Sunday, December 9, 2012

Protest march to mark International HR Day

From InterAksyon (Dec 10): Protest march to mark International HR Day

To them, it doesn’t feel like International Human Rights Day at all. Hundreds of peasants and indigenous peoples from the ManiLakbayan of Mindanao and those who joined the Lakbayan from Southern Luzon meet today at Recto-Morayta to march to Mendiola to protest what they called unabated extrajudicial killings and the climate of impunity over two years in the presidency of President Aquino. The march organizers said they will burn an effigy, a combined military tank and backhoe with a “Noynoy Aquino” figure at the steering wheel. The effigy symbolizes both the Oplan Bayanihan, Aquino’s counterinsurgency blueprint, and the devastating effects of mining by multinational corporations. Both, the protesters say, have caused them their lives and livelihood. With the Mindanao and Southern Tagalog marchers are members of people’s organizations of workers, urban poor, Church people, and human rights advocates led by Karapatan and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).  A program will be held in Mendiola with speeches from representatives from Mindanao and Southern Tagalog; cultural presentations and a ritual by several Datu from Mindanao tribes.....

Soldiers used to typhoons shocked by ‘Pablo’s’ fury

From MindaNews (Dec 9): Soldiers used to typhoons shocked by ‘Pablo’s’ fury

The devastated headquarters of Army's 66th Infantry Battalion at the town proper of New Bataan. Mindanews Photo by Keith Bacongco

The devastated headquarters of Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion at the town proper of New Bataan. Mindanews Photo by Keith Bacongco

NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley — “Maayo pa ang gyera sini kay makalikay pa, pero ining bagyo waay gid kami paadtuan (War is better because we can hide, but with typhoon there’s no way to go),” said Staff Sgt. Antonio Sodosta of the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion. Sodosta, who was assigned in typhoon-prone Samar province for eight years, said he had never experienced such strong winds and seen such magnitude as the fury unleashed by Typhoon Pablo.

On December 5, the 40-year old soldier and his comrades suffered Pablo’s wrath while they were at their headquarters in the town proper here. “Grabe ang hangin. Tapos perti kakusog sa tubig. Una gid namon gi-save ang amon mga pusil pero ang iban mga gamit nagkala-anod. Pero di namon ma biyaan amon mga kubo kay may mga importante na gamit” (The wind was terrible. The (rain)water was very strong. We first saved our guns but the other documents were swept away. We also did not leave our hut because there are important things),” said Sodosta, who hails from Tantangan, South Cotabato.

He recalled that rocks bigger than their heads hit them in the different parts of the body while holding on inside their huts. The huts inside the Army Battalion’s base are made of light materials.
Several huts were totally damaged while many were still standing but partially damaged. Two 105mm howitzers remained on their positions amid the strong water current. “Di na basta-basta maanod kay bug-at pa na sa 6×6 truck (That can’t easily be swept away because that’s heavier than a 6×6 truck),” Sodosta added.

He recalled that during his stint in Samar with a different battalion, they could still rest well inside their huts whenever a typhoon hits the island province. “Pero ini nga bagyo, wala gid kalikay iban nga upod namon (But this typhoon was so strong that some of our comrades were swept away),” Sodosta said. As of Friday, four solders were reported killed while five others remained missing after the flashflood hit their outpost in Barangay Andap.

Andap was the hardest-hit village here, its barangay proper totally wiped out. While interviewing Sodosta, another Army sergeant arrived to have his lunch break before resuming the retrieval operations beside the nearby Catholic church. Sgt. Anthony Mendez, from Pavia town of Iloilo, also told MindaNews that he has experienced typhoons when his unit was still in Iloilo. But the magnitude of their wrath was not the same as Typhoon Pablo. “Grabe gid kakusog hangin sang Martes, wala gid ko kaagi amo sini sang nagbagyo sa Iloilo (The wind was very strong last Tuesday. I haven’t experienced this kind of typhoon while in Iloilo),” he said referring to Typhoon Frank in 2008.

Moderate rains started to fall in this town again in the middle of the interview, prompting the soldiers to scamper back to their huts to place temporary cover on the holes of the roofs. “Sa panahon sang kalamidad sundalo gid permi ga una bulig, pero karon, biktima man kami (In time of calamity, soldiers are the first to respond. But now we are also victims),” a more senior soldier told MindaNews.

