Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Slain Philippine officers linked to gambling war

From the Manila Times (Jan 9): Slain Philippine officers linked to gambling war

Five people killed in a battle with Philippine security forces were policemen and soldiers, authorities said on Tuesday as they looked into claims the violence was part of an illegal gambling turf war. The official police report following the shootings in a town about 170 kilometres (105 miles) south of Manila on Sunday said security forces tried to stop armed members of a criminal gang at a road block, setting off a battle. Thirteen "gang members" were killed, according to the initial account.

However national police chief spokesman Generoso Cerbo said on Tuesday that Senior Superintendent Alfredo Consemino, a top policemen in a town near where the shootings occurred, and two of his aides were among those killed. Armed forces spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos also confirmed two of the others shot dead were an air force lieutenant and a sergeant. Another of the 13 killed was Victorino Atienza, who operated a highly lucrative illegal gambling operation called "jueteng". Media reports said that slain policeman Consemino was the gambling lord's business partner. They also alleged that the police officer who led the team that manned the roadblock may have been working with a rival jueteng operator, and that the killings were part of a turf battle.

Cerbo, the national police spokesman, said those allegations would be investigated. "The investigation will try to find out why these police personnel were in the company of an alleged gambling operator," Cerbo said, adding authorities would also probe claims the 13 were executed and not killed in a shootout. "The official police report of our personnel on the ground said it was a shoot-out between the elements of a private armed group and the police and the military," Cerbo said. "But with this allegation of a 'rub out' (slang for execution) we have decided to create a fact finding team to get to the bottom of this incident."

Jueteng is an illegal lottery known to generate millions of dollars that are often used to finance campaigns by corrupt local politicians. Then president Joseph Estrada was forced from power in 2001 by mass street protested triggered by allegations he received millions of dollars in kickbacks from jueteng operators. Corruption has long been a major problem in the Philippines, including in the police and armed forces. President Benigno Aquino, who came to office in 2010, has said fighting graft through all sectors of society is his administration's top priority.

Govt allays fear over US drone

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 9): Govt allays fear over US drone

Malacanang on Tuesday asked militant groups to hold off calls for a Senate probe on the United States drone recovered off Masbate on Sunday, saying it was still “premature” as the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission has already been tasked to look into the incident. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda advised critics to wait until all the details surrounding the recovered drone have been established. “We’re having that verified, once we get verification, we’ll let (the public) know,” Lacierda said.

United States Embassy spokesperson Bettina Malone had said that the device, which she identified as an expended BQM-74E Aerial Target drone, was used in a military exercise in Guam. She added that the drone was launched from the USS Chafee (DDG 90) during the exercise Valiant Shield 2012 on Sept. 19 off the coast of Guam. “It appears that ocean currents brought the drone to where it washed ashore last week off Masbate Island,” Malone said. Her statement was confirmed by the Naval Forces Southern Luzon, which now has custody of the drone.

“Its orange color and US Navy logo suggests that it is used primarily to simulate enemy missiles and aircraft during exercises. Our initial assessment is that the aerial target drone was used in a military exercise outside the Philippine territorial waters somewhere in the Pacific. Due to strong currents and weather disturbances that frequent the Pacific, the aerial target drone was possibly washed adrift into our territorial waters,” its statement said. The Valiant Shield 2012 is held every two years since 2006 and focuses on the cooperation among US military branches.

Capt. Rommel Jason Galang, the deputy commander of the Naval Forces Southern Luzon, confirmed that the US-made Unmanned Aerial Vehicle found by a diver was a model BQM-74E Chukar III. Galang said it had a length of 12 feet and 11 inches, a wingspan of 5 feet and 9 inches, and a height of 2 feet and 4 inches.

On Monday, the Foreign Affairs Department said that they are closely coordinating on the matter with the National Defense as well as concerned US Embassy officials. “We would like to assure the public that every effort is being taken to address this issue. At this point, we have been assured by the US embassy that the aerial vehicle is by design and purpose solely used for target practice and not armed or used for surveillance,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said.He added that they had already instructed VFACom executive officer Edilberto Adan to “look into the matter and file a full report.” Hernandez said US presence and activities in the country “is governed by the VFA between the Philippines and the US” and added that the matter will be dealt with in accordance with the treaty obligations contained in this agreement.”

Militant groups Bayan Muna, ACT Teaches Partylist and fisherfolk Pamalakaya or Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusan Ng Pilipinas had demanded an explanation from Malacanang and called on both the House and the Senate to conduct a probe on the incident. The militant groups said the presence of the drones may have violated Philippine sovereignty.

Bayan Muna secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said that there were “no clear guidelines on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in Philippine territory.” “It appears that the US government has been using the VFA to gain unrestricted movement in Philippine airspace,” Reyes said.

“MalacaƱang owes the public a full explanation regarding the presence of this US Navy drone in the municipal waters of Masbate,” said ACT Teachers Rep. Antonino Tinio said. “Has there been a violation of our sovereignty?” Tinio asked. “Aside from constitutional and legal questions, could the drone have posed a threat to public safety?”

