Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Communist insurgency leads to 400 casualties since 2011

From the Philippine Star (Apr 30): Communist insurgency leads to 400 casualties since 2011

Close to 400 people have died in atrocities and clashes related to communist insurgency since 2011, the year the government started implementing security plan Bayanihan.

Military data show that a total of 200 persons died in 2011, higher than the 164 recorded last year. There were 19 fatalities during the first quarter of this year.
Of the 383 fatalities, 158 were civilians while the rest were soldiers, policemen and government militias.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) suffered 147 fatalities while the Philippine National Police and civilian armed auxiliary units recorded 26 and 52 deaths, respectively.

AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the data highlights the need for the communist rebels to give up on the armed struggle.

“The armed violence is destroying public infrastructure and vital economic facilities and even causing innocent lives. If the NPA (New People’s Army) rebels are pro-people, they must abandon armed violence,” Burgos said.

Burgos said the military backs the peace talks with the rebels but is also prepared to thwart their attacks.

“While we support the peace-building activities of the government, our focused combat operations directed against the armed group in the countryside will continue to protect our people in the communities,” he said.

The peace talks between the government and the communists hit an impasse due to differences over jailed insurgents facing criminal cases.

The National Democratic Front (NDF), which represents the rebels in the talks, insists that its jailed leaders be freed since they are covered by immunity guarantees.

The government, however, refused to do so, saying the NDF has no means to prove that the jailed rebels are indeed peace consultants who are immune from arrests.
State negotiators also complain that the rebels have too many preconditions and demands, making it hard to resume the talks.

Last week, government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla said they are considering a “new approach” to peacefully resolve the conflict with the communists.

Some sectors believe Padilla practically gave up on the peace talks with the NDF when he made the statement.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has asked the military field commanders to hold localized negotiations while the peace talks in the national level remain stalled.


PH buying 2 brand-new warships

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 30): PH buying 2 brand-new warships

The Philippines is getting two brand-new frigates as part of the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said on Monday.

He told reporters that the Department of National Defense (DND) had earmarked P18 billion for the purchase of the two vessels through a public bidding. He said a number of countries, including South Korea, Spain and Singapore, would participate in the bidding.

Manalo also disclosed that the DND had been negotiating for a government-to-government acquisition of 12 jet fighters from South Korea.

He said the DND had decided to scrap previous plans to acquire refurbished frigates since secondhand vessels would be more costly to maintain. He said the DND had allocated P9 billion for each frigate, or fast warship.

“The purchase of the frigates has been in the pipeline,” Manalo said. “We are just waiting for the Navy to submit their ‘decision package.’ After that, we will review it and issue an acquisition decision memorandum signed by (Defense) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin,” he said.

Manalo said the process could take a week. “After that, we’ll schedule one or two prebid conferences.”

“We originally wanted to buy secondhand frigates but then we realized that it would be expensive in the long run if we are going to buy secondhand,” he added.

He noted that older ships required more maintenance repairs compared to new vessels. He said the DND had previously approved P6 billion for each refurbished frigate.

The Philippine Navy has only one battleship, the 48-year-old Hamilton-class cutter BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which the Philippines acquired from the United States in 2011.

A second warship, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, would finally sail to the Philippines in June after undergoing repairs in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Navy earlier said the Alcaraz, a 45-year-old frigate, was expected to arrive this month.

The Hamilton-class cutter was acquired for P450 million by the AFP from the US Coast Guard on May 22, 2012, as part of the US government’s military assistance program for the Philippines.

In his State of the Nation Address last year, President Aquino announced that the Alcaraz would arrive from the United States in January 2013 as part of the much-needed AFP upgrade.

“We are not sending paper boats out to the sea. Now, our 36,000 kilometers of coastline will be patrolled by more modern ships,” the President then said, referring to the decades-old vessel, which the US Coast Guard decommissioned on March 30, 2012.
Formerly known as USCGC Dallas, the AFP’s second frigate was named after the late Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, a World War II hero who commanded the Q-boat Abra, which shot down three Japanese aircraft.

Like its sister ship, the Alcaraz was classified as a high-endurance cutter built in 1968.


Gazmin: Access, not military bases for US

From ABS-CBN (Apr 29): Gazmin: Access, not military bases for US

Access to Philippine military bases, and not new military bases can be granted to the United States if an "extreme emergency" erupts in the Korean peninsula, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Monday.
Gazmin said the Constitution bans foreign military bases in the country.
"I made it clear that's against the Constitution. That was my first statement and after that, in case of worst case scenario, it becomes a shooting war, they may have access," he said.

"I said it's against the Constitution to put up bases here but in case of extreme emergency, they can have access (to Philippine bases). When you say access, they can have access to our bases, that is not their base," Gazmin clarified.

Gazmin also said American warplanes may be allowed to refuel at the former Clark Air Base.

"So they'll have access (to the base) but that's not their base, that is clear," he added.
The Philippines and US have a Mutual Defense Treaty that requires either nation to support each other if they are attacked by an external party.


Military foils ‘extortion’ bid of Catanduanes Reds

From the Manila Standard Today (May 1): Military foils ‘extortion’ bid of Catanduanes Reds

A soldier was wounded on Tuesday in a gunbattle with communist New People’s Army guerrillas, who were preparing to set up a checkpoint on a highway in San Andres, Catanduanes, to wait for the arrival of a convoy of cars of a candidate for governor, an Army spokesman said.

Lt. Col. Bernardo Fortez, Commanding Officer of the 83rd Infantry Division, said troops were sent to the area following calls from residents about “sightings of rebels” in Barangay Hilaw-an in San Andres.

“Our troops encountered the rebels at the hillside. They were preparing to set up a checkpoint intended for the convoy of gubernatorial candidate Joseph Cua,” Fortez said.

About 10 NPA guerrillas escaped after a brief firefight with troops from the 91st Division Reconnaisance Company. Pfc Christopher Briguela was wounded below the knee and was rushed to the hospital.

Informants said the rebels were led by Jimboy Lucero, alias Ka Jason, who showed up in the area three weeks ago threatening residents and asking for logistical support, according to Fortez.

Lucero, who has been collecting campaign fees from candidates, has been terrorizing residents of Barangay San Vicente in San Andres in the past several months, |Fortez said.

A candidate for senator, Risa Hontiveros, said the Department of Justice should file charges against NPA guerrillas setting up checkpoints for the purpose of extorting fees from candidates.

In a letter of complaint she submitted to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Hontiveros said the attack on the convoy of Gingoog City Ruthie Guingona last week in which two of her aides were killed was a violation of election laws and the DOJ should hold the NPA accountable for human rights abuses.

“These acts are clear violations of our election laws, which prohibit the use of threats, intimidation, terrorism and other coercive tools to influence the conduct and result of elections,” she said.

“We have to demand accountability from the NPA for their human rights abuses, and correcting human rights abuses should be universally applied. Civilians who engage in electoral politics should be protected from all forms of threats and coercion, whether they’re from state or non-state actors such as the NPA,” Hontiveros said.


NPA Urged: ‘Confirm or Deny’, ‘Are Letters to Some Candidates Authentic?’

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Apr 30): NPA Urged: ‘Confirm or Deny’, ‘Are Letters to Some Candidates Authentic?’

Two of the 11 prominent Moises Padilla town personalities warned by an alleged New People’s Army (NPA) leader/secretary in post-marked registered mails, expressed surprise receiving letters from communist rebels.