MILF denies involvement in 'Bumbaran massacre'

From ABS-CBN (Dec 9): MILF denies involvement in 'Bumbaran massacre'

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) denied any involvement in the massacre of eight farmers in Barangay Mansilano, Bumbaran, Lanao del Sur last Thursday. "Hindi naman gagawin ng sino mang MILF ang bagay na 'yun. Dapat magsagawa ng further investigation kasi baka 'yan ay rido (clan war), dinadamay lang ang MILF," said MILF first vice chairman Gazali Jaafar. Jaafar also strongly condemned the massacre, noting the MILF will conduct its own investigation into the matter. He said that if there is any member of the organization who violated any law, appropriate punishment shall be imposed. "The MILF as an organization is administering justice. Kapag 'yang kaso ay nadala sa korte ng MILF, ang may kasalanan ay dapat magdusa ...batas na nakabatay sa Shariah,” Jaafar added. Last Thursday's incident also left seven others wounded.

8 dead in Lanao del Sur massacre

From ABS-CBN (Dec 8): 8 dead in Lanao del Sur massacre

Eight people were killed and 7 others were hurt in a shooting incident in Sitio Kalibuntod, Barangay Mansilano, Bumbaran, Lanao del Sur on Friday. Five of the victims, who were farmers, were identified as Jovie Lucañas, 22-year-old Terry Pacarat, 28-year-old Jerry Pacarat, 36-year-old Cerelo Pacarat and 30-year-old Joie Pacarat. Police said the victims were shot and hacked by around 30 unidentified armed men, suspected to be members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). They said the head of Lucañas is still missing. Authorities suspect that a dispute over a 30-hectare land is the motive for the killings. Initial reports also said the some of the wounded victims were able to fire back using improvised shotguns, killing 3 of the suspects. One of the killed suspects was identified as a certain Kumander Abu. Investigations are still ongoing.

Moro rebels ready with talks

From Business World (Dec 9): Moro rebels ready with talks

The head of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF ) negotiating panel yesterday said his team is ready to face its government counterpart led by a woman chief negotiator when the two parties resume talks within this month for the remaining key issues in the peace plan. In a statement, Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief peace negotiator, denied unconfirmed reports that the MILF wants the government peace panel to be headed by a male given the "Moro tradition and good practices, man is not supposed to argue with women." But the rebel leader said that "negotiation, it is not about argumentation and debate but essentially discussion of issues and concerns and to agree or to disagree or look for a common way out."

On Saturday, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, a professor of the University of the Philippines, was appointed chairman of the negotiating panel. She has been a member of the peace panel when the Aquino administration resumed the talks in 2010. She replaced Mario Victor F. Leonen, who was also associate justice of the Supreme Court last month.

Mr. Iqbal said he sees Ms. Ferrer as capable in dealing with talks. "She deserved it and [she] is capable to handle the task, besides her being the vice-chairwoman of the government peace panel right now," he said. "I wished her luck and looked up for more strides in the talks under her stewardship," Mr. Iqbal added.

For his part, Ghazali Jaafar, vice-chairman of the MILF, said in an interview at the weekend that the MILF has no right to be involved in the appointment of the government panel head. "It’s internal to the government," he said, adding that in the negotiations issues are more important than personalities. The MILF, however, has rejected a previous appointment by the government. In 2007, the Arroyo administration announced the appointment of Catholic priest Eliseo R. Mercado, Jr. to head the government panel, but this was abandoned over protests from the MILF. At that time, the MILF said appointing a church person will lead to a "highly partisan" discussion.

The government and MILF panels are expected to conclude discussions within the month on three annexes of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. These are power and wealth sharing, and the normalization, which includes the disarmament of the Moro fighters.

