Friday, January 11, 2013

Kidnappers strike anew in Zamboanga City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 11): Kidnappers strike anew in Zamboanga City

Kidnappers have seized late Friday a member of a prominent family on a coastal village in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga. Gunmen took the victim, Edgar Fabella, 42, to a waiting motorized boat in the village called Maasin at around 8 p.m. and sped off under cover of darkness. No other details about the abduction were made available by the authorities and no individual or group claimed responsibility for the latest kidnapping.

Just last month, suspected Abu Sayyaf kidnappers released on ransom a school principal, Flordeliza Ongchua, 49, after more than two months in captivity in Jolo town. Ongchua was kidnapped on November 13 in her house in Zamboanga City’s Labuan village, several miles from where Fabella was seized. At least a dozen gunmen barged in Ongchua’s house after failing to find their target, the village chieftain, Ronald Maravilla, who is a relative of the victim.

“Another kidnapping incident has happened just this evening with a member of the Fabella family taken, very Tragic indeed. My prayers and solidarity (go) to the family in their present moments of anxiety and pain,” Crisanto dela Cruz, a former Catholic priest, wrote in his Facebook page. “What is happening to our dear Zamboanga City? The intelligence funds and billions of government funds deposited in banks is a great shame if our people are not safe, being victims of kidnappings, killings and other unsolved crimes. What a shame, God bless and protect us all from harm,” he added.

Southern Philippines deputy mayor killed in daring attack

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 11): Southern Philippines deputy mayor killed in daring attack

KIDAPAWAN CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 11, 2013) – Motorcycle gunmen shot dead the vice mayor of Kabacan town in North Cotabato province in a daring attack Friday afternoon, police said. It said the politician, Pol Dulay, was attacked while about to ride his motorbike along University Avenue. The assailants escaped after the shooting leaving behind the bloodied politician. Dulay was rushed to hospital, but doctors failed to save him. It was not immediately known whether the politician was with his bodyguards or not at the time of the attack. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the killing, but police suspect the attack could be politically motivated. The politician was said to be seeking re-election in the May polls. His family did not release any statement about the attack which occurred ahead of the six-month total gun ban in the country beginning on January 13.

Operation not approved, says Ochoa; DoJ vows to probe Quezon ‘mission’

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 12): Operation not approved, says Ochoa; DoJ vows to probe Quezon ‘mission’

The Department of Justice (DoJ) yesterday vowed to determine who gave the go-signal in the Quezon province police operation, if it was really an authorized mission, that led to the killing of 13 persons, including three police officers and two Air Force men. Despite the denial by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., who is also the chief of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission, that the mission, supposedly codenamed “Coplan Armado,” was sanctioned by PAOCC, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima maintained that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will look into the allegation that PAOCC was aware of the operation. “That should be looked into by the NBI definitely because of the court questions that need to be known is what was that mission all about…first, what was the background of that mission? Who authorized it?” she asked. “It would be easy to verify from the PAOCC whether that was an operation that has been sanctioned or not by the PAOCC,” she added.

Ochoa, in a statement, denied that PAOCC gave the go-signal for the Quezon operation, led by Supt. Hansel Marantan, as he stressed PAOCC will fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation by the NBI. “I wish to point out though that a news report saying the Palace okayed the operation is completely erroneous,” the Palace official said. Ochoa added he has directed the PAOCC personnel to fully cooperate with authorities investigating the matter to get to the bottom of the incident. “I share the concern of those who seek clarifications regarding the circumstances that led to the loss of lives, and I am confident that the inquiry to be conducted by the NBI will help produce an accurate account of the events surrounding the shootout,” he said.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., for his part, expressed serious doubts about the integrity of the police source linking Malacañang to the Atimonan police operations. According to the House leader, the statement of the police source was baseless. “Of course not. Absolutely no basis,” Belmonte stressed.

House Deputy Majority Leader Miro Quimbo also said the police claims should be taken with a grain of salt even as he defended Ochoa from being linked to the fiasco. “He already said he did not,” Quimbo said in response to questions about the alleged approval by the PAOCC of the police operations.

Quimbo pointed out that while the operations against illegal gambling and other criminal activities are authorized, it does not allow the conduct of illegal operations such as the Atimonan operations.
“Even on the assumption that the operation was authorized, it doesn’t authorize the conduct of anything illegal or against the law,” he stressed.

