Monday, December 31, 2012

Coast Guard eyes revamp

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 1): Coast Guard eyes revamp

The Coast Guard will carry out a reshuffle of key officers within the month, Commandant Rodolfo Isorena said on Monday. He said this major reassignment is in consonance with the rotation policy of the command for the officers’ career advancement. Since Dec. 9, the Coast Guard has been on full alert until Jan. 7. “If we implement the reshuffle at this time, it might lead to confusion…So the reshuffle would take place after the New Year so that we would not disrupt the services of the coast guard during this holiday season,” Isorena said.

A board of officers would be assisting the Commandant in drafting the list of reshuffled officials that would be proposed to Secretary Abaya. Among those who might be affected by the reshuffle are the 12 district commanders namely: National Capital Region and Central Luzon chief Rear Admiral Cecil Chen; Central Visayas Commodore William Melad; Eastern Visayas Captain Pablo Gonzales; South Western Mindanao Commodore Ferdinand Velasco; and Palawan Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista. Southern Tagalog Commodore Eduardo Gongona; Western Visayas Commodore Athelo Ybanez; North Western Luzon Commodore Leopoldo Laroya; Eastern Luzon Captain Joselito dela Cruz; South Eastern Mindanao Commodore George Ursabia; Bicol Commodore Joel Garcia; and Northern Mindanao Commodore Elson Hermogino.

Rebel priest’s son now an Army soldier

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 31): Rebel priest’s son now an Army soldier

Jordan Balweg was an infant when his father, slain rebel priest Conrado Balweg, and his militia, the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA), negotiated peace with the late President Corazon Aquino in 1986. More than 20 years later, Balweg’s 26-year-old son was officially integrated into the Philippine Army, along with 57 former members of CPLA, in a Dec. 29 ceremony in this military camp.  The integration of the CPLA members into the military fulfills a condition of a 2011 closure agreement for peace negotiations under the term of Aquino’s son, Benigno Aquino III.

Last year, Jordan had been supporting CPLA members in Kalinga who refused to submit to the government-brokered closure plan, believing it was not what his father wanted. The Kalinga militiamen said the term “closure” meant terminating the “sipat,” a cessation of hostilities binding CPLA and the government while they negotiated terms for an autonomous region in the Cordillera.

The creation of the Cordillera Administrative Region in 1987 was the first step taken to fulfill this goal, but Jordan, in a 2011 letter to the Inquirer, said that closing the sipat forged in Mt. Data in Mt. Province “makes autonomy an impossible quest.” The closure agreement was negotiated by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and sets the protocol for the CPLA’s disarmament and conversion into a nongovernment organization. But the CPLA’s Kalinga-based members protested the agreement at the Regional Development Council. So many were surprised to see Jordan receive his military integration papers from Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Philippine Army chief, during the ceremony.

“I think this is the best thing for me—to defend the country. So I accepted the offer to be a soldier,” Jordan said.  He said it was not an easy decision to join the military.

China adds destroyers to marine surveillance

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 31): China adds destroyers to marine surveillance

China has transferred two destroyers and nine other ex-navy vessels to its maritime surveillance fleet, reports said Monday, as it moves to beef up its position in bitter territorial rows with Japan and other neighbours. Beijing renovated the ships and transferred them to surveillance operations to “alleviate the insufficiency of vessels used to protect maritime interests”, said a report on Tencent, one of China’s major news portals.

China is embroiled in a maritime dispute with Japan that has seen tensions between the two Asian giants, the world’s second- and third-largest economies, at times reach fever pitch. It is also engaged in a simmering row with its southern neighbors over its claim to vast swathes of the South China Sea.

Beijing has been sending maritime patrol vessels into waters around the East China Sea islands — which it claims as the Diaoyu and which Japan controls and calls the Senkaku — since Tokyo nationalized the chain in September.  China is apparently seeking to prove it can come and go in the area at will and on Monday three of Beijing’s ships were spotted in the waters around the islands, according to Japan’s coastguard, in the latest perceived incursion. Two of Beijing’s newly-refurbished vessels are destroyers, with one each to operate in the East and South China Seas, with the others including tugs, icebreakers and survey ships, according to the Tencent report.

The destroyers, the Nanjing and Nanning, numbered 131 and 162 respectively, each had a displacement of 3,250 tons and had a top speed of 32 knots, according to, an independent UK-based website. It said that during their time in the navy they were equipped with 130mm guns with a range of 29 kilometers, anti-ship missiles and other weapons. The Nanjing went into service in 1977 and the Nanning in 1979. Both retired this year from the Chinese navy, previous domestic media reports said.

It was not clear whether it was the first time the maritime surveillance fleet has acquired destroyers, or when the transfers took place. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment when asked about the destroyers at its regular briefing on Monday. Officials at the Ministry of Defence and headquarters of the China Marine Surveillance were not immediately available to comment when contacted by AFP.

The transfer report was first published in the International Herald Leader, a Chinese-language newspaper linked to Beijing’s official news agency Xinhua, and the author said the operation had been given significantly more capacity. “The maritime surveillance team’s power has been greatly strengthened and its capacity to execute missions sharply improved, providing a fundamental guarantee for completing the currently arduous task to protect maritime interests,” wrote Yu Zhirong, of the government’s Research Centre for Chinese Marine Development. Since 2000 the maritime surveillance fleet, which is tasked with “protecting China’s interests and executing law enforcement missions”, has also received a total of 13 new vessels, the report said.

Daily patrols have been stepped up from six vessels before the disputes heated up to “more than 10″ Yu said, adding authorities planned to build another 36 surveillance ships by 2015. A Chinese plane overflew the islands in the East China Sea earlier this month, in what Japan said was the first time Beijing had breached its airspace since at least 1958. Tokyo scrambled fighter jets in response. Yu added in the report: “I believe Chinese maritime surveillance authorities will build and buy many ships and planes in the future with strong capabilities and advanced equipment.”

'State of Kidnappings' in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 31): 'State of Kidnappings' in Southern Philippines

It has been more than two years since Japanese treasure hunter Katayama Mamaito was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf on the island of Pangutaran in the southern Philippine province of Sulu. Police said Katayama, whose real name is Toshio Ito, 66, is still alive, but there have been no efforts from either the Philippines or Japanese government to rescue the foreigner. He was last reported to have been helping the Abu Sayyaf in cooking food for them and freely moves around, according to Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra, the provincial police chief.

Aside from Katayama, the Abu Sayyaf is also holding Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani, 43, and his two Filipino assistants Rolando Letrero, 22, and Ramelito Vela, 39. The trio went to Sulu province in June to secretly film the Abu Sayyaf for a documentary on Al Arabiya News Channel. Prior to his detention, Atyani has had previously travelled to the province in secrecy to interview terrorist leaders, the Philippine military said. The military has previously said it would arrest Atyani for espionage should he be released by the Abu Sayyaf. Atyani had also clandestinely interviewed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

Freyra said two European wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland; and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, from Switzerland, kidnapped in February this year in Tawi-Tawi province had been brought to Sulu province. “We have been constantly monitoring the situation of all these kidnapped victims now in Sulu, but the Abu Sayyaf, as in the past, is highly mobile and would change their hideouts from time to time to avoid detection by government authorities. We have people on the grounds monitoring developments and feeding us intelligence about these victims,” Freyra told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner. He said the government has a strict no ransom policy and authorities would not negotiate with terrorists. “We would like these problems resolved soon and our operations to locate the victims continue,” he said.

Police in Tawi-Tawi said the duo was allegedly seized by members of the Moro National Liberation Front. Another group of kidnappers are also holding a Malaysian fish trader Pang Choon Pong, who was seized in October 2011 in Tawi-Tawi, but his fate remains unknown.

In November, Malaysian authorities said two of its nationals were seized by 5 gunmen disguised as policemen from a palm oil plantation in Sabah near the Philippine border. It said the two, who are cousins, were both working for the plantation in Lahad Datu, and had been taken at gunpoint. Their companions said the gunmen spoke in Malayu and Tausug, a dialect commonly used in the southern provinces of Tawi-Tawi and Sulu. There were no immediate reports whether the foreigners are being held in either of the two provinces, but Malaysia said the victims could be in Tawi-Tawi.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen are also holding an Australian adventurer, Warren Rodwell, a former soldier, who was kidnapped in the seaside town of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay province on December 5, 2011. Rodwell, 54, is married to a Filipina Miraflor Gutang, then 27, but local police said the marriage was in trouble within months after their June 2011 wedding. Shortly after Rodwell's kidnapping, the then local police chief Edwin Verzon said Gutang had filed two complaints of abuse against the Australian and Gutang's parents said she had moved out of their shared house just two weeks previously. Verzon was later sacked for his comments and the local governor Rommel Jalosjos imposed a blackout on Rodwell news coverage.