PH, Malaysia hold security meet

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 10): PH, Malaysia hold security meet

Malaysian armed forces chief. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin (right)assisted by Armed Forces Chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa confer a medal on Malaysian Armed Forces Chief Gen. Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Zulkifeli Bin Mohd Zin. FLORANTE SOLMERIN
Malaysia’s armed forces chief Gen. Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Zulkifeli Bin Mohd Zin arrived in the Manila last week for talks with Philippine defense and military officials on various issues, including bilateral security, officials said on Sunday. Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Jessie Dellosa said a visit by Malyasia’s highest military official would strengthen cooperation between the two counties amid the tension caused by territorial conflict with China over the West Philippine Sea.“The Armed Forces of the Philippines is committed towards promoting and enhancing regional peace and security which is why we are undertaking these high-level visits aimed at further strengthening our bilateral relationship with other countries,” Dellosa said.

During his four-day visit that ended yesterday, Zulkifeli visited various military commands in the country, including the 6th Infantry Division in Mindanao and the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio. The two countries signed a military and defense pact in 1994. The Philippines and Malaysia have claimed some areas in the disputed West Philippine Sea that China claims as entirely its territory. Other claimants include Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei. No details were released regarding Zulkifeli’s talks with defense and military officials but Dellosa said the visit could result to better cooperation between the two countries.

“We are confident that with a stronger bilateral relationship with our Malaysian counterpart and other neighboring countries, more opportunities for security cooperation and peace and development programs will emerge to benefit the people in the region,” Dellosa said. Last October, Malaysia brokered the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that resulted in a Framework Agreement, which officials hoped could end the decades-old armed rebellion in Mindanao.

Balweg group surrenders guns under terms of pact

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 9): Balweg group surrenders guns under terms of pact

The militia formed by slain rebel priest Conrado Balweg was recently recognized as a nongovernmental organization (NGO) by the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) after the former rebel group began the process of disarmament. But members of the Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development Inc. (Cordillera Forum), the NGO formed by members of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA), asked the government how it would protect them during the elections.  Sadanga (Mt. Province) Mayor Gabino Ganggangan, a reelectionist and one of Balweg’s former aides, said a faction of the militia was not party to an agreement with President Aquino in July and must be considered an armed group. This faction, composed of Balweg’s supporters in Kalinga, had refused to participate in negotiations to finalize the peace agreement started by the late President Corazon Aquino in 1986. The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, however, has started negotiations with the faction for a separate peace deal.

Ganggangan said up to 10 former CPLA members are taking part in the 2013 elections, two of them reelectionist mayors like himself.  “We are like sitting ducks,” he told RPOC members on Thursday. RPOC members voted to make Cordillera Forum a member of the council after discussing the progress made by former militiamen in the disarmament process. Ifugao Gov. Eugene Balitang, RPOC chair, said CPLA no longer exists as far as the government is concerned, so the armed faction would have to be classified as “another armed group” like the private armed groups being dismantled by the government.

Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong, Cordillera police director, said he has reservations about condemning the armed CPLA faction.  “Let us accept the fact that we have two factions in the CPLA… and right now we are dealing with Cordillera Forum. As for the other faction, we continue to engage them [in dialogue] and they have been very cooperative. They have a mechanism to discipline their members and our communication with them is very open,” Magalong said.  He said police, though, are not happy about the quality and quantity of weapons which CPLA members had surrendered. He said they were expecting at least 635 firearms from CPLA members but only 386 weapons had been inventoried and recorded by police, many of them antiquated guns.

Anti-mining activist, kin killed in Nueva Vizcaya

From the Philippine Star (Dec 10): Anti-mining activist, kin killed in Nueva Vizcaya

An anti-mining activist and her cousin-in-law were killed by unidentified gunmen in Nueva Vizcaya last Friday night, ahead of the observance of the International Human Rights Day today, according to an environmental group. Reports said Cheryl Ananayo, a member of the Didipio Earthsavers’ Multipurpose Association (DESAMA), and her cousin-in-law Randy Nabayay were headed to Didipio town when they were shot at around 6 p.m. Friday. DESAMA is a people’s organization opposing the 17,626-hectare Didipio gold-copper project of Australian mining firm OceanaGold Corp. in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.  Nabayay was a small-scale miner who had differences with OceanaGold over his property. Ananayo was with her four-year-old child and three-month-old baby during the attack, but the two were both unharmed.