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino, meanwhile, said that Malacanang needs to answer pertinent questions on the presence of the drone in Masbate such as: “Who gave the clearances for such an operation? What is the legal basis if indeed clearance was given? Casino asked. “If no clearance was obtained, will the Philippine government file a protest?” “The answers to these questions are of paramount importance and have to be provided at once lest a cover up is being done,” he said.

Pamalakaya, meanwhile, said that aside from sovereignty issue, the incident could threaten the lives of small fishermen in the area, and called on Congress to start a probe on the incident. “The Senate President and the Speaker of the House should table this highly explosive matter at the August hall of Congress. We will not take no for an answer,” Pamalakaya-Masbate said. Pamalakaya vice-chairperson Salvador France said that the drone may have been used for counter-insurgency. “Whether they deny it or not, the US drone spy gadget is meant to monitor the New People’s Army in the island province of Masbate and nearby provinces connected by Visayan Sea like Samar, Leyte, Bohol and Cebu. It is counter-insurgency under the US-drafted Oplan Bayanihan.”

Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the foreign relations committee, said that the presence of the drone in Philippine waters “raises a serious concern of national security,” while noting that the VFA with the US allows only for “specific joint exercises.”

But military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. dismissed accusations that the US government was violating the country’s sovereignty. “This (drone) was never used here in the country, within the Philippine territory for our exercises with the US. This was probably used somewhere in the Pacific during an exercise and it just drifted within our territory,” he said.

China fueling tension — Philippines

Manila Standard Today (Jan 10): China fueling tension — Philippines

Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said China should explain its deployment of a patrol ship in the potentially oil-rich portions of the West Philippine Sea, saying the move only heightened tensions in the disputed waters. “Yes, we think this is a bothersome. We are asking for clarification, on what it is exactly they are trying to do there,” he told reporters at Wednesday’s luncheon meeting. According to Del Rosario, Chinese diplomats have said Beijing will only assert its claims, including intercepting foreign ships, in the southernmost province of Hainan.

Meanwhile, territorial rifts would be discussed with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in their meeting today along with Japan’s planned donation of 10 patrol boats for coastal operations. “Japan is an important strategic partner,” he said. Last year, chancery head Minister Shinsuke Shimizu announced the donation of vessels to the Coast Guard by 2014.

Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said the Philippine Navy was studying plans to arm with missiles and other weapons two refurbished Hamilton-class cutters acquired from the United States. He said Secretary Voltaire Gazmin took up with President Benigno Aquino III ways to maximize the use of the vessels. “I was there (in the meeting). We discussed the present capability of BRP Gregorio del Pila) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (on) what we’re going to do to increase its capability,” he said.
“We will use our cutters to secure our Malampaya (gas project off Palawan) and other service contract areas of the Department of Energy.”

Aside from the three Chinese vessels anchored around the Scarborough Shoal, China has established the Sansha City to administer the Spratlys, Paracel, and Macclesfield islands of the sea, with overlapping claims also by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

In reference to Sansha City, Del Rosario said that no country can establish “an administrative over something [that is] not recognized by international law” or an agreement. “Of course we have protested that because we believe, that is creating tension,” he said. Five months after the establishment, Hainan province with jurisdiction over Sansha, a local law, effective last Jan. 1, was enforced to allow Chinese police. “We are trying to see the necessary clarification here,” Del Rosario said.

CPP/NDF: NDF slams vilification against Duterte, intrigues by AFP vs independent typhoon donors

From the CPP Website (Jan 9): NDF slams vilification against Duterte, intrigues by AFP vs independent typhoon donors

Rubi Del Mundo
NDF Southern Mindanao Chapter

The Eastern Mindanao Command-AFP is behind the aspersions cast against Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for donating private funds to the victims of Typhoon Pablo in an NPA camp that he visited last December 26 during the 44th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The fascist generals and the military intelligence community are vilifying Duterte for making an independent, sincere help to Pablo victims in the revolutionary territories of the People’s Democratic Government in Southern Mindanao. These warmongering agents in the US-Aquino regime sow the intrigue of revolutionary taxation to malign Duterte, undermine his politics, and indirectly warn other individuals that they would suffer the same intrigue-sowing and defamation should they relate with the revolutionary forces or with the New People’s Army.

It is patent that the fascist AFP has exploited the December 4 tragedy as an opportune time to breast-beat its Oplan Bayanihan mantra with the conscious centralization of relief operations. To cover-up its obvious role in the environmental destruction, it wants to project itself as heroes and custodian of all relief activities. Thus, it sows intrigue to politicians, individuals and organizations that make independent effort to respond to needs of the people. It cannot tolerate other sectors or individuals who make their own initiative to help the victims.

The People’s Democratic Government has issued a directive to all its departments and coordinated with Red fighters and people’s militia in the methodical distribution of food supplies, carpentry and building of damaged houses, clearing of devastated farmlands, putting up of mobile health clinics and psychotherapy, conduct of feeding program for children and elderly, building of schools and daycare centers, and putting up of seedlings nurseries for reforestation. Thus, the NDF seeks the active support of individuals, politicians and institutions that wish to pitch in and help in the people’s campaign to regain lands, jobs and livelihood.

