Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Obama: No need to escalate sea dispute

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 21): Obama: No need to escalate sea dispute

As the show of unity within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations appeared to crumble, US President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Asian leaders to rein in tensions, saying there was no reason to risk an escalation of their territorial disputes. Speaking at the 21st Asean Summit, Obama stopped short of firmly backing allies Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam in their disputes with China over a cluster of isles historically called the South China Sea and which Manila refers to as the West Philippine Sea. “President Obama’s message is there needs to be a reduction of the tensions,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said after the summit in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. “There is no reason to risk any potential escalation, particularly when you have two of the world’s largest economies—China and Japan—associated with some of those disputes.” Obama’s message came at the end of a three-day trip to Thailand, Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia in a visit that underlined the expansion of US military and economic interests in Asia under last year’s so-called “pivot” from conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.....


Another extortion gang eyed in Tacurong blasts

From the Philippine Star (Nov 21): Another extortion gang eyed in Tacurong blasts

The Sultan Kudarat police has tagged another extortion syndicate as behind the bomb attacks in Tacurong City last week. Senior Superintendent Rolen Balquin, Sultan Kudarat police director, said an arrested suspect, Abdulrachman Usman, a ranking member of the Abu Sulayman group, another extortion syndicate operating in Central Mindanao, confessed that he was instructed by a certain Taib to bring bombs to Tacurong City. Usman was nabbed a few hours after an improvised bomb went off on the roadside in Barangay New Carmen last Nov. 15. The Abu Sulayman is believed to have links with the Al-Khobar extortion syndicate that preys on bus firms in the region.


Peace advocate advises AFP on post-conflict situation with MILF

From GMANews (Nov 20): Peace advocate advices AFP on post-conflict situation with MILF

A peace advocate, with experience in the Northern Ireland peace process, said that the Philippine government and the stakeholders who signed the Bangsamoro peace agreement need to show trust and commitment to improve the lives of those affected by conflict. This is the best way in which to ensure the success of the peace deal. Chief Executive of peace-building charity Co-operation Ireland and now a VSO Bahaginan placed volunteer with the Civil-Military element of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Peter Sheridan said that peace agreements draw skepticism and cynicism. “That’s where the leadership steps in,” he said. “It takes time to build trust and the government needs to do trustworthy things to build trust,” said Sheridan in a VSO Bahaginan press briefing Tuesday in Makati. Sheridan is advising the AFP on best practices in dealing with a post conflict situation as the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have signed a framework peace agreement. He added that peace building requires “healing fractured relationships” and “building trust “and not just the euphoria of signing the peace agreement.” Sheridan enumerated some of the necessary conditions that need to be met in order for a peace agreement to be successful. He said that one of the most difficult stages of implementing a peace process is holding elections and decommissioning arms. “A successful, thriving economy is required for a successful peace process,” Sheridan added. Also, peace building requires establishing an effective criminal justice and police system. Sheridan, who served with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for 32 years during the conflict with the Irish Republican Army (IRA), recalled that after signing the Northern Ireland Black Saturday peace agreement in 1998, a new police system was set up in 2004. He said while there will be splinter groups on the side who would not be convinced with the gains of the peace process, leaders need to “ keep persuading people to engage in peaceful solutions.” “If people see that there is an equal opportunity for everybody and a good future for their children and the peace agreement is genuinely implemented, they will be convinced to join the mainstream,” said Sheridan. VSO is the world’s leading independent, international development organization that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries.