With the killing of Ananayo, the Kalikasan green network placed the death toll of environmental activists this year at 15. “Is this how (President) Aquino wants to celebrate Human Rights Day, with more impunity toward our beleaguered environment defenders?” said Fr. Oliver Castor, spokesman of Task Force-Justice for Environment Defenders. Castor said 27 environmentalists have been killed under the Aquino administration. The list included B’laan anti-mining advocate Juvy Capion who was slain together with her two sons in Davao del Sur last October, he said. “It angers us how not a single case of extrajudicial and politically motivated killing toward environmentalists has ever been resolved since 2001, and still the number has risen with the killing of Ananayo and Nabayay,” Castor said. “We call for an immediate independent investigation into the killings, as already the police are initially looking at the angle of a holdup incident. We cannot allow yet another case of whitewash in the making,” he said.

PH, Malaysia armed forces boost cooperation amid China's bullying

From InterAksyon (Dec 9): PH, Malaysia armed forces boost cooperation amid China's bullying

Malaysia and the Philippines, two of the four ASEAN members that have claims in the South China Sea, have bolstered their defense cooperation amid what is seen as a more aggressive projection by China in the oil-rich Spratly Islands. “The Armed Forces of the Philippines is committed towards promoting and enhancing regional peace and security which is why we are undertaking these high-level visits aimed at further strengthening our bilateral relationship with other countries’ military,” Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Jessie Dellosa said. He made the remarks as Malaysia’s armed forces chief visited Manila and toured some defense establishments in the country, holding closed-door meetings as well with Dellosa and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. “We are confident that with a stronger bilateral relationship with our Malaysian counterpart and other neighboring countries, more opportunities for security cooperation and peace and development programs will emerge to benefit the people in the region,” he added.

Military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. was mum about the agenda in the meeting between Gen. Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Zulkifeli Bin Mohd Zin, Chief of Defense Forces of the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF), and Dellosa and Gazmin. Zulkifeli had also visited military commands in the country, notably the 6th Infantry Division based in Mindanao and the Philippine Military Academy in Fort del Pilar in Baguio City. The meetings tackled defense and security issues and cooperation, Burgos said, since both countries had signed in 1994 a Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Cooperation, promoting strong bilateral military and defense cooperation. Visiting Camp Aguinaldo last Wednesday, Zulkifeli met with the military top brass followed by a meeting with Gazmin.

Philippines and Malaysia are claiming some areas in the disputed Spratlys, but China claims entire ownership, pitting it against these and two other ASEAN members—Vietnam and Brunei----as well as Taiwan.  Malaysia earlier also brokered the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The outcome of this was the signing of a Framework Agreement (FRAG) last October, meant to end the over 4-decade-old armed rebellion in Mindanao.

PAGASA lifts storm warning signals as 'Pablo' weakens into LPA

From InterAksyon (Dec 9): PAGASA lifts storm warning signals as 'Pablo' weakens into LPA

Tropical depression "Pablo" further weakened into a low pressure area (LPA) on Sunday afternoon, the state weather bureau said. Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) forecaster Bell Masallo said that with the presence of the northeast monsoon "Pablo" continued to weaken into LPA. Masallo said that as of 4 p.m., the LPA was located at 105 kilometers west of Laoag City (18.1°N, 119.4°E). However, she said that the agency was still monitoring Pablo as it might intensify. But based on the agency's models, there's a slim chance of Pablo's regaining strength and it is expected to dissipate. With this development , all public storm warning signals are lifted, Masallo said. Still, she added that with the northeast monsoon, northern Luzon will experience light rains while Metro Manila and the rest of the country will have brief rain showers and thunderstorms.

PH among most terrorism-hit countries

Posted to Yahoo News (Dec 8): PH among most terrorism-hit countries

The Philippines is among the countries most affected by terrorism last year, a new report said, as it noted a relapse in the number of deaths due to local terrorist acts. The country ranked 10th in the latest "Global Terrorism Index" report released by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace. The Philippines was given a score of 6.8 points in the index, which the report said is "based on a unique scoring system to account for the relative impact of incidents in the year." A total of 120 fatalities and 213 injuries due to 125 incidents recorded in the Philippines in 2011, the report noted. Although the number of fatalities is lower than the 212 recorded in 2003, this is a jump from a minimum of 19 deaths in 2006.

