Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Phl, US coast guards join forces for maritime law enforcement training vs terrorism

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 16): Phl, US coast guards join forces for maritime law enforcement training vs terrorism

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and United States Coast Guard have come together for another maritime law enforcement instructor development course focusing on anti-terrorism. The country’s maritime law enforcement agency’s role has already developed, more extensive and that the performances of responsibilities require competent enforcers, PCG Chief Vice Admiral Edmund Tan said in a statement. The anti-terrorism training aims to train PCG personnel to learn new ways in detecting weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It also aims to stop trafficking to include delivery system, advance conventional weapons and other related materials. Selected students from this course will also conduct the advance boarding course as well as training on radio encryption using the previously donated encrypted radio by the United States Export Control and Boarder Security (EXB), Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Special Operations Group (CGSOG) Commander Marco Antonio Gines said....


Fighting erupts in North Cotabato

From the Philippine Star (Oct 17): Fighting erupts in North Cotabato

A 30-minute firefight between unidentified gunmen and militiamen in North Cotabato’s Aleosan town greeted Monday’s signing of the framework agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). There was no report of casualties, but the firefight forced dozens of Muslim and Christian villagers to evacuate on fears of getting trapped in the crossfire. Col. Prudencio Asto, public affairs chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the heavily armed attackers first surrounded a roadside militia detachment in Barangay Dunguan in Aleosan on Monday night and without warning opened fire with assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades. Local officials said the gunmen were overheard talking to each other in ethnic Maguindanaon dialect. Members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) manning the detachment engaged the bandits in a firefight, triggering panic in surrounding villages. Asto said Army units in Aleosan and nearby towns have been receiving information that the attack was in retaliation for the death of a notorious leader of a bandit gang, Mustapha Mangileb Guindalangan. Guindalangan was killed by soldiers manning a roadside checkpoint in Midsayap town in North Cotabato last week for trying to lob a grenade. Asto said the 6th ID will ask the government’s ceasefire committee, which deals with the MILF, to investigate Monday night’s firefight in Aleosan. “The scene of the encounter is inside an area covered by the government-MILF ceasefire. We abide by the protocols and established rules on how the government and the MILF are to cooperate in addressing this kind of security problem,” Asto said.


Photo: Samie Tagalog, Chief of Staff, MNLF Nothern Mindanao

Posted to the Philippine Star (Oct 17): Photo: Samie Tagalog, Chief of Staff, MNLF Nothern Mindanao

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Samie Tagalog, chief of staff of the Moro National Liberation Front forces in Northern Mindanao, shows a Bangsamoro flag during a news briefing in Cagayan de Oro City the other day. GERRY GORIT


'We're tired of fighting'

From the Philippine Star (Oct 17): 'We're tired of fighting'

Tired of fighting, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) spokesman Mohagher Iqbal said he looks forward to a peaceful life following the signing of the framework peace agreement with the government last Monday. “You know, I’ve been in troubled times for 40 years. I want to rest. I’ve been in the negotiation for 14 years. I have been the chairman of the MILF peace panel for 10 years, so I want to rest,” Iqbal said. Iqbal said there are “clear signs that we are moving toward normalcy in Mindanao.” “If other people who have not sacrificed a lot want peace, I think the more I want peace because I have been in the struggle. I have spent the best (years) of my life in this struggle, so I want peace right now – an honorable peace,” he said. Iqbal said the MILF believed in the peace process that they decided to stop fighting the government. He noted that their late leader, Hashim Salamat, had said that the most civilized and practical way of solving the conflict in Mindanao is through a negotiated political settlement....


Govt gears up for war vs Kato

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 17): Govt gears up for war vs Kato

The Army and police are preparing to launch offensives against the breakaway group of Umbra Kato after the administration signed a framework agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the government’s chief negotiator Marvic Leonen said Tuesday. Leonen said the government would not negotiate with Kato since it regarded his Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as a “lawless element” just like the Abu Sayyaf. Eventually, he added, the MILF would help the government run after Kato’s fighters. “The Army and the police are preparing their own offensives,” Leonen said. “There are warrants that have already been issued against them and soon enough, law enforcement will continue with the cooperation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front....”


