Friday, November 30, 2012

MILF urged people to support planned Bangsamoro gov't in Mindanao

From the Philippine Star (Nov 39): MILF urged people to support planned Bangsamoro gov't in Mindanao

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front ( MILF) urged today the people in Mindanao to rally behind the planned Bangsamoro government. "What we will build and restore is Bangsamoro government that is strong, popular and responsible, a government that is honest and accountable, a government that will really care and will not exploit its people," said MILF First Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar. He clarified that the intention of the Bangsamoro government is not to weed out the traditional politics and politicians capitulated by political dynasties. Jaafar also assured that the new government will respect and protect the rights and general welfare of the non-Muslims such as the Christians and indigenous peoples. "I could not remember in the history of the Bangsamoro and find a government in the world that the rights of the non-Muslims were not respected and protected," he said. The MILF has been conducting advocacy campaign on the framework agreement since its formal signing in Manila on Oct. 15 by the Muslim rebel group and the Philippine government.

Aquino: China's plan defies int’l law

From Rappler (Nov 30): Aquino: China's plan defies int’l law

President Benigno Aquino III said China’s plan to board and expel ships “illegally entering” disputed waters violates freedom of navigation. Aquino said he ordered Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to ask for details about the report and prepare “appropriate responses.” The President said, "It seems it will be very hard to implement that because there is a particular provision in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea about Freedom of Navigation."

"Publicly, China said several times that it will not hinder freedom of navigation. Now, we can see on the surface that this (plan) seems to be contrary to their off stated public statements,” Aquino said in Filipino during an interview in Cebu on Friday, November 30. Chinese state media reported that the Chinese province of Hainan passed regulations allowing police to board and seize control of foreign ships “illegally entering” the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea.) The China Daily report said illegal activities include entering Hainan’s waters without permission, damaging coastal defense facilities, and engaging in publicity that “threatens national security.”

Aquino said he read the reports but wants to find out the details to determine what action to take. “If we prove that there was indeed that order, it’s not just a proposal, we will lodge a diplomatic note or a formal protest and it also tells us where to go to in terms of advancing our interest.” Aquino said China’s move may even be grounds for the Philippines to elevate the territorial dispute to international bodies.  “We might accelerate and bring it before the appropriate international tribunal to finally settle the matter or at least start the process of settling it legally and concretely.”......’l-law

Soldiers intercept explosives in Cabadbaran

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Dec 1): Soldiers intercept explosives in Cabadbaran

Elements of the 23rd Infantry Battalion (CAFGU) under the operational control of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion stationed at Mahaba Patrol Base intercepted the transport of explosive materials during a security patrol conducted Monday morning. Confiscated from a certain Jun Canaway were 10 super dynamites, one roll of time fuse and ammonium nitrate used for making explosives allegedly owned by Satia Mineral Trading. The explosives were now under the custody of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion. “We have endorsed the apprehended person to the Philippine National Police and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group for proper investigation if there were violations made in transporting these explosives. What we are trying to prevent here is letting these explosives fell into the wrong hands. Many of our soldiers and police have already been victims of landmine explosions perpetrated by the New People’s Army and we do not want these things to happen again,” said Col. Ronald N. Albano, commander of the 402nd Infantry (Stingers) Brigade.

Airborne unit takes over control of Cafgus in ZC

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Nov 30 ): Airborne unit takes over control of Cafgus in ZC

The internal defense of the city got a major boost as the Headquarters Support Company of the 4th Special Forces Battalion has effectively taken over the command and control of all civilian auxiliary forces or the CAFGU in Zamboanga City effective October 1 of this year. Company commander Lt. Archimedes Aranas yesterday paid a courtesy call on 2nd District Rep. Erbie A. Fabian to formally introduce the unit and inform the solon of their arrival in the city. The Riverine Company took over control of the armed civilian auxillary force here from the 18th infantry battalion as it transferred to Zamboanga City from its base in Basilan.

In his brief meeting with the 2nd district solon, Lt. Aranas expressed gratitude to Fabian for his continuing support for barangay tanods and to the military here as the solon remains emphatic in improving the peace and order condition in the city especially in the far flung rural areas. Fabian called on the airborne unit to continue the training of barangay tanods and the cafgu units to better equip civilian security forces in the barangays in times of emergency. Fabian also assured Lt. Aranas of his office continued support to the Special Forces Riverine company as they work to upgrade the capability of all civilian auxiliary defense units here.Lt. Aranas explained the transfer of command of all Cafgu units to his company required them to relocate here from Basilan. The Special Forces Battalion is currently under the command of Col. Moises M. Nayve Jr.

MILF: IP Community in Sarangani oriented on Bangsamoro Framework Agreement

From the MILF Website (Nov 30): IP Community in Sarangani oriented on Bangsamoro Framework Agreement

More than a hundred members of Indigenous People belonging to Blaan tribe were given orientation on the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on November 27, 2012 at Barangay Banahaw, Malungon, Sarangani. The activity was a joint effort of the MILF- Political Committee in Malungon, Kalinaw Sarangani Unit (KSU) under the Office of the Governor of Sarangani, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society-Rajah Buayan Chapter. The orientation was facilitated by Ayessa Tin from KSU, Osmeña Salisipan, Secretary of the Provincial Political Committee-Sugoda Buayan Province and Langcap Quraish, a peace advocate and local historian.

The audience was briefed on the history of Bangsamoro struggle and the progress of the GPH-MILF peace process. The salient points of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement were also explained. Salisipan highlighted the connection between the non-Islamized IPs and the Moro people through the siblings Mamalo and Tabunaway. The Malaysian-led GPH-MILF International Monitoring from Team Sites 4 and 5 also graced the activity. They shared to the audience their role in the peace process and accomplishments. Representatives from 1002nd Infantry Brigade, MILF-Ad Hoc Joint Action Group, Barangay Council of Banahaw, also supported the information drive.

During the open forum, the audience asked if the National Commission on Indigenous People can exercise its power inside the Bangsamoro territory. The organizers look forward for continuous collaboration to reach more communities of the province on the information dissemination activities about BAF. KSU has been active in the information drive on BAF since October 28, 2012 as per instruction of the governor. Jocelyn Lambac-Kanda, Peace Program Officer and Kalinaw Sarangani Program Manager, stressed the importance of educating the public on the FAB to gain their support. She believes that with massive information drive, the debacle brought by the failure of MOA-AD signing in 2008 will not be repeated.

Op/Ed: The Bangsamoro core territory

Op/Ed piece by Fr. Jun Mercadeo OMI in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 30): The Bangsamoro core territory

The Framework Agreement (FA) that was signed between the Philippine Government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on October 15, 2012 defines the areas of coverage of the “emerging” Bangsamoro New Political Entity (NPE). 

Section V: on Territory, Article 1 states that the “Bangsamoro shall be composed of:
(a) the present geographical area of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM);(b) the Municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte and all other barangays in the Municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite;(c) the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; and\(d) all other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least ten percent (10%) of the qualified voters in the area asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the process of delimitation of the Bangsamoro as mentioned in the next paragraph.

I purposely put the last phrase in bold letters to show the ambiguity on who shall ratify the Basic Law. The next paragraph referred to specifies the manner by which the Basic Law will be drafted by the Transitional Commission. The Basic Law would go “through a process of popular ratification among all the Bangsamoro within the areas for their adoption” (Sec. V, Art. 2). The phrase “among all the Bangsamoro” limits the ratification of the Basic Law. It seems to collide with Section II: on Basic Law, Section 4 that specifies that the Basic Law shall be “ratified by the qualified voters within its territory.” The former limits the ratification among all the Bangsamoro, and the latter expands the ratification to include all the qualified voters within its territory, unless the definition of the word “qualified” in the said phrase refers only to the Bangsamoro.