Barangay Uno (Poblacion) Kagawad and Bayan Muna party-list campaigner Agustin Grande, who is also supporting the senatorial bid of Teddy Casiño said he doubts about the origin of the letters which were mailed to him and about 10 others in the town.

"I hope the NPA can confirm or deny the letters warning us not to campaign for candidates they do not like. I cannot understand why we were sent the letters, individually at that," Grande told NDB.

He said he is coordinating with some authorities regarding the matter, saying there is no reason for him to be warned as he is also exercising his freedom to choose whom to support.

He said he respects the stand of the NPA "if indeed the warning came from them but I also deserve to be respected for my freedom."

Grande is also suspecting that the letters may have simply come from some political camps opposing the candidacies of people he is supporting and campaigning for.

He is supporting and campaigning for M. Padilla town mayoralty candidate Ella Garcia, her vice mayoralty runningmate Edwin Presquito and their entire slate for councilor.

Bobby Dooma, president of a homeowners’ association in Barangay Guinpana-an also in the said town, likewise expressed surprise getting the same letter-warning from the rebels.

Dooma told NDB that although only 11 of them have so far revealed having received the supposed NPA letters signed by a certain J. B. Regalado claiming to be the secretary of NPA’s KLCN and KR-N, he believes more were also sent the same, based on the control numbers stated in the upper portion of the letters.

He admitted to NDB that since he received the letter and although he is in doubt as to its authenticity, he started taking extra precautions.

Grande, Dooma and others are seeking avenues and linkages to verify the letters and the real senders.

If the letters are to be denied, they said they will leave the matter to the rebels to seek ways to find out who were behind, while they will also find ways to know.

LETTERS. NDB obtained late Saturday copies of the letters individually addressed and mailed to 11 persons in the town.

The computerized letters, in the vernacular, were sent through the post offices in La Castellana town and Himamaylan City.

NDB has emailed NPA’s Ka JB Regalado for confirmation as to the authenticity of these letters as these were not bearing the logo of the CPP/NPA unlike the previous ones, among others.

As of press deadline last night, still no word from the NPA.

The 11 letters, with control numbers, were individually signed in red ink by a certain "J. B. Regalado, secretary of Kilusang Larangan Central Negros (KL-CN) and Kilusang Larangan Negros (KR-N)."


Bangsamoro Transition Commission holds first session in Cotabato City

From MindaNews (May 1): Bangsamoro Transition Commission holds first session in Cotabato City

The 15-member Transition Commission (TransCom) tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law held its first session in Mindanao Tuesday with experts on Constitution-making as resource persons.

“Very engaged” was how TransCom chair Mohager Iqbal, concurrent chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel, described the day’s session with Prof. Yash Ghai, chair of the Fiji Constitution Commission.

Commissioner Fatmawati Salapuddin of Sulu said Ghai gave inputs “to guide our formulation of internal rules and processes, experiences of other countries.

The sessions were held behind closed doors on the fourth floor of Alnor Suites.
It was the TransCom’s first meeting in Cotabato City, where it will be based, after the April 3 ceremonial opening in Pasig City.
The other resource persons in the April 30 session were lawyers Benedicto Bacani, Executive Director of the Cotabato City-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance, and Nasser Marohomsalic, a former commissioner at the Commission on Human Rights and a member of the 1988 Regional Consultative Commission that drafted the Organic Act for what is now the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Composed of eight members from the MILF and seven from the Philippine government (GPH), the TransCom, as agreed upon in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, is tasked to draft the Basic Law that would pave the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the ARMM by June 30, 2016.

Iqbal told MindaNews they hope to finish the Commission’s internal rules by Wednesday, May 1.

Iqbal now wears four hats in the MILF: as information chief, peace panel chair, TransCom chair and head of the Consultative Commission of the Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities (FASTRAC), a three-year program initiated by the United Nations and the World Bank in partnership with the MILF, which was launched last Monday at Camp Darapanan.

FASTRAC will provide on-demand technical assistance from national and international experts and will start office “next week,” UN resident coordinator Luiza Carvalho said at the press conference after the launch.

The Consultative Committee will provide overall guidance to the Cotabato City-based FASTRAC. Day to day management, however, will be under an Executive Director.


Government troops preempted NPAs’ extortion activities

Posted to the  Samar News (Apr 23): Government troops preempted NPAs’ extortion activities

NPA camp at Sitio Dakong Sapa, Buenasuerte, Victoria, Northern Samar

BRGY. MAGSAYSAY, Lope de Vega, Northern Samar – The troops of 20th Infantry (We Lead) Battalion, 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division, Philippine Army has preempted NPA extortion activities in the areas of Northern Samar after they have successfully driven the armed groups away from the populace in the area.

Through the relentless conduct of massive and sustained combat operations, the government troops has dislodged the presence of armed NPA bandits that was reportedly extorting money from the populace in the hinterland barangays. As a result of combat operations and with the information provided by the people, an abandoned communist terrorist’s camp was discovered by government security forces at Sitio Dakong Sapa, Buenasuerte, Victoria, Northern Samar at around 11:20 in the morning today, April 23, 2013.

Lieutenant Colonel Noel A. Vestuir, 20IB’s Commanding Officer, in his report to 803rd Brigade Commander, Colonel Rolando Malinao, said his troops were dispatched to track down the reported enemy presence in the area as reported by the residents in the barangay.

According to reports, an undetermined number of armed communist terrorists were roaming in the barangays, to enforce their Permit to Campaign and Permit to Win scheme to political candidates who are campaigning in the interior barangays and collecting money and food stuffs from the residents.

According to LTC Vestuir, the camp was discovered by the operating troops of 20IB led by 2LT Michael Eria. The camp has thirty (30) bunkers that can accommodate more or less sixty (60) communist terrorists, one (1) kitchen, one (1) comfort room, and has been abandoned by the CTs for about two weeks as they evade armed engagement with the operating troops.

Vestuir added that it is already the eight (8) NPA camps that were discovered by 20IB troops in the area of 1st district of Northern Samar for this year.

“Although we were not able to catch them, we have prevented them from staging their terroristic activities, we have driven them away from the peace-loving people, we have dislodged them from their base and we have prevented them from influencing the safe conduct of election. With the continuing support of the people, we are optimistic that it would not be long, that we could neutralize these armed terrorists. Before this would happen, we call on them to lay down their arms for them to once again live peaceful and normal lives along with their families”, LTC Vestuir concluded.


AFP offering cash for NPA guns

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 30): AFP offering cash for NPA guns

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is offering cash incentives and livelihood programs to members of the New People’s Army, who surrender with their firearms, under its Guns for Peace Program.

Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, 3rd Infantry Division commander, yesterday said the firearms remuneration package is intended to support the rebel returnees and their families, as they slowly integrate themselves into mainstream society.

Mabanta said the AFP will pay P200,000 for light machine guns, P60,000 for M-14 assault rifle, P50,000 for Colt M-16 armalite rifle, and P40,000 for M-203 grenade launcher.

The rebel returnees will also be able to avail of government livelihood programs, from the comprehensive local integration program, that includes immediate cash assistance ranging from P5,000 to P15,000, he added.

Two weeks ago, two ranking rebel leaders gave themselves up to the 47th Infantry Battalion in Candoni, Negros Occidental, and surrendered an M-16 assault rifle and three 12-gauge shotguns.

Military records show that 36 NPA rebels have surrendered to 3ID units in Negros and Panay, and 22 of them gave themselves up in the first quarter of this year.

