Friday, December 7, 2012

Gov’t, MILF to resume talks next week: official

From the Mindanao Times (Dec 7): Gov’t, MILF to resume talks next week: official

THE government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will resume next week their peace negotiations in Malaysia to reinforce the framework agreement that they signed on October 15. Dr. Parido R. Pigkaulan, representative of the technical working group of the panel representing the rebel group, said representatives of the two are already in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to resume discussions on power-sharing, wealth-sharing and other issues. On the power-sharing issue, Pigkaulan said two sides have already reached 85% of an agreement. “Hindi ko masagot kung ano yung 15 percent na yan,” he said without elaborating. The framework agreement specifies that the “the Central Government will have reserved powers, the Bangsamoro Government shall have its exclusive powers, and there will be concurrent powers shared by the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government.” The two panels have been trying to come up with a finalized peace agreement after signing the framework agreement in Malacanang, three days after its draft was finalized in Malaysia, the country that is brokering the negotiations. The framework agreement will serve as module in crafting the basic law that will replace the law creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

MILF: OIC’s call for unity (December 8-15)

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Dec 8): OIC’s call for unity (December 8-15)

Both the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) must heed the call of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for unity with sincerity and seriousness. It is good for both Fronts and for everybody --- and more importantly for the entire Bangsamoro people. In truth, it is the way of the right-minded.
As a reminder, however, whichever of the two Fronts takes it lightly would be at a great loss. It would only isolate itself from the body wherein the 57 member states radiate. For the MILF, there is so much seriousness in its affirmative decision, for various reasons: First, as above-said, it is the only valid thing a Muslim must do is to seek unity with fellow Muslims; second, unity of the two fronts even in “diversity” will in manifold strengthen the capability of the Bangsamoro people to propel their struggle to new heights; and third, the MILF will not lose anything; on the contrary, it will still strengthen itself even if Brother Nur Misuari continues to ignore the call, because the MILF has the momentum now to surge ahead, as a consequence of the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the overwhelming support it drew from all sectors of the Philippine society.

To recall, the MILF delegation led by no less than Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim to the 39th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Djibouti on November 15 to 17 did not have second thought in agreeing to the immediate activation of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF). But the case of Chairman Nur Misuari is a different matter. He was so lukewarm to the idea that virtually the OIC had to say yes for him and proceeded to schedule another round of meeting in January next year to discuss the operational mechanism of the BCF.

The time has now come for every Bangsamoro to entertain no rancor in his or her heart.
Hatred, envy, animosity, and rivalry have no place in a struggle dedicated to build an edifice for the entire Moro nation. The MILF is not doing all these striving for itself nor for its leaders. The MILF is only at the driver’s seat during the transition period and when the regular government will be in place, it will be for everybody. If the MILF is interested to take rein of government, then it or its political party will contest in election, and if it wins, then it holds the government. There will be no fear in the hearts of those want to participate in running the affairs of the Bangsamoro government.
No one will be barred from it. The only difference is that the rule of engagement in election will be levelled off, not of the current model which only those having three Gs (gold or money, guns, and goons) can win.

MILF: MNLF lawyer files petition versus Framework Agreement

From the MILF Website (Dec 8): MNLF lawyer files petition versus Framework Agreement

The lawyer of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has filed a petition before the Philippine Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed between the MILF and Government of the Philippines (GPH) on October 15. Lawyer Eli Pamatong, a lawyer of the MNLF and a consistent losing candidate for the presidency, filed the petition in his behalf, hoping that the Supreme Court would thumb down as it did with the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008. However, it was not learned whether Pamatong’s action has something to do with the consistent opposition of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, Pamatong’s boss and bosom buddy.

Misuari continued to lambaste MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim, President Benigno Aquino III, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. Pamatong said the government peace panel allegedly committed grave abuse of discretion, saying the Constitution only provides for Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the creation of a “Bangsamoro” is nowhere cited. He claimed that the government peace panel, as a result, “has usurped the power of Congress to enact, amend or repeal laws vested on it by the Constitution.” He said this is similar to the Bangsamoro juridical entity that was intended to be formed during the Arroyo administration but was struck down by the Supreme Court. By replacing the ARMM with Bangsamoro, Pamatong said, the government peace panel “acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”

As this developed, the GPH is bullish the Framework Agreement signed by the government and the MILF will pass constitutional scrutiny. Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte, at a press briefing yesterday, said when the Framework Agreement was about to be signed by the former chairman of the government peace panel, now Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen, “the Framework Agreement was crafted with the Supreme Court decision on the MOA-AD in mind.”
“We are confident that it (Framework Agreement) will pass constitutional scrutiny,” he said.

