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Philippine News Digest 2

August 4, 2001 · 

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Contents:
1. Irish priest shot dead
2. Church condemns GMOs, urges tests junked
3. Toxic alarm up over coal power plant
4. US hands off on American’s rape case
5. Police round up street children
6. 4.6% growth expected next year
7. P120M in House funds unsettled
8. Curfew violators abused in detention
9. Lethal injection for daughter’s rapist
10. Child labor a growing concern
11. More overseas Filipino workers leave for Japan
12. Cordillera fruits rot as a result of bad roads

Irish priest shot dead

Fr. Rufus Halley, a Columban missionary in Malabang, Lanao del Sur in Southern Philippines was shot dead August 28 while on the way to his convent after the Bishops-Ulama Forum in Cagayan de Oro City. According to witnesses, Halley was supposed to be kidnapped but he resisted. He was shot in the head and died instantly.

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Aquevedo, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines, said the Church does not pay ransom for kidnapped priests and nuns because this will only lead to more kidnappings in the future. He and other religious leaders condemned the incident, saying that Halley is a great loss for people working for peace. The CBCP released a statement condemning the “brutal and unconscionable” killing of Halley as they press the authorities to “follow any lead, pursue every angle that would lead to the apprehension of their murderers and their just punishments through the courts.”

Manhunt launched. A manhunt was launched a day after the incident happened for six gunmen including Akto Sumagayana Daing, 35-year old son of MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) Commander Sairip Daing. Witnesses have identified Akto Daing as the one who shot Halley five times in the head and body. MILF Spokesperson Eid Kabalu denied the rebel group was involved in the killing. Instead, he identified Ato Masandang, nephew of former Malabang Vice Mayor Hadji Omar Masandang as one of the gunmen. According to Kabalu, both uncle and nephew are former rebels of the MILF.

In life and death. In death, Fr. Popong accomplished what he had worked so hard to achieve in life to bring Christians and Muslims together. On September 1, more than 3, 000 people including many Maranaws squeezed inside the 2000-capacity Immaculate Conception Church to attend the funeral mass for Fr. Halley. Five of his brothers came all the way from Waterford, Ireland to attend the funeral in Cagayan de Oro City.

Emerging pattern. Parishioners had been reminding the priest to be extra careful when moving around because he was a foreigner. Foreign priests working for a Christian minority in the province were previously harassed or kidnapped. In 1997, another Columban priest, Fr. Desmond Hartford was kidnapped by former Moro rebels in Lanao del Norte. He was eventually released. Hartford is now the apostolic administrator of the Marawi prelature. Meanwhile, Sister Mary Antonietta Go of the Sisters Association in Mindanao said unseen hands could be trying to widen the cultural divide between Muslims and Christians. Italian Catholic missionary Fr. Peter Geremia expressed concerns that the violence in Mindanao appears similar to or patterned after the violence in Basilan province. Source Reports from the Philippine Daily Inquirer from August 20 to September 2, 2001.

Church condemns GMOs, urges tests junked

Ilagan, Isabela- The Catholic bishop and priests in 35 towns and two cities in Isabela have led a province-wide condemnation of Bt-corn (Bacillus thuringiemsis) field-testing. They said the genetically modified organism-laced corn seeds are noxious and are exposing people to risks of cancer and other diseases. Bishop Sergio Utleg called on local leaders to stop the project; junk other genetically modified organism-laced crops and fights the dominance of corporations pushing for the GMO-enhanced projects. Monsanto Philippines, project initiator, has already planted Bt-corn in several barangays in Isabela. Source Villamor Visaya Jr. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4 September 2001.

