Friday, December 21, 2012

EO 120, s. 2012 and the Impasse

Op/Ed piece in MindaNews (Dec 21): EO 120, s. 2012 and the Impasse (by Patricio P. Diaz)

President Benigno Simeon S. Aquino III signed Executive Order No. 120, s. 2012 last December 17 creating the Bangsamoro Transition Commission as provided in the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro. Two days after, the two Houses of Congress passed separate resolutions supporting the EO. The President can appoint at any time members from the Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front lists of nominees to constitute the Commission.

Could it be said that progress on the FAB roadmap is on track and on time – meaning, the Commission can start drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law in January to make its timely submission to the 16th Congress in July 2013 possible?

The Commission can start drafting the BBL in January, if it were not for the “technical impasse” that has snagged the negotiation of the four annexes to the FAB during the 34th Exploratory Talks. As FAB provides, these annexes are parts “of this Framework Agreement”. The FAB plus the four annexes constitute the Comprehensive Compact or Agreement.

Part V, 4.a of the FAB states the first function of the Commission: “To work on the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law with provisions consistent with all agreements entered and that may be entered into by the Parties.” The annexes are within the context of “all agreements”. The Commission’s “work” must be “consistent” with the Comprehensive Agreement.

What does the impasse imply? The Commission cannot start drafting the BBL until the FAB has been completed and signed as the Comprehensive Agreement.

This will derail and delay the peace talks. The peace process is already in a tight race against time. The FAB roadmap is so crammed that, at the longest, the real transition period for Bangsamoro is only one and a half years. A delay in the passage of the BBL – including unforeseen snags in Congress – will delay the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and shorten further the transition period, the real one.

With the looming delays, it may be asked: Can Bangsamoro be properly established during President Aquino III’s term? In fact, it could be seriously questioned if within the one and a half year transition period Bangsamoro can be properly established?

Is the Government Panel bothered about the impending delays? Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer dismisses the “impasse” as within the “flexibility” of the negotiation process and is confident no “difficult issues” are “insurmountable” (OPAPP Website, 16 December 2012). The Palace echoes Ferrer, considering the “impasse in the peace talk not a problem” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 18, 2012).

Ferrer’s rationalization must be the position of the government Panel. Its echo from the Palace tends to belie MILF Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal magnanimous assumption, his belief, that “this position of the government peace panel [does not reflect] the thinking of President Benigno Aquino III” (Luwaran, December 16, 2012).

The impasse is a fact. The Government panel chair sees no problem. The MILF panel chair had seen it coming and “forewarned the parties”. But, its adverse impact on how the Transcom would fulfill its task should not be taken for granted. The earlier the impasse is resolved, the earlier the Transcom can draft the BBL and pass on to the Congress the burden of averting further the delay in establishing the Bangsamoro.

However, this concern is tempered by the following positive notes:

First, the speedy passage of the Senate and House supporting resolutions reveals the good will and support President Aquino III has from Congress concerning the FAB. This augurs well for the BBL draft when he certifies it to Congress as “URGENT”.

Second, both Panel Chairs Ferrer and Iqbal say that Transcom upon the appointment of its members can immediately start work by putting up “its office and staff” and do all the “preliminary steps” for its regular functions (MindaNews, December 20, 2012). This is an assurance that they will not delay the resolution of the impasse, most probably by January 2013, so as not to render idle the Transcom and upset its time-table.

Those who have been alarmed by the “technical impasse” – fearing it “may imperil the peace process” (See: “Special Feature” in Luwaran, December 20, ongoing) – should calm their fears.

CPP/NDF: The expansion of the NPA in 2012

Posted to the CPP Website (Dec 21): Lalong dumami ang nag-NPA ngayong 2012 - NDF (The expansion of the NPA in 2012)

Eduardo Labrador
Southern Tagalog Regonal Chapter (PKM)

Kakambal ng balitang pagkagunaw ng mundo ngayong araw, Disyembre 21, ang prediksyon ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) na mauubos na ang New People’s Army (NPA) sa pagtatapos ng taong 2012 sa South Quezon at Bondoc Peninsula (SQBP).

(Along with the doomsday news today, December 21, are the predictions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that it would run the New People's Army (NPA) out of South Bangalore and Bondoc Peninsula (SQBP) by the end of the year 2012.)

Matatandaang nagpahayag si Gen. Eduardo Año noong Hunyo na ‘zero NPA at insurgent-free’ na ang buong probinsya ng Quezon bago magsara ang taon at diumano’y matagal nang nasa ‘christmas wishlist’ ng reaksyunaryong gobyerno ito.

(What Gen. Eduardo  Ano said  in June that the entire province of Quezon would be  'zero NPA and insurgent-free' before the close of the year is just part of a long  'Christmas wishlist' of this reactionary government.)

Ngunit ayon sa pahayag na ipinamahagi sa isang lightning rally sa Mendiola ng Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid (PKM) ay “kabaligtaran ang nangyayari sa mga larangang gerilyang inaatake ng Oplan Bayanihan ng AFP.”

(But according to a statement distributed at a lightning rally at Mendiola by the National Confederation of Peasants (PKM) "the opposite occurred in many areas as the guerrillas attacked Oplan Bayanihan of the AFP.")

Ayon kay Eduardo Labrador, tagapagsalita ng PKM, miyembrong samahan ng National Democratic Front sa Southern Tagalog (NDF-ST), “mahigit sa isang platun ang kabuuang bilang ng bagong-sampang mandirigma at kadre ng NPA sa nakalipas na tatlong buwan sa mga larangan ng SQBP pa lamang. Resulta ito ng masiglang pagtugon ng rebolusyonaryong masa sa mga larangan sa panawagan ng Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) na pakamahalin at itaguyod ang NPA.”.....

