Monday, December 17, 2012

Aquino signs EO on Bangsamoro Transition Commission; talks reach 'impasse'

From  Rappler (Dec 17): Aquino signs EO on Bangsamoro Transition Commission; talks reach 'impasse'

[Here is link to a copy of Executive Order 120--Constitution of the Transition Commission and for Other Purposes (]

NEGOTIATIONS. Tengku Datu Ab Ghafar Tengku bin Mohamed, the Malaysian third-party facilitator, chats with members of the GPH delegation during a break in the third day of the 34th GPH-MILF Formal Exploratory Talks. Photo from OPAPP's Facebook account

NEGOTIATIONS. Tengku Datu Ab Ghafar Tengku bin Mohamed, the Malaysian third-party facilitator, chats with members of the GPH delegation during a break in the third day of the 34th GPH-MILF Formal Exploratory Talks. Photo from OPAPP's Facebook account

President Benigno Aquino III signed Executive Order 120 creating the 15-member Transition Commission that will craft the Bangsamoro Basic Law on Monday, December 17, a day after the latest round of peace talks ended in a "technical impasse." The 34th Exploratory Talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front concluded Sunday, December 16, with a "technical impasse" over the issue on whether the MILF should lead the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the body that would lead the transition toward a Bangsamoro political identity.
But government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel Ferrer said the tasks of the Transition Commission were separate from the process involving the crafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and any delays in the drafting of annexes will not have a significant impact on the peace process.  "The rest of the roadmap is to release the executive order to form the Transition Commission even if the panel is still finalizing the annex. That was the whole idea, to finish the Framework Agreement first in order to get the next mechanisms in place," Ferrer said in an interview before the EO was released. As indicated in the Framework Agreement, both sides committed to finish drafting the annexes before the end of the year but this deadline has always been flexible, Ferrer said. "That was the target but we are always flexible. Let's not rush. It's the better part of prudence to really go through the documents and the issues to really study this and to really agree. We can mutually adjust the target," Ferrer said.
With around two weeks left before 2012 ends, the MILF said that both sides have managed to accomplish 95% of the work on power-sharing; 60% on wealth-sharing; 99% on modalities and arrangement; and 30% on normalization. Members of the Transition Commission will be selected by the MILF and the government -- MILF will choose 8 while the government will choose 7.  Both parties have met twice since the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on October 15 to draft the annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing and normalizations that will complete the Comprehensive Agreement.
Technical impasse
In a statement posted on, the MILF said the the 34th round of talks was adjourned without a joint statement, as the issue on who should lead the BTA was not resolved.  The government peace panel, according to the MILF, wanted the Bangsamoro to lead the BTA, but the MILF said this would be a "menu" for "the struggle of the fittest and chaos" as indicate that the position for the BTA chairman was "up for grabs." MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal also said that he did not believe that the government peace panel's position reflected that of the President's.
Ferrer however downplayed the alleged deadlock, saying that the "technical impasse" revolved around formulating the right language to use in certain provisions of the BTA in the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities. "The government, of course, acknowledges that the MILF is our main partner in this. But we are also balancing that with the government's policy of inclusivity," Ferrer said.  The technical working group (TWG) on the annex on transitional arrangements and modalities was only convened in the last round of talks. But Ferrer said that despite this and the deadlock, the TWG was able to come up with a complete draft except for some "sticky points" that needed to be ironed out.  There are 6 remaining issues left in all 4 annexes, Ferrer said, and one of these is the issue on who would lead the BTA.
On the failure to release a joint statement after the talks, Ferrer said that they just lacked the time to do so. "We ended on a good note. The good note is that we have accomplished so much. It's really time to go back to our principals to review the next steps and at the same time to address a few issues," she said.  Presidential Spokesperson said the government believes the technical impasse is "not insurmountable."  "In fact, there has been progress made so we don’t see any reason why the annexes will not be signed. But, as to the schedule, as to the date, that is something that we would leave with the government panel. We don’t have any specific schedule on that," he said.

'Slain bomber more valuable alive than dead'

From Rappler (Dec 18): 'Slain bomber more valuable alive than dead'

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte commended the local police force and other state security forces which failed a bombing attempt and killed a suspected Malaysian member of the Jemaah Islamiyah. However, Duterte said Mohd Noor Fikrie Bin Abd Kahar could have been a source of vital information if he was only disabled during the raid. "Fikrie has more value if he is alive. Even if his wife is presently detained, the information that we could extract from Fikrie would be more valuable," Duterte said. DCPO chief Senior Superintendent Ronald dela Rosa explained that the incident happened quickly that they opted to take down the bomber after he threatened to detonate the improvised explosive device.

Fikrie was shot dead while attempting to elude a raid by a composite team of local police force and intelligence agents on Friday evening, December 14. His Filipina wife, Anabelle Nieva Lee, was caught and is presently undergoing tactical interrogations in the headquarters of the Davao City Police Office. Duterte commented that even the operation was successful there are still many assessment points that must be considered if there would be future terrorist attacks in the city. "The response of our local police force was very quick. It was very quick that they forgot to clear the hotel lobby and the streets near the hotel," Duterte said.

Double full alert

Dela Rosa declared that the local police force is presently on double full alert for possible retaliation of Jemaah Islamiyah. "Some police forces deployed in search and rescue operations in Compostela Valley will be pulled out to secure the city during the holidays. Additional K9 units will also be assigned in various checkpoints in the city," dela Rosa said Duterte ordered that profiling must be also strengthened in the city. "People manning the checkpoints must know who to look for," Duterte said. "We must not stop. We should be vigilant everyday," Duterte added.

(Yearender) AFP modernization now on track

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 18): (Yearender) AFP modernization now on track

The year 2012 saw the start of a no-non-sense modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), long considered as military laggard in Southeast Asia. Thanks to the support and funding from the Aquino administration to catch up with Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of internal and external defense capability.

The year 2012 saw the deliveries of new W-3A "Sokol" combat utility helicopters, multi-purpose assault crafts (MPACs), and a refurbished C-130 "Hercules" cargo aircraft and turnover of another Hamilton-class cutter. But probably the best news for all dedicated military personnel this year was President Benigno Aquino III's signing on Dec. 11 of Republic Act No. 10349, which amended Republic Act No. 7898, or the AFP Modernization Act. The amendment hopes to "boost the AFP's capability upgrade program as it shifts from internal to external defense capability." "This is a very significant and timely development in our efforts to upgrade our capability to be more effective and efficient in the performance of our constitutional mandate," AFP spokesperson Col. Arnulfo M. Burgos, Jr., said.

Burgos said that the entire military expressed its most sincere gratitude to the present administration in its continuous and unprecedented support to the AFP's modernization and capability upgrade program. "We are optimistic that the law will significantly contribute to the development and transformation of the AFP into a multi-mission-oriented force, capable of effectively addressing internal and external security threats," Burgos said. With the passage of the law, he said, the AFP would be able to push for the acquisition of equipment listed in the country's medium term (2013-2017) acquisition list. "The implementation of our modernization and capability upgrade program will also provide greater opportunities and enough time for us to finally achieve a minimum credible defense posture, which will help us in better fulfilling our mandate to protect the people and the state," Burgos said.

Republic Act No. 10349 has a budget of P75 billion for the first five years of implementation subject to the capacity of the Department of National Defense (DND) to utilize and implement the program in accordance with the Defense System of Management. The new law exempts certain major defense purchases such as aircraft, vessels, tanks, armored vehicles, communications equipment and high-powered firearms from public bidding. It also exempts from value-added tax and customs duties the sale and importation of weapons, equipment and ammunition to the AFP which are directly and exclusively used for its projects, undertakings, activities and programs. Republic Act 10349 also institutionalizes the defense system of management, which incorporates a collegial and collaborative planning and decision-making process by senior defense and military leaders. It also allows additional funding from public-private partnerships entered into by the DND as well as multi-year contracts. This law will hopefully repair the damage caused by long years of neglect to the military, which during the 1960s up to the 70's was considered to be Southeast Asia's best.

