Sunday, November 25, 2012

21 Huey choppers to boost PAF’s operations

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 26): 21 Huey choppers to boost PAF’s operations

The 21 refurbished Huey helicopters seen to be added to the Philippine Air Force’s list of assets, will not only boost the aviation wing’s capability and military operations but will also be of use to the upcoming 2013 elections, the Department of National Defense said Monday. Undersecretary for Finance, Munitions Installations and Materiel Fernando Manalo said the Air Force requested additional helicopters as they are anticipating an increase in air mobility requirements due to election-related flights in various parts of the country. He also said that the project was already in the pipeline as early as 2011, when then PAF Commanding General, Lt Gen Oscar Rabena, requested President Benigno S. Aquino III for additional Hueys. The said helicopters are also urgently required during calamity and disaster operations.

According to a recent report of the Defense Acquisition System (DAS) assessment team, there are only 16 fully/partial mission-capable Hueys in the PAF inventory. Currently, the PAF is 51 units short of reaching its ideal number of operational combat utility helicopters. “The acquisition of CUHs aims to address the capability shortfall on the number of utility helicopters in order for the PAF to efficiently perform their missions. Utility helicopters are deployed all over the Philippines and have proven to be the most effective platform for the internal security operations (ISO) and the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) campaign,” Manalo said. “With the present national security condition, the acquisition of additional combat utility helicopters to augment the existing UH-1H ‘Huey’ fleet is imperative. The PAF’s primary helicopter is the Huey, which falls under the light lift category. Having been the workhorse of AFP tactical operations for many years, the Huey fleet has succumbed to natural attrition due to structural stress and aircraft accidents,” he added.

An Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) was issued in March 2012 for the acquisition of 21 refurbished UH-1H helicopters under negotiated procurement pursuant to Section 53.2 (Emergency Cases) of the implementing rules and regulations of RA 9184, s-2003. The Defense Department submitted the request to the Government Policy and Procurement Board (GPPB) for authority to implement through negotiated procurement the said acquisition project last June 2012. However, last September, the DND received the GPPB’s decision to conduct public bidding for the UH-1H project instead of negotiated procurement.  The bid opening is set on December 4, 2012, with six potential bidders having already bought the bid documents, signifying their intention to participate in the bidding process. To avoid the danger of not being able to fully-support the helicopter lift requirements of the 2013 elections, the PAF has recommended that the delivery time for the Hueys be not later than February 28, 2013, Manalo said.

Tighter security for Maguindanao towns after blasts

From the Philippine Star (Nov 26): Tighter security for Maguindanao towns after blasts

Authorities tightened security in the surroundings of two Maguindanao towns gripped by tension following Monday’s separate bombings that killed a member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom movement and injured eight other bandits. Local officials identified the slain BIFM bandit as Kagui Haron, who died from shrapnel wounds in different parts of his body. Guerillas of the BIFM are suspecting rival Moro factions as responsible for the bombings, which they believe was aimed at neutralizing three of their senior leaders. Four bandits, one of them identified as Commander Karialan, were injured in the first explosion. Karialan and his companions were on traveling on foot to a gathering somewhere in Lower Salbu in Datu Saudi town when an improvised explosive device, planted along a trail, went off. Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the BIFM, said they were forced to call off their “Islamic dialogue” after the incident. Villagers are apprehensive the BIFM would retaliate on rival groups in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the bombing. Certain commanders of the BIFM are locked in bloody clan wars either with barangay officials, or local forces of the MILF scattered in Datu Saudi, Salibo and Datu Unsay towns. The director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police, Chief Supt. Mario Avenido, said he has ordered the Maguindanao provincial police to guard villages in Datu Saudi town that are vulnerable to BIFM harassments. Less than 20 minutes after an improvised explosive device went off in Lower Salbu, another bomb exploded along a path traversing a corn farm at the border of Datu Saudi and Datu Unsay town, killing Haron and wounding four BIFM bandits. One of those injured in the second roadside bombing was Mohammad Tambako, the BIFM’s chief political officer. Tambako and his men were also to attend the “Islamic dialogue” among BIFM members in Lower Salbo, according to barangay officials. Mama said they are still validating the circumstances surrounding the twin IED attacks. Local officials, however, said there are BIFM groups now gearing up for retaliations, convinced that adversaries from either the MILF, or government-backed village militias could be responsible for the bombing.

CIDG denies indiscriminate arrests of alleged ASG members

From the Philippine Star (Nov 26): CIDG denies indiscriminate arrests of alleged ASG members

A Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) director vehemently denied accusations his unit was conducting indiscriminate arrest of civilians tagged as Abu Sayyaf members in Basilan. Senior Supt. Edgar Danao, CIDG regional director, said all the arrest they have conducted were supported with documents and affidavits from witnesses and were turned over to the courts. “We are fully supported by legal documents in apprehending the subject tagged as members of the Abu Sayyaf,” Danao said. Residents of Basilan recently expressed alarm over the series of arrest by alleged intelligence units tagging civilians with aliases of Abu Sayyaf suspects.

Danao said they have so far arrested 14 Abu Sayyaf personalities since January up to September and all subjects have been committed to Bicutan Jail in Taguig City while some in Basilan Provincial Jail. “We are very conscious in the arrest of subject personalities especially since we were subjected previously with habeas corpus case,” Danao said. He said there were cases of arrest handed to them which he turned over for lack of evidence. The CIDG official said they are open for investigation anytime by the Commission on Human Rights or other government investigating agencies. Danao suspected that the CIDG might have been used by another law enforcement group in its operations in hunting down suspected militants.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao officer-in-charge Governor Mujiv Hataman raised the alarm of a number of arrest on innocent suspects in Basilan. Hataman said, based on their reports, the alleged “indiscriminate” arrests were perpetrated by the intelligence units either from the CIDG or from the military. Hataman even disclosed that the latest victim of illegal arrest was Romy Sumanpil, cousin of Basilan Asscoiation of Barangay Council chairman Manan Sumanpil. Another victim of arrest was barangay captian of Lantawan, despite being a member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit working with the scout ranger in 2001 was collared and tagged with an alias of an Abu Sayyaf. Hataman said they are writing reports to President Benigno Aquino III to stop the alleged arrest of innocent civilians being branded with Abu Sayyaf aliases in Basilan.

PRO8 nabs NPA hitman in Eastern Samar

From the Samar News (Nov 22): PRO8 nabs NPA hitman in Eastern Samar

The Police Regional Office 8 (PRO8) alerted all its line units against possible atrocities that may be launched by the communist New People’s Army as a leader of its death squad was arrested by the police in Eastern Samar recently. Regional Director Police Chief Superintendent Elmer Ragadio Soria said the entire police force has been alerted following the arrest of Clodualdo Anua y Calzado alias Melvin/Kidlat/Rico, a leader of the Special Partisan Armed Unit (SPARU) of the NPA in Llorente, Eastern Samar.....