The other question people raised is the definition of the phrase: “contiguous areas.” First, the word “area,” does it refer to municipality or barangay or both? Would it also include “sitio” and “community”? The other word that requires definition is “contiguous.” Does it mean adjacent to the core territory as defined in the FA and later on in the Basic Law? Some understand it as “adjacent to the present geographical area of the ARMM” (letter “a” in Article 1, Section V), while others understand it as adjacent to all the areas enumerated above. Whichever the case, the Basic Law needs to clearly specify or define the said phrase to avoid any ambiguity.

There is yet another provision in the FA on Territory that people ask for clarification. This is Article 3 which says areas that “are contiguous and outside the core territory where there are substantial population of the Bangsamoro may opt anytime to be part of the territory upon petition of at least ten percent (10%) of the residents and approved by a majority of qualified voters in a plebiscite.”

There is also the jurisprudence on the counting of votes for inclusion or exclusion in a plebiscite on Organic Act. In the two cases of RA 6734 and RA 9054 as well as in the case of the failed Organic Act in the Cordillera, the counting of votes is on the basis of plurality in a PROVINCE and CITY. Municipalities and barangays do NOT constitute separate and distinct units outside of provinces and cities. The principle behind the said jurisprudence is the fact that the whole province or the whole city would be affected by the said inclusion or exclusion process thus all qualified voters in the said province or city need to give their assent or dissent on the subject.

Would the plebiscite envisioned in the ratification of the Basic Law radically change the counting of assents to the inclusion and exclusion process? If yes, on what basis would the said change be introduced without violating the constitutional guarantee in any plebiscite for creating, dividing, inclusion or exclusion of territories or areas? No doubt, the final and definitive version on the subject will be the Basic Law. Though the Transitional Commission shall draft the said law, it is the Congress of the Republic of the Philippines that will have the final say since it shall enact the said law. Ultimately, it will be the qualified voters in the said territory who would have the final say. They have to give their assent for inclusion or exclusion in the process either by voting “yes” or “no” to the Basic Law. Only areas where the “yes” votes have the plurality would be included in the Bangsamoro New Autonomous Political Entity.

Casiño expects red-tagging vs leftist candidates

From Rapper (Nov 30): Casiño expects red-tagging vs leftist candidates

Senatorial candidate Teodoro "Teddy" Casiño of the Makabayan coalition said they are expecting “rehashed red-tagging” to disenfranchise "progressive" politicians in the coming elections. “Red-tagging against us will always be present every election. But we believe that the people will eventually see through this labels,” Casiño said in front of thousands of supporters here. “The challenge is to show what we have actually accomplished,” Casiño added.

The Makabayan bloc, the official umbrella political organization of leftist party-list groups, made the same accusation againt the military and other rightist groups, including retired general and now fugitive Jovito Palparan, during the 2010 national elections. Makabayan fielded former Bayan Muna Rep Satur Ocampo and Gabriela Rep Liza Maza for the Senate race in that election. Both lost.
Makabayan said their critics seek to demonize the leftist candidates as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army to intimidate their members and supporters. The militants have consistently denied the allegations. Ariel Casilao, Makabayan regional coordinator for Southern Mindanao, is confident the red tagging will not work. But he maintained that the red tagging must be resisted and exposed.

NCIP-XI nixes arming Lumads in Davao against NPA

From MindaNews (Nov 30): NCIP-XI nixes arming Lumads in Davao against NPA

An official of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Region XI has dissuaded the Lumads or indigenous peoples in Paquibato District in Davao City from joining a paramilitary group to protect themselves against threats allegedly coming from the New People’s Army (NPA). Jane Lopez-Banzon, community affairs officer of NCIP XI, on Wednesday said she told the Lumads that arming themselves is not part of their culture. Banzon and representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees went to Sitio Malingkong, Paquibato on Tuesday to visit 17 families who evacuated from Sitios 26 and Alon after receiving threats allegedly from NPA commander Leoncio Pitao aka Parago. She said the Lumads wanted to become members of the paramilitary Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) to protect themselves from the revolutionary group. She pointed out that the Lumads simply want to live peacefully, and it is hard on their part to decide whether they should arm themselves against the NPA.

Banzon said there are appropriate measures in addressing the security problem of the Lumads, adding it would be better for the government to continue the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Mayor Sara Duterte said in a text message that while becoming a Cafgu member is a personal decision “it is a good idea for the community to be trained to secure themselves.” She added however that it is all up to the military being the organization that handles the Cafgu. Councilor Karlo Bello, chair of the city council committee on civil, political and human rights, said in a phone interview that becoming a member of a paramilitary would make the Lumads part of the government forces. This, he noted, would make them targets of the NPA.

Lt. Col. Inocencio Pasaporte, commanding officer of the 69th Infantry Battalion, said in a text message that it was the Lumads themselves who asked to be trained as Cafgus to ward off the NPA from their community. “I think they have spoken that they want to be secured in their communities and to have economic opportunities,” he added. Asked whether the military will recruit the Lumads in Malikongkong into the Cafgu, he said it was up to the 10th Infantry Division. “I guess the IPs in Paquibato have spoken that they do not want the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-NDFP in their communities. It’s time for them to heed the sentiments and call of the IPs,” Pasaporte said.

Dulphing Ogan of Kalumaran said the intention of some Lumads to join the AFP is a usual reaction as they are divided. He cited that there is a pending application for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) and mining in the area. That is why there is a strong campaign against the NPA due to the armed group’s resistance to CADT and mining applications, he added. He said there should be an independent investigation on the incidet.

Rev. Jurie Jaime, secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao, also called for an in-depth probe “to establish whether there is, indeed, a threat or none, or if this move to arm the lumads is not instigated by the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines and the military-backed group called ‘Black Fighter’ and ‘Alamara’.” “The AFP is clearly using the Lumads for their counterinsurgency program. They will be used by the military as baits and shields against the NPA. This move breeds more human rights violations in the coming days, we can foresee a chaotic Lumad community under the control of military commands,” he said. He added that the AFP is “using this scenario to justify their presence and encampments in civilian communities, and to have more budgets and amaze logistical support from the people’s money through arming the Lumads.” Berilo Mambo-o, the Lumad representative in the city council, said earlier that there was no real threat to the Lumads in Paquibato, adding that striking back at the NPA will not resolve the problem.

Gazmin calls for formal protest of Chinese naval patrol of disputed territories

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 30): Gazmin calls for formal protest of Chinese naval patrol of disputed territories

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Friday the Philippines should formally protest China’s reported new policy on patrolling the South China Sea as security experts viewed as a serious concern China’s threat to board and expel vessels that enter areas it claims to be part of its territory. “That’s not a good statement from China. We will just have to see what we can do to avoid this situation where they will be boarding our ships. Maybe at this point we need to file right away a protest. Let’s do the diplomatic and legal action on this,” Gazmin told reporters following the rites commemorating the 149th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio at the Philippine Army’s headquarters at Fort Bonifacio. Defense spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez said Gazmin’s recommendation would be “the action once (the new border patrol rule) is made official” by a statement from the Chinese government itself.
On Thursday, China’s state-run media reported that China will allow its police in the southern Chinese province of Hainan to board, seize control, or expel foreign ships that “illegally enter” Chinese waters. The reports said the new rule would take effect on Jan. 1.
As of late Friday afternoon, Galvez said the Department of National Defense continued to “gather more information” regarding China’s reported new border patrol rule. “We are waiting for an official statement from the Chinese government. That will be something that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will clarify,” Galvez said......

