Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Planned Duterte-Misuari meeting worries Zamboanga City gov't

From the Philippine Star (May 31): Planned Duterte-Misuari meeting worries Zamboanga City gov't 

The city government is in a quandary over its rebellion case against fugitive Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte scheduled to meet him in Sulu.

Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar called on the government to let the law prevail but said the city and its people will respect Duterte's decision.

“Whatever action the incoming president will do, it is really his prerogative as president of the Republic of the Philippines,” Salazar said.

The city and the national government filed rebellion charges and cases for violation of the International Law, genocide and other crimes against humanity against Misuari and close to 200 suspected MNLF members in connection with the September 2013 siege that left more than 200 people dead.

The 23-day siege also led to the dislocation more than 120,000 residents and the destruction of at least five barangays.

More have since died at relocation camps. Hundreds of residents who remain at transitory sites have yet to return to permanent shelters.

Reconstruction of the devastated sites has not been completed despite a promise by President Benigno Aquino III that the displaced will be able to go home.

The Aquino administration set aside P3.89 billion in 2013 for the rehabilitation and rebuilding of the affected villages.

Salazar said that the court handling the cases has issued a gag order on the city's legal office, leaving the local government in a quandary.

“What do we do and how should we act on this?” Salazar said.

The mayor also pointed the at the perceived inaction by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on a request for guidance on issues on how to deal with Misuari, the MNLF and the separate Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“We still continue even the battle is done silently in court, we are still always what is in our minds are the victims that have suffered,” Salazar said. “We will allow the law to prevail on that matter,” she added.


Police nab soldier carrying grenade in bus

From the Zamboanga Today (May 31): Police nab soldier carrying grenade in bus

A soldier was arrested by personnel of Police Station 10 led by Chief Inspector Raymond Sanson for carrying an explosive inside a passenger bus along the highway of Barangay Patalon, this city, last Sunday afternoon.
Sanson told Zamboanga Today they received a call from a concerned citizen about a suspicious person onboard D’Biel Transit Bus wearing camouflage pants armed with a fragmentation hand grenade.
He said the informant averred that the suspect pulled out a hand grenade from his pocket and claimed that he was preparing to defend himself from his enemy in Barangay Talisayan, this city.
Immediately, a joint team from the police and Task Force Zamboanga (TFZ) led by Sanson and Lieutenant Elroy Tarot, respectively, responded at the area to confirm the report and spotted the passenger bus at Patalon highway.
Sanson said upon verification, the team was able to arrest the suspect who was later identified as Alex Labtan y Balmoris, 28, a native of Cagayan de Oro City and assigned with the 4th Special Forces Battalion based in Maluso Municipality Basilan Province.
The soldier was conducted to the police station for proper investigation while the explosive was turned over to the investigator-on-case.

CARAT 2016 series kicks off in Malaysia, aiming for increased complexity with allies and partners

From DVIDS (May 31): CARAT 2016 series kicks off in Malaysia, aiming for increased complexity with allies and partners

Littoral Combat Ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3)

BAY OF BENGAL (October 1, 2015) Ships from the Bangladesh and U.S. navies gather in formation during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Bangladesh 2015. CARAT is an annual, bilateral exercise series with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joe Bishop/Released)

The 22nd annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations began June 1 with a commemoration ceremony for the Malaysia phase in Sandakan.
As the premier naval engagement in South and Southeast Asia, CARAT provides a regional venue to address shared maritime security priorities, enhance interoperability among participating forces, and develop sustained naval partnerships with nations across South and Southeast Asia.

“Our persistent engagement with our allies and partners through CARAT builds trust and creates strong relationships that endure beyond the exercise series,” said Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander, Task Force 73. “This translates to increased readiness and interoperability that allows us to work closely with navies across the region and enhance cooperative maritime security.”

CARAT Malaysia will take place on the ground in Sandakan and in the waters and airspace of the Sulu Sea. The Malaysian Armed Forces have participated in CARAT since the exercise series began in 1995 and this year’s exercise reflects more than two decades of increasingly complex training ashore, at sea and in the air.

The harbor phase for CARAT Malaysia will feature an amphibious landing, as well as explosive ordnance training, medical and dental capabilities seminars and a civil -engineering project. At sea, flight operations, coordinated gunnery drills and surface warfare maneuvers will highlight an exercise that continues the trend of increasing complexity each year.

“We’ve been working very closely with the Malaysian Armed Forces for 22 years as part of CARAT,” said Capt. H.B. Le, commodore Destroyer Squadron 7. “Over that time we’ve developed a familiarity with each other’s capabilities that allows us to push the envelope with the planning and execution of each exercise, something that is important in such a diverse maritime environment.”

U.S. ships and units participating in CARAT Malaysia include the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), the expeditionary transfer dock USNS Montford Point (T-ESD 1), a P-3C Orion, staff from CTF-73 and CDS-7, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 4, Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1 and Marines from 3rd Marine Division.