BIFM: MILF camp better venue for framework deal signing

From the Philippine Star (Oct 16): MILF camp better venue for framework deal signing

The brigand Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) on Tuesday said that the signing of the "Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro" between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should have been done at Camp Darapanan, the Moro group's main camp in Maguindanao province. BIFM spokesman Abu Misry Mama told reporters that the signing of the agreement in Camp Darapanan would have created the impression that the government is sincere in its peace talks with the MILF. “It was the government that gained something out of the signing of the agreement in MalacaƱang, not the Bangsamoro people,” Misry said in Filipino, in heavy Maguindanaon accent. Mama said that as a “token position,” they will just have to “wait and see” even if they are convinced that the government-MILF compact will not solve the so-called Bangsamoro problem. “Only Moro independence is the answer. Nothing can be a better medicine to the Bangsamoro problem,” Mama told reporters. Mama said the MILF should have haggled that the signing of the agreement be held at Camp Darapanan, not at the seat of the national government that was a party to a bloody conflict that ravaged many Southern communities for decades. “The Bangsamoro people would have been happier if that was the scenario,” Mama said....


US, Philippine troops hold joint drills

From ABS-CBN (Oct 16): US, Philippine troops hold joint drills

Around 600 Philippine and US troops held mock firing attacks on Tuesday (October 16) in the final exercise of their two-week joint drills. The bilateral training between the US and Philippine marines takes place annually under a mutual defence agreement. The troops fired mortars and practiced flying Sea Knight helicopters, which are normally deployed for combat support, transport of troops, and search-and-rescue operations. "What you saw was basically three combined arms live fire attacks. So you saw three different objectives being taken. And you saw a combined effort between the Philippine Marines, United States Marines, our air power, their air power in demonstration here today," said US Marine Corps Brigadier General Craig Timberlake. The 29th Philippines-US Amphibious Landing Exercise is aimed at strengthening regional security and improving the two countries' humanitarian assistance and disaster response and relief operations....


From guns to laptops, Philippine peace faces arduous road

From GMANews (Oct 16): From guns to laptops, Philippine peace faces arduous road

At a nondescript two-storey building in the town of Sultan Kudarat, the future of the Philippines' strife-torn southern region of Mindanao is taking shape, one accountancy class at a time. Dozens of former fighters in Mindanao's decades-old Islamic insurgency are learning new skills — from book-keeping, to computer literacy and law — that are crucial to the long-term success of a landmark peace deal signed in Manila on Monday. "Every student comes out of this institute as a new person," said Zamin Unti, a 55-year-old former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebel who teaches three-day crash courses at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute.... The Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute, set up in 2006, provides a reason for hope, teaching rebels the skills to become civil servants or run small busineses. But it also shows the scale of the task ahead. Until March, it was housed in a rented building in Cotabato City before Japanese aid money financed its new center in Sultan Kudarat, not far from the MILF's main base. The new building boasts broadband Internet, computers and projectors, but only has a single training room and remains reliant on foreign aid money. "We're here not only to teach but brainwash them to change their old mind-set," said Unti, the rebel-turned-lecturer.


Wesmincom chief eyed to replace Mapagu

From the Business Mirror (Oct 16): Wesmincom chief eyed to replace Mapagu

The Armed Forces’ Board of Generals (BOG) has asked President Aquino to consider the appointment of the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief as Armed Forces vice chief of staff vice Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu, who will retire on Friday. The Wesmincom is based at Camp General Basilio Navarro in Zamboanga City. On Friday Mapagu will relinquish his post to his recommended successor, Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes, in a turnover ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.... Coballes is a member of PMA Class 1980 that adopted as honorary members the four sisters (Ballsy, Viel, Pinky and Kris) of the President. Director General Nicanor Bartolome, National Police chief, and Vice Adm. Edmund Tan, Coast Guard commandant, are also members of the class. Recommended to replace Coballes at the Wesmincom was Maj. Gen. Rey Ardo, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division, based at Camp Siongco in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao. Ardo is a member of PMA Class 1981. Sources said the BOG was still looking for a senior Army officer to replace Ardo....