The provincial government of Negros Occidental has extended almost P1 million in financial and livelihood assistance to 80 rebel returnees, who surrendered to the 303rd Infantry Brigade since 2010.

Mabanta said they have received many surrender feelers from the NPA members, who say they are already tired of hiding in the mountains, and now want to live a normal life with their families.


‘Rebel extortion fees used to back bets’

From the Visyan Daily Star (Apr 30): ‘Rebel extortion fees used to back bets’

A senior police official yesterday claimed that a portion of the money extorted by the New People’s Army from candidates, is not only used to buy guns and ammunition, but also to support candidates sympathetic to them.

Senior Supt. Ricardo de la Paz, officer-in-charge of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, did not name the candidates who are allegedly sympathetic to the NPA, but said this is based on their intelligence reports.

In every election, the NPA intensifies its extortion activities by imposing Permit To Campaign (PTC) fees on candidates, who may hold campaign sorties in their so-called Red areas, de la Paz said.

By paying PTC, he said, candidates indirectly extend help to the “enemy of the state”.

De la Paz also discouraged candidates from paying PTC, stressing that by doing so, they are helping the NPA beef up their logistical requirements, such as guns and ammunition, that are being used against the government.

Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, Army 3rd Infantry Division commander, had said earlier that about 50 percent of the political contenders in his area (Negros and Panay) are paying between P50,000 to P5 million to buy protection from the NPA.

Mabanta warned the candidates that giving money to the rebels is illegal.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the Philippines, in a statement, issued yesterday, denounced the Armed Forces of the Philippines for what it called its “perverted propaganda” that its armed wing, the New People’s Army, is extorting money from election candidates. It claimed that “There is no such policy as requiring payments for the privilege to campaign within the areas of jurisdiction of the people’s democratic government.”

The CPP said “The enforcement by the NPA of the policies of the people’s democratic government is not for sale.”

The statement added that “On their own volition, a great majority of candidates participating in the reactionary elections seek audiences with the revolutionary authorities in order to forge possible areas of cooperation and coordinate their activities.”

The CPP has repeatedly made clear its policy that the NPA does not participate directly or indirectly in the reactionary elections, it said.

All candidates who cooperate and coordinate with the revolutionary authorities are accorded equal opportunities to campaign within the jurisdiction of the people’s government, the rebel statement added.


Moro NGO invited by Thai Youth Movement for Good Governance

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 29): Moro NGO invited by Thai Youth Movement for Good Governance

The United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), a Bangsamoro youth-run organization in Southern Philippines, sent its Deputy Secretary General for Administration Datuan M. Magon to share with youths from Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia UNYPAD’s experiences on youth empowerment, community organizing and peace advocacy during the International Conference on the role of Youth in Strengthening Democracy and Governance held Grand Sukhumvit Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand on April 26-27, 2013.

Some 160 youths leaders in different parts of Thailand attended the forum.

The invitation was relayed by USAID SAPAN Program and Youth Care Thailand.

The aim of the conference is to bring together Youth leaders from Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines to discuss challenges and opportunities in promoting good governance and citizen actions.

Magon’s presentation was divided into two parts. During April 26, his presentation anchored on introduction of UNYPAD to the participants. He explained to them that UNYPAD’s existence was a product of hard work, patience and perseverance. Aside from focusing on community and youth empowerment, he further explained that they also play a very important role in the Government of the Philippines (GPH) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace process.

On April 27, he delivered his second topic entitled “Youth and Community Organizing: The UNYPAD Experience” wherein he shared some tips and strategy they adopted that has resulted to establishment of 18 UNYPAD provincial chapters.

Before proceeding to his main discussion, Magon first presented brief history of Mindanao conflict and important roles Bangsamoro youth plays in its peaceful resolution.

“In organizing youths and communities, dedication and sincerity is the most important. You have to love what you are doing… you will encounter many challenges… not all the time you will succeed… sometimes you will fail… you will learn a lot… and this lessons will provide you maturity and wisdom as you go along the way”, he ended.

When asked about his insights on the South Thailand insurgency during the open forum, Magon replied “The Bangsamoro problem and the Melayu Muslim dilemma in Southern most provinces of Thailand are political problem. The bombings and killings that are now happening are just a product of the deeper situation. This cannot be solved by infrastructure development or any counter-insurgency measures. Since it is a political problem. Then the solution must be political, that is to dig-up and solve the root-cause of the problem”.

Among the other international speakers invited were: Anthony Luigi B. De Vera from Youth Vote Philippines, Lawrence Angelo B. Catigbak from One Million Lights projects, Ms. Yet Sokha and Mok Sokha from Khmer Youth Association in Cambodia and Renny Dwiastuti and Marni Lucinda from Red Nose Foundation in Indonesia.

One of the highlight of the activity was the formulation of a network for all organizations including their international guests. A committee was tasked to draft its concept paper and rationale but for the meantime they choose administrators to facilitate on-discussions.

SAPAN has been very active in supporting youth empowerment in Thailand for the advancement of genuine democracy in their country as its goal is to foster constructive civil society engagement with the Royal Thai Government as a means to build consensus for democratic political process and to mitigate extremism.
Thailand youths are not yet empowered as compared to youths in the Philippines. Organizers believed inputs shared by different presenters would contribute a lot in developing their skills in their struggle for democratization of their country.


Bangsamoro Transition Commission holds 2nd session in April in Cotabato City

From the MILF Website (Apr 30): Bangsamoro Transition Commission holds 2nd session in April in Cotabato City

Despite the non-release of operational budget from the government and the non-signing of the three remaining annexes (power-sharing, wealth-sharing, and normalization), the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) held its second session in the month of April.

The maiden session of the BTC was held in Pasig last April 3, after it was inaugurated in the morning of the same day where high government officials attended including Secretary Teresita “Ging” Deles, Senator Teofisto Guingona III, Cong. Jesus Sacdalan, Secretary Leila de Lima, Cong. Rodolfo Biazon, Sulu Governor Sakur Tan, Basilan Governor Jum Akbar, Cong. Sandra Sema. For the first time also, the BTC as a whole faced the media where more than one half of the questions asked were about the Sabah standoff.

The current session is being held at the Al-Nor Convention Center in Cotabato City.
All the 15 commissioners attended the session, which will continue today and which will culminate with a media briefing this afternoon.

The first of the two-day session opened formally with BTC Chair Mohagher Iqbal banging the gavel for the first time to signal the formal opening of the session. However, the whole day was mainly to attend to the lectures of two prominent international experts on Basic Law making namely the husband-and-wide tandem: Prof. Yash Ghai and Dr. Jill Cotrell. He also thanked former Human Rights Commissioner Nasser Marohomsalic for responding positively to the invitation.

The session was facilitated by former Dean Benedicto Bacani of the Notre Dame University and an old associate of the two resource speakers.

The two foreign experts were formally invited by the BTC through the HDC.
The European Union through the Center for Humanitarian (HDC) is providing the logistical support including transportation and billeting the commissioners.

Mr. Ali Salem and Mike Alar of the HDC coordinated the whole affair.

The session of the BTC will continue today with its organizational chart and internal rules would be discussed through caucuses first and then to the plenary session for adoption.

Asked by Luwaran on the chances of the approval of the two papers, Iqbal merely said: “We will travel the extra mile to try to finish these. They are very important to jumpstart our mission.”