DND undersecretary for finance, munitions, installations, and materiel Fernando Manalo echoed Burgos' statement and stressed that the signing and passage of the revised AFP Modernization Act would definitely make the military more capable of carrying out its constitutional mandate. "This law will give the AFP a minimal credible deterrent posture," he said. Manaolo also said that new equipment, which included missile-firing frigates, modern fighter aircraft, surveillance radars, anti-submarine helicopters, armored personnel carriers, and artillery pieces, would greatly aid the country in protecting its territories, especially those in the West Philippine Sea. "Having these armaments, will greatly deter would-be bullies in encroaching in our territories," Manalo said. Aside from defense equipment, engineering and search-and-rescue materiel would also be acquired, Manalo pointed out, giving the Philippines more assets in its peace and community development.

Thus, 2012 was a very good year for the military considering the equipment delivered and commissioned this year, which include:  *putting into squadron service of the four W-3A "Sokols" combat utility helicopters (made by Augusta PZL Swidnik of Italy and Poland) last March 9;  *commissioning of a MPAC last May 22.  *delivery and testing of two more MPACs last August;  *turnover to the Philippine Navy (PN) of another Hamilton-class cutter (the BRP Ramon Alcaraz) to its prospective crew in North Charleston, South Carolina last May 23. The ship is still there undergoing refurbishment and is expected to be in service by the first quarter of 2013;  *commissioning of the refurbished C-130 "Harcules" cargo plane which took place last Oct. 17. The aircraft was in the US for its periodic depot maintenance; and  *turnover of two more W-3A "Sokol" helicopters last Nov. 26.  Since 2013 is just a few weeks away, the AFP expects the coming year to be another banner one with the deliveries of additional equipment, which include two more W-3A "Sokols" and another C-130 cargo carrier by the first quarter, putting into fleet service the vastly-improved BRP Ramon Alcaraz, which has more state-of-the-art armament and sensors that its sister, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar. To top it off, the Philippine Nave plans to acquire three more MPACs by 2013. Col. Omar Tonsay, Navy spokesperson, said that these were already in the program and in Stage 1 of the acquisition process. Stage 1 refers to acquisition planning and requirement definition. While Stage 2 determines the possible proponent of the project. Stage 3 and 4 refers to the actual costing and possible delivery date of the project.

Another defense item, whose acquisition is being monitored by military and civilian naval hobbyists, is the ongoing negotiation for two of Italy's "Maestrale" missile-firing frigates. DND spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez said that the negotiation was now nearing its completion. "From what I heard, the talks are now centering on the final costing of the ships and what kind of weapons will be fitted," he said. Galvez also expressed hope that the deal for ships will be completed early next year so that the PN can field combat vessels with a so-called "blue-water" capability. The latter refers to the capacity to patrol long stretches of maritime territory and protect it from poachers and other intruders.  Galvez considered "Maestrale" as ideal for this role with its good range, speed, and advanced weaponry. DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin last August confirmed that the country would acquire the "Maestrale" from the Italian Navy by next year. He said the two ships were expected to arrive at the country in November 2013. The DND chief said both ships would cost around P11.7 billion. The "Maestrale" class is an eight-ship fleet currently being operated by the Italian Navy. It is primarily designed for anti-submarine warfare and first commissioned in 1982. However the vessels are highly flexible so they are also capable of anti-air and anti-surface operations. It has a displacement of 3,300 gross register tons and a speed of 33 knots. The ship is armed with anti-ship missiles, torpedoes, long range guns and automatic weapons, making it ideal to protect the country's maritime borders against poachers, pirates and foreign aggressors.

The AFP also proposed to acquire two anti-submarine helicopters, 10 attack helicopters and 12 fighter jets for the Air Force, and Army's 100 armored personnel carrier and 20 long-range cannons next year.

Army to maintain visibility in seized Cotabato NPA camps

From the Mindanao Cross (Dec 17): Army to maintain visibility in seized Cotabato NPA camps

THE military is keen on maintaining high visibility and implementing community projects in the surroundings of the 14 strongholds of the New People’s Army in North Cotabato’s Magpet town, overrun in a series of offensives launched due to mounting complaints of NPA abuses and excessive mulcting of “protection money” from villagers.

Col. Ademar Tomaro, commander of the 602nd Brigade, said their successful take-over of the NPA enclaves was a result of the cooperation of residents in the hinterland barangays in Magpet to the military’s campaign to flush NPAs out of the municipality on the behest of local folks complaining of excessive taxation activities of rebels. Combined combatants of the 57th, 40th, and 7th Infantry Battalions, the elite Scout Rangers and Army Special Forces, begun clearing Magpet from NPA occupation late November, following a series of roadside bombings in the area and harassments by NPAs of villages whose residents refused to shell out “protection money” and food.

More than 30 NPAs have reportedly been wounded in the series of Army-rebel encounters in Magpet in the past four weeks. The most intense of the encounters erupted December 3, where soldiers even used 105 Howitzer cannons to prevent marauding rebels from getting close to a barangay where they were supposed to collect “revolutionary taxes” from farmers. Villagers displaced by the hostilities have confirmed seeing dozens of wounded NPAs, most of them adolescents, being carried away by their comrades while fleeing from the scene.

Maj. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said he was elated with the initial accomplishments of the 602nd Brigade and all Army units involved in the government’s pacification campaign in Magpet. “These operations were launched in response to mounting complaints by local residents on the abuses by the NPAs. People were coerced to pay taxes and give rebels food, in total disregard of human rights and the International Humanitarian Law,” Ordoyo said. Ordoyo said the 6th ID, through the 602nd Brigade, is ready to help NPAs apply for the government’s reconciliation program if they decide to return to the fold of law.

The NPAs have been retaliating for the fall of their camps in Magpet. Three harassments of militia detachments in different parts of the province occurred since December 7. The latest of these retaliatory attacks happened just after noontime of December 12, where NPAs surrounded a detachment at Barangay Tuburan in Makilala, North Cotabato and opened fire with assault rifles, wounding a militiaman named Relex Endencio. Endencio’s companions, led by Army Sgt. Nestor Estante, returned fire and prevented the NPAs from closing in. Two NPAs were wounded in the ensuing encounter. The rebels retreated after sensing they could not breach the triple line of bamboo fences encircling the detachment due to the heavy resistance by the militiamen inside.

MILF: Editorial--Break not the partnership

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Dec 16-22): Break not the partnership

The signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) officially marked the starting point of partnership between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which they must seriously nurse, care, and nurture if they want to succeed in their peace-making in Mindanao.

This partnership should not be interrupted, let alone be broken, until all their agreements shall have been fully implemented, hopefully in time for the May elections in 2016 when the first election in the new Bangsamoro autonomous political entity will be held. After all, the MILF is good only up to this election, after which, it is everybody’s game. Once the MILF is in the saddle of power, it either converts itself into a political party or organizes a political party and joins the political fray. If it wins in the election, well and good, and if it loses, it is again well and good, because that is how the game is going to be played. There will be no remorse or rancor.

But between now and 2016, any effort to disrupt this partnership, even if it is designed for the best intention, is an effort not in the right direction. At worse, it is suspect; and surely no amount of justification could justify it, because the consequence of such scheme would be to break the momentum of the partnership and let hell loose, even if it is not intended, so that those adversely affected by the new power alignment within the Bangsamoro are given the chance to consolidate and fight in preparation for the first regional election in the Bangsamoro government. And again, if they are put in power they will spread (and enjoy) vices and corruption amidst the suffering of our people.
With this odd situation, the MILF’s ability to account for its share of the responsibility to implement all the agreements would be extremely difficult, because it has no control over the chaotic situation. This grim scenario, we firmly believe, is totally not the one imagined or intended for the Bangsamoro by President Benigno Aquino III. We could see in him the sincerity, commitment, and determination to settle this bloody mess before he steps down from office in 2016.