Bangsamoro folk to learn from Malaysia

From AsiaOne News (Dec 7): Bangsamoro folk to learn from Malaysia

JOHOR BARU - Residents from the Southern Phillipine Bangsamoro area will be sent to Malaysia for training and education in a variety of areas, said Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Murad Ebrahim. "There is a group of Bangsamoro students studying in Malaysia and other parts of the world but we hope to increase the number based on availability of places," Murad said on the sidelines of the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) here. Murad said other than educational opportunities, the Bangsa-moro people would also be analysing the economic development of Malaysia to see how local policies can be applied to Bangsamoro. "We will also study how Malaysia achieved what it has achieved. We have noticed that the experiences which Malaysia has gone through is relevant to us," he said. He noted that Bangsamoro were also impressed with the Islamic Banking system in Malaysia and were keen to adopt the system as well.

Meanwhile, on the WIEF, Murad said a special session was held for investors interested in Bangsamoro. "A total of 30 investors, including Malaysians, attended the event and they expressed willingness to travel to Bangsamoro to see for themselves the situation on the ground and decide on how they would like to invest," he said, adding that the region was rich in natural resources and had 20 kinds of minerals, including natural gas. On the framework agreement and why he was confident that it would be executed according to plan, Murad said this was because many militant groups in the area were aiming to achieve the same goal as the MILF. "We all want independence and freedom for the Bangsamoro people and the framework agreement is directed to this," he said. The framework agreement was signed between the Philippine Government and MILF in October, ending 40 years of conflict in the region.

Basilan holds peace forum with call for support to Bangsamoro region

From the Zamboanga Today (Dec 7): Basilan holds peace forum with call for support to Bangsamoro region

Hundreds of local government officials, employees, students, and members of civil society organizations yesterday gathered at Basilan State College for a "Peace Conference 2012", with leaders urging the residents to advocate and support the Bangsamoro political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. ARMM Officer-In-Charge (OIC) Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman said: "Let us always view that the Bangsamoro is a solution to the peace and development problem in Mindanao, so we have to support it in order to change the living condition of the people and improve the economy in the region." Hataman said it is his dream that the Bangsamoro people will be recognized one day or someday. He also assured the government employees especially the teachers that they will not be removed from office even if a new political entity will be established replacing the ARMM.

Soliciting the help of the people in the province not to allow kidnappings in Basilan in order to improve the image of the government and economic condition of Basilan, the ARMM caretaker stressed that Islam does not support any kidnapping and corruption. "Tandaan po natin kung mayron man kidnapping at nakawan hindi po iyan utos ng Islam at hindi rin po iyan utos ng Bangsamoro. Kahit may pirmahan o wala nakasalalay pa rin sa mamamayang moro o kapatid nating mga kristiyano at ng mamamayan ng ARMM ang kinabukasan ng Bangsamoro." Titiyakin ko sa inyo kahit mayron pirmahan huwag tayong aasa na wala ng mangyayaring kidnapping pero puwede kahit walang pirmahan kung gusto natin walang kidnapping walang nakawan kahit walang Bangsamoro political entity puwedeng matigil itong krimen na ito kung tayo ay magsama sama at mag susuportahan," Hataman said. Hataman reiterated that he fully supports the president’s wish for lasting peace in Mindanao. “I support the president’s advocacy for peace to reign in this part of the country.”

The forum delved mainly on the Road Map of the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in order to attain lasting peace in Mindanao. Speaking in Basilan, GPH representative UP professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer disclosed President Benigno Aquino III strongly supports the framework agreement because if realized it will be one of his legacies under his administration. Ferrer said under the peace agreement, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will be changed to a new political entity which is the Bangsamoro. “One good aspect of the agreement of the Bangsamoro is Normalization. And one component is decommissioning where all MILF combatants will put aside their firearms. They will be demobilized wherein they will not carry their firearms,” Ferrer said. She said the president is set to order the creation of the Transition Commission which is tasked to draft the Bangsamoro basic law and other general features of the framework agreement. The result of the draft law will be submitted to the House of Representatives for approval of the Organic Act......

Soldiers step up ‘tsinelas’ campaign

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 7): Soldiers step up ‘tsinelas’ campaign

A SOLDIER helps remove the sandals of a little girl so she can try on her new slippers. Carmel Loise Matus
NEGROS OCCIDENTAL—For two months, 13-year-old Mensoy Milaflores had to walk barefoot after his tattered slippers gave up on him. His last pair could no longer be fixed despite the glue on the straps and binding of thin metal wire. His family could not afford to buy a new pair, so Milaflores had to traverse unshod for half an hour the distance from his home in Barangay Tanawan in Himamaylan City to Saisi Elementary School where he is a Grade 5 pupil. The boy’s wish came true on Oct. 19, when Army soldiers belonging to Charlie company of the 11th Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental province, brought 200 new pairs of slippers to the pupils of Tanawan, 28 kilometers from the city proper of Himamaylan. “Finally, I have a new pair,” an ecstatic Milaflores said in Hiligaynon....