AFP neutralizes insurgent forces in Samar

From the Manila Times (Nov 21): AFP neutralizes insurgent forces in Samar

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) continues to gain grounds in Samar province, one of the most insurgence-infested areas in the country, as more towns were classified as development-ready and declared either insurgence-free or manageable conflict-affected areas. Capt. Gene Orense, spokesman of the Eighth Infanry (Stormtroopers) Division (8ID) of the Philippine Army, said on Tuesday that the municipalities of San Policarpio and Sulat, both in eastern Samar, were added to the list of manageable conflict-affected and development-ready areas. The joint declaration was signed by the municipal mayors of the said towns and the commander of the 801st Infantry Brigade of the 8ID, bringing to 12 towns and one city the total number of areas listed as free from New People’s Army (NPA) influence. The other areas in eastern Samar that were jointly declared by the AFP and the local government units as manageable conflict-affected and ready for development are the municipalities of Taft, Balangkayan, Maydolong, Mercedes, Hernani and San Julian. Declared as insurgence-free are the towns of Salcedo, Guian and Borongan City.  Col. Romeo Labador, 801st brigade commander, said that the situation in Samar now is far better than during the previous years. “Samar now is more peaceful than before,” he said. Samar, along with the Negros provinces, Davao, Caraga and the Bicol regions, is among the remaining NPA-infested areas in the country. So far, declared among 24 provinces as insurgence-free are: Ifugao, Aklan, Apayao, Kalinga, Nueva Viscaya, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Biliran, Cebu, Bohol, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, South Cotabato, La Union, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Cavite, Marinduque, Romblon, Guimaras, Siquijor, and Northern and Southern Leyte. The military claimed that from a peak of 24,430 revolutionary fighters in mid-1980s, the group’s strength has dwindled to 4,043 due to battle losses and surrenders. It is disputed though by the Communist Party of the Philippines, saying that the NPA revolutionary forces were steadily growing in strength and poised for big leap in the coming years. Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., AFP spokesman said that the military’s new anti-insurgency strategy, the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan, has been very effective and has made significant headways as far as ending the insurgency is concerned. The IPSP Bayanihan was implemented two years ago. The strategy centers on a “whole of nation” and “people-centered” approach and less on armed confrontation in winning back the hearts and minds of the people.


Visiting forces pact goes through thorough review

From the Manila Times (Nov 21): Visiting forces pact goes through thorough review

An official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) admitted that the department is currently reviewing the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that is now under scrutiny amid accusations that a US contractor has been dumping hazardous waste in Subic Bay. Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said that the department has been doing “a lot of reviewing regarding the VFA.” But the department’s official clarified that any decision regarding the termination of the agreement, which was entered into by the United States and the Philippine governments in 1999, must come from the Office of the President. He refused to say which provisions of the VFA are the focus of the review. Over the weekend, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago urged again the administration to terminate the VFA in light of the recent controversy involving the Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a US Naval ship service contractor allegedly dumping hazardous wastes in Subic Bay. Santiago said that she will file a resolution with the Senate that will direct the Foreign Affairs department to give notice of termination of the VFA to the United States. But Hernandez denied any knowledge if the resolution has been received yet by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. The senator said that the contractor has failed to comply and violated, Philippine laws, as well as international norms on the protection and the conservation of the environment. The Visiting Forces Agreement is a bilateral agreement between the United States and the Philippines that became effective in 1999 after its ratification in the Philippine Senate. The treaty was deemed unconstitutional by some critics because it allows the US government to retain jurisdiction of their personnel as long as the crimes they committed in the Philippines are of no “significant” value to the country. It also exempts the US military from visa and passport regulations in the country. But critics also believed that the VFA is a pretense to allow the deployment of US troops who will supposedly provide training exercises, also called Balikatan, for Filipino soldiers. Since its signing, some 600 US Special Forces troops have been deployed to the Philippines to assist in the fight against the decades-old Muslim insurgency in Mindanao (south of Manila).


FBI: Fil-Am, 3 others charged in alleged terror plot

From the  Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 21): FBI: Fil-Am, 3 others charged in alleged terror plot

A Filipino-American, along with three Southern California men, has been charged with plotting to kill Americans and destroy US targets overseas by joining al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, federal officials said Monday. Ralph Deleon, 23, of Ontario, and his co-accused, including a man who served in the US Air Force, were arrested for plotting to bomb military bases and government facilities, and for planning to engage in “violent jihad,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a release. Deleon, who was born in the Philippines, is a lawful, permanent US resident. A federal complaint unsealed Monday says 34-year-old Sohiel Omar Kabir of Pomona introduced two of the other men to the radical Islamist doctrine of Anwar al-Awlaki, a deceased al-Qaeda leader. Kabir served in the Air Force from 2000 to 2001. Meanwhile, Deleon and 21-year-old Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales of Upland — converted to Islam in 2010 and began engaging with Kabir and others online in discussions about jihad, including posting radical content to Facebook and expressing extremist views in comments.... Meanwhile, Deleon and 21-year-old Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales of Upland — converted to Islam in 2010 and began engaging with Kabir and others online in discussions about jihad, including posting radical content to Facebook and expressing extremist views in comments.....


3 foreign women joined NPA ambush?

From Rappler (Nov 20): 3 foreign women joined NPA ambush?