The MILF is not hungry for power or positions in government; otherwise, we could have accepted the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which has been offered to us at least four times. Our aim here is solely to solve the Bangsamoro Question by putting in place and in order, in reiteration, in partnership with the government, a new polity in the Bangsamoro where the playing field in politics is level, where accountability is not only in laws and before men, but most solemnly, where men and women fear committing a crime or corruption, because his or her conscience is watching. If this partnership is disrupted anytime before 2016, which groups or leaders in the Bangsamoro who have the tenacity, vision, dedication in sincerely putting in place a system and polity that are solely for the higher interest of our people? We are not saying, there are none, but anyone who wants to find those kinds of leaders will only find a handful of them (in the open).

MILF: Int’l NGO educates community in Basilan on Monitoring & Reporting Grave Child Rights Violations

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 18): Int’l NGO educates community in Basilan on Monitoring & Reporting Grave Child Rights Violations

Plan International, a Non-Government Organization (NGO) operating in 50 countries worldwide, educated the community members of Al Barka, Basilan, on Monitoring & Reporting Mechanism on Grave Child Rights Violations. The information drive that was conducted at the Community Learning Center (CLC) of Barangay Cambug, Al-Barka, Basilan last December 8, 2012 was attended by more than a hundred elements of Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) under the command of Base Commander Ust. Dan Asnawi of the MILF 114th Base Command. Some local Health Workers, Barangay Officials, community leaders and officers of Municipal and Barangay Political Committees of the MILF also attended similar orientation at the CLC of Barangay Kailih, Al-Barka last December 9, 2012.

The Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) is an undertaking of the United Nations facilitated by UNICEF aimed to prevent occurrences and trigger immediate response to grave child rights violations. Ely Salazar, Program Manager of Plan International, who facilitated the community orientation said MRM is a product of several years of focused attention on the plight of children affected by armed conflict. He added that the program’s goal is to protect children affected by armed conflict by enhancing the accountability of perpetrators (whether state or non-state actors), preventing the occurrence of violations and triggering response to grave violations through advocacy, policy development, and programmatic response. MRM further aims to provide timely, objective, reliable, and accurate information on grave child rights violations to the UN Security Council and other MRM focal structures such as the MRM Steering Committee & Country Task Force. Salazar related that MRM encourages safe and ethical sharing of information on grave violations to inform response and organize local, national, regional, and international response to grave violations that are identified, reported, and verified by the Country Task Force.

The United Nations has identified the following as grave violations of child’s rights: killing and maiming of children; recruitment and use of children in armed group; attacks on schools and hospitals; rape and grave sexual violence; abduction of children; and denial of humanitarian access. With UNICEF, Plan International has been facilitating the implementation of UN-MILF Action Plan to halt the involvement of child associated with conflict in the BIAF. The MILF had agreed with the UN not to allow Moro youth below 18 year old to participate in the military affairs of the organization.

Part of the Action Plan is the advocacy on Child’s Rights facilitated by Plan International in coordination with the MILF on the ground. Jeffrey Pilapil, Plan International Consultant and co-facilitator, related how the community members of Al Barka Basilan are yearning for development interventions from other agencies to reach their communities. Between March 1, 2012 to July 15, 2012, Plan International reached out target communities in Al-Barqa providing Micro-Nutrient Supplementation and Psycho-Social Interventions to conflict affected children ages 3-5.

Salazar also related that the 114th Base Command welcomes any development initiatives for the communities of Al Barqa. He added the participants were grateful for the inputs given to them on the said orientation. During the open forum, the participants mentioned request for Madaris education improvement such as renovations of classrooms, honorarium for Asatidz (Madrasa teachers), road rehabilitation and water system projects.

US envoy joins cadets' fitness challenge

From Sun Star-Baguio (Dec 18): US envoy joins cadets' fitness challenge

US AMBASSADOR Harry Thomas Jr. is set to join a fitness program at Asia's premier military academy today, Tuesday. Thomas, with military officials from the US Embassy, will compete in a physical fitness challenge at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) on December 18. The Embassy representatives will join newly installed PMA Superintendent Lieutenant General Irineo Espino and Assistant Superintendent Brigadier General Emeraldo Magnaye, Commandant of Cadets Brigadier General Carlos Quita, PMA administration, and numerous PMA cadets in a fitness challenge in the name of camaraderie.

Last month, Espino assumed his post as PMA top man. He was formerly at the helm of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as inspector general. Espino is a member of the PMA "Matapat" Class of 1979.

Thomas and participants from both sides will engage in a friendly push-up and sit-up competitions at PMA. The event will highlight the friendship between the Philippines and the United States and the continuing cooperation between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and their counterparts in the US Armed Services.

Pama: We Lost Mischief Reef Due To Inferior Navy

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 17): Pama: We Lost Mischief Reef Due To Inferior Navy

It’s a blessing in disguise for the country. This is how outgoing Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Alexander Pama described the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as he underscored that Mischief Reef was taken over due to lack of Navy assets to protect our territory. “What’s happening now in the West Philippine Sea is a blessing in disguise not only for the (Philippine) Navy but for the country,” Pama told Manila Bulletin. “People are beginning to realize that we are indeed a maritime nation and we have to protect our maritime interests.” “It may not be a refocus, because we’ve been doing that (patrolling and enforcing Philippine maritime laws) ever since,” he remarked. “But we need to highlight that fact in the psyche of the people.”The biggest challenge now, Pama said, is: What do we need first to secure our maritme domains? “We cannot have physical presence if we don’t have wherewithal,” he emphasized.

 The Navy chief cited as an example the 1994 incident in Mischief Reef which is just 130 miles away from Palawan, well inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Philippines once controlled this and Filipino fishermen used to fish at the reef. However, the Chinese government was able to build initial structures on stilts at the reef while the Philippine Navy was not patrolling the area due to monsoon season. “The Mischief Reef was taken because we were not able to go there immediately,” explained Pama who is set to retire on Dcember 21. “Because of our non-physical presence, because our ships were small, we had that lesson.” He said the need to have ships that can conduct patrols despite bad weather has been “in our wish list.” “We need these kind of ships for those environments,” said Pama. “Because there was a time when during southwest monsoon we cannot even go there (West Philippine Sea).”

According to Pama, the April 2012 standoff in the Scarborough Shoal was also a “game changer.” “China’s reaction to the incident was unprecedented,” he pointed out. “We can no longer ignore what is happening there.” During the standoff, Pama said they were able to confirm that the Chinese are able to move in and out of the area within the shoal. He said if only the Philippine Navy has the capability “we will also do it (patrol the high seas despite the bad weather).” “It will be a folly on our part if we have them and not test them,” Pama emphasized. “If you have capabilities it’s not the question if this thing is capable but if these assets are able to deliver your needs.” Right now, he said, the Philippine Navy has a program that emphasizes the need to deploy the “proper assets required where we will be operating.” “Capability upgrade with what our resources would allow us, we need to prioritize the imperative,” said Pama. “Number one is main awareness of what’s happening there 24/7 not just the coast but going beyond our EEZ which is rightfully ours under the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas).”

The head of the Philippine Navy also said that what they did on April 10 inside the Scarborough Shoal – boarding and inspecting the Chinese fishing vessels – was not illegal. “We have been deputized for flagrante delicto,” Pama explained. “We can arrest them and turn them over to the concerned agencies.” In fact, Pama, who commanded six vessels during his shipboard assignments, said when he was still a Navy captain they had arrested several Chinese fisherman illegally fishing in the Spratlys. “We have arrested some of them (Chinese fishermen) who were destroying marine resources and hauled them to San Fernando, La Union,” the Navy chief said. “We don’t tolerate things that are happening under our noses.” However, Pama stressed that the Philippine Navy was not there “to look for trouble.” “We are there to emphasize our sovereignty,” he said. “We feel that these incidence... we just can’t close our eyes to reality. There are finite resources there and there will be competition for the resources among countries.”

