Saturday, December 22, 2012

Law bans hit list of gov’t enemies

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 23): Law bans hit list of gov’t enemies

The military is now prohibited from issuing a hit list—officially called “order of battle”—with the enactment of a law against enforced disappearances, Malacañang said on Saturday. Order of battle is a list of people security forces say are “enemies of the state” to make them “legitimate targets as combatants,” including those not formally charged with crimes. People on the military’s hit list are open to assassinations, abductions, harassment and intimidation.

Those who have disappeared are known as desaparecidos—the disappeared—a term first used in Latin America to refer to the critics of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet who were seized by state security forces and never seen again. Local security forces have used the order of battle to justify the seizure and detention of critics of the government, mostly activists suspected of being members of the communist New People’s Army or of front organizations belonging to the communist movement in the Philippines. The new desaparecidos law “rejects [the] use of an order of battle or any similar document to exempt” state agents from the prohibition or “justify” the detention of enemies or critics of the government, President Aquino’s deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, said in a radio interview.

The President signed the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act late Friday, hours after attending the 77th founding anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The new law, the first major human rights legislation under Mr. Aquino’s nearly three-year-old administration, imposes up to life imprisonment for state agents convicted of being involved in enforced disappearances. Its enactment has made the Philippines the first country in Asia to treat enforced disappearance as an offense distinct from ordinary kidnapping.

US-based nongovernment organization Human Rights Watch challenged Mr. Aquino to “move quickly to enforce it.” “Effective enforcement of this new law by the Philippine government will deter enforced disappearances and address the deep-seated problem of impunity for human-rights abusers,” Brad Adams, the group’s director for Asia, said in a statement.


According to the human rights group Karapatan, more than 1,000 political activists and suspected supporters have disappeared since the 1972-1986 dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, including more than 200 under Mr. Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Karapatan has documented 12 cases of enforced disappearance since 2010 under Mr. Aquino.

The desaparecidos law defines an enforced disappearance as the abduction or “any form of deprivation of liberty” of a person by state officials or their agents who subsequently conceal the person’s fate or whereabouts. Human rights groups have reported that such people have been kept in a network of “safe houses” where they are tortured and sometimes killed, their bodies buried in unknown graves or dumped in remote areas. They say this was extensively practiced during the Marcos regime. The law against enforced disappearance prohibits secret detention centers and safe houses and authorizes the government to conduct “regular, unannounced … inspections of all places of detention and confinement.”  The law cannot be suspended even during wartime and does not permit amnesty for those convicted. Superior officers of those found responsible are to be equally penalized.

Reporting requirement

According to Valte, the law requires public officials and private citizens to report forced disappearances, and state agencies to investigate cases and report their findings. It also requires the regular updating of the lists of people being held in state detention centers.  The number of attacks against political opponents of the government has risen alongside the growth of the 43-year-old communist insurgency and the decades-long Moro rebellion in Mindanao, which appears close to a political solution following a preliminary peace accord by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed in October.

Mr. Aquino, son of prodemocracy icons, has pledged to take steps to prosecute violators of human rights during the previous administration and prevent new ones. Rights groups, however, say violations have continued under his administration.  The groups have urged Mr. Aquino to prosecute violators of human rights during the Arroyo administration, particularly retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, who has gone into hiding after being ordered by a court to stand trial for the enforced disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006. Palparan is also believed to have knowledge of the enforced disappearance of left-leaning agriculturist Jonas Joseph Burgos, son of the late journalist Jose Burgos, in 2007. Rights groups have also urged the Aquino administration to give priority to the passage of a bill pending in Congress to compensate thousands of victims of human rights abuses, including enforced disappearance, during the Marcos dictatorship.

CPP/Ang Bayan: Editorial--Condemn the negligence of the US-Aquino regime

Editorial in Ang Bayan posted to the CPP Website (Dec 22): Condemn the negligence of the US-Aquino regime

Two and a half weeks have passed since a powerful storm ripped through southern and northeastern Mindanao and parts of the Visayas, leaving more than a thousand dead, hundreds missing and millions without sources of livelihood. No one could calculate the immensity of suffering, with the victims having no food, no shelter and no access to medical treatment for their injuries or the diseases that have befallen them.

Despite the wretched conditions of the people in the calamity-stricken areas, the US-Aquino regime has been markedly and criminally negligent in providing assistance. Rescue and relief operations have been proceeding at a turtle’s pace. The government has been excruciatingly slow in accessing the farthest barangays. The aid that actually reaches the victims is good for only a few days. They comprise a tiny proportion of the billions of pesos worth of natural resources extracted every year from the forests, uplands and agribusiness plantations in the plains of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, the two provinces most severely hit by the typhoon......