The Philippine military is investigating the alleged role of 3 foreign women in a communist guerrilla ambush that left 7 soldiers dead last weekend, an army spokesman said Tuesday, November 20. Three white women were seen in the company of a New People's Army (NPA) guerrilla unit that clashed with soldiers in the northern province of Isabela on Saturday, November 17, said regional military spokesman Col Loreto Magundayao. "The chief of our intelligence confirmed that there were 3 white women. Our intelligence is protecting their source but we have confirmed it and they have evidence," he told AFP. The identities, nationalities as well as the motives of the women were not yet clear, the colonel said. Local radio stations quoting civilians on the scene have reported one of the three women was wounded in the clash, and that all three were armed, but Magundayao said he could not confirm those details. Seven army soldiers were killed in the skirmish, which also left eight other soldiers wounded, according to the government. The allegations come as the military continues its decades-long struggle against the country's Maoist insurgent movement. The communists have been waging a rebellion since 1969, and more than 30,000 people have died in the conflict, according to official figures. The insurgents have an international office in the Netherlands and have previously boasted of having supporters among leftist groups abroad. However there have been no previous reports of foreigners fighting alongside the NPA. The military estimates the NPA's current strength at about 4,000 fighters nationwide, significantly down from over 26,000 at its peak in the 1980s. However the NPA retains support particularly in impoverished rural areas.


NPAs burn 2 poultry structures, former army command post in Surigao del Sur

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 19): NPAs burn 2 poultry structures, former army command post in Surigao del Sur

Two poultry structures and a former command post of the Philippine Army on Thursday were reportedly burned by an identified number of suspected New People’s Army rebels in two separate incidents in this province. Police Provincial Office Information Officer Ranilo Malong said the two incidents lasted for about an hour. The two poultry houses are owned by 2nd District Congressman Florencio Garay of this province.  As per report from 75IB CMO Officer Lt. Jolito Borces, he said the NPAs have been demanding a revolutionary tax but the owner of the establishment refused to give.  Borces also added that the two poultry structures burned down affected six families who are working and now jobless after the incident. Meanwhile, Malong said police operatives in coordination with the Philippine Army are now alerted and conducted checkpoints to run after the perpetrators.


TF Davao head assumes as 1002nd Infantry Brigade chief

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 20): TF Davao head assumes as 1002nd Infantry Brigade chief

A high ranking military officer affirmed assuming as commander of the 1002nd Infantry Brigade based in Barangay Pulutana, Malungon, Sarangani effective November 21. Colonel Marcos Norman Flores, chief of the Task Force Davao said his marching orders were released by the Philippine Army Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo as part of the military revamp brought about by the promotion of many senior officers. He said his new assignment took effect in November 8 but the official documents only came out two days ago.“My new assignment is due to the vacancy created in military. Some are getting out, some are getting up. We take command of the posts left by those promoted,” Flores said. Flores’ stint in the Task Force Davao is the shortest as he handled the post only for nine months since February 28, 2012, when he relieved Colonel Rey Leonardo Guerrero, now commander of the 701st IB based in Davao Oriental. He said he will relieve Colonel Glorioso Miranda, who will be assigned as deputy commandant of the AFP Command and General Staff College. The 1002nd IB has three battalions namely the 73rd, 39th and 27th IB and two task forces like the TF GenSan and the TF Kiblawan, Tampakan and Colombio. Flores said Colonel Casiano Monilla, former deputy commanding officer of the Army Support Command will take his post as commander of the Task Force Davao. He took pride of the fact that no terrorist attack occurred in the city under his watch.....


Bantay Bayanihan dialogue slated Nov. 27 in Dumaguete

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 20): Bantay Bayanihan dialogue slated Nov. 27 in Dumaguete

A round-table discussion (RTD) on the Bantay Bayanihan project will be held on Nov. 27, 2012 at Bethel Guesthouse, Dumaguete City as part of the project’s series of dialogues to solicit feedback on how it will affect communities. The dialogue will be attended by representatives of civil society organizations, Philippine National Police (PNP) and units of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) involving operations, intelligence, civil military, human rights, education, and training. “These representatives are our dialogue partners both in the local and national level conversations,” said local Bantay Bayanihan Convener Marietta Jambora. She said the concept of Bantay Bayanihan will be presented during the dialogue and the parameters of the group’s work will be discussed. Bantay Bayanihan was launched on Nov. 29 with the goal of serving as an oversight body to monitor the implementation of the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan-Bayanihan and to provide a dialogue space where issues of peace and security can be openly discussed. Under the project, the AFP is engaging civil society organizations and the academe in framing what they want to do in the next six years. Jambora said a network of civil society organizations currently serve as a core group for the project with the Ateneo de Manila University Department of Political Science-Working Group as the convener-secretariat. “Note that while the BB has been launched and general principles have been agreed upon by member core-groups, the details and fine prints of the organization especially the local counterparts continue to take shape,” she added.