At the closing of the first day session, before banging the gavel for second time signaling the end of the first day session, thanked the Prof. Ghai, Dr. Cotrell, Dean Bacani, former Commissioner Nasser Marohomsalic and BTC commissioners who travelled all the way from faraway places especially Commissioners Tammang, Fatmawatti Salapuddin, and Pedrieto Eisma.


On the Aquino regime's unilateral termination of peace talks with the NDFP

From the CPP Website (Apr 30): On the Aquino regime's unilateral termination of peace talks with the NDFP

1. The Communist Party of the Philippines decries the Aquino regime’s unilateral termination of the peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Philippine government (GPH). By completely abandoning the path of peace negotiations, the Aquino regime has chosen the path of the “purely military approach” which has repeatedly been proven to be a failed strategy in addressing the raging civil war in the Philippines.
2. It is the general policy of the CPP and the revolutionary forces to engage in principled negotiations with any ruling regime that is willing to work with the NDFP to achieve a just and lasting peace. Despite the Aquino regime’s unilateral termination of peace negotiations, the CPP and the revolutionary forces remain steadfast in its call for the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and GPH with the aim of addressing and resolving the socio-economic roots of the armed conflict.
The CPP and NPA awaits further recommendations of the NDFP Negotiating Panel on the matter of peace negotiations. However, until there is a formal joint termination of the peace talks and unless the Aquino regime makes a formal withdrawal from the signed agreements, the revolutionary forces must continue to assert the validity and binding nature of the previously forged joint documents, including the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the Joint Declaration of The Hague, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and others.
3. Contrary to the media spin of the Aquino regime, the NDFP has never imposed any precondition for the resumption of formal peace negotiations with the GPH. The release of NDFP consultants is an obligation of the GPH under previous agreements, particularly the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). This is a matter of the GPH’s word of honor.
The GPH’s refusal to fulfill its obligation to release the NDFP consultants under the JASIG gives the people no assurance that it will fulfill the obligations it would enter into in the future. The GPH has further refused to undertake the reconstruction of the encrypted list of consultants under JASIG which were stored in computer disks damaged in GPH-supported raid of the NDFP offices in 2007.
4. The NDFP agreed to walk the special track of peace negotiations without precondition. However, in both the December and February round of talks in The Netherlands, Aquino sent representatives who had no authority to sign anything with the special representatives of the NDFP, resulting in failed talks. It further became clear that Malacañang was only interested in setting up a publicity stunt in arranging a meeting between Aquino and NDFP Senior Consultant Jose Ma. Sison in Hanoi, Vietnam with the impossible demand of an indefinite ceasefire and without any clear declaration of principles. On several occasion, Aquino’s representatives insisted on watering-down the proposed joint declaration to nothing but an empty piece of rhetoric trash.
5. The CPP and the entire revolutionary movement rejects the Aquino regime’s plan to hold so-called localized peace talks. The pursuit of “localized peace talks” further show that the Aquino regimes has no intent of addressing the roots of the armed conflict which stem not from local problems but from the policies of the national government and the perpetuation of the Philippine social system marked by a lack of national sovereignty, widespread landlessness, acute unemployment, low wages, deterioration of public health and education and grave poverty and hunger. Not a single unit of the NPA, committee of the CPP or organs of the NDFP will fall for the Aquino regime’s trap of “localized peace talks.” This is an old worn-out “divide-and-rule” tactic that has long been discredited. Only the NDFP Negotiating Panel is authorized to engage the reactionary government in peace negotiations.
6. Malacañang dismisses the ideas being espoused by the NDFP and the revolutionary cause as being “outdated”, particularly its program for national industrialization. In reality, it is the Aquino regime that is holding on to the archaic ideas of “foreign debt and investment driven development” espoused by the IMF since the 1940s and implemented by IMF-WB-loyal governments, including the Aquino regime. Contrary to claims of being “outdated”, the program for national industrialization, in fact, has become increasingly current as the problem of unemployment, underemployment and foreign labor deployment has become acute.
In unilaterally terminating peace negotiations with the NDFP, the GPH has steered away from the debate of “national industrialization” versus “foreign debt and investment driven development” and has resorted to labelling and name calling as a sorry substitute for intellectual argumentation.
7. With the termination of peace negotiations, the Aquino regime and its armed forces is now unencumbered in waging its Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression. In January 2011, the Aquino regime declared that it would have decimated the NPA to inconsequence by mid-2013. Clearly, the Aquino regime’s Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression is set to fail completely. It is succeeding only in carrying out brutal militarization of rural communities, committing more and more violations of human rights and children’s rights and committing sex crimes against women. Aquino’s “peace and human rights” rhetorics are a thin veil that seek only to hide the brutalities and fascist crimes being commited against the people.
The left and right tactical offensives being launched by the NPA from Mindanao to Luzon clearly dispute the declarations of the Aquino regime. Aquino and its armed forces are deluding only themselves when they repeat the lie that the NPA has now been reduced to four to five thousand Red fighters from the supposed peak of 26,000 in 1986. The truth is that the previous peak of NPA strength was at 6,500 around 1986-87. In seizing the initiative and intensifying the people’s war, the NPA is bound to surpass its former peak strength within the term of the Aquino regime.
8. The CPP calls on the Filipino people to reject the Aquino regime’s unilateral termination of peace talks. It urges all peace-loving Filipinos to unite and amplify their call for the resumption of formal peace negotiations on the basis of upholding, respecting and implementing previously signed agreements.

NPA rebels holds policeman in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 30): NPA rebels holds policeman in Southern Philippines

Communist rebels seized a police escort of Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy and confiscated his weapons at a checkpoint in Maco town in the southern Philippines.

Daniel Ibarra, a spokesman for the New People’s Army, said they are holding Senior Police Officer 2 Allan Mariquit Pansoy as a prisoner of war.

He said Uy’s group violated a strict order of the rebel group for politicians to refrain from bringing armed bodyguards during their campaign in so-called guerrilla zones in Mindanao. Uy and other board members who were with him in a convoy were not harmed by rebels.

The NPA said politicians should coordinate and cooperate with rebel forces in areas where the communist group is actively operating.

“The arrest and subsequent detention of Pansoy as prisoner of war and confiscation of firearms should serve as warning to Uy and his party mates that the NPA will target armed candidates to protect the people and defend its territories,” Ibarra said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

 “Before and after the reactionary elections, combat troops of the military and police and paramilitary forces are already legitimate targets and even more so when these combatants enter NPA guerrilla bases and zones. Thus, for candidates to bring these enemies of the people during election time is to jeopardize the safety and security of the peasant masses, he said.

 Ibarra said it is deceptive to say that the military and police serve as innocent escorts when they are the “fascist private armies of politicians.”

 “They intimidate, conduct psychological warfare, and do surveillance against the masses as part of their bootlicking jobs for politicians. Thus, these reactionary forces are not welcome in the countryside, their mere presence serves to intimidate the poor voters and bully the latter to support non-performing politicians,” he said.

 The NPA has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate state in the country.


