Wednesday, October 22, 2014

PNoy: Expect significant accomplishments against Abu Sayyaf

From Ang Malaya (Oct 22): PNoy: Expect significant accomplishments against Abu Sayyaf

The Filipino people can expect significant accomplishments in the campaign against the terror group Abu Sayyaf in the coming weeks, President Aquino said during an event organized by foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines admitted that some factors are affecting their efforts against the bandits. One of the main factor that hinders their campaign is heavy rain. In tracking operations, rain is a challenge for military troops because traces are washed out.
Another hindrance is the Sayyafs incorporate themselves among civilians.

But Task Force Sulu Commander Col. Allan Arrojado said “We have already entered their enclave that for so long the troops could not patrol… It is just a matter of time and with a lot of patience we can nail them down.”

The President said that the terror group has around 200 armed men.

After the freeing of two German hostages, Aquino ordered for a round the clock offensive campaign. “Wala silang humpay at palagay ko naman dapat rin tapatan ng estado na walang humpay ‘yung pagtutugis sa kanila.”

Suspected JI bomber arrested in Maguindanao to be transferred to Manila

From InterAksyon (Oct 22): Suspected JI bomber arrested in Maguindanao to be transferred to Manila

A suspected big-time bomber arrested Tuesday morning is scheduled to be transferred to Manila today.

The transfer is to treat the suspect, identified as Abi Salman alias Sauman Usman and Nanam, who was hit in the right leg when he tried to grab an M16 Armalite rifle from one of the arresting officers during a joint operation in Barangay Tuka, Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Salman is linked to bombings in different parts of Central Mindanao and is believed to be a nephew of Jemaah Islamiyah-trained bomber Basit Usman.

Salman’s arrest was based on the arrest warrant released by Judge Rogelio Narisma of Regional Trial Court Branch 23, Kidapawan City due to cases of multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder, and attempted murder, said Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao director Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes.

Operatives of the SPMKI-OCPNP, Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG), PNP Intelligence Group, S2 45th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, Maguindanao Provincial Police Office, with the help of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), participated in the operation, added delos Reyes.

Salman is said to have a reward of P1.3-million on his head.

DFA chief defends VFA

From InterAksyon (Oct 22): DFA chief defends VFA

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday defended the Visiting Forces Agreement, saying that the pact is the reason why the Philippines has jurisdiction over the murder of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude by suspect United States Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton.

In a statement read before the hearing on the case by the Senate committee on foreign relations, del Rosario said Philippine jurisdiction over the Subic rape case of 2005 was also due to the VFA.

“There have been many questions as to whether the VFA is actually an instrument which allows us to pursue the ends of justice, or if it is an unfair agreement,” del Rosario said.

“Many have called for the abrogation of the VFA due to this incident, and other incidents such as the Subic rape case of 2005. However, it is precisely because the VFA is there that we are actually able to exercise jurisdiction over these servicemen,” he added.

Except for offenses solely against the security, property, or person of the United States government and personnel, del Rosario emphasized that “under the VFA, the Philippines unquestionably enjoys the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over offenses committed by US servicemen in the Philippines.”

The DFA secretary also noted that “the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement has been upheld by the Supreme Court in the cases of Bayan v. Zamora, Lim v. Executive Secretary, and Nicolas v. Romulo.”

Citing the Supreme Court in Nicolas vs. Romulo, the country’s chief diplomat said of the custody issue: “We are aware that prior to conviction, the US has the right to retain custody over its servicemen under Article 5, section 6 of the VFA. But such right can be waived, and we affirm that if a warrant of arrest is issued, we will request the US to turn over the serviceman’s custody to us.”

Bottom line

At the same time, the DFA secretary said the United States has been informed that the Philippines will not accept Pemberton’s detention in the US embassy.

“The bottom line, Your Honor, is that the US is fully aware that for the Philippine Government, it will be totally unacceptable for them to detain Private 1st Class Pemberton within the premises of the US Embassy, as was done in the Lance Corporal Daniel Smith case,” he said, referring to the case of the principal suspect in the Subic rape case.

Del Rosario also told the Senate hearing of Pemberton’s transfer from the USS Peleliu to Camp Aguinaldo.

When the country hosted US military bases, US had jurisdiction over crimes committed by US servicemen inside the bases, he said.

“Unlike in previous times when the country was hosting US bases, the Philippines now has the authority to prosecute US servicemen in the Philippines, to try them in the Philippines, and if convicted, to jail them in the Philippines,” del Rosario said.

“And because of this, we are actually now exercising our jurisdiction over this heinous crime allegedly committed by a US serviceman. We have not hesitated to inform the US authorities that the Philippines is exercising its primary jurisdiction over this case, and we are not conceding this right. We fully expect the US therefore to cooperate with the Philippine Government in the pursuit of justice,” he added.

GPH-NDF meet in Utrecht won’t take up release of soldiers held by NPA in Bukidnon

From MindaNews (Oct 22): GPH-NDF meet in Utrecht won’t take up release of soldiers held by NPA in Bukidnon

The release of two Army soldiers held captive by the New People’s Army in Bukidnon will not be taken up in a meeting between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Utrecht in the Netherlands this week, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles said Wednesday.