Reports reaching the PRO8 states that at around 9:50 o’clock in the evening of November 17, Llorente Police Station received aninformation that 5 armed men believed to be members of the SPARU hit squad of the NPA were sighted heading towards Sitio Parik, Barangay 01, Llorente, Eastern Samar and planning to conduct liquidation targeting PNP/AFP personnel passing in the area. Acting on the report, policemen from Llorente Police Station led by Police Senior Inspector Gilberto B. Colima, immediately proceeded to the area to verify and upon reaching, the armed men suddenly fired their short firearms towards the responding police elements. A short firefight ensued before the enemy scampered into different directions. There was no casualty on the government forces.

Pursuit operations conducted by the police resulted to the arrest of its leader, who was later identified as Anua and the confiscation from his possession a .45 caliber pistol marked MIV COLT bearing serial number 713363 loaded with 4 live ammunitions while his companions managed to escape. The arrested person is now under the custody of Llorente Police Station while appropriate criminal charges is now being prepared for filing in court against him, Soria added. The police regional director further informed that awards will be given to Llorente policemen in recognition of their bravery displayed during the gunfight with the suspected NPA assassins and the subsequent arrest of the death squad leader.

Peace forum set tomorrow

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 26): Peace forum set tomorrow

A roundtable discussion on the “Bantay Bayanihan” project will be held tomorrow at Bethel Guesthouse in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, a government press release said. The activity is part of the project’s series of dialogs to solicit feedback on how it will affect communities, and will be attended by representatives from the civil society organizations, Philippine National Police and units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines involved in operations, intelligence, civil military, human rights, education, and training. Bantay Bayanihan convenor Marietta Jambora said the project concept and work parameters will be presented during the dialog. The project aims to monitor the implementation of the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan-Bayanihan and to provide a venue where issues of peace and security can be openly discussed. The AFP engages 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 serve as a core group for the project, with the Ateneo de Manila University Department of Political Science-Working Group acting as convener-secretariat, the press release added.

Army assists in arrest of massacre suspect

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 26): Army assists in arrest of massacre suspect

The police engaged the help of soldiers in the arrest of one of the suspects in the Maguindanao Massacre Saturday in Midsayap town, North Cotabato. Negrense Col. Ademar Tomaro, 602nd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said the combined teams of police personnel assigned at Midsayap and Pikit towns, and operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, used his troops in arresting Bong Andal, the alleged operator of the backhoe that was used in digging the common graves for the 58 people, including 32 journalists, who were massacred in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009. Tomaro said the PNP coordinated with them in the arrest of Andal. “We only played a supporting role, the policemen were the major participants in the operation,” he said. The Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, composed of four battalions, operates in the provinces of Cotabato and Maguindanao.....

Act on kidnap, torture, six RPA men ask DOJ

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 26): Act on kidnap, torture, six RPA men ask DOJ

 Six members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade tagged in the murder of Judge Henry Arles have filed a memorandum before the Department of Justice, asking that the case against them be dismissed, and that kidnapping and torture charges be lodged against their captors. Jessie Daguia, the alleged gunman in the murder of Arles, Saturday said he gained temporary freedom after posting bail on Wednesday for an illegal possession of firearm case filed against him by the National Bureau of Investigation before the Bacolod Regional Trial Court..... In a 10-page joint memorandum sent by registered mail to the DOJ, Daguia, Alejandro Capunong, Eddie Fortunado, Rustom Puro, Gerald Tabujara and Juvy Salve “alias Marvin”, of the RPA-ABB denied participation in the murder of Arles in Barangay Manalad, Ilog town, on April 24, and asked that the DOJ dismiss the murder complaint lodged against them. The complaint is based mainly on the extra-judicial confessions executed by Daguia, Capunong and Fortunado, which they claimed they were tortured into making, the memorandum said......

China accuses Manila of deliberately 'misrepresenting' UNCLOS

From InterAksyon (Nov 26): China accuses Manila of deliberately 'misrepresenting' UNCLOS

Beijing on Monday accused Manila of deliberately misinterpreting an international treaty to bolster its claims over some parts of the West Philippine Sea. In so doing, the Philippines is violating fundamental principles of international law on territorial sovereignty, China asserted. The China National Institute for South China Sea, in a statement, disputed the Philippines' claim that what it calls the Huangyan islands (Scarborough Shoal in what the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea) is within 125 nautical miles of Luzon island, and therefore within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as provided for by the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas. The UN Convention, called UNCLOS, delineates areas within 200 nautical miles of its land as a country's EEZ.

"Clearly, the Philippines here has misinterpreted and misapplied UNCLOS on the basis of its own interests, which is contrary to international law and to UNCLOS. It has been an established basic principle of international law that 'the land dominates the sea,'" the China National Institute for South China Sea said in excerpts of a statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in Manila. "Coastal states derive their sovereign rights and jurisdiction over EEZs from their territorial sovereignty." The Chinese statement comes as several countries, the Philippines included, protest Beijing's new passport, which bears a map that includes parts of the protesting states' claimed territories. Among those that have filed protests against China are India, Vietnam and Taiwan.....

Cellphone-triggered bombs go off in Maguindanao, 6 hurt

From InterAksyon (Nov 26): Cellphone-triggered bombs go off in Maguindanao, 6 hurt

(UPDATED 1:13pm) Two explosions caused by improvised bombs triggered by a cellphone rocked Maguindanao early Monday, leaving at least six people injured, authorities said. At around 8:32 a.m., an improvised explosive device went off at Sitio Lining, Barangay Salibu, Datu Saudi Ampatuan. The explosion occurred near the irrigation canal of the area, hitting members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) headed by a certain Mohaiden Animbang, said Col. Prudencio Asto, spokesman of the Army's 6th Infantry Division. The group was heading towards Barangay Iginagampong, Datu Unsay. Asto said at least one BIFM member was hurt in the explosion. Less than 30 minutes later at around 9 a.m., an explosion also rocked Barangay Iginagampong. Senior Superintendent Jaime Pido, Maguindanao provincial police chief, said six people were injured in the blast. It was unclear if the victims in the second blast were also BIFM members. Pido said both explosions were caused by an 81 mm mortar with a cellphone used as triggering device. He said investigators are eyeing the two incidents as related and police are now on alert in the province.

Elite forces arrest suspected members of private armed group in Agusan

From InterAksyon (Nov 26): Elite forces arrest suspected members of private armed group in Agusan

An elite Army unit arrested six suspected members of a private armed group (PAG) in Agusan and confiscated their guns as authorities step up the campaign against lawless elements that may sow violence in upcoming elections in 2013. The suspected PAG members were taken by elements of the 7th Special Forces Company during an intelligence-driven operation Sunday in Purok 5, Barangay San Isidro, Santiago, Agusan del Norte, the military said Monday. Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division, identified the arrested suspects as Kevin Badajos, Dennis Badajos, Rolly Samora, William Samora, Jerry Pitao and Remark Alburo, all of legal age and residents of Barangay Poblacion 1, Santiago. He said the armed group did not put up a fight, apparently on realizing that soldiers with some members of the Santiago police have already surrounded their hideout. The suspects were turned over to Santiago police for proper disposition.   Lt. Col. Potenciano Camba, commanding officer of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion, said the troops confiscated ftwo homemade shotguns with six live ammunitions, one caliber 357 revolver, one caliber 38, one caliber .45, and one MK2 hand grenade. He said the showed the cooperation between the military and police in purging crime groups that may be used by political warlords in the 2003 mid-term election in the province. “Our personnel are always ready to support the PNP (Philippine National Police) in our area of operation. We will help them enhance the peace and order in Santiago and other areas in the province and attain zero criminality,” Camba said. Maj. Gen. Nestor Añonuevo, 4th ID commander, his command will continue to assist the PNP in the government’s effort to significantly reduce the number loose firearms and criminal activities in the province. “I am happy that we first caught them before the rebels could take advantage of the firearms of the group in their criminal activities,” said Col. Ronald Albano, commander of the 402nd Brigade to which the 3rd SF battalion is attached.

