Sunday, December 23, 2012

Unfinished Business: Islamist Terrorism Threat In “Post-Peace” Mindanao – Analysis

Posted to Eurasia Review (Dec 24): Unfinished Business: Islamist Terrorism Threat In “Post-Peace” Mindanao – Analysis (By Joseph Franco)

On 14 December 2012, Philippine law enforcement personnel shot dead a Malaysian, Mohammad Noor Fikrie in a Davao City hotel while he was about to set off an improvised explosive device (IED). Had the device built from a 60mm mortar shell detonated, civilian casualties would have been heavy. Fikrie’s Filipina wife, Muslim convert Annabelle Nieva Lee, was taken into custody for questioning. Reports from the Philippine National Police and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency point to Fikrie’s ties to the Jemaah Islamiyah.

The incident comes on the heels of the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the GPH and the MILF, which is expected to bring a lasting political settlement to the Mindanao conflict. While the MILF has public denounced previous terrorist attacks and vehemently denied links with the JI, there are compelling reasons to believe that violent extremists remain capable of launching attacks despite the prospects for peace.

Foreign extremists in the Philippines: Out of sight, out of mind?

While the Philippine government has focused its efforts in dealing with the communist insurgency through Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan, maintaining “credible deterrence” against the secessionist MILF and pursuing the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), it seemed to have given less attention to the presence of foreign militants in the country. The presence of JI and what Philippine security services dub as other “foreign militant jihadis” (FMJs) has been monitored since the December 2000 Rizal Day Bombings in Manila.

FMJs have been consistently viewed as ancillary threats whose numbers never breached the “20-30 operatives” estimated by Philippine security forces to be in-country. These miniscule numbers—when compared to the 11,000-strong MILF, can nonetheless derail the peace process. In 2003, the successive bombings of the Davao International Airport (04 March) and Sasa Wharf (02 April) led to a cascade of military responses—culminating in the Buliok campaign against the MILF. More recently, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) stated in May 2012 that it was keeping tabs on five JI operatives in central Mindanao but denied any specific information of a plot.

Fikrie’s case illustrates how suspected JI and FMJs can slip under the radar by integrating themselves into social and kinship networks. Marriage has been used by foreign extremists to blend into society; creating a cover for support activities or, if need be, actual attacks. Fikrie’s circumstances illustrate the mobility accorded through such a modus operandi. He and his wife, originally from a province in Luzon (the political and economic hub where Manila is located) was able to move into position to launch an attack in Davao City, a major economic hub in eastern Mindanao, beyond the traditional arenas of the MILF (central Mindanao) or the ASG (southwest Mindanao).

The attempted bombing indicates the capability of foreign extremists to operate at a distance from their “traditional” allies in Mindanao. Complementing this ability to keep a low profile, the dissemination of technical know-how has accorded foreign extremists such as Fikrie greater resilience. IED fabrication techniques have been disseminated widely among the various groups in Mindanao, in spite of the dismantling of training camps once operated by the MILF, before the all-out war launched by the Philippine military in 2000. These skills have been acquired by a wide array of parties, which include organized criminal groups who don’t even attempt to couch their activities as ideologically-motivated.

Foreign bombmakers have been held responsible for diffusing IED technology to extortion groups such as the Al Khobar, a group which had gained notoriety in using mortar shell-based explosives against bus companies. Skills once the preserve of ideologically-motivated groups have become marketable in the relatively ungoverned space of Mindanao, where the low-profile foreign extremists thrive by offering their skills to the highest bidder. The complex milieu of violent elections, gaps in law enforcement, weak governance, and limited state presence makes Mindanao a viable environment for men like Fikrie to continue in a post-peace agreement scenario.

Still out and about in Mindanao

For the wider Southeast Asian region, this persistence of foreign violent extremists in Mindanao belies the optimism of some observers. The argument that the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) will deny the JI space for training, recruitment, and maneuver in Mindanao over-emphasises the ideological dimensions of the conflict. The MILF is largely a response to flawed state-building and socio-economic deprivation in the Philippines; its genesis traces back to before the emergence of post-9/11, counter-jihadist discourse. The signing of a prospective peace agreement, the follow up to the FAB, is but a start to drain the pond where extremist fish breed.

The opportunism of foreign militants to successfully seek out and entrench themselves in a permissive environment is a serious matter for state security actors in the region. Law enforcement must remain vigilant and poised to counteract the emergence of terrorist operatives in deep cover in the Philippines. The same amount of effort must also be focused on denying extremists access to explosives and other materiel necessary for their nefarious activities. Suffice to say there remains substantive unfinished business before Mindanao can be deemed free of the latent threat of Islamist terrorism.

Joseph Franco is an Associate Research Fellow at the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Artist, NPA pioneer Jerry Araos, 68

From GMA News (Dec 24): Artist, NPA pioneer Jerry Araos, 68

Sculptor Jerusalino "Jerry" V. Araos passed away on December 23. He was 68. "Our comrade in arts and letters, even in 'gourmandizing,' Jerusalino V. Araos, 68, Jerry to all of us, died peacefully in the bosom of his family last night at his Diliman residence," close family friend Babeth Lolarga posted on her blog on December 24. A well-known artist who worked with a variety of media, Araos is remembered by his friends and family as a talented and idealistic man with an irreverent sense of humor. He was also a former guerrilla fighter in the earliest years of the New People's Army.

"The reader may choose, if you don't pray the old-fashioned way, to remember him for a quiet second amidst your holiday preparations - -for qualities, among many, like his true compassion and mamon heart underneath the seemingly hard shell of irreverence or kabastusan, his never-ending zest for life up to the very end," Lolarga recalls. "He considered himself a communist, never turning his back on the theory and praxis of his beliefs while remaining an abiding Christian, two contradictions that he carried with so much grace and elan," Lolarga wrote.  Former comrades in the underground remember him as a skilled warrior as well as a colorful character.

"Jerry Araos will be remembered for his artistry and genuine desire to serve the people. He is known to close friends as a witty comedian na may pagka-bastos. But deep inside we know that Jerry is a true gentleman of noble heart. I salute you, Jerry," army general and former NPA commander Victor Corpus told GMA News Online via SMS.,A fellow activist from the 1960s, Dick Malay, recalls Araos as "a man of unique creativity, commitment and defiance that will make him difficult to forget. His fame and fortune were insignficant compared to his devotion to the revolutionary cause he embraced throughout his colorful life."
Eclectic artist

Araos held his first exhibit in Hiraya Gallery in 1980. Entitled "Bartolina," the exhibit was inspired by his experience when he joined the NPA in the '60s. After "Bartolina," Araos went on to make family-centered pieces, including "Ugoy sa Duyan," a seesaw carved from a log of kulantas wood, Filipina Lippi wrote in an article in the Manila Bulletin. Araos was famous for his torso sculptures, of which he made more than 30 since the '90s, according to the article.

His early devotion to armed struggle influenced his view of art. "Art is a concentrated expression of experiences in life. Art is a concentrated expression of one's own lived experiences of life. Vicarious experience, when translated into art, is peeping tom art," Araos told Lolarga in 2007.....

Soldiers Celebrate Christmas Helping People

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 23): Soldiers Celebrate Christmas Helping People

True to the spirit of "bayanihan" many soldiers will miss Christmas with their families this year as they continue to conduct humanitarian operations in typhoon-stricken areas of Mindanao. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Jessie D. Dellosa flew to Mindanao two days before Christmas to visit and join them in their ongoing relief operations and to personally hand over the military's assistance for victims of "Pablo." Dellosa first proceeded to the 67th Infantry Battalion (67 IB) headquarters in Davao where he was scheduled to get a briefing from the Task Force Davao. Dellosa was also expected to also hand over the AFP’s relief assistance in a simple symbolic ceremony to the task force commander.