CPP/NDF-EV: NPA to dismantle Dazas' private army, anti-people projects in Northern Samar

Posted to the CPP Website (Nov 20): NPA to dismantle Dazas' private army, anti-people projects in Northern Samar

Fr. Santiago Salas (Ka Sanny)
NDF-Eastern Visayas

The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today said orders have been issued to all units under the Rodante Urtal Command of the New People’s Army in Northern Samar to dismantle the Dazas’ private army as well as their anti-people projects. “Cong. Raul Daza and his son, Northern Samar Gov. Paul Daza, are rabid supporters of the Aquino regime’s Oplan Bayanihan to consolidate their political power,” said NDF-EV spokesperson Fr. Santiago Salas. “Gov. Daza, who also chairs the Regional Peace and Order Council, has been pushing for the setting up of Barangay Peacekeeping Action Teams (BPATs) in support of “counterinsurgency.” Moreover, the NPA has found the BPATs in Northern Samar to be actually a front for the Dazas’ private army in recruiting goons for the 2013 elections. Even the local government units in the province also balk at setting up BPATs—about 400-strong already with more to be added—because they are obliged to spend for these though there are barangay tanods (village watchmen) and the paramilitary CAFGU doing the same functions.”

The NDF-EV spokesperson added the Dazas also received a total of PhP225 million, with PhP100million more due in 2013, from the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) project of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. “The PAMANA-funded projects, such as the PhP30 million Mondragon-Silvino Lobos road, are merely cash cows for the Dazas as well as part of “counterinsurgency” especially in covering up human rights violations and the militarization of various areas under Oplan Bayanihan. There are already criticisms against PAMANA because it is merely duplicating the services of other government agencies; its real role is to apply the cosmetics of “peace and development” to vicious military operations under Oplan Bayanihan.”.....


4 cops awarded for nab of rebel

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 20): 4 cops awarded for nab of rebel

The police chief of Cadiz City and three police non-commissioned police officers were awarded the Medalya ng Kasanayan yesterday by the Police Regional Office 6 for the arrest of an alleged finance officer of the Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros last month. The medal recipients were Supt. Noel Mana-ay, Cadiz police chief, and three of his staff, Senior Police Officer 3 Ramil Lucero and Police Officers 3 Mansueto de Jose and Gerald Bacolado. Mana-ay and the three police personnel were cited for the arrest of Sarah Alvarez, who is also tagged by the police as the assistant commander of the Jean Pelle Command of the NPA in northern Negros, as well as a volunteer of the Karapatan-Negros, the PRO6 Public Information Office said. Alvarez has pending arrest warrants for murder and robbery-in-band, issued by Cadiz Regional Trial Court Judge Renato Muñez, police records show. She, however, dismissed them as “trumped-up charges”. The Cadiz RTC also denied Alvarez, who has the alias of “Ka Olsen”, bail, for murder charges, that stemmed from the death of 1Lt. Archie Polenzo, commander of the 62nd Infantry Battalion Bravo Company, on February 2010. Alvarez claimed in a radio interview that, because of the frustration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to cripple the NPA revolutionary movement in Negros, ordinary civilians are now being targeted by the military. Alvarez was also linked to the raid on a fish farm owned by Joseph Edgar Sarrosa, a nephew of Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., in Cadiz City, in 2011.