Rebel convoy hit by IEDs; 1 killed, 9 hurt

From Rappler (Nov 26): Rebel convoy hit by IEDs; 1 killed, 9 hurt

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - A member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) and 9 others, including the rebel group’s chief of staff, were wounded as two explosions rocked Maguindanao on Monday morning, November 26. Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the BIFM, said two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) ripped through two convoys of BIFM members and supporters who were passing by the irrigation canal in Barangay Salvo in the town of Datu Saudi Ampatuan. More than a thousand BIFM members and supporters were on their way to attend an Islamic symposium in an undisclosed location in Maguindanao. The first bomb exploded around 8:15 in the morning, hurting BIFM chief of staff Mohaiden Animbang and one of his escorts. After 20 minutes, another bomb exploded 15 meters from the site of the first explosion, as the convoy of BIFM vice-chairman for political affairs Dr Mohammad Ali Tambako was passing by. He had more than 100 security escorts and supporters in the convoy. At least 8 BIFM members and supporters, including a woman, were injured in the explosion, Mama said. The rebel spokesman added that a rebel fighter died later while undergoing medical treatment in a house in the nearby community. Mama said the BIFM is still conducting its investigation to identify the perpetrator and the motive behind the IED attack.

The BIFM, led by Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato, splintered from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after serious disagreements with the leadership in the conduct of the peace negotiations. The MILF recenly signed an initial Framework Agreement with the government. “As of now, we cannot pinpoint any group or personalities behind the attack. But we are sure that the targets are chief of staff Animbang and vice-chair for political affairs Tambako,” Mama said. He added that they immediately deployed rebel units to secure the area. He condemned the attack saying that the Islamic symposium is a venue to talk about religion and peace.  “The symposium should be one of the best things that could happen for the BIFM and they attacked it. We tried hard to gather our members and supporters to talk about religion,” Mama said.

Feature: Winning peace--the Bayanihan way

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 26): Feature: Winning peace--the Bayanihan way

MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon--Force, guns and weapons could not solve insurgency. But peace and development could be achieved by joining hands with the community and other stakeholders, said Army’s Brig. Gen. Pedro P. Biasbas, Regiment Commander of 10th Field Artillery Battalion-Assault Armored Battalion (10FAB-AAR), in the course of its free Medical Civic Action Program (Medcap) in the province. Medcap is part of the Army’s Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan” (IPSP-Bayanihan), which focuses on a more humane and non-traditional approach in taming the decades-old insurgency in the country. “It is wholeheartedly offered to the Filipino people who are ultimate beneficiaries of the government’s peace efforts. It seeks to bring a combined effort among stakeholders to help alleviate poverty and address some root causes of insurgency,” Biasbas said.

The Medcap Services

The Army’s 10FAB-AAR has increased cooperation among stakeholders since it acknowledged the contribution of each government agency, civil society organization, and even local community, as evidenced by 276 former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who surrendered in Bukidnon since July 2010. Army Lt. Dee Jay P. Balisi of 10FAB-AAR, who facilitated the Medcap events in the province, said an annual average of 5,000 civilians received outpatient treatment. These residents availed themselves of free medical services such as dental extraction, circumcision of boys aged 5 to 14, free haircut, minor surgery performed to pre-screened patients, medical check-up, reorientation of families on responsible parenthood, and feeding program for youngsters. A blood-letting activity is also being carried out through the Philippine Red Cross, where a minimum of 20 kind-hearted people donate 8,500 ml. blood in each Medcap outreach. Other patients also received medicines, while those who were in line waiting for their turn were served “chicken arrozcaldo.” Arrozcaldo is a ginger-flavored rice and chicken delicacy. The cereal food was dished up with iron-fortified rice (I-Rice) of National Food Authority (NFA). Veterinary services were likewise offered, witch more than 20 animals were vaccinated in each activity.

Cooperation and Teamwork

As the program grew, more sponsors offered services, including the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Committee of German Doctors, Gama Foods Farm, Valencia Rubbertex Inc, NFA, Malaybalay Eagles Club, and all other private individuals and key government organizations. With the theme “Serbisyuhan ang katawhan ug panalipdan ang yutang natawhan (Serve the people, protect and defend homeland),” Medcap has provided increased outpatient care for civilians living in rural areas. It has a major goal of increasing mutual respect and cooperation between the military forces and the populace.

OPAPP holds firearm inventory to build trust with CPLA

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 26): OPAPP holds firearm inventory to build trust with CPLA

The Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) recently conducted an inventory of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) firearms and ammunition (FA) in the province as a measure to gain the trust of said armed group. Johnlei Lenard Ramos from the OPAPP Communications Group the firearms inventory hopes to build trust between the government and the armed group under the leadership of Arsenio Humiding as the CPLA Chairman. The firearms after the inventory would be returned to the CPLA members “but the facts that they have it received for inventory gives OPAPP the assurance that they would eventually turn them over to the government or have it registered.” “OPAPP does not want to impose, but as a trust building measure, we have to believe they would comply with the processes of the agreement and eventually transform themselves from an armed group to a people’s organization,” he said.

Anna Laylo of OPAPP said this is in pursuant to the provisions of the Closure Agreement between the government and the Cordillera Bodong Administration-CPLA(CBA-CPLA) towards the CPLA’s final disposition of arms and forces and its transformation into a potent socio-economic unarmed force. According to Laylo, the activity was participated by CPLAs led by Humiding and CBA President Marcelina Bahatan being the signatories of the closure agreement signed in 2011.  As provided by Article 1, Section 2 pertaining to the final disposition of arms and forces, “the parties have agreed to a gradual process of disposition of arms and forces to be completed within eight month from the signing of the agreement.” It states that “all firearms shall be properly registered under the guidelines of the Philippine government firearms registration rules or turned in, in return for the economic reintegration.” Firearms that cannot be registered under the law should be surrendered and compensated based on the recommendation of the Valuation Committee on serviceability and fair value. Laylo said that after the inventory, the CPLA members would still bring home their firearms but are required to have it registered or recalled depending on the recommendations of the Valuation Committee. “We could not just take their arms for we are not dealing with ordinary citizens since the CPLA is a political group and they have certain considerations such as their security issues,” Laylo said.  Laylo said the OPAPP is appreciative of the CPLA members for bringing their firearms for the inventory saying that “this is a symbol of their wanting to eventually turn-in their arms and push through with their plans to become a people’s organization.” The activity she said also intends to reduce the number of loose firearms in the region. The Philippine Armed Forces based in Kalinga and the Kalinga Provincial Police Office also assisted in the documentation during the inventory.  Guests include PRO-COR Regional Director Benjamin Magalong and 501st Brigade Commander Col. Roger Salvador.