"Terrorism in the Philippines is intrinsically tied with nationalist or separatist claims by people living in provinces in southern Philippines," the report noted. This, as it claimed that attacks are "primarily carried out by the New People's Army, Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf Group." The government has recently signed a framework peace agreement with the MILF, but it is still struggling to stifle attacks from a breakaway group known as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. "Excluding private citizens and property, businesses and the government were most likely targets for terrorists in Philippines," the report said. Among Asian countries, it is the second country worst hit by terrorism, following Thailand which ranked 8th in the global list.

"The global impact of terrorism increased significantly from 2002 to 2007. It reached its peak in 2007 and has since plateaued," the report said. Iraq topped the list of terrorism-affected countries. It was followed by Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, Thailand and Russia. The Philippines accounted for 4 percent of the global total of terrorist incidents in 2011. The report also noted that the country's performance on the indicators is "mixed with it performing relatively well in the Acceptance of the Rights of Others and High Levels of Education indicators..." "It underperforms in the other indicators with the poorest being Low Levels of Corruption where it is amongst the most corrupt in the world," the report added.

Church worker nabbed in Cadiz, slapped with murder

From the pro-CPP Bulatlat (Dec 9): Church worker nabbed in Cadiz, slapped with murder

Aniceta Rojo stands at the doorway of the Regional Trial Court Branch 60 in Cadiz City as a policeman stands guard with an assault rifle. Rojo and 24 others were charged for the killing of 1Lt. Archie Polenzo who was killed in what the military described as an ambush but the New People’s Army claimed it was an encounter initiated by the Philippine Army. (Photo by Julius Mariveles /

A pastoral worker who was nabbed inside a convent decried the seemingly Gestapo tactics employed by the Regional Intelligence Unit of the Philippine National Police when they served the arrest warrant against her in the morning of December 7.  The Gestapo is the secret police during Nazi Germany and was notorious for its terroristic methods of operations. “They did not present any document and suddenly grabbed and hauled me down a flight of stairs into a waiting vehicle,” Aniceta Yaun Rojo told in Cadiz City where she and several others have been charged for the death of an Army lieutenant early this year.

The 49-year-old Rojo, a mother of four, was having breakfast with several other church workers inside the San Juan Bautista Parish around 8:30 a.m. in the southern Negros city of Bago when a woman who identified herself as “Juvy,” told her that some people would like to talk to her downstairs.  Rojo, who the military claims is a ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in the island, is a resident of Sum-ag village here and has been a pastoral worker with the parish after working for several non-government organizations. Not knowing that they were policemen, Rojo said she told Juvy to let them come up to the convent. Three more of them came and “I told them to sit down so we could talk but they did not and one of them told me that I have to answer for a crime,” she said. All of them were in plainclothes, none of them presented any identification or even the warrant itself, Rojo added.  When she asked them to wait for parish priest Rodolfo Tan, the four started to get impatient and told her that she must leave with them immediately. “Juvy then told me that she wanted to talk to me near the stairs and, once I was there, she forced me to go down,” she said.

Rojo, who stands less than five feet, screamed for help and one of the church workers, Nilda Plomeda, grabbed her arm and engaged in a tug-of-war with the policemen. Plomeda, however, was overpowered by the policemen who forced Rojo into a waiting vehicle and brought her to the Bago City Police Office where the RIU operatives had the arrest recorded. She was then brought to the Cadiz City Police Office, more than two hours north of Bago City, where she was eventually informed that she was charged along with 24 others for the death of 1st Lt. Archie Polenzo.
Polenzo, an officer of the Army’s 62nd Infantry Battalion, was killed in what the military described as an ambush last March 7, 2010 by the New People’s Army at the sub-village of Aluyan in barangay Bonifacio in Cadiz City.

The NPA, however, refuted the claim and said it was an encounter initiated by the Army.
Court records showed that the charge was filed by then acting City Prosecutor Eduardo Sayson and had as witnesses Privates First Class Oliver Porten and Ray Fontanalgo who all claimed that the suspects are members of the NPA who ambushed their unit. Among those charged are known to the local media as leaders of activist labor organizations or non-government organizations like Isidro Castillo, former regional chairman of the National Federation of Sugarworkers, a labor federation that has consistently been tagged by the Army as a front of the NPA’s political arm, the Communist Party of the Philippines......