Just recently, a video clip of Rodwell - a prolific world traveller and English teacher in China - was uploaded in YouTube as a proof of life. Rodwell, who appeared frail and desperate, said he does not trust the Abu Sayyaf and the Australian government and holds no hope that he would be released before the end of the year. Rodwell’s wife also has not issued any statement about the latest proof of life of her husband. The Abu Sayyaf has demanded $2 million for Rodwell’s freedom, but Gutang previously appealed to the kidnappers to free her husband, saying he is not rich, and they cannot afford to pay the ransom. Rodwell has appealed for his safe release in a video sent by his captors to his wife shortly after his kidnapping. “To my family please do whatever to raise the two million US dollars they are asking for my release as soon as possible. To the government, to the Filipino government especially the government of Zamboanga Sibugay, (Governor) Rommel (Jalosjos), I’m appealing to you please help me to coordinate with my family to raise to whatever money is being asked.” The kidnappers eventually lowered their demand to only $460,000 in another video released by the Abu Sayyaf in March.

Major General Ricardo Rainier Cruz, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said Rodwell is being held in Basilan province off Zamboanga City and that efforts are going on to rescue the former soldier. “Our efforts to locate Warren Rodwell are continuing, but the kidnappers have been constantly moving from one location to another and that is our problem now. He is also being used by the Abu Sayyaf as human shield and the safety of Warren is our top concern also,” Cruz said in an interview.

The Abu Sayyaf, which means “Bearer of the sword,” has been tied to dozens of kidnappings over the past decade in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi – all in the Muslim autonomous region; and Zamboanga City and other areas in Western Mindanao. The group, authorities said, has links with the al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya terror networks and is responsible in many bombings in key areas not only in Mindanao, but also in the Philippine capital.

Some leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, were also accused as behind many kidnappings-for-ransom, some of them involving foreign missionaries in Mindanao. And so were other smaller criminal groups such as the Pentagon Gang, whose members were former rebels of the MILF.

Authorities also blamed the communist New People’s Army in several abductions of soldiers, policemen and even civilians suspected of working or passing information to the military about the rebel group. But unlike the Abu Sayyaf or the MILF, the NPA usually abduct their victims for political reasons. Kidnappings for ransom remain the biggest threat to personal security, second to terrorism in the restive, but mineral-rich region of Mindanao.

Security officials said the Abu Sayyaf is the most notorious militant group involved in kidnappings-for-ransom and victimized mostly wealth Filipino traders and foreigners, but lately had been targeting even ordinary people who can pay ransom for as low as P100,000. And those who cannot pay are beheaded. Officials said the Abu Sayyaf uses its ransom collections to purchase weapons and fund future terror attacks in the country and were believed channelling funds to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya.

Among the highest-profile kidnappings carried out by the Abu Sayyaf were the 2000 raid cross-border raid in Malaysia where it took 21 mostly Western holidaymakers and ransomed them off for millions of dollars to private negotiators of foreign governments whose citizens had been kidnapped.

It also kidnapped Jeffrey Craig Schilling, an American citizen, while travelling in Sulu province also in 2000. It was followed the next year with the kidnapping of 20 people, including American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham, and compatriot Guillermo Sobero, who was later beheaded.

Abu Sayyaf militants also kidnapped dozens of Filipinos, including teachers and students and a Catholic priest in a raid of a town in Basilan province. And this was followed through the years by kidnapping Filipino traders, but in 2008 the militants seized a popular local television news anchor Ces Drilon and his two cameramen and a guide while on their way to clandestinely interview an Abu Sayyaf leader.

And in January 2009, Abu Sayyaf kidnapped three members of the International Red Cross - Andreas Notter, of Switzerland; Eugenio Vagni, of Italy and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba. And there was suspicion that ransoms were paid to the kidnappers either in Malaysia or Indonesia after authorities claimed that Mauiya, an Indian Jemaah Islamiya militant, was negotiating with the hostages’ representatives.

Sri Lankan peace worker, Omar Jaleel, of the Non-violent Peace Force, was also taken in Basilan the same year; and so were other Filipinos seized in the province and Zamboanga City.

In 1998, Italian priest Luciano Benedetti was kidnapped by rogue MILF rebels and released after eight weeks in captivity. In 2001, renegade MILF rebels also snatched Italian priest Giuseppe Pierantoni as the 44-year-old from Bologna said mass in the parish church of Dimataling town in Zamboanga del Sur and missionary Giancarlo Bossi, of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions, in Payao town in Zamboanga del Sur in 2007.

And in 2009, rogue MILF rebels also kidnapped Irish priest Michael Sinnott from his missionary house in Pagadian City and freed months later after ransom was paid.

Officials said kidnappings-for-ransom has become a lucrative business for rebels and criminal syndicates in Mindanao, where many areas are underdeveloped and job opportunities are scarce. Sometimes gangs kidnapped civilians and hand them over to rebels in exchange for a cut in the ransom. Poverty has been blamed for many kidnappings in the South.

The National Liberation Movement in the Philippines and the "Terrorist Listing" by Foreign Powers

Excerpt from lengthy speech/paper presented at the Second New World Summit by CPP founder and ideological guru Jose Maria Sison. The speech was posted to his Website (Dec 29):  The National Liberation Movement in the Philippines and the "Terrorist Listing" by Foreign Powers

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philippines
Chief Political Consultant, NDFP Negotiating Panel
Keynote Speech at the Second New World Summit
The Waag, Leiden, 29 December 2012

First of all, I wish to thank the organizers of the Second New World Summit for inviting me to serve as the keynote speaker. I am honored and delighted to avail of this “alternative parliament” to expose the socio-economic, political, and ideological interests behind the “terrorist” labeling and listing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People´s Army (NPA), your speaker and in effect the entire struggle of the Filipino people for national liberation and democracy.

In this connection, may I present to you briefly the highlights of the revolutionary history and circumstances of the Filipino people, the CPP, the NPA and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and in the process my historical and current role which has resulted in my inclusion in the so-called terrorist blacklist of the US and the EU among others. More importantly, I wish to present to you the just cause of the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces to fight for national liberation and democracy.

I shall comment on the adversities that I have faced in connection with the “terrorist” blacklist and other acts of persecution, on how these have affected me and on my position towards them and towards the states that employ them. I shall also point to the rise of the international democratic movement and relate them to the goals of the national liberation movement in the Philippines.

The Interests Behind “Terrorist” Listing

The interests behind the “terrorist” listing of the national liberation movement in the Philippines are chiefly those of the US among the imperialist powers. The “terrorist” listing seeks to demonize the movement and justify the use of violence and deception against the people and social activists in order to preserve and promote the socio-economic interests of the US monopoly bourgeoisie. This globally hegemonic class wants to continue drawing superprofits from the working people and oppressed nations and peoples and seeks to crush their resistance.

The local reactionary classes of big compradors and landlords in the Philippines follow the dictates of the US. They serve the interests of the US and their own class and factional interests in the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system. There is the illusion of democracy in the Philippines but this is merely the competition of political factions of the same exploiting classes. These factions always compete for US support because this is the most decisive in determining which of them becomes the ruling faction.

Since 9-11, the US has used the pretext of combating Al Qaida in order to proclaim and carry out a perpetual borderless war of terror on countries assertive of national independence and on national liberation movements. For this purpose, it has launched wars of aggression against Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, killing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying their social infrastructure in the process. It has caused the adoption of draconian laws like the USA PATRIOT Act in the imperialist and dominated countries and has emboldened governments to engage in state terrorism.

To justify the extraordinary and boundless use of violence and go beyond appropriate police measures against common crimes, the US has used the metaphor of war to commit grievous criminal violations of basic democratic rights, engage in foreign military intervention and wage wars of aggression. Of course, the US has a motive for the use of oppression, aggression and occupation. This is to maintain and expand its dominant share of the global and regional markets, the sources of cheap labor and raw materials, the fields of investment and the spheres of influence.