Blast rocks house of ARMM official

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 26): Blast rocks house of ARMM official

Police investigators are looking at personal grudge or related to work the grenade attack in the house of an official of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on Saturday. Sr. Supt. Danny Reyes, city police director, said the grenade attack could be part of harassment against Director Pama Dimapanat of the Department of Transportation and Communication in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DOTC-ARMM). Unidentified men riding in tandem on a motorbike tossed a hand grenade in front of the house of Dimapanat along Moon Street, Zenaida Subdivision, Cotabato City at about 8:45 p.m. Saturday. Nobody was hurt in the incident but the blast damaged the concrete fence of Dimapanat’s house. Dimapanat was inside his house when the grenade attack occurred. Reyes said investigators are looking at the leadership issue of DOTC that has been hounding the office in the last three years.

Mindanao Week of Peace declared in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 26):  Mindanao Week of Peace declared in Zamboanga City

Mayor Celso Lobregat has declared Nov. 29 to Dec. 5 this year as Mindanao Week of Peace calling on all constituents to actively participate in the week-long activities prepared by the Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) and the Interreligious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP). Executive Order 483-2012 is pursuant to Proclamation Order 127 issued Nov. 26, 2001 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declaring the last Thursday of November up to the first Wednesday of December of every year thereafter as Mindanao Week of Peace.....  The observance of Mindanao Week of Peace in this city is organized by the PAZ and the IRSMP with the theme “Love of God and Love of Neighbor, A Challenge for Mindanao," with a sub-theme “Together for Sustainable Peace in Mindanao.”.....

BIFM commander, 2 followers hurt in IED blast in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 26): BIFM commander, 2 followers hurt in IED blast in Maguindanao

Three members of the renegade Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), including a field commander, were wounded when the improvised bomb they were allegedly transporting prematurely exploded Monday morning, police and military officials said. Quoting initial field reports from the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, Col. Prudencio Asto, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said Army investigators are looking at two possible angles in the 9 a.m. explosion. There were reports that the BIFM and its armed wing the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were carrying the improvised bomb when it accidentally went off. Another possibility, Asto said, was that it was planted by groups hostile to the BIFM/BIFF along the route the guerrillas were using in remote village of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Asto said the Army’s Mechanized Infantry Brigade which has jurisdiction over Datu Saudi would not just penetrate the blast site without prior coordinating with the joint ceasefire panels of the GPH Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). But Abu Misry Mama, BIFM/BIFF spokesperson, admitted there was an explosion but denied the bomb was being transported by their members. “Three of our companions, including Commander Karialan, were wounded in the explosion. The other two were our chief of staff and a political officer,” he said in a phone interview. Mama said the BIFF forces were walking toward Lower Salbu for an Islamic meeting using dried-up rice fields in Datu Saudi town when suddenly a bomb went off.   The BIFM and BIFF, which broke away from the MILF last year, are locked in a long standing family feud with several Muslim clans in Datu Saudi and Datu Piang, both in Maguindanao over control of large parcel of agricultural lands......

Bomb explodes in Maguindanao province; injures BIFF rebel

From the Mindanao Examiner (Nov 26): Bomb explodes in Maguindanao province; injures BIFF rebel
A bomb explosion on Monday wounded a Muslim rebel in the restive province of Maguindanao in the southern Philippines, officials said. Col. Prudencio Asto, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, said the bomb exploded just as members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were passing near a government irrigation canal in the village of Lower Salvo in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.One BIFF member under Mohaiden Animbang was wounded in the blast, that’s what we have gathered so far. Reports also said that the BIFF members were on their way to attend a Kanduli,” he told the Mindanao Examiner, referring to a peace ceremony among warring Muslim clans. It was not immediately known who was behind the blast or if the attack was connected to the peace ceremony or not, but Asto said the bomb was fashioned out from a 81mm mortar. On Friday, troops also recovered four mortar bombs rigged to a motorcycle parked in downtown Isulan in the neighboring province of Sultan Kudarat. Officials said the explosives were discovered after residents noticed a cell phone and a battery hanging from the motorcycle.

PRWC: Ang Bayan Video Summary (Nov 21)

 From Ang Bayan posted to the Philippine Revolutionary Web Central (PRWC): Video: Ang Bayan News Summary (November 21, 2012):  ANG BAYAN (Video) 21 Nobyembre 2012

[Provides a summary of key items included in the November 21 issue of Ang Bayan, the propaganda organ of the CPP Central Committee]


MILF: Sulu Provincial Gov’t will host forum on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro

From the MILF Website (Nov 25): Sulu Provincial Gov’t will host forum on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro

The Province of Sulu is known to be a core territory of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), indeed until today some MNLF ground commanders and fighters still hoping to have their own government despite the uncertainty. Most of the time, the MNLF holds several meetings on the ground because they don’t recognized nor accept the new agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). To enlighten the mind and heart of the Bangsamoro in the island, the Provincial Information Officer and a representative from the MILF Committee on Information held forums at barangay level and afterwards proceeded to other barangays to provide accurate information and enlighten the people about the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Relatively, the Sulu Provincial Government will host a forum on the Framework Agreement this coming December 4, 2012 at the Capitol Multi-purpose Gym in Patikul, Sulu. They sent an invitation to ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv S. Hataman; the Regional Vice Governor, members of the regional legislative assembly, congressmen from the ARMM provinces, provincial governors and other provincial executives; representatives from different sectors of society, the academe and students. However the organizers did not sent letter of invitations to the two Moro Fronts.  On his part, Governor Tan expressed his full support to the Agreement and the forum that he is initiating is aimed at getting inputs and accurate information so it will be disseminated to his constituents and be enlightened about its importance to the Bangsamoro people. The irony however is the non-invitation of members of the GPH-MILF Peace Panels or members of the MILF Central Committee who undeniably the right source of true and accurate information, whose chief negotiators were signatories to the agreement.

China lands fighter jet on new carrier in show of force

From GMANews (Nov 25): China lands fighter jet on new carrier in show of force

China has carried out its first successful landing of a fighter jet on its first aircraft carrier, state media said on Sunday, a symbolically significant development as Asian neighbors fret about the world's most populous country's military ambitions. The home-built J-15 fighter jet took off from and landed on the Liaoning, a reconditioned Soviet-era vessel from Ukraine which only came into service in September this year. China ushered in a new generation of leaders this month at the 18th Communist Party Congress in Beijing, with outgoing President Hu Jintao making a pointed reference to strengthening China's naval forces, protecting maritime interests and the need to "win local war".