MILF: Op/Ed--President Aquino creates Bangsamoro Transition Commission

Op/Ed piece posted to the MILF Website (Dec 22): President Aquino creates Bangsamoro Transition Commission (By Arland Abubakkar)

President Benigno C. Aquino III last Tuesday, December 18, 2012 issued Executive Order # 120 creating the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to be composed of 15 members; 8 to be recommended by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) including its chairman and 7 by the government but shall all be Bangsamoro. The BTC with an initial budget of PhP 100 Million will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as required by the Framework Agreement signed last October 15, 2012.
Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Chair of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) Peace Panel said that the “TransCom will need to put up its office and staff, convene, come up with work plans and agree on procedures”. “Members will also have to be officially appointed first”, said Ferrer. On his part, Ghazali Jaafar, 1st Vice Chairman on Political Affairs of the MILF was quoted by Mindanao Cross, a local newspaper in Cotabato City saying that “the Transcom’s creation is a big boost to the peace process”. In an emailed statement to the Mindanao Cross, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said that, “the EO 120 is a presidential initiative that affirmed Aquino’s resolved to advance the government’s peace talks with the MILF”.
Two days after the executive order was issued, both Houses of Congress passed Resolution No. 971 supporting the creation of the Commission. Rep. Jesus Sacdalan of North Cotabato, one of those who sponsored the resolution together with Congressmen Simeon Datumanong of the 2nd District of Maguindanao, Tupay Loong of Sulu and Acmad Tomawis of Ang Laban ng Indiginong Filipino Partylist was also quoted by the Mindanao Cross that “ it has been 40 years . . . we are tired of waiting so we want peace. We are supportive of Peace, because this is what our next generation will inherit. They will no longer wake up to violence”. The one in the House of Senate was sponsored by Senator Teofisto TJ Guingona who hails from Mindanao.
The issuance of the EO came at a time when the Moro people was facing a period of uncertainty in the light of the impasse at the 34th Exploratory Talks held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Last Wednesday, the issue was downplayed by Malacanang Palace saying “this would not be insurmountable”. In a press briefing, presidential spokesman, Edwin Lacierda said “he spoke to Presidential Adviser Deles and was told the impasse or disagreement on which party would steer the proposed BTA was “not an issue”.
As things are seen to be in the right direction, both the issuance of the executive order as well as the support extended to it by the Congress are both laudable efforts in fast tracking the resolution of the Mindanao Problem. Perhaps the issue that caused the deadlock could be ironed out soonest so that the remaining unfinished issues will be completed while talks are still going on in Kuala Lumpur.
As this developed, ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv S. Hataman renewed his commitment to the framework agreement and support to the transition commission during his first ever state of region address (SORA) held at the 800-seater Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City. As the government and the MILF move on in resuming the peace process, more sectors are expressing support to the framework agreement. The gesture of Congressman Sacdalan and his group of Moro lawmakers who initiated the passage of the resolution in Congress is a sign that not only the Moros who want peace to prevail in Mindanao but also non-Muslims/Moros like him. Hopefully, other lawmakers in Mindanao will make the same heart-warming gesture made by Rep. Sacdalan.
The attendance of municipal mayors, other local leaders in the core territory as well as those outside of the proposed Bangsamoro Region in forums and other gatherings were the framework agreement was being explained; and message of support over the radio by local leaders are indicative that the framework agreement is gaining ground.
At this juncture, due credit is given to non-government organizations, the MinRHAC, the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) and local government units for sponsoring activities primarily aimed at enlightening the people on the contents and intent of the agreement. Moro and Christian leaders are now becoming interested in knowing what the framework agreement is all about. Datu Lester Q. Sinsuat, the good and young mayor of Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao had a paid time slot in one radio stations in Cotabato City urging his people-constituents to support the framework agreement. All these are signs that the accord reached at Kuala Lumpur are accepted by the people.
From Maguindanao to Sulu; to Basilan; Cotabato; General Santos City; to Mati City; Malapatan, Saranggani Province, the information drive being intensified by the MILF and other groups had gained ground. Hopefully, the TransCom can do well its mandate and finish its job in a given time.

MILF: Editorial--Grand gestures

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Dec 23-31): Editorial--Grand gestures

A little over two months after the signing of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) last October 15, 2012, President Benigno Aquino III signed the Executive Order (EO) No. 120 creating the 15-man Transition Commission (TC) last December 17 that gave birth to new political entity called “Bangsamoro” in 2016. The next day, December 18, the House of Representatives and the Senate issued their respective resolutions expressing support to the EO. The House Resolution No. 971 was introduced by Mindanao lawmakers: Jesus Sacdalan of North Cotabato, Tupay Loong of Sulu, and Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao, while the Senate’s Resolution No. 922 was introduced by Senator Teofisto Guingona III, also of Mindanao.

All these actions, by the President and the two Houses of Congress, are grand gestures of greatness beyond shallow and selfish considerations. These also show the growing maturity of this country especially the leaders in respecting and accommodating various political views and variants reminiscent of what are taking place in much of Europe, especially in the United Kingdom and in Spain. We salute the President for the EO and the congressmen and senators who find time to issue their respective resolutions expressing the sense of both chambers of Congress.