Under its global security policy, the US has designed the master plans for military campaigns of suppression against the revolutionary forces and people in the Philippines. These are Oplan Bantay Laya for the Arroyo regime and Opĺan Bayanihan for the current Aquino regime. The NPA has never engaged in any cross-border action against the US or any other country. But the US and its Filipino puppets connive in trying to subject the CPP, NPA and the NDFP chief political consultant to the jurisdiction of the US and other imperialist powers.

There were those who said in the years of 1989 to 1991 that, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the full restoration of capitalism in revisionist-ruled countries, there would be world peace and peace dividends. But in fact the US has been driven by its ideological and economic interest to wipe out every vestige or semblance of the socialist cause and even the cause of national liberation and democracy among the oppressed nations and peoples. It has launched multi-pronged offensives of counterrevolution in the ideological, socio-economic, political and military spheres......

CPP calls for big advance in armed struggle and mass resistance in 2013

From the CPP Website (Dec 31): CPP calls for big advance in armed struggle and mass resistance in 2013

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today called on the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces to strive for a big advance in armed struggle and mass resistance in 2013 in response to the Aquino regime’s policies that exacerbate the socio-economic conditions of the Filipino people and further open up the country to US government intervention and foreign economic domination.

“The Aquino regime’s continuing resort to deception, statistical distortion and half-truths, media spins, manipulated surveys and publicity gimmicks cannot conceal the worsening conditions of the Filipino people or placate their seething discontent over Aquino’s failure to deliver on promises of change in the people’s lives,” said the CPP. “After close to three years, the Aquino regime has miserably failed to address the problems of unemployment, landlessness, homelessness, low wages, spiralling prices, hunger and poverty, disease and epidemics,” added the CPP.

“It has waged a campaign of suppression resulting in a wave of human rights violations, especially in the countryside where the AFP imposes martial law in peasant communities that are active in land reform struggles and in opposing mining and plantation operations.” “It has become crystal clear that the Filipino people have no other recourse but to intensify their revolutionary mass struggles and armed resistance,” said the CPP.

“In the coming year, the Filipino people must raise their level of struggle against oil price increases, wage freezes and the two-tier wage system, the demolition of urban poor communities, land grabbing, incursions of mining operations, the corporatization of public health service, the K to 12 program, the privatization of public schools and hospitals through so-called Public-Private Partnership programs, charter change efforts to embed IMF-imposed policies into the Philippine constitution and other attacks against their national and democratic interests,” said the CPP.

“Mass demonstrations are bound to intensity and jolt the ruling political system currently under the antipeople, anti-democratic and puppet Aquino regime,” said the CPP. “The demand to put an end to imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism and for an overhaul of the ruling semicolonial and semifeudal system will advanced vigorously by the toiling masses.”

“Over the past years, the New People’s Army has accumulated enough firepower, organizational strength and mass support to heighten its initiative and further intensify the armed struggle,” said the CPP. “This coming year or two, the NPA can achieve a big advance,” pointed out the CPP. “More tactical offensives and military campaigns can be launched and coordinated at the inter-front, inter-regional and national levels in order to frustrate Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression and deliver more lethal blows against the enemy and seize firearms at a faster rate than in the past decade.”

Marines continue pursuit operations vs Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine Star (Dec 31): Marines continue pursuit operations vs Abu Sayyaf

Marines will continue operations even on New Year's Day against the bandit group Abu Sayyaf, which is believed to be holding captive four foreign nationals in the jungles of Sulu. “There is no halting in the operation commitment. It is on going on a normal basis,” said Col. Armando Bañez, deputy for Marine Operation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Naval Forces Western Mindanao. Bañez said the intelligence build-up has not slowed down either to determine the exact target areas where the Abu Sayyaf groups have been seeking temporary sanctuary.

Part of the intelligence work was to determine where the bandits are keeping the its kidnap victims, including Australian Warren Richard Rodwell, Europeans Elwold Horn and Lorenzo Vinceguerre. The bandit group is also believed to be holding captive Jordanian broadcast journalist Baker Atyani and three Filipinos. The official said that based on ground reports, the bandits separately holding the kidnap victims are regularly moving from one place to another to evade government forces.

Bañez also said that Marines have also been deployed to government installations in the province to prevent the possibility of the militants taking advantage of the holiday and stage an attack during the New Year. “They (Marines) are ready for that possibility,” he added.

Meanwhile, security operations in Basilan province also remained active despite the holidays. Chief Superintendent Juanito Vaño, director of the Philippine National Police's Western Mindanao regional police office, said combat police forces have a standing order to relentlessly pursue the lawless elements. “We will not stop. Operations will continue with the usual manhunt against the targets and intensify the case build-up,” Vaño said.

Grenade blast kills 1, hurts 3 in Cotabato

From the Philippine Star (Dec 31): Grenade blast kills 1, hurts 3 in Cotabato

A tricycle driver was killed while three others were injured in another grenade attack here Sunday night, the second in just one week. Investigators identified the fatality as Al-Masri Amirul, 18, who died from shrapnel wounds in different parts of his body. The blast wounded Albert Villarete, 39; Reynaldo Tagayan, 42; and Legaspi Banguis, 56.

Investigators said the victims were standing along a busy street at Barangay Rosary Heights 6, when a a motorcycle-riding man hurled a Mark-2 fragmentation grenade at them while shouting “Happy New Year!” Probers are still clueless on the identities of the suspects and their motive for the grenade attack.

The incident was preceded by the bombing, using an Mecar M-72 grenade, of a house along Don E. Sero here by motorcycle-riding men that left a former barangay councilor wounded. Army bomb experts have also safely defused an improvised explosive device found near the Rosary Heights police precinct early this week.The bomb was detonated using a liquid-type, calibrated disruptor explosive to destroy its blasting mechanism.

2012 a year of peaceful Bangsamoro

From the Philippine Star (Dec 31): 2012 a year of peaceful Bangsamoro

Year 2012 will be remembered as the time when the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new self-governing entity, being a “failed experiment,” as far as President Benigno Aquino III is concerned.
The ARMM’s creation was a brainchild of Aquino's matriarch, former President Corazon Aquino, as part of her administration’s initial peace overture with the MILF, which resulted in the crafting of the September 2, 1996 government-MNLF final peace agreement, during the time of then President Fidel Ramos. It was Mrs. Aquino, in fact, who created the Regional Consultative Commission or RCC that drafted the ARMM’s first ever charter, Republic Act 6743, which was ratified through a plebiscite in 1990, resulting into the fusion of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi together as territory of the autonomous region. The ARMM's area was expanded, which eventually included the island province of Basilan and the cities of Lamitan and Marawi, with the ratification of its amended charter, R.A. 9054, through another plebiscite in August 2001.

The replacement of the ARMM with a new autonomous political entity, through a political and legislative transitional process that would last until 2016, is the main objective of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), signed October 15 this year by the government and MILF panels in Malacañang. Peace talks between the government and the MILF started Jan. 7, 1997, a process that saw “ups and downs” causing its collapse over a dozen times, sparked by security problems in many flashpoint areas the rebel group wants to group together as Bangsamoro homeland. For a while, local sectors were euphoric over the signing of the FAB, something residents of the autonomous region never thought would happen so soon, much sooner than they expected.

President Aquino has created the Transition Commission (TransCom) through Executive Order 120, to oversee the drafting of the Basic Bangsamoro Law that is to become the “body and soul” of the Bangsamoro region. “We in the ARMM government are ready to make that vision come true. We are ready to help in the transition process,” said the region’s acting governor, Mujiv Hataman. Hataman, whom President Aquino appointed as ARMM's caretaker in December 2011, has been addressing the administrative and fiscal woes besetting the ARMM’s dysfunctional bureaucracy, tainted with massive graft and corruption. The region’s perennial, long-time mismanagement and the misuse of funds in the coffers of its line agencies and support offices have been blamed for the grinding poverty and widespread underdevelopment in its component provinces and municipalities.