(According to Eduardo Labrador, spokesman of the PKM, a member organization of the National Democratic Front in Southern Tagalog (NDF-ST), "more than a platoon of  fighters and cadres of the NPA have been fielded in many areas of the SQBP in the past three months.  This is the result of a dynamic response of the revolutionary masses in the field to the call of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to cherish and promote the NPA. ".......)

CPP blasts Aquino hypocrisy over sin tax law

From  the CPP Website (Dec 21): CPP blasts Aquino hypocrisy over sin tax law

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today blasted the Aquino regime for its hypocrisy over the enactment of the so-called Sin Tax law which is being billed as a boost to the government’s budget for health services when at the same time it is moving forward with its program of corporatization and privatization of public health care. The Sin Tax Law was signed yesterday by Aquino.

“The enactment of the Sin Tax law is part of Aquino’s continuing compliance with policy dictates of the International Monetary Fund and other financial institutions,” said the CPP. “That the additional revenue will accrue to health care is a complete lie and simply aims to deceive the people into making the additional tax burden palatable.” The Sin Tax law aims to generate P248.49 billion over the next five years.

“Behind all the hype regarding the so-called sin taxes, they comprise nothing but an additional tax imposition on the people whose aim is to allow Aquino to continue with his antipeople budget policies that are geared to servicing foreign debt, privatization programs and the fattening of the AFP and PNP for heightened militarization and war campaigns especially in the countryside,” added the CPP.....

Confirmation of PAF Generals and Other Senior Officers

Posted to the Philippine Air Force Website (Dec 19): Confirmation of PAF Generals and Other Senior Officers

The Committee deliberation of the AD Interim Appointment of PAF Generals and Senior Officers was confirmed today, December 19, 2012 at 10:00 in the morning at the Sen Ambrosio Padilla Room, Senate of the Philippines, GSIS Building, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City.  The Vice Commander, MGEN RAUL GABRIEL L DIMATATAC AFP together with nine (9) other newly promoted Generals and four (4) Colonels have been confirmed of their promotions by the Commission on Appointments (CA).

Joining MGEN DIMATATAC AFP are PAF Chief of Air Staff, MGEN WILFREDO O ONA AFP, (Air Force Inspector General) MGEN ROMEO V POQUIZ AFP, the Commandant of the AFPCGSC, MGEN VIRGILIO O DOMINGO AFP and the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs, J-5 MGEN JEFFREY F DELAGADO AFP.

The Brigadier Generals are (Wing Commander, Air Defense Wing) BGEN RAUL L DEL ROSARIO AFP, (Wing Commander, 410th Maintenance Wing) BGEN ROLANDO M AQUINO AFP, (Wing Commander, 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing) BGEN RENE E SANTOS AFP, (Wing Commander, 355th Air Engineering Wing) BGEN DANILO H PENAFIEL AFP and (Wing Commander, 570th Composite Tactical Wing) BGEN EUSAQUITO S MANALO AFP.


President Aquino Presides Over the Change of Command of the Philippine Navy

From the Navy Website (Dec 20): President Aquino Presides Over the Change of Command of the Philippine Navy


President Benigno S. Aquino III presided Wednesday the change of command of the Philippine Navy and the retirement ceremony for the outgoing navy chief. The President led the turn-over of the service to Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano as the new Flag-Officer-in-Command of the Philippine Navy from Vice Admiral Alexander Pama. In his speech during the event, the President said he expects Vice Admiral Alano to continue the reforms initiated by Vice Admiral Pama in the Philippine Navy, particularly the thrust to increase the capability of the navy from internal and external threats. “Ang ganitong uri ng pamumuno ang inaasahan nating ipagpatuloy at higit pang lilinangin ni Vice Admiral Alano bilang bagong Flag Officer-in-Command ng Philippine Navy,” the President said.

The Filipino public expects Alano to defeat the threat of terrorism, to help the country rise from calamities that hit Mindanao, and to fight corruption in the service, the Chief Executive said. Because of the navy’s dedication to improve itself and prepare the Philippines for future challenges, the President said, every member of the Navy, as well as the entire Filipino nation can now be proud of themselves. The President praised the Navy for its role in asserting the country’s sovereign rights in the contested West Philippine Sea, the Navy’s dental and medical missions as well as its feeding programs and disaster response initiatives.

To inspire the members of the Armed Forces to do more, the President said, the government allocated more than P28 billion in one year and seven months of the administration for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program. As a result of the increased budget for the AFP, the country was able to acquire Hamilton class cutters: the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, and the locally built BRP Tagbanua. The President noted that with the signing of the New AFP Modernization Act last week, the Philippine Navy could continue to modernize its fleet adding that under the new government's spending plan, it allotted P75 billion in the next five years to modernize the AFP.

According to the President, the government will also continue to provide decent shelter to the members of the police and military noting that by August next year, he expects the National Housing Authority to complete the additional 31,200 houses for police and military personnel.
The government has so far built 21,800 low-cost housing units intended for the police and the military, he said. Among those who joined the President during the event were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, and Philippine Coast Guard Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isoreno.

Born on May 1, 1958, in Quezon City, Alano is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy Class Matapat of 1979. He has served the military for 37 years. Among the awards and decorations he has received include three Distinguished Service Stars, an Outstanding Achievement Medal, a Gawad Sa Kaunlaran and a Military Merit Medal with Spearhead Device. Alano is married to Maria Hildelita, a corporate lawyer. The couple is blessed with two daughters, Maria Gabriela, 13, and Sofia Lourdes, 12.  PND


Philippine Army News Clippings (Dec 16-19)

Posted to the Faces, Places & Voices (Ranger Cabunzky) Blog: Philippine Army News Clippings (Dec 16-19)

December 16:

December 17:

December 18:

December 19:

Army General presents Christmas gifts to wounded rebel

Posted to the Faces, Places & Voices (Ranger Cabunzky) Blog (Dec 19): Army General presents Christmas gifts to wounded rebel

COTABATO CITY- Renante Dalon's first surprise was when he was treated by the soldiers after being injured in a firefight about a month ago. While recuperating from his wounds inside a military hospital here, he never expected that a 3-star general, bearing Christmas gift,would enter his ward to greet him. But that was what exactly happened during Army Chief Lt Gen Emmanuel T. Bautista’s three-day trip to visit the troops in Mindanao starting on Monday, December 10 during which he took time to visit the injured soldiers inside the military hospital here.
Dalon was confined in the same ward where several soldiers are being treated for their wounds sustained in combat. He did not expect that he will receive Christmas gift just like the other soldiers. "I am thankful to the good General for his excellent gesture of giving me some presents in time for Christmas," said Dalon, 44, a native of Sarangani Province.