Now, can we safely say that the Moros in Mindanao are heading for their good future within the larger Philippine state by these grand gestures? Of course, the answer cannot be NO It would be at the height of heedlessness, nay ungratefulness, if we do not appreciate these greatness and statesmanship of the President and the senators and congressmen concerned. Indeed, these are acts and decisions in the right directions.

However, let us remember that the roadmap to peace as indicated in the FAB is still a long way to go. The road ahead is full of pitfalls and complexities. Remember that the two parties have failed to resolve the Annex on Arrangements and Modalities during their latest round of talks in Malaysia. This Annex will indicate the steps to complete the whole peace process in Mindanao leading to the establishment of a regular government for the Bangsamoro. The MILF wants to lead the Transition Authority, which is the real premium in the 16-year GPH-MILF peace negotiation, but the government preferred Bangsamoro-led.

For the moment, the parties are in locked in two immovable situations. But with the so much investments, goodwill, and determination of the parties, they will be able to settle this in due time, God willing! Besides and more importantly, we do not believe President Aquino has this kind of thinking in relation to who will lead Transition Authority. Even common sense would tell us that the accolade or reward must belong and go to those who invested “sweat, tears (and blood)” and not especially to those who rocked the boat when the sailing is rough. Otherwise, the whole idea is not really to solve the Moro Question with the MILF.

CPO files case vs wife of ‘JI man’

From the Mindanao Times (Dec 21): CPO files case vs wife of ‘JI man’

The City Prosecution Office has charged with illegal possession of explosive the wife of an alleged terrorist slain during a raid last week. Prosecutor Carlos B. Castaňos Jr. filed the case for violating the Section 3 of Republic Act 9516 ammending the Presidential Decree 1866 or the “illegal possession of firearms and explosives against Anabelle Nieva Lee, 40, of Sorsogon.  Castaňos charged Lee based on the evidence that the police seized during the raid on Mohd Noor Fikrie Bin Abd Kahar, a Malaysian national and suspected member of the Jemaah Islamiyah. The prosecutor did not allow the accused to post bail. The police claimed Lee connived with her husband in bringing an explosive to the city. She was arrested after the police shot her husband for allegedly threatening to blow up an explosive in his bag on the midnight of December 14 at the lobby of a hotel. The report said the police decided to shoot the Malaysian after he got the bag from Lee and attempted to run to the People’s Park where he was planning to detonate it. The police shot him before he could leave the hotel.

MILF peace deal finalized next year – Ferrer

From the Manila Times (Dec 22): MILF peace deal finalized next year – Ferrer

The government is optimistic that the comprehensive agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be finalized within the first quarter of 2013 despite the reported “technical impasse.” Government peace panel chief negotiator Miriam Ferrer said that the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro is on track, adding that by January, both parties are set to finish two annexes. “We have processed many issues already. There’s no deal breaker here. There are several issues left that we hope to close though,” Ferrer said, adding that finishing the annexes “is doable.” “It’s going to happen. Let’s give us time,” she added.....

Rebel attacks foiled with arrest of 3 leftists in Quezon

From the Philippine Star (Dec 22): Rebel attacks foiled with arrest of 3 leftists in Quezon

Government troops arrested three suspected members of leftist New People's Army (NPA) who were allegedly on a "final reconnaissance" to stage attacks in three municipalities in Quezon, the military said today. Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command Spokesman Colonel Generoso Bolina identified the suspects as Dennis Quidor, alias Anghel/ Jabar who was the team leader, Rodrigo Guevarra, alias Joshua, and Eliseo Lopez. The rebels, who were riding two hired motorcycles, were apprehended at around 11:00 p.m. on Friday after they evaded a joint police and military checkpoint in San Francisco town. "The three (rebels) were tasked to conduct final reconnaissance before staging attacks in the municipalities of Mulanay, San Francisco and San Narciso," Bolina said. Confiscated from the suspects were three bags containing improvised explosive device, a caliber 22 pistol, a hand grenade, two M16 long magazines, a caliber 45 magazine, pieces of ammunition, seven pieces of blasting caps, four cellular phones, and subversive documents, he said. Aside from the three insurgents, the drivers of the motorcycle were also held for questioning, the official added.

Video: Mindanao stories: The soldier

From BBC  (Dec 20): Video: Mindanao stories: The soldier

Mindanao is a beautiful island in the southern Philippines, yet one of the most violent parts of Asia. In and around the city of Cotabato, there are several rebel groups, extortion and kidnap gangs, and clans with their own private armies. There are also tens of thousands of people trying to live a normal life. This year the main rebel group signed a roadmap for peace with the government - but what will this mean for those living there?

Aurelio Rakinton is a sergeant in the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division. He is in charge of a team guarding the main road to Cotabato's airport. He has been based in different parts of central Mindanao for the past two decades, and has seen active fighting against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other rebel groups.