Soldier killed as NPA breaks truce

From Malaya (Dec 18): Soldier killed as NPA breaks truce

A SOLDIER was killed yesterday in an attack staged by New People’s Army rebels in Miagao town, Iloilo. The attack came on the second day of the 18-day, government-declared yuletide truce with the communist group. Maj. Enrico Ileto, spokesman of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, withheld the identity of the slain enlisted personnel from the Army’s 82nd Infantry Battalion pending notification of his family. Ileto said the soldiers were on “defensive security patrol” in Sitio Anoy, Cabalaunan village when fired upon by the rebels at around 10:40 a.m. “They were not on offensive operation. They were just conducting defense security patrol to ensure security of the community,” said Ileto of the soldiers who he said were strictly observing the government’s suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO).

Col. Arnold Quiapo, commander of the Army’s 301st Brigade, said the soldiers were ordered to conduct the patrol after they received reports that the NPA was planning to “harass” a detachment of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit “whose primary function is to protect nearby communities.”

Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, 3rd ID commander, said the soldiers were conducting defense security patrol also to ensure the security of the community during the government truce period. “While we are suspending all deliberate offensive military operations, we will continue our presence in communities to protect civilian communities, government and civilian infrastructure in order to maintain peace and security in the area,” said Mabanta. There was no report of any untoward on the first day of the SOMO implementation Sunday.The communist group has yet to announce a truce.

Talks stalled as MILF insists on BTA leadership

From Malaya (Dec 18): Talks stalled as MILF insists on BTA leadership

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front reported a “technical impasse” in the last round of formal talks with government but reported gains in the follow-on details of the Bangsamoro framework agreement signed last October. The nature of the “technical impasse” was not disclosed, although it was believed it was the failure of negotiators to address properly the sole leadership of the MILF to head the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

The MILF, in its website, said Malaysian facilitator Dato Tengku Ab’ Ghaafar bin Mohamed adjourned Saturday the 34th round of exploratory talks held in Malaysia “without a closing program, joint statement, and date for the next round of talks.” The MILF said its peace panel did not push for the issuance of a joint statement and scheduling of the next round of talks because “there are no formal agreements whether in the level of the panel or of the technical working groups (TWGs) that merited mentioning or acknowledgment.”

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the technical impasse is “not insurmountable” but was mum on whether the target to sign a peace agreement by year end is still possible. The government and MILF peace panels were supposed to finish the annexes to the Bangsamoro framework on wealth-sharing, power-sharing and normalization before the year ends. It was in these areas that the MILF reported “tremendous gains.” “The work on power-sharing is 95 percent settled; on wealth-sharing, 60 percent settled; on modalities and arrangement, 99 percent; and on normalization, 30 percent,” it said, citing an estimate given by a member of the MILF peace panel secretariat. Lacierda said: “How the government panel looks at it is that the ‘technical impasse’ as how the MILF described it is not insurmountable. In fact, there has been progress made so we don’t see any reason why the annexes will not be signed. But, as to the schedule, as to the date, that is something that we would leave with the government panel. We don’t have any specific schedule on that.”

The MILF said the chairman of its peace panel, Mohagher Iqbal, had warned prior to the adjournment of the talks that they were heading for a technical impasse after a “grueling session that started in the TWG level” last Friday on who is going to lead the Bangsamoro Transition Authority which will be set up under the framework agreement. “The government peace panel wanted the ‘Bangsamoro’ to lead it, which the MILF argued as a menu for the ‘struggle of the fittest and chaos’ as this would imply that the chairman of the BTA is open for grabs,” it said. It quoted Maulana Alonto, a member of the MILF peace panel who is sitting in the panel-to-panel TWG discussions on modalities and transitional arrangements, as saying that “the MILF leading the BTA is a non-negotiable matter,” noting the 16 years of peace negotiations.  It said Alonto “pointedly told” government negotiators that the MILF-led BTA formulation “is a crucial position that the MILF Peace Panel can never abandon and therefore it is a ‘take it or leave it’ proposition to which the GPH Peace Panel should give serious thought to before rejecting or modifying it.” The MILF website also said that Iqbal does not believe that the stance of the government peace panel reflects the “thinking” of President Aquino, who witnessed signing of the framework agreement in Malacañang last October 15 together with MILF chairman Murad Ibrahim.

Lacierda said once the panel finishes the annexes, they would still have to be approved by the principals. He said presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Deles told him that “significant progress” has been made after the “impasse” and that a number of points are being discussed “very, very positively.” He said the matter of who will head the Transition Commission is “not an issue” because President Aquino will appoint eight persons from the MILF as members of the 15-member commission. An executive order creating the Transition Commission was signed yesterday by Aquino. “That can be resolved. Again, the position of Secretary Ging Deles and the chair, si Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, is that that particular impasse is not insurmountable. That is a matter of language that we can discuss,” he said.

Reds violate Yuletide truce for 2nd time

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 18): Reds violate Yuletide truce for 2nd time

The communist New People’s Army have allegedly violated a Christmas truce after suspected communist rebels ambushed soldiers, resulting in the death of a trooper and injury to several others, in Miag-ao, Iloilo on Monday morning, according to military chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa. Citing a report from 3rd Infantry Division, Dellosa said the ambush occurred around 10:40 a.m. in Sitio Anoy, Barangay Cabalaunan in Miagao town. “While we’re strictly observing the unilaterally declared Suspension of Offensive Military Operations (SOMO) against the NPA, they were taking advantage of it,” Dellosa said.

Col. Arnold Quiapo, commander of the 301st Infantry Brigade, also condemned the ambush and ordered all units under his command to be extra vigilant despite the suspension of military operations that the government announced on Saturday. “The soldiers, aside from doing peace and development works, were conducting defensive security patrol after receiving reports of a planned harassment by NPA rebels on a nearby Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit detachment whose primary function is to protect nearby communities, when thy were ambushed, ” Quiapo said.

On December 15, the government declared a unilateral cease-fire for the period of Dec. 16 to January 3, 2013. Although the communist rebels had ordered a localized truce to allow relief operations in typhoon-stricken areas in Mindanao, the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines have yet to announce a nationwide ceasefire. But military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said the Reds have also violated the ceasefire it announced in Mindanao after rebels tried but failed to kill a soldier of the 60th Infantry Battalion last week in Barangay Sto. Niño in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. The military said the communist rebels also tried to abduct the soldier’s two children, a charge the rebels denied.

Despite the second truce violation, Army spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc said Army units were reminded to strictly observe the government ceasefire. “I hope the NPA will realize that this is a golden opportunity for everyone not only for the Army soldiers but also their armed members, to celebrate Christmas in peace and harmony with their families,” Cabunoc added. Based on the Army directive and policy guidelines, the SOMO will only cover deliberate offensive operations against the armed communist rebels and does not prohibit military activities aimed at supporting the government and its agencies in undertaking development and humanitarian assistance programs.

Woman admits bombing plan

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 18): Woman admits bombing plan

Evidence. Philippine National Police presented to journalists the improvised explosive device and the backpack that were found in the possession of Malaysian Mohammad Noor Fikrie, who was killed by the police after he threathed to detonate the bomb that he was carrying with his Filipina wife Annabelle Lee. Lower photo shows police bomb disposal experts trying to defuse the bomb after Fikrie was shot dead at a restaurant in Davao City. (Police photos)

The wife of the suspected terrorist who was killed by police while trying to detonate a bomb in Davao City admitted that she and her husband were planning to attack a passenger bus to extort money from its owners, police officials said on Monday. But Davao City police chief Senior Superintendent Ronald dela Rosa said he doubted the statement of Annabelle Nieva Lee, a native of Sorsogon who had converted to Islam, and said the couple may have had a bigger plan.

The police chief said Lee and her husband Mohammad Noor Fikrie, a suspected Malaysian terrorist who belonged to the Jemaah Islamiyah terror group, were targeting foreign aid workers or a packed Catholic church as part of a terrorist mission.Dela Rosa said security forces have raised their alert levels and intensified security and intelligence gathering afer the incident.