In his statement, Bautista said that he would like to see more rebels to lay down their arms and cooperate with the government in solving community problems.  "We should all help to solve our problems and not fight over these problems that could not be solved through the use of armed violence," said Bautista.

Enemies turned guardian angels

Renante Soliman-Dalon was among the 30 NPA rebels who figured in a fierce firefight with the 6th Scout Ranger Company somewhere near Mount Katuad, Bacong village, Tulunan town of North Cotabao last November 13. During the 30-minute firefight, Dalon and another companion were injured. The rest of his comrades fled in disarray, leaving them behind. "My companion died of his wounds and I was feeling helpless due to my own injuries. I raised my hands to surrender when I saw the soldiers coming towards me, their guns pointed at me," he said.
He knew that any of those soldiers could have pressed the trigger to kill him, but, he tried his luck and asked for mercy.  "I asked to spare my life and treat my wounds because I was already bleeding profusely. 1st Lt Johnard Sara-sara, the officer leading the patrol, promptly called the combat medics to administer first aid on my injury," he said. The soldiers whom he considered as his worst enemies suddenly became his real life guardian angels.  The two men are combat medics of the 6th Forward Support Medical Company, Cpl Francisco B Gamayao and Pvt Avelino M Herrera Jr., wasted no time and treated Dalon's fatal wounds.
The Forward Support Medical Companies (FSMC)

The Forward Support Medical Companies (FSMC) of the Infantry Divisions was activated last March 15, 2012 together with the Upgrade of Medical Platoons of Infantry Battalions (UMPIB). It was originally conceptualized in 2006 under the Strengthening of the PA Health Support System to improve the emergency medical care capability in the AFP leading to higher survivability rate among combat casualties. Caring for the frontline soldiers is one of the thrusts of Bautista as Army Chief. He pushed for the full implementation of this project upon assuming command over a year ago.

The Forward Support Medical Companies (FSMC) is assigned to the Service Support Battalion of the Infantry Division, and is composed of eight officers, 48 enlisted personnel, and three medical retainers. The FSMC provides medical staff advice and assistance as required on an area basis to all units in the brigade’s area of responsibility. It also provides unit-level forward medical support to units without organic medical support. The FSMC’s relevance to the military cannot be measured as time and again, their skills and expertise have saved hundreds of lives of both soldiers and rebels during combats, especially at times when evacuation is not possible due to terrain and environmental conditions.

100 turn up at funeral of suspected JI militant

From Asia One News (Dec 21): 100 turn up at funeral of suspected JI militant

PONTIAN - The family of suspected Jemaah Islamiyah militant Mohd Noor Fikrie Abd Kahar who was shot dead in the Philippines cannot accept that he was an extremist. According to Mohd Noor Fikrie's brother Mohd Noor Hafiz, 24, his brother was a soft spoken man who cared for his three young children and was always ready with a smile. "I still cannot believe that he was part of a militant group as it was not like him to hold grudges against anyone," he said at the burial ceremony of Mohd Noor Fikrie at Tanah Wakaf Perkuburan Islam Kampung Parit Hj Abdul Rahman in Benut here.

Some 100 people, mostly Mohd Noor Fikrie's relatives and close friends, attended the funeral despite a slight rain on early Thursday morning. Mohd Noor Fikrie's body arrived at Masjid Jamek Temenggong Daeng Abdul Rahman at 5.30am from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) after arriving from the Philippines at 1am on the same day. Among the family members who attended the ceremony was his former wife Siti Sarah Raihana with their three young children Aina Sofia, six, Aisah Nadiya, five, and Yani Izzati, four.

The 26-year-old was shot dead by Davao police last Friday night after they received intelligence that he had a bomb and was planning a terrorist attack. Mohd Noor Fikrie and his Filipina Muslim convert wife, Annabella Nieva Lee, checked out of the Sampaguita Hotel when they were cornered by local police. He tried to flee with a backpack containing a bomb and a mobile detonation device, which he threatened to set off if the police made any move to arrest him but he was shot dead by police while his wife was arrested and is currently being detained.

Op/Ed: Fighting Terrorism

Op/Ed piece in the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Dec 21): Fighting Terrorism (By Menardo Wenceslao)

AN operative of the Jemaah Islamiyah met his tragic end in the hands of Davao City police SWAT force. Mohd Fikrie Abd Kahar, a native of Malacca, Malaysia, sneaked into the southern capital in the advent of the Christmas holiday when much of the city is in the celebration mood. Davao, which is the commercial and communications center in Mindanao, has established quite sophisticated tripping points that monitors and reports movements of suspicious characters. This is a basic intelligence network that involves private citizens in various critical areas in the city where suspects may find ingress and possible areas where they might seek refuge. This web of listening posts was laid out when terrorists exploded improvised bombs at the vicinity of the Davao City Airport and then the seaport in Sasa. It was to be used later against organized crime and drug syndicates. If Davao City earned the distinction of being the most peaceful and orderly and livable city in the country, this can be attributed to the tripping points which then City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte had established.

