Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NPA commander tagged in Cagayan mayor's slay

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Apr 24): NPA commander tagged in Cagayan mayor's slay

A New People's Army (NPA) commander has been tagged as one of the gunmen of Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. of Gonzaga, Cagayan, bolstering police suspicion that communist rebels were behind the killing.

NPA leader David Soriano, alias Ka Colly, was identified through a footage of the closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera installed at the Gonzaga town hall grounds where Pentecostes was gunned down last Monday, according to the regional police.

Chief Superintendent Miguel Laurel, Cagayan Valley police director, said Soriano, second in command of the NPA’s Northern Front Committee, was caught by the CCTV camera as one of the armed men in camouflage who gunned down the mayor.

Earlier reports said Pentecostes, 60, was shot by two of eight Armalite-wielding men who went near him while he was presiding over last Monday’s flag-raising ceremony.

Pentecostes, according to the reports, even greeted the armed men as they emerged from a van in front of the municipal hall, thinking they were military personnel making a courtesy call on him.

Laurel told The STAR that the hard drive of the CCTV camera was brought to Manila for decoding.

Soriano’s NPA unit reportedly operates in the Cagayan towns of Baggao, Gattaran, Amulung, Alcala, Sto. NiƱo, Rizal, Lasam, Allacapan, Gonzaga, Sta. Teresita, Aparri, Claveria, Ballesteros, Abulug, Pamplona, and Sanchez Mira, as well as in Calanasan, Flora, Pudtol and Sta. Marcela towns in Apayao province.

Soriano’s eight-man group was among at least 30 armed men who stormed the municipal hall and its vicinity during the assault.

A joint Army-police team is now pursuing the armed men in the Sierra Madre mountain ranges.

The armed men’s four getaway vehicles, included a police vehicle, were recovered in the remote Gonzaga village of Barangay Iska a few hours after the raid. Reports said the vehicles were totally burned.

Despite the police claim that NPA guerrillas were behind Pentecostes’ killing, the mayor’s family insisted that politics had something to do with it.

“This is about politics. The armed men are mercenaries of politicians. We don’t believe that it was the NPA who killed our brother. The way we see it his killing was related to politics,” said Pentecostes’ elder brother Edward.

He also belied reports that his brother’s killing had something to do with his support for the provincial government-sanctioned black sand mining in Gonzaga town.

“Those behind this condemnable act are just riding on the issue of mining. Besides, mining activities in Gonzaga have been stopped. If it’s about mining, they should have him killed during his first term,” he said.

Despite his being pro-mining, Pentecostes won overwhelmingly in his second mayoral bid in last year’s midterm elections against Esperlita Garcia, a known anti-mining activist.

Garcia, a distant relative of the slain mayor, is the president of the Gonzaga Alliance for Environmental Protection and Preservation.

Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang, chief of the Armed Forces’ Northern Luzon Command, also expressed doubts that the NPA was behind the killing. He was in Gonzaga the other day to oversee the pursuit operation against the armed group.

Catapang said last Monday’s attack was not the usual approach of communist rebels.

He said he was also surprised that a big number of armed men staged the assault, although Gonzaga, besides being generally peaceful, has already been classified as insurgency-free.

Meanwhile, Gonzaga Vice Mayor Rene Salvanera, Pentecostes’ political party mate, officially assumed the mayoral post the other day. He took his oath of office before Cagayan Regional Trial Court Judge Neljoe Cortes.

Army boosts transform road map

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 23): Army boosts transform road map

Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija  — The 7th Infantry Division (7ID), under its new commander Brig. Gen Glorioso Miranda, conducted an Army Transformation Road Map Trainers’ Training to increase the soldiers’ professional skills.

The three-day seminar was  participated in by Personnel and Operations Officers from post and line units as well as the principal and alternate members of the 7ID Army Transformation Roadmap Technical Working Group, officials said yesterday.

The workshop had four modules:

Module 1 — Understanding the ATR, giving the ATR overview;

Module 2 — Scorecard Development Process which tackled role clarification, unit objectives and output presentation;

Module 3 — Performance Management Process which was about scorecard validation, link to budget, strategic communication and scorecard monitoring;

Module 4 — Strategy Evaluation Mechanisms, about the strategy review, operations review and output presentation, said Capt. Mark Anthony Ruellos, public affairs officer.

