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Philippine News Digest 6

November 6, 2001 · 

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Contents:

  • Amerasians celebrate Children’s Month
  • MILF vows to find Italian priest
  • Asean embarks on 4-year war against AIDS
  • Missing kids found in shallow graves
  • Their future, our future
  • Davao killings alarm lawyers
  • Vigilantes strike again, kill teenager
  • PNP chief: Kidnap stats inaccurate
  • 1, 020 death convicts await execution
  • OFW remittances down in first five months

Amerasians celebrate Children’s Month
Children of former American servicemen, most of whom were abandoned by their fathers, attended a two-day retreat in Magalang, Pampanga, in celebration of Children’s month sponsored by the Pearl S. Buck Foundation International, a United States-based humanitarian organization. Source: Chris Navarro, Today, 6 November 2001.

MILF vows to find Italian priest

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) through its spokesperson Eid Kabalu has offered to help locate kidnapped Italian priest Giuseppe Pierantoni, believed to be held hostage by the Pentagon gang that operates in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and North Cotabato. Kabalu said Moro rebels abhor human snatching and will not resort to kidnapping to advance its political objectives because the act is un-Islamic. However, the military has identified former MILF commanders Tahir Alonto and Abu Hamsa, and former MNLF commander Faisal Marohombsar, as among the leaders of the kidnap gang. Marohambsar claimed the government paid them P30 million pesos for the recent release of Zhang Zhong Yi, but that the Pentagon only got P10 million while P20 million allegedly went to the MILF. Kabalu denied Marohambsar’s allegations, saying that the MILF does not know if there was really ransom paid or none because they just did their job of facilitating the release of Zhong Yi. Source: Romer Sarmiento, Today, 6 November 2001.

Asean embarks on 4-year war against AIDS

Southeast Asian leaders adopted a four-year program to combat a regional HIV/AIDS epidemic, and warned drug use threatened to overtake sexual transmission as the major cause of infection during the annual Asean leaders’ summit in Brunei. At the end of 1999, UNAIDS estimated there were 1.63 million people with HIV/AIDS in the region, which covers a total population of 510 million. In August 2001, the World Health Organization warned that the death rate of adults in Asian nations will rise up to 40 percent in the coming decade due to AIDS. The three Asean nations with the highest rate of HIV/AIDS, above 1.0 percent of the total population, are Cambodia, Burma and Thailand. Source: AFP Report Philippine Daily Inquirer

Missing kids found in shallow graves

Twelve years after being shot by fatigue-wearing armed men, the remains of two teenagers were exhumed in Davao City through the concerted effort of the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) and a team of forensic experts from the University of the Philippines in Diliman last October 31. The remains were believed to be those of Anthony Carillo of Tugbok District and Ronel Tampipi of Buhangin District, both fifteen years old when they disappeared. The resident-witness who provided details about the grave said he saw men use rifles to shoot the two victims twelve years ago. At the height of the anti-communist campaign until the late 80s, hundreds of people suspected as rebels disappeared. Some of them were later found dead bearing torture marks. Source: Anthony Allada, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5 November 2001.

Their future, our future

Children are increasingly a focus for national and international development attention, but the facts and figures regarding their situation paint a different situation. There have been notable achievements such as the decline in mortality rate yet there are still many areas of serious concern. Six hundred million children live in households with an income of less than US$1 a day.120 million children work full time and a further 130 million work part-time. More than one-fifth of children of primary school age are not in school- that is 130 million children. Eleven million children die from preventable disease every year. Since 1989, the number of children in institutional care has risen, reflecting the family’s inability to cope with the burden of poverty due to economic decline and reduction in social safety nets. Whatever the cause, more children are being denied their rights- to education and health services, development, shelter, protection, good nutrition and clean water. There are sound arguments for focusing on children in poverty: 1) Childhood is a one-off window of opportunity and development. Certain losses incurred during childhood cannot be recouped later; 2) Children are one of the less powerless groups in all societies, and the physical and emotional cost of poverty are often passed on to them; 3) In many parts of the world, poverty is increasingly concentrated in families with children; 4) Today’s children are all too often tomorrow’s poor parents and; 5) Children’s rights are universal and indivisible. Source: Caroline Harper, Save the Children’s Head of Research and Development

Davao killings alarm lawyers

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines Davao Chapter has expressed alarm over the spate of vigilante-related deaths of suspected drug dealers and cellular phone snatchers in this city. In their three-page resolution, the lawyers said the killings deprive the suspects due process that is guaranteed by the constitution as a “sacred and inviolable right”. They also assailed the police for their apparent lack of interest in solving the killings, so much so that not one case has been solved and the suspects remain unidentified and are free roaming the streets. Source: Anthony Allada, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 29 October 2001.