Despite its sophistication moreover, elements like Jemaah Islamiyah can slip through the perimeter of the city. Nevertheless, the next ring of intelligence network could be a big challenge to terrorist elements. At this point, we cannot divulge how the intelligence community worked out the sophistry of its drive against the like of JIs. It must have surprised Fikrie how the police hounds kept track of his movement. His cohorts must have also been surprised how Fikrie was skillfully dealt with by police operatives. We believe that there are remnants of JIs who are still lurking not only in Mindanao but also in Metro Manila and other major capitals in Asia. While these militants claim to be Islamic crusaders, their ways are in fact, un-Islamic and they are being condemned by Imams worldwide.

On the heels of the neutralization of Fikrie, Malaysian authorities issued a statement expressing grave concern on the subversive activities and threats of militants and terrorist groups. Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein declared that because of the terrorists’ threats on the country’s peace and security, they always cooperate closely with the security authorities of other countries in ensuring the security of their own country but also of the region. Malaysia is not saying this without basis. It is a given that while these militants are purportedly after the enemies of Islam, the truth is most of the victims of their terroritic activities are actually Muslims. This is the reality in Indonesia and in Arab countries.

In Mindanao, Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf Guerillas have inflicted so much physical harm on civilian communities in the island provinces of Basilan and Sulu and in Central Mindanao. In the ensuing military and police campaign, thousands of Christians and Muslim inhabitants are displaced. The more the casualty and the louder the cry of agony of the wounded, the more they derive pleasure and reward from their evil deed. Terrorism is a modern-day crime. It is vicious and diabolic. It can be carried out by a few but can harm a thousand. Fikrie attempted to carry out a mission of detonating an improvised explosive device in a crowd but he was stopped by a marksman who felled him before he can create havoc.  Terrorist might try another adventurism but the alarm had been sounded and the guards are up.

AFP marks 'more meaningful' 77th year with new modernization act

From the Sun Star (Dec 21): AFP marks 'more meaningful' 77th year with new modernization act

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) celebrated its 77th founding anniversary on Friday with a pronouncement from the Commander-In-Chief himself that new and modern equipment for government troops will be used soon. In his speech during the anniversary celebration at Camp Aguinaldo, President Benigno Aquino III said the organization's 77th year is "more meaningful" due to the recent signing of the New AFP Modernization Act. "Ito ang susi tungo sa mas moderno, mas matatag, at mas mapagkakatiwalaang kabanata sa kasaysayan ng ating kasundaluhan. Wala pong ibang paglalaanan ng pitumpu’t limang bilyong pisong pondo sa susunod na limang taon kundi para sa mga bagong kagamitan at kinakailangang kasanayan ng Sandatahang Lakas," Aquino said. The President said better weapons and force protection equipment will also be used by soldiers for their duties.

On December 11, Aquino signed into law Republic Act (RA) 10349, which amends RA 7898 or the AFP Modernization Act, extending the program for another 15 years. It has a budget of P75 billion for the first five years of implementation subject to the capacity of the Department of National Defense 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. RA 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

Military raises P19B for typhoon victims

From the Sun Star (Dec 21): Military raises P19B for typhoon victims

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has generated over P19 billion for the victims of Typhoon "Pablo," which hit Visayas and Mindanao early this month. General Jessie Dellosa, AFP chief-of-staff, said the raised amount was collected from the institution's savings after cancelling Christmas parties and holding "simple" 77th founding anniversary celebration rites on Friday. There were also donations from the Department of National Defense and financial institutions of the AFP, Dellosa added. "Sa ganitog maliit na paraan nais ipahatid ng AFP ang mensahe ng simpatiya at pakikiramay sa ating mga kababayang nasalanta," Dellosa said in his speech during the military's anniversary. As of Friday, the death toll from Typhoon Pablo has climbed to 1,050 including 354 still unidentified bodies. At least 2,662 were injured while 838 others remain missing. Over six million people in 34 provinces were affected by the typhoon, more than 11,000 of which remain inside evacuation centers.

3 killed by alleged NPA rebels in Quezon

From ABS-CBN (Dec 21): 3 killed by alleged NPA rebels in Quezon

A rebel returnee and two militiamen were abducted and then killed by suspected New People's Army rebels in Tagkawayan, Quezon on Thursday. Tagkawayan police said rebel returnee Efren Gatilla and Cafgu militiamen, 53-year-old Adriano Lusanta and 28-year-old Jeffrey Mendoza, were abducted by some 30 NPA rebels at around 2 a.m. The bodies of the three were found at around 4 p.m. the same day. Police said the group behind the abduction was led by a certain Manuel Jasareno alias Ka Alfie. Gatilla, a resident of Barangay Bosigon, became a farmer after abandoning the armed stuggle. Lusanta, on the other hand, was a former chairman of Barangay Casispalan.

MILF shrugs off 'impasse' in peace talks

From ABS-CBN (Dec 21): MILF shrugs off 'impasse' in peace talks

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Friday clarified reports of an impasse in the 34th round of exploratory talks between the government and the MILF in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Monday. MILF First Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar said it’s just normal for both parties negotiating to disagree on one's proposal and counter-proposal, adding that this should not worry the public. "May mga nagsasabi na technical impasse pero normal ito sa isang negotiation," Jaafar said. Although Jaafar has not met with the MILF peace panel members following the recent talks in Kuala Lumpur, Jaafar said the result of the peace talks should cause alarm. He believes that the issues in the negotiating table will be resolved in the soonest possible time especially now that President Benigno Aquino has signed Executive Order 78 on the creation of the Transition Commission. Jaafar added that this will be a boost to both parties.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael ‘Toto’ Mangudadatu also agrees that this will not last long and will be resolved by the peace panels. Meantime, Mangudadatu expressed support for the creation of the transition commission. He said he was asked by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process chairperson Ging Deles to recommend 2 persons from the province. "Tumawag siya and I recommended 2, puro mga abugado, sila kasi ang dapat na talagang nasa pwesto dahil alam nila ang batas," Mangudadatu said.