China is embroiled in disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam over South China Sea islands believed to be surrounded by waters rich in natural gas. It has a similar dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea. It has also warned the United States, with President Barack Obama's "pivot" to Asia, not to get involved. "We should make active planning for the use of military forces in peacetime, expand and intensify military preparedness, and enhance the capability to accomplish a wide range of military tasks, the most important of which is to win local war in an information age," Hu said.

China has advertised its long-term military ambitions with shows of new hardware, including its first test flight of a stealth fighter jet in early 2011, an elite helicopter unit and the launch of the aircraft carrier.....China's state-run Xinhua news portal said the J-15 - which can carry multi-type anti-ship, air-to-air, and air-to-ground missiles - is comparable to the Russian Su-33 jet and the U.S. F-18. It did not say when the landing on the carrier took place.

PH patrol vessel on standby

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 26): PH patrol vessel on standby

The Philippine Coast Guard on Sunday declared it was ready to deploy a patrol vessel to Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea as China announced it had conducted the first landing of a fighter jet on its new aircraft carrier. The landing was a demonstration of China’s ability to project its military might in territorial disputes with Southeast Asian nations in the West Philippine Sea and maintain its own influence in the area, eyed by the United States in its “pivot” to Asia, a new military strategy that would see half of its warships shifting to the region by the end of the decade.  Lt. Commander Armand Balilo, Coast Guard spokesperson, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the BRP Pampanga was “on standby” and “ready for deployment” to Panatag Shoal, where Philippine and Chinese ships faced off with each other from early April to mid-June in a territorial dispute that had gone on unresolved, and marred talks between Southeast Asian nations and China in Cambodia last week.

China has begun issuing new passports with a map of China that includes disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea and the East Sea, angering the Philippines and Vietnam, which protested the new Chinese strategy that they saw as forcing them to recognize China’s claims in the sea. The latest Chinese display of assertiveness could spark fresh tensions in the sea. The Philippine Coast Guard said the Pampanga was ready to go and all the agency was waiting for was the go-signal from the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). The Pampanga was one of two Philippine vessels that faced off with up to 100 Chinese ships and fishing boats at the disputed shoal.

Balilo said that if the order to deploy came, the Pampanga, a search-and-rescue vessel, could hook up with a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) ship to resume the watch at Panatag, where three Chinese ships were pressing the Chinese claim. President Aquino said in June that he would order Philippine ships back to the shoal if the Chinese did not clear the area. The Chinese did not. On Saturday, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, speaking at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City, called on China to respect the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), an expanse of sea 370 kilometers (200 nautical miles) from the coastlines of sovereign states. Panatag Shoal, 220 km west of Zambales, is within the Philippine EEZ.....

China faces hostility on claim to Spratlys

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 25): China faces hostility on claim to Spratlys

China is finding the once-friendly ground of Southeast Asia bumpy going, with anger against Chinese claims to disputed islands, once reliable ally Burma (Myanmar) flirting with democracy and renewed American attention to the region. The changing terrain for Beijing was on view last week at a conclave of East Asian nations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Wen Jiabao, China’s lame-duck premier who usually exudes a mild, grandfatherly air, got into a sharp exchange over the contested West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) islands. The leaders of the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam reacted furiously when host Cambodia, an ally of China, suggested that all sides agreed not to bring outside parties into the dispute—a reference to the United States. President Aquino of the Philippines publicly rebuked Cambodian Premier Hun Sen, saying Association of Southeast Asian (Asean) leaders had no agreement not to “internationalize” the West Philippine Sea disputes with China. “The Asean route is not the only route for us,” Mr. Aquino said, indicating that the Philippines would pursue a resolution of its dispute with China in accordance with international law. “As a sovereign state, it is our right to defend our national interest,” he said.

US President Barack Obama, buoyed by the first visit ever by an American leader to Burma, projected an image of a confident, friendly America, calling for a reduction in tensions and seemingly taking no sides. Beijing is struggling to find its feet as its own power grows, but the United States refuses to cede influence in the region, emboldening other countries not to fall in with the Chinese line. “The robust US presence and relatively disciplined and quiet diplomacy looked strong relative to China’s heavy-handed pressure,” Ernest Bower, chair for Southeast Asian studies at the Council for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, wrote in a commentary on Thursday. It’s a reversal over the treatment Beijing enjoyed much of the past decade as it wooed Southeast Asia with soaring trade and investment and the lure of the huge Chinese market. Looking to further those links, Wen held discussions on expanding a free trade agreement to increase China’s imports from Southeast Asia. China’s economic “pull remains, but the smile has faded,” said Aaron Friedberg, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University.....

..... The very fact that China has refused to back off—despite provoking a backlash that could hurt its long-term interests—speaks to Beijing’s belief that its economic pull will ultimately convince its Asean neighbors that their future lies with China, not with the United States, said Princeton’s Friedberg.  “The big question, I think, is whether the Asean states believe that the United States actually has the resolve and the resources to follow through on the commitments that have been made in recent years. If they begin to doubt this they will have to do more to appease Beijing,” Friedberg said.

LAST OUTPOST | Soldiers endure loneliness, spartan living to guard remote islands in Spratlys

From InterAksyon (Nov 25): LAST OUTPOST | Soldiers endure loneliness, spartan living to guard remote islands in Spratlys

AYUNGIN REEF, Kalayaan Island Group, Philippines – This place is probably the loneliest place a soldier can be assigned to. There is no land, only limitless water, like living in your very own water world. The seven-man team stationed here on one of the Philippine-occupied areas in what is more popularly known as the Spratlys face a unique set-up: their entire military detachment is a broken warship. Back in the 1990s, the Armed Forces of the Philippines intentionally ran its Landing Transport Ship 57 (BRP Sierra Madre) aground on this reef, located 176 nautical miles from mainland Palawan, so the country can claim it as its own territory. Now, the ship is rusty, full of holes and is a very dangerous place for anyone to live in..... The soldiers--five Marines and two Navy personnel--spend most of their days fishing, listening to the transistor radio or just patrolling the ship. There are no cellphone signals, no cable TV.  That’s why it came as a surprise to the soldiers when their commanding officer, Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, arrived at their detachment Thursday afternoon with a tub of ice cream. Marooned for months with nothing to eat but fish, the soldiers’ faces light up like little children when the tub of ice cream was placed before their ocean-weary eyes. Soldiers had the same reaction in other Philippine-claimed islands that Sabban visited..... Unknown to many, the military’s Western Command has deployed teams of Marines and Navy personnel to nine of the Philippine-claimed islands and reefs to ensure that no foreign country will encroach on them. While the soldiers face no immediate threat of attack, they still have to brave the unpredictable weather, the extreme loneliness and boredom all in the name of duty..... Sabban says that the presence of Marines in the disputed islands is significant: it is meant to let other countries know that these are Philippine-occupied areas. “We are not confrontational; what we’d like to do is to let others know that this is Philippine territory. We have to warn them that this is Philippine territory and they should respect our sovereignty,” he says.....

