ARMM voters will spend longest time in polling precincts

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 April) – Of the country’s  52 million voters, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s 1.3 million voters will spend the longest time in the polling precincts in May because they will not only elect national and local officials but regional as well.

While voters in other towns nationwide need to shade only 30 or 31 ovals on the left side of the candidates’ names for 12 senators, one party-list representative, one Congressional representative,  one governor, one vice governor, four or five provincial board members, one mayor, one vice mayor and eight municipal board members,  ARMM voters have to shade five more for the regional governor, regional vice governor and three members of the Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) per district.

Lawyer Ray Sumalipao, regional director of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the ARMM, told MindaNews the estimated shading time for each ballot in the ARMM is five minutes.

Voters in Basilan and Tawi-tawi need to shade 35 ovals because Basilan has only eight provincial board members and voters elect four per district. But a voter in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Sulu, need to shade 36 ovals because they have a ten-member board and voters elect five per district.

ARMM is the only region in the country where voters will experience synchronized elections at the national, local and regional level.

ARMM voters will elect two governors and two vice governors —  provincial and regional – and five sets of legislators: Senator, House Representative, Regional Assemblyman, Provincial Board Member and  Municipal Councilor.

At stake in the ARMM election which was supposed to have been held on August 8 last year, are 26 posts – governor, vice governor and 24 assemblyman at three per congressional district.

The Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms, Inc. (Citizens CARE), a Comelec-accredited election watchdog,  is fielding 7,000 volunteers to assist in voter’s information and values education in the ARMM provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.

Citizens CARE Executive Director Salic Ibrahim told MindaNews that part of the voters’ education would be to show them a template of the ballots that are available for downloading at the Comelec website.


A total of 94 candidates are running for the ARMM’s 26 posts.

Six candidates, including OIC ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman and former ARMM Governor Nur Misuari are running for ARMM Governor, eight are running for Vice Governor and 80 are running for the 24 regional assembly seats.

Aside from Hataman, who is the Liberal Party’s candidate, and Misuari (Independent), also running for Governor are former Sultan Kudarat Governor and Representative Pax Mangudadatu (Ind.) former Agrarian Reform regional director Yusoph Mama (Ind.), Elsie New Orejudos (Ind.) and Aisha Fatima Buena Prudencio (Democratic Party of the Philippines).

Hataman, former three-term Anak Mindanaw party-list Representative, took over the ARMM as OIC Governor on December 22, 2011.

Misuari is the longest serving ARMM Governor in the 23-year old ARMM. Misuari, founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front who signed the Final Peace Agreement with the Philippine government on September 2, 1996 and was elected a full week later, served as Governor from September 30, 1996 until his arrest off Sabah on November 24, 2001.

Mangudadatu is uncle of reelectionist Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu (LP).

Running for vice governor are former ARMM Local Governments Secretary Haroun Alrashid Alonto Lucman (LP), Pundatoon Sultan Bagol (Ompia Party), Sultan Bob Datimbang (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino), Bashier Manalao (PDP-Laban), and Independent candidates Mesug Manaloco, Abdulaziz Mangandaki, Marconi Curso Paiso, and Pundato Sharief.

There are 80 candidates running for 24 RLA seats at three per congressional district: 11 in Basilan’s lone district; nine in Tawi-tawi; 17 in Lanao del Sur – nine in District 1, eight in District 2; 31 in Maguindanao – 12 in District 1, 19 in District 2; and 13 in Sulu – four in the first district and eight in the second district.


Last year, a general re-registration was held in the ARMM, a region that has repeatedly been  described as the nation’s “cheating capital” every election.

Comelec records show that in the May 2010 Presidential polls, ARMM had 1,882,338 voters. This year’s record shows ARMM has 1,300,479 registered voters.

In December, the Comelec removed 280,077 underage and multiple registrants. A report of the Philippine Star on December 3, 2012 quoted ARMM Comelec director Sumalipao as saying that the Election Registration Board hearings on November 26 to 30  “found thatthere were 250,773 multiple registrants and 29,304 underage applicants that tried to have themselves listed in the 10-day general re-registration of voters in the region last July.”

The ARMM election, synchronized with the local and national polls on May 13, will be the seventh and last elections in the 23-year old ARMM.

Following the October 15, 2012 signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a 15-member Transition Commission has been formed to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law in preparation for the “new autonomous political entity” called “Bangsamoro”  that will replace the ARMM.

The supposed three-year term of office of ARMM officials from 2013 will be cut short as soon as the Basic Law shall have been passed by Congress and ratified by the people in the Bangsamoro and the ARMM is deemed abolished, according to the FAB.