Suspected terrorist slain in Davao was JI Facebook recruit, Malaysia news site says

From GMANews (Dec 21): Suspected terrorist slain in Davao was JI Facebook recruit, Malaysia news site says

The suspected terrorist who was killed in Davao City last weekend was a "Facebook recruit" of the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network, a Malaysian news site reported. "Kedah-born Mohd Noor Fikrie, 26, was in touch with Marwan and the Abu Sayyaf via social media and used a Sabahan contact to travel between Sandakan and Zamboanga City in southern Philippines," the report said. It cited intelligence sources who said Fikrie was with top JI leader and fellow Malaysian Zulkifli Abdul Hir a.k.a. Marwan and Abu Sayyaf terrorists during encounters with Philippine military and police in the past few months. Marwan is believed to have escaped an offensive by Philippine security forces last Feb. 2, where Abu Sayyaf leader Umbra Jumdail Gumbahali a.k.a. Dr. Abu was killed, the report said. The Star quoted its source as saying the JI and Abu Sayyaf were operating together in the Sulu area, "but JI moved to Mindanao when the Philippine security forces, supported by technical help from US and Australia, put intense pressure on them.”

Fikrie was gunned down following an encounter with police in Davao City Friday night. His Filipina wife has been taken into custody. In Friday's encounter, he was reportedly carrying an improvised explosive device that he threatened to detonate.

Initiation rite?

The Star said it remained unclear who Fikrie's target was, even as Philippine police already pointed out the bomb could have been detonated in a populated area like a shopping mall or a church. Police also noted that at the time of the encounter, preparations were being made for the start of the traditional Simbang Gabi. The report said it is possible Fikrie was undergoing an "initiation rite" to rise up the JI's ranks. "Despite being a relative newcomer, he was already in close contact with top JI leader and fellow Malaysian Zulkifli Abdul Hir a.k.a. Marwan," it said.

Tracked by cops

The Star report quoted its source as saying Philippine authorities managed to keep track of Fikrie after a recent attack on a JI hideout where he managed to escape. “But in his haste, he left his Malaysian identity card behind,” the source said. The Star said Fikrie finished high school and worked in several jobs in Malacca where his father was a sergeant at the police contingent headquarters' training center. He married a woman identified only as Nuzul and they lived in Kampung Bahagia, Klebang in Malacca until they divorced late last year. He then left for Mindanao and married a Filipina Muslim convert from Sorsogon. "It is learnt that over the past few years, he was drawn to JI and its aims and kept in touch with key operatives via social media," the report said.

Photo: AFP celebrates 77th founding anniversary

GMANews (Dec 21): Photo: AFP celebrates 77th founding anniversary

President Benigno S. Aquino III, assisted by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa, troops the line upon arrival for the AFP's 77th founding anniversary at the AFP General Headquarters grandstand in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City, on Friday Robert Viñas / Malacañang

Photo: Refurbished arms

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 21): Photo: Refurbished arms

Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo (left) inspects newly refurbished assault rifles along with Government Arsenal director Jonathan Mathir and military chief General Jessie Dellosa at Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday. MANNY PALMERO

Kin of NPA rebs benefit from relief operations

From Malaya (Dec 21): Kin of NPA rebs benefit from relief operations

A MILITARY commander in the Davao region said families of New People’s Army rebels are also benefiting from the relief operations for those affected by typhoon “Pablo.” “We have no problem there. We know for a fact that families of the rebels were also affected,” said Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, commander of the military’s 10th Infantry Division based in Compostela Valley. Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental are the areas worst hit by the typhoon which struck about two weeks ago. It has left 1,047 people dead while 841 remain missing. The military is past of the search, rescue and retrieval operations. Soldiers are also assisting government and non-government organizations in the relief operations.

Bernardo said the NPA families are in the hills of Compostela Valley and nearby Davao Oriental. “We know for a fact that the families were also affected,” he said. “If you are living at the top of the hills…whoever is there will really be hit, no matter how you fortify your camp,” said Bernardo. He said rebel camps are only makeshift structures that are vulnerable to strong winds. Bernardo said it is expected of the rebels to seek refuge in areas that were not devastated by Pablo while their families are sent down from hill so they can be provided assistance. “Their families, they have to go down because they have nothing to eat up there...Of course, we are not discriminating (in our relief operations) because they are fellow Filipinos. We have to provide them with relief goods and water to survive,” said Bernardo.

3 in operations vs Abu lead AFP awardees

From Malaya (Dec 21): 3 in operations vs Abu lead AFP awardees

THREE officers and men who figured in successful operations against the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf are leading the awardees during today’s celebration of the military’s 77th foundation anniversary. President Aquino will confer the Distinguished Conduct Star on 2Lt. Ferdinand Divina, a Marines officer, for leading an operation in Maimbung town in Sulu in February 2010, which led to the killing of six Abu Sayyaf men. To be given the Gold Cross Medal are Air Force 1Lt. Carlo Valdez and Army Cpl. Christopher Cabrito. The Gold Cross Medal is the third highest military decoration in combat. The highest is the Medal of Valor and second is the Distinguished Conduct Star.

Col. Glorioso Miranda will be awarded the Distinguished Service Star for “eminently meritorious and valuable service” rendered as the commander of the military’s Task Force Gensan. Miranda’s leadership of the task force, based in General Santos City, is being credited for preventing the “occurrence of terroristic activities and eventually downgraded terrorist capabilities” in the area.

Divina will be given the Distinguished Conduct Star for “conspicuous courage and gallantry” in action during a firefight with Parad and his men. Among the six killed in the operations in Maiumbung was Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Albader Parad who had been implicated in a number of high-profile kidnappings in Sulu, including that of ABS-CBN reporter Ces Drilon and her crew in 2008. Security officials also blamed Parad and his group for the 2009 kidnapping of two Swiss and an Italian working for the International Committee of the Red Cross. The operation against Parad and his group also resulted in the recovery of high-powered firearms, including a Belgian-made light machine gun, a squad assault weapon, a Galil rifle and two M16 rifles that are fitted with M203 grenade launchers.