The soldiers of Charlie company aim to raise 10,000 pairs for schoolchildren in the mountain barangays of the fifth district, which is composed of Himamaylan and the towns of Binalbagan, Hinigaran, Isabela, La Castellana and Moises Padilla. They also plan to double the target by the end of 2013, said Lt. Jimrhic Obias, company commander. “We aim to distribute slippers to all schools located in the hinterland barangays in the [fifth] district,” he said. “But thousands more don’t have a pair of slippers. We plan to give slippers to all pupils in the mountain barangays.”

The campaign was the brainchild of Col. Nemesio Gacal, who was then the 11th IB commander from 2008 to 2009. While visiting schools in Negros Occidental, Gacal had noticed that many pupils didn’t have slippers or were wearing shabby ones. Gacal and his soldiers distributed 1,000 pairs of slippers to the pupils of Linantuyan Elementary School in Barangay Linantuyan in Guihulngan City. Gacal’s successor, Lt. Col. Ramil Bitong, continued the undertaking until his tour of duty ended on Feb. 28. Obias revived the drive when he became company head. So far, the unit has given out 3,000 pairs of slippers since January, as well as school supplies, such as notebooks, paper, pencils and pens.

Obias said 90 soldiers promised to donate a pair every month. Some civilians and public school teachers in the fifth district have also vowed to donate. “We want to inspire them to begin that journey and pursue their dreams through education,” Obias said. “Our goal is to ensure that no schoolchildren will walk barefoot to and from school. We want them to know that there are people who care about their education and future,” Obias said.

Peace groups want role in Bangsamoro

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 7): Peace groups want role in Bangsamoro

After years of informal engagements with the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on peace-building efforts in Mindanao, peace activists had finally sought a formal role in the transition to the Bangsamoro government. This is the latest twist in the peace-building work of civil society organizations, following the landmark and highly acclaimed Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that Malacañang and the MILF had signed on Oct. 15.

In a news release early this week, the Mindanao Peace Weavers (MPW) noted that “civil society has always been challenged by both peace panels to become involved but most of the engagement has been done sporadically and informally.” MPW groups nine peace advocacy networks in the country. These MPW members have been indirectly engaging the parties in the Mindanao peace process. These are Agong Peace Network, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace, Bisayang Dako Alang Sa Kalinaw, Mindanao Peace Advocates Conference, Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus, Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement, Mindanao Solidarity Network and the Mindanao Association of State Colleges and Universities Foundation. The Initiatives for International Dialogue serves as MPW secretariat.

“It is time that civil society’s engagement in the peace process becomes official,” said Fr. Angel Calvo, chair of the Zamboanga-based Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace. “Peace advocates must also now become more active in policy making,” Calvo added. During its recent assembly in Davao City, MPW members vowed to “continue engaging the government and MILF peace panels beyond the Framework Agreement.” Calvo said MPW’s participation in the peace process can come through an official mandate “akin to the one given by the panels to the International Contact Group (ICG).” Composed of four international nongovernmental organizations and four governments, the ICG was created to be a third-party observer in the peace negotiations. In a coauthored commentary about the Framework Agreement, Kristian Herbolzheimer and Emma Leslie, both of ICG-member Conciliation Resources, noted that civil society organizations “have been essential to keep the [Mindanao peace] process alive.” “They’ve mobilized for peace in a range of ways: Interreligious dialogue, cease-fire monitoring by people living in the conflict-affected communities, cross-sector consultations to develop peace agendas and humanitarian assistance,” Herbolzheimer and Leslie said.

To jump-start its active involvement in the peace transition, MPW said it will endorse individuals from its ranks to join the Transition Commission (TC). The TC, which President Aquino will be creating, will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will serve as the charter of the new political entity. The TC will be composed of 15 members from the Bangsamoro communities. Of the 15 members, eight will be nominated by the MILF.

Both the MILF and government are currently in the thick of wrapping up negotiations on the issues of power-sharing, wealth-sharing and normalization in time for their self-imposed deadline by the end of the year. The Framework Agreement, plus consensus on the three issues, will make up the comprehensive peace formula that was expected to address the Moro aspiration for self-determination. As soon as the comprehensive agreement is in place, Aquino will constitute the TC. Throughout the transition phase, the peace panels will continue to exist in order to oversee the execution of agreed measures.

3,000 expected to join march vs. SMI

From MindaNews (Dec 7): 3,000 expected to join march vs. SMI

Organizers are expecting at least 3,000 protesters to march from Digos City in Davao del Sur to this city for the third edition of “Lakbayan,” a campaign against the mining operation of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI). The 150-kilometer march protest via General Santos City will start tomorrow (Saturday) and will reach this city on Monday, in time for the observance of International Human Rights Day, said Ryan Lariba, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Soccsksargen Region. This year’s theme is “Lakbayan 3: Lakbayan Para sa Katarungan” (Journey 3: Journey for Justice.”)