PAF gets 2 new helicopters

From the Philippine Star (Nov 30): PAF gets 2 new helicopters

One of the Sokol helicopters that arrived in Clark, Pampanga last Monday - Air Force photo

Two brand-new combat utility helicopters acquired from a Polish firm have arrived in the country, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said Friday. PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Okol said the Sokol helicopters arrived last Monday via an Antonov cargo plane in Clark Airbase, Pampanga. The helicopters were airlifted from a factory in Poland and were delivered to the 410th Maintenance Wing for assembly and final maintenance checks. The two helicopters constitute the second batch of Sokols acquired from Polish manufacturer PZL-Świdnik S.A. The first batch, which consisted of four helicopters, arrived last February while the final two Sokols are expected to be delivered early next year. “These helicopters will be used for search and rescue missions. It has enough space for two pilots, two crewmen, three medical attendants and six rescued survivors,” Okol said.

The acquisition of the eight combat utility helicopters costs P2.8 billion, including ground support equipment, spare parts, support services and training for aircrew and maintainers. The helicopters will be turned over to the 505th Search and Rescue Group where it will augment the first four Sokols delivered last February. PZL-Świdnik said the delivery marked “an important program milestone” for both the Air Force and the Polish firm. “The outstanding capabilities of the Sokol helicopter and its ability to perform a wide range of roles will further enhance the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force” said Nicola Bianco, managing director of PZL-Świdnik S.A. in a statement. Officials earlier said that the Sokol (Polish for “falcon”) helicopter is an ideal air asset since it can be fitted with equipment depending on its mission. In its website, PZL Swidnik S.A. described itself as “a major industrial partner in the aerospace market, supplying aero structures to many of the world’s leading helicopter and aircraft manufacturers.”

Recent air mishaps have depleted the capabilities of the Air Force, which critics have jokingly described as “all air but no force.” Last October, a newly-refurbished C-130 cargo plane arrived at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay from the United States (US). The C-130 with tail number 4704 was sent to a British Aerospace facility at Mojave, California last August 8 for periodic depot maintenance. The maintenance works cost P190 million and was funded through foreign military sales. At present, there are only two C-130 planes in the PAF inventory.

Earlier, PAF said it is looking forward to the planned acquisition of key aerial assets in the next two to three years. These assets are three radar systems, 21 utility helicopters, 10 attack helicopters, four search and rescue helicopters, two long-range patrol aircraft, a special mission aircraft, three medium lift aircraft and 12 lead-in fighters.

Soldier injured in battle

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 30): Soldier injured in battle

An Army soldier, who used to be assigned in southern Negros, was injured in an encounter yesterday with suspected New People's Army rebels, in Brgy. Acuna, Tapaz, Capiz, the military said. PFC Brent Pagulayan was rushed to a hospital in Capiz for treatment of a head injury, after he was hit by a rock splinter, as they were being harassed by rebels. The 61 st Infantry Battalion was assigned in southern Negros before its transfer and swapping of areas with the 47 th Infantry Battalion in the boundary of Iloilo and Capiz, military records show. Major Enrico Gil Ileto, spokesman of the Army's 3 rd Infantry Division, said the delivery of government projects, construction of schools under the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan–Comprehensive Integrated Delivery of Social Service project, and road improvements near the encounter site will continue despite the attempt of rebels to disrupt them. Capt. Joselito Dalida of the 61 st IB said the encounter lasted for about five minutes, and the rebels withdrew in separate directions. Pursuit operations against the fleeing rebels are ongoing.

PH Air Force has 2 new Sokol helicopters

From InterAksyon (Nov 30): PH Air Force has 2 new Sokol helicopters

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) received two new helicopters early this week, which is expected to boost its air capability. In a statement Friday, PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said the two Sokol multipurpose helicopters arrived last November 26 at Clark Air Base in Pampanga. The choppers were airlifted using an Antonov cargo plane from a factory in Poland. Okol said the helicopters would be used for search and rescue missions. The aircraft can accommodate two pilots, two crew members, three medical attendants, and six more people. The helicopters will be turned over to the 505th Search and Rescue Group and will augment the four Sokols delivered earlier this year. Two more helicopters are expected to be delivered to the Air Force next year.

All is set for week of peace celebration in Basilan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 30): All is set for week of peace celebration in Basilan

Several activities have been lined up for the Nov. 29-Dec. 5 observance of the Mindanao Week of Peace 2012 in Basilan. A motorcade held Thursday kicked off the celebration. Prior the start of the celebration, series of multi-stakeholders meeting were held to plan out the activities for the meaningful observance of the annual week of peace celebration with this year’s theme “Love of God, Love of Neighbor, Together for Sustainable Peace: A Challenge for Mindanao.” The multi-stakeholders group was composed of representatives from selected government agencies, non-government organizations, academe, the religious sector, and the military and police, among others.

Spearheaded by the Nagdilaab Foundation Inc. (NFI), the multi-stakeholders group has agreed to initiate and support the following activities: Lantawan Youth Peace Camp on Nov. 30-Dec. 2, Anti-Drug Abuse symposium in Maluso town on Dec 3, Poster-making competition among students and pupils from the different school districts in Basilan and Isabela City on Dec 4, an Inter-Faith Dialogue on Dec. 5. A peace conference and forum on the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) is also slated on December 6 depending on the availability of the resource persons. The FAB forum was earlier scheduled last Nov 24, but was postponed initially to December 7 because of the appointment of Government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen to the Supreme Court. He was supposed to be the main speaker during the FAB forum in Basilan.

Officials from the provincial government of Basilan said that arrangements are still being done with the GPH-MILF peace panel hoping that the December 6 FAB forum will finally push through. NFI Executive Director Miriam Suacito has enjoined the public to participate in all the activities of the week of peace celebration in Basilan. She also thanked all stakeholders who have been supportive to the activities toward greater awareness of peace-building in the province.

PHL Navy completes SEAGULL maritime training in Brunei

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 30): PHL Navy completes SEAGULL maritime training in Brunei

The Naval Task Group 80.1 of the Philippine Navy, the country’s participants to the recently concluded Maritime Training Activity (MTA) SEAGULL 05/12 between the Philippine Navy and Royal Brunei Navy, arrived at 2lt Lagare Pier, Tide Pole, Parola in Palawan on Tuesday Nov 27. In a statement Acting Public Affairs Officer 2Lt Ann F Abrigo PN(M) shared that MTA SEAGULL is a bilateral naval exercise hosted by Negara Brunei Darussalam and is the fifth in the series of bilateral engagement held every two years. She said it is aimed to foster better and more cordial relationship between the two navies and enhance interoperability.

As the guest of honor, Commander of Western Command LtGen Juancho M Sabban AFP led the ceremony in welcoming home the participants. “From November 19 to 25, nothing was handed to you, except the opportunity to enhance your capability and represent the fighting spirit of the Philippine Navy in the western front,” LtGen Sabban said. The Commander commended the participants for grabbing the chance, which he considered as an achievement in itself. “Now that you are back with the new found knowledge, I am confident that you are all more enthused by your commitment to service for aggressive efforts toward peace and security in the Area of Responsibility (AOR),” he said.

Although WESCOM is making important progress, LtGen Sabban said that efforts need to get further along in creating a platform of lasting success. Through unified endeavors, Palawan and the Kalayaan Islands Group (KIG) will surely embrace a more promising future. “I urged everyone to continuously get dynamically involved in moving the last frontier ahead. This is just a starting point. There is more to do. And together, we can do it best,” he concluded.

NTG 80.1 is composed of two ships, namely BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS37) and BRP General Mariano Alvarez (PS38), a team from Naval Special Operations Group and a support/ evaluation group from Fleet-Marine Ready Force led by Commo Alexander S Lopez AFP, with a total compliment of 118 personnel. Activities conducted during the joint training included Communications Exercise, Diving Techniques and Procedures, Combined Practical Boarding, At-Sea Maneuvers, and Gunnery Exercise.