From the 67th IB, the AFP chief was to visit the 66th Infantry Battalion (66 IB) headquarters in Banganga, Compostela Valley, also to turn over donations and relief assistance before he proceeds to Panacan, Davao City to join in relief operations conducted by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in region 11 and the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom). The AFP has generated more than P19 million in contributions and donations from the soldiers, as well as from the savings in the reduced AFP anniversary celebration last Friday. The AFP was also able to accumulate savings from cancelled Christmas parties in its units and offices. The Department of National Defense (DND), Armed Forces and Police Mutual Benefit Association, Inc. (AFPMBAI), and the Armed Forces Savings and Loans Association, Inc. (AFPSLAI) also pitched in with their donations. Dellosa was also expected to meet with the National Youth Leadership Summit (NYLS) officers who are in Davao City conducting relief assistance.

“More than the cash donations, a simple gesture of physical support will encourage and inspire the typhoon victims to slowly stand up and look forward to a brighter tomorrow," said Dellosa. "The Armed Forces of the Philippines since day one has been with our people conducting search, rescue, and relief operations alongside other government agencies and civilian organizations. Although some of our soldiers conducting humanitarian and relief operations will miss Christmas with their families, the AFP will continue to render its selfless support to the typhoon victims,” he said.

Army, PNP Keep Quezon Secured

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 23): Army, PNP Keep Quezon Secured

Joint military and police forces vowed yesterday to keep the province of Quezon secured for the Yuletide holidays after foiling plans of the New People’s Army (NPA) to wage attacks during the holiday truce declared by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Colonel Generoso Bolina, Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) spokesman, reported the capture of five suspected NPA guerrillas, including a team leader, at a checkpoint in San Francisco town in Quezon province yesterday. Bolina identified those intercepted at the Tayuman Patrol Base checkpoint as Dennis Quidor, with aliases “Anghel” and “Jabar,” team leader of the Special Operation Group Team (SOG Team) of Sangay Sa Platoon Amlay; a 17-year-old identified as “Joshua;” one Eliseo Lopez; an Alex Herez; and a certain Ariel Bordane.

The SOLCOM reported that a police team led by Police Officer 3 Noel Palmiano and soldiers led by one 1Lt. Maghanoy of the 74th Infantry Battalion first encountered the suspects on December 21 at around 11 p.m. Bolina said the five were on board a two motorcycles when they ran through a checkpoint in Mulanay town after allegedly conducting surveillance of their target sites – the municipal halls of Mulanay, San Francisco, and San Narciso.
 Military intelligence reports added that the NPA groups planning the attacks are the combined forces from the Southern Tagalog and Bicol Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA). Bolina said the suspected rebels yielded an improvised explosive device; one caliber .22 pistol; a hand grenade; magazines with bullets for an M-16 and .45-caliber firearm; seven blasting caps; four cellular phones; and documents containing intelligence information.

NPA Rebel’s Worst Foes Turn Guardian Angels

From the Manila  Bulletin (Dec 23): NPA Rebel’s Worst Foes Turn Guardian Angels

To New People's Army (NPA) insurgent Renante Soliman-Dalon, a 44-year-old native of Sarangani province, soldiers were his worst enemies whom he had no qualms to train his gun on. But his perception of the military changed 180 degrees after he, along with his comrades in the underground communist organization, figured in a fierce 30-minute firefight with soldiers last November 13 near Mount Katuad, Bacong village in Tulunan town of North Cotabato. Today, he now looks up to soldiers as his guardian angels. Dalon recalled that during the exchange of fire, he 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 them to spare my life and treat my wounds because I was already bleeding profusely," he added.

At this point, 1st Lieutenant Johnard Sara-sara, the officer leading the patrol, promptly called the combat medics to administer first aid on the injury of their wounded enemy. Right that very moment, Dalon said the soldiers whom he considered as his worst enemies suddenly became his real-life guardian angels. Two combat medics of the 6th Forward Support Medical Company (FSMC), Cpl. Francisco B. Gamayao and Private Avelino M. Herrera, Jr., wasted no time and treated Dalon's severe wounds. He was then brought to a military hospital in Cotabato City for further treatment. That was his first surprise -- being treated by soldiers.

A few days before Christmas, while recuperating from his wounds inside the military hospital, Dalon never thought that a three-star general would come to visit and bring personally to him a Yuletide present. That was what exactly happened when no less than the Army commanding general, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista took time from his recent three-day trip to Mindanao to visit wounded soldiers who were confined in the same hospital where Dalon was also recuperating. As Dalon was confined in the same ward where several soldiers were being treated for wounds sustained in combat, the Army chief also went to his bedside, and more to his surprise, handed him a Christmas gift jus like his wounded "enemies." In his statement, Bautista said he would like to see more rebels 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.

Editorial: Order of battle

Editorial from the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 23): Order of battle

Only a few hours separated President Aquino’s rousing, well-received speech at the 77th anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines last Friday and his signing into law of the landmark Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act of 2012 later the same day. But the two events seemed worlds apart—not least because the President sought to keep them separate.

In Camp Aguinaldo, Mr. Aquino rightly gave high praise to the soldiers who have given their lives in the country’s defense. He also offered a definition of the symbolic import of the founding of the AFP that is worth quoting in full: “Binuo din ito bilang tanda ng kahandaan nating magsarili’t manindigan para sa ating kasarinlan, habang kinikilala ang kapangyarihan ng taumbayan bilang bukal ng lakas at siyang dapat na paglingkuran.”

The military, he said, was “also formed as a sign of our readiness to stand on our own and defend our sovereignty, while recognizing that the power of the people is the source of our strength and the object of our service.” We find this instructive, the way he threads the long military tradition of self-sacrifice with the ideal of people power (giving in the process a historical gloss to the constitutional precept of the military as “the protector of the people”).

But he did not say a word about the human rights abuses that even the military itself would admit has stained its record of service. It was this very background, of a military so politicized by the martial law years that it remains prone to abusive conduct, that made the so-called desaparecidos law both urgent and necessary. The first in all of Asia, the new law defines enforced disappearance as a new and distinct crime, and is based on the candid assumption that many of the incidents involving it were perpetrated by members of the various armed services.

To a President who sees it as part of his duty to educate the media on the principles and practices of ethical journalism, the opportunity to educate the military on another dimension of its history—a dimension which swept up his family not only once but several times—must have suggested itself. He could have devoted a paragraph to the new law he was planning to sign after the AFP anniversary rites, made a point of the need to cleanse the ranks of the military of the scourge of impunity, and impressed upon his audience the responsibility, now that new arms and equipment are in the pipeline, to restore the people’s untarnished faith in the military. That he didn’t do any of these, not even a short, swift reminder of the role of some officers and soldiers in the enforced disappearances of some 2,000 victims over the last 30 or so years, suggests to us that the new law will face even more challenges in implementation than we expected.

It doesn’t help that some confusion about some of the specific provisions of the new law remains. It may not exactly be accurate to say, for example, that all orders of battle have been declared illegal. The phrasing of Section 5 of the new law limits the scope of the declaration: “‘An order of battle’ or any order of similar nature, official or otherwise, from a superior officer or a public authority causing the commission of enforced or involuntary disappearance is unlawful and cannot be invoked as a justifying or exempting circumstance.”

One can read that to mean that any order of battle, or orbat, a strategic or tactical document that, among other tasks, lists so-called enemies of the state, may be deemed legal as long as it does not include instructions that will cause “the commission of enforced or voluntary disappearance.” We realize this is a gray area with black-or-white (that is, life-or-death) consequences, so perhaps the confusion is inherent in the concept.