To counter this, the AFP wants to make legitimate its Oplan Bayanihan operations — by monopolizing and leading the US-Aquino regime’s relief drive on the one hand, and military build-up in other areas in the region, on the other hand, in direct violation to the ongoing ceasefire between the GPH and the NDFP. While they portray themselves as heroes in Pablo-affected areas, the AFP has not veered away from its combat-intelligence offensive posturing, especially in the East Coast (Davao Oriental side and Comval boundaries) where they hold checkpoints and regularly conduct operations.

The US-Aquino regime has already deployed four brigades under two Army divisions in the region, and has sustained intensive military operations even as the masses, revolutionary forces are facing the impact of Pablo. With MILF out of the way, the 602nd Bde-6th ID-AFP has redirected two of its battalions against the NPA in North Cotabato and Davao del Sur. The AFP has positioned Oplan Bayanihan as one big rescue effort for Pablo, while at the same time, intensified its non-Pablo deployed troops and Special Operation Teams in Davao and other parts of the region. Worse, the AFP is poised to pave the way for US military intervention in Southern Mindanao, especially in identified guerilla territories. US troops are about to enter Baganga town.

Rodrigo Duterte should not be deflected by this obvious AFP bullying and must continue with his pro-people stance. Other well-intentioned individuals should not be intimidated with the US-Aquino regime’s red scare tactics and denigration. Millions of farmers, workers, Lumads, women, children and elderly in the affected areas badly need help. And genuine help cannot be had in the current government.

DND to equip two US-made cutters with missiles

From the Business Mirror (Jan 9): DND to equip two US-made cutters with missiles

THE Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday said a study is under way to arm with missiles and other sophisticated weapons the two decommissioned US Coast Guard Hamilton-class cutters that were acquired weaponless by the Navy. Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said the plan was discussed by DND officials, led by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, with President Aquino. “I was there [in the meeting]. We discussed about the present capability of the two weather high-endurance cutters, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar [PF15] and BRP Ramon Alcaraz [PF16]. We discussed with the President what we’re going to do to increase their capability in terms of weaponry,” Manalo said.

He said the discussion was anchored on how to maximize the two cutters to effectively patrol and defend from intruders the Malampaya Gas Project off Palawan, as well as sovereignty patrols on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) where the disputed Spratly Islands are located. The Spratlys Islands is composed of islets and two reefs. The Municipality of Kalayaan has a population of less than 500 and its town center is on Pagasa Island. It is under the leadership of Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon. “We will use the cutters to secure our Malampaya and other service contract areas of the Department of Energy. We updated the President on the status of PF15 and PF16 and how to increase their capability,” Manalo said.
The PF15 was commissioned in December 2011 and figured in March last year when its sailors boarded several Chinese fishing boats caught illegally gathering marine resources on Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) off Masinloc, Zambales. The interception led to a standoff with China. The PF16 was still being refurbished in the US and is expected to arrive in the country in March for commissioning. During the discussion, Manalo said the President agreed to a proposal to increase the capability of the cutters with “due diligence.” “Malaki naman iyong barko so nandoon ang opportunity na lagyan din natin ng mga equipment o magdadagdag ng capability but kinakailangan niyan is merong due diligence. Pinapag-aralan natin kung puwede ba nating lagyan ng surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missile systems,” said Manalo. The more than four-decades-old cutters were bought for more than P450 million each and part of the modernization program for the Navy.

No soldiers sacked yet as military probes Quezon killings

From Rappler (Jan 9): No soldiers sacked yet as military probes Quezon killings

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has not relieved any of the Army soldiers who were at the checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon, the site of an alleged shootout on January 6 that killed 13. On Wednesday, January 9, Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas announced that the Philippine National Police (PNP) relieved the police officials manning the same checkpoint, but Southern Luzon Command spokesperson Col Generoso Bolina told Rappler that the military has yet to sack any of the 25 Army troops who were also there. "No one has been relieved. But we are conducting a fact-finding particularly on the shootout," Bolina said in Filipino. The Solcom chief is Lt Gen Allan Luga. He said the results of their probe will determine what administrative actions the AFP will take, if any, against the soldiers.

This, after the police sacked by the PNP were found to have committed violations during the operation. Other enlisted personnel who were there during the shooting have also been put under restrictive custody at the PNP regional headquarters in Camp Vicente Lim, Laguna.
Bolina said there has been no such order for their army personnel, although it may change pending the fact-finding report. "No restrictions to the troops so far, since their presence was legitimate in the site and it is confirmed that the PNP requested their support," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

On Sunday, January 6, at least 13 alleged members of a criminal gang involved in illegal activities were killed by the police and the military in what was initially said to be a shootout. Accusations of a rubout has since emerged, triggering a directive by Aquino to fully probe the incident.