ARMM residents have lately been seeing outpouring of support for the FAB and the TransCom, through public consultations participated by cross-section communities, political and religious leaders and representatives of various civil society organizations, or CSOs, in the autonomous region. Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, whose province is a known bastion of the MILF, and Hataman are to jointly preside over a grand regional FAB forum in Buluan town on January 12 to 13. Mangudadatu said he is expecting representatives of the MILF and the government’s peace panel, officials of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, and leaders of Mindanao’s Christian religious communities to participate in the dialogue in Buluan in the second district of Maguindanao. Hataman and Mangudadatu were expected to renew the support of their respective administrations to the on-going government-MILF talks during the January 12-13 grand regional FAB forum.

There is so much reason for local sectors in the autonomous region to help push the FAB forward and show support for the newly-created TransCom. Local folks witnessed bloodshed and saw the dislocation of about a million residents in flashpoint areas in the south when President Joseph Estrada embarked on an all out war policy against the MILF in 2000. Mr. Estrada’s military adventurism led to the government’s takeover of close to 50 “main and minor” MILF camps, including Camps Busrah and Abubakar Assidik, in Butig, Lanao del Sur and in Maguindanao’s Barira town, respectively, amidst the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities. Thousands were again displaced in February 2003 when government forces drove away from the Buliok Complex, a 3,000-hectare guerilla enclave in Pagalungan, Maguindanao, the chieftain of the MILF, Imam Salamat Hashim, forcing him to relocate to Butig town in Lanao del Sur, where he eventually died of a cardiovascular disease several months later. The last of the hostilities to wrack the South, which lasted for about one year, was sparked by the aborted August 5, 2008 crafting by the GPH and MILF panels in Malaysia of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which was eventually junked as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The MOA-AD was the supposed basis for the setting up of a Southern Moro homeland the MILF was to govern through its proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

“We’ve had enough of bloodshed. It’s time to settle the Mindanao problem on the negotiating table amicably, in the spirit of amity, fraternalism and mutuality,” said Oblate priest Eliseo Mercado, Jr., director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, and a convener of more than 50 peace advocacy outfits involved in projects complementing the GPH-MILF talks. Thas been a fragile peace for over a year now in many supposedly hostile areas in Mindanao. There has even been a “zero encounter” between government and MILF forces in Central Mindanao in the past 15 months, enabling non-government organizations, line agencies, local government units, the ARMM leadership to freely implement socio-economic projects in far-flung areas without any disruption. Peace advocacy outfits in ARMM are now busy encouraging voters to choose candidates for local elective positions that are supportive of the Mindanao peace process and are engaged in activities meant to prevent any outbreak of military-MILF hostilities in their respective municipalities and provinces. The ARMM is to hold its eight regional elections in May 2013, simultaneous with the local and senatorial elections.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

AFP’s ‘Pinoy Bayanihan’ Yields Results

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 30): AFP’s ‘Pinoy Bayanihan’ Yields Results

The year 2012 is a good year for residents of far-flung and highland communities. This was because of the “Pinoy Bayanihan” style implemented by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which included the construction of school buildings to benefit thousands of school children. Organic units of the largest Army division of the AFP in Mindanao, the 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID) coordinated with other organizations in order to enhance the standard of living, especially education of the local populace in respective area of jurisdictions ( AORs.)

The 52nd Engineering Brigade facilitated the construction of 14 school buildings in far-flung areas in Northeastern Mindanao (Caraga region). Each school building has two or three classrooms each at different depressed areas. “All these are now being utilized by the Department of Education (DepEd),” said 4th ID chief Maj. Gen. Nestor A Añonuevo.

The 401st Infantry “Unity” Brigade also coordinated with the LGU of St. Christine, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, for the “Gawad Aral sa Nayon” advocacy with St. Christine Day Care Center as the first beneficiary, receiving quality books for their library.

Meanwhile, the 4th Civil-Military Operation Battalion (4th CMO), the 4th ID helped facilitate the conduct of seven youth leadership seminars (YLS) in all the provinces in Northeastern and Northern Mindanao regions with 630 youths successfully completed the seminar before the year-end. A result of the YLS is the formal registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission of the youth groups, Propelling Our Inherited Nation Through the Youth, Inc. (POINTY) whose officers attended the National YLS summit held in Davao City.

The 4th ID’s military operation through the Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan” yielded good result for the year 2012, declared by the ground commanders of 4th ID.

Looking back at the challenges offered by current year, the AFP said it awakened feelings of awe and gratitude for all the successful exploits accomplished by the division. These strengthened the ties between the local populace and the military and the conviction that peace and development will soon be achieved in Mindanao and throughout the country.

This year the unit welcomed the surrender of 101 rebels coming from the different provinces in the Division’s area of responsibility. At the same time this division was able to destroy a total of 56 assorted firearms, some captured during encounters and others surrendered by rebel returnees. During the period, the command continuously and actively supported various stakeholders in the relief and rehabilitation efforts for the victims of Typhoon “Sendong” by providing necessary assistance in terms of manpower, security, and transportation.

More cops deployed in Sultan Kudarat following bus bombing

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 30): More cops deployed in Sultan Kudarat following bus bombing

More police checkpoints were put up in Sultan Kudarat province as police and Army authorities here blamed the extortion gangs preying on bus firms in the bomb attack on Husky bus Saturday night in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat province. Six persons were hurt when an improvised bomb planted at the baggge compartment of the Husky Bus unit went off at 6 p.m. near the town welcome rotunda. Another bus tailing the Husky unit was also damaged by the explosion. Colonel Prudencio Asto, regional Army spokesperson, said the IED was fashioned from ammonium nitrate with cut nails as its shrapnels. Asto said the bus firm had been receiving extortion demand from armed groups.

Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, Sultan Kudarat police chief, said the bus firm had been warned by extortion groups that bombing will take place if their demand is ignored. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Wounded and treated at Sultan Kudarat provincial hospital were Hapinat Hilmor Bornales, 36, Delfin Jonathan Salmoren, 23, Dolfo Kevin Venus, 19, Catequista Rachel Mayornejo, 27, Yellow bus driver Salutan Robenson Matias and his conductor Sangki Emil Fantilaga.

 More police checkpoints have been established in pubic terminals in Sultan Kudarat province as commuters rush home for the New Year celebration. Army armored personnel carrier were deployed near bus and jeepney terminals in Isulan and Tacurong City, all in Sultan Kudarat to thwart any bombing attempt. Balquin also advised bus firms to pick up passengers ony on bus terminals where soldiers and policemen are strictly checking passengers’ baggage.

Charges filed vs. bomber of Sultan Kudarat mayor's house

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 30): Charges filed vs. bomber of Sultan Kudarat mayor's house

Police have already filed charges against a man arrested for throwing a hand grenade inside the residential compound of a town mayor in Sultan Kudarat and for engaging police in a shootout. Supt. Junnie Buenacosa, Tacurong City police director, said charges of illegal possession of firearms, frustrated murder, illegal possession of explosives, carnapping and physical injury were filed against Ali Abdullah, one of the two suspects who lobbed a hand grenade Thursday night in the house of Mayor Emilio Salamanca of President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat. Salamanca owns a house along Malvar Street, Tacurong City.

According to Buenacosa, Abullah of Kabacan, North Cotabato, also carries the name Muhammad Ali Maranding and claimed to be residing in the border of President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat and Buluan, Maguindanao. The remains of another suspect who was killed in a shootout with policemen remain in a funeral parlor in Tacurong City waiting for claimants. Buenacosa said Abdullah and an unidentified accomplice lobbed a hand grenade inside the residential compound of Mayor Salamanca at about 7:45 p.m. on December 27 that left the mayor’s clerk wounded. One of the mayor’s escort who was outside the compound traded shots with the suspects who were riding in tandem on a motorbike. Minutes later, the police arrived and chased the suspects who fled toward Fernandez subdivision. The suspects also tossed another grenade toward the pursuing lawmen which hurt a lady passerby. Abdullah and his accomplice were cornered inside a school ground. Abdullah surrendered to police after his companion was killed while holding to the third grenade. Police also recovered hand guns from them.

 Supt. Rolen Balquin, Sultan Kudarat police director, said the grenade attack on Salamanca’s house, the second since November 9, was politically motivated. Salamanca is seeking reelection. On Nov. 9, a rifle grenade was fired toward the house of Salamanca but nobody was hurt.