Police sources said the police were already aware of Fikrie’s presence in Davao because he was already being surveilled in Cotabato City. Fikrie left Malaysia on April 27 and stayed in the cities of Zamboanga and Cotabato before proceeding here. Fikrie was killed on Friday by the police in front of a hotel in Davao City after he allegedly threatened to detonate a bomb hidden in his knapsack. As the couple was checking out, Fikrie tried to grab the backpack that Lee was holding containing a homemade bomb. Officers, meanwhile, tried to seize the man, who broke free and threatened to detonate the device. “You want the bomb? You want the bomb? Shoot me! Shoot me! I will explode the bomb,” de la Rosa quoted the man as saying, prompting the police and people in the hotel lobby to scamper out for safety.

Fikrie and Lee then ran into the street, where they hugged each other as the man raised a cellphone, threatening to use it to trigger the bomb, de la Rosa said. The man grabbed the backpack from his wife and ran toward a park full of Friday night revelers, leaving the woman, who was taken into custody by police, he said. Guards locked the park’s gate, and the man, still raising his hand that held the cellphone, ran into a packed restaurant, where a sniper shot him twice in the chest. The man did not immediately fall, so other officers fired at him and killed him, de la Rosa said.

The bomb was fashioned from a 60 mm mortar shell that was subsequently defused by SWAT’s ordnance team, he said. Police saidf Fikrie was trained by Umar Patek, a terror leader who figured in the Jakarta attack on Christmas eve 2000 where 19 people were killed, and the October 2002 Bali attacks that had 202 people dead. Patek was sentenced last November by an Indonesian court to 20 years in prison.

Moro rebels buck gov’t transition proposal

From Business World (Dec 17): Moro rebels buck gov’t transition proposal

Disagreements on the leadership of a proposed body that will establish the fundamental governing structure of the future Bangsamoro region led to the failure of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to reach a consensus in the negotiations last week, putting at risk prospects to ink a deal by yearend. Last Sunday, the MILF said it made clear to the government that the MILF’s leadership of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is "non-negotiable." The government peace panel, according to an MILF statement posted on its Web site, does not want exclusive MILF leadership in the transition authority as the composition should be Bangsamoro, or Muslim nation, connoting the inclusion of other Moro groups.

Sought for comment, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer yesterday told BusinessWorld that the government panel is confident that the issue will be addressed. "We have a common understanding that the MILF will play a leading role in the [transition authority] as well as in the other components such as the normalization process," she said. The normalization process, a key area in the peace plan, includes the disarmament of Moro rebels or their integration in a regional police force "Both panels and our respective technical working groups are working hard to complete the annexes. I am confident that in the course of the negotiations, we will be able to jointly formulate the appropriate language as well as other relevant details to reflect the role of the MILF in the [transition authority]," she added. Aside from normalization, the annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro cover power sharing concerning governance and wealth sharing that involves resources and revenue.

For his part, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal described the government’s formula as a "menu for the ‘struggle of the fittest and chaos’ as this would imply that the chairman of the BTA is open for grabs." Mr. Iqbal said he "does not believe this position of the government peace panel reflects the thinking of the President [Benigno S. C. Aquino III]." Under the framework deal inked last Oct. 15 in Malacañan Palace, the BTA will be created after the "promulgation and ratification of the Basic Law" that will be drafted by the MILF-led 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission that will be approved by Congress and to be submitted for ratification by residents of the planned Bangsamoro region.

Meanwhile, a Palace fiat creating the transition commission has been inked by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III. Under Executive Order No. 120 signed on Dec. 17, the commission has been tasked to draft the proposed Bangsamoro basic law in line with the framework deal. The commission, which will be composed of 15 members to be appointed by the President, will have an initial budget of ₱100 million. The framework agreement states that "all devolved authorities shall be vested in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority during the interim period. The ministerial form and Cabinet system of government shall commence once the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is in place. The Bangsamoro Transition Authority may reorganize the bureaucracy into institutions of governance appropriate thereto." The BTA will be "immediately replaced in 2016 upon the election and assumption of the members of the Bangsamoro legislative assembly and the formation of the Bangsamoro government," according to the framework agreement.

Other members of the MILF panels backed Mr. Iqbal’s statement. Maulana Alonto, who was in the technical working group on Modalities and Transitional Arrangements, said the MILF has the right to lead the BTA as it has been negotiating with the government for nearly two decades. "The MILF leading the BTA is a non-negotiable matter…," he said. "This treatment is not reasonable, fair, and humane," added Datu Antonio Kinoc, alternate member of the MILF peace panel.
Based on the time frame, the two sides are supposed to conclude all four annexes -- wealth sharing, power sharing, normalization, and the Modalities and Transitional Arrangement -- that will make up the comprehensive agreement. Substantial progress was made on the annexes but the negotiations adjourned without a joint statement and schedule for the next round of talks.’t-transition-proposal&id=63088

A peace plan for the Philippines - The Bangsamoro roadshow

From the Economist (Dec 17): A peace plan for the Philippines - The Bangsamoro roadshow

THE best news to come out of the Philippines in 2012—perhaps even better than the economic headlines—was probably the “framework agreement” between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the main Muslim separatist group fighting in the southern region of Mindanao. Signed on October 15th, the peace deal, it is hoped, will put an end to decades of armed struggle by the Muslim minority against the government in Manila. The has conflict claimed the lives of about 120,000 people and displaced a further 2m more.

Broadly, the agreement represents a compromise. On the one hand, the MILF has given up its dream of a separate Muslim state in exchange for a semi-autonomous region, to be known as Bangsamoro. The government, for its part, surrenders a lot of control over the internal affairs of Bangsamoro while retaining overall sovereignty. The exact demarcations, in terms of wealth, territory and political control, have been left hazy, and are currently being thrashed out in further rounds of talks between the two sides’ negotiators. They will probably be at it for some time. The hope is to have everything settled by 2015.

In the meantime lingering doubts over whether the agreement will actually stick don’t seem to be bothering the MILF. Helped by Bangsamoro’s main international backer, Muslim-majority Malaysia, the head of the MILF, Al Haj Murad, has been on a roadshow drumming up support and investment for the new, non-sovereign entity. The week before last he was an honoured guest at the eighth World Islamic Economic Forum in Johor Bahru, where his hosts, led by Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, treated him on a par with heads of state and national representatives. Very nice for the MILF, but also good politics for Malaysia. With a general election coming up, the Malaysian government wants to claim as much credit as it can for the peace agreement, which it helped to broker.

Mr Murad is keen to play up the economic potential of Bangsamoro and to minimise the risks of ongoing negotiations in the Philippines going awry. Previous agreements, after all, have failed to evolve into a final and conclusive peace. The last deal was struck down at the last minute by the country’s Supreme Court.

A real obstacle this time, for example, is that other, smaller Islamic militant groups in Mindanao do not back the peace plan—which could make it impossible to implement. The Moro National Liberation Front, for example, the MILF’s main rival, has just filed a petition with the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the agreement. Mr Murad acknowledges the problem, but argues that the MILF has “opened its doors to dialogue with the other groups and they have been very receptive.” In the end, he says, they all have a common objective: “The framework agreement is not just for the MILF, but for the Bangsamoro people.”

West PHL Sea disputes delaying new oil contracts

From GMA News (Dec 17): West PHL Sea disputes delaying new oil contracts

The Department of Energy (DOE) on Monday said further delays are seen in awarding of West Philippine Sea oil drilling contracts where territorial disputes with neighboring countries remain unresolved. However, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla told reporters the Philippines is awarding 11 coal contracts before the year ends. He declined to name the companies, other than saying the signing will happen this week once the contracts have been fully screened and evaluated.