Lariba said that Lakbayan 3’s major activity will be a boxing match called “Ang Tunay Na Laban ng Bayan” (true fight of the nation), a match between President Aquino- and Armed Forces of the Philippines-backed Xstrata-SMI vs. people-backed Katawhan (“public-backed” people). “The three-day protest will put the accent to our demand for swift justice for the Tampakan “massacre” victims,” Lariba said. He was referring to the October 18 killing of Juvy Capion and her two young sons within the mines development site of Sagittarius Mines, which is backed by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer. It will likewise highlight the human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by Xstrata-SMI in “collusion” with the Aquino government against innocent civilians, indigenous peoples and environmentalists, Lariba added.

John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines spokesperson, has repeatedly said they “respect the views” of those against their Tampakan mining project. Sagittarius Mines’ application for an environmental compliance certificate had been rejected by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, anchored on the open-pit ban issued by the South Cotatabato provincial government. The company has appealed the DENR decision before the Office of the President. Last month, SMI received it fifth Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Award, the highest award given to a mining company in the Philippines.

Lakbayan 3 will be staged simultaneously with Manilakbayan ng Mindanao, “a journey of Mindanawons in defense for land, environment and human rights,” where at least 70 delegates from Mindanao traveled to Manila in a 10-day activity to bring to Malacanang the issue of large-scale mining and killings in the island. Last year’s Lakbayan II was themed “Tuloy ang Laban Batok sa Dinagkung Pagmina ug Pagpanglapas sa Tawhanong Katungod” or “The Fight Continues Against Large-Scale Mining and Human Rights Violations.” Marching from Digos City, protesters also capped their activity here and burned an effigy of President Aquino aboard a backhoe.

Army relieves colonel who lost men in clash with NPA

From the Daily Tribune (Dec 8): Army relieves colonel who lost men in clash with NPA

The Army’s 5th Infantry Division (ID) has relieved an officer who had lost seven of his men, including a 2nd lieutenant fresh from the Philippine Military Academy, in a firefight with communist rebels in southern Isabela. According to the 5th ID based in Camp Melchor de la Cruz in Gamu town, Col. Eduardo Collado was meted an “R and R” (rest and recreation) from his post as commander of the 502nd Infantry Brigade while higher officials are investigating the encounter last Nov. 17 in Echague’s Mabbayad village which led to seven soldiers killed. Col. Loreto Magundayao, 5th ID spokesman and chief of the division’s civil-military operations battalion, said Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Marcos, division deputy commanding general, temporarily took over concurrently as general officer-in-charge of the brigade. Marcos was the 502nd Brigade commander before his promotion to division deputy commanding general. The 5th ID covers practically the whole of Northern Luzon, with most of the Ilocos, Cordillera and Cagayan Valley regions.

Freeze on MILF man's bank accounts lapses

From ABS-CBN (Dec 7): Freeze on MILF man's bank accounts lapses

The freeze order on the bank accounts of a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Central Committee suspected of financing the activities in the Philippines of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah has lapsed, according to the Court of Appeals (CA). In a resolution by the Former 1st Division penned by Associate Justice Mariflor Punzalan-Castillo, the appellate court said the 6-month freeze order should no longer be in effect. "Considering that six months have already elapsed since the expiration of the original 20-day period on January 9, 2012, the extended freeze order should be deemed to have automatically expired on July 9, 2012," the resolution read.

Eduard Guerra, his wife Jocelyn, and Joseph Allan Jungoy Chan, Al Nissah General Merchant, Beauty Rich Trading, Sharif Interior and EJ & P Builders were covered by the six-month freeze order.  The 6-month freeze order was an extension of the 20-day freeze order issued by the appellate court on Dec. 20, 2011 in favor of the Anti-money Laundering Council (AMLC).  The freeze order covered bank accounts in Maybank, Metrobank, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, Banco de Oro, Bank of the Philippine Islands and Land Bank of the Philippines.  Guerra was arrested in September 2010 over terrorism charges. He intended to leave for Geneva, Switzerland then via the Davao International Airport for a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting.

Troops repel NPA attack in NCotabato town

From the Philippine Star (Dec 7): Troops repel NPA attack in NCotabato town

Soldiers wounded five more New People’s Army guerrillas and recovered hundreds of assorted ammunition and materials for fabrication of powerful roadside bombs as they foiled Thursday another NPA attempt to collect money from villagers in Magpet, North Cotabato. Combatants of the 10th Special Force Company, a component unit of the Army’s elite 5th Special Forces Battalion, managed to drive the rebels before the latter could get close to villages in Barangay Mahungcog, an agricultural area in Magpet. Col. Ademar Tomaro, commander of the Army’ s 602nd Brigade, said the soldiers learned of the presence of the marauding NPAs in Barangay Mahungcog in Magpet from farmers that have long been complaining of the extortion activities of the NPA.

