Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ambushed RPA leader stable’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 2): Ambushed RPA leader stable’
A ranking leader of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, who survived an ambush perpetrated by alleged New People’s Army rebels, although injured, is now in stable condition, Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, Negros Occidental police director, yesterday said.

Geovannie Banista, alias Ka Amor, who was driving a motorcycle, was ambushed by four suspected NPA rebels on Friday in Sitio Ilan, Brgy. Locotan, Kabankalan City.

Lirazan said Banista, who is the district commander of the RPA-ABB in southern Negros, sustained multiple gunshot wounds. He, however, miraculously survived the attempt on his life, he added.

Empty shells of an M-16 armalite rifle, AK 47 assault rifle and ,45 caliber pistol were recovered at the scene of the incident by the police.

Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday condemned the latest attack against a leader of the RPA-ABB, who is now a civilian, and described it a “desperation attempt” of the NPA.

“They (NPA) think that killing people will make them win the war,” Aying said.

Military records show that Aying was instrumental in bringing Banista and Ka Malvar, who was killed by the NPA in previous years, to the peace table in southern Negros, while he was still the commander of the 61st Infantry Battalion.

Aying said Banista has been marked for liquidation by the NPA for 15 years now.

He added that the attempt to kill Banista will have an effect on the ongoing closure peace agreement between the RPA-ABB and the government.


Gov't probes 'destab' angle in foiled NAIA car bomb plot

From Rappler (Sep 2): Gov't probes 'destab' angle in foiled NAIA car bomb plot

The DOJ is mulling the filing of terrorism charges against the suspects in the foiled plot, but the AFP does not believe that they belong to a terrorist group

EVIDENCE. NBI Director Virgilio Mendez presents evidence seized from suspected of the 3 car bomb plot during a press conference at the NBI headquarters on September 2, 2014. Photo by Jose Del/Rappler

EVIDENCE. NBI Director Virgilio Mendez presents evidence seized from suspected of the 3 car bomb plot during a press conference at the NBI headquarters on September 2, 2014. Photo by Jose Del/Rappler
Authorities are determining whether the suspects in the foiled car bomb plot at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) belong to a bigger group that may be out to cause destabilization in the country, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Tuesday, September 2.
De Lima also said in a news briefing with NBI officials that the DOJ is mulling the filing of terrorism charges against the suspects who face illegal possession of explosives raps.
De Lima said the 3 suspects – Grandeur Pepito Guerrero, Emmanuel San Pedro, and Sonny Yohanon – will be charged with illegal possession of explosives, and may face charges of "conspiracy to commit terrorism," subject to further validation.

Aside from the NAIA plot, the group had reportedly planned to strafe the Chinese Embassy and the building of real estate developer DMCI, both in Makati; and to plant Improvised Incendiary Devices (IIDs) at the SM Mall of Asia.

(READ: Explosives found in car at NAIA 3 parking lot)
De Lima said said Guerrero is the "self proclaimed" leader of the "USAFFE" – a name borrowed from the acronym of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East during World War 2.

She said it is a "misguided group" that claims to be "defenders of the Filipino people and considers China and 'oligarch taipans engaged in monopolistic business practices and illegal mining' as their enemies.” The NBI is determining the size of the group and their other possible agenda.
"Do they have other agenda? Is it just about the dispute with China, going against so-called oligarchs and taipans, or is there a bigger agenda or any other agenda that would probably result to destabilization?" the DOJ chief said.
She said the recovered IIDs from the Toyota Revo at the NAIA3 parking lot were found to be capable of causing injuries, and even death, to those within a 5 to 10-meter radius. De Lima also said that Guerrero admitted to be a member of the Guardians – a group comprised of military, police, and civilian members – but added that it's not yet known whether other Guardian members are part of the group.
ANTI-CHINA GROUP? The 3  suspects in the foiled car bombing at the NAIA are presented to media at the NBI headquarters in Manila on September 2, 2014. Photo by Joel Leporada/Rappler

ANTI-CHINA GROUP? The 3 suspects in the foiled car bombing at the NAIA are presented to media at the NBI headquarters in Manila on September 2, 2014. Photo by Joel Leporada/Rappler