Unlike the 15 intelligence operatives of the PNP who were at the checkpoint in civilian clothing -- another procedural violation according to PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima -- the roughly 25 soldiers present wore their camouflage uniform. Bolina defended the presence of the military at the checkpoint, saying they had merely followed the PNP's legitimate request for manpower -- the same way the PNP is mandated to grant legitimate requests by the AFP. The motive of setting up the checkpoint, he said, was not theirs, but the PNP's responsibility.

The fact-finding that the AFP is conducting, Bolina added, is its own and not for submission to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which has been appointed by President Benigno Aquino III as the sole agency to investigate the incident. Instead, he said the fact-finding will focus on why Staff Sgt Armando Aranda Lescano was in the vehicle with the alleged criminal gang, and what exactly happened at the checkpoint.Bolina admitted that they have received initial findings from their own probe, but refused to share details until the full report is ready.

Military firearms

During Roxas' announcement, he also shared initial findings by the PNP on the incident.
Roxas said that of the two vehicles carrying the 13 men, the first had 186 bullet holes, while the second had 50. He added that most of the bullet holes were from an M-16 gun. Bolina confirmed that the platoon present carried M-16 guns, but added that it is also a firearm used by the police. Roxas said the PNP will submit its findings to the NBI by Friday, January 11.

Drone 'not missing' - US Navy

From Rappler (Jan 9): Drone 'not missing' - US Navy

NOT DANGEROUS. The US Navy says the drone that washed up in Masbate was 'not dangerous' to the population. Photo courtesy of Naval Forces Southern Luzon

NOT DANGEROUS. The US Navy says the drone that washed up in Masbate was 'not dangerous' to the population. Photo courtesy of Naval Forces Southern Luzon

The US drone found off Masbate on Sunday was not armed or used for surveillance and was not even considered missing when it washed up in the Philippines, the US Navy said on Wednesday, January 9. "[The drone] is not dangerous and was not armed," stressed Cmdr. Ron Steiner, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet. Steiner told Rappler that they did not inform the Philippine authorities about the lost device because "it was not considered missing." Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) like the one found off Masbate "are not always recovered, but the Navy makes every effort to retrieve [these drones] when possible," the Navy officer explained. Steiner was not able to confirm if the US Navy has asked for the Philippine military to return the drone.

The US Embassy in Manila said on Tuesday that the UAV was launched on Sept 19, 2012 from Guam during exercise Valiant Shield, a drill in which drones like this are used as targets for fighter jets. The drone is now in the custody of the Philippine Navy at the Naval Forces Southern Luzon headquarters in Legaspi, where the device was transported after being checked by a bomb squad in Masbate.

Several partylist groups called on Tuesday for a Senate probe into the incident and accused the United States of violating Philippine territorial sovereignty under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). However, neither the government nor the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has questioned the official explanation for the incident submitted by the US Embassy. Asked about the issue during a DFA-sponsored lunch, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario clarified he did not accept the US statement "at face value" while local authorities are still investigating the incident.

Del Rosario however reminded the public that the device only washed up on national territory after almost four months and did not penetrate Philippine airspace. "If it did not fly over Philippine territory, I don't think that in that specific case there should be any specific sovereignty issues," he said.

ADRIFT AT SEA. Military officials believe the drone was 'long adrift at sea due to the presence of barnacles’ growth on its fuselage.' Photo courtesy of Naval Forces Southern Luzon

ADRIFT AT SEA. Military officials believe the drone was 'long adrift at sea due to the presence of barnacles’ growth on its fuselage.' Photo courtesy of Naval Forces Southern Luzon

'Long adrift' at sea

The drone -- a model BQM-74E Chukar III manufactured by US-based Northrup Grumman Corporation-- is 3.93 m long and 71 cm high with a wingspan of 1.75 m, and is normally used in reconaissance missions by the US military although it is technically capable of delivering payloads and conducting surveillance operations. Naval Forces Southern Luzon spokesman Capt. Rommel Galang said on Tuesday that the presence of barnacle growth on fuselage of the orange-colored device suggested it had been been "long adrift" at sea before reaching the Philippines.

Galang added that the drone "was assessed to be safe for transport but not recommended for dismantling due to lack of technical expertise to do this," and clarified that it had the initials "USA" -- not "USAID" as previously reported -- painted on it. The US has been training the Philippine military to use these drones against Muslim rebels in Mindanao, according to various US and Philippine officials.

President Benigno Aquino III confirmed last year that the Philippines has been allowing US drones to overfly its territory for reconnaissance flights, but were not allowed to make strikes. Rappler reported in March that US smart bombs delivered by a different model Scan Eagle UAV were used for the first time on Philippine territory in a February 2 attack on Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists. The raid was the result of 15 months of training and technology transfer from the United States to Filipino forces under a new aid program for counterterrorism efforts approved in 2010.