Thursday’s NPA-Army encounter in Barangay Mahungcog was the 16th since combined units of the 602nd Brigade begun flushing out communist forces in Magpet late November. Soldiers managed to drive away the NPAs spotted by farmers approaching a strategic area in Barangay Mahungcog after an hour-long running firefight, wounding five rebels. Tomaro said they have no actual enemy body count, but villagers dislocated by the encounter said they saw fleeing rebels carrying five wounded companions. Barangay officials said the fleeing rebels left hundreds of ammunition of assorted calibers, live 40 MM grenade projectiles, fragmentation grenades and materials for fabrication of landmines and remote-controlled improvised explosive devices.

Officials of the Special Forces contingent helping the 602nd Brigade clear strategic areas in Magpet from NPA occupation are convinced the rebels could have suffered fatalities with the shelling of their escape route with 105 Howitzer canons by members of the Army’16th Fire Artillery Battalion.

Tomaro reiterated anew his offer of safe conduct pass for wounded rebels that intend to undergo medication in hospitals anywhere in the province and in Cotabato City. Text messages have been circulating for three days now purporting that more than 20 NPAs were wounded in a five-hour running firefights Monday in three adjoining districts in Magpet. Soldiers used 105 howitzer cannons to drive the rebels away. Villagers that evacuated for fear of getting trapped in the ensuing crossfires confirmed seeing rebels carry dead and wounded companions, mostly adolescents, as the rebels retreated to a hinterland at the border of North Cotabato and Bukidnon.

Bayan calling on PNoy: Free political prisoners

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 7): Bayan calling on PNoy: Free political prisoners

Several organizations in Bacolod City yesterday called on President Benigno Aquino III to release political prisoners and be serious in pursuing peace negotiations as part of the commemoration of the 64th anniversary of the International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10. At a press conference at the Negros Press Club building in Bacolod City, yesterday, Fr. Romeo Tagud of the Promotion of Church People’s Response said peace negotiations and ceasefire should be done not only during Christmas but must be long term.  He said there are about 401 political prisoners in the country and 10 of them are in Negros Occidental but since Aquino assumed office, none of these prisoners have been released as promised.

Christian Tuayon, Bayan-Negros secretary general, said they will commemorate the 64th IHRD with province-wide protests bringing the social and economic issues faced by the people. He said human rights violation is rampant in Negros Occidental and fabricated charges have been filed against many progressive leaders. He also said that violations are also committed in the work place like unfair labor practice and demolition of houses and dislocation of livelihood of the poor.

Fred Caña, Karapan-Negros secretary general, said there is impunity in the government system because human rights abuses are tolerated by people who work for it, thus, so there is nothing to celebrate on Dec. 10 for them. Members of Bayan, Karapatan, PCPR and other organizations from south and north Negros will converge at the Bacolod City Public Plaza to hold a rally, he said. They expect speakers from Manila, he added.

2 soldiers killed in simultaneous NPA attacks in Leyte

From InterAksyon (Dec 7): 2 soldiers killed in simultaneous NPA attacks in Leyte

The New People's Army staged simultaneous attacks in Leyte province Thursday night, leaving two soldiers dead and four other persons, including a civilian, wounded. Captain Dranreb Canto, public information officer of the 802nd Brigade, said the rebels first attacked the base of 78th Infantry Battalion’s Alpha Company in Barangay Antipolo, Albuera town at 7:50 p.m., wounding civilian Edgar Borinaga. Ten minutes after, another group of about 10 rebels attacked troops providing security to members of the Army's Bayanihan Team in Barangay Rubas, Jaro town. It was in the Jaro attack that the two soldiers died. Three other soldiers were wounded. The Army is withholding the names of the soldiers pending notification of their families. On November 30, a soldier was killed and two others were wounded when a unit of the 78th Infantry Battalion was ambushed by rebels in Sitio Calingatnan, Barangay San Pedro, Albuera, Leyte.

Four-way talks over South China Sea postponed

From Rappler (Dec 7): Four-way talks over South China Sea postponed

The four-way talks between fellow Southeast Asian nations with rival claims over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) have been postponed, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Friday, December 7. The meeting, originally scheduled for December 12 in Manila, was cancelled and will take place at a later date due to "scheduling problems," DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters. No new date was given.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario explained on November 21 that the talks between the vice foreign ministers of the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam would focus on adopting a common position regarding their territorial claims in the South China Sea. An invitation was not extended to Taiwan, another claimant country, or China, the regional power that has been pushing to assert its sovereignty over virtually all of the disputed region via its controversial 9-Dash line map. The Philippines is proposing a multilateral approach to resolving the dispute, while China prefers bilateral talks with each claimant country. China recently decided to include the 9-Dash line map in its new passports, and both the Philippines and Vietnam reacted by refusing to stamp all Chinese travel documents, in the latest development of the row over the South China Sea.