Video: Mindanao stories--The rebel fighter

From BBC (Dec 20): Video: Mindanao stories--The rebel fighter

Mindanao is a beautiful island in the southern Philippines, yet one of the most violent parts of Asia. In and around the city of Cotabato, there are several rebel groups, extortion and kidnap gangs, and clans with their own private armies. There are also tens of thousands of people trying to live a normal life.  This year the main rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), signed a roadmap for peace with the government. But what will this mean for those living there?

Habir Bansil is a rebel fighter for the MILF, which under the terms of the deal will gradually be disarmed. He joined the movement at the age of 18 - and now, 20 years later, he has no regrets about his decision. He spends most of his time living in the rebels' jungle hideouts in the mountains of central Mindanao.

US Marines conclude relief efforts for Typhoon Pablo victims

Posted to GMA News (from Stars & Stripes) (Dec 22): US Marines conclude relief efforts for Typhoon Pablo victims

Okinawa-based Marines have wrapped up relief efforts in the Philippines after delivering 375 tons of supplies to victims of Typhoon Pablo (Bopha), Marine officials said. Pablo, which made landfall Dec. 4, left more than 700 people dead, hundreds missing and tens of thousands homeless. The Philippines requested assistance from the U.S. government, officials said. Two KC-130J Hercules aircraft with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 arrived Dec. 8 to deliver relief supplies as III Marine Expeditionary Force Forward Command Element established a bilateral center to manage Marine relief efforts and coordinate requests. About two dozen Marines, helped by other personnel, carried out 22 sorties from Dec. 9-16, a Marine Corps statement said.

The supplies included family ration packs, relief aid boxes with personal hygiene items and clothing, high-energy biscuits, rice, generators, mosquito nets, blankets, sleeping mats, tents, and a UN World Food Programme relief module and three of their tents. A purification unit provided by Marine Corps Forces Pacific has been producing 5,500 gallons of water per hour for eight hours each day, the statement said. “This relief effort highlighted the range of military operations that III MEF can conduct in a short amount of time,” said Col. Mark Menotti, officer in charge for the III MEF command element. “Within seven hours of being told to execute, we had the KC-130Js on the deck in Manila, and flew the first relief mission less than 24 hours after being tasked.”

Menotti said pre-existing relationships and constant bilateral disaster relief training allowed for a quick and efficient response. He said supplies were shipped, received and distributed all on the same day. The Marines concluded their efforts Monday, then headed back to Japan. Personnel from the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance were also assisting relief efforts and remain on the ground in the southern Mindanao area as requested by the Philippines, the release said.

US adds $2M more in relief aid for typhoon devastated areas

From Business World (Dec 21): US adds $2M more in relief aid for typhoon devastated areas

US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas revealed on Friday that $2.1 million (about P84 million) was approved by the US government as assistance to victims of Typhoon Pablo, raising total US aid to $7.5 million. He said the new grant will be sourced through the World Food Program and enough to distribute about 200 metric tons of rice to typhoon victims. And although the assistance is substantial, “clearly we have to do more,” he said. The assistance is not limited to food and non-food items alone since US military planes are also flying in relief goods from Manila to Davao City. C-130 planes also loaded 3.4 metric tons of Department of Social Welfare and Development relief goods since Dec. 8.  In a fact sheet, released by the US embassy, the C-130 Hercules aircrafts already spent 113 hours in 22 flights to deliver supplies for the typhoon victims since three weeks ago. “We need to identify ways where we can help,” Mr. Thomas said, adding that the assistance will concentrate in areas of health, energy, education, livelihood assistance and energy. .....

Aquino vows stronger military forces

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 22): Aquino vows stronger military forces

President Benigno Aquino III has vowed to roll out a stronger and more capable Armed Forces of the Philippines with a P75 billion budget for hard power upgrade over the next five years. In what officials described as a “scaled down” celebration of the AFP’s 77th anniversary on Friday, Mr. Aquino said the modernization fund will put an end to jokes about the military being a “poor cowboy” who does not have the means to fight his enemies. “The new AFP Modernization Act is key to building a modern, stronger, and more reliable Armed Forces,” he said. “Prepare the tarmacs now for new planes that would soar in our skies. Prepare the docks for our modern Navy ships that would protect our waters. It is time to retire the antique trucks being used by the Philippine Army and replace these with faster and more modern tanks and trucks. And of course, we will roll out high-caliber firearms and force protection equipment to further the AFP’s capability to protect Filipinos,” the President said.

AFP planners had identified 39 projects to be covered by the revised modernization program. The Air Force will acquire 21 additional UH-1B multipurpose helicopters to replace the Vietnam War-vintage UH-1H (Huey) helicopters and 10 attack helicopters in the next two years. The modernization program would also include the purchase of three medium-lift aircraft to complement the Air Force’s C-130 Hercules cargo planes.