Following CARAT Malaysia, additional bilateral phases of CARAT will occur from June through November 2016 with Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
While the exercise series remains bilateral at its core, elements of CARAT 2016 will include multilateral cooperation ranging from observers to training activities.

Phases vary based on exercise locations, mutual training goals and participating assets. Many CARAT phases feature a broad range of naval competencies including surface warfare; undersea warfare; air defense and amphibious warfare; maritime security operations; riverine operations; jungle warfare; and explosive ordnance disposal; combat construction; diving and salvage; search and rescue; maritime patrol and reconnaissance aviation; maritime domain awareness; military law; public affairs and military medicine; and humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

CARAT 2016 will be the most complex series to date. Its continuing relevance for more than two decades speaks to the high quality of exercise events and the enduring value of regional cooperation among allies and partners in South and Southeast Asia.

As U.S. 7th Fleet's executive agent for theater security cooperation in South and Southeast Asia, Commander, Task Force 73 conducts advanced planning, organizes resources and directly supports the execution of maritime exercises, such as the bilateral CARAT series, the Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) with Vietnam, and the multi-lateral Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.


M’sia wants peace in Sulu, no war in Sabah

From Free Malaysia Today (May 31): M’sia wants peace in Sulu, no war in Sabah

Putrajaya wants Manila to focus instead on resolving the decades long rebellion in the country's south

Philippine President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte, already notorious for offhand comments, has run into flak in Malaysia over a statement on Sabah, noted The Diplomat, in a report on Tuesday.

Duterte, the tough-talking Mayor of Davao City, may have started on a wrong footing with Malaysia when he stressed that the Philippines Government under him would preserve the claim on Sabah. He appeared to recognize the claim, said the report, that the Sulu sultanate –now defunct — once ruled over parts of Sabah.

Putrajaya wants Manila to focus instead on resolving the decades long rebellion in the country’s south.

The reaction by various official circles in Malaysia, in the wake of Duterte’s take on Sabah, suggested that the new Philippines President was barking up the wrong tree on the other side of the Sulu Sea.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, recalling Malaysia’s role in peace talks in the south, urged implementation of a peace deal forged in March 2014 between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He called for stability in the region to make the seas between Sabah and Sulu safer.

“That would benefit both Malaysia and the Philippines,” said the Malaysian Prime Minister during a keynote address on Monday in Kuala Lumpur at the Asia-Pacific Rountable gathering. “That certainly would be more productive than re-igniting the Sabah claim issue.”

Peace, he said, was an end in itself, “and if we can help bring to a close a dispute that has cost so many lives, we would be honoured to do so”.

Over the weekend, Najib vowed at the ground-breaking ceremony for a helicopter forward base in Lahad Datu, that Malaysia would “defend every inch of Sabah”.

Najib’s reference to the Sabah claim, during remarks.which lasted some 20 minutes in Kuala Lumpur, recalled an abortive attempt in 2013 by a 200-strong rag-tag bunch from Sulu to seize the Lahad Datu area in eastern Sabah.

The incident, dubbed the Lahad Datu Intrusion, left dozens of militants, civilians and security forces dead after a two-week standoff. Some of the militants are in Court, facing charges of waging war against the Agong in Malaysia.

Wisma Putra, Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry, earlier reiterated in a statement that the country did not recognise any claim by any party to parts of Sabah.

Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman dismissed the claim as “irrelevant”.

Malaysia has already embarked on joint patrols with the Philippines, before Duterte, and Indonesia to jointly patrol the Sulu Sea and tackle security challenges.

There have been a series of cross-border kidnappings-for-ransom in the eastern Sabah region. In the latest incident, several Malaysians and Indonesians were taken hostage in the waters off Sabah.

There are plans to further strengthen the Eastern Sabah Security Command (EssCom) which covers ten districts along the eastern seaboard called the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (EssZone).


Duterte eyes ‘super’ security

From the Manila Bulletin (May 31): Duterte eyes ‘super’ security

President needs two military divisions, 3,000 cops
Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte will be forming a formidable force composed of two military divisions and 3,000 policemen in his effort to ensure “the security of the nation” and help him in his campaign against criminality.

“I would need two divisions and 3,000 policemen. I have a task for them to do,” said Duterte revealed Saturday night in a press conference at the Hotel Elena here. However, the incoming president declined to reveal what particular operations or missions he would use the super military and police force.

“I have to improve the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP (Philippine National Police). Paano ko gamitin yan, sa akin muna (How I will use the force, that’s for me to know for the meantime).”

Duterte clarified that his plan to add more might to the AFP and PNP was not meant to antagonize any other nation. “I do not expect a war with anybody.”

“It has something to do with the security of the nation,” he said without going into details.

In the same press conference, Duterte acknowledged that the country is already in a “crisis in the war against drugs” and he will contend with this as soon as he assumes office.

He also welcomed the rash of crackdowns and arrests of major illegal drug activities around the country.

“I’m happy to hear that there are so many areas and provinces and cities (where crackdowns have been made). I’m telling the police, they should not wait for me until I become president,” Duterte said.