KABARANGAY: Lumads in Paquibato evacuate after NPA threat

Posted to the anti-communist  Kalipunan ng mga Balita at Talakayan ng mga Kaganapan sa Barangay (KABARANGAY-A collection of News and Discussion of Events in the Barangay) (Nov 24): Lumads in Paquibato evacuate after NPA threat
At least 17 families of a lumad tribe in Marilog District, this city, were evacuated after receiving threats from New People’s Army allegedly eyeing the tribe’s village as the site for the forthcoming anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) next month. Datu Tresio Lumuyok, tribal chieftain of Matigsalog tribe, said residents have abandoned their houses in Purok 26, Sitio Alon, Brgy. Malabog and seek refuge in Brgy. Marilog since November 6. He led his people in search for a safe place after Leoncio Pitao, head of NPAs operating in the hinterlands of Paquibato, threatened and forced them to take part in rallies and demonstrations in protest to the presence of government troops in the area. He added that residents were suspected as military informants scouting the whereabouts of the notorious group after several encounters transpired in the area. “Pitao said that we are feeding information to soldiers about their presence and that we betrayed their group. Because of that we are scared of going back to our village”, said one of the evacuees, who requested not to be identified for security reasons. According to Lumuyok, Pitao is planning to make their village the venue for the 44th year of CPP on December 27. Datu Buaya Ansaud welcomes the evacuees in his village in Sitio Malikongkong as Davao City Social Services and Development Office had been providing for their needs in cooperation with 84th Infantry Battalion. “We see how the NPAs jeopardize the safety of these families who are living peacefully in the area”,said Lt. Col. Edgar Nigos, commander of 84th IB. He said that the incident is a wake-up call for everybody to denounce the presence of the rebels in the area instead of the military. “It is our mandate to protect the people and not to harm them. That’s why we would like to encourage everyone specially the government leaders to condemn the presence of the NPAs so that we can all live peacefully”, he said.


Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro is a ‘political document’—GPH legal adviser

From MindaNews (Nov 25): Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro is a ‘political document’—GPH legal adviser

The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), dubbed as the “roadmap to peace” in Mindanao, is a “political document,” said lawyer Johaira Wahab, legal adviser to the peace panel of the Government of the Philippines (GPH). “This [FAB] is neither a law nor a contract,” she said on Saturday’s Mindanao Peace Forum here. Wahab represented GPH peace panel chair Marvic Leonen, who was recently appointment as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. “We need to insist that this document has a context. And therefore we want to maintain that caution and that prudence in the treatment of this document,” she stressed. Wahab discussed the provisions of the FAB, specifically on the name “Bangsamoro,” territory, power, wealth, revenues, and on basic rights. She also said that the peace panels of both the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have expressly admitted to the need for laying down the details of the FAB provisions. “As a political document, the language of this document is negotiated,” Wahab said, as she shared that the MILF panel has expressed that “this document is not an ideal document that we would have wanted. Neither is it for government. But because it was a negotiated document, there are certain things that we wanted to be there particularly with respect to language.” “This document neither assumes nor guarantees any constitutional amendment. That is the context of this document,” she stressed. Wahab emphasized the holding of a Bangsamoro “core territory” plebiscite, which will be the consultative political exercise for the people to approve or reject their inclusion to the Bangsamoro territory.....

Peace Forum kicks off Mindanao Week of Peace 2012

From MindaNews (Nov 26): Peace Forum kicks off Mindanao Week of Peace 2012

A multi-sectoral peace forum on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), dubbed as the “roadmap to peace” in Mindanao, was held here Saturday to kick off this year’s Mindanao Week of Peace, which is set on November 29 to December 5. Leading the discussion for the Mindanao Peace Forum was lawyer Johaira Wahab, a legal adviser to the peace panel of the Government of the Philippines. She represented government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen, who was recently appointed as Supreme Court Associate Justice. With the full endorsement of the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC), this year’s celebration carries the theme ‘Love of God and Love of Neighbor, A Challenge for Mindanao.” In a statement, the BUC appealed to Mindanaoans to “promote formative and character-building projects whereby an interactive knowledge and understanding of faith, culture and dialogue is experienced in a way that brings about genuine harmony and peace in individuals and communities.” “The 2012 Mindanao Week of Peace celebrations should highlight correctly and clearly this basic mandate of loving God and neighbor and environment in all sincerity,” said the BUC statement. The BUC convenors include Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, Prof. Salipada, representing the Ulama League of the Philippines, and United Church of Christ of the Philippines Bishop Emeritus Hilario Gomez. The Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace, led by Prof. Ali Yacub, Atty. Paulino Ersando, Nurhamdo Cegales and Fr Angel Calvo, said, “We are certain that our peace-building advocacy, whose 14 years of annual Week of Peace has been its flagship project, has nudged both our national government and the Bangsamoro rebellion towards the enactment of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that they signed and sealed on October 15 in Manila. Let us make the Week of Peace 2012 our grassroots celebration and dedication to this landmark agreement.”

The observance of the Mindanao Week of Peace is an initiative of the Peace Advocates Zamboanga since 1998 by virtue of two presidential proclamations signed by former Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo. In Zamboanga City, the declaration was by virtue of Executive Order CL 483-2012 signed by Mayor Celso Lobregat on November 7 this year. Among this year’s activities are the Youth Peace Camp by Claret schools in the Philippines on November 26 to 29, a Historical and Solidarity Journey in Recodo, Zamboanga City on November 26, and a Mindanao Peace Weavers’ General Assembly in Davao City on December 2 to 5. About 200 representatives from various sectors—ethnic groups and government and non-government organizations—attended Saturday’s Mindanao Peace Forum.

PH coast guard patrol ship ready for deployment to Scarborough Shoal

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 25): PH coast guard patrol ship ready for deployment to Scarborough Shoal

The BRP Pampanga, a Philippine Coast Guard patrol ship, is “on standby” and “ready for deployment” to the Scarborough, or Panatag shoal in the West Philippine Sea, known to the rest of the world as the South China Sea, the PCG spokesperson said. Lt. Commander Armand Balilo, the PCG spokesman, however, said Sunday they were still waiting for the go-ahead from both the Department of National Defense and Department of Foreign Affairs. The BRP Pampanga was one of several Philippine vessels that earlier faced off with Chinese ships at the disputed rock formation, which the Philippines also calls Bajo de Masinloc. On the other hand, China refers to the cluster of reefs and islands as Huangyan Island. If and when directed by the authorities, the PCG search-and-rescue vessel could hook up with a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ship and keep watch at the three Chinese vessels reportedly posted in that pocket of the West Philippine Sea, months after a standoff with the Philippines. Sometime in early August, Balilo said they were “on call from higher-ups to respond to maritime incidents,” including those in the West Philippine Sea. He noted that “maritime security, as well as meeting challenges posed by illegal fishing and marine degradation, is among our main thrusts.” “But we’re guided by the DND and the DFA in handling incidents related to the Scarborough Shoal dispute between the Philippines and China, which we all know is a sensitive issue,” he added.