'Not terrorists'
Armed Forces Chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr said on Tuesday he is not convinced that the apprehended individuals belong to a terrorist group.
Addressing the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Catapang said that the suspects are "close friends of [Ely] Pamatong" who are trying to "catch attention."
"It's not a terrorist attack. Pamatong has been notorious for doing this," Catapang said, and recalled past public stunts pulled Pamatong, who has been described as a perennial nuisance candidate.
Pamatong was responsible for the scattering of metal spikes on major roads in Metro Manila, Baguio, Davao, Cagayan, Bicol and Laguna in 2004, in protest of the government's refusal to issue his supporters permits to rally.
In the briefing, De Lima said the NBI's Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division (AOTCD), which was also involved in the capture of retired Major General Jovito Palparan, learned from its informant that the plan was originally set on August 25, National Heroes' Day, but was pushed back to a later day.
NBI Chief Virgilio Mendez, who met with President Benigno Aquino III with other NBI officials on Monday, said that the President's instructions is to determine the "actual purpose of the plan of action" of the group and whether they are supported by others.
"We believe there are other entities in line with this, but we still cannot say how serious they are," Mendez said.
Public vigilance
De Lima brushed aside the allegations made by lawyer Oliver Lozano that the destabilization angle is meant to justify Aquino's term extension.
"With due respect to Atty Lozano, he has has a fertile and wild imagination," she said.
De Lima also released to the media the group's "Manifesto ng Kilusan Laban sa Pananakot (Manifesto of the Movement Against Initimidation)" originally dated August 28, when it was supposed to be circulated to the media. A list of email addresses, including that of media organizations, were also found, apparently for the circulation of the manifesto.
De Lima said that anyone can espouse an advocacy and have an opinion on national issues, "but if you do it the wrong way, it is still wrong."
"If you create chaos, sow panic in the community, who will benefit here?" she said.
De Lima appealed to the public for "calmness, sobriety" and for "vigilance" while authorities determine the "extent of their capacity to create chaos, confusion, destablization etc.
Meanwhile, Malacañang gave assurances there is "no serious danger stemming from the incident."
Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma on Tuesday also said the group has been on the radar of intelligence group, which led to the folling of the attack, and said the government will be in "a constant state of vigilance, alertness and readiness."

'Elaborate security plan' for Pope Francis PH visit – AFP

From Rappler (Sep 2): 'Elaborate security plan' for Pope Francis PH visit – AFP

'We won't fail the Pope in his visit here,' says Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr

Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr gave assurances that Pope Francis will be safe when he visits the Philippines next year.

"We are preparing a very elaborate security plan for our Pope. We are so elated and awaiting the visit of the Pope," Catapang said in briefing before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) on Tuesday, September 2.

"We won't fail the Pope in his visit here," he added.

Pope Francis will visit the Philippines from January 15 to 19, 2015, to meet earthquake and typhoon survivors in the Visayas, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle earlier announced.

Tagle said the Vatican will release other details "later in the year."

Before his arrival in the Philippines, Francis will visit Sri Lanka from January 12 to 15, 2015.


New deadline: Bangsamoro bill in Congress before Sept 13

From Rappler (Sep 2): New deadline: Bangsamoro bill in Congress before Sept 13

Chief Peace Adviser Teresita Deles says the proposed Bangsamoro law will be in Congress before President Benigno Aquino III embarks on his Europe trip

After failing to meet the target deadline, Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) hope to submit the proposed law creating a new autonomous government in Mindanao to Congress before President Benigno Aquino leaves for Europe on Saturday, September 13.

Chief Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles said in a statement that the draft is now in its final stages.

"The presidential review of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was completed almost two weeks ago. On the basis of the President's comments, there were further discussion and exchange of notes between MILF and the Office of the President, the results of which were also submitted to the President. The draft BBL is now undergoing final stages of refinement," Deles said.

She added: "By the estimate of MILF panel and Bangsamoro Transition Commission chair Mohagher Iqbal, the draft bill is now '99.99% done. It is expected to be submitted to Congress before the President leaves for Europe next week."

Mindanews earlier quoted Iqbal as saying that the final text of the proposed law that will create the Bangsamoro government to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is already "99.99% done."

Iqbal, however, declined to identify what the remaining issue was. He also declined to give a target deadline.

The creation and approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law is the next step in the peace process in Mindanao after the government and the MILF signed a final peace accord in March aimed at ending 4 decades of war that has claimed the lives of over 120,000 people.

The envisioned Bangsamoro government will be ministerial in form, with elected members electing a chief minister among themselves. It will enjoy a block grant or automatic appropriations instead of having to get the approval of Congress for its budget.

The composition of this ministerial form of government, and how the block grant will be calculated, have been some of the most contentious issues of the discussions.

Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the MILF agreed to decommission a specific number of firearms and troops in certain phases in exchange for political commitments, including the passage of the basic law.

The basic law will go through two rounds of voting before being enacted in law – in Congress and in a plebiscite. Its contents are under embargo until the bill has been filed in Congress.

The government wants the Bangsamoro political entity, which will enjoy greater political and fiscal autonomy than the ARMM, to be established before Aquino steps down from office in 2016.