The Philippine Army believes there is a need to reform the organization and to enhance the critical system within it.

The Philippine Army has been very supportive of the various reforms by using a Governance Framework to realize Army Transformation.

The ATR has the vision “A World Class Army” that is a source of National Pride.

ATR’s primary purpose is to transform the Army into a better, more dynamic, more responsive, more capable and more professional army committed to its mandate of serving the people and securing the land.

It provides a national and long term basis for the organization, establishes and synchronizes the various reform initiatives and to advance and institutionalize good governance and performance excellence.

AFP urges pensioners to settle accounts

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 23): AFP urges pensioners to settle accounts

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) urged pensioners to settle their bank accounts used for pensions to ensure that they can get their benefits without a hitch.

In an advisory issued on Wednesday, AFP urged pensioners to apply or transfer their bank accounts only to authorized government servicing banks (AGSB) such as the Land Bank of the Philippines, United Coconut Planters Bank, Philippine Veterans Bank, and Development Bank of the Philippines. This is to avoid any problems in receiving pensions, especially those pensioners who have receiving accounts in other banks, AFP said.

AFP said pensioners should get a letter of introduction (LOI) in the nearest Finance Service Unit (FSU) in their respective area and submit it to any AGSB to open an AFP pension account.

A copy of the LOI and pension account number should be presented to Pension and Gratuity Management Center (PGMC) in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City until June 20, 2014, AFP added.

The advisory comes as the Department of Budget and Management announced the same day that it has released almost P10 billion funds for the pensions and other benefits of AFP personnel and war veterans.

Out of the total fund released, P7.5 billion was allocated for more than 120, 000 AFP pensioners, including 2,583 new beneficiaries for 2014, DBM said.

With this, AFP said it has been undertaking several security measures through its Pension and Gratuity Management Center (PGMC) to ensure the integrity of its beneficiary list and to avoid ghost pensioners.

Capt. Mark Posadas, AFP Public Affairs Office research head, told Manila Bulletin Online that the AFP has set up a system to ensure that only legitimate AFP pensioners will be included in their payroll system.

“This system entails regular coordination and crosschecking with other agencies like the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, National Statistics Office, the Bureau of Immigration and the Ombudsman,” Posadas said.

The AFP also requires all pensioners “to update their status annually by appearing in person and submitting a proof of life,” Posadas added.

Moreover, a computer system called Pension Management Information System is being used to maintain all the data of AFP pensioners, he said.

“Various forms of information campaign are frequently conducted for the AFP active personnel to know the retire law and updated procedures and requirements for benefit application,” Posadas stressed.

Meanwhile, the other P2.40 billion fund was released by DBM for the 208, 458 members of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) to cover their old age pensions, death pensions, disability pensions, and total administrative disability (TAD) pensions for the second quarter of the year.

Both funds were sourced from the Pension and Gratuity Fund under the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA), DBM added.

MILF members spring arrested kin in Lanao del Sur

From the Philippine Star (Apr 24): MILF members spring arrested kin in Lanao del Sur

Moro rebels on Wednesday flagged down at a secluded stretch of the Narciso Ramos Highway in Balindong, Lanao del Sur a police convoy and set free their detained relatives policemen were to bring to the provincial jail in Marawi City.

Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes, director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police, has tagged a local band of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas as behind the attack.

The MILF gunmen carted away the firearms of the policemen they took at gunpoint before they escaped, along with their relatives, whom members of the Picong town police were to bring to Marawi City a day after they were arrested for illegal possession of firearms.

“The arrested alleged offenders were caught by our men at a checkpoint in Picong a day before the incident,” Delos Reyes said.

Delos Reyes said he had asked the joint GPH-MILF ceasefire committee to investigate on the incident, and  recover  the government-owned firearms the rebels took away.

“We have put our pursuit operations on hold to enable the ceasefire mechanisms to work freely to resolve this case,” Delos Reyes said.

Delos Reyes appealed to the central leadership of the MILF to censure the guerrillas involved in the incident.