.... The team finally caught up with Rojo at the RTC sala where she was accompanied by four members of the RIU. Lawyer Rey Gorgonio, whose assistance was sought by Rodel, asked the policemen why they arrested Rojo but one of them answered that they were instructed not to issue any statement.  “We were told to just refer all questions to Col. Senoron,” a male operative said, referring to RIU chief, Supt. William Senoron who could not be reached for comment. “A lot of violations were committed,” Gorgonio said when asked about the manner by which Rojo was arrested.  He pointed out that the policemen did not present the warrant as required by law and did not even coordinate with the local police in carrying out the arrest. Worse, they did not present any identification that they were policemen and did not even read Rojo her rights based on the Miranda doctrine. “They just told me that I have all the rights but only when we reach Cadiz City,” she said.

The court issued a commitment order for Rojo to be detained at the Cadiz City Jail where another suspect in the same case, NGO worker Zarah Alvarez is jailed. Fred Caña of the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights said Rojo’s arrest is part of the malicious filing of charges by the Army against human rights and development workers.
“There is no other intent but to harass them and make their lives miserable,” he said......

Suspected rebel dies in clash with Army men in Masbate

From Rappler (Dec 9): Suspected rebel dies in clash with Army men in Masbate

Government security forces killed a suspected member of the New People’s Army (NPA) after several minutes of firefight Sunday morning in Barangay Dumorog, Esperanza, Masbate. Maj. Angelo Guzman, spokesman of the 9th Infantry Division, said the encounter between an 8-man team of rebels and a section of soldiers of the Charlie Company of the 9th Infantry Battalion started at around 7 a.m. “The rebels left behind one of their dead comrade. Some of them were also wounded during the firefight,” Guzman said. Led by 2Lt. Bahnarin Camsa, the soldiers went to the target place Saturday night after receiving information about the presence of rebels in the area. The soldiers also recovered an M16 rifle, 1 Caliber .38 revolver and 5 improvised anti-personnel mines from the bandits. “No one was hurt among the soldiers who figured in the clash. Our unit was still trying to identify the rebel fatality,” Guzman said.

Ambush of 2 KALAHI-CIDSS field workers, a case of mistaken identity

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 9): Ambush of 2 KALAHI-CIDSS field workers, a case of mistaken identity

The recent ambush of two Kalahi-CIDDs community facilitators in Samar is a case of mistaken identity. This was the conclusion reached by members of the Team Area Coordinator, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the two community facilitators were wearing incognito helmets and jackets and were not wearing any identification that they were from DSWD Kalahi-CIDDS when they were fired upon by unidentified armed men on their way to their official station in San Jose de Buan, Samar. Department of Social Welfare and Development Region 8 Director Leticia Diokno identified the community facilitators as Renato Dacaymat, 49, and Harvey John Abelido, 24. They were on board a motorcycle with Abelido driving when they were ambushed. Abelido got a scratch on his left face near his jaw. Dacaymat, on the other hand, was not hurt.

Col. Cerilo Balaoro, Battalion Commander of the 87th Infantry Division, also considers the incident as a provocative act, a test of the “lawless elements” provoking the military troops since there is a newly installed detachment camp near the barangay where the incident happened. The incident has also prompted the DSWD to strengthen its staff security, said Diokno. “We (DSWD) strengthened our staff’s security through our partners in the military, the PNP and the local government unit (LGU) themselves, ” Diokno said, adding that after the incident, the Mayor immediately called a crisis management team meeting to discuss what the intention or motives were behind the incident.”

The San Jose de Buan LGU scheduled a meeting on December 14, 2012 to review and discuss the Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) resolution on their commitment for the safety of DSWD field workers, Diokno said. “The meeting will involve all the barangay leaders and will tackle what security measures they can give to our staff, otherwise, without such, definitely the instruction of Secretary Dinky Soliman is to pull out from San Jose de Buan,” Diokno added. “We do not want our staff nor the project to be in a disadvantaged situation,” Diokno emphasized.