Valdez piloted an OV-10 bomber plane that dropped bombs on the lair of Abu Sayyaf leader Gumbahali Jumdail, alias Dr. Abu, in Parang town in Sulu February last year. Jumdail died in the airstrike. The military said 14 other terrorists died in the operation, including Zulkipli Abdul Hir alias Marwan and Ibrahim, and Mumamda Ali alias Muawiya, both members of the Southeast Asian regional network Jemaah Islamiah.

Cabrito is being cited for an operation against the Abu Sayyaf in Al Barka, Basilan last year, which resulted in the death of six terrorists and the recovery of assorted firearms, vehicles, and high-value documents.

This year’s celebration of the AFP anniversary will be toned down because of the damaged brought by typhoon “Pablo.” The death toll is 1,047. There are 841 people still missing. Search, rescue and retrieval operations are being led by soldiers. Military officials said the savings from the toned down celebration will be donated to people affected by the typhoon and used to sustain the search, rescue and retrieval operations. “What will transpire in the AFP 77th anniversary celebration is our commemoration of the collective efforts of our soldiers, as well as our partners in civilian organizations and government agencies, in maintaining peace and development and in building a sustainable and secure environment for our country’s future,” said AFP chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa.

Congress backs draft pact with MILF

From Malaya (Dec 21): Congress backs draft pact with MILF

THE Senate on Wednesday night approved a resolution expressing support for the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that government signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last October. A similar resolution was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday. House Resolution No. 971 expresses the chamber’s “support of the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the MILF and its implementation, including the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.” The House resolution also acknowledged the work of the government and the MILF which “are both invested in problem solving with the view of establishing a just and working autonomy for the Bangsamoro people.”

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, who introduced Resolution No. 922, said the framework agreement entered into by the government and the MILF is crucial in the attainment of peace and economic development in the region. All senators were later made co-authors of the resolution. “The signing of the agreement has inspired optimism and hope that a just framework for peace in the Muslim Mindanao region, through a partnership with the Bangsamoro, has been achieved,” Guingona said in his resolution.

The Senate resolution said the framework agreement calls for the creation of a new political entity called the Bangsamoro, and through the Bangsamoro Basic Law, will replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Also according to the resolution, the framework provides for the empowerment of the Bangsamoro people by “creating the space for their meaningful participation in the process of enacting the Bangsamoro Islamic Law through the creation of the Transition Commission.”

President Aquino signed Monday Executive Order 210 which creates the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. Under the EO, the President will appoint 15 members to the commission from a list made by the government and the MILF.  Guingona said the administration’s objective to reconstruct conflict-affected areas and to expedite socio-development in the region will be realized by the empowerment of the Bangsamoro.

Thai army donates P1.2M for ‘Pablo’ victims

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 21): Thai army donates P1.2M for ‘Pablo’ victims

Thailand’s Royal Army has donated P1.2 million ($30,000) in aid to the Philippines to help the victims of Typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha), the worst storm to hit the country this year.
In a statement Friday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that Royal Thai Army Commander-in-Chief, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, personally handed the donation to Colonel Manuel Sanchez Gonzales, Defense and Armed Forces Attaché, in simple ceremonies held on December 14 at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters in Bangkok. Gonzales was accompanied by First Secretary and Consul General Edgar Badajos of the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok, the DFA said.

In a separate statement, the Royal Thai Army also noted that it has expressed its willingness to assist the Philippine Army in its efforts to help and support the recovery mission. The DFA earlier said that the Philippines has so far received a total of P665.8 million in financial assistance from the international community, aid agencies, various groups and individuals, and that material donations continued to arrive.

Latest reports noted that the death toll from Pablo, which battered Visayas and Mindanao in early December, rose to 1,046, while 841 remained missing. The NDRRMC also said that damages from the onslaught of the typhoon was pegged at P24 billion, and that P16 billion were damages from agriculture.

Abu Sayyaf killers among top AFP awardees

From the Philippine Star (Dec 21): Abu Sayyaf killers among top AFP awardees

An air force pilot who dropped the bomb that killed Abu Sayyaf commander Gumbahali Jumdail alias Doc Abu and an Army corporal who single-handedly killed six Abu Sayyaf bandits in an encounter are among the top awardees in the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) 77th founding anniversary celebration at Camp Aguinaldo on Friday. Philippine Air Force (PAF) 1st Lt. Carlo Valdez received his Gold Cross Medal from President Aquino along with Marine 2nd Lt. Ferdinand Divina, who bagged the Distinguished Conduct Star for leading the charge that killed Albader Parad, an equally notorious Abu Sayyaf commander in Sulu. Also this year’s AFP Gold Cross Medal awardee was Army Corporal Christopher Cabrito for his gallantry in action that left six Abu Sayyaf members dead and the recovery of high-powered firearms, vehicles and documents with high intelligence value during anti-terror operations at Sitio Buug, Barangay Macalang in Al Barka town in Basilan.

On February 2 this year, Valdez piloted one of the two OV-10 Bronco bombers that were dispatched on a special mission against the Abu Sayyaf group headed by Dr. Abu and Jemaah Islamiyah bombers Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, a Malaysian and Muhamda Ali alias Muawiya, a Singaporean of Indian heritage in Sulu. Flying above his objective, Valdez precisely unleashed his loads on the Abu Sayyaf lair at Sitio Lanao Bato, Barangay Lanao Dakula in Parang town at about 2 a.m. The powerful explosion killed not only Dr. Abu, but also his son Teng another relative named HJ Tati. Initial reports claimed that Marwan and Muawiya were also killed in the explosion. However, ground sources in Sulu would say later that the two Asian terrorists survived the bombing operations as they were staying outside of the impact area.