Gazmin prefers localized talks with communist rebels

From the Business Mirror (Apr 30): Gazmin prefers localized talks with communist rebels

DEFENSE Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Tuesday said the defense department prefers localized peace talks with communist rebels rather than negotiating with the insurgents at the national level.
“That [localized negotiation] is not the stand of the government but that is what we in the defense department have been encouraging the military to do so that they will have peace in their areas of responsibility. In the first place, those [rebel leaders] living in the Netherlands and local leaders here are fighting with each other. So localized peace talks depend on the military commander in the area. For example, if you’re a commander in Tarlac and you want peace in the area, then you talk with the rebel commanders operating in your area of responsibility,” Gazmin said.
Such strategy had long been implemented by the military through the government’s Social Integration Program, which is being implemented by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. One of the features of the SIP is to award cash money to rebels who surrender their firearms. Such rebels are also qualified beneficiaries of the government’s livelihood projects.
The strategy, however, was rejected by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and said it was a mere propaganda by defense and military officials to scuttle the national-level peace negotiations and project an impression that the local units of the NPA are not united.
Last week government chief negotiator Alex Padilla announced that the government will no longer return to the negotiating table with the NDF because the government sees no progress in the peace process.
The NDF is the negotiating arm of the CPP-NPA.
Malacañang said the NPA has resorted to banditry and violence and that the Netherlands-based CPP leaders, headed by Jose Maria Sison, no longer have control over local NPA units.
In a statement, the CPP castigated President Aquino and his officials for allegedly “engaging in the cheapest form of anti-NPA propaganda in the vain effort to justify its failure to seriously engage the revolutionary forces in peace negotiations and coverup its failure to address the socioeconomic problems of the people that are at the root of the raging armed conflict in the Philippines.”
“If the leaders and members of the NPA were driven only by the selfish aim of enriching themselves, they would instead simply join the government and allow themselves to be used by the criminal scalawags posing as politicians, officers of the military and the police, judges and big bureacrats,” said the CPP.
The CPP also laughed off claims by the military that the rebel strength has neared to inconsequential.
“The Aquino administration and its armed forces desperately try to downgrade the current strength of the revolutionary forces by endlessly repeating the lie that the NPA had 25,000 fighters in 1986 and that there are now only 4,000 to 5,000. The fact is that the NPA had only around 6,000 high-powered firearms in 1986-1987. As it continues to seize the initiative and intensify the people’s war, the NPA is set to surpass its previous peak strength in the 1980s within the current presidential term of Mr. Aquino, if it is not cut short by an upheaval of mass protests before 2016,” the CPP said.
NDF talks can proceed at local level—senator
IF peace talks with the NDF cannot advance at the national level, the government may consider pursuing it at the local level, a senator suggested on Tuesday.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate Committee on Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, made the statement in a text message to reporters, when asked about the pronouncement of Padilla that the negotiations are bogged down because of the demands of the NDF leadership.
“If peace talks with the CPP-NPA cannot be achieved in the national level, then we can try it on a local level,” Guingona, whose 78-year-old mother was wounded in an NPA ambush, said.
Responding to the same question, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the government is unlikely to give in to the list of demands set by the NDF leadership as a precondition to pursuing peace talks with the Aquino administration.
Lacson said he was shown the list of the demands last year.
“I couldn’t see how the effort can succeed or even take off. Essentially, it was a not-so-veiled effort to share power with the duly constituted authority and control of our forests and other areas rich in natural resources. In short, they want to share power and control the country’s resources,” he said.
Padilla told the radio station dwIZ on Tuesday that the NDF’s demands include the removal of the Aquino administration’s flagship Conditional-Cash- Transfer (CCT) Program, the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Payapa) Program and the release of all political prisoners, among others.
KMP leader hits Aquino for ending peace talks
A LEADER of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on Monday criticized the Aquino administration for “closing the doors to peace and genuine agrarian reform” for ending the peace talks with the CPP-NDF.
KMP Deputy Secretary-General Randall Echanis, also an NDF consultant and member of the Reciprocal Working Committee on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-Caset), said the decision to end the peace talks show the government’s lack of interest to end the more than four decadeold insurgency problem.
Echanis urged the Aquino administration to return to the negotiating table to pursue the peace talk and work for genuine agrarian reform.
Echanis was reacting to a statement issued by Padilla, chairman of the government panel negotiating with the CPP-NDF, declaring that the government no longer wants to return to formal negotiations.
“We cannot wait forever for the other side if they continually refuse to return to the negotiating table without preconditions. The government will be taking a new approach to pursue peace,” Padilla was quoted as saying in a statement posted on the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process web site.
He said the government is open to a renewal of talks but under a different framework and needs to see sincerity and political will on the part of the CPP-NDF and “an end to the senseless violence they are inflicting on our people especially on innocent civilians.”
Echanis, however, said “the real reason behind Padilla’s statement is the government’s lack of interest on the next substantive agenda on social and economic reforms.”
“It is the government that is not sincere in achieving peace,” he said.
Echanis said the Aquino administration’s refusal to return to the negotiating table is “linked with its lack of interest to discuss genuine land reform and national industrialization to address the root causes of the ongoing civil war.”
He said the release of detained NDF consultants is not a precondition or a confidence-building measure for the resumption of the talks, but an agreement that the government and NDF had entered into and signed in February 2012. He said it is only right that the government complies with such agreement.
“The government is only making hype over the so-called preconditions by the NDF as a convoluted excuse for its incompetence to address the root causes of the civil war,” he said.
Echanis said the government panel and its propaganda mill are turning the table against the NDF when, in fact, it is the one that is not really sincere in achieving peace and genuine agrarian reform.
The KMP called on the Aquino administration to comply with previous agreements entered into by the government and return to the negotiating table with the NDF.
“We strongly call on the Aquino administration to resume peace negotiations with the NDF, start with the substantive agenda on economic reforms to address the centuries-old landlessness of farmers across the country. Only with genuine land reform can peace be achieved,” the KMP leader said. 

Military fails to dismantle NPA checkpoints; rebels seize cop

From the Business Mirror (Apr 29): Military fails to dismantle NPA checkpoints; rebels seize cop

DESPITE the directive of President Aquino to dismantle all New People’s Army (NPA) checkpoints, the military in Mindanao failed to stop the rebels as they abducted on Sunday afternoon a policeman who was acting as security escort of Gov. Arturo Uy in Maco, Compostela Valley.
Compostela Valley is part of the area of jurisdiction of the Army’s 1st Infantry “Tabak” Division led by Brig. Gen. Daniel Lucero. 
Senior Supt. Camilo Cascolan, Compostela Valley police commander, said Senior Police Officer 1 Alan Pansoy was seized at gunpoint in front of Uy and six board members after their convoy was stopped at an NPA checkpoint in Purok 6, Barangay Malamudao.
“The incident happened at around 5 p.m. while the governor’s convoy was heading toward Barangay Anitapan in Mabini town for a political rally, just one of the stopovers of their campaign sortie that day,” Cascolan said.
Investigators are verifying a tip that Uy and his party mates allegedly gave campaign fee to the NPA rebels so they will be allowed to do campaign activities in the towns of Maco, Mabini, Mawab and Pantukan.
Cascolan said two sections of policemen with a platoon of soldiers from the 71st Infantry Battalion were conducting pursuit operations to rescue Pansoy.
Pansoy’s abduction is not new in Compostela Valley as the NPA committed similar incidents in the past weeks. However, all the soldiers, policemen and members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) that the rebels seized were unconditionally released by the rebels.
After NPA rebels almost killed Gingoog City Mayor Ruthie de Lara Guingona, mother of Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III and wife of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., President Aquino ordered the military and police in Mindanao to dismantle NPA checkpoints.
The Guingona ambush resulted in the death of her two close-in bodyguards and injured her policeman security escort.
Because of the incident, Mr. Aquino ordered the relief of Maj. Gen. Nestor Añonuevo as commander of the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division. He was replaced by Brig. Gen. Ricardo Visaya in an acting capacity.
Visaya immediately ordered intensified operations against the rebels.
When asked about the status of Añonuevo who was recalled to the Armed Forces General Headquarters in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City, the Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, said, “There was a reshuffling of players to change our approach in dealing with the challenges in the field.… We are looking for an approach that can be effective. It’s not necessarily just because of a single incident…. Analyzing the ongoing situation, we need a different approach.”
Bautista and Añonuevo both belong to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1981.