Deles said the meeting in Utrecht will be “low-key” and will focus on finding ways to resume the stalled peace talks between the government and the NDF.

“There is no ceasefire. The release of the POWs will not be taken up in the meeting,” the official said during a roundtable discussion with journalists in Makati City.

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Felixberto Calang met with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin last week to renew their request for a suspension of military operations to pave the way for the safe release of two soldiers held by the rebels in Bukidnon.

Army Privates First Class Marnel Cinches and Jerrel Yorong have been held captive by the NPA since August 22.

The military in Bukidnon said the two soldiers were snatched by the NPA while buying food supplies at a market in Impasugong, Bukidnon.

They were scheduled to be released last September but the plan was cancelled for unknown reasons.

Ledesma and Calang have taken up the cudgel of the families of the captured soldiers, and have asked both sides to ensure their safe release.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Military offers more excuses in delayed pursuit ops vs Abus

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 22): Military offers more excuses in delayed pursuit ops vs Abus

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday offered more “excuses” for the delay in the ongoing pursuit operations against the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group that held the two German hostages who were released last Friday after ransom payment.

At press time, pursuing government troops had not caught up with the Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the island province of Sulu, particularly in Patikul town.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP-Public Affairs Office chief, said continuous heavy rains in the area, difficult terrain and the Abu Sayyaf splintering into smaller groups and mixing up with civilians are among the challenges in the current all-out offensive operations against the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group).

“It’s really difficult to operate when you have harsh terrain in the area. Continuous rains are a challenge in the tracking operations of our reconnaissance elements; how to follow the tracks or traces of the enemies which are being swept (by rains),” said Cabunoc.

Cabunoc added that it has been raining in the areas of operation since Saturday.

“They (ASG) are also mixing up with civilian communities, that is a very big challenge because we are reminded to protect the rights of the people. We are not supposed to cause collateral damage,” added Cabunoc.

Cabunoc stressed that the areas now being operated by the troops are civilian populated.

According to Cabunoc, previous Abu Sayyaf encampments seized by pursuing government troops were situated in civilian-populated areas in Patikul.

“There are houses, not necessarily in the center. There are houses but these are barangays with civilian population,” said Cabunoc.

To avoid civilian casualty, Cabunoc said that government security forces are deliberate in the conduct of operation.

He also cited the deployment of Army soldiers who were former members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), now assigned with the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion, who are acquainted with Sulu and its terrain.

“We enlisted the help of these former MNLF who are now in the Army to identify plain civilians because they know exactly who are those identified with the Abu Sayyaf group,” said Cabunoc.

He said the military has been receiving reports that the Abu Sayyaf band being pursued holds other hostages.

“There are reports but yet to be validated. It has to be validated by our intelligence officers,” said Cabunoc.

The reports of the ASG holding some 11 more hostages who are foreigners have been published in the media for years. Not one of these hostages has been rescued by the military.

Last Friday, the Abu Sayyaf released Germans Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Herike Diesen, 55, after almost five months in captivity.

Reports said that P250 million ransom was paid for the release of the German hostages.

Currently, the military said that 10 hostages are still being held by the Abu Sayyaf, including the two European birdwatchers kidnapped in February 2012 and a Japanese.

US government: People of the Philippines deserve nothing less

From Ang Malaya (Oct 21): US government: People of the Philippines deserve nothing less

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario had a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry prior to their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia. Different state representtives are in Indonesia for the inauguration of Joko Widodo, new President of Indonesia, yesterday, October 20. Kerry also used the opportunity to hold meetings with state leaders to strengthen campaign against Islamic State extremists.

In their joint press conference, a question regarding the involvement of a US Marine in a the killing of a Filipino transgender was raised. “Whatever charges there are, whatever infractions have been affected by any American anywhere, we believe in the rule of law, and we believe in our agreement,” Kerry said.

“We will, indeed, uphold our agreements with our friends in the Philippines – they deserve nothing less.”

“The people of the Philippines who are gracious enough to permit an arrangement whereby we meet mutual interests with this kind of a force’s presence need to know that we’re not seeking a special privilege, that everybody’s rights will be appropriately protected,” US Secretary of State added.

Secretary del Rosario said, “we do have all the mechanisms in place so that justice can properly be served.”

Maguindanao residents support BBL

From the Manila Times (Oct 21): Maguindanao residents support BBL

MUSLIMS and non-Muslims in Maguindanao on Tuesday expressed support to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), crediting the province’s development to the signed agreements between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu gathered peace stakeholders in a two-day forum in General Santos City to show their support on the current peace process in Mindanao.

The forum attended by representatives of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the government’s peace panel negotiating with the MILF, discussed issues and concerns in the BBL that is being deliberated by the Congress.

Mangudadatu underscored the low crime rates and continuous arrival of investors in the Maguin-danao which were attributed to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the BBL draft.

“Since the signing of CAB, FAB and the drafted BBL, we are continuously gaining good gains in terms of peace and order and investments,” Mangudadatu said. “We want our investors to be safe.”

Maguindanao recently invited Malaysia’s UNIVEX and the local-based Al Mujahidoon to invest in multi-million dollar banana and palm oil plantations in the province’s vast idle lands.