Toxic alarm up over coal power plant

Calaca, Batangas- Activist from the Greenpeace Southeast Asia held a press conference August 30 at the ash pond where toxic byproducts of the 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant of the National Power Corporation are deposited. They hope to convey the message “Coal Kills.” At least 17 members of the group planted 200 white crosses in the barren ash field of the Napocor plant to dramatize the toxic pollution associated with coal-fired plants. Representatives of the Crusade for Sustainable Environment based in Mauban, Quezon, which opposes the operation of a similar coal-fired power plant in their community, were also present to express their solidarity. Red Constantino of the Greenpeace explained that communities surrounding the coal plant are potential graveyards. According to him, reports conducted by the Philippine Institute for Pure and Applied Chemistry confirmed the presence of “neurotoxin mercury” in ash dumped by Napocor on open fields beside the plant. Mercury is so dangerous that it takes only 1/70th of a teaspoon of it to contaminate a 62-hectare lake. Aside from Calaca plant, the country also operates a 1, 200-megawatt plant in Sual, Pangasinan; a 40-megawatt plant in Mauban, Quezon; a 700-megawatt station in Pagbilao, Quezon; and a 700-megawatt station in Zambales. Source Delfin Mallari Jr., Philippine Daily Inquirer, 3 September 2001

US hands off on American’s rape case

US Vice Consul Michael Newbell visited Victor Pearson August 28 at his detention cell in the Negros Provincial Jail. He had a closed-door meeting with Pearson, and later with Supt. Geary Barias, Negros Occidental police chief, and provincial jail warden Marcos Ybañez. Pearson is facing 10 counts of rape before the Ilog Municipal Trial Court (see News Digest 30 July- 21 August). Newbell made the visit to make sure Pearson’s rights as a person were not being violated. He said the US government would not interfere in Pearson’s case, but added that it is willing to give the suspected rapist food and medicines if ever they are needed. Pearson said his condition at the provincial jail was better compared to what he experienced at the Ilog police station where he was first brought after he was arrested this month. He said he plans to file charges against the policemen who maltreated home during his stay at the police station. Source Carla Gomez, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 30 August 2001

Police round up street children

General Santos City-The police have started rounding up street children in this city in an effort to curb the growing number of minors roaming around the city’s main thoroughfares and red light districts, even during the wee hours of the morning. Last Sunday alone, there were at least 16 street children picked up and placed under police custody. This campaign was in compliance to an order issued by Mayor Pedro Aacharon Jr. It was also part of a crime prevention campaign, as well as efforts for the rehabilitation of delinquent minors. However, as the number of street children increases, the city government was now in a dilemma over how to meet the basic needs of the apprehended minors. Source Aquiles Zonio, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 29 August 2001.

4.6% growth expected next year

Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho said the country’s economic growth should pick up to between 4.3 and 4.6 percent in 2002 after a global slow down this year. He attributes this increase to better investment climate and increased business confidence in the country.

The Philippines has been hard hit by a slow down in electronics exports, and the government is projecting GDP growth of 3.3 percent this year. But independent analysts said the country would be hard pushed to post a three percent growth rate. Last year, GDP grew by four percent. Source Philippine Daily Inquirer, 27 August 2001

P120M in House funds unsettled

The latest report from the Commission on Audit revealed that the House of Representatives last year had unliquidated cash advances of some P120 million, incurred mainly by congressmen who made additional cash advances despite having unliquidated balances the previous year. The Senate also had P26.4 million in unliquidated cash advances as of December 31, 2000. These are violations of the law and provisions of the Government Accounting and Auditing Manual, for which certain officials of congress could be held liable. Source Donna Cueto, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 20 August 2001

Curfew violators abused in detention

Davao City- A non-government organization has urged the government to look into alleged physical and sexual abuse of children rounded up for violation of curfew hours. Pilgrim Guasa, executive director of the Tambayan Youth Center, said there have been instances when these children were sexually abused or raped while in the custody of police. Some of them were asked for sexual favors. Her allegations are based on documents gathered by Mae Templa of Gabriela, a women’s group in the country. She was asked by police officials to submit records of evidence to substantiate her statements so that charges can be filed in court. She could be the principal witness for the prosecution of the erring police officers. But Guasa said in the protection of children, the government should go back to basics and find out why the children are out in the streets in the first place. Source Ayan C. Melejor, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 27 August 2001