(Yearender) PAF to go local for maintenance needs

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 30): (Yearender) PAF to go local for maintenance needs

With the Philippine Air Force (PAF) poised to acquire several modern platforms this coming years, a ranking official of the military air arm has announced that the PAF will use local industries and support units in maintaining its new aircraft and systems. Major Gen.Raul Dimatatac, PAF vice commander, said that such efforts are now underway. He cited the case of the PAF's latest C-130 Lockheed "Hercules" cargo aircraft which was commissioned and put in active service last Dec. 28 after undergoing overhaul and maintenance with the 410th Maintenance Wing. The C-130, with tail number 3633, was overhauled and put into commission at the cost of P549 million or P45 million cheaper than the P594 million spent to maintain a similar C-130 in the United States.

"We are slowly building up the capabilities of our 410th Maintenance Wing and the ability to conduct structural maintenance program is part of this," Dimatatac stressed. He added that this capability was started in 2010 and as seen by the results, seemed efficient enough. "We could have brought that C-130 in active service as early as June 2011 but the birth pains of doing our very first depot level maintenance and long lines of spare parts slowed down our efforts," Dimatatac stressed.  However, the PAF vice commander said with this behind them, he expects repair and overhaul of aircraft and air systems to be much quicker thanks to the experience gained in refurbishing its very first C-130. Incidentally, the successful maintenance of the 410th Maintenance Wing of the cargo plane boosted the number of C-130s in the PAF fleet to three. The last time the PAF has three operational C-130s in its inventory was in 1989. Dimatatac said that having three operational C-130 cargo planes in service will allow the PAF greater mandate in fulfilling its humanitarian and community development missions, not to mention its airlift capability.

The C-130 is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed, now Lockheed Martin. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medical evacuation, and cargo transport aircraft. The versatile airframe has found uses in a variety of other roles, including as a gunship (AC-130), for airborne assault, search and rescue, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance, aerial refueling, maritime patrol and aerial firefighting. It is now the main tactical airlifter for many military forces worldwide. Over 40 models and variants of the Hercules serve with more than 60 nations. The C-130 entered service with the US in the 1950s, followed by Australia, among others. During its years of service, the Hercules family has participated in countless military, civilian and humanitarian aid operations. The family has the longest continuous production run of any military aircraft in history. In 2007, the C-130 became the fifth aircraft—after the English Electric Canberra, Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, Tupolev Tu-95, and Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker—to mark 50 years of continuous use with its original primary customer, in this case, the United States Air Force. The C-130 is also the only military aircraft to remain in continuous production for 50 years with its original customer, as the updated C-130J Super Hercules. "

This year has been a very productive year for the PAF and this has certainly been a remarkable achievement and a good way to end calendar year 2012. With this, I am definitely looking forward for more notable maintenance feats in the coming year," Dimatatac concluded.

MILF: Issues affecting Moro and IPs in Gensan tackled

From the MILF Website (Dec 31): Issues affecting Moro and IPs in Gensan tackled

At least 50 Moro and IPs in General Santos (GenSan) City conferred in the Tri-People Dialogue held on December 26, 12012 at the City Agricultural Office Training Center to discuss issues affecting the minority tribes in town. The gathering, which was hosted by the Office of the City Mayor - Office on Cultural Affairs (OCM-OCA) headed by Executive Assistant Raja Muda Alimudin G. Hassan, was attended by B’laan, Tausog, Maranao, Maguindanaon, and Sangir leaders. Hassan said the activity output will be presented to the local government and concerned agencies for possible action. Through a workshop, the participants were grouped according to tribe and discussed issues and concerns affecting them.

In the political aspect, the participants were amenable how difficult for them to get a seat in the City Council considering the huge cost for electoral campaign and being outnumbered by the majority settlers. Likewise most of the migrant Moros from Central Mindanao and Lanao Regions go back to their hometowns during election to support their respective candidates. The Moro participants urged the city government to provide them Muslim cemetery. They consider it as priority need especially for the Moro migrants residing in the city.

On education, the Moro participants were thankful for the assistance of the City Government of Gensan on the operation of weekend Madaris education through the OCC-OCM which provide Arabic literacy and Islamic Values to the young Muslims. They, however, seek more support from the city government for the improvement of Madaris facilities and provision of scholarship opportunities to both IP and Muslim youth. Marila Talon, IP Women Federation President, said their group lags behind in terms of education compared to Muslims and settlers in the city. She added that land conflict within their tribe which already claimed lives is their major concern on peace and order. The Moro tribes said they have been supportive to the city government in terms of community policing especially on holiday seasons.

On employment opportunities, they lamented discrimination against Muslim job seekers as the lingering issue. “Despite our children are college graduates and qualified for job, they are not hired and no one help us on this matter,” said Mike Domado, Vice-Chairman of Maranao Employees and Businessman Association. Domado is thankful for the city government for giving them opportunity to do business especially in the public market.

They also discussed the prospects of the Bangsamoro Government being worked by the government and MILF panels following the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). Speaking for the Maguindanaon group, Tong Salim said if the Moro people will show honest and good governance, Christians in Mindanao will seek inclusion in the Bangsamoro territory. The FAB states that the current ARMM plus some towns or villages in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato constitute the Bangsamoro Territory that will have autonomous government.

Datu Elias Abdusalam, representing Tausog tribe, urged the local and national government to help the Moro in the city in the economic aspect especially in Halal industry. He said Malaysian businessmen have approached and informed him there is market for fresh fruits and other Halal products in Malaysia. Alimudin Hassan urged the participants to strengthen unity with other tribes in the city. He set another schedule to discuss how the Moro people in the city can produce Halal products for local and export markets with the help of concerned agencies.

CPP to AFP: Stop serving as private armies of mining companies

From the CPP Website (Dec 30): CPP to AFP: Stop serving as private armies of mining companies

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today denounced the hypocrisy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Army in challenging the New People’s Army (NPA) to declare a ceasefire in all geo-hazard areas and charged the AFP of complicity with the big mining companies, loggers and big plantations that have long been ravaging the environment and putting the lives of people at risk. The CPP charged Brig. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, commander of the 7th ID who aired the demand, of being “locked in a tight embrace with the mining companies in Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Kalinga, Ilocos Sur and Southern Mindanao.” Units of the 7th ID are deployed in provinces of the Northern Luzon area as well as in Davao. “He cries crocodile tears as he feigns sympathy for the people even as his men have been at the beck and call of mining firms in suppressing antimining struggles.” “It will be foolish for the NPA to declare a ceasefire in the areas considered as geo-hazard as this will give the AFP free rein to carry out its campaigns of suppression against the peasants and national minority communities defending their land and livelihood,” said the CPP.

The CPP pointed out that the Aquino regime has carried on the Arroyo regime’s policy of allowing big foreign mining companies and plantations to make use of the AFP and state paramilitary groups as their private security guards under the so-called “Investment Defense Force.” Under the IDF program, foreign mining companies are allowed to fund the acquisition of high-powered rifles and other weapons in order to arm a security force that will be trained and put under the command of the AFP. “What the IDF has done is to legitimize the setting up of private armies by mining companies and plantations in order to suppress the people’s resistance against the destructive and land-grabbing operations of these companies,” pointed out the CPP. “Many of the victims of extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the Aquino regime over the past two and a half years are antimining advocates and peasant and national minority activists defending the people’s economic, political and cultural rights against the mining and plantation companies.” The CPP cited the killing last October 18 of the Capeon family in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur by elements of the 27th IBPA. The Capeon family, together with the entire B’laan tribe to which they belong are strongly opposed to the SMI-Xstrata company which has been trespassing on, and seizing their, ancestral lands.

Military on the defensive during yuletide ceasefire

From the Daily Tribune (Dec 31): Military on the defensive during yuletide ceasefire

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday vowed to maintain a defensive posture to thwart any possible attempt by anti-government forces to disrupt peace during the New Year celebration in spite of the existing yuletide ceasefire with the communists. In a statement, the AFP-Public Affairs Office (PAO) also warned all its personnel from illegally firing their firearms during the celebration. The AFP vowed to strictly adhere to the provisions of the suspension of offensive military operations (Somo) declared with the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

“The AFP is one with the whole nation for a peaceful and safe celebration of the New Year. While we strictly adhere to the provisions of the Somo, our units will remain on guard and are maintaining a proactive defense posture to thwart any possible attempt to disrupt the peace and stability of our nation,” the AFP-PAO said. “We would like to assure our people that their soldiers continue to be professional and accountable in handling their issued firearms during the New Year celebration,” it added. The AFP-PAO stressed that soldiers are disciplined and are under strict orders to used their firearms only in the discharge of their official duties and functions. “All unit commanders are responsible enough to ensure that such a directive is adhered to by every military personnel under their commands,” AFP-PAO said.