Disarmament not on table — MILF

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 16): Disarmament not on table — MILF


Disarmament of units of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) appeared to have been set aside during negotiations for the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement as MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told reporters yesterday that he has yet to discuss the terms of the so-called phased decom-missioning of the armed component of the secessionist group. Iqbal and government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen faced media yesterday shortly after the signing of the framework agreement that was witnessed by President Aquino, Malay-sian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and MILF chairman Al Haj Murad.  Iqbal, asked about the decommissioning of MILF guerilla units, said it still needed to be discussed within the MILF. He also gave a cryptic answer on the timetable for the disarmament of MILF members. “Decommissioning? We still have to discuss that,” he added. Iqbal said some commanders have expressed concerns over the issue of decom-missioning saying that he will have to communicate with the ground forces on the provisions of the agreement. “We only used the term decommissioning. But I am not at liberty to discuss because we will discuss that,” according to Iqbal. that the decommissioning aspect in the agreement also needed further discussions with the government panel....


BIFM sounds a discordant note

From Malaya (Oct 16): BIFM sounds a discordant note

THE Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement said it does not honor the framework agreement signed yesterday by government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front because the agreement does not grant an independent Muslim state for the Bangsamoro people. Abu Misry Mama, BIFM spokesman, said his group would continue to fight for “genuine” independence for the Bangsamoro people. “Ang gusto ng Bangsamoro ay independence, sa kanya yung Constitution, hindi sakop ng anumang Constitution na political na ganyan,” he also said. The BIFM is a group formed by Ameril Umbra Kato, former commander of the MILF’s 105th Base Command who left the MILF in 2010 because of ideological differences with its leaders. Mama said the BIFM would continue with their armed struggle to attain an independent Bangsamoro state. “Gagawa kami ng dahas ayon sa jihad namin,” he said. Mama said the BIFM has a copy of the framework agreement but he did not bother to read because it was not worth his time. Last week, Mama said his group would support the agreement if it solves the problems in the Mindanao. He also implied the BIFM would continue attacks against government forces. Last August, the BIFM launched a series of attacks against military installations in Maguindanao. Subsequent military operations resulted in the capture of several BIFM camps.


MNLF Seen Keeping OIC Observer Status

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 16): MNLF Seen Keeping OIC Observer Status

Even with the signing of the Framework Agreement (FA) between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Monday, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is expected to keep its observer status in the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC). This is because the OIC at the height of the conflict in Mindanao in the late 1970’s had granted the MNLF an “unprecedented” and “permanent” observer seat. Dr. Abdurahman Amin, MNLF liaison officer to the OIC and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), said the OIC recognized the MNLF as the “sole legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people” about two years after the signing of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. On the other hand, a source from the local diplomatic corps noted that the MNLF has a “permanent” observer status with the OIC. There are new rules adopted by the OIC in granting observer status, he said. “With the new rules there is no chance for other non-state groups, including Moro groups, like the MILF, to be admitted as observer anymore, because the new rule for granting the observer status requires that an applicant is a state,” the source, a veteran of OIC affairs who asked for anonymity, told the Manila Bulletin....


US Hails Peace Deal

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 16): US Hails Peace Deal

The United States Monday welcomed a peace deal between Muslim rebels and the Philippine government to end a four-decades-old insurgency, saying it was another step towards ending insurrection. “We commend the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front leadership for their hard work and unwavering commitment to a better future, as well as Malaysia for its longstanding role as facilitator of the negotiations,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “Today’s ceremony marks another step toward ending insurrection and restoring good governance. “The United States will continue to work with the international community, regional stakeholders and the people of the Philippines to promote transparency, governance, economic growth and development to achieve a better future....”