Raps filed vs NAIA3 car bomb suspects; group also targeted China embassy, MOA, says De Lima

From InterAksyon (Sep 2): Raps filed vs NAIA3 car bomb suspects; group also targeted China embassy, MOA, says De Lima

Grandeur Pepito Guerrero y Gacutam (right to left), Emmanuel San Pedro y Valencia and Sonny Yohanon y Albares are presented during inquest proceedings at the DOJ over the foiled Sept. 1 NAIA Terminal 3 car bomb attempt. (photo by Gel Francisco, InterAksyon.com)

Charges of illegal possession of explosives were filed Tuesday against the  three suspects arrested for Monday’s foiled bombing attempt at the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport during inquest proceedings at the Department of Justice.

The inquest on Grandeur Pepito Guerrero, the self-proclaimed general of the so-called USAFFE (United States Armed Forces in the Far East), Emmanuel San Pedro, and Sonny Yohanon was conducted by Assistant State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes.

The complaint was filed by the National Bureau of Investigation a few hours after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, NBI Director Virgilio Mendez and Rommel Vallejo, chief of the bureau's anti-organized crimes transactional division held a press conference to detail the alleged campaign the group had planned to wage.

De Lima said they were also targeting the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, as well as the Chinese embassy and the DMCI building in Makati City.

"Apparently this is a misguided group. They claim to be defenders of the Filipino people and consider China and (Filipino-Chinese) oligarch taipans' monopolistic business practices and illegal mining as enemies," she said.

"They also had plans yesterday to firebomb SM Mall of Asia in Pasay city and strafing the Chinese embassy and the DMCI building," De Lima said.

SM Mall of Asia is owned by Henry Sy, the Philippines' richest man who was born in China.

DMCI is a construction firm owned by David Consunji, another ethnic-Chinese Filipino who Forbes magazine lists as the sixth richest man in the country.

Aside from the illegal possession of explosives charges, De Lima said they are also studying the possibility of filing a case for "conspiracy to commit terror" against the three suspects.

De Lima said the men appeared to be particularly angry over the Philippine government's perceived "soft" stance towards China in a dispute over competing territorial claims in the South China Sea.

"They want this administration to espouse a tougher stance in this dispute with China," she said.

Initial investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) showed that the foiled NAIA bombing attempt was part of a bigger plot by the misguided group of Guerrero. The suspects planned to use a so-called IID (improvised incendiary device) with an impact reaching 5- to 10-meter radius and capacity to maim and kill.

De Lima said the three suspects will be prosecuted for illegal possession of explosives under existing laws. She said the charge of conspiracy to commit terror is still under study.

The justice secretary said the three suspects appeared to be operating on their own but follow-up investigations are underway to determine their real motives and scope of organization.

The group, which was reportedly planning to issue a manifesto after the bombing campaign, also said that, if the Aquino government fails to carry out its mandated duty to defend the country's sovereignty, then the military should remove it and replace it with a military-run government similar to Thailand.

"We want to know how big this group is, what is their capacity really to create all this havoc, and what is their real agenda," De Lima said. "Are they on their own or are there (people) behind them? We will investigate all these."

Also seized from the suspects was a copy of a manifesto entitled "Manipesto ng Kilusan Laban sa Pananakop" dated Aug. 25, 2014 and was changed to Sept. 1, 2014.

De Lima noted that the group had a list of e-mail addresses to which their manifesto would be sent if their operation had succeeded.

The DOJ chief added that Guerrero admitted that he is a member of The Guardians, a group of mostly retired military officers.

"Government authorities are determined in doing their work to go against these efforts," De Lima said.

She said that the NBI has an idea of the number of members of the group but it still has to be validated.


Filipino top aide of UNDOF commander quits; Catapang says not closing door to UN peacekeeping work

From InterAksyon (Sep 2): Filipino top aide of UNDOF commander quits; Catapang says not closing door to UN peacekeeping work

The Armed Forces of the Philippines will continue participating in United Nations peacekeeping missions as long as the lives of its peacekeepers are not compromised, AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang said Tuesday, as the Filipino top aide of the UNDOF commander who gave Philippine peacekeepers a controversial order to yield to Syrian rebels resigned.

“I think we still remain a troop contributor for the UN. In fact, we discussed this. We would like to be part of the United Nations Standby Force if ever there’s another contingent or deployment. But we will have to make sure [the lives of our peacekeepers will not be put in grave danger],” Catapang said when asked if the AFP will again send troops to UN-sanctioned peacekeeping missions abroad.