Reward offered for 2 rebel leaders

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 20): Reward offered for 2 rebel leaders

The government is offering P800,000 more for information leading to the arrest of two New People’s Army leaders, operating in central and southern Negros. In a statement he issued, Negrense priest-turned-rebel Luis Jalandoni, chairperson of the National Democratic Front Philippines negotiating panel, condemned the government for its bounty offer of P466.88 million for 235 alleged leaders of the revolutionary movement. Jalandoni said this is another flagrant violation of the binding bilateral peace agreement that provides safety and immunity guarantees to those involved in the peace negotiations and exposes the Aquino regime's utter contempt for peace negotiations with the NDFP. A report of the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center, that is composed of key military and police units in Negros Occidental, showed that Virgilio Paragan, alias Ka Hassan, has a bounty of P500,000 for his arrest. Paragan, a vice-squad leader of the NPA Casimba platoon in central Negros, has pending arrest warrants for two counts of murder, frustrated, two counts of attempted murder, and arson, JPSCC records show. Lt. Col. Rodrigo Sosmena, 47th Infantry Battalion commander, however, said yesterday that Paragan, with the alias of Ka Hassan, has been lying low, for still unknown reasons. NPA leader Magno Flores, alias Ka Anot and Edgar, has a reward of P300,000 for his arrest. He is facing charges for murder and for illegal possession of firearms. Army 1Lt. Von Ryan Gomez yesterday said Flores is the commanding officer of “Budlas Platoon” of the Central Negros Front, that operates in the hinterlands of Moises Padilla and La Castellana in Negros Occidental, Vallehermoso, Canlaon City, and Guihulngan in Negros Oriental. The reward system was contained in Joint Order 14 -2012 issued on Nov. 13 by the Departments of National Defense and of Interior and Local Government. The Communist Party of the Philippines also slammed the new reward system of the government, that, it claimed, lead more corruption in the military, illegal arrests, torture and other grave human rights abuses. Priest-turned-rebel Frank Fernandez, secretary of the Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros, has a bounty of P7.8 million. Fernandez, who has the aliases of “Ibarra, Kanor, Suilo and Ago,” has pending arrest warrants for four counts of murder and attempted murder. Another NPA leader, Arlo Vargas, with the aliases of “Allen, Blas and Rebbie,” has a bounty of P550,000 for his arrest. He is facing charges for two counts for murder and two counts of robbery-in-band. Fugitive ex-barangay chairman Noel Ayalin, who has been charged with multiple murder and frustrated murder cases, has a reward of P500,000 on his head, police records also show. ,A certain Ronnie Ampon, who is facing three counts of arson charges has a P500,000 reward on his head. He was charged for the burning of a reforestation project of the Mosser Foundation in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.


'MILF not coddling Maguindanao massacre suspects'

From Rappler (Nov 20): 'MILF not coddling Maguindanao massacre suspects'

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is not giving sanctuary to suspects in the Maguindanao massacre as the police suspect, a rebel spokesman said Tuesday, November 20. Von Al-Haq, spokesman of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, said there are no enlisted Moro fighters who were from the group involved in the massacre. “Up to this moment, we have no BIAF fighters who were involved or have participated in the incident,” Al-Haq said. However, Al-Haq acknowledged that some of the massacre suspects have relatives within the ranks of the BIAF. This doesn't mean, however, that the group would give them sanctuary, he added. The Philippine National Police earlier said that investigators are “validating reports that some of the massacre suspects have joined the MILF to seek protection. At least 92 of the total 195 total suspects remain at large 3 years since the country’s worst case of election violence that killed 58, mostly reporters. “If the PNP knows them, they should name names so that the BIAF can also counter check it in the ground,” Al-Haq said. “The report must be verified because this might be fabricated,” Al-Haq said. Al-Haq challenged the police to arrest the suspects even as he gave assurances that the MILF will not get in the way. To avoid miscommunication on the ground, he reminded government security forces that any operation to arrest the suspects must be properly coordinated with the MILF.


2 bombs discovered along Cotabato highway

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): 2 bombs discovered along Cotabato highway

Two improvised landmines placed inside two big cans were recovered along the boundary of barangays Marbel and Mateo, here, around 7 a.m. Tuesday, reports said. City police director, Supt. Renante Cabico said a member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) identified as Leonardo Podadera discovered the explosives placed just few feet away from the national highway. Cabico said that the CAFGU member was doing his usual work in a farm lot owned by a certain Romeo Jalipa when he saw a wire, about 70 meters long. Podadera told authorities he followed the trail and finally saw two big cans just few feet away from the national road. Immediately, he informed an Army detachment of the Bravo Company of the 57th Infantry Battalion at nearby Barangay Gubatan in Magpet town about his discovery. The soldiers coordinated with Cabico and the Explosives and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team based in Poblacion, this city. Around 830 a.m., the EOD team defused the improvised landmines. Cabico said the recovery came few hours after military trucks carrying the 57th IB soldiers and Special Action Forces (SAF) of the Philippine National Police passed by for special operations against New Peoples’ Army in Magpet town. He, however, has yet to know if the explosives were meant to inflict harm on the soldiers and police operatives.