Thousands parade for the 14th Mindanao Week of Peace

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 30): Thousands parade for the 14th Mindanao Week of Peace

Thousands of individuals coming from all sectors in the city showed unity for sustainable peace in Mindanao by participating in the parade Thursday morning, officially kicking off this year’s Mindanao Week of Peace which will run from November 29 to December 5. This year’s theme is “Journeying toward Sustainable Peace in Mindanao”, fittingly depicting the recent success of the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in coming up with a Framework Agreement.

The Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP), the lead organization of the Week of Peace, in a statement expressed joy and fulfillment knowing that its peace building activity for the past 14 years is finally bearing fruit and has helped both the national government and the MILF to seriously consider peace, thus, the signing of the peace framework last October 15. Peace Advocate Zamboanga (PAZ) said around 30,000 individuals from the government and private sectors, the academe, and other non-government and civic organizations have signified their support to join the parade.....

23 former rebels in North Samar receive livelihood cash assistance

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 30): 23 former rebels in North Samar receive livelihood cash assistance

Some 23 former New People's Army rebels recently received livelihood assistance from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) and from the Provincial Government of Northern Samar. The former rebels who were members of Batakang Organisasyon han Partido (BOP), a CPP/NPA mass organization in the barangays received a total of P355,000 as livelihood financial assistance through the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of OPAPP and the Local Social Integration Program (LSIP) of Northern Samar, Lt. Colonel Noel Vestuir, commanding officer of the 20th Infantry Battalion said. A turn over ceremony was held at the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office on November 28.

Six former NPA regulars received P40,000 each; One unit militiaman received P10,000 as cash assistance; four BOP leaders received P5,000 each; seven facilitators or those who worked out and negotiated for the surrender of NPA regulars also received P5,000 each; and the 18 members of the defunct BOP received a livelihood cash assistance amounting to P50,000. The giving of said financial assistance came after the conduct of a three - day social preparation cum livelihood workshop on reintegration and rehabilitation conducted by the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) of Northern Samar.  The seminar workshop hoped to prepare the former NPA regulars, Militia and BOP members as they will be reintegrated into the mainstream society to start new, normal and decent lives along with their families. The three-day workshop was attended by Ms. Carmen Mejia of Northern Samar PSWDO; Fr. Fred Placa, Pastoral Director, Diocese of Catarman; Ms. Maricel Bantilo, representative of OPAPP; PSSupt Isias Tonog, Provincial Director, NSPPO; top ranking military officers and friends from the media. The seminar workshop included sessions on Financial and Home management; Understanding and overcoming obstacles in starting a business; Getting to Know you; Choosing the Right Livelihood Project; Marketing Strategies; Financial Recording; and Spiritual Enlightenment and Recollection.
The former NPA regulars, militia and BOP members came out and voluntarily surfaced after the series of Bayanihan Team activities conducted by the troops of 20IB in the province. “These former NPA regulars, militia and BOP members, after knowing the programs of the government that would indeed help them in starting a new life, have realized the futility of their continued resistance and support to the terrorist group, ”Lt. Colonel Vestuir said. Vestuir also called on other NPA regulars, militia and members of CPP/NPA allied organizations to come out and rejoin their former comrades in the mainstream society.

Two Eastern Samar towns declared as insurgency free

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 30): Two Eastern Samar towns declared as insurgency free

San Policarpo and Sulat towns in Eastern Samar are the latest towns of the province declared as insurgency free, a military official here said. Captain Gene Orense, civil military chief of the 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, based in Catbalogan City said that the two towns are the latest addition to the towns of Taft, Balangkayan, Maydolong, Mercedes, Guiuan, San Julian, Salcedo, Mercedes, Hernani and Borongan City to be declared as insurgency free. The civil military chief clarified though that the declaration do not really mean the absolute absence of members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the area. He said further that presence of the NPA is still felt but not enough to create any major trouble.
San Policarpo town mayor Conrado Nicart III and Col. Romeo Labador, commanding officer of the 801st Infantry Brigade both signed the declaration last November 19 while Sulat town mayor Virginia Zacate signed for her town last October this year. The mayors of both towns have expressed hope that with the declaration, economic development would follow as businessmen would be attracted to invest business in their towns. The presence of the rebel group in the towns of Eastern Samar has been a factor why the province has been considered as one of the poorest provinces in the country.

Village councilman shot dead in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 30): Village councilman shot dead in Sultan Kudarat

Police have launched a province-wide manhunt against two men who shot dead a village councilor in President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat province on Thursday. Sr. Supt. Rolen Balquin, Sultan Kudarat police provincial director, said all police units in Tacurong City and in Sultan Kudarat have been placed on alert against the gunmen in the murder of village councilman Felix Figa. Figa, village official of Barangay Poblacion, President Quirino was walking near his home when two men riding in tandem on a motorbike fired at him at close range about 9 p.m. He was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Balquin said initial investigation showed that the victim had no known enemy and that police are still determining if the killing was work related or has something to do with politics. Balquin said his office is also coordinating with the office of Senior Supt. Jaime Pido, Maguindanao police provincial director, because the gunmen, using the same motorcycle, fled toward Buluan town in Maguindanao after the shooting.

Two NPAs die in clash with soldiers in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 30): Two NPAs die in clash with soldiers in Compostela Valley

Two New People’s Army (NPA) rebels died in a clash with government troops in a remote village of Compostela Valley province, a military official announced Friday. Lt. Col. Antonio Florendo, 66th Infantry Battalion commander, said the clash took place around 3 a.m. Thursday in Barangay Lebanon, Montevista municipality. Florendo said the firefight ensued when a group of NPA rebels opened fire while the troops were conducting security patrol at Purok 4 of Barangay Lebanon. Florendo said the troops conducted a patrol upon reports on the presence of NPA rebels extorting money from the residents in the area. The NPA rebels fled to different directions following a few minutes of fire fight leaving behind their two dead comrades, Florendo said. He said the troops have recovered a .45-caliber pistol and an improvised bomb fashioned out as a landmine from one of the two slain rebels. Florendo said they are still trying to establish the identities of the two slain NPAs in order for the family to claim their remains and “give the two victims a decent burial.” Florendo extended his sympathies to the family and relatives of the two slain NPAs. “We believe that the deceitful acts of the New People’s Army caused the death of its two members,” Florendo said.

Parents claim bodies of slain rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 30): Parents claim bodies of slain rebels

Parents of two slain young rebels who died during a firefight with government troops here on Friday came to identify and claim their bodies. Col. Antonino Florendo, commander of the 66th Infantry Battalion, said parents of rebels Joriben Caipan, 20, of Purok 2-B, Barangay San Jose, and Christopher Mawang, 18, of Purok 2, Brgy, Camantangan, both of Montevista, went to St. Peter’s Funeral Homes in Montevista on Friday afternoon. The parents presented documents to prove that the slain rebels were their sons. He said his men were conducting combat security patrol at Purok 4 in Barangay Lebanon after receiving reports of the presence of armed men when the firefight ensued early Friday morning killing the two rebels. Government operatives recovered a .45 caliber pistol and an improvised land line from the slain rebels.

CPP/NDF: NDFP-NCMR unites with the struggle of the workers in PACCO in Tagoloan, Mis. Or.

Posted to the Philippine Revolutionary Web Central (PRWC) Blog (Nov 29): NDFP-NCMR unites with the struggle of the workers in PACCO in Tagoloan, Mis. Or.

Cesar Renerio
NDFP-North Central Mindanao Region

The National Democratic Front – North Central Mindanao Region resolutely unites with the struggle of the workers of Pacific Activated Carbon Co. Inc. (PACCO) in Gracia, Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental. Amidst the severe exploitation and oppression of the company against the workers, the latter have resorted to their last legal means—the strike.