But whatever the reading, the importance of this provision is that the old military practice of misusing the order of battle to target noncombatants, such as journalists and NGO activists, will no longer be condoned. Surely this is worth celebrating, together with other breakthrough provisions, even in the context of the military’s own founding anniversary? By keeping the two events separate last Friday, we all lost a teaching moment.

KMU to Mar: Bare names of 235 alleged commie leaders

From InterAksyon (Dec 24):  KMU to Mar: Bare names of 235 alleged commie leaders

With the enactment of a law banning the military from making “orders of battle” or hit lists, workers group Kilusang Mayo Uno on Monday dared Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II to bare the names of 235 alleged communist leaders the bounty on whose heads he jacked up last November.

In a news release, KMU said the list of 235 alleged communist leaders, the monetary reward for whose capture was increased to P466.88 billion by Roxas through Department of National Defense-Department of Interior and Local Government Joint Order 14-2012, can easily be used by the military as an order of battle. It also said that the non-disclosure of the alleged communist leaders’ names poses a threat to progressive organizations, whose leaders have been included by the military in its previous orders of battle and have been targets of abduction and elimination.

Last Friday, President Benigno Aquino III signed the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act, which prohibits the military from using an order of battle or any similar document to justify the abduction or detention of critics of the government.  “The Aquino government is bragging about banning orders of battle when it has just announced what appears to be an order of battle last November. Lists of alleged communist leaders have been treated by the military, if not the government, as lists of people who are targets for abduction or elimination,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairman.

“By not disclosing the names of the 235 so-called communist leaders, Roxas is putting the lives of leaders of progressive organizations in danger. Leaders of progressive organizations have always been accused by the military of being communist leaders,” he added.  “In order to boost his presidential campaign, Mar is trying to act tough on critics of the government, not on human-rights violators and private armies of politicians and mining and logging companies. We detest his shameless electioneering at the expense of activists and human rights,” he said.

The labor leader said the Aquino government is trying to make it appear that it is abiding by international human-rights conventions while continuing to implement human-rights violations. “The signing of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act goes against DND-DILG Joint Order 14-2012. We cannot help but think that the first is just the velvet glove hiding the iron hand which the second is,” Labog said.  “The Aquino government is responding to local and international condemnation of its human-rights record not with genuine measures aimed at curbing these violations but with publicity gimmicks. While we will surely use this law in fighting human-rights violations, we harbor no illusions that it will end the military’s violations of human rights,” he added.

Rebels exerting effort to win back Leyte to their influence

From the Sun Star-Tacloban (Dec 21): Rebels exerting effort to win back Leyte to their influence

LEYTE province is a rich source for resources for the New People’s Army (NPA), that is why the rebel group is doing all it can to once again win the province, a government official said.  “Their number now is not that big but they are doing all effort to win back the province because you have resources and the logistics. If they win Leyte back, this would mean a rejuvenation of their group,” said Regional Director Rolando Rodriguez of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Nica). He said aside from rebel groups that are in Leyte, his office received reports that rebel augmentation forces from Samar will be sent in to the province.

Colonel Rafael Valencia of the 802nd Infantry Brigade of the 8th Infantry Division also said the recent show of force of the NPA in Leyte has something to do with the forthcoming elections. “This is aside from informing people that they still exist in the province despite Leyte being declared under the status of NPA-free,” he said. Valencia said rebels generate income during elections, by asking candidates for permit to campaign fee in areas known to be under their influence. He said he received a report from a town mayor that some NPA members are already asking for permit to campaign fee. “They want to gather funds from our candidates this coming election by asking permit to campaign and this is what we are monitoring right now to stop or prevent them from doing so,” he said. Valencia added that in assuring peaceful elections next year, an additional troop from Cebu under the 78th Infantry Battalion will be deployed to Leyte.

Cops sue communist rebel leader, son for ambush

From the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 24): Cops sue communist rebel leader, son for ambush

POLICE filed multiple murder charges against Leoncio "Ka Parago" Pitao and his son Ryan of the 1st Pulang Bagani Command of the New People's Army (NPA) for the killing of four soldiers in an ambush in Sitio Cinco, Purok 5, Barangay Mapula, Paquibato district, Davao City last November 4. The Paquibato police filed the charges before the City Prosecutor's Office (CPO) last Saturday. Chief Inspector Romeo Abler, chief of Paquibato Police Station, said they may not have specifically identified the suspects but explained they are still under the command of Pitao.

The four soldiers - Private First Class (Pfc.) Ahian Dolero, Pfc. Marvin Lauronal, Pfc. Noel Sigan and Private Marcelo Himaya - are all members of the Army's 69th Infantry Battalion (69th IB). They were killed in an ambush while returning to their base from a public market in Panabo City. Dolero, Lauronal and Sigan were killed on the spot while Himaya was believed to be tortured before he was killed as the autopsy report indicated that he sustained bruises to the different parts of his body before his neck was cut.

While the Paquibato police has already filed multiple murder charges on the Pitaos, the 69th Infantry Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Inocencio Pasaporte, is yet to file their own charges against the rebel group leader. Pasaporte is also looking into the rebel group's violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law as the soldiers were off-duty and unarmed at that time of the ambush. Pasaporte claimed the attack against the soldiers was an overkill, especially in the case of Himaya as he was already wounded when the NPA finished him off.

Mangudadatu endorses Datumanong, Ambolodto as TransCom members

From MindaNews (Dec 24): Mangudadatu endorses Datumanong, Ambolodto as TransCom members

Maguindanao Governor Esmael ‘Toto’ Mangudadatu has endorsed a politician and a lawyer as potential members of the Transition Commission (TransCom), which is tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law as contained in the Framework Agreement signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last October 15. President Aquino signed on December 17 Executive Order (E0) 120 creating the 15-member TransCom that would prepare the groundwork for the setting up of the new autonomous political entity called “Bangsamoro” that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by June 30, 2016. The TransCom would be composed of eight members selected by the MILF and the rest by the government.

Mangudadatu endorsed for the government side Maguindanao (2nd District) Rep. Simeon Datumanong and lawyer Suharto Ambolodto, former Maguindanao election supervisor. The governor said that Ambolodto and Datumanong, also a lawyer, “can well represent the Moro people in the TransCom.” Mangudadatu said Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles called him up on Friday to ask for endorsements. Without a doubt, he said, he chose the two, whom he considers as “respected lawyers.”

Datumanong, 77, was the first governor of Maguindanao elected in 1973. In 1984, he was elected to the Batasang Pambansa. In 1992, Datumanong was elected to the House of Representatives to represent Maguindanao’s Second District. In 2001, he became secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways. Two years later, he was appointed secretary of the Department of Justice. He was re-elected to the House of Representatives in 2007 and represents Maguindanao’s second district up to the present. For his part, Ambolodto had served in various key positions in the government and in international non-government institutions.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III will appoint the 15 members of the TransCom, seven to be selected by the GPH and eight by the MILF, including the chair. EO 120 provides an initial funding of P100 million for the TransCom from the contingent fund of the Office of the President. Budget for the succeeding years shall be incorporated in budget proposal under the Office of the President.

MILF: MILF to name TC members soon

From the MILF Website (Dec 24): MILF to name TC members soon

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in a plenary session yesterday, has started to select from the short list in made earlier its nominees to the 15-man Transition Commission (TC) which, among other functions, will write the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Government. This was disclosed to Luwaran today by Muhammad Ameen, chairperson of the MILF Secretariat, who said that the process was so strict and meticulous that each nominee has to get 100% concurrence, or at least no dissenting view, from all the members present before he or she is selected. Any dissenting view means an automatic disqualification of the nominee. He explained that each nominee has two prerequisite qualifications namely, loyalty and dedication to the Bangsamoro cause and capability to discharge the assigned task.