Lethal injection for daughter’s rapist

Judge Mariano Singzon of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court found a man guilty of raping his daughter seven years ago and ordered him to pay the victim P100, 000 in moral damages. In a seven-page decision, Singzon gave weight to the victim’s “vivid description and candid and unwavering narration” during the trial of the rape charges. Court records show that the rape occurred on April 5, 1995 at the victim’s residence in Mandaluyong. On this date the father claimed he was not at the house where the girl and his first wife were living. His second wife, who claimed they were together on the day the incident happened, corroborated this. However, Judge Singzon maintained that the man’s alibi was weak, as opposed to the narration of the victim. The decision reads It is well settled that an alibi is an inherently weak defense, which could easily be fabricated. It cannot prevail over positive identification. Source Agnes E. Donato. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 27 August 2001

Child labor a growing concern

According to a World Bank report, child labor is one of the major concerns confronting many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the help of the entire global community is needed to address such a problem. At present, the International Labor Organization (ILO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO) are sharing the responsibility of looking after the welfare of children who are driven by poverty to join the workforce.

According to ILO statistics, there are about 250 million working children aged between five and 14 in developing countries; at least 120 million are working full time. The number of working children on Asia accounts for 61 percent of the world’s child labor force, Africa accounts for 32 percent and Latin America, 7 percent. Although Asia has the biggest number of working children, Africa has the highest proportion of working children where one child in every three is engaged in some form of economic activity. The report also found out that there were more working children in developing countries and more were located in rural areas than urban areas. Children in rural areas are engaged in agricultural or similar activities, while their urban counterparts are found mainly in trade and services, with fewer in manufacturing and construction.

In the Philippines, public awareness on child labor rose from 59 percent in 1995 to 71 percent in March 2000. This indicates that the public has been receptive to the anti-child labor campaign but despite this, there is still much to do to completely eradicate this social problem. From 1999 to 2000 about 5 million out of the 22.5 million children aged 5 to 17 did not enroll in any school. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said more children are driven to a “life of crime” as juvenile delinquency rose by 6.3 percent between January to September last year. A former labor official noted that the number of “prostituted persons” in the country is about the size of the manufacturing workforce. Of the 500,000 documented sex workers, 15 percent are children. The Philippines ranked fourth among nine nations with the most number of child prostitutes, according to the UNICEF. Source Rizal Raoul Reyes and Cher Jimenez, Today, 24 August 2001.

More overseas Filipino workers leave for Japan

According to a report by the Department of Labor and Employment, the number of overseas Filipino workers leaving for Japan rose by 21% in the first half of the year. This is the largest increase in overseas deployment to one country recorded among the top ten OFW destinations. The figure translates to 33, 351 documented OFWs in Japan as of June this year, from 27, 504 last year, or an increase of 5, 847. Aside from this number, there are another 39,235 undocumented OFWs in Japan as of July 1999 consisting mainly of construction workers and entertainers. Around 25, 000 of these are women.

Rosalinda Baldoz, administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administrator, said this increase came amidst calls by some sectors of Japanese society for an “open door policy” on foreign workers who are helping fill the gaps in the work force brought about by Japan’s aging population. Source Gerald Lacuarta, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 22 August 2001.

Cordillera fruits rot as a result of bad roads

Imported fruits abound in the country’s public markets, thanks to trade liberalization, but local fruits from remote Cordillera towns rot in the farms because they cannot be transported due to poor roads or no roads at all. Paracelis, Natonin and Barlig towns of the Mt. Province abound with pomelo, bananas, coffee, yam, ube and other root crops that residents cannot consume nor sell in the markets. An efficient road system will motivate the residents to become entrepreneurs, but villagers lack government support such as “post-harvest facilities” including roads. Many other rural areas in the country suffer the same fate. Source Maurice Malanes, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 22 August 2001.

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