AFP honors outstanding officer, confers military Merit Medal

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 7): AFP honors outstanding officer, confers military Merit Medal

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conferred the Military Merit Medal (Interim) to another outstanding officer in the military service for meritorious and invaluable service to the country’s defense force. Col. Felix J. Castro Jr. who served as the commander of the 903rd Infantry (Fight and Defend) Brigade, 9th Infantry (SPEAR) Division, Philippine Army from January 17, 2011 to November 8, 2012 was the recipient of the medal for his deep sense of responsibility, outstanding leadership, professional competence, and managerial acumen. The awarding of Military Merit Medal is pursuant to paragraph 1-6l, Section II Armed Forces of the Philippines Regulations G 131-053 dated 01 July 1986. Said medal is awarded to a military official for heroic achievement or meritorious service during, or in support of military action against an enemy.

Castro, in his term as 903rd Brigade Commander, ably supervised the successful conduct of the 23 Brigade-size Operations, 62 battalion-size operations, 97 company-size operations, and 12,026 small unit operations. These operations resulted to the neutralization of 43 NPA personalities (23 killed, 10 wounded, nine captured, and 11 surrendered) and confiscated 106 firearms (60 high powered/46 low powered), although many of these were outside the focus area of the brigade. The recovered firearms included one Cal .30 LMG, nine M16, nine 653, two AK47, and one M14, among others. Sixty Seven (67) improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were also recovered.

Among the more significant operational accomplishments of the Brigade under Col Castro’s leadership include the death in an encounter of Andres Baja Despi @ Tisoy, the vice CO of SDG, FC79, Komprob Sorsogon; the arrest of Vanjie Herrero @ Vivian, Execom member of Komprob Masbate; the death in another encounter of Luis Gonzaga @ JP- CO of SPP, Ind KSPN, Komprob Masbate; the capture of CTL Felix Marcaida @Megs/Boy/Migo presently Execom Member, KomProb Sorsogon, BRPC PSRL 4th quarter CY 2011 (the 3rd person of KomProb Sorsogon, BRPC; former Secretary of Komprob Sorsogon, BRPC year 2008, PSRL 4th quarter CY 2009; former Secretary of LArangan 3, KomProb Sorsogon. In the absence of allocation for additional CAAs, the establishment of the Barangay Defense System (BDS) has been initiated to act as a holding organization in the cleared barangays. This has been proven effective as the NPAs find difficulty in recovering lost areas......

....With the above-mentioned accomplishments, the brigade was adjudged as the Best Brigade of 9th Infantry (Spear) Division, Philippine Army for 1st and 2nd Quarters of 2012. Maj. General Romeo B. Calizo, Commander of 9th ID, said the commendable and outstanding performance of Col. Castro served as the hallmark of honor and prestige, thereby contributing immeasurably to the accomplishment of the 9ID mission. “By these remarkable achievements, Col Castro earned distinct credit and honor not only for himself and for the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division but also for the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he added.

Peace-promoting projects in Quezon, begin

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 7): Peace-promoting projects in Quezon, begin

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) had began implementing peace- promoting projects under the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services – Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan Program (Kalahi-CIDSS Pamana) in selected areas in Quezon province. The program is being implemented in coordination with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP). Most of the targeted areas under the program are the identified municipalities with conflict-affected barangays (CABs). These are Kalahi-CIDSS municipalities of Mulanay, and Catanauan with 23 CABs.

Each CAB will receive P300,000 grant as an augmentation of funds for the communities to implement infrastructure, and other development projects promoting peace. The project will implement the community driven development approach of Kalahi-CIDSS with the same program objectives- to empower people, to improve local governance and reduce poverty, but with special emphasis on barangays affected by conflict and violence.

Under the program, all CABs will be provided with development projects. A manner different to Kalahi-CIDSS which uses the participatory prioritization mechanism--a criteria-based vote casting by community representatives to decide which projects needs to be prioritized. The program specifies that the focus is strengthening the communities’ capacity to address issues of peace through activities that ensure participation. It also emphasizes that Kalahi-CIDSS is not only a poverty alleviation program but also an instrument in achieving peace and resilient communities in CABs.