For a long time, the workers have suffered from low wages and the denial of benefits and the right to organization. Their agony has been aggravated since March 2011. With the bankruptcy of the other companies owned by Herman Montenegro, the fruits of the labor of the poor workers of PACCO were used to pay for his countless financial liabilities. They were forced to continue working without a definite wage. These last 17 months or so, the PACCO worker only receives a measly P100 to P500 a week, and is given a transportation allowance so that he may not fail to report to work every day. This wage is far from enough to cover even the daily food expenses of the average worker's family. Some of them were already driven to seek other jobs....

Only through strong organization and determined struggle can the PACCO workers attain further strength to continue demanding for their rights. They should unite with the other democratic classes and sectors who are engaged in struggle like them. They must understand that the solution to their problem regarding the exploitation and oppression of PACCO can only be fully achieved with the fulfillment of genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization in the context of the national-democratic revolution now being launched in the countryside and the following socialist revolution and construction. If the legal struggle proves futile for them, the guerilla zones are always open to those who are ready to embrace armed struggle and join the New People's Army.

We challenge the local government officials of Tagoloan and the province of Misamis Oriental to show their service to the people by defending their oppressed constituents. We also encourage the military and the police, who receive their salaries from the people's taxes, to take sides with the poor who pay for their salaries and not with the greedy capitalists.

CPP/NDF-Mindanao: Serve the people, set ablaze the fire and daringness of the Kabataang Makabayan

Posted to  the Philippine Revolutionary Web Central (PRWC) Blog (Nov 30): Serve the people, set ablaze the fire and daringness of the Kabataang Makabayan

Ka Oris

With the great joy, the NDFP-Mindanao congratulates all leading cadres and members of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) who, upon its 48th founding anniversary today, have vowed to carry forward the blazing torch of the militant and revolutionary youth movement in the Philippines towards the victory of the people’s war. With great pride, we salute all members of the KM who, since the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship, have heroically offered their lives for the revolution, as well as to all those who persevere until now.

Like a spark that began a prairie fire, KM’s inception in the 60s led to the rise of the militant youth and students’ movement that took upon itself the task of reinvestigating Philippine society and openly oppose the ills of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat- capitalism. When Martial Law was declared and KM pronounced illegal, most members of KM opted to struggle beyond the boundaries of the legal arena, and took to the mountains to plant the seed of armed revolutionary struggle. Armed only with the ideology and zeal of the re-established Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP-MLM), they set the revolutionary fire anew, but this time in the countryside across the archipelago, organizing among poor peasants in order to build the proletarian army and establish Red bases.....

CPP/KM: Statement on the 48th Anniversary of Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth)--Youth, participate in armed revolution!

Posted to the CPP Website (Nov 30): Pahayag para sa Ika-48 na Anibersaryo ng KABATAANG MAKABAYAN--Kabataan, lumahok sa armadong rebolusyon! (Statement on the 48th Anniversary of Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth)--Youth, participate in armed revolution!)

[Rough translation of the lead paragraph of the KM statement]

Rebolusyonaryong pagbati sa mga tunay na anak ng bayan, mga kasapi at lider ng mga balangay ng rebolusyonaryong Kabataang Makabayan (KM) sa ika-48 na pagdiriwang ng anibersaryo ng KM sa buong kapuluan. Mahal na mga kasama, pagpugayan natin ang mga rebolusyonaryong martir ng KM at ng sambayanan sa kanilang iniaalay na buhay, lakas at talino para sa pagsusulong ng pambansa demokratikong rebolusyon na may sosyalistang perspektiba. Kung wala ang kanilang mga sakripisyo hindi maabot ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan ang kasalukuyang lakas nito. Ang kanilang mga ambag ay nagsisilbing ilaw sa karimlan upang ang sambayanan ay patuloy na umasa ng paglaya sa imperyalistang pandarambong at mga lokal na naghaharing-uring kasapakat nito......

[Revolutionary greetings to the true children of the people, members and leaders of the revolutionary youth Kabataang Makabayan (KM--Patriotic Youth) on the 48th anniversary celebration of KM across the country. Dear comrades, we salute the revolutionary martyrs of KM and those who offered their lives, energy and talent for advancing the national democratic revolution with a socialist perspective. Without their sacrifice the revolutionary movement could not have reached its current strength. Their contributions will serve as a light in darkness as the nation continues to expect liberation from imperialist plunder and local ruling class cohorts.....]

CPP: CPP denounces Aquino for using Bonifiacio's name to hide his servility to US imperialism

From the CPP Website (Nov 30): CPP denounces Aquino for using Bonifiacio's name to hide his servility to US imperialism

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today denounced Benigno Aquino III “for using Andres Bonifiacio’s name and legacy to camouflage his servility to the US government and conceal continuing neocolonial domination by US imperialism through its puppet republic.” “Aquino deceives the people when he insists that the principal threat to Philippine sovereignty is China and projects himself as the Bonifacio who doesn’t bow to threats, when in reality, he is a puppet of the US imperialists who prostrates himself before his US masters,” said the CPP. “At every opportunity, Aquino doesn’t fail to assail China’s claims to the South China Sea which is also being claimed by several other countries,” pointed out the CPP. “Yet, he does not raise a whimper at the fact that US warships have been permanently stationed at the South China Sea where it extends its claims of sovereign power.”

“Aquino projects himself as a modern-day Bonifacio unintimidated by the ‘Chinese bully’ when behind this façade, he is spineless in the face of his US imperialist masters. Aquino makes a mockery of Philippine sovereignty when he zips his mouth in the face of the permanent basing of close to a thousand American troops on Philippine soil, carry out combat operations, fly their drones, drop bombs, conduct surveillance, direct the operations of the Philippine military, sail and dock their ships, carry their weight around, dump their waste, violate local laws and ravage women, all in outright violation of Philippine sovereignty.”“No, Mr. Aquino, you are not a Bonifacio,” the CPP said.

“The Aquino regime, class descendants of the upper-class ilustrados who betrayed the Philippine revolution, who bowed to US colonial subjugation and served as its puppets a century hence, are in no position to lead the celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of the working class hero Andres Bonifiacio,” said the CPP. The Aquino regime’s official celebration of Bonifacio’s 150th birth anniversary seeks only to “trivialize and depreciate his historic role in the revolutionary struggle for national liberation and obscure the unbroken thread of revolutionary armed resistance that continues to this day,” said the CPP.....

Thursday, November 29, 2012

MILF: MinHRAC, MSU-Gensan hold consultation on Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro

Posted to  the MILF Website (Nov 30): MinHRAC, MSU-Gensan hold consultation on Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro

Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) in partnership with Mindanao State University-General Santos held a Consultation on the Framework Agreement for the Bangsamoro at the University Gymnasium on November 27, 2012. The consultation which was supported by JICA was aimed to educate the students, professors and community members on the framework agreement signed on October 15, 2012. The accord is hoped to put an end to the Bangsamoro struggle which have claimed thousands of lives and caused damaged to properties amounting to hundreds of million peso. Atty. Zainudin Malang, Executive Director of MinHRAC and Datu Antonio Kinok, MILF Peace Panel alternate member, gave the orientation on the FAB. They elaborated the salient points of the framework accord.

The event was attended by students from MSU and Holy Trinity College, faculty, NGO’s, sectoral leaders from communities and Madaris teachers from General Santos City and Sarangani. During the open forum, among the reactions were why the government should sign another agreement considering the Tripoli Agreement in 1976 and the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement was already signed. The panelists said the ARMM which is hoped to bring peace and development in Mindanao but did not prosper and the constituents remain poor. Malang said the sentiments of the Bangsamoro people were not yet addressed accordingly, thus the struggle continues. Kinok mentioned the statement of President Benigno Aquino in his speech last month that “the ARMM is a failed experiment.”.......