As it discusses China with Japan, Philippines wants to rearm battleships with missiles

From InterAksyon (Jan 9): As it discusses China with Japan, Philippines wants to rearm battleships with missiles

Amid Philippine concerns over "aggressive" Chinese claims over parts of the contested West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday announced that the country would discuss the matter with Japan, which has its own territorial disputes with China.  Aside from talking with Japan Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida about the sea row with China, Philippine leaders will also discuss with the Japanese official the 10 coastal boats that will be donated by Japan to the Philippines to help enhance the latter's capability to monitor its coastal seas, according to DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario.

As this developed, the Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday announced that a study was underway to rearm with missiles and other sophisticated weapons two former Coast Guard Hamilton-class cutters of the United States that were acquired weaponless by the Philippine Navy. “Japan is an important strategic partner, we have two strategic partners, one of them of course is Japan. And we’re very happy to be able to have this opportunity to broaden deepen and enhance our relationship,” Del Rosario said. “We are looking forward to this discussion that we will have which would be very comprehensive in nature,” he added.

In July, Japanese Embassy’s chancery head Minister Shinsuke Shimizu said that Japan would donate 10 brand new patrol boats to the Philippine Coastal Guard by 2014. The Japanese government has been helping the Philippine government modernize its coast guard since 1990. Japan was the one that gave the Philippines the BRP Corregidor, a search-and-rescue vessel 15 years ago. It was one of the two Philippine vessels that confronted with Chinese maritime ships on Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) last April 8 to June 15.

Kishida arrived in the Philippines Wednesday night and is set to pay a courtesy call on President Benigno Aquino III Thursday morning, according to Del Rosario. Japan also has a territorial row with China over claims in Diaoyu or Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.


Del Rosario expressed concerns on the continuous “aggressive” claims of China over the contested West Philippine Sea. The DFA chief said China's actions last year was a serious concern particularly its recent rules to interdict foreign vessels entering the disputed territories. “Yes we think this is a bothersome. We are asking for clarification on what it is exactly they are trying to do there and what is covered by the new law,” Del Rosario told reporters on Wednesday. “There have been some initiativse of China that we are trying our best to understand,” he said.

Aside from the three Chinese vessels anchored around the Scarborough Shoal, China has established Sansha City to administer the Spratlys, Paracel, and Macclesfield islands, which are also being claimed by other Asian countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. With regard to Sansha City, Del Rosario said no country can establish “an administrative until over something [that is] not recognized by international law”. “Of course we have protested that because we believe, that is creating tension,” added the DFA chief. Five months after the city's establishment, Hainan province, which has jurisdiction over Sansha City, approved a new law that would allow its local police to interdict foreign vessels entering the vicinity. The new rule took effect on January 1, 2013.

Increase capability for sovereignty

Meanwhile, DND Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said the agency's officials had discussed with President Benigno Aquino III the department's plan to "increase, in terms of weaponry, the capability" of BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF16). He said the discussion was anchored on how to maximize the two cutters to effectively patrol and defend from intruders the Malampaya gas project off Palawan including sovereignty missions in the West Philippine Sea. “We will use our cutters to secure our Malampaya and other service contract areas of the Department of Energy. We updated the President on the status of PF15 and PF16 and how to increase their capability,” Manalo said.

During the discussion, Aquino agreed to the proposal of increasing the capability of the cutters with “due diligence," according to Manalo. The PF15, commissioned in December 2011, figured in a maritime row in March last year wherein several Chinese fishing vessels were caught illegally gathering marine resources on Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) off Masinloc, Zambales. The apprehension led to a standoff with China. The PF16 is still being refurbished in the U.S. and is expected to arrive in the country in March for commissioning.

Philippines asks China to explain ship deployment

From the Philippine Star (Jan 9): Philippines asks China to explain ship deployment

The Philippines has asked China to explain its deployment of a patrol ship to guard disputed territory it claims in the South China Sea, saying the move has sparked new tensions over the potentially oil-rich waters, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Wednesday. Del Rosario said Chinese diplomats have previously said that Beijing will only assert its claims, including by possibly intercepting foreign ships, in waters off its southernmost province of Hainan. But China also claims that most of the South China Sea falls under Hainan's jurisdiction, he said.

The Philippines has asked China to specify the limits of the territory it will guard, del Rosario said. "Everybody's hot and bothered," del Rosario told reporters. "That's why we're saying, define, please define for us, but they're not answering."

The Chinese patrol ship, equipped with a helipad, left the southern city of Haikou for the South China Sea on Dec. 27, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported late last month. Chinese officials established last year what they called Sansha city on a remote island 350 kilometers (220 miles) from Hainan to administer hundreds of thousands of square miles (kilometers) of offshore territory and islands that are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Sansha is administered by Hainan.

The Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally, has described China's move as unacceptable. Vietnam called it a violation of international law. Washington has also criticized China's formal establishment of Sansha city and a military garrison there, saying the move risked an escalation in tensions.Although China and the Philippines have taken steps to patch up relations that were strained by the territorial disputes last year, del Rosario said Manila has not changed its policy of pursuing its claims. The Philippines, he said, will continue raising the issue with other countries, a move rejected by China, which wants to resolve the disputes through bilateral negotiations with each of the claimant countries.