Among those the MILF rebels had set free is a woman. The detainees were caught carrying guns Tuesday while passing through a police checkpoint along a highway in Picong, a coastal town in the second district of Lanao del Sur.

“The `rescue’ happened a day after they were arrested for illegal possession of firearms. It is the work of policemen to arrest people carrying guns without proper authorization from government,” Delos Reyes said.

The incident was the MILF’s second affront against the Lanao del Sur provincial police in less than 12 months.

MILF rebels had sprung last year a detained relative from the Marawi City police office, and even kidnapped the city’s police chief, whom they used as a “shield” to prevent pursuing soldiers and policemen from closing in.

The rebels gunned down for resisting captivity the officer’s civilian brother-in-law, who was at the precinct when they barged in.

The kidnapped police officer was released without any ransom about 10  hours later through the intercession of local officials.

MILF: Isabela City Mayor categorically declares “NO” for Bangsamoro

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 24): Isabela City Mayor categorically declares “NO” for Bangsamoro

More than two weeks after the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in Malacanang Palace where over a thousand of people attended led by President Benigno C. Aquino III, MILF officials led Chairman Al-Hadz Murad Ebrahim and Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Najib Razak, foreign dignitaries and regional, national and international development and peace partners who witnessed the signing of the peace pact, the City Government of Isabela in Basilan sponsored a Forum on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the FAB’s four annexes on April 14 at the Formation Center, this City.
Participants to the forum were barangay officials from the city’s 45 barangays, members of the city council, department heads, NGO representatives, Christian religious leaders, the City Police and members of the Philippine Army as well as members of local media. Speakers were Professor Moy Edding, Political Science Instructor of the Western Mindanao State University WMSU), Zamboanga City and BTC Commissioner Pedrito Eisma, but the latter failed to show up due to previous commitment in Manila.

During the opening program, Mayor Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar officially declared that she personally decides for NO for the Bangsamoro new political entity considering that the city populace had already spoken for exclusion in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the 2001 expanded ARMM plebiscite. She explained that although under the Annex on power sharing it provides for the non-diminutions of powers and authority already enjoyed by the local government units but she is more apprehensive on the future Bangsamoro Local Government Code on the terms, “UNLESS OTHERWISE, MODIFIED, ALTERED AND AMENDED if members of the Bangsamoro Assembly found it necessary to improve its services.

Mayor Santos-Akbar further feared that the moment Isabela City would be under the Bangsamoro Government, the faith of the Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA) for the LGUs may already be put into uncertainty.

On his part, Professor Edding questioned the term Bangsamoro in the agreement because it may cause for a constitutional infirmity considering that in the constitution it does not provides so. He further explained that the 1987 constitution provides that only the term Muslim Mindanao Autonomous Government was clearly mentioned and stipulated and not Bangsamoro Autonomous Government as provided in the CAB signed last March 27, 2014.

Professor Edding added that the envisioned ministerial form of government for the Bangsamoro is also another legal question that may be raised the moment the basic law shall have been enacted by the House of Representatives and the Senate later this year.

But Mr. Allan Pisingan, head of a Civil Society Organization in Basilan and Renald Bucoy, President of the Association of Barangay Chairmen (ABC) reacted on Professor Edding’s predicament emphasizing that the proper forum which can determine the constitutionality of the issue is the Supreme Court. Our tasked at this time is to let the people understand the provisions of the Bangsamoro Agreement so that during the ratification of the BBL, qualified voters may freely decide whether to vote for yes or no, the ABC President Bucoy added.

Mr. Pisingan, likewise appealed to the participants to give peace a chance to work for the betterment of everybody in the Bangsamoro area. He reminded that in war the victims are not only the two warring parties referring to government forces and MILF combatants, but also  innocent civilians who become collateral damage with their properties destroyed during conflict.

In another development, Isabela City Bishop Martin Jumoad suggested that position paper protesting the inclusion of Isabela City to the proposed Bangsamoro Government must be made. While Professor Maximo Eisma in his remarks said that the “Bangsamoro means the destruction of the church”.“no”-for-bangsamoro

BAYAN: Filipino activists kick off internationally coordinated protests vs Obama Asia trip

From the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-New Patriotic Alliance) Website (Apr 23): Filipino activists kick off internationally coordinated protests vs Obama Asia trip


News Release
April 23, 2014

On the day United States President Barack Obama is set to arrive in Japan on the first leg of his East Asia tour, activists under the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) marched to the US embassy in Manila to denounce what they called the “US imperialist agenda in Asia”. The groups clashed with police who were guarding the US embassy. Police used a water cannon against the protesters.