The MILF normally decides by selection and by concurrence of the leadership. Secret balloting or raising of hands or division of the house rule to elect someone into any office or to make decision is rarely followed, which is being viewed as divisive, confrontational, and adversarial. The MILF Central Committee has about 70 members but during regular meeting only regular members thereof are required to attend. However, when major issues like the vacancy in the office of the chairman or a major policy shift occurs all other members of the MILF central leadership, as well as sectoral leaders of Moro society, are invited to attend to participate in the formulation of decisions.

Ameen disclosed that most of the nominees to the TC by the MILF have been named already including one woman, one member of the indigenous people (IP), one aleem (learned in Islam), and one senior military leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). He said that one or two are yet to be named within three days from now.

AFP to honor 4 soldiers injured while on ‘Pablo’ duty in Compostela

From the Philippine Star (Dec 23): AFP to honor 4 soldiers injured while on ‘Pablo’ duty in Compostela

At least seven soldiers were killed when they were swept away by flashfloods at the height of typhoon “Pablo” while guiding the residents to safer ground. Four other soldiers remain missing. Bronze Cross medals will be presented next week to 1Lt. Alex Marvin Deazeta, 2Lt. Jose Enrico Nuas and Pfc. Alberto Fuyonan, all of the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion, by AFP chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista at the V. Luna Hospital where they remain confined for severe head and body injuries. The fourth honoree is still confined at the intensive care unit of the V. Luna Hospital. The AFP withheld his identity as he is still undergoing stress debriefing.

“While our ground troops were flood victims themselves during the recent tragedy, they never abandoned their assigned duties as they continued helping many people, and for this, they will be honored,” Army spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc said. Cabunoc said the Army officers were able to save a two-year-old boy and his pregnant mother from rolling boulders and logs along the national road.

Fuyonan recalled that he was clinging to a floating log along with Nuas when he heard a woman crying out for help. With the help of Nuas, Fuyonan struggled to free himself from the debris and rescued the woman and her son. The pregnant woman turned out to be the wife of 1Lt. Benigno Fernandez, who was assigned to another place. Fuyonan, 21, was supposed to marry his fiancée in Digos City last Dec. 21 but their wedding was canceled due to the tragedy.

Deazeta, on the other hand, did not abandon his duty despite the raging flashfloods as he ensured the safety of the residents. But he was swept away by floodwaters. Deazeta, commander of Charlie Company, was found unconscious and rescued by his colleagues near a church in New Bataan, four kilometers away from Barangay Andap.

48 CPLA rebels integrated into the AFP

From the Philippine Star (Dec 23): 48 CPLA rebels integrated into the AFP

The Philippine Army has integrated into its rank 48 Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) members. “Recognizing the importance of pushing the peace process forward, the Philippine Army has allocated 48 slots for the candidate soldier course in accordance with Administrative Order 18, to be taken from the quota of the 5th ID for calendar year 2013,” Army chief Lt. Gen Emmanuel Bautista said in an interview at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City yesterday. Bautista was supposed to personally welcome the CPLA members at the headquarters of the 5th Infantry Division in Gamu town but the Fokker plane that he was riding failed to land due to bad weather and poor visibility over Cawayan airport.

Like the integration program for the Moro National Liberation Front, the 48 CPLA members will undergo a six-month military training starting Dec. 29. “This action will immediately address the concerns on the integration quota which is part of the peace process. The training of integrees will be held at the 5th ID,” Bautista said.

Army spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc said the CPLA rebels have surrendered their firearms to show their commitment to peace and development in the Cordilleras. Cabunoc said another batch of 168 CPLA rebels are also undergoing processing for integration.

‘Where we fell … we will rise again’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 23): ‘Where we fell … we will rise again’

Army Pfc. Albert Fuyonan should have been celebrating his wedding at a church in Tagum City in Davao del Norte on Saturday instead of being confined in a hospital. His company commander, Lt. Alex Daezeta, is also confined at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center in Quezon City but is raring to return to action in typhoon-battered New Bataan, where, he said, “we fell… we will rise again.”
But it was Fuyonan’s bride to be, Rowena, that was on his mind on Saturday. Rowena does not mind that her wedding had to be postponed and her gown kept in the meantime. What’s important is her fiancé is alive and well, after being swept away by the flash flood that devastated New Bataan town in Compostela Valley. “I knew in my heart that he was going to live,” Rowena said, standing beside Poypoy, Fuyonan’s nickname, at the hospital. Although she was composed while she was waiting for word about Fuyonan in the aftermath of Typhoon “Pablo,” Rowena just cried and cried when they finally saw each other at a hospital in Davao. Fuyonan is recuperating at AFP Medical Center, along with Deazeta and his platoon leader, Lt. Jose Enrico Nuas.

The three men are among the 22 soldiers from Charlie Company of the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion who survived after they were swept away by floodwaters, along with the residents of Barangay Andap. Four soldiers were killed and seven others remain missing, Deazeta told the Inquirer. “We’ve accepted the fact that as soldiers, we can die anytime. What’s important was their bodies were recovered for the sake of their families,” Deazeta said. Deazeta, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 2007, saw combat in previous assignments. But he said Typhoon Pablo brought him face to face with the most formidable enemy he ever encountered. Against the fury of nature, Deazeta didn’t stand a chance.

Winning hearts and minds

Two platoons of Charlie Company were assigned to Barangay Andap in New Bataan, one each stationed on opposite sides of the mountain. Deazeta, the company commander, said he and his men had been in Barangay Andap as part of the military’s Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan since July. In the past five months, the soldiers developed a livelihood program for the residents, particularly the young people. Deazeta said he and his men did feasibility studies before introducing programs so that these would be sustainable and the residents could really earn from them and improve their lives long after the military had left the town. By December, the unit had already reserved 2,000 fingerlings of catfish and tilapia. “We were just waiting for the materials to be used to build the fish pens in the school,” Deazeta said. Charlie Company had also developed a cooperative project for the military’s auxiliary soldiers, also known as Cafgus, and their families. Deazeta said they were going to set up a sari-sari store that would sell goods at lower prices. Everything was looking bright for the community and the soldiers. Deazeta said nothing could make the soldiers happier than the residents’ smiles and greetings of “Hello.”

Typhoon alert

On Dec. 3, Deazeta said the company was alerted for possible rescue operations as Pablo barreled toward the region. On the southeastern portion of the mountain, where Deazeta and one platoon were stationed, residents went down to seek shelter in the center of the village, regarded as the safest place in the area. “Signal No. 2 was announced on television that night. But there was very little rain and the people were thinking, ‘This is it?’” Deazeta recalled. Morning came, and so did heavy rains. “At around 7 a.m., we heard a grinding sound from the top of the mountain. It was faint at first but then it began to get louder. We decided to evacuate the people,” Deazeta said. By then, all communication signals were down as the first typhoon to hit the area approached with peak winds of up to 200 kilometers per hour. The soldier could not use even their cell phones. Deazeta had around 40 men with him and more than a hundred residents who had sought shelter in the multipurpose hall, the Catholic and Baptist churches, the senior citizens’ hall, among other shelters. The soldiers packed people into the KM 450 truck. Lieutenant Nuas and another soldier hung at the back to assist the evacuees.