The ARMM’s functions will then be taken over by the Bangsamoro Transition Authority until  the first set of Bangsamoro officials shall have been elected in May 2016 and sworn into office by  noon of June 30, 2016. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Summer at Timoga Cool Springs

02timoga1lowYou know it’s  summer when picnickers troop to the swimming pools at the Timoga cool springs in Iligan City even during weekdays and workdays like Tuesday, April 2. MindaNews photo by Bobby Timonera

Durian time

02durian01Newly-delivered durian fruits sorted outside Magsaysay Park in Davao City on Tuesday, April 2. Durian now sells for  P30 to P40 a kilo depending on the variety. MindaNews photo by Ruby Thursday More

Night market

02sandals04As shops  close  for the day, these young boys start setting up their goods for the night market in Uyanguren Street, Davao City on Tuesday, April 2. They sell the Marikina-made sandals for P100 a pair or at a discounted price of P180 for two pairs. MindaNews Photo by Ruby Thursday More 


Junior NBA

02jrnba02Forty young boys aged 10 to 14 years old compete in the Regional Selection of the Jr. NBA Philippines 2013 at the University of Southeastern Philippines Gym in Davao City on Tuesday, April 2. Ten participants will be chosen to represent the region in the National Training Camp in Manila later this month from where 10 will be chosen to compose the Jr. NBA Philippines 2013 All Stars and get the chance to play against a counterpart Jr. NBA team abroad. MindaNews photo by Ruby Thursday More

Charged in Sabah: seven more; total 15

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 April) – Seven more alleged members of the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo”  were charged in Sabah, Malaysia Monday for allegedly waging war and engaging in terrorism, the state-owned news agency, Bernama, reported.

The new charges brought to 15 the total number of alleged members charged for offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment in Malaysia.

Like the first batch of eight who were charged with these crimes under the Malaysian Penal Code on March 20,  the names of the seven charged on April 1, described by Bernama as “Filipino men from the southern Philippines” were not made available, only their ages – “between 20 and 63.”

“No plea were recorded from the men aged between 20 and 63 when the charges were read to them, first in Bahasa Melayu and then in Bajau and Suluk by an interpreter before Lahad Datu Sessions Court Judge Rajalingam a/l S.S.Maniam who acted as Magistrate at a makeshift court at the district police headquarters today,” Bernama reported on April 1.

Bernama said five of the seven are facing two charges, of waging war against the Yang DiPertuan Agong, under Section 121 of the Penal Code which carries the death penalty upon conviction, and joining a terrorist group, under Section 130KA of the Penal Code, which carries a life sentence and fine upon conviction.

One of the seven accused is facing four charges, under Section 121, 130KA and Section 130E of the Penal Code for  allegedly recruiting terrorists or participating in terrorism, which carries a maximum 30 years’ jail and fine upon conviction; and for allegedly harboring terrorists under Section 130K of the Penal Code which carries a life sentence and liable to a fine, or a maximum 20 years’ jail and liable to a fine upon conviction.

Another accused is facing one charge under Section 130KA of the Penal Code.

Sec. 121of Malaysia’s Penal Code provides that “whoever wages war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or against any of the Rulers or Yang di-Pertua Negeri, or attempts to wage such war, or abets the waging of such war, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and if not sentenced to death shall also be liable to fine.”

Section 130 KA states that “whoever is a member of a terrorist group shall be  punished with imprisonment which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to a fine.”

Section 130 E defines “harbor” as “supplying a person with shelter, food, drink, money or clothes; or, except by a person employed in a Government hospital, medicines, bandages, surgical dressings or any other form of aid to a person wounded; or arms, ammunition or means of conveyance, or assisting a person in any way to evade apprehension.”

Consular visit

A consular team from the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has visited and conferred with the first batch of eight suspects facing charges in Sabah, a March 31 press statement from the Embassy said.

The Embassy team, led by First Secretary and Consul Antonina Mendoza-Oblena and Director Renato Villa, “talked to the eight individuals at the prison facility in Tawau and inquired about their conditions” last Thursday, March 28.

The team also asked the detainees’ “places of origin and respective families” but the press statement did not say where they are from.

The eight detainees were charged with waging war against the king and terrorism, offenses in Malaysia that are punishable by death or life imprisonment.

They were identified as Atik Hussin Bin Abu Bakar, Basad H. Manuel, Habil Bin Suhaili, Holland Bin Kalbi, Thimhar Hadil Suhaili, Lin Bin Mad Salleh, Kadir Bin Uyung and Lating Bin Tiong.

Governors Abdusakur Tan and Sadikul Sahali of Sulu and Tawi-tawi last week said they would have the names of the eight checked, if they are residents of their provinces.

Mujiv Hataman, OIC Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said he would also have the names checked.

Asked if the eight were from Sulu, Tan told MindaNews in a text message Sunday evening: “I’m not really so certain but I think they are hot on the Orang Suluk” (Tausug).