Del Rosario said he will discuss the territorial rifts with his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, when they meet in Manila on Thursday. Japan's own territorial feud with China has flared recently. Newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he would support a reinterpretation of Japan's pacifist postwar constitution to loosen the reins on the military and stand up to Beijing over the territorial dispute. Asked to comment on the possibility of a stronger Japan in Asia, del Rosario welcomed it. "I think that there is a view that a stronger Japan would be a balancing force and could contribute in a great way to stability in the region," del Rosario said.

He said there also are plans for Brunei, Malaysia the Philippines and Vietnam, which are all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to discuss the disputes on the sidelines of an annual meeting of the 10-nation bloc in Brunei this year. Del Rosario said the Philippines is considering developing islands it controls in disputed South China Sea areas into tourism destinations, but added that he was not aware of the details of the plan. Many fear the territorial disputes could spark Asia's next armed conflict.

Philippines plans to purchase coast guard vessels from Japan: official

From the Philippine Star (Jan 9): Philippines plans to purchase coast guard vessels from Japan: official

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said today that the plan to acquire 10 coast guard vessels from Japan would be among topics of his meeting with visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida tomorrow. At a press briefing held in Manila today, del Rosario said he would also discuss with Kishida the expansion of the Light Rail Transit - South line from Baclaran to Cavite and East line from Marikina to Antipolo. The two officials are also expected to finalize Manila's acquisition of 10 Multi-Role Response Vessels (MRRV). Del Rosario said these projects will be implemented through soft loans or loans that have low interest rates with flexible payment terms under Japan's Official Development Assistance (ODA). Kishida will kick off his two-day visit to the Philippines on Wednesday night, as the first leg of his first overseas trip after being appointed as Japan's top diplomat.

Wives of Moro guerillas graduate from livelihood training

From the Philippine Star (Jan 9): Wives of Moro guerillas graduate from livelihood training

Maguindanao First District Rep. Sandra Sema checks on the processed food produced by participants in a two-day livelihood training for women in her district, while flanked by the chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front, Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema (middle) and Menardo Nosca of the TV show Knowledge Channel. (John Unson)

More than a hundred women, some of them wives of Moro guerillas, graduated Tuesday from a skills and livelihood training here that imparted on them knowledge on alternative livelihood that can generate extra money needed to sustain their families. The training, held at the Grand Rio Hotel here and participated by women from different towns in the first district of Maguindanao, was a common initiative of the office of Rep. Sandra Sema, Menardo Nosca of the Philippine TV show Knowledge Channel, and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DAF-ARMM).

The participants trained on production of detergents and preservation of ready-to-sell food, such as fish and squid balls, that can be marketed even in their respective villages. The training was bankrolled by the office of Sema, whose socio-economic projects, mostly, were designed to complement the government’s peace overtures with local sectors in the first district of Maguindanao. Kally Dimalen, a senior technical staff of the DAF-ARMM, said the training project was essential to the efforts of the government to empower Maguindanao’s women sector, which suffered from the brunt of previous armed conflicts in the province. The DAF-ARMM helped facilitate the skills training on Sema’s orders.

Sema said her staff are also formulating plans on how to help the trainees market their products outside of their towns. Sema said the training, which initially involved only more than a hundred participants, was a “pilot and thesis initiative,” as a gauge for further expansion of the livelihood projects of her office. “Empowering the women sector in Maguindanao is very important. The women comprise a big part of our population and mothers play a big role in building communities of peace-loving, productive people,” Sema said. Sema said mothers that have extra earnings can help sustain the schooling of their children. “If we give mothers education, employment and support, we are building a strong community,” Sema said.

A trainee, Sharifa Kapisah, said she did not realize until she underwent the skills and livelihood training that producing detergents is not just easy, but can also be a source of income as well. “We also have so much farm products in our surroundings that we can preserve and sell to the markets,” Amirah Musib, whose spouse is a member of the Moro National Liberation Front, seconded in Filipino.

Some of the trainees were either relatives or wives of guerillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Most towns in the first district of Maguindanao are common bastions of the MNLF and the MILF. Some of the trainees are from the towns of Parang and surrounding areas, where the MILF has several government-acknowledged enclaves.

Duterte: Funds used as cash assistance not from gov't

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 9): Duterte: Funds used as cash assistance not from gov't

Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte vehemently denied using government funds as cash assistance to residents ,rebels and soldiers alike when he reached out typhoon- ravaged- area in Barangay Ngan, Compostela, Compostela last December 26. Speaking to reporters, he explained that the funds came from a philanthropist who had been helpful in supporting the medication of cancer patients at the Southern Philippines Medical Center.

Duterte said that as a gesture of gratitude, the private individual who refused to be identified gave out P1-Million for the cancer patients and another P500,000 for the needy, as a way of sharing the blessings received from running a simple business for the past several years. He said the P500,000 was given in form of cash and material assistance to the victims of typhoon Pablo. “I gave out financial assistance to residents and rebels to ensure that the economy would move. Poverty is widespread in the area and help is needed, in the same manner that I extended assistance to the soldiers in New Bataan,” Duterte said.