Waves kept on coming

Deazeta instructed Nuas to ask for more trucks from the battalion headquarters to evacuate the people in Barangay Andap. It was Nuas’ first assignment on the field after graduating from the military academy earlier this year. “But suddenly, we saw [floodwater] about two feet high coming. We knew that the truck, with its weight and the people in it, would hold in the water,” Deazeta said. But since Nuas and the other soldier were only hanging on the vehicle, they had to jump and run back to the multipurpose hall where Deazeta was. To their surprise, it was not just floodwater. The water carried mud, logs and boulders along with it. The flood swept the truck, which flipped to its side. Then the water subsided, allowing the soldiers to run to it and pull out the people to safety. Just as everybody had reached the multipurpose hall, another rush of floodwater came. “It was a wave,” Deazeta said. Everybody watched the truck bob up and down and finally disappear. Then the waves came one after another, Deazeta said. He clambered up to the roof of the hall to check where they could all move because he knew the hall wouldn’t stand in the powerful onrush of floodwater.

Like being in a blender

But floodwater enveloped the whole place, trapping everybody. They watched as floodwater swept the barangay hall away. Deazeta knew they were all trapped. Nuas and Fuyonan were also looking for higher ground when another wave swept toward the multipurpose hall, Nuas turned to the soldiers and the people and screamed, “Talon (Jump)!” He saw four soldiers jump with him. No resident followed. Just as they jumped, the water swallowed Nuas and Fuyonan. On the roof, Deazeta felt the hall shake and crash. And he, too, was swept away. Also washed away were Pfc. Ramil Pedrero, 27, his wife Jaysyl and their year-old daughter, Jasmine. Pedrero and his wife would get separated in the flood but find each other later. Jasmine’s body has not been recovered. “It felt like being inside a blender. You’re twisting and turning, and there’s mud, rocks and logs hitting you,” Nuas said. Deazeta felt it would never end, being dragged by the current. He also felt being pinned between two logs. “I was getting very tired. I just surrendered everything to the higher being,” Deazeta said.

Bright light, helping hand

At that moment, he closed his eyes. And then there was a bright light and what he figured was a left hand reaching out to him. He reached back and held on to the hand. When he opened his eyes, he was hanging on to the roots of an uprooted tree. Mustering all his strength, he pulled himself out of the mud. When he looked up, there was a church in front of him. “I don’t go to church regularly. But I pray in my own way. I call the higher being, ‘best friend,’” Deazeta said. He was naked because the strong current ripped his uniform apart and was able to reach an empty house where he found clothes. He later heard people coming and he asked for help. Nuas called out to Jehovah for help. Fuyonan saw a bright light as he was about to give up but a fallen coconut tree came with the torrent and he clung to it. When the flood subsided, Nuas stood up and heard Fuyonan call out to him. But then another wave came. Determined to live, Nuas jumped to higher ground and anchored himself on a tree with his leg. The two men were soon reunited with the other soldiers who were able to make it to higher ground, along with the other residents, the group that took refuge in the church. It was then that they noticed a gaping wound on Fuyonan’s side. They treated the wound with guava leaves until help arrived. Deazeta’s fiancée, Chantelle, said that he was all bruised and swollen when she saw him at the hospital. His eyes, ears and nose were all covered with mud.

We shall return

His injured men were with him, and when he tried to walk days later, they assisted him even if they, too, had their own injuries to worry about. Such brotherhood brought tears to Chantelle’s eyes. “This could be our most boring Christmas because we will be spending it in the hospital but it is the most blessed Christmas,” Chantelle said, wiping away her tears. Deazeta said the rest of the injured men of Charlie Company were recuperating in Davao. He said the Pedrero couple were the most traumatized because of the loss of their daughter. But the rest are raring to go back to Barangay Andap to continue the work they have begun. “We want to go back despite what happened to us. We want to turn the place into ‘Renewed’ Bataan. It was where we fell. It is where we will rise again,” Deazeta said.

Lacson surprised by names in ‘Order of Battle’ now banned by new law

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 24): Lacson surprised by names in ‘Order of Battle’ now banned by new law

Not just the usual suspects. Sometimes an “order of battle” would include the name of a government official that intelligence reports would link to crimes like drugs and kidnapping. Sen. Panfilo Lacson recalled being surprised upon reading the name of one such individual when he still had access to the so-called hit list of enemies of the state that the military has been prohibited from issuing following the enactment of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act last week. “You would be surprised and wonder why the names of some personalities are there,” he said in Filipino in a radio interview Sunday.

Pressed to explain, Lacson said he volunteered the observation “as a general description. Sometimes, I would read an OB and tell myself, ‘why, I had no clue this guy would be doing this or that’!’ Because there are instances no one would have an inkling (hindi mo akalain) that a government official listed there would be involved in drugs and kidnapping.” Lacson said that after recovering from his initial shock, he would go through the “accompanying summaries and information” and realize that the person’s inclusion in the OB “made sense” because the reports justifying so were convincing. The senator refused to reveal the names he read in previous OBs.

Lacson said an OB’s contents were not supposed to be released to media “because it is like telegraphing the punches of the military and the PNP (Philippine National Police).”  Lacson told the Philippine Daily Inquirer later in a series of text messages that he had encountered such names when he was still director general of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and while still involved in other law enforcement agencies.

In the interview, the senator added that the crafting of an OB was not a whimsical matter and involved the intelligence networks of the military, the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation. “It is a product of an intelligence workshop of the military, NBI, PNP…based on the summary of information (SI) about a group of persons or a specific individual,” Lacson said. An SI could be based on intelligence reports gathered by the government’s intelligence community or from information that had already been “confirmed by other sources.” These sources bring in reports that have been “compiled, accumulated and become basis for who would be included” in the OB. While some names belonged to those who had existing warrants and were known to have criminal records or are charged with criminal offenses, Lacson said there were also cases when a name was unfortunately included due to “intelligence reports that are not always true. The intelligence community can commit mistakes.”

Lacson said the main purpose of an OB was to “guide” the military and the police in identifying the personalities who deserved to be “covered by more intelligence efforts.” “The OB gives a focus since there would be dossiers that provide material pertaining to the activities and venues of the modus operandi of certain people,” he noted. Trouble started when the OB was abused or when protocol was not followed, Lacson said. Asked whether he has encountered stories of enforced disappearances (or state-sponsored abductions and murders), Lacson did not give a categorical answer but noted that in some cases, “there would be overeager law enforcement units or personalities that could not build a case or cannot gather enough evidence to stand in court even if they are certain that a person is deeply involved in (an illegal activity). Lacson said frustration would force these individuals to resort to “such things (sa gan’ung mga bagay).”

Lacson stressed that during his stint in the military and PNP, enforced disappearances were not tolerated but added that the practice existed (“hindi mawawala ‘yan”) and that such was also done in other countries (“maski sa ibang bansa practice din yan”).  “It’s a risk we take as law enforcement agents…to get more information or to validate the pursued target, maraming dahilan (there were many reasons). Yung iba naman out of frustration, yung iba overeager sila, nagmamadali yung…trabahong tamad yun, eh (In other cases, they did it out of frustration, the others were overeager, they were in a rush … but that’s the work of the lazy),” he pointed out.

“One is supposed to develop intelligence out of sheer intelligence efforts. Talagang babantayan mo, naka-stake out ka. Bantayan mo ang quarry mo. ‘Yung iba, dahil siguro may pressure, may deadline. Nagre resort na lang. ‘Eto ang ating target siguro kunin na lang natin ‘yon tapos bahala na sa bandang huli. Parang ganun ang nangyari (You really have to guard your target, you go on stake-out. You have to watch your quarry. But some were under pressure, were facing deadlines. So, they just resorted to shortcuts. ‘This is our target. Let’s just grab him and let’s see what turns out in the end, come what may.’ That’s probably what happened),” the senator explained. However, he said he knew of instances when a “leak” would be made “to put a target on spot.” “For example, maybe a person gained an enemy who has access to the OB and would leak that page containing his name in OB,” the senator recalled. “Merong ibang information na suntok sa buwan. Alam mong nambobola ang gumawa ng OB or may galit or for political reasons nilagay yung pangalan (ng kagalit). Pilit na pilit, ika nga (There were information that were simply a shot at the moon. You knew that the writer of the OB was making things up or he had an axe to grind for political reasons, that’s why he put the name there. It was really forced),” he added.

