc.

Protesters agreed to sustain the nightly prayer vigil, the lighting of candles, and the peace concerts "until the genuine winner will be proclaimed by the Comelec."

(Sukhran to MindaNews)

Monday, June 4, 2007

No winner yet in Lanao Norte congressional race

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Sunday, 03 June 2007 00 23 08

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/02 June) – Allegations of vote-padding and vote-shaving have prevented the provincial board of canvassers in Lanao del Norte to declare a winner for the congressional seat of the province’s first district.

Lawyers for the Genuine Opposition cited as proof election returns coming from Maigo town which they claimed were tampered.

"The original figures of the COC (certificates of canvass) were ‘snowpeaked’ (erased and changed), numbers of votes were altered, signatures and ink used which appeared in the COC were different compared to other authentic COCs held by Namfrel (National Movement for Free Elections), majority and minority parties," lawyer Arthur Abudiente, lead counsel of the opposition, told the provincial Commission on Elections.

The opposition lawyers also claimed that the votes for Nikki Badelles (Team Unity) and Varf Belmonte (GO) were reduced while those of Gov. Imelda Dimaporo were padded citing the COCs from Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan towns.

The examined COCs were taken from the controversial three ballot boxes from the same towns that were "forcibly opened" last May 19 inside the provincial legislative building based on the reports of Alex Cabornay, regional director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Region X.

In comparison, the COCs held by Namfrel, PPRCV, majority and minority parties showed that in Bacolod Badelles got 1,676 votes, Belmonte 2,790 and Dimaporo 3,976.In Maigo, COCs held by the same groups showed that Badelles got 2,956 votes, Belmonte 1,791 and Dimaporo 1,550. In Kauswagan, Badelles got 2,653 votes, Belmonte 2,568 and Dimaporo 2,725. But the "tampered COCs" said that in Bacolod Badelles got 239 votes, Belmonte 223 and Dimaporo 8,605. In Maigo, it was 458 votes for Badelles, 268 for Belmonte, and 7,383 for Dimaporo. In Kauswagan, the three candidates got 288, 328 and 10,225 votes, respectively. No alterations were cited for the votes of Leo Zaragoza and Uriel Borja, both of whom have conceded defeat.

The Comelec en banc has directed the PBOC "to retrieve and open the envelop containing the COCs from the tampered ballot boxes to check if there are discrepancies" and submit these to the NBI for technical investigation if alterations were found.

The memorandum also directed the provincial Comelec "to canvass the admitted tampered ballot boxes…but must refrain from declaring any candidate until ordered by the Commission."The newly reconstituted PBOC led by lawyer Lordino Salvana, convened Friday at the legislative hall after a group of Maranaos who barricaded in front of the building voluntarily dispersed around 10 a.m. Sources said that two prominent politicians in the province told the barricaders to leave.

The barricade prevented the PBOC from entering the building the past two days. Abudiente expressed objection to the Comelec order. He said the allegedly tampered COCs should not be canvassed as these would be their evidence in legal actions they might take.

Lawyer Rogelio Bagabuyo, counsel for GO senatorial candidate Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, wanted the canvassing of votes for senatorial candidates to be prioritized. He said problems relating to local candidates were not [his] concern.

Two radio stations here aired live coverage of the canvassing of votes as soon as the PBOC convened.Zaragoza, speaking through the radio stations, asked all his supporters "to go out and protect your votes by joining a vigil at the provincial capitol."

As of this writing, a number of people have already gathered in front of St. Michael Church.

(Sukhran to MindaNews)

Iligan folk stage protest vs. ‘tampered’ COCs

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Monday, 04 June 2007 01 21 24

