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[Editor's Note: This was in response to a letter from Brother Bowers.]

Dear bro. Bowers,

I think not all are terrorist. But there are also times that the targets are Christians. I don't know what you call it but I will try to explain to you what happened here in our area since I was added to the Church of Christ. I was added to the Church of Christ on the year 1971. On 1973 the Muslim Rebels came to the town of Magsaysay & Matanao Davao del Sur and burned seven church buildings of the churches of Christ & several houses of our brethren. Our faithful co-preacher, brother Salvador Loyola was killed by the Muslim Rebels on 1974. They also burned church buildings of the denominations & houses of the members of the denominations. They took away almost all the working animals such as Carabaos or Water Buffalo, Horses & Cows, etc. of the people. Magsaysay & Matanao areas is not a Muslim area. Most of those residing in this places are Minorities but "Christians". The number of Muslims in this place is less than 1%. On 1973 to 1974 all the people evacuated. The Government Forces encounter the Muslim Rebels for about two years.

After 1974 our brethren and most of the people went back to their gardens. But after about two to three years the Communists Party of the Philippines came. Not only hundreds but thousands were recruited. On some places the Government Officials were paralized & the Communists were the Government in some places. There were great fightings between the Government Forces & Communists Party of the Philippines.

Again, our hundreds to thousands of brethren evacuated. And all those not in favor of Communists evacuated. In some areas they evacuated for about four to six months only. But on some places where there are so many Communists they evacuated for one year to two years. There were places that the evacuation reach to three years or more before they can go back to their gardens.

Then peace came and people went back to their gardens but after about two to three years the Communists came back again ang fight against the Government troops and again the people evacuated. These always happens almost every two to three years intervals. On 1987, one of the most faithful co-preacher, one of the elders of Taclobo church of Christ, Taclobo, Libertad, Kaputian, Davao, brother Artemio Segareno was beheaded by the members of Communists Party of the Philippines. I was the preacher of Taclobo church of Christ from 1980 to 1986.

While on other places or neighbor places the Muslim Rebels also encountered always the Government forces. Our Government spent Billions of Pesos in fighting these Muslim Rebels. Thousands of people evacuated everytime the Government forces encountered the Rebels. Our government use Air & Ground Attack. We can always see the Helicopters & War planes dropping Bombs.

I would like to quote some of what was written on our News Paper on February 12, 2003. The name of the News Paper is "Philippines Daily Inquirer", Wedenesday, February 12, 2003, Vol. 18, No. 66. Front Page in Titled "IT'S A MESS HERE, BABIES, KIDS, MOTHERS". ".....It's a mess here. Babies, children, mothers, old people, there are thousands of them. There's no dignity inside this warehouse. My heart begins to cry again." "Fr. Roberto Layson, this town's parish priest, cannot hide his anguish. Less than three years after he headed the Pikit Parish Disaster Response Team, for which he received the 2002 Pax Christi International Peace Award, Layson is working with evacuees again."

"Back then, during the 'all out war' waged by President Joseph Estrada, tens of thousands of refugees had deluged the Pikit town center, filling the parish gym and the central elementary school, living side by side with their farm animals and creating almost impossible demands on the food supply and hygiene. Now the nightmare is back in Pikit." "Hours after soldiers on board armored personnel carriers and tanks started arriving here on Friday, residents of up to 11 Pikit barangays started an exodus to safer areas. Soldiers told them Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces had massed in Pikit and were joined by members of the Pentagon kidnap gang."

"Today, there are an estimated 4,000 evacuee families-some 20,000 individuals-coming from five municipalities in Maguindanao and six Municipalities in Cotabato province."

"Kaloy Anasarias of Balay, a nongovernment organization, said this was already the fourth major battle between the Armed Forces and the MILF in Pikit. The first was in June 1977, which displaced 30,000 civilians; the second was in May 2000, at the height of the 'all-out war', which displaced 41,000 civilians; the third was in November 2001, which displaced 24,000 civilians."