Lacson put his awareness of this practice to good use when he warned detractors in the Arroyo administration against including his name in the OB in 2002. At that time, Lacson was in the early years of his first term as senator when the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) produced a witness known then as “Ador Mawanay” who alleged that Lacson had ties to illegal drug activities. “When I got hold of a copy of that list (2002 OB) from my PNP contacts at that time, I warned the PNP leadership and the intelligence community during a committee hearing on illegal drugs presided by the late Sen. Robert Barbers against an afterthought of including my name since I already had a hard copy (where my name was not listed),” Lacson said in a text message. Apparently, those concerned listened to the senator’s warning and did not include his name despite Mawanay’s insistence.

Also in the interview, Lacson confirmed previous reports that the practice of enforced disappearances was most rampant (“pinakatalamak”) during the martial law years when the military was emboldened by the perception that it was “impregnable” and lost its “sense of vulnerability.” However, he noted that members of the leftist movement who were quick to make noise about human rights violations suffered by their colleagues should also check their own backyard for possible offenders. “Marami rin silang dinudukot na ‘di na nakikita. Minsan sa hanay nila mismo. May mga nawawala tapos sina-summary execute nila (They also snatched many people from their own ranks and these people were never seen again. These people disappeared and were summarily executed by them),” the senator said over radio.

“It’s a pity that we view the issue of human rights in a one-sided manner…We tend to focus only on (violations committed by) law enforcement (agents), but there are also numerous human rights victims among the ranks of the police and military but these are hardly documented by the Commission on Human Rights,” he added. Lacson added he was certain (“sigurado”) that leftist groups committed more cases of enforced disappearances.  “Kung titimbangin mo mas marami pa. Hindi na nga baka, sigurado mas maraming committed by so-called enemies of the state. Not only against the military and the police but also against civilians they terrorized (When you weighed facts, they (rebels) have committed more cases of enforced disappearances. Surely, the so-called enemies of the state committed more cases. Not only against the military and the police but also against civilians they terrorized,” he noted. Lacson said there were numerous cases when civilians living in far-flung areas were visited at home and forced to support the movement.

AFP: What order of battle?

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 24): AFP: What order of battle?

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday flatly denied allegations that it was maintaining an order of battle (OB) or a hit list of personalities considered as enemies of the state. “In the Armed Forces, we do not practice keeping a hit list or even an order of battle,” AFP spokesperson Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said in an interview over radio DzBB. “What we have is a list of persons wanted by law, those who have warrants for their arrest. That list is given to us by the PNP (Philippine National Police),” he said.  The military is only assisting local police in law enforcement operations, he said, adding that arrested fugitives are usually turned over to the nearest police unit.  “Although there is an ongoing ceasefire (with communist rebels), the AFP is still doing checkpoint operations because that does not prohibit us from fulfilling our mandate to the people,” Burgos said.

Malacañang has reminded the military that maintaining an order of battle is now outlawed with the enactment of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act, which President Aquino signed into law a few hours after he spoke at the 77th anniversary of the AFP last Friday. Respect for human rights and humanitarian law, Burgos said, is at the heart of the AFP’s new antiinsurgency project called IPSP (Internal Peace and Security Plan) Bayanihan. “In all aspect of our military and security operations, first and foremost is upholding the law and promoting international humanitarian laws. We also promote respect for human rights in all levels of commands,” he said.

Human rights offices

According to Burgos, the AFP had established a human rights office not only in its general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, but also in all its unified command headquarters nationwide. “If there are violations of our soldiers, the public may help us by reporting it to us. We will cooperate with the authorities and make sure the unit concerned will make the personnel available for investigation,” he said. 

In the radio interview, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that as a former PNP chief, he had encountered an order of battle of state enemies. He said he once ran into such list which contained the name of a government official that intelligence reports linked to crimes like drugs and kidnapping. “You would be surprised and wonder why the names of some personalities are there,” he said in Filipino in an interview over dzBB Sunday. Pressed to explain, Lacson said he volunteered the observation “as a general description.”  “Sometimes, I would read an OB and tell myself, ‘Why, I had no clue this guy would be doing this or that!’ Because there are instances no one would have an inkling that a government official listed there would be involved in drugs and kidnapping.”

Strictly confidential

Lacson said that after recovering from his initial shock, he would go through the “accompanying summaries and information” and would realize that the person’s inclusion in the OB “made sense.” He said an OB’s contents were not supposed to be released to media. “It is like telegraphing the punches of the military and the Philippine National Police,” he said. The senator said that putting together an order of battle involved the intelligence networks of the military, the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation. He said there had been cases where names were included based on errors in intelligence reporting. “The intelligence community can commit mistakes,” he said. Lacson said the main purpose of an OB was to “guide” the military and the police in identifying the personalities who deserved to be “covered by more intelligence efforts.” “The OB gives a focus since there would be dossiers that provide material pertaining to the activities and venues of the modus operandi of certain people,” he noted. Trouble starts when the OB is abused or when protocol is not followed, he said, particularly by “overeager law enforcement units or personalities.”

Malaysian news site details suspected JI member's 'chilling' messages before death in PHL

From GMA News (Dec 23): Malaysian news site details suspected JI member's 'chilling' messages before death in PHL

Months before he was gunned down by police in Davao City last weekend, a suspected member of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror network may have posted several chilling messages about welcoming death on an online forum. A report on Malaysia's The Star said Mohd Noor Fikrie Abd Kahar, 26, posted the messages a day before leaving for the Philippines last April. The Star cited a local Malay daily that said Fikrie used the alias "gooddjinn" on the online forum, posting 11 messages on April 26. But his messages centered on the religious only at the start of the year, the report said. It added Fikrie had been a member of the forum since 2006, and had posted 2,438 messages since.

"While most of his early postings centered around online businesses, gooddjinn began to increasingly focus on religion and martyrdom since the start of this year," the report said. In his last messages, he mentioned fighting Islam's enemies, the report added. “Death is a friend. It follows you even when you have forgotten about it. Get to know it before it comes to you," the report quoted him as saying. He also lamented the lack of opportunities to die in the fight against the enemies of Islam: “Pity the Malays who have no opportunity for martyrdom.” “It is for the martyred Muslim the final resting place, where his weariness in his fight in the way of Allah will be eased,” read one of the postings. He would also ended most of his posts with the message that he will "support the efforts and the movement of the Global Jihad to fight the terrorist unbelievers and their infidel allies, no matter the price nor sacrifice, until victory or martyrdom!” Another post titled “The Crusades are back” had three YouTube clips featuring Osama bin Laden and the US war in Afghanistan.

Fikrie left Malaysia via Sandakan the next day, staying in southern Zamboanga City and moving to Cotabato City, then to Davao. The Star report said the messages were disturbing enough for some of Fikrie's friends to write back and ask if he was feeling well. “Why are you suddenly thinking of dying... this is scary,” the report quoted one of his online friends as saying.

Foiled bomb attack

A report on Asiaone news site said Fikrie was supposedly a close associate of top JI leader Marwan. Fikrie was gunned down in Davao City police operatives last Friday, Decmber 21. The report alos quoted Davao City police chief Senior Supt Ronald de la Rosa as saying Marwan, 46, was believed to be planning a bomb attack in an area there, but it was foiled when police shot Fikrie, arrested his wife and defused the bomb he was carrying in his backpack.