The two field workers are stationed in the municipal office and were advised to take all instructions from there. The Area Coordinator was instructed to facilitate all necessary coordination with the PNP, AFP and the Local Chief Executive (LCE) for safety measures. The Regional Office will also facilitate immediate procurement of vests with DSWD logo for all field workers of the department, not only for Kalahi-CIDSS, but also Pantawid, and the Sustainable Livelihood for proper identification. Kalahi-CIDSS is a community-driven development (CDD) poverty alleviation project of the government spearheaded by DSWD. It aims to empower the community, improve local governance, and reduce poverty.

Army graduates urged to keep on serving the people and securing the land

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 9): Army graduates urged to keep on serving the people and securing the land

Major General Gerardo Layug, Commanding General of the 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army urged the 90 new graduates of the candidate soldier course to keep on serving the people and securing the land. “I encourage you to love your service as much as you love yourself. Learn by heart the basics. Learning is a continuous process, as you discover the intricacies of the service. Stay focused on the basics and you will never go wrong,” Layug told soldiers during the closing ceremony held at 8th ID, Camp Lucban, Catbalogan City, Samar, on December 7, Friday.

Layug led the entrustment of firearms with B General Virgilio Espineli and Board Member Alberto Mendador, representative of Northern Samar Governor Paul Daza, together, with Samar officials, Matuguinao Mayor Melissa Dela Cruz and Samar Island Press Club officers. During the ceremony, the new soldiers were reminded of the army’s commitment to respect human rights, adhere to international humanitarian law, and obey the rule of law. The general also instilled to the graduates to always do the right thing.

Layug said the Philippine Army candidate soldier class 299 of 2012 was named “Mandirigmang Nagkakaisa para sa Bansang Sinilangan” or MANANABAS class who took their oath as candidate soldiers on July 9, 2012. The members of MANANABAS class has one registered nurse, one licensed criminologist, 18 college graduates and 30 under college graduates, nineteen vocational graduates and twenty three high school graduates. Eight candidate soldiers are from Luzon, twenty from Mindanao, and 62 from the Visayas. There are 44 from the island of Samar, one from Bohol, one from Cebu, two from Negros and two from Iloilo. The new privates will be assigned to different army battalions under the 8th ID in the Eastern Visayas region.

Military brands as desperate moves NPA attacks on Leyte troops

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 9): Military brands as desperate moves NPA attacks on Leyte troops

The military branded as desperate moves of lawless elements belonging to the New People’s Army, the attacks on government troops in Albuera and Jaro, Leyte on December 6, which resulted to the killing of two soldiers, and the wounding of three other soldiers and a civilian. “This is another desperate act of the NPA to disrupt our efforts of bringing peace and development that will benefit our less fortunate brothers and sisters in the area,” said Colonel Rafael C. Valencia, the Brigade Commander of 802nd Infantry Brigade based in Camp Downes, Ormoc City. He however said, that the incidents will not stop the government troops from pursuing their mission of winning peace for the people of Leyte.

More or less 10 lawless armed elements harassed the base of Alpha Company of 78th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Antipolo, Albuera at around 7:50 p.m. of December 6, wounding a certain Edgar Borinaga, a resident of the said barangay. In a separate incident, some 10 NPAs attacked troops who were providing security to members of a Bayanihan Team of 19th Infantry Battalion conducting peace and development activities in Barangay Rubas, Jaro at around 8 p.m. resulting to the death of two soldiers and wounding of three others. Captain Dranreb Canto, Public Information Officer of the 802nd Infantry Brigade said the names of the military casualties are being withheld pending notification of their immediate families. The wounded civilian in Barangay Antipolo, Albuera town was immediately brought to OSPA Hospital in Ormoc City for immediate medical treatment.

It may be recalled that on November 30, one soldier was killed and two others were wounded when elements from the 78th Infantry Battalion were ambushed by more or less 10 NPAs at Sitio Calingatnan, Barangay San Pedro, Albuera, Leyte. The troops were on their way back to their headquarters from peace and development efforts.