The measure also exempts certain major defense purchases such as aircraft, vessels, tanks, armored vehicles, communications equipment and high powered firearms from public bidding. The new law also grants additional funding sources from public-private partnerships entered into by the defense department of the AFP and exempts from value added tax and customs duties the sale of weapons, equipment, and ammunition to the AFP.

The president afterwards handed awards to 12 soldiers and civilian employees for their achievements, gallantry and bravery in combat. Officials toned down Friday’s celebration in deference to the victims of Typhoon Pablo. The celebration did away with the traditional fly-by of the Philippine Air Force. It paraded motorized, mounted, and marching troops proceeded sans the humanitarian assistance and disaster response team and equipment, which are currently deployed in Mindanao for the relief and retrieval operations. The celebration, though, showcased other military assets and equipment and thrilled the crowd with a skydiving show.

The AFP said it also canceled its traditional ball and dinner in honor of former chiefs of staff and dignitaries. AFP Chief of Staff General Jessie Dellosa said with the scaled down celebration and simple Christmas parties, the AFP were able to save 2 million, which he said will help augment the initial P3 million released to help and assist the victims of typhoon Pablo. Dellosa said this is on top of the P19 million worth of donations for the typhoon victims gathered by the AFP General Headquarters.

In a related development, newly-appointed Philippine Navy Chief Vice Admiral Jose Alano said that the Navy planned to enhance its alliance with foreign navies to strengthen its capability to protect the country’s territorial waters. Alano, who assumed the top Navy post on Wednesday, said a strong military partnership with foreign navy allies was necessary “to protect our people and our territory.” Alano replaced former Navy Chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama who vowed out of military service after reaching mandatory retirement age of 56 Wednesday. Alano and Pama were batchmates in the Philippine Military Academy Class of 79. “We will further enhance engagements with our counterparts, particularly those who share common interests, values and beliefs, of peace and stability in the region, of freedom of navigation, of respect of rights of all nations, and of peaceful resolution through observance of the rule of law and due process,” Alano said. “We will continue with our strategic partnership to make the Philippine Navy a strong and credible Navy,” he added.

As this developed, reports said that the US planned to deploy some of its newest warships and other high-tech weapons to the Asia-Pacific as part of its “pivot” in the region. The report said the Pentagon will send P-8 submarine-hunting aircraft, cruise missiles, Virginia-class submarines, coastal combat ships and F-35 fighter jets to Asian ports and bases in coming years. Washington has been pushing for the pivot in Asia amid concerns over China’s growing military power and its assertive stance in territorial disputes with its neighbors. Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia are locked in territorial disputes with China and have sought to bolster military ties to Washington to counter Beijing’s influence.

Noy vows more funds for AFP

From the Daily Tribune (Dec 22): Noy vows more funds for AFP

President Aquino yesterday claimed to have raised the Armed Forces of the Philippines from being a “lowly cowboy” to a modernized and more dependable organization as he vowed more assistance to the military with the signing recently of the AFP Modernization Act of 2012. In his speech during the APF’s 77th anniversary in Camp Aguinaldo, Aquino admitted he could be accused of “pampering” too much the 130,000-strong military organization with the government’s all-out support to the AFP modernization program. “From a lowly cowboy, we pushed the AFP toward modernization and dependable defense,” Aquino reported. “Because of your sacrifices, you can count on continuous support from the government and the Filipino people. With too much care we have given our troops, I will not be surprised if next year I would be accused of having the AFP ‘spoiled’ under the straight path,” he said.

Earlier, the President signed into law the AFP Modernization Act of 2012 which will allot P75 billion for the military’s capability upgrade program in the next five years. “This will be the key for a more modern, stronger and more dependable chapter in the history of soldiery,” the President said. He said that with the acquisition of modern equipment, especially warships, military troops can now stop worrying about incurring tetanus from the rust of aging fleet instead of being concerned with territorial defense. “The days are over when our Navy is more worried about the tetanus from their rusting ships instead of the foreigners who are claiming our territory,” Aquino said, without identifying the foreign country.

PN modernization plan to include hospital ships

From the Daily Tribune (Dec 22): PN modernization plan to include hospital ships

Responding to Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento’s call for the government to invest in the acquisition of a hospital ship which could be used as a deployable medical evacuation facility (medevac) and an on-site command and control center in times of emergencies, the Phlippine Navy (PN) has expressed its commitment that it would acquire two multi-purpose sealift vessels which can be instantly turned into floating hospitals during calamities. Sarmiento said that top officials of the Philippines Navy gave their assurance that his proposed hospital ships were included in the Navy’s modernization plan and would be part of their priority program following the approval of the law extending the P75-billion Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

Sarmiento said Philippine Navy is set to acquire, not just one, but two strategic sealift vessels (SSV) which could be transformed into multi-role naval assets and among its core functions would be to serve as a quick response medevac facility during crisis situations. These SSVs will not just have enough rooms for makeshift hospital beds, medical emergency care and surgical facility but would also have two helipads for search and rescue choppers and air ambulances. He said that at least one SSV worth P2 billion is already scheduled for acquisition as part of the P10-billion fund earmarked by President Aquino in 2011.