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/June 3) – Local residents opposed to the canvassing of supposedly tampered Certificates of Canvass from three towns in Lanao del Norte have formed a group to prevent the consummation of what one of its leaders called “just another Hello Garci scandal.
The Movement for Truth, Justice and Peace (MTJP), initiated by religious and civil society, in a statement said that “in spite of vehement protests that these tampered CoCs should not be used for the canvassing, the PBOC (Provincial Board of Canvassers) proceeded.”
“The canvassed results based on these tampered CoCs showed that the tallies do not coincide with the CoCs of the minority party and the PPCRV. The tally is statistically improbable based on the total voters’ turnout. This created an atmosphere of doubt, uncertainty and anger in the minds of the people of District 1 Lanao del Norte,” the statement said.
"The original figures of the COC (certificates of canvass) were ‘snowpeaked’ (erased and changed), numbers of votes were altered, signatures and ink used which appeared in the COC were different compared to other authentic COCs held by Namfrel (National Movement for Free Elections), majority and minority parties," lawyer Arthur Abudiente, lead counsel of the opposition, told the provincial Commission on Elections.
Allegations of vote-padding and vote-shaving based on the questioned COCs have prevented the PBOC in Lanao del Norte to declare a winner for the congressional seat of the province’s first district.
The alleged tampering of COCs from the towns of Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan reportedly benefited Gov. Imelda Dimaporo and reduced the number of votes for two other congressional candidates, Nikki Badelles (Team Unity) and Varf Valmonte (Genuine Opposition).
MTJP planned to march around the city every 7p.m. from June 1-3.
Fr. Nasser Zaragoza, chairperson of Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)-Iligan, said the group wanted to show to the country “that we don’t agree that fake CoCs be canvassed.”
In a program Friday night beside St. Michael Church, lawyers of the genuine opposition related what they supposedly saw on the COCs from Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan.
They said the ‘tampered’ COCs that were canvassed by the PBOC were “lies and injustice visible to naked eyes”. They vowed to appeal to the Comelec en banc to exclude the questioned COCs.
They suspected that the tampering had the “blessings of Malacanang.”
“This is just another Hello-Garci scandal. But for evil to triumph is for good persons to do nothing,” lawyer Manuel Salibang, of the GO, told the people who attended the program.
Dr. Chonilo Ruiz, re-elected city councilor, recalled that “in previous elections in Iligan, winners are winners; losers are losers… but this time, the loser wants to win.”
In a press conference Friday afternoon, MTJP appealed to the Comelec en banc to “heed our call and struggle for truth, justice and peace to triumph in this election.”
They asked that the Municipal Certificates of Canvas inside the “tampered ballot boxes of Kauswagan, Bacolod and Maigo should be excluded as basis for proclaiming a Representative to the House of Congress for District 1 Lanao del Norte.”
“We ask Comelec en banc to proclaim our representative that is truly chosen by electorates of Iligan and Lanao del Norte as reflected in the authentic copies of CoCs held by Namfrel/PPCRV, majority and minority parties,” the group said.
They also asked the media to exercise prudence in their reports and emphasized that the incidents relating to the election should not be played up as a manifestation of religious conflict between Muslims and Christians.
“The issue here is just what is true and what is right based on authentic CoCs held by Namfrel/PPRCV and [the] minority party,” said Dr. Melchie Ambalong, chair of Peoples Electoral Alliance for Credible Election (PEACE) and co-convener of PPCRV.
MTJP planned to hold a series of activities until the “legitimate representative” is proclaimed.
Outside the Catholic Church now, streamers proclaiming Varf Belmonte as the legitimate representative of First District Lanao del Norte hanged. Supporters of Dimaporo also hanged streamers on trees expressing her thanks to voters.

Sukhran to mindaNews

Seminar on Islamic Good Governance and Candidates Forum

Initiated by MOriatao Sultan of Marawi, Council of Elders and Selected Members
Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur; April 28, 2007

A hundred residents of Saguiaran town, Lanao del Sur attended a seminar on Islamic Good Governance and Candidates Forum on April 28, 2007.
The activity is initiated by Moriatao Sultan sa Marawi and the Council of Elders to educate Moro electorates on Islamic Leadership and Voter’s rights. It was also an avenue for mayoral candidates to share their platform of governance.
Marawi city’s Sultan Asgar Sani urged participants to vote based on their conscience and for candidates who will untiringly work for development and peace.

Participants arrived at 10 a.m. They had their registration.
The meeting started with Muslim prayer and acknowledgment of participants and guests.
Hamiddulah Atar, executive director, gauged this meeting on the vision, mission and goals of Moriatao Sultan sa Marawi. He also give some updates and reiterated the slated activities of MSM such as MSM strategic planning workshop; Training Workshop on Resource Generation; Training Workshop on Conflict Management; Culture of Peace Workshop for Youths; Project Development and Management Training; Seminar Workshop on Good Governance; Radio Peace Program; Conflict Resolution Process; and Documentation of Good Practices in Conflict Resolution.
Subair Mustapha, cabugatan sa Marawi, welcomed all participants. This was followed with an input on Islamic leadership as discussed by ustadj Sidik Pathamanan. He emphasized the importance of honesty, unity and good relationship in dispensing good governance.
Violeta M. Gloria from MindaNews, also a documenter of the activity, imparted to participants the rights of voters.