De Lima noted Ochoa’s denial but maintained that “we will also look at that. And I think, they (PAOCC) are open to investigation also, I mean, to be part of the investigation.” The Justice chief also stressed the NBI will dig deeper into the background of Marantan, who was the lone casualty on the side of those manning the checkpoint after sustaining gunshot wounds in the leg and arms. “We will also look at the exact record of Superintendent Marantan. We are going to review all those alleged cases or similar incidents involving Superintendent Marantan. That is definitely part of the inquiry or the probe,” De Lima said.

But Chief Supt. Reginald Villasanta, PAOCC executive director, admitted that the commission received a project proposal from Marantan and Supt. Glenn Dumlao, seeking permission to conduct operation in Quezon province but such move was not approved. Villasanta claimed that the proposal did not even reach Ochoa as it was immediately turned down in his (Villasanta’s) level. As DoJ secretary, De Lima is a member of the PAOCC but she stressed she was not aware of the alleged “Coplan Armado.”

Initially, the police reported that 13 men, aboard two sport utility vehicles (SUVs) were killed last Sunday after allegedly shooting it out with combined police and Army troops after evading an established checkpoint along the Maharlika Highway in Atimonan, Quezon. But no less than President Aquino expressed doubts over the initial information, prompting him to tap the NBI to be the sole investigative agency authorized to look into the incident.

There were also speculations that the incident was a product of a turf war between two competing operators of the illegal numbers game jueteng after one of those killed, Vic Siman-Atienza, was tagged as a jueteng operator in Laguna and Batangas. De Lima said the NBI investigators will cover all of the speculations cropping up following the incident, which was branded as rubout by the families of those killed. The DoJ chief said that for the meantime she will wait for the results of the NBI investigation of the incident before making further moves.‘mission’

China to boost sea patrols

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 12): China to boost sea patrols

China said Friday it will beef up its maritime patrols and continue conducting regular missions to safeguard its sovereignty in the East and South China Sea. According to the state-owned China Daily, State Oceanic Administration director Liu Cigui said that the territorial dispute which had escalated in the 2012 prompted them to bolster Beijing’s maritime protection and guard their sovereignty in the region. He, however, said that China was ready to resolve the dispute through “bilateral reconciliation”. “Beijing will (also) continue to carry out regular patrols over its territorial waters off China’s Diaoyu Islands and the South China Sea,” Liu said, adding that it opposes any infringement on its sovereignty over territorial waters.

In its commentary, the China Daily accused Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam for allegedly causing increased “temperature” in the waters of the East and South China Sea. “In recent years, countries like Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam have not only lodged unwarranted claims over China’s territorial waters and islands in the East China Sa and the South China Sea but also launched one farce after another to raise the temperature in these waters,” the news website said.

The news website also accused the three countries of trying to enlist support from countries outside the region for their “ill-grounded claims”. “Their reckless move have brought more risks and challenges to China’s security environment and prompted China to respond and react in timely and effective manner,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on the other hand, admitted that China still lagged behind regional maritime players in infrastructure, law enforcement capabilities, patrolling facilities and staff, issues that Beijing would address this year. “A larger budget and other supports will be dedicated to fishery administration, maritime surveillance and the coast guard to boost China’s efforts to become a maritime power,” he said. During the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, top government officials said that China will become “a maritime power.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on a regular press conference also posted in China Daily said that China’s vessels and aircrafts will continue regular missions to safeguard its sovereignty.
“China’s position and proposition on relevant issues are clear and consistent. China is firm and resolute in defending national territorial sovereignty,” Hong said. Hong, however, said that China will always maintain that territorial disputes should be properly solved through bilateral negotiations and friendly consultations.

The Philippines and China are locked in a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea, since Apriol, when Chinese vessels prevented the Coast Guard from arresting Chinese fishermen caught poaching in Panatag Shoal, which lies within Philippine territorial waters.

Japan on the other hand, has a separate row with China over overlapping claims in the Diaoyu Island, which the Japanese calls Senkaku in the East China Sea. On Thursday, Japan and Philippines conducted a bilateral meeting, which discussed, among others, Tokyo’s plan to loan Manila 10 brand-new coastal boats as part of the country’s upgrade of its maritime capability.