The military also maintained that while thousands of troops and some equipment are still preoccupied with the relief operations in typhoon-ravaged areas in Mindanao, it will remain prepared for any eventualities during the New Year festivities. Intelligence operations have been intensified to thwart any attempts by anti-government forces to disrupt peace. “Even though most of our troops and assets are still currently deployed in Mindanao and undertaking relief and humanitarian operations, we are still maintaining a high degree of operational readiness and mission effectiveness,” the AFP-PAO said. “Our intensified intel collection and monitoring efforts will be sustained. We will not let our guards down and will continue to be very vigilant and alert to ensure a safe and secure New Year revelry for our people,” it added. Both the military and the NPA had declared a Somo in the spirit of the yuletide season.

Video: Sultan Kudarat bus blast injures 15

From ABS-CBN (Dec 30): Video: Bus pinasabot sa Sultan Kudarat; 15 sugatan (Sultan Kudarat bus blast injures 15)

Sultan Kudarat bus bombing

Sa Sultan Kudarat, pinasabog ng hindi pa nakikilalang grupo ang isang bomba sa loob ng bus sa bayan ng Isulan. (In Sultan Kudarat, an unidentified group detonated a bomb in a bus in Isulan.)  Nagpa-Patrol, Anne Santos. TV Patrol, Disyembre 30 2012, Linggo

7 wounded in Saturday blast in Mindanao

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 31): 7 wounded in Saturday blast in Mindanao

A bomb exploded in a passenger bus and wounded at least seven people in Mindanao in an attack by suspected extortion gangs, police said Sunday. The homemade bomb exploded in the rear portion of the bus as it traveled late Saturday in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat province, damaging the vehicle and sparking a brief fire but causing no injuries among the vehicle’s passengers and crew, police Chief Superintendent Rolen Balquin said. The blast shattered the windshield of another passenger bus nearby, wounding its driver and two passengers. Four bystanders along a roadside were wounded by shrapnel from the blast, Balquin said.

The bombing occurred despite a security alert over possible attacks by armed extortion gangs, which have targeted passenger buses in the south in the past. Balquin said his men captured a member of the notorious Al Khobar extortion gang who detonated a roadside bomb last month in Sultan Kudarat’s Tacurong town and later told investigators the attack was part of an attempt to extort money from a bus company. The bombing prompted the provincial police to go on full alert with intensified patrols of public areas and road checkpoints. Intelligence agencies also went on alert Sunday, the anniversary of five near-simultaneous bombings by al-Qaida-linked Filipino extremists that killed 22 people and wounded about 100 in Manila on Dec. 30, 2000.

Disarmament hinges on MILF

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 31): Disarmament hinges on MILF

The Aquino administration said the normalization process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will also result in the disarmament of other private armed groups in Mindanao. “You don’t just talk about the arms of the MILF, but also of everyone else. That is part of normalization,” presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said. “How can you ask the MILF to completely disarm if other groups or some families are armed? We are looking for a real partnership among the government, the MILF, and other governance constituencies to look at this matter on how to make a life more secure, to trust in the state forces to make them secure, and be engaged in other productive activities,” she said. Both parties would also work in partnership on the reduction and control of firearms in Mindanao, she said.

“As put in the framework agreement, decommissioning is phased and calibrated and will start once political commitments are delivered. We agreed that substantial decommissioning happens when the basic law is delivered,” she said. “The MILF shall undertake a graduated program for decommissioning of its forces so that they are put beyond use,” Deles added, citing the framework pact. A joint normalization committee will also be formed for the coordination between the parties towards full decommissioning, which will be overseen by a third-party monitor composed of domestic and international partners of the peace process.

The government and the MILF failed to meet the target set under the framework agreement of finishing all the annexes before the end of the year. Deles said the signing of the four annexes, instead of three as originally planned, will be pushed back to January at the latest. Deles said the annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization and transitional arrangements are all “moving forward.” According to the MILF, “the work on power-sharing is 95 percent settled; 60 percent on wealth-sharing; 99 percent on transitional arrangement; and 30 percent on normalization.” President Benigno Aquino III earlier said he wanted a new law creating the Bangsamoro to be enacted by 2015.

Mr. Aquino said an interim authority should already be in place by 2015, or a year before the next national elections. “We need the organic act enacted into law by 2015. This will be passed through Congress and approved in a plebiscite and we hope to install the new government with a mandate after 2016 elections. There will be an interim authority from 2015 to 2016,” Mr. Aquino said. The President acknowledged that spoilers of the peace process between the government and the MILF will remain, but he expressed optimism that they be a spent force by the time the Bangsamoro is put in place. “There will be some groups that will still want to maintain that nefarious habits but they will be more and more marginalized. They will no longer have their support bases,” he added.

MILF says 8 nominees ready for interim body

From the Daily Tribune (Dec 31): MILF says 8 nominees ready for interim body

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has completed its list of eight nominees for the 15-man Transition Commission which is an interim body that will have the primary task of drafting the basic law for the Bangsamoro new political entity that will be formed under a recent agreement between the government and the rebel group. The MILF in its luwaran website said the eight members to the Transition Commission are already chosen but their identities will not be disclosed and will be transmitted first to the Malaysian facilitator “who will officially communicate them to the government through its peace panel.”
MILF Secretariat chairman Muhammad Ameen said the selection process was deliberated on by the MILF central committee during two separate plenary sessions. Ameen disclosed that included in the MILF nominees were one woman, a member of the indigenous peoples (IP), a senior military commander of the MILF and an aleem (learned in Islam). He said the most contentious issue was the slot allotted for Western Mindanao which was only settled after the MILF central committee decided on a draw from two nominees.

The recent negotiations in Kuala Lumpur to flesh out the Bangsamoro framework agreement ended in a technical impasse, according to the MILF, after a disagreement between negotiators over who would lead the Transition Commission.  In choosing its nominees, the MILF said it has set three criteria: sincerity to the Bangsamoro cause, capability to discharge the task, and geographical or sectoral consideration.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu also recommended three noted Maguindanaoans to form part of the Transition Commission to represent the government. In an interview, Mangudadatu said he had asked the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to include Maguindanaoan lawyers Didagen Dilangalen, Suharto Ambolodto, and Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Simeon Datumanong to the government nominees. Dilangalen was former congressional representative of the first district of Maguindanao while Ambolodto was active as leader of non-government organizations helping push for the peace process between the government and the MILF.

President Aquino earlier issued Executive Order 120 creating the Transition Commission that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will serve as basis for the creation of new autonomous political entity and replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. “We give our all out support to the recommendation of Gov. Mangudadatu for the three of them to become members of TransCom,” Mayor Ibrahim Ibay of Parang town, said. Ibay said Dilangalen, Datumanong and Ambolodto can all speak well of the intricacies of the Mindanao Moro issue. According to Ibay, Datumanong’s experience as lawmaker and Muslim leader is beyond doubt. Datumanong has been a public servant since 1960s. He helped craft the 1976 Tripoli AGreement between the Marcos government and the Moro National LIberation Front which wassigned in Libyan capital of Tripoli.

Mayor Ramil Dilangalen of Northern Kabuntalan and president of Maguindanao Mayor’s league, welcomed Mangudadatu’s recomendees saying the province, being the hotbed of rebellion should have enough representation in the Commission. Mangudadatu said he has “set aside” politics in recommending the three Maguindanaon lawyers to become members of the newly-created TransCom.

The MILF is expected to name its eight nominees to the TransCom next week.  Government peace panel chairman Miriam Coronel Ferrer said the tasks of the Transition Commission were separate from the process involving the crafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and any delays in the drafting of annexes will not have a significant impact on the peace process.  “The rest of the roadmap is to release the executive order to form the Transition Commission even if the panel is still finalizing the annex. That was the whole idea, to finish the Framework Agreement first in order to get the next mechanisms in place,” Ferrer said.

As indicated in the Framework Agreement, both sides committed to finish drafting the annexes before the end of the year but this deadline has always been flexible, Ferrer said.  “That was the target but we are always flexible. Let’s not rush. It’s the better part of prudence to really go through the documents and the issues to really study this and to really agree. We can mutually adjust the target,” Ferrer said.