Gov't suspects Joma Sison, local Reds not in sync

From ABS-CBN (Apr 30): Gov't suspects Joma Sison, local Reds not in sync

Government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla on Tuesday said talking to the leadership of the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, seems to be of no use.
Padilla, who has already given up hopes that the insurgency will end within the term of President Benigno Aquino III, said he is now favoring a suggestion that the government peace panel employ a new approach to end the decades-long communist insurgency in the Philippines.

The government chief negotiator explained that CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, in December last year, proposed a draft Declaration of National Unity and Just Peace.
Padilla said the draft declaration paved the way for the two panels to employ the "special track" approach in their talks, abandoning the stalled "regular track."

He explained that under the special track, which the CPP-NPA-NDF itself had proposed, the communist leadership would no longer set preconditions in order for the talks to progress.

"We agreed that using the special track was doable," Padilla told radio dzMM.
However, two months after the meeting in Amsterdam, Padilla said Sison backtracked from his original position for a draft declaration.

Padilla said when the government panel met with the NDF leaders in Amsterdam in February, they were surprised by the decision of the other side to abandon the earlier draft in favor of three new documents, which called for the release of captured communist rebels, among others.

He said the government does not want to release the captured rebels since there were instances in the past that the released rebels returned to the hills to resume the armed struggle.

The Netherlands-based communist leaders also demanded that the government abandon its conditional cash transfer (CCT) program under the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the PAMANA (PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn) program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, and the Oplan Bayanihan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"We don't want to go back to the regular track anymore. We have been doing this for years and nothing has happened. We are frustrated because we thought we were making good progress," Padilla said.

Localized peace talks

Padilla suspects the local communist leadership may have not agreed with the proposal of Sison.

"The government panel suspects that the Philippine communist leadership did not agree with the decision of their counterparts in the Netherlands and may have suggested that the latter abandon the plan," he said.

"So my question is: Are we talking to the right people? Or should we just focus on holding talks with local communist leaders? There have been signs that there is a disconnect between the communist leaders here and those in Utrecht (the Netherlands)," he added.

Padilla said the government may instead pursue localized peace talks in an effort to end the world's longest-running Maoist insurgency.

"This might be the answer. We are not closing our doors to all options," he said, adding that the government peace panel wants a "time-bound and agenda-bound" peace talks.

Padilla said under the localized peace talks, the government may enlist the help of local leaders and civil society groups in dealing with communist rebels.

May elections

Padilla also noted that the upcoming May elections may have played a big part in the communist rebels' decision to abandon the special track.

He said the election season is important for the rebels because they are able to rake in millions of pesos by extorting money from candidates.

Major-General Jose Mabanta, commander of one of the country's army divisions, earlier said that cach candidate illegally pays between P50,000 and P5 million to buy protection from the NPA, which the military estimates has 4,000 members.


New commander of Task Force Zamboanga named

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30): New commander of Task Force Zamboanga named

Newly-installed Task Force Zamboanga (TFZ) commander Col. Demy Tejares announced he will strengthen the firearms ban campaign in this southern port city.

Tejares said this as he assumed Monday as the new commander of the task force, the maneuver unit of the military in this city.

Tejares said the law prohibiting the carrying of firearms by unauthorized individuals is already in place and what is needed is its strict implementation.

The military and police authorities have so far accounted almost 400 firearms and six Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in its campaign against loose and unregistered firearms since January in the region.

The campaign, dubbed as "Operation Plan (Oplan) Katok", is a house-to-house campaign aimed to reach gun-owners who failed to renew their firearm license two years and beyond.

Tejares at the same time has encouraged the public to support and cooperate with the law enforcers in the campaign against criminality.

He said the best way to put a stop to criminal activities and lawlessness is through a joint effort of the authorities and the public.

Tejares was installed as the new TFZ commander by Army’s First Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Daniel Lucero in a simple turn-over ceremony held at Camp Gen. Arturo Enrile in this city.

He replaced Col. Glen Macasero, who was recently designated as the new commander of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade based in Marawi City.

He was the deputy commander of the Basilan-based Army’s 104 Infantry Brigade before his assignment as the new TFZ commander.


Army chief to award Davao’s ‘hero’ soldiers

From the Philippine  News Agency (Apr 30): Army chief to award Davao’s ‘hero’ soldiers

Army chief Lt. Gen. Joel Coballes will be visiting the headquarters of a military battalion in Compostela Valley on Wednesday to recognize the act of heroism shown by soldiers who foiled a rebel attack on April 25 in Nabunturan.

According to Major Maria Rosa Manuel, deputy commander of the 10th Civil-Military Operations Battalion, Coballes will be heading to Barangay Cabinuangan, New Bataan, Compostela Valley, the camp of 66th Infantry Battalion, to honor battalion commander Lt. Col. Michael Logico and his men for gallantry.

“He will personally recognize the act of heroism displayed by the troops of 66th IB in the recent encounter with NPAs in Nabunturan,” Manuel said in a text message.

She said a rebel died on the spot during the encounter while another expired at the hospital while undergoing treatment for three days.

The troops also recovered six high-powered firearms (five M16 Armalite rifles and one M14 assault rifle), she said.


Soldiers thwart NPA plan to extort from Catanduanes gubernatorial bet

From InterAksyon (Apr 30): Soldiers thwart NPA plan to extort from Catanduanes gubernatorial bet

Soldiers foiled Tuesday a plan by at least 10 communist rebels to set up a checkpoint and exact campaign fees from a gubernatorial bet in Catanduanes province.

The soldiers were deployed Tuesday as New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were spotted about to set up the checkpoint near where the convoy of gubernatorial candidate Joseph Cua was to pass.

The soldiers and the rebels engaged in a firefight at 9:45 a.m. in Barangay Hilaw-an, San Andres, Catanduanes, according to Maj. Angelo Guzman, spokesman of the 9th Infantry Division. He cited a report by Lt. Col. Bernardo Fortez, commanding officer of the 83rd Infantry Battalion, that the commander of the 91st Division Reconnaissance Company sent 2Lt. Jaison Alabado and his men to the area after they received information on the rebel sighting.

Fortez said, “Our troops encountered the rebels at the hillsides. Our soldiers said the rebels were preparing to set up a checkpoint intended for the convoy of gubernatorial candidate Joseph Cua.”

He said the 10-minute firefight resulted in the wounding of Private First Class Christopher B. Briguela below the right knee, Fortez said.

Soldiers recovered an M16 rifle with magazine and a backpack containing subversive documents during pursuit operations.

Briguela is being treated at the Juan M. Alberto Memorial District Hospital in San Andres town.
Cua was campaigning in the area with a relative, Peter Cua, who is running for mayor in San Andres town. Fortez said the rebels were led by Jimboy Lucero alias Ka Jason, whose group was in charge of collecting campaign fees from poll bets. Fortez said Lucero “was also known as the rebel leader who terrorized residents of Barangay San Vicente, San Andres three weeks ago by telling residents that he is going to kill someone among them if barangay officials would not provide them with logistical support.”