When interviewed, Balilo said only six of their nine patrol ships were operational. But he expressed confidence the command would be “in a better position to do its search-and-rescue and other functions with the PCG acquisition in six months to one year of brand-new vessels and equipment.”  The Department of Transportation and Communications has set aside over P521.6 million for the procurement of at least 431 units of aluminum V-shaped hull, rigid hull and rubber boats, as well as jet skis, radio equipment and more than 3,440 life vests and 1,724 flares. In 2014, the PCG will most likely get 12 brand-new patrol boats from Japan, according to the Japanese Embassy in Pasay City. Tokyo has been helping the Philippine government modernize the PCG since 1990.....

Sharp tap on silver Volvo triggers murder of US diplomat’s husband

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 25 ): Sharp tap on silver Volvo triggers murder of US diplomat’s husband

The husband of a US diplomat stabbed dead in an early morning altercation at the gate of a posh Makati village just so happened to have hurt the egos of his four attackers when he gave the silver Volvo car they were riding in a hard tap, police said. George Anikow, 41, an inactive US marine officer, died on Saturday morning after he was mauled and fatally stabbed at the back and left shoulder in an event so random he and the other men hardly knew each other, Senior Supt. Manuel Lukban, Makati police chief, said in an interview. The suspects identified as Juan Alfonzo Abastilla, 24; Crispin dela Paz, 28; Osric Cabrera, 27; and Galicano Datu III, 22, have been charged with murder. Covering their faces with towels to avoid television cameras, the four underwent inquest proceedings at the Makati prosecutor’s office on Sunday afternoon. The four were arrested by the Makati police on Saturday moments after the fatal stabbing and when they were about to flee. Abastilla, Dela Paz, and Cabrera are profiled as businessmen living in Makati while Datu is a student of De la Salle University in Manila. The four are believed to be from well-to-do families, according to the police. “There was no deeper reason why they attacked the American. Nakalalake lang. (Their egos were just hurt),” Lukban told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The Makati police said the four on board a silver Volvo (TOJ 886) were being checked by a security guard at the gate of Rockwell Center along Kalayaan Avenue when Anikow who, then appeared to be drunk, broke into the conversation. “You need to present your ID, the guard is checking you,” Anikow told the men in the Volvo car, the Rockwell security guard said. The men ignored him but the driver Abastilla asked for the name of the American before he rolled up the car’s window. But the Volvo-riding men lost their cool when the American gave their Volvo a tap. They alighted the vehicle and ganged up on the victim. “The victim was able to run away but the attackers caught up with him and mauled him again,” Lukban said. Witnesses said the victim fell to the ground, bleeding from the stab wounds in his body. Before fleeing, one of the attackers even threatened the on-duty security guard saying: “Wag kang magsusumbong. Huwag mong kunin ang plate number namin, gago yan (You don’t report this. Don’t take down our plate number. That guy’s no good).” Chief Superintendent Benito Estipona, director of the Southern Police District, said the policemen on three mobile patrol cars, upon getting an alert from Rockwell security guards, were just in time to block the suspects’ path along Estrella St., in Barangay Poblacion, Makati City. A bloodstained tactical knife was found at the front passenger seat of the suspects’ vehicle. Lukban said the US Embassy officials have been in constant contact with the Makati police after learning about the killing. “They are looking forward to the immediate filing of the case,” Lukban said. The victim, a dependent of one of the officers of the US Embassy, was awaiting order from the US Marine to be called to duty, the police said. Lukban said the Makati police opted to file murder, a non-bailable offense, instead of homicide since the attackers chased the victim “with the intent to kill.”

85 armed groups maintained by politicians - PNP

Posted to Rappler (Nov 24): 85 armed groups maintained by politicians - PNP

"Lahat ng private armed groups di natin sasantuhin, whether they are related to any organization, any party or any individual," Task Force Safe commander Deputy Director General Alan Purisima said in an All Soul’s Day statement. Fine words. Except for two things:
  • The police seems to make this vow every election season, yet there remain PAGs or private armies across the country.
  • Authorities cannot even agree on the number of private armed groups they are supposed to crack down on.
For instance, maps obtained by Rappler showing the PAGs being monitored by the police indicate that there are 86 of them existing in 30 provinces. The maps, which were dated September 15, 2011 and January 31, 2012 included the location of the armed group under surveillance, the names, designations and positions of the leaders of the armed group, as well as their political party affiliations. Only one non-politician was listed by the police as a leader of a private armed group:

Barangay Captain
Vice mayor
Vice governor
Unspecified posts20

The numbers were based on the PNP’s definition of terms. It says private armies are organized groups of two or more persons, legally or illegally armed, who use their weapons to intimidate for political or economic purposes.  “Private armed groups” therefore are not necessarily classified as “armies.” Retired General Edilberto Adan told this writer in a 2011 interview: “[In effect] they only become private armies when used by their patrons to terrorize by their patrons.”These private armed groups often become dormant or inactive when the need for the group to exist is no longer there. Adan was a member of the Zeñarosa Commission, which was formed soon after the Ampatuan massacre of November 23, 2009. Its mandate was to study the nature of the private armed groups and to recommend policies to prevent their proliferation.

By October this year, the number of alleged private armies had increased to nearly 250. PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo said these are working for politicians in various parts of the country and can have a major impact on the outcome of the national and local elections in May next year. Days later, however, Cerbo gave a sigificantly lower figure. He said the PNP’s Directorate for Intelligence gave him a working number of 60, with 9 allegedly based in the ARMM. Since 2009, in fact, official numbers of private armies cited by various authorities in their public pronouncements have vacillated significantly. On January 7, 2010, months after the Maguindanao massacre, then Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said there were at least 132 private armed groups in the country.  That same day, Director General Jesus Verzosa, chief of the PNP, said there were 68 confirmed private armed groups. Of this number, 25 were in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), while 43 were found outside the region. Verzosa said at the time that they were still "verifying" 102 other private groups suspected of possessing firearms—77 of them in the ARMM, and 25 in other regions.

Part of the problem involves semantics, those who have studied the issue explain.
In its report, the Zeñarosa Commission noted that there is no law that specifically bans the maintenance of private armed groups. One of the key recommendations in fact is to enact a law to this effect. It is difficult to crack down on private armies in the Philippines, Adan said, because more often than not they are not really armies in the sense that they have barracks or regular quarters. “They are not static. They are not always with a patron,” he explained. “They are not in uniforms. Some of them are legally armed.” Sometimes, Adan said, these armed groups are formed for a particular mission. For instance, members of one private armed group in Masbate were imported from other areas of Bicol for 2010 elections. Some of them are contractual employees or legally employed by local governments as civilian volunteers.

The definition gets more complicated because the Philippine military, the police, with the support of various executive issuances, also routinely encourage the formation of militia groups—such as the Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs), Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs), and even vigilante groups—in conflict-afflicted areas.  The military considers them as “force multipliers,” said Apple Oreta, a former member of the Commission Secretariat. In many cases, though, they perform the role of armed guards of dominant local political personalities. “Politicians often register their bodyguards as civilian volunteers, thus legitimizing them,” Oreta said. This gray area between private armed groups and government recognized “force multipliers” makes it possible for dominant political clans to accumulate firepower. It is precisely what happened to the Ampatuans of Maguindanao.....