Isabela gives financial aid to 7 slain, 8 wounded soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Isabela gives financial aid to 7 slain, 8 wounded soldiers

The family of the seven slain soldiers, including the wounded, will receive financial assistance from the provincial government as a show of support to troops defending the state against aggressors. Lawyer Noel Manuel Lopez, Isabela administrator, said the provincial government, led by Gov. Faustino Dy III, found it necessary to give financial assistance to the slain and wounded soldiers, wherever they might have been based in Isabela. Lopez said the soldiers, assigned in the province, deserve the assistance from the provincial government. Lopez said the seven slain soldiers’ families will be receiving each P20,000 while the eight wounded soldiers will be receiving P5,000 each. Soldiers of the 502nd Reconnaissance Company of the 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army were conducting security operations at Mabbayad, Echague when they encountered armed groups.


President Obama reiterates US position on West Philippine Sea issue, Aquino says

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): President Obama reiterates US position on West Philippine Sea issue, Aquino says

Newly re-elected United States President Barack Obama reiterated America’s position with regards to the competing claims in the West Philippine Sea, saying that the US would not take sides on the issue but would want to ensure freedom of navigation and communication, as well as stability in the region. President Benigno S. Aquino III reiterated America's stand on the issue as he reported the details following his attendance at the 4th ASEAN- US Leaders’ Meeting at the Peace Palace here Monday evening. “Inulit naman ng Amerika kanina ...they won’t take sides with regards to the disputes but they do have an interest in freedom of navigation, freedom of communication, stability in the region,” the President told the members of the Philippine media in an interview at Sofitel Hotel. President Obama arrived in Cambodia Monday afternoon to attend the 4th ASEAN-US Leaders' Meeting and the 7th East Asia Summit. He flew to Phnom Penh after visiting Thailand and Myanmar in a three-day Asian nation trip from Nov. 17 to 20, expressing America’s renewed interest in the Southeast Asian region. Many ASEAN member-countries, including the Philippines proposed for the formalization of a dialogue to draft the code of conduct in the South China Sea, a guideline that will implement the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) agreed by the ASEAN and China in 2002, President Aquino said. The Chief Executive also expressed elation over the recent developments in the discussion on the West Philippine Sea, saying the momentum was already building up for the drafting of a COC that would set concrete rules among claimant countries.


Army probing presence of three foreigners in Isabela clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Army probing presence of three foreigners in Isabela clash

The Philippine Army's 5th Infantry Division is looking into reports that three foreigners, one Oriental and two Caucasian, were present during the Nov. 17 encounter in Barangay Mabbayad, Echague, Isabela where seven soldiers and five rebels were killed. In the same gun-battle, seven soldiers were hurt alongside with nine New People's Army fighters. Col. Loreto Magundayao, 5th Infantry Division spokesperson, made this statement after civilians, who witnessed the 45-minute firefight recounted seeing the three. "According to the civilians, one of the foreigners was Oriental looking while the two were Caucasian. In fact, according to them, one of the Caucasians was hit in the firefight," he said. He also said that two of the foreigners appeared to be women. However, Magundayao said that he could not still determine whether the latter were Caucasian or Oriental as the Army was still investigating the matter. The 5th Infantry Division spokesperson said that the three appeared to be members of a still unspecified non-government organization. He said that once they pinpointed these individuals, they would question the latter on their presence with the NPAs during the time of the encounter.....