NOLCOM, ABS-CBN foundation beneficiaries go on field trip in Tarlac

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 7): NOLCOM, ABS-CBN foundation beneficiaries go on field trip in Tarlac

Around 800 beneficiaries of various school projects of Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) and ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya Foundation in Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, and Cordillera recently converged in Camp Servillano Aquino in Tarlac for a Lakbay Aral and Handog Pasasalamat. Nolcom Information Officer 2LT. Oscar Zaldivar disclosed that the attendees came from Bacooc Elementary School, Libtec Elementary School, and Dumayco Elementary School in Abra; Jose Democrito Elementary School in Nueva Ecija; Taliptip Elementary School in Bulacan; Villa Bacolor Elementary School, Malinta Elementary School, San Raymundo Elementary School, Bilad Elementary School, and Malinta Elementary School in Tarlac; and Amolong Elementary School, Balindan Elementary School, Natonin Elementary School, and Layog-ogtong Elementary School in Mountain Province.

There were also delegates from Ifugao, Benguet, Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, and Pangasinan. “Projects in these areas included the construction of classrooms, libraries, playgrounds, comfort rooms, and centralized water systems,” Zaldivar added. The beneficiaries toured famed spots in Tarlac namely Capas National Shrine, Aquino Center, and SM. The students and teachers mingled with high-ranking officials of Nolcom during a bonfire held in Camp Aquino golf course. ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya Foundation program director Tina Monzon-Palma led the ceremonial conferment of plaques of appreciation to the different units of Nolcom headed by Lieutenant General Anthony Alcantara, for their support to the projects. The foundation also gave gifts to the beneficiaries and awarded the winners of its Parol Making contest.

Negrense soldier dies in line of duty in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): Negrense soldier dies in line of duty in Compostela Valley

An army soldier from Negros Occidental was among those who perished during the onslaught of Typhoon Pablo in Compostela Valley province. The military authority has identified the Negrense soldier as Sgt. Maximo Olivarez, 38, of Brgy. Inolingan, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental. Olivarez, who is presently assigned with the 66th Infantry Battalion’s Charlie Company, was among the platoon of soldiers which set-up the command patrol base in preparation for rescue operation in the area affected by flashflood. Report have it that Olivarez was carried away by the strong flood waters along with seven other fellow soldiers. His cadaver was found several hours later.

 Apart from Olivarez, six other army troopers of 66IB previously assigned in Negros Occidental had not been accounted and three more soldiers had been reported injured during the incident. Olivarez and 49 other victims perished in the mudslide and flashflood in the southern mountain of New Bataan, Compostela Valley.

5 NPAs wounded, 6 camps seized by gov't forces in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): 5 NPAs wounded, 6 camps seized by gov't forces in North Cotabato

MAGPET, North Cotabato -- Five communist rebels were wounded and hundreds of ammunition were recovered as the military seized control of six abandoned camps of the New Peoples Army (NPA) in the hinterlands of this town Thursday. Colonel Ademar Tomaro, 602nd Army brigade commander, said the military's 10 Special Forces Company and elements of the 57th Infantry Battalion have been pursuing a band of communist guerillas who have been mulcting from farmers in Barangay Mahungcog here. "The NPA forced taxation activities have forced civilians to cooperate with the military," Tomaro said in his report to the 6th Infantry Division. Tomaro admitted there was no body count in the NPA fatalities but civilians told soldiers that they saw some five wounded rebels being carried by their comrades away from the encounter site. About 60 families have abandoned their homes for fear of getting caught in the crossfire as the rebels retreated to their villages.

Colonel Prudencio Asto, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said Maj. Gen. Ronnie Ordoyo, 6th ID chief, supported the offer to the NPA of Colonel Tomaro to accompany wounded rebels from the mountains to the military hospital for medication. In the nearby village of Doles, Magpet, the soldiers also seized at least six NPA satellite camps straddling across several villages and there were indications the guerillas stayed in these areas for days prior to last week's skirmishes. Following Thursday's intense firefight, the rebels moved deep into the foot of the country's highest peak -- Mt. Apo. Tomaro has deployed more forces in Magpet to contain the threat of communist guerillas.

AFP renews vow to uphold human rights, joins in the celebration of Human Rights Consciousness week

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): AFP renews vow to uphold human rights, joins in the celebration of Human Rights Consciousness week

The 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division (3ID)based at Camp Gen. Macario Peralta Jr. in Jamindan, Capiz renewed its pledged to uphold human rights as it joined in the celebration of the National Human Rights Consciousness Week celebrated from Dec. 4 - 10. In his email dispatch, Army's spokesperson Maj. Enrico Gil Ileto said soldiers from the different Army units in the region under the overall jurisdiction of the 3ID would continue their enduring commitment to the people in line with the guidance from the national leadership and the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ directive to enhance the culture of Human Rights-International Human Law-Role of Law within the rank and file of the AFP.