Bangsamoro Peace Deal Clearer, But Timetable Too Long, Says Analyst--Special Report (First of Two Parts)

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 15): Bangsamoro Peace Deal Clearer, But Timetable Too Long, Says Analyst--Special Report (First of Two Parts)

The four-year timetable of the much-heralded Joint Philippine Government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH-MILF) Framework Agreement on the establishment of a Bangsamoro entity, which will be signed by the leaders of both panels tomorrow, October 15, is “too long.” This is one of the setbacks seen in the peace breakthrough by Prof. Julkipli Wadi, Dean of the University of the Philippines-Diliman—Institute of Islamic Studies.... “If the timetable can be shortened, it can be implemented during President Aquino’s incumbency, and can be his administration’s legacy,” said Wadi. What is in place right now based on the agreement as published in major newspapers Thursday, said Wadi, is that the present administration will just craft the laws and their implementation in the next leadership. “In the history of peace agreement in Mindanao, even if there are already existing laws, the succeeding administrations tasked to implement them were not that committed, especially that [the newly drafted peace agreement] is a political agreement. It is subject to the whims and caprices of whoever is at the helm of leadership,” explained Wadi....


Rebel leader or security guard? NDF, AFP debate identity of detainee

From InterAksyon (Oct 16): Rebel leader or security guard? NDF, AFP debate identity of detainee

The National Democratic Front and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are taking swipes at each other over the real identity of a man the military claims is a ranking communist rebel leader. On October 5, the AFP announced the capture of Benjamin Mendoza, alleged member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines and secretary of the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee, and his wife and fellow STRPC member Josephine Mendoza. However, the NDF claims the man “abducted” by military agents and police in Cubao, Quezon City is not Mendoza but Rolly Panesa, a security guard at the ACP Compound in Eastwood and a resident of Project 4. “The Armed Forces of the Philippines is up to its old tricks again of illegally arresting civilians and parading them as leaders of the revolutionary movement," Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the NDF’s peace negotiating committee, said in a statement. "They abduct torture and detain people, and identify them as leaders of the revolutionary movement. In this case, it turns out that they arrested a civilian security guard,” he added. But Colonel Generoso Bolina, Southern Luzon Command spokesman, maintained they had captured Mendoza and that Rolly Panesa is just one of the aliases the rebel leader uses. “We have four witnesses against him, one a direct witness to his crime in Mauban (Quezon)…three former rebels who positively identified him,” Bolina said. Mendoza, he added, is facing several warrants of arrest, including one for a rebellion case, and a P5.6-million bounty on his head....


Draft law vs child soldiers open to misinterpretation, abuse - rights groups

From InterAksyon (Oct 16): Draft law vs child soldiers open to misinterpretation, abuse - rights groups

.... The provision in the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Bill makes it “unlawful for parents, ascendants, guardians, step parents or collateral relatives within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity, or any person having control or moral ascendancy to the child, to allow, willfully encourage, compel, coerce or influence their child or children to be part of an armed group or a governmental armed force.” In a statement, Human Rights Watch quoted Charu Lata Hogg, Asia program manager at Child Soldiers International, as acknowledging that, “this bill could bring Philippine law in line with the best international standards for protecting children in armed conflict.” “But the recruiters of child soldiers, not the children’s parents, should be the ones prosecuted for putting these children at grave risk,” she stressed....