Divina, on the other hand, headed the Marine Special Operations Platoon that assaulted the Abu Sayyaf lair in Barangay Karawan, Maimbung, also in Sulu last February 2, 2010 that resulted in Parad’s death. One marine soldier was killed in the fighting. An equally notorious Abu Sayyaf commander, Parad who has a $5 million bounty on his head, was tagged as the brains behind the series of high-profile kidnappings in and outside of Sulu, including that of the abduction of three International Red Cross workers in the troubled island province. “For acts of conspicuous courage and gallantry in the face of forty heavily armed Abu Sayyaf, resulting to six enemy fatalities to include their fallen leader Abdul Parad, the Distinguished Conduct Star is Awarded to 2Lt. Ferdinand Divina, (Marines),” the AFP's citation for Divina reads.

New PCG chief says acquisition of 10 Japanese patrol ships certain

From the Philippine Star (Dec 21): New PCG chief says acquisition of 10 Japanese patrol ships certain

Newly-installed Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commander Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said today that the acquisition of 10 Japanese patrol ships is a done deal and delivery of these brand-new vessels to his unit has been scheduled from 2014 and 2017. “It’s a done deal,” Isorena told Camp Aguinaldo reporters where he was among the guests in today’s AFP 77th founding anniversary celebration. The patrol vessels, all 35-footer will be built by Japan and will be acquired by the government through the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA). The vessels would be armed as the Coast Guard intends to install light guns when they’re finally delivered. “We will be installing the usuall .50 caliber machinegun as the vessels would be used for maritime patrol and interdiction operations,” the new Coast Guard commander said.

PNoy: Days of rusty Navy ships over

From the Philippine Star (Dec 21): PNoy: Days of rusty Navy ships over

President Benigno Aquino III said days of a "rusty" Philippine Navy is over during the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) anniversary on Friday. Aquino, who took the field instead of riding a military jeep or “the white carabao” while trooping the line during the 77th founding anniversary celebration of the AFP, assured the military leadership of his administration’s support to the military modernization program while indirectly taking a swipe at China. “Our sailors’ fear of getting infected by tetanus from our rusty ships has ended,” the President declared in the yearly military event. Without directly referring to the standing territorial row over the West Philippine Sea, where China has been putting forward its territorial claim to almost the entire region more aggressively, the President said that once modern Philippine Navy ships are operations the Philippines would be at par with that of foreign intruders claiming the country’s maritime domain.

He added that the Navy should now start preparing its ports for these modern warships that would be deployed to protect the country’s maritime domain. The President was apparently referring to four modern warships which the Department of National Defense (DND) is negotiating to acquire from Italy. Two of these warships are the missile and torpedo firing Maestrale Class ship, which is expected to be delivered to the country next year. “Tapos na rin po ang araw kung kailan mas pinangangambahan ng Hukbong Dagat ang 'tetanus' mula sa kinakalawang na barko kesa sa mga banyagang umaangkin sa ating teritoryo (The days of our troops' fear of 'tetanus' more than other nations claim over our territory are over),” the President declared in his speech.

New equipment for army, air force

The President also said that it is also about time for aging Army military vehicles to retire for new and faster tanks and trucks, while pointing to the assembled military vehicles, ambulances and armored personnel carriers inside the Camp Aguinaldo parade ground. He also pointed out that soldiers should be armed with modern weapons as well as force protection equipment for them to make the Filipino people safe and away from any dangers ahead, as he urged them to also pay their tribute to the people they served because of their unwavering support to the government. Under the military modernization program, the Philippine Army has also programmed a land-based defense system which includes the acquisition of big ticket items to include modern tanks, high-impact artillery batteries. The Philippine Air Force (PAF), on the other hand, is also fast-tracking its programmed acquisition of a squadron of leaf-in fighter jets and radars in order to protect the country’s airspace. “Consider all these as an early Christmas from the Filipino people for overflowing trust in you,” the President told the troops.

AFP chief General Jessie Dellosa, for his part, said that the Filipino soldiers are ever thankful for the President and the commander-in-chief for his full support to the military's modernization program. Dellosa said the government’s Pabahay Program have already benefitted 9,388 soldiers and with the recent signing of the New AFP Modernization Act, the AFP will now be able to procure needed military equipment to upgrade its fighting capabilities. “Slowly but continuously we are now procuring military hardware to upgrade our fighting capabilities so that we will no longer rely (to defend us) from outside help,” Dellosa said. He added that even before the New AFP Modernization Act was signed, the President has already earmarked P28 billion to modernize the military.

Aquino leads awarding rites honoring soldiers, civilian employees of AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 21): Aquino leads awarding rites honoring soldiers, civilian employees of AFP

President Benigno S. Aquino III led the awarding rites for 12 soldiers and civilian employees for outstanding achievements and heroic acts in the service in celebration of the 77th Armed Forces of the Philippines Anniversary at Camp Aguinaldo Friday. Anchored on the theme: “Bayanihan at Kahandaan: Tuwid na Daan Tungo sa Kapayapaan," this year’s AFP Anniversary celebration was highlighted by the awarding of 12 deserving AFP personnel who contributed to the advancement and promotion of the organization.

Also present during the event were former president Fidel V. Ramos, Defense Secretary Voltare T. Gazmin, AFP Chief of Staff General Jessie Dellosa and other officials of the AFP's major commands: Army, Navy Air Force, Police Deputy Director General Alan Purisima; Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena, Philippine Coast Guard chief, government officials, members of the Armed Forces Attaches, among others.