The MILF earlier said both sides have managed to accomplish 95 percent of the work on power-sharing; 60 percent on wealth-sharing; 99 percent on modalities and arrangement; and 30 percent on normalization. Ferrer downplayed the alleged deadlock, saying that the “technical impasse” revolved around formulating the right language to use in certain provisions of the BTA in the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities. “The government, of course, acknowledges that the MILF is our main partner in this. But we are also balancing that with the government’s policy of inclusivity,” Ferrer said.

R2.3-B Radars To Boost Air Force

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 29): R2.3-B Radars To Boost Air Force

As the military builds up its air-defense capabilities, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is acquiring three radars with a project cost of about P2.3 billion, said PAF vice commander Maj. Gen. Raul Dimatatac. Interviewed at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City, Dimatatac told reporters: “We are looking at installing three radars for our three major sites.” The radars, he said, are among those listed in the PAF’s wish list for the P75-billion military modernization budget for the next five years. “Although we were given by the government P75 billion for the next five years . . . we have a lot of concerns insofar as security is concerned so we really have to prioritize,” said Dimatatac. He said for the air force, among the items lined up for acquisition aside from the radar system are surface attack aircraft (SAA), light lift and long range patrol aircraft, and additional UH1H helicopters.

The PAF vice commander earlier expressed his pleasure at the activation of the third C-130 Lockheed “Hercules” cargo plane in their inventory. Last Friday, the military recommissioned some of its air and ground assets that underwent major refurbishment, with all the work done locally. Among the recommissioned assets aside from the C-130, was a Cessna 210, the PAF’s platform for rainmaking; one UH1H combat utility helicopter; and 12 M-35 trucks. “This is definitely a big improvement to the PAF’s airlift capability considering that for the past years, we only have one C-130 aircraft in service,” said Dimatatac. He said the three C-130 cargo planes will allow the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to support the government in its various development and relief missions.

Aside from improving the PAF’s cargo lift capability, Dimatatac said the three aircraft will definitely boost the morale of their aircrew as they now know that they have a sufficient number of planes to perform their missions. The last time the PAF had three operational C-130s was in 1989, or 23 years ago. Dimatatac also said their C-130s have no lifespan or shelf life to speak off as long as they meet or comply with their maintenance checks.

Top rebel nabbed in Cagayan Valley

From the Manila Times (Dec 30): Top rebel nabbed in Cagayan Valley

POLICE intelligence operatives arrested on Friday in Cagayan province a top officer of the New People’s Army operating in Northern Luzon, police reports said on Saturday. Chief Supt. Rodrigo de Gracia, Cagayan Valley regional police commander, in a report sent to Camp Crame, identified the arrested rebel as Rene Emondo Abiva. De Gracia said in the report that Abiva was apprehended by intelligence operatives at about 4:35 p.m. on Friday at Taft Street, Bagumbayan, Tuguegarao, Cagayan. The arrest was made base on a warrant of arrest for murder issued by a regional trial court in Ifugao, the police official said in the report.

This time it’s PH vs Taiwan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 30): This time it’s PH vs Taiwan

Another conflict is brewing in the West Philippine Sea, this time between the Philippines and Taiwan over oil and gas exploration around Ligao Island, the largest islet in the Spratlys group. The Philippine government on Saturday asserted its sovereign right to “explore and exploit” resources in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as Taiwan announced plans to begin looking for oil and gas in disputed areas of the Spratlys islands chain. Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson, said Saturday that only the Philippines could explore in those parts of the Spratlys that lies within the country’s 200-nautical mile continental shelf.

Reports from Taiwan said island nation’s Bureau of Mines and state-run oil supplier CPC Corp. were keen on starting exploration for oil and gas in waters around Ligao Island, the largest Spratlys island that the Taiwanese call Taiping. China, Vietnam and the Philippines have claims to Ligao Island.

The Philippines earlier this year offered oil exploration contracts in its claimed part of the Spratlys, a move that drew criticism from counter-claimants, especially China. Without directly criticizing Taiwan for the move, Hernandez said foreign exploration within the Philippines’ EEZ must be signed off by Manila in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). “The Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights to explore and exploit all types of resources in its continental shelf within the 200 nautical miles measured from the baselines in the western side of the Philippine archipelago,” Hernandez said. “No country can conduct oil exploration in the PH continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea without the permission of the government, as provided for under Unclos,” he said.

Known to be dependent on oil imports, Taiwan is initiating the oil exploration to build up its oil resources, the reports said. Taiwan’s announcement came amid renewed tensions between China and the Philippines over reports of Chinese ships patrolling in the West Philippine Sea and plans to fortify Sansha City, an administrative domain established to govern all of the Spratlys. The Philippines called both developments violations of international law and disrespectful of the Philippines’ sovereign right to its EEZ.

China this week deployed an oceangoing ship in the disputed waters, the first time for a Chinese vessel to patrol beyond its coastal waters. The patrol started ahead of the implementation of a new policing law allowing Hainan province’s authorities to board and inspect foreign ships that will pass by the South China Sea, a critical international trading route.

Fil-Am accused in terror plot pleads not guilty

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 30): Fil-Am accused in terror plot pleads not guilty

The Filipino-American accused of being involved in a plot to join Al-Qaeda insurgents for military training in Afghanistan appeared in federal court for the first time, with his fellow defendants on Wednesday, December 19, to plead not guilty on charges of conspiracy to support terrorists. Ralph Deleon, a 23-year-old permanent resident from Ontario, CA, is among the four men accused of planning to unleash ‘violent jihad’ against US armed forces and other Americans abroad, in a criminal case based on intelligence gathered from a paid FBI informant. Other defendants include Pomona resident Sohiel Omar Kabir, Riverside resident Arifeen David Gojali, and Upland resident Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales.

The 35-year-old Kabir is the alleged ringleader of the group. He was captured in Afghanistan on November 17, a day after the three other men were arrested by federal agents in Chino, California. According to the criminal complaint filed by the FBI, Kabir recruited two co-conspirators Deleon and Santana who were to join him in training under Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The FBI said that the two men were influenced by Kabir to convert to Islam before he flew abroad in 2011. The pair, in turn, allegedly recruited the fourth man, Gojali, to complete the group.

The FBI’s complaint alleged that Deleon and Santana divulged to an FBI informant their plans to travel to Afghanistan to carry out ‘violent jihad’ on American targets. Deleon was quoted by the informant, saying that he wanted to fight in the front lines or carry explosives. Santana allegedly wanted to become a sniper. The three co-conspirators were captured by authorities two days before their allegedly planned flight from Mexico, to join Kabir overseas. Each of the four men is charged with a single count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. The maximum penalty is 15 years of jail time. In a hearing in early December (in Riverside County that lasted no more than five minutes) all four defendants pleaded not guilty on charges held against them. A tentative trial date was then set for August 2013.

In the meantime, the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles has declined to make any comment on the case of Deleon, as they were still awaiting further developments on the matter.....

Rizal’s martyrdom remembered

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 30): Rizal’s martyrdom remembered

In solemn rites, President Benigno Aquino on Sunday morning laid a wreath at the monument of Jose P. Rizal, capping the 116th anniversary of his martyrdom and centennial of the transfer of his remains from Binondo to Luneta Park. The President said the double celebration challenged Filipinos “to forge unity in the face of differences.” As “Bayan Ko” played, the President, Dr. Maria Serena Diokno of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and Armed Forces Chief General Jessie Dellosa walked from a platform to the monument, as two ceremonial elements in gray uniform carried the wreath.

Standing before the monument, Aquino gave a salute as a cackle of gunfire filled the air. Rizal’s descendants, Amelia Garcia Yulo, Victor Reyes, Malou Villaroman, Marlene Jacinto and Gemma Cruz-Araneta, among others, stood close by. Shortly after, a funeral dirge was played. Minutes earlier at around 7 a.m., as a large crowd gathered around Rizal Park, the President hoisted the flag on the Independence flagpole in front of Rizal’s monument, which was simultaneously held in Rizal shrines across the country. Joining him were Vice President Jejomar Binay Jr., Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Diokno, Dellosa, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Reghis Romero II, supreme commander of the Order of the Knights of Rizal; and Santiago Gabionza Jr., grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines.