In related developments Tuesday:

Philippine Contingent commander Col. Ezra James Enriquez resigned as chief of staff of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) led by Indian Maj. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha, whose order to yield peacefully to the Syrian rebels was ignored by the Filipino soldiers under siege. Catapang said the soldiers did right in ignoring Singha because it was their duty to defend their positions, and to yield without a fight could have put their lives in peril, there being no guarantee of safety.

• The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has stepped into the row between the Philippine military and the UNDOF commander, and is helping the AFP craft its letter-complaint to the United Nations against General Singha.

• President Benigno Aquino III sought a full report of last week's event at Golan Heights, when over 70 Filipino peackeepers manning Positions 68 and 69 were caught in a standoff with Syrian rebels who wanted them to surrender their arms. The Filipino soldiers refused, knowing that 40 Fijian peacekeepers who earlier yielded their guns had already been taken hostage.

Despite an order by the UNDOF commander for them to give up to keep the peace, the Filipinos held their ground, before making a dash to freedom.

Catapang described as very dangerous what happened to the 75 peacekeepers in Golan Heights who were attacked by the Al Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels.

“We should maintain the status of being a referee. We want to maintain our contribution to peace and harmony in the world but if the referee is the one being boxed, we have a big problem.”

The millitary top brass would not openly link the resignation of Col. Ezra James Enriquez as chief of staff of General Singha to the AFP's complaint against the UNDOF commander for issuing an order that the AFP saw as a serious lapse of judgment.

But Catapang confirmed that President Aquino directed him to submit a report of the incident.

"Number one, we were just ordered to submit a report. In fact, today is the deadline so I have to go back again to do my job because I was told to submit this afternoon. I have to finish the report and submit as soon as possible," he said said.

Referring to Enriquez's case, Catapang said, "You know, it's like you have a boss and you are the secretary or the chief of staff. If you are not anymore in good talking terms it would be an honorable act to file your resignation."

The AFP is just waiting for its 331-strong contingent  at Golan Heights and Liberia to finish its current contract with the UN two months from now.

“Under the Terms of Reference, it wasn’t mentioned there that we can be ordered to surrender our firearms,” Catapang said earlier. “The UNDOF commander wanted to save the Fijians at the expense of the Filipinos.”

He said aside from laying down their firearms, the Filipino troops were also ordered by Singha to “raise the white flag.”

“He (Singha) said that if we were attacked, we should raise the white flag. I said no way. That means our soldiers will also be held hostage,” Catapang said.

DFA, AFP closely consulting

Charles Jose, the DFA spokesman, said, "The DFA is in close consultation with the AFP on this matter," referring to the complaint over the Golan Heights incident.

"Everything that needs to be coordinated, we are doing it. The content, tone, everything that needs to be coordinated, we are doing the coordination," he said.

Procedure-wise, it's the DFA, he said, that will send the letter since the department has a representative to the UN.


Misuari, Malik should answer for September 2013 siege - Zambo mayor

From InterAksyon (Sep 2): Misuari, Malik should answer for September 2013 siege - Zambo mayor

Nearly a year since the 20-day siege in September 2013 that resulted in the death of over a dozen civilians in this city, Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar remains firm in her call for justice.

The siege started on September 9, 2013 when hundreds of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members loyal to MNLF founding-chair Nur Misuari infiltrated this city.

Salazar’s statement came after reports that Misuari and his trusted lieutenant Habier Malik recently surfaced in a gathering somewhere in the province of Sulu.

This city is set to commemorate the first anniversary of the infamous September 2013 standoff.

“I will not bog down. What I said during the siege is still the same sentiment (a year later) and it’s a very strong desire that justice should be done for the killing of two-year old Ethan Ando, and all the victims of the Zamboanga siege. Kailangan may managot at kailangan ng lungsod ng Zamboanga ang hustisya at kung kailangan hulihin ang mga dapat managot, dapat hulihin,” Salazar said.

Ando, who was among the over a dozen civilians killed, died while under medical treatment.

Rebellion charges and violation of Republic Act 9851 otherwise known as the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity have been filed against Misuari and Malik.

Salazar is the main complainant in the charges filed against Misuari and Malik.

She also reiterated that as local chief executive it is her duty is to ensure the welfare and safety of residents.

Majority of the Zamboangueños, especially the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in various evacuation centers and transitional sites, have suffered so much from the siege which they consider their worst nightmare, she stressed.

“That is why we are going to the different evacuation centers and temporary shelters to let the IDPs know that they are not alone. Hindi lang sila ang nahihirapan. Ang mayor at lahat kami ay nahihirapan din…but we are not just sitting down and waiting for events to transpire. We are doing something and everything for them,” she said.