NPA: We detained Palawan mayoral bet for lack of campaign access permit

From InterAksyon (Apr 30): NPA: We detained Palawan mayoral bet for lack of campaign access permit

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines – Members of the New People’s Army have admitted accosting Sunday the convoy of mayoral candidate Rodolfo Cayaon of Roxas town in Northern Palawan, and confiscating campaign materials for not obtaining a campaign access permit.

In a press statement, a certain Ka Arnel, spokesperson of the Bienvenido Valleber Command of the Palawan NPA, said they had to reprimand Cayaon for “violating the rules of the movement.”

The rebels also seized sacks of medicines to be distributed by Cayaon and held him for two hours.

The “operation” was witnessed by almost a hundred residents of Bgy. Bagong Bayan. “Isa lamang itong patunay na seryoso ang NPA sa pagpapatupad ng mga patakarang itinakda ng [This is just a manifestatiuon of the NPA’s seriousness in enforcing the rules set by the] NPA Command,” the statement added.

The incident comes on the heels of a word war between Palace officials and communist rebels on the government’s directive to all candidates to ignore demands of NPAs for permit-to-campaign fees.

The Palawan Provincial Police Office has since deployed additional forces in the area and is coordinating with the AFP Western Command for assistance.

PNP Palawan Spokesperson Manel Lamban-Marzo appealed to local candidates to coordinate with their local police stations to avoid a recurrence of the Cayaon case.
"That’s why we keep appealing to candidates to work with us, especially when they campaign in remote areas. We need to ensure their security as well as those of the people who wish to listen to their campaign,” Lamban- Marzo said.

She said the PNP, Wescom and the Comelec in the province are still validating the areas of concern in the province.

According to the AFP Western Command, they are validating 16 cases of harassment from the rebel group in line with their campaign access permit drive.


'Apolitical' MILF opens Camp Darapanan to candidates - Murad

From InterAksyon (Apr 30): 'Apolitical' MILF opens Camp Darapanan to candidates - Murad

CAMP DARAPANAN, Maguindanao - Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad has declared its main enclave Camp Darapanan and near environs open to political candidates, who are required to coordinate properly with the MILF hierarchy.

Murad affirmed this Monday following queries from newsmen regarding the political streamers and posters all around the camp.

“The MILF organization is maintaining its stance of non-involvement in the ongoing electoral process but we are not preventing our people to participate in the exercise,” Murad said.

He stressed that only MILF leaders and officers are strictly ordered not to participate in any activity for the forthcoming May 13 midterm polls.

Murad added the display of political streamers and posters inside the camp is not a violation of their policy as that many national and local candidates are coming to them nowadays.

“We allow them (candidates) to talk to our people,” he said.


Monday, April 29, 2013

UN-World Bank-MILF launch 3-year program to prepare for Bangsamoro governance

From MindaNews (Apr 29): UN-World Bank-MILF launch 3-year program to prepare for Bangsamoro governance

The United Nations and World Bank launched Monday in partnership with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) a three-year program that would provide on-demand technical assistance in the run-up to the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao by June 30, 2016.

Launched at the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, the Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities (FASTRAC), will provide “on-demand advisory services and access to the most relevant national and international expertise to contribute and help move forward with the peace process especially in the drafting of the Basic Law that will reflect the Bangsamoro people’s aspirations for genuine autonomy while establishing the basis for efficient and accountable government,” UN Resident Director Luiza Carvalho said.

FASTRAC will begin operations next week, Carvalho told a press conference after the launch.

World Bank Country Director Motoo Konishi , represented in the launching by Ousmane Dione, Sector Manager on Sustainable Development, said the UN and World Bank combined forces to provide access to national and international expertise in support of the transition, and support the Transition Commission (TransCom), the government (GPH) and MILF peace panels, civil society groups and others to promote an inclusive peace process.

Dione said FASTRAC will also provide the TransCom and other transitional institutions with resources to support “broad-based consultations and community outreach” to ensure that “the full range of voices in the Bangsamoro can be heard as the GPH and the MILF undertake the crucial, challenging and historic work that lies ahead to form the Bangsamoro.”

The establishment of FASTRAC came after a series of consultations with the MILF and the GPH by the two international agencies. On March 25, the UN and World Bank formally offered to the MILF in a letter dated March 25, the facility that would “primarily service the technical needs of the MILF, and where requested, the Government of the Philippines panel and Transition Commission and its technical working groups to avail of the best national and international expertise.”

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim accepted the offer in a letter dated April 5.
A ceremonial exchange of letters was made to launch FASTRAC.

EXCHANGE OF LETTERS. Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Luiza Carvalho, resident coordinator of United Nations and Ousmane Dione of World Bank in a ceremonial exchange of letters to launch the Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities (FASTRAC) on April 29, 2013 at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao. Mindanews photo by Toto Lozano

EXCHANGE OF LETTERS. Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Luiza Carvalho, resident coordinator of United Nations and Ousmane Dione of World Bank in a ceremonial exchange of letters to launch the Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities (FASTRAC) on April 29, 2013 at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao. Mindanews photo by Toto Lozano


Murad said it was “exhilarating” to sit with officials of “two of the most iconic symbols of modern man’s quest for global peace and sustainable development.”
He spoke of how the two agencies had helped the Bangsamoro communities in the past, responding to “emergencies such as internal displacements, human rights violations, crops destruction” and working on poverty alleviation.

“Today I am extremely happy to sit here and I emphasize, to sit here not alone, but in partnership with you not only to respond to emergencies but more importantly to link and to fulfill together the visions for which our respective organizations had been founded: global peace for the UN; peace in our homeland for the MILF; reconstruction, sustainable development and poverty alleviation for the world bank , reconstruction and development and prosperity in our homeland for the MILF,” Murad said.

He said he expressed hope that the partnership will “hasten our quest for the successful conclusion of the peace process and help us transition smoothly into Bangsamoro.”

A mujahideen stands guard along the road leading to Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao in this photo taken on April 29, 2013. Camp Darapanan is the main camp of Moro Islamic Liberation Front.Mindanews photo by Toto Lozano

A mujahideen stands guard along the road leading to Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao in this photo taken on April 29, 2013. Camp Darapanan is the main camp of Moro Islamic Liberation Front.Mindanews photo by Toto Lozano


But Murad explained at the launch that while the “transition to Bangsamoro” requires partnership and assistance from the global community, these “must be founded on mutual respect and the recognition of the primacy of our assertion of our right to self determination.”

“The overriding principle must be translated into all our engagements and the mechanism for its implementation . While we seek global expertise and knowledge, we must take the lead in determining what we need and how we want these needs addressed and how these needs should be addressed, for certainly none is more knowledgeable of the challenges we face except ourselves and none is more critical in resolving these challenges than ourselves,” he said.

Murad stressed that part of their right to self determination “is the assertion on our part and the corresponding recognition from our partners that we need to own these interventions and the process. Inclusivity and ownership must come together,” adding that the Paris Principle or the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness is unequivocal on this concept of ownership. “And rightly so, for no intervention can be effective without the recipient owning it and taking initiative and leading the process.”