Sahali sent no reply but Hataman on Monday said he still has no update on the identities of the eight. “Baka hindi tunay na names” (These may not be real names), he told MindaNews.

‘Only 2 Filipinos’

Princess Jacel Kiram, eldest daughter of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, brother of Raja Agbimuddin Kiram who led the “Royal Security Forces” in Lahad Datu in February,  told MindaNews last Wednesday that only two of the eight charged are Filipinos and that the two Filipinos – Holland Kalbi and Lin Salleh had been killed on March 1, the day violence broke out after a standoff  in Lahad Datu from February 12 to March 1.

“Ang dalawa namatay na po ito noong Friday March 1 massacre. Ginamit ang pangalan nila,” (These two were killed during the Friday March 1 massacre. Their names were used), she said.

She added that Kalbi, who was reported to have been paid by her father,  “is a relative of ours.”

“How can we afford to pay them eh we have to earn a  living nga on our own eh. Because it’s not him anymore. Ginamit lang ang pangalan (His  name was used),” she said.

Philippine Ambassador  to Malaysia Eudardo Malaya, was quoted in the press statement as saying it is a standing policy for the Philippine Government to “provide appropriate consular assistance to nationals in distress, whether or not we agree with their acts or advocacies.”

“We would like to ensure that their rights as accused are respected and that they have legal representation when court sessions resume on April 12, as promised by Malaysian authorities,”  Malaya said.

In its March 31 press statement, the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said the March 28 consular jail visit was done after arrangements were made with the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General’s Chambers and Tawau prison officials.

“No other details were made available due to the sensitivity of the cases,” the press statement said.

But the statement noted that the Philippine Embassy “may find difficulty in extending consular assistance to Raja Muda Agbimuddin (Kiram) in light of revelations that he had acquired Malaysian citizenship.”

Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi told Malaysian reporters on March 23 that Agbimuddin is a Malaysian citizen who worked as a civil servant in Sabah, as an assistant district officer in Kudat under the administration of former Sabah Chief Minister Tun Datu Mustapha Datu Harun.

Mustapha was chief minister from 1967 to 1975.

The New Straits Times on March 24 quoted the Defense Minister as saying that Agbimuddin Kiram was “given Malaysian citizenship during Tun Mustapha’s time. However, I can’t say whether he is still a Malaysian citizen.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Evacuees from Sabah: 750 new arrivals; total 5,189 since March 6

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 March) –  The number of evacuees from Sabah since March 6 has reached 5,189 as of 5 p.m. on April 1 or 750 more arrivals from the 11 a.m. March 27 update of 4,439, records from the Regional Human Rights Commission  (RHRC) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) showed.

The RHRC’s “Sabah Evacuee Map” as of April 1 lists as among the new arrivals 143 persons who were “part of one big group that arrived in Taganak (Tawi-tawi) on unknown dates in different smaller boats.”

Two navy boats, PG 370 Jose Andrada and PS 36BRP Apolinario Mabini were dispatched to rescue them from Taganak.

Thousands had been fleeing Sabah for fear of getting caught in the crossfire in the operations Malaysian authorities launched against members of the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and Northern Borneo” to flush them out of Lahad Datu in Sabah.

The figure 5,189 does not include the 288 persons persons on board a commercial ferry who arrived in Zamboanga City on March 2 following their deportation from Sabah and whose deportation had nothing to do with the standoff  in Lahad Datu.

The RHRC’s “Sabah Evacuee Map” (see attached map) shows a total of 5,189 evacuees, 288 classified under “organized” or those officially deported by Sabah, and the remaining 5,189 classified under “self” or voluntary evacuation.

The 5,189 evacuees arrived on 64 boats from Sabah, Tawau, Sandakan, Semporna, Perda and Lahad Datu.

Sulu posted the highest number of arrivals at 3,589 on board 22 boats, followed by Tawi-tawi’s 1,284 on board 39 boats and Basilan at 290 on board two boats.

The RHRC map lists the following new arrivals:
- 249 evacuees from Sandakan, Sabah arrived on 27 March in Sulu via ML Nur Ina
-    14 evacuees from Perda, Lahad Datu arrived on 27 March in Tawi-Tawi via ML Wan Express
-     five evacuees from Semporna, Sabah arrived on 27 March in Tawi-Tawi via Pappit
-    78 evacuees from Sabah arrived on 28 March in Sulu (vessel’s name to be determined)
-    30 evacuees from Sandakan,Sabah arrived on 29 March in Tawi-Tawi via PG 370 Jose Andrada
-    143 evacuees from Taganak, Turtle Island, Tawi-Tawi arrived between March 27 and 29 in Basilan, Jolo, Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga via PS 36 BRP Apolinario Mabini and PG 370 Jose Andrada. The evacuees’ places of origin in Sabah and exact arrival date in Taganak are still to be determined as these evacuees came in smaller boats.
-   42 evacuees from Semporna, Sabah arrived on 30 March in Tawi-Tawi via Everlines-Queen Emilia
-  149 evacuees from Sandakan,Sabah arrived on 30 March in Tawi-Tawi via MS Jamila
-    35 evacuees from Semporna,Sabah arrived on 30 March in Tawi-Tawi via ML Wan Express and
-   35 evacuees from Semporna,Sabah arrived on 01 April to Tawi-Tawi via Magnolia Lili Flora