Aquino earmarks P8.59B for peace framework pact

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 16): Aquino earmarks P8.59B for peace framework pact

The Aquino administration has earmarked P8.59-billion to fund the transition processes that will be stipulated in putting up the Bangsamoro political entity, a statement from the Presidential Communications Operations Office said. The Framework Agreement between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was signed yesterday in Malacanang.  In his speech during the Framework Agreement signing, President Benigno S. Aquino III said the additional amount for the Transition Investment Support Plan was on top of the P12.93-million already allocated in the General Appropriations Act. “This year the government has committed 8.59 billion pesos for the Transition Investment Support Plan, on top of the 12.93 billion pesos already allocated through our budget,” the President said. The amount, the President added, would be used to “map out the detailed steps, detailed commitments, and detailed programs that will lead to the fulfillment of our long-term goals....”


RP, US marines learn from exchange of tactics, culture through PHIBLEX 2013

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 16): RP, US marines learn from exchange of tactics, culture through PHIBLEX 2013

Participants in the ongoing RP-US Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX 2013) have expressed appreciation for the opportunity to learn from each other during the training exercises and civic action activities held in this free port and other nearby areas.... Lt. Taylor Clarke from the US Marines said that they are very happy about gaining new experiences by observing each other’s practices and techniques. “We’re here to learn from each other and we are here to exchange techniques and tactics, and just to learn something new because everybody has a different way of going about something. This is the benefit we gain when we came here,” Clarke said. He also pointed out said that during this year’s exercises, they have conducted various civic action projects, as well as building and repairing school buildings, which he said gives them a chance to work in remote areas and to interact with their Filipino counterparts. “Honestly I’ve learned a fair amount,” he said....


Zambo island residents receive medical attention, school supplies

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 16): Zambo island residents receive medical attention, school supplies

Hundreds of residents of Tumalutap Island, east of the city, received medical attention and school supplies last Sunday during a civic-action outreach program initiated by Task Force Zamboanga (TFZ). The project was in collaboration with Department of Health-11 (DOH-11), city local government, national line agencies, non-government organizations (NGOs), and the Joint Special Operation Task Force–Philippines (JSOTF-P) or the American soldiers stationed in this city. TFZ chief Col. Buenaventura Pascual said the activity aimed to conduct humanitarian services in poor areas where residents cannot afford to pay medical services. A least 246 residents benefited from the medical checkup and consultation while 70 availed of free tooth extraction. During the mission, the group also distributed school supplies that included ball pens, pencils, and notebooks. The also gave slippers, toys and assorted used clothing.... The activity is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) which seeks to forge partnership with the residents in maintaining peace and security and help spur development in their area.... IPSP has four important aspects; governance, delivery of basic services, economic reconstruction and sustainable development, and security sector reform.


MILF recognizes role of media in GPH-MILF peace process

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 16): MILF recognizes role of media in GPH-MILF peace process

The political affairs chief and spokesperson of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday cited the contribution of a Catholic-run-radio station in the campaign for peace in southern Philippines. Ghadzali Jaafar, an influential member of the MILF central committee and himself a former radio journalist, said Radio Stations dxMS-AM Radyo Bida and dxOL 92.7 Happy FM have been instrumental in helping generate support to peaceful means of resolving the decades-old Mindanao problem. Despite its being a Catholic owned media outfit, Jaafar said the two stations, both owned and managed by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, have been helping educate people about the dividends of peace once it is achieved in Mindanao. “Its ‘Radio for Peace’ slogan was instrumental in explaining to the grassroots the rationale of settling the problem through negotiated political solution that will benefit everyone in the island, including non Muslims,” Jaafar said. He said Radio Stations dxMS and dxOL-FM, through its peace advocacy programs, have helped extensively in disseminating the importance of the government-MILF framework deal the Aquino administration and the MILF signed Monday in MalacaƱang....


PHL gov't, MILF peace panels to meet in KL in Nov

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 16): PHL gov't, MILF peace panels to meet in KL in Nov

Peace negotiators of the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have agreed to meet in November in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the "annexes" of the agreement they signed in Manila Monday. Dean Marvic Leonen, chairman of the government peace negotiating panel, said they will also be drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will be submitted to Congress for legislation. Leonen said components on "wealth sharing" and "power sharing" will be discussed by the technical working groups that have been created to work on the two contentious issues....