Sarmiento said the SSV was only supposed to provide sealift support for the military but his urgent request for the acquisition of a hospital ship provided the navy the idea of turning the this ship into a hospital as part of its core functions as a multi-role naval asset. “The idea is that these SSVs can be transformed from one function such as a military transport vessel into to another role such as a floating hospital or even an on-site crisis management command and control facility in times of emergencies. I this is most practical especially because it will still probably take at least one or two years before we can actually have the fund to finance a hospital ship. This will do for now but our long term goal should be to be able to get a real hospital ship,” he said.

Sarmiento had been advocating for the government to acquire a hospital ship which can be deployed in the any part of the country to respond to medical emergencies during calamities such as the recent typhoon “Pablo” which left more than 1,000 people dead and almost the same number of people still missing. He said that casualties could have been lower if the government had been equipped with a floating hospital with a helicopter equipped with thermal imaging device which is a crucial tool in search and rescue operations.

Sarmiento noted that with the improved weather forecasting capabilities of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, the next goal should be to modernize the country’s assets in providing swift medical and humanitarian aid during calamities. “We have professionalized and modernized our weather bureau but we still have to improve on our disaster response capabilities. We should be more proactive instead of being reactive during disaster situations,” he said.

Anikow murder case: US govt told to back off

From the Manila Times (Dec 22): Anikow murder case: US govt told to back off

THE family of one of the accused in the murder of American serviceman George Anikow asked the United States government to “stay away” of the case after the latter sent permanent observers to the trial. According to Dr. Jose Cesar Cabrera, the father of accused Osric Cabrera, the US government should distance from the trial since his child and his three other co-accused are not “terrorists. Cabrera, Juan Alfonzo Abastillas, Crispin de la Paz and Galicano Datu 3rd pleaded not guilty for the murder of Anikow during their arraignment on Wednesday before the sala of Judge Winlove Dumayas of Branch 59 of the Regional Trial Court in Makati City.

During the arraignment, the US Embassy sent representatives to observe the proceedings, one of which was US consul general Michael Schimmel. Schimmel, together with his security agent, even seated just behind the four accused when they were brought before the court for the arraignment. The consul general said that the US government has “high interest to the case” since Anikow is the husband of a US diplomat and an American citizen. “We ensure the welfare of all American citizens in the Philippines, this is why we are constantly monitoring the case. We are here as observers,” he said. Shimmel also expressed confidence that justice would be served for the victim. “We are grateful to the Philippine government for the prompt arrest and prosecution of the accused and we are confident that justice would be served under Philippine law,” he added.

But the older Cabrera said that the US government should back out from the case since it already knew the circumstances behind the killing of Anikow.  “I told to these Americans, please back out on this because the children are not terrorists you know that,” said Cabrera adding that he did not hate the Americans. He said that although the Americans are “lying low already and are not exerting pressure anymore,” the damage has already been done to the accused who were all labeled as “hardened criminals.”

Keeping tabs

“The US embassy carefully monitors the investigation and prosecution of all serious crimes against American citizens,” it said in a statement. “George’s death is a terrible lost to his family and the community,” the embassy added. “We are confident that justice will be served in this case,” the embassy added.

The suspects of the brutal killing were identified as Juan Alfonzo Abastilla, 24; Crispin dela Paz, 28; Osric Cabrera, 27; and Galicano Datu 3rd, 22, have been charged with murder.The four were immediately arrested by the Makati police just moments after the stabbing incident. Abastilla, dela Paz and Cabrera were profiled as businessmen living in Makati, while Datu is a De La Salle University student. Reportedly, the four were aboard a silver Volvo with plate number TOJ 886 that was being checked by security guards at the gate of Bel-Air Village along Kalayaan Avenue when the 41-year-old victim interfered and told the suspects to present their identification cards to the guard.

Soldiers visit rebel in hospital

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 22): Soldiers visit rebel in hospital

A communist rebel who was injured in a gun battle early this month in Magpet town of North Cotabato got a new lease of life from the Army soldiers, he and his comrades fought with. Renante Dalon, who was bleeding profusely, was given first aid, evacuated and airlifted from the encounter site, on orders of Negrense Col. Ademar Tomaro, 602 nd Infantry Brigade commander, who supervised the brigade-size operations, 1Lt. Tony Bulao, Civil Military Operations officer, said. Dalon, who was armed with an AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle, was abandoned by his comrades when they saw him and another companion, named Ka Nikoy, fall as they fought with soldiers advancing toward their hilltop position, Bulao said. “It was a providential chance for us to show the NPAs that we have an Armed Forces that values the lives of Filipinos, regardless of whether they are enemies of the state or not,” Tomaro said.