We have about 5,000 to 6,000 faithful brethren in the Province of North Cotabato. Pikit is one of the towns of North Cotabato. There are five kinds of Muslim Rebels here in the places where we are preaching. They are the following: 1)Moro Islamic Liberation Front, 2) Moro National Liberation Front, 3)Abusayaff - "Kidnap for Ransom Gang", 4)Pentagon - "Kidnap for Ransom Gang" & 5)Muslim Bandits - Taking away the working animals such as Carabaos or Water Buffalo, Horses, Cows, & other valuable properties. We have about 3,000 faithful brethren at the Province of Sultan Kudarat who are also always evacuating because of the battle between the Armed Forces and the Muslim rebels.

We have about 7,000 faithful brethren at the Province of Bukidnon who are also always evacuating because of the battle between the Armed Forces and the Communists Party of the Philippines.

At this time, a total of about 4,000 brethren are displaced or evacuated because of the battle between the Armed Forces and Muslim Rebels & on other place is between the Armed Forces and Communists Party of the Philippines. The brethren who have evacuated are on the following provinces: 1)Bukidnon, 2)North Cotabato, 3)Sultan Kudarat, 4)Boundery of Davao del Sur, 5)Boundery of Davao City, & 6)North Davao.

This is what we can read in the News Paper, page A19 of PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER dated February 12, 2002. "BOMBER PLANES". "The helicopter gunships and two OV-10 bomber planes took turns in pounding MILF rebels in five villages in Pikit in North Cotabato and Pagalungan in Mindanao." "Ground troops closed in on in the rebels' position with artellery and armored personnel carrier backing some 2,000 government forces.....As the two MG-520 attack helicopters took turns strafing rebel positions, evacuees and civilians in Pikit uttered "ohs" and "ahs.".....General Ricardo Faustino, 3rd Tactical Operations Wing Commander, said his group started > sending air support....."

"From an artillery base, soldiers were seen firing cannon rounds every 30 minutes toward targets about 10-15 kms away Sporadic gunfire and rocket-propelled grenade explosions sounded throughout the area. Luna said > tanks were also in use againsts the rebels. Soriano said only MILF rebels remained in the area. Nobody except the MILF rebels (remain).....Those who > did not get out of the area practically belong to the MILF rebels,' Soriano said."

"A provincial official, who asked not to be identified, said the military's objective was 'to pre-empt any MILF retaliation if the United States attacks Iraq."

What ashamed us much is that the Roman Catholics are the persons who are helping almost all the time for the food & medicines of our evacuees brethren. And many times when food is not enough our brethren could not receive help because it will be given in favor of the members of the Roman Catholics even though sometimes the help is not from the Roman Catholic church but was only requested to do the distribution. Usually U.S. brethren help only once when there is evacuations even though the evacuation will be 6 months to one year or more. The biggest amount received from U.S. brethren per member of the Church of Christ since 1973 evacuations or drought is P729.14 per member or $18.22 per member (P40 per Dollar at year 1997. That is the only year our brethren received the biggest help from U.S. brethren). That was a nine month drought where there were so many who died due to severe hunger & sickness. Except to few individuals who received one time help.

Usually, help from U.S. brethren is $2 per member per Calamity or per evacuation or per drought. But on the past three years there are no helps from U.S. brethren but only for few individuals one time help. But we the Filipinos are so very thankful for any help received from U.S. brethren and of course we are so very thankful to God for the help we receive. I have so many files of News Papers but I have no time to write. Please pray for our most needy brethren specially those who are still evacuated. There are thousands of them. Many died on the evacuation due to sickness & hunger. Brethren are in severe hunger because of the drought that started on October 2002 then followed by the fighting between the Armed Forces of the Philippines & Muslim Rebels & Communists Party of the Philippines which forced our brethren to evacuate because some of them were already hit by astray bullets & some were killed due to hit by astray bullets. Please help our most needy brethren. Any amount of help will be greatly receive & properly use.

You are in our prayers. Please pray for us too.

Sincerely, your brother in Christ,

Julie Notarte
P. O. Box 232
8002 Digos City
Philippines

[Editor's Note: The numbers claimed in this letter has been disputed by another Filipino preacher.]