He said they will continue dispensing their responsibility of respecting and protecting the human rights of every individual regardless of race, religion, creed, belief, culture and social status in line with the Internal Peace and Security Plan (Bayanihan) which gives premium on serving the people and provides focus on peace and development efforts.

President Aquino names U.P. professor as the new government peace panel chief negotiator

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): President Aquino names U.P. professor as the new government peace panel chief negotiator

President Benigno S. Aquino has appointed University of the Philippines Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer as the new chairperson and chief negotiator of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel, a Malacanang official announced on Friday. Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that Professor Coronel-Ferrer was named as the successor of Mario Victor F. Leonen who was appointed by President Aquino as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court last November.

 Coronel-Ferrer is a professor of Political Science at the U.P. where she teaches comparative politics and political theory. She was director of the U.P. Third World Studies Center from 2000 to 2003 and deputy director from 1995 to 1998. She also convened the Program on Peace, Democratization, and Human Rights of the U.P. Center for Integrative and Development Studies until 2005. Beginning in July 2010, she joined the Government Negotiating Panel for Talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Prof. Coronel-Ferrer co-chaired the Non-State Actors Working Group of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines from 1999-2004. She joined fact-finding missions organized by international NGOs investigating violence in Cambodia (1993, 1997), East Timor (1999, 2000), and Nepal (2003). She was one of 27 Filipino women who are part of the “1000 Women for the Nobel,” nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

She also served as visiting professor at Hiroshima University in Japan, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Korea, and Gadja Madah University in Indonesia; and had written several articles on Philippine civil society, politics, regional autonomy and peace processes in international and local journals and books.

High Hopes for Philippine Peace Plan

From U.S. News & World Report (Dec 6): High Hopes for Philippine Peace Plan

A month after the announcement of a potentially historic peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the two sides continue to iron out the details, one of the negotiators has already picked up an award for his efforts, and, most importantly, peace still reigns. The agreement promises to end an almost 30-year-old insurgency by the Islamic separatist group by enlarging the autonomous region in Mindanao and increasing its political and economic power. If the promise is ultimately met, considerable credit would be due to the Philippine government for handling the conflict in ways which, careful study of past counterinsurgencies shows, improved the odds for success.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front was created in 1984 as an Islamic outgrowth of the more secular Moro National Liberation Front, which formed in the early 1970s. In 1996, the National Front reached a negotiated settlement with the Philippine government that created the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The new peace agreement aims to expand this area into a larger region called Bangsamoro.While both the National Liberation Front and the Islamic Liberation Front are Muslim separatist movements, the Islamic Front is more extremist and, until now, had been unwilling to accept anything less than a fully independent state in Muslim Mindanao. This is not the first peace agreement to be negotiated between the Philippine government and the Islamic Front. Indeed, the two parties have engaged in on-again, off-again peace talks since 1986 (with the National Front taking the lead in negotiations prior to 1996). Numerous ceasefires have been negotiated (and broken), and a peace agreement was drafted in 2008, only to be declared unconstitutional by the Philippine Supreme Court.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is not the only insurgent group still operating in the Philippines. The country currently contends with both a violent communist insurgency (the New People's Army) and an Islamic terrorist movement with ties to Al Qaeda (the Abu Sayyaf Group). The government has successfully used a combination of counterinsurgency strategies against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in recent years, raising expectations that the new peace deal will also succeed—and in a manner that favors the government's interests.

A 2010 RAND study of 30 recent counterinsurgencies, Victory Has a Thousand Fathers: Sources of Success in Counterinsurgency, indicated that "effective counterinsurgency practices tend to run in packs." The study's authors developed a scorecard of 15 good and 12 bad counterinsurgency practices that perfectly discriminates the historical cases into wins and losses, with obvious implications for future counterinsurgency efforts. "Good" practices included incorporating strategic communication strategies, reducing tangible support to insurgents, avoiding collateral damage, and winning over the population in the area of conflict. "Bad" counterinsurgency practices, in contrast, included collective punishment, resettlement of the population, and coercion or intimidation.

A quick tally reveals that the Philippine government's recent counterinsurgency strategy against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has consisted of predominantly "good" practices (12 good practices and only three bad practices, for a score of +9). To put this score into perspective, all of the historical counterinsurgency forces that won scored a 5 or higher. In the Philippines, those good counterinsurgency practices include the government's use of strategic communication, campaigns to win popular support, and efforts to reduce tangible support to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Nonetheless, the Philippine government had to make concessions. Perhaps most importantly, the agreement gives Mindanao's 4 million Muslims a share of the proceeds generated by the region's as-yet-untapped mineral wealth. The government will face numerous hurdles in bringing the Bangsamoro region into existence by the target date of 2016. Yet if we believe that history is the best predictor of success in counterinsurgency, the Philippine government has reason to be optimistic.