Murder raps filed vs 4 in ex-US Marine’s slay

From the Philippine Star (Nov 30): Murder raps filed vs 4 in ex-US Marine’s slay

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed murder charges in court against four men involved in the killing of former United States Marine George Anikow, husband of a US embassy employee, in Makati City last week. The DOJ has found probable cause to indict Juan Alfonso Abastillas, 24; Crispin dela Paz, 28; Osric Cabrera, 27; and Galicano Datu III, 22, for the fatal stabbing of Anikow during a brawl between them. Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, chief of DOJ’s national prosecution service, confirmed that the case was filed before the Makati regional trial court Tuesday and was raffled to the sala of Branch 56 Judge Winlove Dumayas yesterday. The complaint was filed based on the recommendation of Makati City Assistant Prosecutor Gilbert Alcala, who conducted inquest proceedings on the murder charges filed against the suspects by the police.

In a five-page resolution, Alcala cited as basis the testimony of Bel-Air Village security guard Jose Rommel Saavedra, who witnessed the incident and identified the four respondents, as well as closed-circuit television footage showing the respondents attacking the victim. “The fact that all the respondents even chased him, despite the fact that he already sustained a stab wound and ran away, and continued attacking him despite the fact that he already fell to the ground and was unable to defend himself against their assault, are clearly indicative of a common design to proceed to such extremity of killing him,” Alcala said. The prosecutor also cited as qualifying circumstance for the alleged murder “abuse of superior strength.”

Records showed that the incident took place at around 4 a.m. at the Bel-Air Village gate on Nov. 24.
A verbal confrontation ensued between Anikow and suspects after the victim strongly tapped the rear left side of a Volvo sport utility vehicle occupied by the suspects, who wanted to enter the village as a shortcut to nearby Palm Village, where Cabrera lives. The victim allegedly suddenly hit one of the respondents, triggering a fistfight until one of them brought out a knife and stabbed Anikow. The bloodied victim already ran away but the respondents chased him and again took turns in beating him. Makati police chief Senior Superintendent Manuel Lukban said the city police has yet to receive the results of a DNA test done on a bloody tactical knife recovered in the suspects’ vehicle. The test could prove who really stabbed Anikow, he said.

Army soldier wounded in clash with rebels in Tapaz, Capiz

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 29): Army soldier wounded in clash with rebels in Tapaz, Capiz

An Army soldier was injured in an encounter between government forces and members of the New People's Army (NPA) in a hinterland barangay in Tapaz, Capiz. In an interview over Bombo Radyo Iloilo, 3rd Infantry Division (3ID), Philippine Army spokesperson Maj. Gil Ileto said the encounter happened around 8:30 a.m. in Barangay Acuna, Tapaz town. The 3ID spokesman, however, declined to give further details on how the encounter transpired. Ileto said the name of the wounded soldier is being withheld pending proper notification of his family. Meanwhile, soldiers of the 3ID operating in Tapaz, Capiz immediately conducted hot pursuit operation against the fleeing rebels after the reported exchange of gun fires that ensued between the Army soldiers and the rebels. The 3ID has its headquarters in Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz. The fresh armed skirmish came before the usual holiday truce could be observed between the two warring groups during the Yuletide season.

Kato group blames ‘other forces’ for deadly blast

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 29): Kato group blames ‘other forces’ for deadly blast

The explosion that killed a member of Ameril Umra Kato’s Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement and wounded nine others in Maguindanao on Monday was the result of an attack “by other unidentified forces,” the group’s spokesperson said Thursday. Abu Misry Mama told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone that there was no truth to a military claim that a group of BIFM fighters, including their chief of staff Mohaiden Animbang, were carrying the explosives and that these detonated prematurely. Earlier, Col. Prudencio Asto, spokesperson of the military’s 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao, said the military believed the BIFM guerrillas were in possession of explosives fashioned out of 81-millimeter mortar shells when the blast took place in Barangay Lower Salvo in the town of Datu Saudi Ampatuan. But Mama said the guerrillas were not carrying any explosive at that time, although they had firearms, as they were on their way to a conference. He said the convoy of BIFM forces came under attack. “But we would not yet disclose the identities of the group and individuals involved in the incident until we finish the investigation,” Mama said. He said the BIFM would vigorously pursue the attackers and will mete out the death penalty on them. Mama said they would follow Islamic law in the process, which recognizes death penalty if the crime was committed intentionally. The BIFM broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2010 because of disagreements over peace talks with the Philippine government. The exact number of Kato’s followers, mainly Maguindanaons, is unknown; government estimates vary from 500 to just over a thousand armed men.

Video: Message from Peace Ambassaor Sarah Geronimo Regarding Bayanihan

Posted to Philippine Army Public Affairs Office Facebook Page (Nov 29): Message from Peace Ambassaor Sarah Geronimo Regarding Bayanihan

Video: Sec Voltaire Gazmin at LTGEN Emmanuel Bautista Pinuri si Sarah Geronimo sa AFP Bayanihan Music Video

Posted to Philippine Army Public Affairs Office Facebook Page (Nov 29): Sec Voltaire Gazmin at LTGEN Emmanuel Bautista Pinuri si Sarah Geronimo sa AFP Bayanihan Music Video

[Video with  interviews of SND Voltaire Gazmin and PA Chief LTG Emmanuel Bautista regarding the Army Transformation Program and the Bayanihan Music Video]

Video: AFP Nakatipid ng 10M Piso Kay Sarah Geronimo sa Bayanihan Music Video

From the Philippine Army Public Affairs Office Facebook Page (Nov 28): AFP Nakatipid ng 10M Piso Kay Sarah Geronimo sa Bayanihan Music Video  (AFP Saved 10M Pesos from Sarah Geronimo for Bayanihan Music Video)

[A video about  the Bayanihan Music Video and its release]


FBI agents in PHL to monitor case of slain US Marine

From GMANews (Nov 29): FBI agents in PHL to monitor case of slain US Marine

Agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation are here in Manila to monitor the case involving the killing of an inactive US Marine last week, particularly the alleged delay in bringing the victim to a hospital. The agents met with Philippine police officials to get updates on the killing of George Anikow, the husband of an American diplomat here, according to a report by Jun Veneracion on GMA News TV’s Balitanghali on Thursday. Southern Police District head Chief Superintendent Benito Estipona confirmed the presence of the agents.  “They’re inquiring about itong incident ng stabbing wherein one American national died,” Estipona said. They were shown CCTV footage of the incident on Saturday in Makati, from the initial confrontation of Anikow with four men up to his stabbing, which caused his death. One of the questions the agents asked was why it took almost an hour for an ambulance to bring Anikow to a hospital.  According to police, the rescue unit who took care of Anikow apparently already mistook him as being dead. “Yung first assessment, dahil sa nakitang duguan na talaga--at parang nakadapa yata iyong sabi nila--ang ating biktima, inaakala na kaagad nila na patay na iyong tao kaya hindi na nila kinonsidera na kaagad (i-evacuate),” Makati police chief Senior Superindent Manuel Lukban, Jr. said. The rescue unit of Brgy. Poblacion declined to appear in front of the camera in the television report, but said Anikow did not have a pulse when they arrived......