Maguindanao gov endorses 2 lawyers for Bangsamoro transition commission

From GMA News (Dec 23): Maguindanao gov endorses 2 lawyers for Bangsamoro transition commission

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu has endorsed a lawyer and a politician to be members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which is tasked to draft the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law as stipulated in the Framework Agreement signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). President Benigno Aquino III on December 17 signed Executive Order 120 creating the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. The 15-member commission will be composed of eight members to be selected by the MILF and seven selected by the government from different sectors of the Bangsamoro people.

Mangudadatu endorsed lawyer Suharto Ambolodto, former election supervisor in Maguindanao; and Maguindanao’s 2nd district Representative Simeon Datumanong for the government side. According to Mangudadatu, Ambolodto and Datumanong, both respected lawyers, can well represent the Moro people in the commission. Mangudadatu said Peace adviser Teresita Deles has called him up on Friday to ask for endorsements.

Datumanong, Andal Ampatuan Sr.’s nephew, was elected Maguindanao governor in 1973. In 1984, he was elected to the Batasang Pambansa. In 1992, he was elected to the House of Representatives to represent Maguindanao's Second District. In 2001, he became secretary of Public Works and Highways. Two years later, he was Secretary of the Department of Justice. He was reelected to the House of Representatives in 2007 and represents Maguindanao’s second district up to the present. Meanwhile, Ambolodto had also served in various key positions in the government and in international non-government institutions.

President Aquino would choose from the list of candidates the appointees for the commission. The government in October signed a landmark peace deal with the MILF. The agreement will create a Bangsamoro Political entity to replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which Aquino has described as a "failed experiment."

MILF wants expanded role for international ceasefire monitoring team

From GMA News (Dec 23): MILF wants expanded role for international ceasefire monitoring team

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front wants an expanded role for the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Team in Mindanao, Malaysia's state-run Bernama News Agency reported. MILF chairman Al-Haj Murad, in an interview in Malaysia, particularly wants the IMT to helping implement humanitarian and rehabilitation programs. "At this point [in] time, their mandate is to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire, so from that monitoring mandate, we can include also the implementation of humanitarian and rehabilitation programs, as they could also be useful in that aspect," the Bernama report quoted Murad as saying about IMT. Murad was in Malaysia to attend the recently concluded 8th World Islamic Economic Forum.

The IMT started monitoring the ceasefire between the government and the MILF in 2004. Other countries represented in the IMT include Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, Norway and the European Union. The IMT also has support from various governments and local and international non-government agencies.

Last October, the MILF and the Philippine government signed a framework peace agreement seeking to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a Bangsamoro political entity. Malaysia had helped broker the framework agreement by acting as facilitator in the peace talks. Murad said the IMT can also have other roles, such as overseeing the peace agreement during the transition period. "Later on, [the IMT] can be turned into a third-party monitoring group that will oversee the existing agreement during the transition period," he said.

Typhoon victims again hit by floods

From the Manila Times (Dec 24): Typhoon victims again hit by floods

While most Filipinos are caught in a whir of gift-giving and preparing lavish dishes for Christmas, people in areas battered by typhoon Pablo (international codename: Bopha) continue to suffer because heavy rains have crimped the delivery of relief goods to hard-hit communities.The downpour felt in the south flooded many villages, particularly the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental where government relief efforts are continuing for the victims of Pablo. The military said that many roads have become impassable because of flash floods and dangers posed by landslides. Relief operations have slowed down due to flooded roads, but aid continue to pour for tens of thousands of people affected by the deadly typhoon on December 4....

AFP helps

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said that it will continue with its humanitarian mission in typhoon-devastated areas until ordered to stop by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Gen. Jessie Dellosa, Armed Forces chief-of-staff made the assurance on Sunday after he visited military troops involved in relief and humanitarian operations in hard-hit municipalities in the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.  “Although some of our soldiers conducting humanitarian and relief operations will miss Christmas with their families, the Armed Forces will continue to render its selfless support to the typhoon victims,” Dellosa said.

The Armed Forces chief visited the 67th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Davao and the 66th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Banganga, Compostela Valley where he was briefed on the sorry situation in the typhoon-affected areas. The Armed Forces has raised more than P19 million for typhoon victims. The money came from soldiers’ donations and the savings from the cancelled Christmas parties of its various units and offices. The Department of National Defense, Armed Forces and Police Mutual Benefit Association Inc. and the Armed Forces Savings and Loans Association Inc. also pitched in with their donations. “More than the cash donations, a simple gesture of physical support will encourage and inspire the typhoon victims to slowly stand up and look forward to a brighter tomorrow. The Armed Forces since day one has been with our people conducting search, rescue, and relief operations alongside other government agencies and civilian organizations,” Dellosa said.....

Photo: Filipino Soldiers Distribute Christmas Gifts to Children in Davao Oriental

Posted to the Manila Times (Dec 24): Photo: Filipino Soldiers Distribute Christmas Gifts to Children in Davao Oriental

Soldiers from Albay province distribute gifts to children in Cateel town, Davao Oriental, one of the areas devastated by Typhoon Pablo (Bopha). Thousands of typhoon victims continue to depend on donations but the delivery of relief supplies had been hampered by heavy rains. PHOTO BY RHAYDS BARCIA

Tanod Slain Inside House; Ex-NPA Squad Leader Falls

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Dec 21): Tanod Slain Inside House; Ex-NPA Squad Leader Falls

...... Meanwhile, a resident of Brgy. Guimbalaon in Silay City and believed to be a former member of the New People’s Army (NPA) was collared early this week for alleged illegal possession of firearms by elements of the city police led by PO3 Randy G. Azuro. Arrested was Erving Biñas alias Errol, 30, of Hacienda Camantero 2, Brgy. Guimbalaon and police officers confiscated a .45 caliber Colt pistol M1911A1 US Army with serial number 864270. Along with the firearm, officers also seized two magazines with 13 live ammunitions. Reports said that Biñas was a former member of the NPA and designated as squad leader and company commander in a platoon deployed in Silay City. He is also said to be involved in a series of extortion activities in the far-flung areas of the City. Biñas was nabbed at MG Refreshment along Rizal St., Brgy. 2 and detained at the Silay City Police Station. He will face possible charges for violation of Republic Act (RA) 8294 or Illgela Possession of Firearms and Ammunitions.

Army forms “peace organizations”

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Dec 23): Army forms “peace organizations”

The government troopers operating in Leyte are to establish “peace organizations” in the villages as part of their strategies in intensifying government’s efforts in the campaign against insurgency in this island, a military commander told reporters in an interview at his office here. Colonel Rafael Valencia, 802nd brigade commander, 8th infantry division, Philippine Army, based here, said that his brigade is now focusing more on the “peace operations” in solving the insurgency in his area of operation

Col. Valencia told reporters that as part of their strategies his brigade is presently organizing the barangay peace and development organization (BPDO) in the village level. Valencia claims that those BPDOs are volunteer peace advocates who are at the same time assisting the local government units in crime prevention in their respective barangays or municipalities. Valencia informed reporters that their organizing efforts for the BPDOs is gaining ground in the hinterland barangays of Leyte spearheaded by the 19th Infantry Battalion based in Kananga, Leyte under the leadership of its battalion commander Lt. Col. Alejandro Nacnac.

Valencia disclosed that presently there are a total of 17 BPDOs organized in two towns and 1 city in the province of Leyte He added that there are 13 BPDOs in Carigara town with 2481 members; 1 in the municipality of Kananga with 350 members while there are 3 organized BDPOs in this city with 636 members.