Sunday’s commemoration of Rizal Day was doubly significant because it coincided with the 100th anniversary of the transfer of Rizal’s remains from his sister’s home in Binondo to the Luneta Park, where they were interred at the base of the monument on December 30, 1912. “This year, we’re marking the 100th year of the interment of our national hero’s remains at the Rizal Park where Filipinos can freely honor his important contribution to the shaping of our country,” the President said in a statement posted on the government website. “For his memory’s sake, we continue to respond to the challenge of the times: how to weave unity in spite of differences? How to inflame concern for others and flag? We hope that we will be more determined in paddling toward the same direction to achieve the full potential of our National Language,” he added.

Before dawn Sunday, in a reenactment of the funeral march from Narcisa’s house, an urn containing a piece of a bone from Rizal’s spine was transported on a motorized caisson and escorted by the Knights of Rizal from Binondo to Luneta. The bone was part of Rizal’s spinal column which was shattered by a bullet during his execution on December 30, 1896. After his execution, Rizal’s remains were clandestinely interred in Paco Park. After exhumation in 1898, these were kept by the Rizal family until December 30, 1912, when these were interred in the foundations of the monument.

“Rizal‘s devotion to truth, justice, and the civic virtues impelled him to deplore and expose the abuses of colonialism, resulting in his incarceration and eventual execution. It was through the gift of language and the written word that our national identity was formed: as the late Leon Ma. Guerrero described him, he was, indeed, the First Filipino,” Secretary Edwin Lacierda, presidential spokesperson, said in a statement.

Gov't, MILF to cooperate to disarm private armies

From the Philippine Star (Dec 30): Gov't, MILF to cooperate to disarm private armies

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will work in partnership to reduce and control firearms in Mindanao, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said today. Deles said disarmament of private armed groups along with the MILF forces in the southern region will be part of the "normalization process" under the framework agreement that the Aquino administration and the Muslim rebels signed on Oct. 15. "You don't just talk about the arms of the MILF, but also of everyone else. That is part of normalization. How can you ask the MILF to completely disarm if other groups or some families are armed? We are looking for a real partnership among the government, the MILF, and other governance constituencies to look at this matter on how to make a life more secure, to trust in the state forces to make them secure, and be engaged in other productive activities," she said.

Deles said that decommissioning of the estimated 12,000 MILF forces will be phased and calibrated and will start once the political commitments are delivered. "We agreed that substantial decommissioning happens when the basic law is delivered," she said. She added that a joint normalization committee will be formed for the coordination between the parties towards full decommissioning, which will be overseen by a third-party monitor composed of domestic and international partners of the peace process. Details of the decommissioning process are being discussed on the annex on normalization of the framework agreement. The other annexes include power-sharing, wealth-sharing, and transitional arrangement and modalities.

China now extracting oil from disputed waters

From the Philippine Star (Dec 30): China now extracting oil from disputed waters

China’s largest offshore oil and gas producer has announced that two of its oil fields in disputed waters in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) have started production.A report of the state-owned China Daily yesterday said the China National Offshore Oil Co. Ltd. (CNOOC) announced on Friday the operation of the oil fields in the contested waters. In a statement, the CNOOC said both oil fields are located in the Pearl River Estuary Basin. The report said the Panyu 4-2/5-1 field, one of the two oil fields, is expected to reach its peak output level in 2014. The CNOOC owns 75.5 percent of the field, while Burlington Resources China Llc. owns the rest. The other field was identified as Liuhua 4-1. The company owns it completely and expects its production to peak next year.

In June, the CNOOC announced it would open nine new blocks in the South China Sea to bids for exploration and development. The blocks are in disputed waters directly off Vietnam’s coast, in some cases within 100 nautical miles of Vietnam’s shores. A few days later, the Chinese Defense Ministry announced that it was preparing to start regular naval patrols in the waters around the Spratly Islands, which are being claimed also by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Vietnam protested the CNOOC announcement on the opening of nine oil and gas lots for international bidders in areas overlapping with existing Vietnamese exploration blocks. Vietnam said the lots lie entirely within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

Malacañang, on the other hand, said the Philippine government would continue to call on China to respect the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Malacañang issued the statement after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) protested China’s sending of an oceangoing patrol vessel to disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea on Thursday. “The Philippines again calls on China to respect our territorial sovereignty and EEZ (exclusive economic zone). The Philippines strongly objects to the Chinese patrol of Philippine maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea,” the DFA said. “Such patrol will not validate the nine-dash lines and is contrary to China’s obligation under international law including UNCLOS,” the DFA added.

China announced the deployment of Haixun 21, the first oceangoing patrol vessel equipped with a helipad, to conduct maritime patrol in the West Philippine Sea.Haixun 21 is the first of its kind to be put into service in the West Philippine Sea and will be under the administration of the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration, according to state-run Xinhua news agency. Haixun 21, which is equipped with a helipad, is under the control of the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration. Huang He, deputy head of the maritime bureau of the Ministry of Transport, said the vessel’s principal mission is to monitor maritime traffic safety, investigate maritime accidents, detect pollution, carry out search and rescue work, and fulfill international conventions. The Chinese Defense Ministry said China only intends to build “harmonious oceans” and protect its maritime sovereignty with its deployment of patrols in the disputed waters.

Malacañang said it remains committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the dispute and avoiding provocative actions. It said President Aquino is now being recognized in the global community as a champion of peace with his vigorous effort to bring the issue to a multilateral and diplomatic conclusion. The government earlier in May asked the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII) to consider investing in Philippine companies undertaking exploration activities in the country’s continental shelf. Assistant Secretary Gilberto Asuque of the DFA’s Ocean Concerns Office encouraged the federation’s members during a meeting organized by the FFCCCII in Manila to invest in an energy exploration project in the Philippines’ continental shelf that includes Recto Bank (Reed Bank), which China is also claiming as its own.

Scientific data showed the West Philippine Sea contains vast deposits of oil and natural gas. The area around Recto Bank alone has an estimated 16.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to last for a century, according to the Department of Energy. Asuque also assured the public that the government is protecting the rights of Filipinos in their territory as well as the Philippines’ marine resources as provided for under local and international laws, including the UNCLOS.

Fire guts building inside Army HQ in Fort Bonifacio, 1 hurt

From InterAksyon (Dec 30): Fire guts building inside Army HQ in Fort Bonifacio, 1 hurt

A fire of still undetermined origin gutted a building inside the Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Sunday. Army spokesman Major Harold Cabunoc said the fire started at the administrative building of the Army Support Command at 12:14 a.m. It was put out at 1:40 a.m. The duty officer at the time, Sergeant Rodeline Sobrapena, sustained slight injuries on the hand and was immediately rushed to the Army General Hospital located inside the camp. Cabunoc said the fire destroyed office equipment and administrative files of the command. Cost of damage is placed at around P30 million. The command, Cabunoc said, was supposed to relocate to Tarlac City soon.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Extortion eyed in Philippines bus bombing

From the Philippine Daily  Inquirer (Dec 30): Extortion eyed in Philippines bus bombing

Police and military authorities said extortion was the likely motive behind the bombing of a passenger bus in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat on Saturday night that left six persons wounded. Col. Prudencio Asto, spokesperson of the military's 6th Infantry Division, said the Husky Bus which is plying the Cotabato City-Gen. Santos City route had been receiving demand letters from extortion gangs. The police in Sultan Kudarat also said that bandits had been asking "protection money" from the management of Husky Bus. The demand was repeatedly ignored.

As the Husky bus was in transit near the Isulan welcome rotonda, a power explosion ripped through its rear portion. A Yellow Bus unit immediately following the Husky bus was also hit by shrapnel and shattered its windshield. Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, Sultan Kudarat police chief, said after the blast the Husky bus was on fire, which was quickly put off by responding firemen.

Asto identified the wounded as Hapinat Hilmor Bornales, 36; Delfin Jonathan Salmoren, 23; Dolfo Kevin Venus, 19; Catequista Rachel Mayornejo, 27; Yellow bus driver Salutan Robenson Matias; and his conductor Sangki Emil Fantilaga. Asto said the six sustained minor injuries.

An Army post-blast investigation showed that the IED was made of Ammonium Nitrate Fuel and Oil (ANFO) with cut nails as shrapnel. Despite the bomb attack, Husky Bus firm continues plying the route as commuters rushing home for the New Year's revelry.