On the offshore oil contracts, the Energy chief said the documents to a final evaluation, which takes into consideration the technical aspects of the deals – including financial and environmental aspects –with drilling and exploration companies will be submitted to Malacañang early next year. The political aspect of the oil contracts – involving "disputed areas" – would need approval from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). "… We can't promise to give a timeframe as this is a very sensitive political matter and the DOE only deals with the technical side... and we still have to seek the opinion of the DFA regarding the matter,” said Petilla. "Everything we do has to be cleared with the DFA, especially on the issue of drilling within the disputed areas. “It is not only energy that is at stake here. We do not want to complicate things," he added.

The West Philippine (South China) Sea is being claimed in whole or parts of it by Brunei, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. “The risk of conflict in the South China Sea is significant,” author Bonnie S. Glaser, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted in his “Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 14.”  Claimant countries “... have competing territorial and jurisdictional claims, particularly over rights to exploit the region's possibly extensive reserves of oil and gas,” Glaser added.

Police nab Abu Sayyaf member, two more in Davao, Bulacan

From the Philippine Star (Dec 17): Police nab Abu Sayyaf member, two more in Davao, Bulacan

Operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) have arrested an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) member and two fugitives during separate operations in Davao and Bulacan last week. Director Samuel D. Pagdilao, Jr., CIDG commander, identified the arrested fugitives as Najim Laisong, alias Uyong, 20, an ASG member and a resident of Barangay Tumahubong, Sumisip, Basilan; Joel Capatoy, 33, of Tierra Pulang Buhangin, Sta Maria, Bulacan; and Sesinio Naragas, of SUMIFRO Compound, PRYCE Tower, Bajada, Davao City.

Investigation disclosed that around 9 a.m. last December 13, CIDG tracker team with intelligence operatives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines arrested Laisong for four counts of murder in Barangay Tumahubong, Sumisip, Basilan. Region 9 CIDG chief Senior Superintendent Edgar Danao said Laisong is a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group under the leadership of Commander Abugao Bayali operating in Sumisip, Basilan Province. Danao said Laisong, a wanted person in the national level category, was involved in the ambush slaying of Insp. Reymen Jannatul and three other policemen on June 28, 2009 at Sitio Nompol, Barangay Lower Benembengan, Sumisip, Basilan while the victims were on their way to Basilan provincial police office aboard their PNP service vehicle. Danao added that Laisong is also a suspect in the killing of Master Sgt. Elizer Agoo, NCOIC, 9thISU-ISG on June 22, 2012 at Sitio Bunkhouse, Barangay Limbo Candis, Sumisip, Basilan.

Also around 1 a.m. last December 13, operatives of the CIDG Detective and Special Operations Division (DSOD) arrested Capatoy, a carpenter, in his house in Sta Maria, Bulacan by virtue of a warrant for murder issued by a court in Tacloban City. Capatoy, a native of Alang-Alang, Leyte, was the primary suspect in the hacking to death of the live-in partner of his sister on May 2001. The suspect is still in custody of the CIDG DSOD pending his transfer to Tacloban City where he will be detained.

In Davao last Dec. 10, the CIDG arrested Naragas for violation of Sec. 5(b) in relation to Sec. 6(1) of RA 9262. The suspect was subsequently released from the custody of the CIDG on the same day after posting the required bail-bond.

AFP to hold 'subdued' anniversary celebration

From the Philippine Star (Dec 17): AFP to hold 'subdued' anniversary celebration

The military will tone down the celebration of its 77th anniversary on Dec. 21 and use the savings to support disaster response efforts. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad said some parts of the anniversary program would be scrapped to make it less costly. “It was toned down in a sense but there will still be a celebration. The parade will still continue,” Baladad said in an interview Monday. “One of the intentions is to use the savings for disaster response operations,” he added. Baladad said among the elements to be removed are the military floats and the display of air assets being used in relief operations. The “fly-by” exhibition of Air Force fighter jets has also been scrapped.

Some traditional parts of the celebration were scrapped including the AFP Ball and the much-anticipated "fly-by" exhibition of Air Force fighter jets. The number of parading troops would also be reduced by a battalion or roughly 400 members. “Many motorized elements were removed (from the traditional parade),” Baladad said. Motorized elements include troops inside armed personnel carriers, navy boats and construction equipment. Baladad could not provide an exact amount but claimed that the savings to be generated would be huge. “It can fund the additional repairs of our camps especially those assisting in Mindanao so that the conditions of those involved in (disaster response) will be improved,” he said. Baladad was referring to military posts affected by typhoon “Pablo,” which has left more than 1,000 people dead.

The celebration of the 76th anniversary of AFP last year was also toned down to express solidarity with the victims of tropical storm “Sendong.”The savings were used to fund the relief operations in Mindanao. Some traditional parts of the celebration were also scrapped including the AFP Ball and the much-anticipated "fly-by" exhibition. During that time, soldiers voluntarily donated a P90 daily subsistence allowance.

Soldier killed in Iloilo ambush

From the Philippine Star (Dec 17): Soldier killed in Iloilo ambush

A soldier of the Philippine Army was killed after the leftist New People's Army (NPAs) ambushed patrolling soldiers in Iloilo, a military official said today. Maj. Enrico Ileto, spokesman of the Philippine army's 3rd Infantry Division, said the soldiers were on "defensive security patrol" when they were fired upon by NPAs in Cabalaunan village, Miag-ao town in Iloilo province (this) morning. Ileto said the identity of the slain soldier was withheld pending the notification of his family. The soldiers were tasked with patroling the area after receiving reports that the leftist rebels were harassing residents. Ileto noted that the soldier was killed on the second day of the government's 18-day suspension of offensive military operations.

Gov't upbeat on resolving impasse in peace talks

From the Philippine Star (Dec 17): Gov't upbeat on resolving impasse in peace talks

The government today expressed optimism that the "technical impasse" being claimed by former separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the recent formal talks in Malaysia could be addressed. In a statement it issued earlier, the MILF said the 34th formal exploratory talks with the Philippine government ended in a " technical impasse" on Saturday since it adjourned without a closing program, a joint statement, and a date for the next round of talks. "The 'technical impasse' as how the MILF described (the recent round of talks) is not insurmountable," said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda in a news briefing.

Lacierda noted the progress made in discussions concerning the four annexes of the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro. The annexes include power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization, and transitional arrangements and modalities. "There has been progress made so the government does not see any reason why the annexes will not be signed," said Lacierda. He, however, could not say where the annexes could still be inked before the end of the year. The Philippine government and the MILF have targeted to complete the comprehensive agreement, including the annexes, by year-end.

Soldiers welcome suspension of military ops for the holidays

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 17): Soldiers welcome suspension of military ops for the holidays

CAMP MANUEL YAN, Compostela Valley -- Members of the 10th Infantry Division welcomed the declaration of the suspension of military operation (SOMO) from midnight of December 16 to 1 a.m. on January 3. Lt. Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division, said the SOMO is a big relief to residents especially to areas hard hit with the typhoon but with the presence of communist rebels. He said protecting civilian communities will continue to be a top priority even with the Yuletide ceasefire. “We will continue to employ tighter security measures to ensure the safety and security of residents within our areas of responsibility,” Paniza said. He said the soldiers are exerting more effort to look for the missing and to reach out to far-flung barangays which need more assistance in the ongoing relief operation.

Captain Severino David, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command, confirmed receiving an order from higher headquarters about the declaration of SOMO nationwide. He said the SOMO will give more elbow room to the conduct of search, rescue, and retrieval and relief operation in areas hard hit by typhoon Pablo. David said soldiers in areas not affected by the storm will have more time with their families because of the Yuletide ceasefire.

Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., spokes person of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that the 18-day unilateral ceasefire is a privilege given even to rebels to come down and visit their families. He clarified that the SOMO does not restrict the military from doing its security routines, except the conduct of offensive operation against the rebels. He recalled that the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) declared a 29-day truce starting December 5 to January 3, 2012 to give way to unhampered delivery of relief assistance to typhoon affected areas. “We can still conduct route security to protect military and civilian movements,” Burgos said, particularly the movement of relief goods and aid missions. He said checkpoint operations will continue in coordination with the police to deter loose firearms and explosives.  “It is proactive defense countermeasures since – first, the AFP is mandated implement law enforcement,” Burgos said. He said that the military is duty bound to enforce the law. Burgos said the enforcement of SOMO also aims for rebels to spend the Christmas season with their families.

4ID joins Public Forum on Bangsamoro Framework Agreement

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 14): 4ID joins Public Forum on Bangsamoro Framework Agreement

Personnel from 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division joined the public forum on the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement at the little theater of Xavier University, Dec. 15. Speakers were Usec Lesley Jeanne Cordero of the Presidential Communications Operations Office and former Senator Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel. Usec Cordero delivered a brief discussion about the framework agreement. She emphasized that the framework agreement is the mother of all agreements. There will be more side agreements to be annexed with the mother framework, like power sharing, wealth sharing, normalization, transitional arrangements and modalities, and other necessary attachments. She added that there will also be more forums and discussions to take note on the rights and obligations of the indigenous people and Christian communities in Bangsamoro. This will be done more comprehensively to avoid the mistakes committed during the formulation of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Former Senator Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel father of the Local Government Code and the author of the first Act for Muslim Mindanao, shared a brief historical account on the several Muslim revolutions.  Questions about the constitutional process and the like were asked and some suggestions were given like the involvement of women in the discussion and holding the forums in Mindanao area. MGen Nestor A Añonuevo, Division Commander of 4ID said that, “Your army will be on your side to support this peace process and offer whatever help we can to the best of our abilities. We are here for the service of the public and not the other way around." (4CMO/4ID/PIA10)

8th Infantry welcomes cease fire in Eastern Visayas

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 17): 8th Infantry welcomes cease fire in Eastern Visayas

The 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division, Philippine Army joined the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the implementation of the suspension of military operations (SOMO) to the NPA from December 16, 2012 – Jan 3, 2013 as declared by Higher Headquarters. The SOMO is the demonstration of the 8th ID’s commitment, sincerity, and resolve for peace in spite of conflicts with the insurgent group. While the SOMO prohibits deliberate offensive operation against the NPA, 8th ID will continue to undertake security operations and security patrols aimed to protect the civilian communities, government establishments, investment facilities and vital structures; military camps and detachments against any threat by armed groups.

The army will also continue to implement routine security to protect the military and civilian movements; and in close coordination with the PNP, conducts checkpoint operations to deter terrorism and preempt the proliferation of loose firearms and explosives. The army will also continue to conduct Bayanihan Team activities which will address the prevailing issues of the communities. Likewise, military units will collaborate with the stakeholders through the spirit of "Bayanihan" in deploying its personnel in times of disaster, humanitarian assistance, anti-illegal logging and environmental programs of the government.

“During the SOMO, all line units shall conduct close coordination with the Philippine National Police through the Joint Peace Security and Coordinating Council (JSCC) for possible additional security in airports, seaports, bus terminals, tourist spot destinations, churches and other vital installations to ensure the over-all safety of the populace during the Christmas season,” Major Gen Gerardo T Layug AFP, Commander, 8th ID, said. “We will not put our guards down during the SOMO, we will stay on full alert status and respond to any eventualities which might be perpetrated by the NPA in our area of operations,” added Layug. “We will also adhere to no indiscriminate firing of firearms of our personnel during the holiday season.”

“The message of SOMO is peace by giving our NPA brothers opportunity to celebrate the yuletide season with their families and friends, we hope that the meaningful time will enlighten their hearts on the futility of fighting and the beauty of togetherness and peace,” goes the final message of the top army official in the region. (PIA 8-Samar with Capt Gene Orense DPAO 8)

Laborer’s son tops new batch of soldiers

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 17): Laborer’s son tops new batch of soldiers

A laborer's son has topped the new batch of soldiers as the Candidate Soldiers Training for 2012 formally ended in a simple graduation rites Friday, December 14. Private Joey B Gernale led the 95 members of the Candidate Soldier Course Class 300-12 after five months of rigid training starting on July 18 this year at the 9th Division Training Unit here. Gernale, 23 years old, is the son of a laborer and a part time jeepney driver in Sorsogon City. He is the youngest of three siblings. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Technology degree Major in Automotive Technology before deciding to join the military service. “I decided to join the Army to have a stable job in order to help my family financially,” said Pvt Gernale. “But during the course of the training, I realized that the profession of arms is a very noble profession,” he added.

According to Gernale, life has been very hard financially for his family as his father is “on and off” with his job while his mother stays home as plain house wife. Gernale said that he remained unemployed after completing his college degree. “I heard on an Army radio program about the recruitment of the Army last year, so I tried my luck,” said Gernale. Gernale is one of the more than 4,500 young Bicolanos who took the Philippine Army Qualifying examination for 9ID last year. About 3,000 passed the examination, however, only the top 100 were selected after series of physical/ medical examinations, trade skills tests and interviews were conducted. “The hardships that our family had became my motivation to complete the very hard training,” said Gernale.

The new graduates were granted a fifteen day vacation by MGen Romeo V Calizo, Commander of the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division , after which, they will be deployed to the different field units of 9ID. “I missed my family, so I’ll make this vacation a fruitful,” said Gernale. “When we report to duty, it’s the beginning of our service to God, Country, People, and the Bicolanos,” he added. As a sign of gratitude to the all out support of his family, Pvt Gernale said that he will be giving all his savings during his training to his parents. (MAL/Maj. AGuzman-9ID-DPAO-PA/PIA5)

Some 200 interior village residents benefit from Phil. Army's free medical, dental mission

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 17): Some 200 interior village residents benefit from Phil. Army's free medical, dental mission

At least 200 residents of barangays Mabbayad, Narra and San Miguel in this town mostly pupils and students benefited from the Philippine Army’s free medical and dental mission held on Thursday. Col. Loreto Magundayao Jr, civil military operations battalion and concurrent spokesman of the 5th Infantry Division Philippine Army based at Gamu town, said the people in the villages were elated for the health services provided to them during the activity. Gundayao said the people warmly welcomed the military with arms widely open and availed the free health services that were provided by the military.

The military chose the place to conduct the medical and dental mission to show that the army soldiers are sincere to serve the people through civic action and is not implicating civilians as enemy of the state but instead serving them with utmost service be it on security concerns and in socio-civic services. Barangay Mabbayad was the place of encounter of the military troop and the New People’s Army last month that killed at least seven soldiers and wounding eight while on the side of NPAs accounted at least five killed during the encounter. “The government wants peace and the military are instruments in winning that objective," a soldier said. Barangay officials of the three barangays expressed high appreciation to the military for the services delivered for their constituents.

Davao police steps up security after JI's death in Davao City

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 17): Davao police steps up security after JI's death in Davao City

Davao police authorities have stepped up tight security measures following the death of a Malaysian national believed to be a member of terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) on Friday. Davao City Police Office (DCPO) chief Ronald de la Rosa, announced during the Monday flag ceremony the conduct of round-the-clock operations of his 1,400 police personnel to secure the city. Dela Rosa also said DCPO will intensify random checkpoints in coordination with TFD, while other personnel are tasked to monitor the crowd and conduct patrol around the city.

The checkpoints will be manned by joint personnel of the DCPO and TFD while the Philippine Coast Guard personnel are tasked to tightly watch the city's seaports. Lieutenant Colonel Gerry Besana, TFD executive officer and spokesperson, also vowed to keep their Intelligence for Defense Unit on full alert to thwart any attempt to sow chaos in the city.