P287-M for technical assistance

According to the FASTRAC’s press statement, budget for the three-year project is approximately USD 7 million (around PhP 287 million) which will be initially financed through the UN Peace-Building Fund and the World Bank State and Peace Building Fund. Development partners will also be invited to contribute funds and expertise.

A Consultative Committee headed by the Transition Commission (TransCom) chair will provide overall guidance to the Cotabato City-based FASTRAC but day to day management will be under an Executive Director who has yet to be named.

The government will be represented in the Consultative Committee by a member of the government peace panel or the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Using a spade, children dig a hole for their planting material inside a farm in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao on April 29, 2013.

Using a spade, children dig a hole for their planting material inside a farm in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao on April 29, 2013. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano
The TransCom is a 15-member body tasked principally to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law. It is composed of eight members from the MILF and seven from the GPH and is headed by MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal.

It held its first meeting on April 3 in Pasig City and will meet again on Tuesday and Wednesday (April 30 and May 1) in Cotabato City, where it will be based.

The TransCom will have Prof. Yash Ghai, chair of the Fiji Constitution Commission, as speaker on April 30.

On May 1, the TransCom will finish crafting its internal rules, Iqbal told MindaNews.
The GPH and MILF peace panels signed on October 15, 2012 the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The panels agreed then to finish the four annexes – wealth-sharing, power-sharing, normalization and transitional arrangements and modalities — by yearend 2012.

Only the transition annex has been completed. It was signed in February. The three other annexes have yet to be finalized.

The panels will resume talks after the May 13 elections.


MILF chair to candidates: “you can come and talk to our people”

From MindaNews (Apr 29): MILF chair to candidates: “you can come and talk to our people”

The chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said candidates running for elective posts on May 13 “can come and talk to our people” but the MILF stand has not changed: “we will not participate … but we will not prevent people to participate.”

“If they want to vote, they can vote,” MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told a press conference at the launching Monday noon of the Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities (FASTRAC), a three-year program in partnership with the United Nations and the World Bank.

Along the three-kilometer stretch from the highway to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s main gate, posters of candidates lined the roadside, many of them posted on coconut trunks.

There were no posters of national candidates (for senators), just regional (for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM) and local (for Maguindanao).

Most of the posters were from the team of Datu Tucao Mastura and Ali Midtimbang, candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) for governor and vice governor of Maguindanao, and Mastura’s nephew, Vice Governor Ismael Mastura who is now running for ARMM Assemblyman.
The elder Mastura is mayor of Sultan Kudarat town where the MILF camp is based, Midtimbang is former Talayan mayor.

Mayor Mastura is a brother of MILF senior peace panel member Michael Mastura, father of Ismael.

Posters of ARMM gubernatorial bet Pax Mangudadatu and his running mate Bashier Dimalaang Manalao were also visible.

Mangudadatu, former governor of Sultan Kudarat province, is an uncle of incumbent Maguindanao governor Esmael Mangudadatu of the Liberal Party while Manalao is former governor of Lanao del Sur.

Mastura-Midtimbang posters dominate on the road to the MILF's Camp Darapanan. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
A few posters of the first district congressional candidates – reelectionist Bai Sandra Sema (Liberal Party) and Baisendig Dilangalen (Ind), were also seen. Russman Sinsuat, Jr. who is running for provincial board member under the Liberal Party also had some campaign materials.

There were no posters of reelectionist governor Mangudadatu and the ruling party’s candidate for ARMM governor, Mujiv Hataman and his running mate, Al-rashid Lucman although Hataman has reportedly been endorsed by both Mastura and Esmael Mangudadatu.

Both candidates for Maguindanao governor have repeatedly committed their support to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro which the government and MILF peace panels signed on October 15, 2012.

“The MILF has not changed its official policy of non-involvement in the ongoing electoral process,” Murad said, adding this has been “the policy of the MILF since the very beginning.”

“We will not participate in the electoral process but then we will not also prevent the people to participate.”

Murad clarified that ‘it is only the MILF officials who are prevented from participating (in the elections).

“Now at this point in time you’d notice that when you enter Camp Darapanan, you will notice there are so many posters of candidates (along) the route. This is not a violation of the policy. We do not see it as a violation of the policy. We do not see also as a violation of the policy for candidates to come and talk to our people because as I have said, we are not preventing them. If they want to vote, they can vote. Only some officers are prevented from voting,” Murad said.

He acknowledged that there are candidates “coming to Darapanan to talk to our people” but did not name them. But he reiterated that the MILF’s policy on the elections has not changed. “The policy remains as is,” he said.

When a reporter asked if it is true that the MILF would hold a “proclamation rally” in Shariff Aguak town on May 5, allegedly to announce the candidates they would support, Murad replied there is no such rally.

“That is not true. There is no proclamation rally of the MILF because we are not participating in the elections. So there is no truth to the information that there will be a proclamation rally on May 5. We are not a party to that. The MILF is not a party to that,” he said .

Asked if there was an MILF activity in Shariff Aguak on May 5, Murad replied their provincial committee may have “but it is not related to the political exercise.”


CPP denounces AFP's claims of NPA election extortion

From the CPP Website (Apr 29): CPP denounces AFP's claims of NPA election extortion

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today denounced the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for its “perverted propaganda” that the New People’s Army (NPA) is extorting money from election candidates asserting that “there is no such policy as requiring payments for the privilege to campaign within the areas of jurisdiction of the people’s democratic government.”

The other day, Major General Jose Mabanta, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division operating in the Negros and Panay islands, asserted that “half of all political contenders” in his area are “buying protection from the NPA.”

“The overriding aim of the policies of the people’s democratic government with regard the reactionary elections is to regulate the conduct of the election campaign within areas of its jurisdiction in order to ensure that the rights and welfare of the masses are not trampled upon,” pointed out the CPP. " All candidates in the reactionary elections who wish to conduct their campaigns within the areas of the people’s government must abide by these policies."

The CPP said “the enforcement by the NPA of the policies of the people’s democratic government is not for sale.”

“On their own volition, a great majority of candidates participating in the reactionary elections seek audiences with the revolutionary authorities in order to forge possible areas of cooperation and coordinate their activities.”

“The revolutionary forces encourage the election candidates to support the struggle of the masses for land reform, carry out programs that benefit the people, oppose rural militarization and raise the patriotic banner against foreign domination and intervention.”

“The coordination and cooperation between the election candidates and the organs of the people’s democratic government are carried out in the most part without any element of coercion and stem largely out of a recognition of the latter’s political and government authority.”

“The CPP has repeatedly made clear its policy that the NPA does not participate directly or indirectly in the reactionary elections. All candidates who cooperate and coordinate with the revolutionary authorities are accorded with equal opportunities to campaign within the areas of jurisdiction of the people’s government.”

“Their political activities within the areas under the authority of the people’s government are coordinated in order to prevent the overlapping of schedules, ensure peace and order and the rights and welfare of the people.”

“However, armed political scalawags who refuse to abide by the policies and coordinate with the revolutionary authorities are subjects of the armed enforcement of the NPA,” pointed out the CPP. “Typically they are those who connive with the AFP in its war of suppression against the people, are in cahoots with the illegal drug trade and other criminal syndicates, have plundered and ravaged the environment and have engaged in the oppressed and exploited the people.”

“In contrast to the policy of the NPA and despite prohibition under its own laws, the AFP actively participates in the reactionary elections, using its armed might to intimidate the people against supporting candidates whom they have branded as ‘enemies of the people’ and ‘NPA sympathizers’.”