Lacson explains military, police psyche behind enforced disappearances

From Rappler (Dec 23): Lacson explains military, police psyche behind enforced disappearances

The newly enacted law against enforced disappearance is needed to regulate “eager and frustrated” law enforcers, said former police chief Sen. Panfilo Lacson Sunday. “It goes both ways. We should regulate what law enforcement agencies are doing. Kasi kung larga lang nang larga, at walang ganitong batas, alam nilang makaligtas sila. So, mainam na i-regulate ng gobyerno at ipagbawal ang specific acts, na kung saan alam nila na may karampatang parusa (Otherwise, they will just do as they please. Without this law, they will go free. That’s why it is good we have this government regulation that prohibits specific acts and which specifies appropriate penalties),” Lacson said in a radio interview over DzBB.

President Benigno Aquino III recently signed into law the Anti-Enforced Disappearances Act of 2012, the first of its kind in Asia. Republic Act 10350 criminalizes the practice of “enforced or involuntary disappearance," defined in the law as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by government authorities or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of such persons in authority, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person which places such person outside the protection of the law.”

Lacson, who himself as police chief was accused of human rights violations, as in the Kuratong Baleleng summary killings, said political activists are the most common victims of enforced disappearances, which in turn are triggered by eagerness and frustration of law enforcers.

May nangyayari nang ganyan, iyong mga over eager na law enforcement units and personalities. Minsan kasi out of frustration, alam nilang involved na involed ang tao, at nasa order of battle, pero hindi naman makakalap ng enough evidence to stand in court. Pero, alam nila perwisyong ginagawa ng personalities na iyon, so minsan, nagre-resort sa ganoong mga bagay na hindi naman tinotolerate under our laws.

“Things like that happen, with over eager law enforcement units and personalities. Sometimes out of frustration, when they know that the person is really involved and in the order of battle, but cannot get enough evidence that could stand in court. Sometimes they know the mess that these personalities create, that’s why they resort to these actions that are not tolerated by our laws,” he said, explaining the psyche of some guilty police officers.

Lacson compared the new law to the Anti-Hazing Act, which effectively lowered its incidence – although not totally eradicated – in universities and the Philippine Military Academy.
He noted that the practice of kidnapping political activists is common in countries like the Philippines which have insurgency problems. He said law enforcers take this risk in order to get more information. But Lacson said there is no substitute for real, honest-to-goodness intelligence work.

Maraming dahilan eh, iyong naman out of frustration, at iyong iba naman parang eager sila mapadali na trabahong tamad iyon. Dapat you validate your intelligence report out of sheer intelligence work, talagang pagtitiyagaan mo, naka-stake out ka, binabantayan mo ang quarry mo. Pero ang iba siguro may pressure, may deadline nagre-resort na lang, ito ang ating target, siguro kunin na lamang natin ito at bahala na sa bandang huli.

“There are so many reasons why it happens, some out of frustration, others are simply eager to finish their job. But that’s a lazy person’s job. Your intelligence report must be validated out of sheer intelligence work. You really have to persevere, in stakeout, guard your quarry. But others may give in to pressure, especially if they have a deadline, and think, ‘there’s our target, let’s just grab him and let’s just see what happens later.”

Sometimes, those who have access to a list also leak out the list of those in the order of battle in order to get even.

May order of battle na may corresponding warrant, pero still hindi naman puwedeng ilahad iyon sa media gawa ng parang you telegraph the message ng military and PNP, so ang nangyayari dito, it was leak deliberately para ilagay sa bad image ang isang tao.

“There’s an order of battle of people with corresponding warrants, but you can’t divulge to the media because it would be like telegraphing the military and the police’s message. So what happens here is the list is deliberately leaked to put a specific person in a bad light.”

Lacson added that most enforced disappearances happened under martial rule when the military had all the powers.

Continuing practice iyan eh, hindi naman nawawala eh. Pero, sabihin na lamang natin, na pinakatalamak iyan sa panahon ng martial law kasi nagkaroon, doon lumakas ang power ng military at tingin nila masyado silang parang impregnable ang kanilang institusiyon, na hindi pupuwedeng, parang nawala ang test of vulnerability kaya lumakas ang loob dahil martial law.

“It’s a continuing practice that never goes away. But let’s just say that it was done mostly during martial law when the military was really powerful and they saw themselves as impregnable and that’s when they had the temerity to do these things,” he said.

While many have disappeared under martial law, a number of people also disappeared during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Among the most celebrated ones were those of Jonas Burgos, son of freedom icon and newspaperman Joe Burgos, and the co-eds from the University of the Philippines Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno.

Military on guard status during Somo, says top 8th ID official

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 23): Military on guard status during Somo, says top 8th ID official

The military’s 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City has disclosed its intent to be on on guard status even as the Armed Forces of the Philippines has announced the suspension of military operations (Somo) for the holiday period from December 16, 2012 and to end on January 3, 2013. Major General Gerardo Layug, commanding general of the 8ID said in a statement that the military across the region has been ordered to be on their guard although they will refrain from any deliberate offensive operation against the New Peoples Army (NPA) and will adhere to the rule of no indiscriminate firing of firearms.

MGen. Layug also said that the military will not put its guard down and will continue to protect the civilian communities’ government establishments, investment facilities and vital structures, military camps and detachments against any threat of force by armed groups during the holiday season. The military will still undertake security operations and security patrols to ensure the safety of all. The military’s bayanihan team activities will also be continued during the Somo period to facilitate addressing the prevailing issues in the communities. Route security and checkpoint operations in close coordination with the Philippines National Police are included in the security measures aimed to deter terrorism and preempt the proliferation of loose firearms and explosives.

Grenade blast kills MILF member in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 23): Grenade blast kills MILF member in Maguindanao

A member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was blasted to death when a hand grenade he was holding accidentally went off Saturday, the Army here said. Colonel Prudencio Asto, speaking for the 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division based in Camp Gonzalo Siongco, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, said the incident occurred at 7 a.m. in Barangay Banaba, Datu Abdulah Sangki, Maguindanao on Saturday. Citing military field report, Asto said the victim was identified as Teng Said, 48, member of the 105th base command stationed in Barangay Dansalan, Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao. Banaba Barangay chairperson Hanon Sangki, said they were awakened by a very loud explosion in the house of Said. When they responded, they found the mangled body of the victim.

MILF holds peace advocacy on Framework Accord in Palawan

From the MILF Website (Dec 23): MILF holds peace advocacy on Framework Accord in Palawan

The peace advocacy on the Government of the Philippines (GPH) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Framework Accord on the Bangsamoro conducted by the Political Committee under the MILF First Vice Chairman in the municipality of Rizal, Palawan was successfully culminated yesterday of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Close to 2000 Bangsamoro people belonging to the Panimusan, Mapun, Tausug, Maranaw, Maguindanao tribes and the indigenous peoples from the municipalities of Bataraza,Quezon, Narra, Rizal and Puerto Princesa City were in attendance. Representatives from the local government units, civil society organizations, Philippine Marines and the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) lauded the program, saying it gives strong indication of the strong support of all sectors to achieve enduring peace and prosperity in the country. The GPH and MILF Peace Process mechanisms on the ground were mobilized to coordinate properly the conduct of the peace advocacy.

Since the signing of the GPH – MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Presidential Palace at Malacanang, Manila last October 15, 2012, both the government and MILF had been very active in conducting peace advocacy aimed at consolidating popular support necessary for the entire country will be ssary to ensure the success in the implementation of the Framework Agreement.
“Our people and all sectors of the society must be made aware properly about the Framework to muster popular support and ownership of the Framework,” said Sabdani, MILF Political Chairman in Palawan. Sabdani thanked the local government of Rizal for the strong support extended to the peace advocacy. He also thanked the Prime Minister Najib of the Government of Malaysia and its people, President Noynoy Aquino III and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim for the strong commitment to peace leading to the signing of the Framework. “We are convinced that the Framework Agreement when faithfully implemented the elusive peace and prosperity for all will be achieved soon,” he said.