Dela Rosa said the suspected terrorist who was identified as Mohd Noor Fikrie Bin Abud Kahar, was from Midsayap, North Cotabato. He was gunned down when authorities cornered him along J.Camus Street at around 10:30 p.m. Friday. His Filipina wife, Annabelle Nieva Lee, a balik-Islam from Sorsogon, was arrested. She is now detained at the Intelligence headquarters here. He said the couple checked in at Room 204 of the Sampaguita Hotel on Friday morning when the police received intelligence reports that Kahar was in possession of a bomb and was planning to attack the city. Operatives from DCPO, the Task Force Davao (TFD) and other intelligence units led the raiding team and negotiated with the hotel management for the ejection of the couple from their hotel room. They recovered improvised explosive device made of 60mm mortar, mobile phones of the couple and other "exploitable materials" which were turned over to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency in Davao Region. Dela Rosa said the suspect's passport showed he left Malaysia via Sabah on April 27 and arrived in the country on the next day.

Meanwhile, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio lauded the authorities for a job well done. She said JI members were spotted in all parts of the country hence, the recent incident was not unlikely. "Based on initial information, the couple was to conduct terrorist activities. We will know more after the interrogation with the wife is done," she said.

Arms cache found in Masbate

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 17): Arms cache found in Masbate

A joint Army soldiers and policemen recovered over the weekend an arm cache in a interior village in Masbate City, a Philippine Army officer said Monday. Joint elements of Army soldiers from the 9th Infantry Battalion and Philippine National Police (PNP) Task Force Masbate where on security patrol at about 7 p.m. over the weekend when they received an information about hidden firearms in a house in said village, according to Army Major Angelo Guzman, 9th Infantry Division (ID)spokesperson.

After validating the report, the team swopped down the house in the village, but found no one in the house instead discovered an arms cache hidden at a basement, Guzman said. Inside the arms cache were an M16 rifle, Baby Armalite, a .45 caliber pistol, two .38 caliber handguns, eight homemade shotguns, three anti-tank landmines, five improvised claymore mines, 30 Molotov bombs, ammunition, six switches for improvised explosive device (IED) 20 meters electrical wires, a binocular, a radio and three backpacks containing personal belonging.

Probers could not yet determine if the arms cache belongs to the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels or private armed groups (PAGS) operating in the island province of Masbate, Guzman said. Government forces have intensified its security operations against members of the communist movement including two private armed groups (PAGs) with around 50 heavily armed members belonging to the Arizobal and Villaruel groups.

A Task Force Masbate of PNP was recently created to hunt down PAGs and recover thousands of loose firearms in connection with the upcoming May midterm election next year. PNP in Masbate estimated that there are still close to 4,000 firearms that needs to be recovered. Masbate had been tagged as an election hot spot every election time because of intense political rivalries among clans, including related violence that killed hundreds of people.

Troops strafed by suspected NPA rebels in Iloilo town

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 17): Troops strafed by suspected NPA rebels in Iloilo town

MIAGAO, Iloilo - A team of soldiers conducting peace and development activities were fired upon by an armed group believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) at Sitio Anoy, Barangay Cabalaunan here on Monday morning. The soldiers were in the area to maintain activities supporting government and civil authorities’ peace, development and humanitarian assistance programs. “While we are suspending all deliberate offensive military operations, we will continue our presence in communities to protect civilian communities, government and civilian infrastructure in order to maintain peace and security in the area,” said Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr., commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

Mabata said the Army will continue to observe the Suspension of Offensive Military Operations (SOMO as their commitment to peace especially during the Christmas season. Communities should be given the opportunity to celebrate the yuletide peacefully. As part of our defensive security operations, troops are now conducting hot pursuit operations against the perpetrators,” said Mabanta. “The soldiers, aside from doing peace and development words were conducting defensive security patrol after receiving reports of a planned harassment by NPA rebels on a nearby Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) detachment whose primary function is to protect nearby communities,” said Col. Arnold Quiapo, 301st Infantry Brigade Commander.

NPA rebels torch two transit mixers in Nueva Ecija

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 17): NPA rebels torch two transit mixers in Nueva Ecija

CARRANGLAN, Nueva Ecija - Suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) burned two transit mixer trucks of the Northern Builders in Barangay Putlan along the Cagayan Valley road in this town on Saturday evening. In what police believed was an act of extortion, the heavily armed group of three men and an amazon, appeared at the construction camp of the Northern Builders Co. at Sitio Maligaya, Barangay Putlan, this town, at about 7:00 p.m. Saturday.

After verifying from Willy Layug, timekeeper, about a supposed demand letter given by the group to Engineer Riza Organista, a week ago, and receiving a “negative response,” the amazon reportedly uttered that the Northern Builders is not fulfilling what they agreed upon. The Northern Builders is the private construction company undertaking road widening project of the government. At that juncture, the rebel group reportedly poured gasoline on the two transit mixers and then set them on fire. The group lingered for about 10 minutes then casually walked away.

The Northern Builders Co. construction crew alerted the army’s Company “B” of the 3rd Infantry Battalion stationed nearby, under 1st Lt. Glen Mar Fernandez, who called up the town police at about 8:30 p.m. to report the matter. Chief of police Joseph R. Sta. Cruz and several of his men proceeded to the site but the armed group was nowhere to be found. It can be recalled that last month in Barangay Pesa, Bongabon town, four heavy construction equipment were burned by four alleged NPA members demanding payment of “revolutionary tax.”

Bicol communities submit 500 proposals for Kalahi-CIDSS funding

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 17): Bicol communities submit 500 proposals for Kalahi-CIDSS funding

Bicol communities identified the most pressing need in their villages and submitted 500 community proposals under the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS. “People living in the communities know more about their current local conditions and making them identify their priorities is important in the formulation of development plans,” Bicol's Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)director Remia T. Tapispisan said. Tapispisan said that the community proposals were made by a group of trained community members called the Project Preparation Team (PPT).

Elected by each of the barangays during the Barangay Assembly (BA) for the validation of the identified needs in the community, the teams were taught the key processes and tools to identify, select, and design appropriate solutions to address such problems, she explained. “Community proposals are presented during the prioritization activity where the community volunteers, municipal and national governments, non-government organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs) and other groups and individuals within a municipality are gathered. This is called the Municipal Inter-Barangay Forum- Participatory Resource Allocation (MIBF-PRA) in which community proposals are prioritized for funding,” Tapispisan said.

MIBF is a criteria-based allocation of development investments where all barangays within a certain municipality decide what community proposals should be approved for funding. The grant a municipality may receive is equal to the total number of barangays multiplied by P450,000. These funds are directly downloaded to the community accounts once the community proposals are approved for implementation.

George Borja, a community volunteer from Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon has celebrated with the villagers of Tupaz as their barangay submitted a community proposal to buy motorized bancas amounting to P1.2 million. “I would not only thank those who voted for our project but also those people who understood where we are coming from. I hope that we keep our compassion towards one another because this will take us to the road of development],” Borja said.

As part of its expansion in 2012, Kalahi-CIDSS is currently being implemented in Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Sorsogon and Masbate with a total of 19 municipalities.

OPAPP to tap DSWD in bringing programs to conflict areas in W.Visayas

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 17): OPAPP to tap DSWD in bringing programs to conflict areas in W.Visayas

The national government, through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), will tap the Department of Social Welfare and Development 6 (DSWD-6) in implementing projects in conflict areas in the region, which have presence of Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB). The RPA-ABB is a break- away group of the New People's Army (NPA), the armed-wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Leo Quintilla, deputy regional project manager of Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan - Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS), said through the DSWD, particularly the KALAHI-CIDSS, the OPAPP would provide budget for the projects identified by the community as urgent. “Once the program is already there at the community, it is easy to integrate these RPA-ABB members to the community,” he said.

Most common projects are construction of day care centers, school buildings, health stations, road improvements, water systems, solar dryers and livelihood assistance. Quintilla said the same program has started in Mindanao two years ago and so far, the feedback and response of those community belong to conflict areas were all positive.

In Region 6, KALAHI-CIDSS program has already engaged 36 local government units and more than 800 barangays in rural areas, empowered more than 16, 000 community volunteers, and provided more than P1.3 million worth of assistance to more than 1, 500 community sub-projects.