Palparan partylist, 5 others may join polls

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 20): Palparan partylist, 5 others may join polls

The Supreme Court allowed the partylist group of fugitive Jovito Palparan and five other groups to participate in next year’s election. In its en-banc session this Tuesday, the high court ruled that the status quo ante order it issued would also cover Palparan’s group Bantay, the Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD), 1Brotherhood for reform and Oneness-Philippine Guardians for Brotherhood Incorporated, Agapay ng Indigenous People’s Right Alliance (A-IPRA), Ako Agila sa Nagkakaisang Magsasaka (AKO Agila) and 1Ganap/Guardians. Last week the high court issued an SQA in favor of AKO Bicol (AKB), Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC), Aksyon Magsasaka-Partidoo Tinig ng Masa (AKMA-PTM), Kapatiran ng mga Nakulong na Walang Sala, Inc. (KAKUSA), 1ST Consumers Alliance for Rural Energy Inc (1-CARE), Association for Righteousness Advocacy on Leadership (ARAL) and Alliance for Rural Concerns (ARC). An SQA is issued to preserve the last actual peaceable and uncontested status before the litigation or filing of a petition. This means it is as if there is no resolution disqualifying them. The partylist groups trooped to the Supreme Court and filed separate petitions assailing the Commission on Elections (Comelec) decision disqualifying them from participating in the 2013 elections. The groups assailed the Comelec ruling saying their rights to due process were violated when they were automatically disqualified without giving them the chance to explain their side.

Aquino to US: Speak up on West PH Sea

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 20): Aquino to US: Speak up on West PH Sea

As the show of unity among Southeast Asian leaders appeared to crumble over differences in the approach to South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) tensions, President Aquino pointedly asked the United States on Monday to be involved in the discussions, a move likely to anger China. “It is especially vital to have the world’s largest national economy involved in the discussions considering the interconnectedness of our current milieu,” he told an audience that included US President Barack Obama and fellow leaders in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Aquino’s call came at a particularly sensitive time during the 21st Asean Summit and related summits here after he openly rebuked host Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen for saying a consensus had been reached not to internationalize the issue. He said the Philippines and another country, later identified in news reports as Vietnam, did not agree to exclude other parties from the negotiations with China for a solution to the raft of territorial disputes in the South China Sea, a portion of which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea. China has long insisted that the disputes should be resolved through bilateral or country-to-country talks and opposed the involvement of external parties such as the United States, while the Philippines has pushed for a multilateral solution. Addressing the 4th Asean-US Leaders Meeting, one of the side summits here, Mr. Aquino said the United States, the Philippines’ most important ally, had a role to play in the discussions, especially in light of its touted “pivot” to the Pacific to check China’s growing military assertiveness. “Each one of our nations has a stake in the stability of Southeast Asia. The United States understands this and, for this reason, has chosen to work with us to ensure the peace and continuous advancement of our region,” he said. Aquino said the US presence at the Asean summits “adds a special dimension to our regional discussions particularly on issues that have far-reaching political and economic implications.” “Our region is very diverse and its harmony can easily be disrupted by sheer political, military, or economic might. Imbalance, as we know, may lead to instability,” he said. “While we are all aware that the US does not take sides in disputes, they do have a strategic stake in the freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce, and the maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Mr. Aquino said. He then proceeded to lay out the Philippine position that territorial and maritime disputes should be settled peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law. “We continue to support the further inclusion of economies active in the region in these discussions. They serve to expand our capacities as an organization and they will certainly accelerate our progress in the pursuit of shared prosperity for the region,” he said.....


Army officer under court martial trial for ‘attempted pilferage’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 20): Army officer under court martial trial for ‘attempted pilferage’

A military officer is being tried by a general court martial on a charge of “attempted pilferage” of fuel resources. Colonel Aguinaldo Obal, former chief of Logistics at the Army’s First Infantry Division based in Zamboanga del Sur, was charged with violations of Articles of War 96 (Conduct of Unbecoming of an Officer and a Gentleman) for attempted pilferage of fuel worth over P100,000, said First Infantry Division Commander Major General Ricardo Rainier Cruz Tuesday. Cruz said he had ordered Obal investigated about five months ago when they found out certain records of the resources had been tampered. The court martial is headed by Colonel Michael Lowell Chiong. Obal was relieved from his post as chief of logistics and was reassigned as executive officer of the Army’s 101st Brigade. “Duty pa rin sya…Kasi hindi pa naman sya guilty e..Pag found guilty sya pwede syang matanggal sa serbisyo (He’s still in active duty because he is not yet proven guilty. If found guilty he could be removed from the service),” Cruz said.