Fil-Am terror suspect, two others indicted in California

From GMANews (Nov 29): Fil-Am terror suspect, two others indicted in California

Filipino-American Ralph Kenneth De Leon and two other men accused of plotting to join up with al Qaeda and Taliban militants for training in Afghanistan were indicted on Wednesday in California, a move that could allow prosecutors to move to trial more quickly. However, the four-page indictment, returned by a grand jury in Riverside, offered few details beyond those contained in a criminal complaint filed earlier this month against the men, all US citizens or permanent residents. The indictment charged De Leon, 23, Miguel Alejandro Vidriales Santana, 21, and Arifeen David Gojali, 21, with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, the same charge contained in the complaint. The filing of the indictment allows federal prosecutors to skip a preliminary hearing in which they would lay out their case and a judge would determine if there was enough evidence to merit a trial. The men each face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. The three men had lived in Southern California's Inland Empire, east of Los Angeles, before their arrest on Nov. 16, two days before they had planned to fly to Turkey via Mexico before heading on to Afghanistan, the FBI said at the time. The suspected ringleader, Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, is accused of recruiting the three men, two of whom converted to Islam under his influence......

Gov't troops, MILF fighters dine together

From the Philippine Star (Nov 29): Gov't troops, MILF fighters dine together

A combatant of the Army's elite Special Forces (left) shakes hand with a member of the 106th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during a break in a forum on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao on November 27, 2012. JOHN UNSON

Government soldiers and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerillas have been guarding the cross-section peace consultations in Central Mindanao like a tightly knit-family, dining together, sharing each other’s combat experiences and talking about how they want their children to live normal lives and become productive citizens. The latest of these emotion-filled military-rebel interfaces, which local officials call a sort of “healing process” for soldiers and MILF fighters, took place in Maguindanao’s Shariff Aguak town Tuesday, where thousands gathered for a dialogue on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). The FAB, signed by the government and the MILF last on October 15, sets the parameters for the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)......

Even radiomen Sam Sali and Mike Suan, of Catholic station dxMS and the Radio Mindanao Network’s dxMY, both in Cotabato City, were fascinated with how MILF guerillas and soldiers from different Army units interacted with each other as they guarded the venue of the forum from saboteurs. With their scary, deadly experiences covering past MILF-military hostilities in Central Mindanao, Sali and Suan never thought “enemy” military men and Moro guerillas would agree to cooperate on peace missions like a happy family. Sali belongs to the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation, which has five “peace” radio stations in Mindanao that are helping educate the public on the importance of peaceful resolution of conflicts and interfaith dialogues in furthering economic and political stability in Muslim and Christian communities......

The dialogue on the FAB in Shariff Aguak town, organized by Mayor Zahara Upam-Ampatuan, the Maguindanao provincial police, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, the 1st Mechanized Brigade, and the MILF, was capped with a “kanduli,” or a traditional Moro thanksgiving banquet tendered by the local government unit for some 20,000 participants. Combatants of the Army’s elite Ranger and Special Forces units, regular infantry men and members of the mechanized forces in the second district of Maguindanao even helped distribute food and bottled water to MILF members and supporters present in the meeting......

Col. Edgar Gonzales, commanding officer of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade based in the second district of Maguindanao, said is looking forward to a stronger, more cohesive cooperation between the AFP, the Philippine National Police, and the MILF in maintaining law and order in remote areas. Gonzales said they will continue to resolve peace and security concerns through multi-sectoral dialogues in areas covered by the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the MILF. Gonzales said there is fragile peace now in areas under his brigade, ushered in by the heightened cordiality and security cooperation among local government units, traditional leaders, the local religious communities, as they forge ahead with the conduct of more FAB dialogues to hasten public understanding of its contents. The MILF’s chief political officer, Ghadzali Jaafar, who attended the FAB consultation and thanksgiving event in Shariff Aguak, said credit has to be given to members of the joint ceasefire committee for ensuring the peaceful movements of government and guerilla forces involved in the talks.......

Soldiers in 'Kiblawan massacre' not yet off the hoo(k)

From the Philippine Star (Nov 29): Soldiers in 'Kiblawan massacre' not yet off the hoo(k)

The Army is looking at the possible liability of a former battalion commander whose subordinates were involved in an operation that left three civilians dead in Davao del Sur. Col. Rhoderick Parayno, chief of the Army Human Rights Office, said Lt. Col. Alexis Bravo, the former commander of the 27th battalion, is not yet cleared as they are looking at the command responsibility aspect of the operation. “On our own, we are determining whether the battalion commander was really excluded (in the conduct of the operation). There are no results yet so he (Bravo) is not yet off the hook,” Parayno said. He said the Army cannot exonerate Bravo without proving that he should not be liable for the lapses committed during the operation.

Last month, a mother and his two sons were killed in an operation against armed bandits by members of the 27th battalion. The victims, identified as Juvy Capion, 28, and her sons Jordan, 13 and John Mark, 6, were killed by soldiers in barangay Kimlawis in Kiblawan town. The incident was initially reported as an encounter with communist insurgents. An Army officer – 1Lt. Dante Jimenez – and 12 other soldiers are now facing general court martial over the incident. In a report to the Army’s Board of Inquiry, Jimenez admitted he failed to assess whether the individuals in the area of the operation were rebels or civilians. Jimenez was the company commander who figured in the incident. Jimenez and the 12 soldiers will face the military tribunal for violations of the Article of War 76 (Misbehavior before the Enemy), Article of War 96 (Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and Gentleman) and the Article of War 97 (Conduct Prejudicial to Good Order and Military Discipline).

China threatens to board ships in disputed waters

From InterAksyon (Nov 29): China threatens to board ships in disputed waters

Police in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan will board and search ships which enter into what China considers its territorial waters in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Thursday, a move which could raise tensions further. The South China Sea is Asia's biggest potential military trouble spot with several Asian countries claiming sovereignty. New rules, which come into effect on January 1, will allow Hainan police to board and seize control of foreign ships which "illegally enter" Chinese waters and order them to change course or stop sailing, the official China Daily reported. "Activities such as entering the island province's waters without permission, damaging coastal defense facilities and engaging in publicity that threatens national security are illegal," the English-language newspaper said. "If foreign ships or crew members violate regulations, Hainan police have the right to take over the ships or their communication systems, under the revised regulations," it added.

China's assertion of sovereignty over the stretch of water off its south coast and to the east of mainland Southeast Asia has set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to parts. China occasionally detains fishermen, mostly from Vietnam, who it accuses of operating illegally in Chinese waters, though generally frees them quite quickly. Hainan, which likes to style itself as China's answer to Hawaii or Bali with its resorts and beaches, is the province responsible for administering the country's extensive claims to the myriad islets and atolls in the South China Sea. The newspaper said that the government will also send new maritime surveillance ships to join the fleet responsible for patrolling the South China Sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas and straddling shipping lanes between East Asia and Europe and the Middle East. The stakes have risen in the area as the U.S. military shifts its attention and resources back to Asia, emboldening its long-time ally the Philippines and former foe Vietnam to take a tougher stance against Beijing. China has further angered the Philippines and Vietnam by issuing new passports showing a map depicting China's claims to the disputed waters.

AFP Western Command chief cries foul over China's threat to board foreign ships in disputed waters

From InterAksyon (Nov 29): AFP Western Command chief cries foul over China's threat to board foreign ships in disputed waters

"That is too much." This was the statement of Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, chief of the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as he cried foul over China's announcement that it had granted its border patrol police the right to board and expel foreign ships entering disputed territories in South China Sea. “Sobra na ‘yon. While we are exerting all peaceful means, ‘yon naman ang gagawin nila [That is too much. While we are exerting all peaceful means, that is what they're going to do]," Sabban told reporters on Thursday.

China's move came after Beijing issued new passports that contained a map showing its claim to practically the whole of South China Sea, portions of which are also being claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei. China has practically claimed the whole oil-rich series of small islands and reefs where the municipality of Kalayaan Islands Group (KIG) in Palawan is situated. The KIG, which is under the political leadership of Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon, is composed of seven islets and two reefs. The center of government is on Pagasa Island where less than 400 Filipinos, some of them military personnel, live.