He revealed he visited a rebel camp in Compostela Valley following an invitation by the rebels for him to come during their founding anniversary.Duterte said one of the rebel leaders had been an acquaintance back in Martial Law years, at the time when as a government prosecutor he sued them to court. He said even the parents of one of the rebels leaders were supporters of his father, then Governor Vicente Duterte of the empire province of Davao. “It could be a good time to rekindle with old acquaintances,” he said.

Duterte said that all his reaching out activities even to the rebels that day were coordinated with Major General Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division and Chief Superintendent Jaime Morente, director of the Police Regional Office XI. He said his visit to the rebels and even keeping the authorities informed were more a gesture of courtesy. During the vice mayor’s sortie, the military, police and the communist rebels were observing a suspension of military operations and unilateral ceasefire, respectively in lieu of the holidays and the relief operations on areas hardest hit by typhoon Pablo.

Duterte said building materials like nails and roof were already delivered to the area as promised to the residents last week. He urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to allow him to provide chainsaws to the highlands for residents there to use the fallen trees as lumber in the construction of new houses. Duterte said there are no longer illegal logging activities to talk about in the area, since almost all trees were uprooted during the onslaught of typhoon Pablo.

He also admitted that having friends with the enemies and supporters of the state has made him a compromised government official. Duterte said it is one of the primary reasons why he brushed aside offers by the national leadership in the past for him to run the Department of National Defense and the Department of Interior and Local Government. “I am not qualified and besides, I am a compromised public official. Both left and right are my friends. How can I discharge properly my duty if the rebel forces are also my friends,” he pointed out.

Army’s 8th ID opens applications for new soldiers

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 9): Army’s 8th ID opens applications for new soldiers

The 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division of the Philippine Army based in Catbalogan City is now accepting applicants who want to join the army.The 8th ID will start receiving applicants for candidate soldiers on January 14 – 19, 2013 at its Headquarters in Camp Vicente Lukban, Catbalogan City, Samar.

Candidates must be 18-26 years of age, single, physically and mentally fit, at least 5 feet in height (male and female), with no pending cases in court, have passed the AFP aptitude test and battery (AFPTAB) examination and have all the needed documents for processing.

“If you possess the above qualifications, you are all welcome to apply for the candidate soldier course and join the Philippine Army,” said Ltc Leo Lorenzo A MadroƱal, Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel, G1 of the 8th ID.

Applicants must also bring along the following original documents for processing, NSO Birth Certificate; Form 137/Transcript of record; Diploma (HS/College if graduated); one (1) piece 2x2 ID picture with name tag and valid identification card.

For further clarification and inquiries, applicants may contact Cpt Emerson A Borja, 8th ID Recruitment Officer at telephone number 256 – 2199, local 3611, or visit 8th ID recruitment at Facebook. (EOPT/NIBQ/PIA 8 Samar with Capt Gene Orense DPAO)

Army teams up with the local diocese to aid ‘Typhoon Pablo’ victims

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 9): Army teams up with the local diocese to aid ‘Typhoon Pablo’ victims

The 8th Infantry Division (8th ID) of the Philippine Army teamed up with the Most Reverend Isabelo C. Abarquez, DD, Bishop of Calbayog in donating relief goods for Typhoon Pablo victims in Compostela Valley on January 5, 2013. Capt. Gene Orense of the Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO) in a statement said that Bishop Abarquez donated 10 sacks of assorted relief goods which were shipped by Cokaliong Shipping Lines Incorporated from Calbayog to Cebu Port.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Central Command then endorsed the relief goods to the 2nd Air Division, Philippine Air Force based in Mactan, Cebu for delivery of the relief goods to Compostela Valley via a military aircraft. “We are grateful for the continuous support extended by the Most Reverend Abarquez in donating relief goods for the Typhoon Pablo victims in Compostela Valley,” said MGen Gerardo T Layug AFP, Commander of 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army. “The 8th ID fully supports this endeavor and is also calling for other stakeholders in Eastern Visayas to join our cause in helping Typhoon Pablo victims,” the general added.

Similarly, on December 14 and 20, 2012, the 8th ID together with Bishop Abarquez and other stakeholders donated 281 sacks of used clothing, six boxes of assorted canned goods and noodles and three sacks of rice for Typhoon Pablo victims via Cokaliong Shipping Lines Incorporated. (EOPT/NIBQ/Capt Gene Orense DPAO-8th ID/PIA 8 Samar)

President Aquino orders NBI to conduct full and exhaustive investigation of Quezon shooting incident

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): President Aquino orders NBI to conduct full and exhaustive investigation of Quezon shooting incident

President Benigno S. Aquino III ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to ferret out the truth behind the January 6 shootout between government forces and alleged criminals at a checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon province. The Chief Executive said he wants the NBI to conduct a full and exhaustive investigation of said incident that claimed the lives of 13 persons. "Siyempre, unang-unang reaction, labing-tatlong namatay, medyo maraming namatay, tapos may presumption of regularity, initially; may nasugatan on the side of the people who are manning the checkpoint. On the surface, parang may proof na may encounter," the President said in an interview after administering the oath of office to new Philippine ambassadors and government officials in Malacanang Palace on Wednesday.