Bangsamoro trust fund will be substantial—Leonen

From the Philippine Daily  Inquirer (Nov 20): Bangsamoro trust fund will be substantial—Leonen

The Philippine government will invest a “substantial amount” in the proposed trust fund to be set up under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro to sustain peace and development in communities affected by the decades-long conflict with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen said. “Government is willing to invest as much of the resources that is necessary to make this work. This is not a project where the government will raise funds. Government will allocate funds to make this happen,” Leonen told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “(The peace accord) is a legacy of this administration that’s why a reasonable amount necessary to make the peace viable will be invested by government.” Leonen said the government had set aside a substantial amount as a peace dividend for the Bangsamoro, recognizing that “there is a need to stabilize the situation by providing for livelihood for people on the ground, not only for the fighters of the MILF, but also for the community.” Contrary to what was reported by the Inquirer on Monday, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal did not tell this reporter that the trust fund was among the unresolved issues in the annex on normalization. Iqbal had only stressed the need to define and set up the mechanics of the trust fund because the “first part of normalization is economic action on the ground so that people, our combatants, would feel that there is a peace dividend after the signing of the Framework Agreement.” The proposed trust fund is given importance every time the government and MILF panels meet because of the much-needed socioeconomic rehabilitation of the people affected by the long conflict, both combatants and noncombatants. Importance of fund Leonen explained the importance of the trust fund as such: “The results of armed conflict are extreme poverty. It’s not only a result of the armed conflict. It is also a condition that gave rise to the armed conflict. Now there seems to be an accepted political solution (which) cannot happen overnight. It will have to happen in a matter of four years or more.” “While that is happening, people cannot wait. Under conditions of extreme poverty, there is a need to stabilize the situation by providing for livelihood to people on the ground, not only to the fighters of the MILF, but also to the community. That is what they call dividends of peace,” Leonen said.


Comelec OKs Akbayan, Bayan Muna party-list bids

From the Philippine Star (Nov 20): Comelec OKs Akbayan, Bayan Muna party-list bids

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday allowed Akbayan partylist group and its rival sectoral organization, Bayan Muna, to participate in the 2013 mid-term elections. Voting 4-2-1, Brillantes said the Comelec en banc decided to let both sectoral groups to run in the party-list polls next year. Brillantes said he voted to disqualify the two groups, arguing that both should be considered political parties and multi-sectoral groups. Several sectoral parties have asked the Comelec to disqualify both Akbayan and Bayan Muna for not representing the marginalized sector of society. Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), meanwhile, slammed the Comelec for its decision. Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. claimed that the only reason the Comelec en banc allowed Akbayan to participate in the party-list election is because it is "Malacañang's favorite." "We are aghast at the result of the voting of the Comelec allowing Akbayan to run in the partylist polls on 2013.This may be because Akbayan is truly Malacañang's favorite," Reyes said. He noted that Akbayan's nominees are Palace appointees, hinting that Malacañang has a hand in the decision of the poll body. "How can the 5 commissioners not see that Akbayan is a party in power that has influential Cabinet officials and has multi-million peso campaign donors from the country's ruling elite?... Seems that the Palace worked its "magic" on the Comelec, after Malacanang's repeated statements favoring Akbayan," Reyes said. He added: "Malacañang has indeed been very vocal in its endorsement of Akbayan. We laud the two dissenters though for making a principled stand against Akbayan." Reyes said that despite the setback, Bayan will continue to expose alleged anomalies involving Akbayan members and nominees. "We shall continue to expose Aquino's favorite partylist group and the anomalies associated with their officials occupying posts in government, such as those in the National Anti-poverty Commission. We call on the voters to reject Aquino's favorite non-marginalized and over-represented partylist group," Reyes said.


Roadside bomb seized in North Cotabato

From the Philippine Star (Nov 20): Roadside bomb seized in North Cotabato

Police and Army bomb disposal operatives promptly defused two powerful roadside bombs found along a stretch of a national highway in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato on Tuesday. Superintendent Renante Cabico, Kidapawan City police director, said the it was just fortunate that an off duty member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, Leonardo Podadera, found the two improvised explosive device while on his way to his farm. The IEDs, fashioned from highly-combustible explosive charges and placed inside metal cans and packed with jagged fragments of cast iron, were neatly placed on a grassy side of the highway at the border of barangays Marbel and Mateo in Kidapawan City. Podadera told investigators he first noticed a trip wire extended across the highway and found out that the contraption led to two cans containing the IEDs. The New People’s Army has perpetrated more than 20 roadside bombings in Kidapawan City and adjoining towns since January this year. Podadera immediately reported what he discovered to a nearby detachment of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion, which sought the help of the local military's explosives experts in deactivating the bombs.