“The US pivot to Asia combines military rebalancing and free trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. The US seeks to maintain its dominance in the region by violating the national sovereignty and plundering the economies of their  so-called ‘allies’. The people of Asia stand to gain nothing from the Obama visit and the US agenda he carries,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

Bayan is coordinating with various anti-bases and anti-globalization groups in Japan, South Korea and the United States for a series of protests against the US pivot and the TPPA. Apart from the April 23 protest in Manila, anti-bases and anti-war groups in Japan such as the Asia-Wide Campaign are set to hold protests in time for the US-Japan Summit on April 24. Groups in South Korea are also expected to hold protests against US military bases in the Korean peninsula and the continued implementation of the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement and the promotion of the TPPA. Bayan-USA will join Japanese and Korean activists in the US for coordinated actions in the afternoon of April 25 in Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and San Francisco. Filipino migrants are expected to hold protest actions on April 27.

On April 28 and 29, Bayan will lead a nationally coordinated protest as Obama lands in Manila and witnesses the signing of the Agreement on Enhanced
Defense Cooperation, a de facto basing pact disguised as an access agreement.

“We will fight the new defense agreement with the US. We oppose this new form of US military occupation and colonization. The US military and economic agenda will only reinforce the status of the Philippines as an American neo-colony, and Philippine president Benigno Aquino III as Obama’s cheerleader and puppet in Asia,” Reyes said.

“We demand regional peace and development. We join our friends from Japan, Korea, Guam, and Australia to demand the removal of US troops in Asia and the Pacific. We reject US economic dictates as we fight for genuine economic sovereignty. We condemn both the Aquino and Obama regimes for exploiting the maritime dispute with China in order to justify entrenching US troops in the region. Our national interest will not be served if we take the side of one bully against another,” he added.

(COT) RPOC 12 keeps watch over NPA, BIFF threats in South Central Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): (COT) RPOC 12 keeps watch over NPA, BIFF threats in South Central Mindanao

Security concerns of communities have remained as top priority of the military and local chief executives in Region 12.

Col. Marcos Norman Flores, Jr. Army’s 1002nd Infantry Brigade commander said the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) both remain as big threats to the relative peace currently prevailing in the region brought about by the government peace overture with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Intensifying security in the Cotabato area remains a priority concern of the 1002nd Brigade,” Flores said.

The brigade’s area of responsibility practically covers South Central Mindanao or SOCKKSARGEN, which includes the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Sarangani, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, North Cotabato and the cities therein.

Reports said that the NPA guerrilla fronts are expanding its operations particularly in North Cotabato, prompting the military to intensify its operations in the province.

Flores said his unit has the 57th Infantry Battalion (IB) covering Kidapawan City, Arakan, Magpet, Antipas and President Roxas in North Cotabato; the 39th IB in Sultan Kudarat; 27th IB and 73rd IB in Sarangani; and the 102DRC as reserved force.

During the Regional Peace and Order Council 12 (RPOC 12) meeting held in Koronadal City on April 22, the military official lauded North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza for her advocacy in initiating peace dialogues with communities frequented by NPA and BIFF rebels.

Mendoza, for her part, said nthe provincial government is committed to reciprocate the national government’s endeavour to attain long-lasting peace in Mindanao particularly in North Cotabato.

More so, the governor has proposed before the council to look into the possibility of providing vehicles for highway patrol groups (HPGs) operating in the SOCKKSARGEN area.

“This is to enable the HPGs to conduct highway operations more efficiently. Currently the HPGs have no ample vehicle support to do their task,” Mendoza said.

The RPOC 12 supported and immediately approved Mendoza’s proposal during the deliberation.

The council also discussed other essential issues confronting the region such as the tri-boundary conflict involving Tulunan in North Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Datu Paglas in Maguindanao; and the updates on the GPH-MILF Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.