Sabban said he would not allow Chinese authorities to board Filipinos ships that pass through the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.  “Hindi puwede ‘yon, hindi puwede ‘yon (boarding) [It is prohibited]. It’s a violation of international passage,” he said. The general said the military had beefed up the deployment of naval vessels and air assets security and sovereignty patrols in the West Philippine Sea. “May regular patrols naman tayo [We have regular patrols]. The Navy is always there and also our Coast Guard,” Sabban said.

China’s bullying time and again against its small neighbors over the disputed territories has caught the attention of the United States. This year alone, the Philippines has turned into a virtual docking area of naval and air assets of the US Pacific Command (USPaCom) for “goodwill visits” and port call replenishment of supplies and rest and recreation of personnel. The Philippines' defense and military departments have also drawn plans for more frequent joint military exercises not only with the US but also with other countries such as Australia.

China has continued to violate its own promise to pull its ships out of Panatag Shoal, an area located within Masinloc, Zambales, this after Manila pulled out its ships to ease down the tension. Six months after the June 4 talks between China and the Philippines to withdraw from the area, at least three Chinese ships have maintained their presence in Panatag, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Panatag Shoal issue broke out after the BRP Gregorio del Pilar apprehended Chinese poachers in the area last March but the patrol ship was blocked by a government ship of China that led to a standoff.

Defense chief to Palparan: 'Stop smearing the military's image and come out of hiding'

From InterAksyon (Nov 29): Defense chief to Palparan: 'Stop smearing the military's image and come out of hiding'

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin challenged retired general Jovito Palparan to come out of hiding and face the charges against him instead of smearing the name of the Armed Forces of the Philippines by remaining a fugitive. "Do not smear your organization. Come out, prove yourself to be innocent … he's a fugitive and he's destroying the name of the armed forces, not only the army," Gazmin told reporters. Palparan, who is wanted on charges related to the enforced disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, has continued to evade arrest despite a P2-million bounty. This has roused suspicions of human rights activists that he is being coddled by the military. Gazmin said the AFP continues to strive to be a professional organization and Palparan's continued hiding is not helping improve the military’s image.

Philippines: Chinese ships must leave Scarborough Shoal

From Rappler (Nov 29): Philippines: Chinese ships must leave Scarborough Shoal

The Philippines is still asking China to withdraw three ships from a disputed shoal in the South China Sea almost six months after it promised to pull out, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Thursday, November 29. Del Rosario said that while the Philippines withdrew its own ships from Scarborough Shoal on June 4, as agreed by both countries, China's three government ships remained in the area. "They have three ships in the vicinity right now. They have never really left. We are continuing to ask them to honor our sovereignty and... we are asking them to pull out their ships as agreed upon," he said.

Government vessels from the Philippines and China began facing off over the shoal in April as both countries pressed their conflicting claims over the islets. Del Rosario told ABS-CBN News that in an effort to ease tensions, both countries agreed on June 4 to pull out their ships. But while the Philippines kept its commitment, China did not, he said. He said that in June a Chinese embassy official initially said the weather was too rough for their ships to move but did not say when they would leave. Chinese embassy spokesmen could not be contacted for comment.

China and the Philippines, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, which includes major shipping lanes and is believed to be rich in mineral and oil resources. The Philippines has become increasingly vocal in opposing China's claims, raising the issue in international meetings despite Chinese efforts to play down the matter. Del Rosario said China did not want to "internationalize" the issue by having the Philippines discuss it with other claimants, other countries or even with the press. "Obviously that is not our position. Our diplomatic tools are very limited and internationalization must remain a viable tool for us," he said.

Gov't spreads 'bayanihan' concept via music video

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 29): Gov't spreads 'bayanihan' concept via music video

Government is using art - traditional and new media - to communicate the "bayanihan" concept for peace. Bayanihan is the act of realizing peace through multi-sector involvement, approaches, and participation of stakeholders. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in partnership with various government agencies like the Philippine Communications and Operations Office (PCOO), Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Optical Media Board (OMB), the Media and Television Review and Classification Board ( MTRCB), and a partner from the private sector, Viva Entertainment, Inc., launched yesterday the music video titled "Bayanihan para sa Kapayapaan" sang by the country's Pop Princess Sarah Geronimo. Geronimo, after personally reading the lyrics and hearing the melody, volunteered to sing the piece for free as her way of supporting the government’s peace efforts said Lesley Jeanne Cordero, PCOO Undersecretary. The AFP sees the need to spread to the entire nation the effort of the military of reaching out to individuals and various interest groups in winning the peace. AFP Public Affairs Officer Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said the song will best deliver the message of peace to the Filipinos.

The women sector in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) found the video timely and relevant as the country moves up in its peace negotiation after signing the Bangsamoro Framework. "We recognize that the army has a critical role in informing and educating the public about peace. This bayanihan effort will make the army felt in the community not just as a combatant but as a main actor in our peace efforts.", said sectoral representative of women in ARMM Samira A. Gutoc-Tomawis.

Under AFP's Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP), it highlights their operations of winning peace and not just defeating the enemy through Whole-of-Nation Approach and People-Centered Security Approach. The PCOO urged the public to watch the video and spread it through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social networking sites. Cordero urged cinema, theater owners, and cable operators to help in the dissemination. For it to reach even in areas where there is no internet and television, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) will use radio networks to play the audio for this to be heard by the people. OMB chairperson Ronnie Ricketts committed to have this video shown in schools to educate schoolchildren on the importance of peace. The song awakens the spirit of Bayanihan in every Filipino and invites each one to help realize a shared dream: a peaceful, developed and progressive Philippines.

N. Cotabato town highlights Framework Agreement in celebration Mindanao Week of Peace celebration

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 29): N. Cotabato town highlights Framework Agreement in celebration Mindanao Week of Peace celebration

The Local Government Unit of Kabacan in the province of North Cotabato featured the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in the town’s celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace which started on Monday. Professor Raby Angkal of the MILF Central Committee who graced the event as speaker gave emphasis on the true meaning of the word “Bangsamoro”. He explained that the word is tantamount to the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao who should be given their own territory as part of their long grievances on issues regarding the Moros in the island. The official also noted some of the places which will be part of the Bangsamoro territory. “Maguindanao Province, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-tawi, Sulu and Basilan will be part of the Bangsamoro jurisdiction. Moreover, the cities of Marawi, Cotabato and Isabela are included,” Angkal said. He also specified that six municipalities from Lanao del Norte which voted “yes” during the 2001 plebiscite for the expansion of the ARMM territory will make up the new entity. Also included in the territory are the 36 barangays in the six towns of North Cotabato. Angkal clarified though that there will be another plebiscite to finalize which places will be included as part of the Bangsamoro.

Aside from this, provisions of the framework agreement were tackled such as its creation, basic law, power sharing revenue generation and wealth sharing, territory, basic rights of its people, transition commission, normalization and miscellaneous. Meanwhile, North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza as well as the officials of the local government of Kabacan gave their support on the framework agreement. Angkal said that to further understand the peace pact, officials, must make the first move of letting their fellowmen understand its content. On the other hand, the opening of the Mindanao Week of Peace was attended by students and professors of the different academic institutions of the town, officials of Kabacan LGU as well as officials from the provincial government of North Cotabato. The K5 or the “Kilusan tungo sa Kapayapaan, Kalinisan at Kaunlaran ng Kabacan”, an organization which is aimed at promoting a progressive community will be holding peace activities in the town in line with the celebration. This year’s Mindanao Week of Peace is anchored with the theme, “Love of God, Love of Neighbor, challenge for Mindanao”.