The injured rebel, who is now recuperating from gunshot wounds in both legs at Camp Siongco Hospital in North Cotabao, was recently visited by Army chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Major General Ceasar Ordoyo, 6 th Infantry Division commander, and Tomaro. Dalon also received packs of groceries and other provisions from Army officials, who checked his medical condition. Tomaro is supervising the combat operations of the combined elite Scout Rangers and Special Forces, 40 th and 57 th Infantry Battalions, that also led to the seizure of 11 rebel camps, recovery of several high-powered firearms and thousands of live ammunition, abandoned by fleeing rebels.

Gov't, NDF agree on joint ceasefire

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 22): Gov't, NDF agree on joint ceasefire

Members of the New People's Army in Negros Occidental now have time to celebrate Christmas with their families “undisturbed”.  Col. Oscar Lactao, 303 rd Infantry Brigade commander, however, discouraged rebels from displaying their firearms, as this may cause apprehension and fear among the civilian populace, who may report them to the authorities. If there is an armed group, the military and police will be forced to respond to reports and verify, Lactao said. He, however, added there will be no problem, if they are unarmed.

The National Democratic Front and the government have agreed to observe a 27-day ceasefire from Dec. 20 to Jan. 15 next year, a bilateral declaration that is considered by Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles as the longest ceasefire between the two parties. Lactao, who welcomed the ceasefire, said it will reduce the level of violence and emotions, while increasing trust and confidence between the two warring parties. This will also give time to Army soldiers to celebrate the yuletide season with their r families, he added.

During the ceasefire period, all NPA units and people's militias shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military operations against government armed units and personnel, the Communist Party of the Philippines, said in a statement it issued. Personnel of the AFP and PNP who have no serious liabilities other than their membership in their armed units, shall not be subjected to arrest or punitive actions. They may be allowed individually to enter the territory of the people's democratic government to make personal visits to relatives and friends, the CPP statement added.

Governor Alfredo Maranon yesterday welcomed the ceasefire declared by the NPA, saying that the Christmas season should be celebrated peacefully and joyously. Instead of fighting and killing each other, let us sit down and look at the problems of the country, Lactao said. While it is complicated, it is not really insurmountable. Let's look at the possible solution, then implement the best solution, he added. The CPP is marking its 44 th founding anniversary on Dec. 26. While he wished them a happy celebration, it should not be celebrated in a negative way by killing fellow Filipinos, Lactao said.

3 suspected NPA, including minor, nabbed

From InterAksyon (Dec 22):  3 suspected NPA, including minor, nabbed

Three suspected New People’s Army guerrillas, one of them a minor, were arrested Friday night at a checkpoint manned by soldiers and police as they were allegedly on their way to conduct reconnaissance in preparation for an attack. Colonel Generoso Bolina, spokesman of the Southern Luzon Command, said the suspects were arrested in San Francisco town, Quezon province around 11 p.m. after earlier evading a checkpoint in Barangay Tayuman.  Two of the alleged rebels were identified as Dennis Quidor, alias Anghel, the supposed team leader, and Eliseo Lopez. The other suspect is only 17-years old. Seized from them were an improvised explosive device, a hand grenade, an M16 rifle, several blasting caps and mobile phones. The three allegedly belong to the NPA in the Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions. Also arrested were two drivers, Alex Herez and Ariel Bordane. The suspected rebels were allegedly scouting ahead of attacks on San Francisco, San Narciso and Mulanay towns.

PH says no to 'coalition' with communist rebels

From Rappler (Dec 22): PH says no to 'coalition' with communist rebels

The Philippine government said Saturday, December 22, it would never share power with communist rebels after they proposed an alliance in a bid to end a decades-long insurgency. The rebels said they had called this week (during peace talks in The Hague) for the alliance to undertake programs aimed at ending the insurgency that has left tens of thousands dead. Chief rebel negotiator Luis Jalandoni said such programs would include agrarian reform, rural development, and industrialization.
But the government peace negotiating office said in a statement, "The (government panel) will never agree to establish a coalition government or a power-sharing arrangement with" the National Democratic Front, the rebels' political wing. It also denied there had been any discussion of a possible coalition when the government panel met with NDF negotiators in the informal, so-called "special track" meeting in the Netherlands. "The matter on coalition government was never discussed in the recently concluded informal meeting on the special track. There was no such offer made by the NDF," the office said.
During the meetings, the two sides agreed to a 26-day nationwide ceasefire from December 20 and to hold further talks on peace, human rights, land reform, and national industrialization. This week's meeting marked the resumption of talks after the Communist Party of the Philippines, the biggest group in the NDF coalition, pulled out of talks in November 2011 after Manila rejected rebel demands. The two sides resumed low-level "backroom" negotiations in June.
The communists have been waging an armed rebellion to seize power since 1969, and more than 30,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the government. The military estimates the current strength of the communists' guerrilla force at about 4,000 fighters, significantly down from more than 26,000 at its peak in the late 1980s, when the rebels also engaged in failed peace talks with Manila.