This situation was enabled by Executive Order 546, issued by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which allows local officials to deploy CAFGUs and CVOs as auxiliary bodies for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to fight insurgents. This executive issuance is still in effect today, making one wonder just how serious the administration is in going after these private armed groups. In a text message sent to this writer on November 22, Adan said, “I believe some of the measures we recommended are being done. But much more needs to be done.”

50 Cafgus undergo refresher training

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 24): 50 Cafgus undergo refresher training

Around 50 members of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) started their 14-day refresher training under the Philippine Army stationed in Bantay, Tabuk. Training runs from November 22 to December 6. Captain Rolito Nunag, commanding officer of the 77th Cadre Battalion, Echo Company, said the trainees are a composite group of Cafgus from Apayao, Mountain Province, and Kalinga. They will undergo lectures and leadership seminar for the whole duration to refresh them of their duties, instill good values, discipline, and responsibility. He said that in Kalinga alone, around 1,207 Cafgus are now assigned in different barangays augmenting government forces in maintaining peace and order. In Tabuk City, the Cafgus he said, are responsible in maintaining road security along major entry points to the province lessening the incidence of highway robbery for the past months. Road security, he said, was conducted on the request of Kalinga Governor Jocel Baac after the series of hold-up incidents in the area. During the opening program of the training, Colonel Prudencio Dimas of the 21st Infantry Battalion called on the Cafgu trainees to maintain a good image and live according to the discipline and responsibility they have learned just like a good soldier. “Show the people that they could depend on us not just on security but also in community development activities,” he said.  Cafgus in the communities, he said, not only maintain peace and order but they are also catalysts in preventing insurgents from returning to the communities. Without the insurgents, the people are given a better chance to build their communities to become economically active and progressive. “Be proud to be a Cafgu, and wear your uniforms with pride for you have been giving important contributions in your communities,” he said underscoring that aside from peacekeeping, the unit is also active in the various ‘bayanihan’ activities working side by side with the soldiers.

MILF says it is helping locate massacre suspects

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 25): MILF says it is helping locate massacre suspects

Even without the police asking the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to help tracking down the remaining suspects in the Maguindanao massacre, the MILF said it has been sending information to government agencies that led to several arrests. Von Al Haq, military spokesperson of the MILF, denied reports that the MILF allows wanted persons for the 2009 carnage in its controlled areas in Maguindanao. “We condemn the massacre and those behind it, we will never allow them to make our areas as their haven, or haven of lawless elements,” Al Haq said, reacting to reports that some of the 92 remaining suspects were seen in MILF camps near the Liguasan marshland. Al Haq said the signing of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro between the government and the MILF has strengthened the necessary cooperation between the Philippine Army and the MILF in arresting lawless elements in Mindanao. He said an agreement on cessation of hostilities defines GPH-MILF cooperation in neutralizing terrorists and wanted persons sighted or seen in MILF identified areas. Earlier, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) sought the help of the MILF as well as local government officials and the media to facilitate the speedy arrest of 92 suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre who are still at large. The Special Investigation Task Group Maguindanao, headed by Senior Supt. Keith Ernald Singian, has already coordinated with the MILF for them to take custody of the massacre suspects hiding in their areas......

Nearly 200 families flee gov't-rebel clashes in Davao

From the Philippine Star (Nov 25): Nearly 200 families flee gov't-rebel clashes in Davao

Some 200 families fled their hometown due to fighting between government forces and the New People's Army rebels in Davao del Norte, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said today. They have sought refuge at village halls, said council executive director Benito Ramos. The fighting began on Thursday in a number of villages when government troops responded to a report about the sighting of about 300 rebels. As of yesterday, Ramos said the military and police "are conducting clearing operation at the war zone to determine the presence of landmines" possibly planted by the rebels who had retreated. Ramos said the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Council has recommended the declaration of state of calamity in the areas.

4 face raps for slay of US embassy employee's spouse in Makati brawl

From InterAksyon (Nov 25):  4 face raps for slay of US embassy employee's spouse in Makati brawl

Four men will face inquest proceedings Sunday afternoon for allegedly stabbing to death the spouse of an employee of the United States embassy in Makati City's posh Bel-Air Village last Saturday. Chief Superintendent Benito Estipona, Southern Police District (SPD) director, did not publicly release the names of the four suspects but said they will be brought to the Makati City Prosecutor's Office at 1 p.m. today. At the arraignment, the suspects were identified as Crispin dela Paz, 28, a businessman; Juan Alfonso, 24, a businessman; Galicano Datu III, 22, a student; and Osric Cabrera, 27, a businessman. According to a report from Makati police, American George Anikow (not Anico as earlier reported), 41, a resident of Bel-Air, was being checked by the village security guard at the Kalayaan Avenue gate as he was entering the village on foot at around 4:20 a.m. Saturday. This was reportedly the village policy for those entering the area in the early hours. As he was being checked, the four suspects, who were on board a Volvo SUV, were also stopped by the guards at the gate as part of security measures. Anikow then reportedly approached the SUV and told the four: "You need to present your ID, the guard is checking you." When the four ignored him, he tapped on the car window which reportedly angered the four, leading to an argument. The four suspects mauled and stabbed the victim and attempted to escape but were arrested by responding policemen. Police also recovered the knife used in the stabbing. The victim died while undergoing treatment at the Makati Medical Center. US embassy press attache Tina Malone confirmed the incident but refused to give out the name of the victim for "privacy reasons." Various news reports spelled the victim's name differently. "We understand that the Philippine National Police have suspects in custody. The US embassy appreciates the cooperation of the Philippine authorities and will work closely with the PNP in their investigation," she said.

Maguindanao massacre suspects ambush two army soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 25): Maguindanao massacre suspects ambush two army soldiers

Two armed men suspected to be involved in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre shot and seriously wounded two intelligence operatives of the military conducting surveillance operations in Sultan Kudarat Sunday, the Army here said. The victims, who are members of the 46th Infantry Battalion, were traveling on a highway along the border of Isulan and Ezperanza, both in Sultan Kudarat, aboard a motorbike, when shot by two men riding in separate motorbike at about 9 a.m, according to Colonel Prudencio Asto. Asto, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said Pfc. Sammy Ali and Pfc. Nickerson Susaya, both in civilian clothes, were shot while tailing a vehicle where a suspect in the Maguindanao massacre was believed to be riding. Although armed, the Army intelligence operatives failed to return fire as their vehicle crashed on the roadside. Ali sustained injury in his back while Susaya was hit in the abdomen. The gunmen fled after the shooting. Asto said Ali and Susaya had been actively helping the police in hunting down suspects in the Maguindanao Massacre that are still unaccounted for. Among those who are still unaccounted for are two grandsons of former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan and members of the defunct Maguindanao Civilian Volunteer Organization who allegedly participated in the carnage in Ampatuan town. Asto said the wounded Army intelligence agents were also helping the Isulan PNP in identifying those behind the planting of an improvised explosive device left a the Isulan welcome rotunda intended for Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu who was to attend the 3rd year anniversary of the massacre last Friday.