Vigilantes strike again, kill teenager

From August 19, 1998 to October 11, 1999- a span of 14 months- at least thirteen incidents of killing linked to the shadowy Davao Death Squad were reported. The actual figure is expected to be higher than this since many cases remain unreported due to fear of backlash from the vigilante group. Most killings happened in public places and in broad daylight witnessed by many people. In one instance, two incidents took place less than twenty four hours apart.

On July 6, 1999 two minors, Royroy and Mamay, were gunned downed by unidentified armed men believed to be members of the vigilante group. The incident got the attention of several non-government organizations including the PREDA Foundation based in Olongapo City who issued a statement calling for a halt for the “shooting and harassment of street children that is a violation of Philippine laws, international laws and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Then Davao City Mayor Benjamin de Guzman said the letter has been unfair to Davao residents and challenged Father Shay Cullen, executive director of PREDA, to validate his claim. The mayor filed a P50 million-libel suit against Fr. Cullen, which marked the beginning of a long court battle between the two. The court eventually dismissed the libel case. In a press statement, Fr. Cullen said the libel suit is misdirected since he did not made any allegation that the mayor is “coddling people who are killing street children”. He said that the “efforts of the good mayor could be better spent running after the members of the suspected vigilante death squad and not after children’s centers and advocates”.

Two years after, motorcycle-riding gunmen struck again, this time killing a 17-year old robbery suspect who was shot while playing card games along R. Castillo Street on October 23, 2001. The victim, Bernie Mahusay, was the 15th person shot and killed since the Davao Death Squad started its killing spree on September 20. The latest killing occurred just as the city council approved a resolution demanding an investigation on the series of killings by the Commission on Human Rights, the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation.

PNP chief: Kidnap stats inaccurate

Philippine National Police Director General Leandro Mendoza described as “not accurate” the reports that there were more kidnap-for-ransom cases in the last nine months this year than in the entire 2000. He said, “ There are only more cases reported this year than last year. Stated differently, people were more afraid to report last year than this year. This is validated by the fact that 70 percent of the victims now want the help of the police.” He said that the kidnap-for-ransom crime efficiency this year is “very much higher” at 60 percent. He also added the average monthly crime volume in the country has dropped by 13.45 percent, from 9.51 cases to 8.23 cases per 100, 000 population. Source: Yolanda Fuertes, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 October 2001.

1, 020 death convicts await execution

A total of 1, 020 death convicts, including seven minors, await their fate at the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa and the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City. Of this number, 993 are male and 27 are female. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC) said policemen and other law enforcers have ignored Presidential Decree 603, otherwise known as the Child and Youth Welfare Code,, which provides for the treatment of minors during investigation and trial, and where they should be sent after being found guilty. Based on the law, arrested minors should not be handcuffed. They should be interrogated in the presence of a representative from the Department of Social Welfare and Development and a lawyer. A minor should also be detained separated from adults, even if he is convicted of a heinous crime. Furthermore, Theodore Te of the Free Legal Assistance Group said judges who sentenced minors to death could be administratively charged for gross ignorance of the law.

In a separate report, Justice Secretary Hernado Perez ruled out judicial executions in the country before mid-2002 because under the law the sentence of death should be carried out not less than one year nor more than one and a half year from finality of judgment. Source: Sandy Araneta, Philippine Star, 22 October 2001 and AFP report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 26 October 2001.

OFW remittances down in first five months

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) office reported a 13.32% decline in OFWs’ remittances from January to May of this year, from $2.58 billion during the same period a year ago to $2.24 billion, or a difference of $34 million. This figure is expected to decline further as a result of the ongoing US attacks on Afghanistan. Records show that OFWs in European countries and the Americas accounted for the biggest drop in remittances in the first five months. Source: Mayen Jaymalin, Philippine Star, 22 October 2001.

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