Army’s 7th Infantry Division reaffirms commitment in maintenance of lasting peace in Central Luzon

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 9): Army’s 7th Infantry Division reaffirms commitment in maintenance of lasting peace in Central Luzon

The 7th Infantry Division (7ID) of the Philippine Army reaffirmed its commitment in maintaining lasting peace in Central Luzon to ensure its continued progress. “We are primarily securing areas where there are the most number of big ticket foreign and domestic investors. These are the Freeports and Special Economic Zones of Aurora, Subic, Bataan, and Clark whose airport is being eyed to be a complementary to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, ” 7ID commander Brigadier General Gregorio Pio Catapang said.

7ID is also beefing up efforts in guarding the ongoing construction of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) and the soon to commence construction of Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEX). The 89 kilometer-TPLEX would be linked with the existing North Luzon and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressways to provide seamless travel to and from the Ilocos, Cordillera and Central Luzon regions.  The project is expected to spur further economic growth to Northern Luzon provinces which are known as food baskets of the country. It is initially eyed to have two lanes and subsequently be expanded to four lanes when capacity reaches to 25,000 vehicles per day.

The proposed 66.6 kilometer CLLEX on the other hand seeks to improve access to the food baskets of Cagayan Valley, the province of Aurora, and the eastern part of Cordillera for safer, faster and more predictable movement of people and goods going to and from Metro Manila and Central Luzon. It will connect from the terminus of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway in Tarlac City, then move eastward to Cabanatuan City, and finally climb northward to its ending point in San Jose City in Nueva Ecija. “Four freeports and special economic zones and two upcoming world-class expressways. Truly, Region 3 has the best of both worlds and it is so that we needed to heighten our security levels, ” Catapang added.

As for addressing global warming, the 7ID commander bared that they are now focused in the protection of Mount Arayat- a stratovolcano in Luzon.  “This is being guarded by about 100 men and various planting of fruit bearing trees have been done in line with the National Greening Program (NGP), and also, an anti-illegal task force has been formed.” Catapang said. NGP was created under Executive Order No.26 of President Benigno Aquino III to pursue sustainable development for poverty reduction, food security, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.  It aims to plant 1.5 billion trees covering about 1.5 million hectares for a period of six years (2011-2016) in lands of public domain. These lands include forestlands, mangrove and protected areas, ancestral domains, civil and military reservations and urban areas.

Sema lauds GEM program in ARMM, Cotabato City

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 9): Sema lauds GEM program in ARMM, Cotabato City

Cotabato City vice mayor Muslimin Sema lauded the successful implementation of the Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that ends this year. In an interview at the Marco Polo Hotel here, Sema, who is also the concurrent chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), said GEM program 3, an expansion from GEM program 1 and 2 since 1995, had been a partner of the national government to implement various projects and programs that benefited Mindanaoans, especially those living in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other conflict-affected areas of Mindanao. “I hope this healthy working relationship will continue even as the assistance has to end this month,” Sema said.

 Sema said GEM Programs played a major role in the development of Mindanao since the early 1990s, adding with the 1996 signing of a peace agreement between the government of the Philippines and the MNLF, USAID’s efforts were intensified. “The signing of a peace agreement between the government of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996 resulted in improved peace and order,” he said. He said although overall security in most of Mindanao had improved significantly over the past several years, the threat of armed conflict, intermittent outbreaks of fighting, the perceptions of risk on the part of potential investors, and the general impression of political instability had posed constraints and challenges to sustainable economic growth in Mindanao.

 GEM Program activities were divided into five components: infrastructure development, business growth, education, governance and former combatant reintegration. It also provides a range of support services to USAID and the U.S. Embassy, including communications/information services and event preparation. Sema said he was more thankful for the GEM Program which gave due importance to former MNLF combatants especially in the provision of Livelihood Enhancement and Peace (LEAP) Project.

In October 2003, USAID made the LEAP 2 Project, a component of the GEM 2 Program. Since LEAP’s inception in 1997, more than 28,000 former MNLF combatants received the training, technical and marketing assistance, and production inputs they needed to become small-scale commercial growers of corn, rice, or seaweed. Over 7,000 of these former combatants were assisted to produce and market higher-value commodities. In addition, LEAP 2 provided 50 MNLF communities (co-ops and organizations) with 111 assorted items of pre-production and post-harvest equipment, concrete or bamboo solar dryers, and outrigger boats.