The President said he is interested in the details of the case amid allegations of a police rubout.
"However, I asked for a lot of the details at doon sa details medyo napag-isip na ako doon sa salaysay na ibinigay, at brining-up (bring up) ko ito kay Director General Alan Purisima and kay Secretary (Mar) Roxas also to look into what seemingly was not normative or normal behavior," the President said.

He stressed that he opted to first wait for the official results of the NBI probe rather than discuss the details of the development of the investigation. "Sorry, I’m a bit hesitant to talk about the details---there is an ongoing investigation. I don’t want to prejudge and perhaps, give the impression that I’m leading the investigators to a certain conclusion," President Aquino stressed. "Pero, I think, suffice to say, yesterday, in two of the broadsheets, nakita natin ‘yung pictures; the pictures themselves speak a lot. ‘Yung talagang literally---what is the phrase? 'A picture says a thousand words.' So may I invite you to look at yesterday’s pictures on the front page and the inside pages, medyo ‘yung idea nung checkpoint and the signages, etcetera, inconsistent between the photographs on the front page and inside (pages)," the President noted.

The President said he wanted the NBI to dig deeper into the new information presented by witnesses. "Subsequently, may mga iba pang impormasyon na dumating na parang inconsistent with the purported story. Gusto nating malaman ang katotohanan at maparusahan kung sino man ang mga may sala," he said. The President also stressed that he decided to task the NBI to solely investigate the incident to avoid the public perception of a whitewash. "PNP is competent to investigate. So para ma-preclude na merong bias, favoritism, factionalism, etcetera, ilagay na natin ’yung mas klarong independent agency," he said.

Cops axed as PNP probe team finds 'violations' in deadly Quezon incident

From InterAksyon (Jan 9): Cops axed as PNP probe team finds 'violations' in deadly Quezon incident

The policemen who helped man the checkpoint at which 13 persons, described by authorities as suspected criminals but included three police and two military personnel, were killed in an alleged shootout on Sunday have been relieved after a fact-finding team found them in violation of procedures. Also relieved was Senior Superintendent Valeriano de Leon, the Quezon provincial police director, and Chief Inspector Grant Gollod, police chief of Atimonan town, where the incident happened.

The most glaring infraction found by the Philippine National Police fact-finding team led by Chief Superintendent Federico Castro, deputy director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, was that the 15 policemen led by Superintendent Hansel Marantan, deputy intelligence chief of the Calabarzon regional police, who manned the main checkpoint where the supposed shootout broke out were not in uniform. Marantan was wounded in the incident.

The relieved officials have been reassigned to Camp Crame while the rest of the policemen have been restricted to quarters at Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna.Purisima told a news conference on Wednesday that the only uniformed personnel at the main checkpoint were Gollod and around 20 soldiers who had joined the operation, ostensibly to intercept a gang of guns-for-hire, as well as seven Atimonan policemen manning slowdown markers 50 meters before and after the main roadblock.

Only one of the markers had a marked police vehicle parked alongside."Dapat laging naka-uniform sa checkpoint. There is no excuse na hindi dapat mag-uniform (Personnel should be in uniform at checkpoints. There is no excuse for not being in uniform)," Purisima said. "Checkpoints are the function of uniformed personnel and should be led by a uniformed officer."

Purisima also questioned what Marantan, an intelligence officer, was doing at the operation.
"Intelligence operatives are made to gather info. Hindi sila nagko-conduct ng operation (They do not conduct actual operations). So ‘yung intel operatives natin (So our intel operatives) will gather info … and these will be submitted, processed and become evidence ... if they are in uniform, they can be there (at the checkpoint)," the PNP chief said.

Over 200 bullet holes

Announcing the findings of the fact-finding team, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said the two Montero SUVs that the 13 fatalities were riding had over 200 bullet holes. The first vehicle had 186 bullet holes, mostly from M16 assault rifles, the second, 50, although investigators had yet to determine how many of these were entry holes and how many exit. The team also said the fatalities only had P265,000 on them, not the millions of pesos mentioned in media reports.


Of the 13 dead, eight tested positive during paraffin tests, although Roxas said this finding does not prove they had fired their weapons. Also, while 13 of the 14 recovered firearms were licensed, only seven were covered by permits to be carried outside residences.

Roxas said he is giving the PNP fact-finding until Friday to finalize its report, which will then be submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the only agency authorized by President Benigno Aquino III to probe the incident. The Interior secretary reiterated his pledge that there would be no whitewash in the investigation of the incident, which the families of the dead claim was a rubout.

In related developments, the military's Southern Luzon Command has created its own fact-finding team to determine the involvement of its personnel in the incident. Colonel Generoso Bolina said Brigadier General Alan Luga, Solcom commander, ordered the creation of the team even if the military has maintained the operation and the ensuing "shootout" was legitimate.