Army’s gift-giving, feeding activities benefit former rebels in Bukidnon

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 22): Army’s gift-giving, feeding activities benefit former rebels in Bukidnon

Hundreds of former rebels and indigenous people benefited from the two-day gift giving and feeding activities of the 8th Infantry ‘Dependable’ Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army (8th INF BN, 4ID, PA) conducted recently in a remote village of Kibongkog in San Fernando and barangay Kalabugao in Impasug-ong town, this province. Lieutenant Col. Jose Maria R. Cuerpo II, Commanding Officer, 8th INF BN, 4ID, PA, who facilitated the event, said the gifts were mostly clothing and toys. “It is very heartwarming to see former rebels who enjoyed receiving gifts with their families, especially children,” Cuerpo said. They were also served “chicken arrozcaldo (ginger-flavored rice and chicken delicacy)” while queuing for their turns to receive gifts.

Cuerpo explained that the event is a nationwide approach, which seeks to bring a combined effort among stakeholders to help alleviate poverty and address some root causes of insurgency. “In our efforts to promote army’s commitment to peace and development in relation to “IPSP Bayanihan,” this activity is wholeheartedly offered to the community, especially those living in depressed and affected areas confronted with threats from Section Committee 89 and Guerilla Front 6 of the New People’s Army.  People should know that military operations, force, weapons and guns could not solely solve insurgency. A concerted effort is needed to address problems on poverty, malnutrition, and deprivation in order to achieve lasting peace in the province, Cuerpo said.

Hon. Laurencia Edma, Mayor of San Fernando municipality and Impasug-ong town mayor Hon. Mario Okinlay, expressed gratitude to the 8th INF BN, 4ID, PA team who made every effort to bring such kind of laudable services to their constituents. (1Lt. Froilan T. Bayangos, 8th INF BN, 4ID, PA/RLRB, PIA Bukidnon)

Army’s 403rd Brigade joins 77th AFP anniversary celebration nationwide

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 22): Army’s 403rd Brigade joins 77th AFP anniversary celebration nationwide

Hundreds of peace-loving soldiers from different units of the 403rd Infantry ‘Peacemaker’ Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army (403Inf Bde, 4ID, PA) gathered inside the military reservation site in Camp Osito Bahian here, and took the lead in planting more than 1,000 tree seedlings of various species, Friday, to commemorate the 77th founding anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). After the simultaneous tree planting activity, a photo exhibit and static display of armory in the ‘Army Open House’ was featured. It showcased the army’s key and latest combat equipment. This provided rare opportunities for the public to view the army’s cutting-edge equipment and platforms.

Col. James V. Jacob, Commanding Officer, 403rd Inf Bde, 4ID, PA , said as the AFP celebrates anniversary, the army pays tribute to the people who are steadfast in their support to soldiers who are tirelessly working not only for the sake of security but also on freedom from poverty and discrimination that paves way to attain peace and development in Mindanao. In partnership with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), the army also conducted a bloodletting activity to support PRC’s “Give Blood, Save Life” program.

Celebrated annually every 21st day of December, this year’s celebration is anchored on the theme “Bayanihan at Kahandaan: Tuwid na Daan Tungo sa Kapayapaan,” which is in line with President Benigno S. Aquino III’s thrust to open up space for people’s involvement in defining, shaping, and ensuring peace and security in the community through the army’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan. (Cpt. Eduardo I. Meclat Jr, CMO, 403rd Bde, 4ID, PA/RLRB,PIA10 Bukidnon)

Armed paramilitary in Muslim Women clothes accosted in MILF peace advocacy

From the MILF Website (Dec 22): Armed paramilitary in Muslim Women clothes accosted in MILF peace advocacy

Armed with a pistol and dressed in Abaya, an attire for Muslim women, Jove Jacobo Arguelles, a paramilitary troop under the 57th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, was accosted as he was roaming around during the MILF peace advocacy program in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao a couple of days ago. Covert security men of the MILF assigned for the program accosted the suspicious Looking Arguelles. On the spot, Arguelless was found in possession of caliber pistol.

More than 10,000 Bangsamoro people were in attendance during the advocacy program Intended to explain properly the Government of the Philippines - Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH - MILF) Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that was signed in Presidential Palace in Malacanang last October 15, 2012. Top political and military leaders of MILF as well as the mayors of Datu Paglas and Columbio were also in attendance.

The MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) Head of Secretariat turned over Jove to Mayor Tong Paglas during the program following the Instruction from the MILF Central Committee and BIAF General Staff. "In the spirit and goodwill of the peace process and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and MILF, the MILF had turned over Jove," the MILF CCCH Secretariat said. "We hope that similar incident will not happened again," he said. Jove standing before the thousands of people gathered in the advocacy thanked the MILF for the kind treatment he was accorded.