He even asked some of the media members present of other reports about the PNP’s fight against illegal drugs in the rest of the country.

“Ilan na ba ang namatay (How many have been killed)?” Duterte asked.

When told that there were eight illegal drugs suspects, who have been recently eliminated by the police, the man they call “The Punisher” shot back: “Di nadagdagan (There was no addition to the list)?”

Duterte likewise addressed the scuttlebutt among police that he was mad that the PNP has not been maximizing the intelligence fund being given to its agencies.

He had particularly lashed out at the PNP Pasay, and even the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), for the “failure of intelligence” when these agencies failed to prevent the entry of illegal drugs into the venue of a concert in Pasay City last May 21 that resulted in the death of five concert-goers allegedly due to drug overdose.

As a result of the tongue-lashing he gave these agencies, Duterte said he received reports that the PNP would soon be presenting an accounting of how its agencies have been using intelligence funds.
“They took it to mean nagagalit ako kasi hindi nagagamit yung intelligence fund,” he said.

Duterte explained that what he was irked about was how the intelligence funds are being utilized.
“If I see your intelligence fund na one-fourth pa lang nauubos because you’re using them sparingly and you’re too frugal, hindikanagtatrabaho,” he said.

He maintained that he would rather have law enforcement agencies exhausting their entire intelligence fund allocations for the year, that would be accompanied by results.

“Yung resulta ninyo, ipakita ninyo. Kung saan ninyo winaldas yung (Show the results and how you spent the) intelligence fund,” Duterte said.

Duterte had also pledged to deal with the bandit group Abu Sayyaf once he takes his oath as the country’s 16th president on June 30.

However, he also refused to divulge any of his plans on how to contain the bandit group, which has beheaded Canadian John Ridsdell last month.

Ridsdel, 68, was kidnapped along with three other foreigners and a Filipina from a resort in Samal Island, which is located just across the Davao Gulf, last

Guns silent in Lanao conflict affected town, terrorists' enclave falls

From the Philippine News Agency (May 31): Guns silent in Lanao conflict affected town, terrorists' enclave falls

Guns and cannons have been silent in the conflict-affected town of Butig in Lanao del Sur as of noon time Monday but government forces are preparing for possible resumption of hostilities.

The military also announced it captured an enclave of a terrorist group which pledged allegiance to the international terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

"They have fled deep into the forest, they abandoned an enclave in the village of Ragayan (Butig town)," according to Colonel Rosselier Murillo, commander of 103rd Infantry Brigade.

Murillo said members of the Maute group have abandoned their positions after a series of encounters with pursuing mightier government troops backed by air assets and artillery.

“Our troops are now stationed in areas the terrorists abandoned,” Murillo said. "ISIS items and flags were found there."
However, Murillo said the civilians who fled communities nearby are advised not to return to their homes yet as the terrorists may recapture its fallen camps.

The provincial social welfare office reported about 2,000 evacuees in relief sites in the villages of Coloyan, Samer, Bayabao, Raya Timbab, Sandab and Ragayan.

Military officials said extremist Abdullah Maute, the gang leader, was also tagged in the bombings of several transmission towers of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

Clearing operations continue to check on the possibility the terrorists left booby traps in its former enclave.

Murillo said at least 54 gang members were killed and scores were wounded, citing reports from villagers and communications set of the terrorists monitored by the military.

Government forces have been hunting the group of Maute after it beheaded two innocent civilians in February. The operation against them was stalled by the Army's election duties.


House leaders see no problem in appointing communist rebels to gov't

From the Philippine News Agency (May 31): House leaders see no problem in appointing communist rebels to gov't

Senior leaders of the House of Representatives on Tuesday said they see no problem with the Duterte administration offering government positions to communist rebels.

Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II said in a press conference, "it's the president's call, wala namang prohibition diyan. We should remember, lahat ng ma-appoint ng presidente are at the pleasure of the appointing power subject to confirmation. Kung 'di naman ma-reject ng Commission on Appointment, the president can always extend via an ad interim appointment."

He pointed out that the president is the one responsible for his government.

"Wala namang prohibition kung sino gusto i-appoint. Siya ang responsable sa kaniyang desisyon. I'm sure he will be guided," he explained.

Among the post reserved by President Duterte to left leanings are the Department of Labor and Employment; Department of Agrarian Reform; Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., said, "I agree with this. Sa tingin ko, itong pag appoint sa mga tao whose names have been mentioned, appointing them as a symbol of reaching out is not enough to end the rebellion."

"I'd like to look at the fact that by making that offer…it will contribute to ending the NPA rebellion," he stressed.

Meanwhile, Belmonte doesn't seem to have a problem with President-elect Duterte skipping his own proclamation in Congress on Monday.

Belmonte said that they did not feel snubbed at all.

"He had been saying that for a long time. It would have been a snub had he made us expect...that he's coming. Matagal na, for weeks, he had been saying he had never attended a proclamation. Ako naman, we feel sorry. We would have been very happy to see the new president, considering he had also been a member of Congress. We were forewarned from the very beginning," he said.