The Chief Executive awarded 2nd Lt. Ferdinand J. Divina, PN, with the Distinguished Conduct Star; Col. Glorioso V. Miranda, PA, (Distinguished Service Star); 1st Lt. Carlo P. Valdez, PAF, (Gold Cross Medal); Corporal Christopher C. Cabrito, PA, (Gold Cross Medal); Brig. Gen. Alejandro H. Estomo, AFP (Outstanding Achievement Medal); Col. Emmanuel G. Cacdac, PA (Gawad sa Kaunlaran); CAA Abdurasad H. Asmad, (Kagitingan sa Barangay); M/Sgt. Fermin O. Rocio, (Enlisted Personnel of the Year); Cadet Col. Iceal Averroes E. Estrella, 1CL, Male Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Cadet of the Year; Cadel Col. Jaimie Lou T. Sarmiento, 1CL, Female ROTC Cadet of the Year, Aurora B. Ronquillo, Model Supervisor of the Year and Nelson G. Maligro, Model Civilian Employee of the Year.

Another highight of the celebration was the presentation of the book titled, "Kwentong Bayanihan," a collection of short stories written by members of the military and civilian sectors to illustrate the finest practices of Bayanihan to the President and the AFP Commander-in-Chief Aquino.   The AFP also presented to the Chief Executive a DVD copy of 20 short films under "Kwentong Bayan," produced and directed by Filipino Pictures, Inc. It is envisioned to effectively show a different perspective on addressing the root causes of insurgency and social issues in the country.

The event was also highlighted by the Inspection of troops, pass-in-review and the motorized contingent featuring some of the AFP's newly-acquired and refurbished equipment. The motorized contingent was composed of the Special Operations Command mounted on three KM450 vehicles, the 710th Special Operations Wing on one Humvee Combat Vehicle, two KM450 trucks and one Explosive, Ordnance and Disposal Van. The armored assets of the Philippine Army including two V150 Commando and three Simba Fighting Vehicles; Armored Assets of the Philippine Marine Corps including one Humvee Combat Vehicle, two V300 and one V150 combat vehicles; Army artillery assets including six Tubes Howitzers, newly-acquired field ambulance units and four new tonner trucks were paraded during the event. The celebration also featured a sky-diving exhibition.

Aquino vows gov't support for AFP to strengthen its capabilities

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 21): Aquino vows gov't support for AFP to strengthen its capabilities

President Benigno S. Aquino III vowed Friday the administration's unwavering support for the Armed Forces to strengthen its capabilities in performing its mandate of upholding the country's sovereignty. In his speech during the 77th AFP Anniversary at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, the Chief Executive emphasized the importance of modernizing the AFP to enhance its capabilities in defending the country and the Filipino people. Aquino graced the AFP anniversary rites which had for its theme “Bayanihan at Kahandaan: Tuwid na Daan Tungo sa Kapayapaan," as guest of honor and speaker.

The President said: "Dahil sa inyong mga sakripisyo, makakaasa pa rin kayo sa patuloy na suporta ng pamahalaan at sambayanan.... "Mantakin po ninyo ---mahigit dalawampu’t walong bilyong piso ang agad nating inilaan para sa AFP Modernization Program sa loob lamang ng isang taon at pitong buwan. "Mula sa pagiging kawawang cowboy, itinulak natin ang AFP bilang mas moderno’t mas maaasahang tanggulan."

The President said the government will continue to effect reforms in the AFP to ensure that its funds will be used only in serving the needs of the people, including the soldiers and civilian employees of the armed forces services. The administration has provided much-deserved benefits for the AFP military and civilian personnel. "Nariyan din ang 21,800 na bahay na itinayo para sa mga pulis at kasundaluhan, at ang karagdagang 31,200 na kabahayan pa na inaasahan nating makumpleto sa Agosto 2013, hindi lang para sa mga pulis at sundalo, kundi pati na sa mga bumbero at kawani ng BJMP," he said.

Aquino said the Framework Agreement signed by the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last Oct 15 is a vital step to attain genuine peace. "Matapos ang makasaysayang kasunduang pangkapayapaan sa Moro Islamic Liberation Front at sa pagtataguyod ng Bangsamoro, inaasahan po nating matutuldukan na rin ang deka-dekadang alitan sa katimugang bahagi ng bansa at magsisimula nang mapitas ng ating mga kapatid na Muslim at Lumad ang pangako ng kanilang lupang tinubuan," he said.

He called on the AFP to step up its efforts in implementing the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan (IPSP) program. "Batid nating may masasamang elemento pa ring patuloy na pinagbabantaan ang kaligtasan at payapang pamumuhay ng ilang pamayanan sa bansa.....At hindi po tayo makukuntento hangga’t may mga pamilya pa ring naiipit sa mga walang katuturang bakbakan. Kumpiyansa at inaasahan po nating sa pag-iral ng IPSP Bayanihan, napipinto na ang paglaganap ng malawakang kapayapaan sa mga lugar na dati’y pugad ng armadong hidwaan," he stressed.
The Chief Executive expressed high hopes that the AFP will continue to focus on their duties and responsibilities to maintain peace and order in the country.

He also thanked the AFP personnel for their full support in the government’s programs aimed at uplifting and protecting the lives of the people as he cited the AFP’s important role in the government's humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in times of calamities. "Unti-unti na rin pong bumabangon ang ilang bahagi ng Visayas at Mindanao na sinalanta ng bagyong Pablo. Habang tumatanaw tayo ng malaking utang ng loob sa bawat kawal na nakibalikat sa panahon ng sakuna, huwag sana nating limitahin ang kaya pa nating magawa," the President said. "Huwag sana tayong makuntento sa kung ano ang kaya nating iambag pagkatapos lamang ng sakuna; sa halip, tumutok tayo sa kung ano ang kaya nating gawin bago pa man ito sumalanta. Ibig sabihin, bago pa man madapa ang ating mga kababayan, dapat ay nakahanda na tayong pigilan ang kanilang pagbagsak at isinagad natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya para maiwasan ito.," he added.