1. right for registration and to ensure that your name is indeed enlisted in the official voters’ list of the Comelec.
2. right to vote and that this vote be counted
3. right to know candidates. This is availed via propaganda, leaflet, and candidates’ fora. This right is much abused with political propaganda of politicians which is tainted lies to their favor.
4. Right for assistance at the poll centers specially the illiterate and aged.
5. right to know the result of the election including pre-proclamation controversies and the protests lodge by parties during counting and canvassing of votes. Experience taught us that politicians will lead them beyond the limits of honesty, decency and the use of bribery, fraud, intimidation, including acts of despoiling the purity of the ballot to defeat the will of the people. (Lino Luna vs Rodriguez) Thus, its important that voters should safeguard their votes.
Gloria emphasized that the right to vote exclude the right to be bought. This is a criminal act punishable under Election Laws. Vote buying and selling include the forms of trading vote with money; promise for employment and distribution of gifts like free PhilHealth cards.

The right to vote is not a right for everybody, It is a privilege who can exercise this right for public good, The law prohibits prisoners with penalty of lifetime imprisonment, rebels and terrorists to vote.

The people who bear the burden of government should share in this privilege of choosing freely and with conscience their officials.

Gloria also urge the participants to vote for a cause. This vote must select the representation that will uphold and implement the people’s agenda e.g. food security, employment opportunities, housing, infrastructure, disaster management, corruption, social services and environmental protection.

Afterwards, mayoral candidates of Saguiaran were given ample time to share or discuss their political platforms.

Mayoral candidates of the town were Fiat Macarambon, Jamael Mustapha Salacop, and Hadji Rasmiyah “Noni” Diron Bandrang Macabago. All of them are descendants of Marawi sultanate.

But Macabago failed to grace the occasion.

FIAT MACARAMBON’s Platform of Governance

1. Study the sources of income of the municipality, including the host benefit from the National Power Corporation for the use of water from Agus River in the generation of electricity for Mindanao.
2. Complete restoration of electricity of the town
3. Livelihood and employment
4. Infrastructure projects which include water system
5. establishment of madrasah
6. scholarship for deserving students
7. technical and skills training in partnership with Tesda
8. allotment of a trust fund for those who’d avail loan to work abroad
8. develop solidarity and unity

JAMAEL MUSTAPHA SALACOP’s platform of governance

1. contract with NPC on potential benefits that can be availed.
2. rido settlement to sustain community peace
-Salacop has settled 21 rido and claimed to have used his personal resources for these settlements
3. electrification of the whole town by availing the 1% community host benefit from NPC
4. develop good relationship with the community

He also urged participants to vote the person who can be trusted.

After their speeches, Marawi city’s Sultan Asgar Sani reiterated the important platform of governance of the candidates. He also promoted the importance of peace. He wished that a whoever would win, will help revive and complete the Salsilah of descendants and the need to improve the farm-to-market roads specially in hinterland villages.

Sani said that he is not protecting and favoring any candidate but he is interested on the services that can be offered to the community for development and peace. In a jest, he ended his speech with a statement, “ang buhay natin sa mundo ay weather-weather lang.”
The meeting was ended with messages from the representatives of Maruhon-Sidik, Balindong-Jaman and Maruhom-Sidik clans.

Ustadj Muhammad Mustapha formally closed the activity.

There were a hundred of Moro participants of this forum.#

Saturday, June 2, 2007

A statement for Comelec En Banc from 1st District of Lanao del Norte

Iligan City and Lanao del Norte


The 3 tampered ballot boxes from the towns of Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan showed that the Certificates of Canvas (CoC) inside are also tampered with snowpake and erasures.

Inspite of vehement protests that these tampered CoCs should not be used for the canvassing, the PBOC proceeded.

The canvassed results based on these tampered CoCs showed that the tallies do not coincide with the CoCs of the minority party and the PPCRV. The tally is statistically improbable based on the total voters turnout.

This created an atmosphere of doubt, uncertainty and anger in the minds of the people of District 1 Lanao del Norte.


1. We appeal that the Comelec en banc will head our call and struggle for TRUTH, JUSTICE AND PEACE to triumph in this election;

2. That the Municipal Certificates of Canvas inside the tampered ballot boxes of Kauswagan, Bacolod and Maigo should be excluded in the basis for proclaiming a Representative to the House of Congress for District 1 Lanao del Norte.

3. We ask Comelec en banc to proclaim our representative that is truly chosen by electorates of Iligan and Lanao del Norte as reflected in the authentic copies of CoCs held by Namfrel/PPCRV, majority and minority parties;

4. We also plea for parties in this electoral exercise not to “commit acts inimical to the essence of democracy and fair play”.

This movement is conceived by the religious and the civil society of Lanao del Norte as a movement by the people to ensure for themselves that their leaders is their choice based on their will as written in the ballot.