Lawyer Laisa Masuhud Alamia, RHRC chair, in her report said, the RHRC investigators “are still on the ground in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi continuing to monitor the situation of the Sabah evacuees as well as documenting testimonies of evacuees on alleged human rights violations.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

NPA frees captive cop in ComVal

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/2 April) —The New People’s Army (NPA) freed Tuesday Police Officer 3 Ruben Nojapa Jr. in Barangay Mainit, Nabunturan town in Compostela Valley (ComVal) after 15 days in captivity.

Acting Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte fetched Nojapa and brought him to Camp Catitipan here on board a white helicopter at around 3 p.m.

The National Democratic Front (NDF) Southern Mindanao ordered Nojapa’s release last March 24.

He was abducted by NPA rebels last March 18 in a checkpoint in Barangay Mainit.

Before he was transported to the hospital here by the police, Nojapa told reporters that his captors did not harm him in any way.

Kay gipasaka naman gyud sa taas, napamatud-an na wala koy sala (It was proven by their officials that I did not commit any crime),” he said.

In a press statement, the NDF Southern Mindanao said that after an investigation by the NPA, “no sufficient evidence was established to warrant his (Nojapa’s) prosecution for serious crimes committed against the Filipino people and the revolutionary movement.”

Senior Supt. Aaron Aquino, Police Regional Office 11 chief for directorial staff and former ComVal provincial police director, said while waiting for Nojapa’s arrival that the latter would undergo medical and physical exams and tactical interrogation.

Duterte said in an interview after he turned over Nojapa to the police that his role in the release was only as a “delivery boy of policemen and soldiers held captive by the NPA.”

He also fetched two other NPA prisoners of war (POW)—Senior Police Officer 1 Ruel Pasion and the Army Private First Class Jezreel Culango—last February 21 in Laak town, also in ComVal.

Duterte said this was a” minor role as a simple deed for his fellowmen that had nothing to do with the war.”

“Wala naman tay mahimo, naa na man na (We can’t do anything about it. That’s already there). But, of course, everybody must remember, including the Communist Party [of the Philippines], the NPA and the NDF that I am with the government,” he added.

He said he would also be willing to “make errands for the police to save lives, make everybody happy” if the police would ask him too.

Duterte said picking up the hostage using a helicopter costs P100,000, and that “he billed both the NPA and the police equally for the expenses.” (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)

Damaged NGCP steel tower triggers 16-hour power outage in Surigao Norte

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/2 April) – A damaged 69-kilovolt (kV) steel tower of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) triggered a 16-hour power interruption in this city and several areas in Surigao del Norte since 8:15 p.m. Monday.

Power supply was restored at around 12:15 p.m. Tuesday in the coverage area of the Surigao del Norte Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Surneco).

In an advisory this morning, Surneco said a destroyed 69-kV steel tower of NGCP located in Barangay Mabini here caused the power blackout.

Engr. Alex Diaz, Surneco maintenance engineer, said that NGCP crewmen have been deployed to repair the transmission tower that was discovered destroyed at around 3 a.m. Tuesday.

“This tower is the main source [of power] so it will really affect all our lines in the city and yes, the province,” Diaz said.

Quoting a text message from the NGCP crewmen, he said one of the posts of the tower was destroyed when a “length of rope tied to it, probably that of a carabao, pulled off the anchor guy.”

The “anchor guy” is the bunting or rope that is tied to a tower to ensure that it can withstand a fall, Diaz explained.

According to Surneco, the areas affected by the power outage include Anislagan in Placer, the whole Surigao City comprising 54 barangays, Masapilid and Bayagnan Islands, and the entire barangays in the towns of Sison, Taganaan, San Francisco and Malimono.

Diaz, who spoke with MindaNews this morning in the absence of its general manager Engr. Danny Z. Escalante, who is reportedly in Manila, said that once power supply is restored, they will request the NGCP to exempt tonight’s daily two-hour (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.) scheduled load curtailment.

Meanwhile, the city did not experience brownouts during the length of the Holy Week starting Holy Wednesday.

Diaz attributed this to the industries that went on a holiday, allowing enough supply for residential users. (Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)