Aquino sees stronger Japan as ‘counterweight’ to aggresive China

From the Philippine Daily  Inquirer (Jan 11): Aquino sees stronger Japan as ‘counterweight’ to aggresive China

President Benigno Aquino III has expressed the view that a stronger Japan would be a counterweight to the “threatening’’ presence of China in the West Philippine Sea, foreign affairs officials said on Thursday, at the close of a two-day visit by Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. Kishida paid a courtesy call on the President after meeting Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on the last of his two-day official visit to the Philippines aimed at boosting the countries’ strategic partnership in the face of China’s growing power in the region.

Briefing reporters later, Del Rosario said the President and Fushida talked about the “common challenges’’ that both countries have been facing vis-à-vis a more assertive China, and learning from strategies of either country, among a wide range of regional issues.

“I think there’s a mutual agreement that we should pursue peaceful resolution to these disputes and we’re trying to find out what the right formulation is,’’ he said in Malacañang.

“Well, I think what we agreed on is that we would keep on—because we do have this threat and this threat actually is shared by many countries not just with Japan—that we should continue to talk and see to what extent and cooperate in terms of coming to a peaceful resolution of the disputes,’’ he added.

While the Philippines is locked in a standoff with China over the West Philippine Sea, Japan and China are also disputing ownership of the islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Taiwan also lays claim to the territory.

China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the West Philippine Sea, which is believed to sit atop vast amounts of oil and gas, aside from being one of the region’s most important fishing grounds and home to shipping lanes that are vital to global trade.

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, and Taiwan claim parts of the sea.

Del Rosario indicated that Japan would be a natural strategic partner of the Philippines given the two countries’ shared values, interests and concerns.

“I think the reason we obviously have [become strategic partners] are common interests. We have common concerns, we have shared interests, and we have shared values. I think it is basically that which drove the spirit of putting us together as strategic partners,’’ he said.

Del Rosario said there was no discussion of the balance of power in the region during Kishida’s call, but believed that the President agreed that a stronger Japan would help foster stability in the Asia Pacific region.

“Well, I think the President is of the view that a stronger Japan, acting as a counterbalance in the region, would help promote stability for the Asia Pacific,’’ he said.

In the briefing, Del Rosario made repeated reference to the threats posed by Beijing, and ticked off three instances it had breached international laws.

“I think that, if you look at the posture of China in the South China Sea, their fixed posture is the foundation of their policy in those seas—that they have indisputable sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, OK?’’ he said.

“Now, this of course is an excessive claim. It’s in violation of international law—strike one, OK. Strike two, in order to be able to reinforce that, what they’ve done is that they have called for a reestablishment of an administrative unit to oversee the entire area which they consider as the nine-dash,’’ he said, referring to the administrative unit in Sansha City that has been exercising jurisdiction over Macclessfield Bank, Paracels and Spratly islands.

“So, first, they have an excessive claim; then they’re creating an administrative unit over those areas; and then they come up with this new law, which provides for enforcement in terms of interdiction of ships in those areas. So strike three already,’’ Del Rosario continued.

“And then, of course, they’re coming up with all kinds of infrastructure and releasing figures on budgets that they intend to use to be able to establish their presence there. So I think these are all very threatening and we have been protesting, as I said, these moves by China,’’ he added.

Macclesfield Bank is a huge underwater group of reefs and shoals located east of the Paracel Islands, southwest of the Pratas Islands and north of the Spratly Islands in the center of the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines claims Macclesfield Bank and administers it through the provincial government of Zambales.

Del Rosario said both Manila and Tokyo were aware of the magnitude of challenges they were facing against China’s power.

“I think we all understand that the assertions being made by China in terms of their nine-dash line claim, for example, they do pose threats to the stability of the region. We also need to be able to address the possibility that the freedom of navigation would be adversely impacted,’’ he said.

During Kishida’s visit, both countries agreed to bolster maritime cooperation, with Japan funding Philippine Coast Guard’s multi-role response vessels to police the country’s territorial waters, and the latter’s communication system for greater maritime safety, the Secretary said.

“We have these multi-role response vessels. Ten of them are being funded by Japan for our Coast Guard,’’ he said.

Kishida extended Japan’s invitation to President Aquino to attend the 40th anniversary of the Commemorative Asean Summit with Japan toward the end of the year, Del Rosario said.

“We’re still reviewing the schedule of travels for the President for 2013. But we believe that this is one of the events that we are recommending strongly,’’ he said.

The President took the opportunity to invite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a state visit, and followed up his earlier invitation to Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako for a visit, Del Rosario said.

Japan commits to invest in future Bangsamoro territory — DFA

From the Philippine Daily  Inquirer (Jan 11): Japan commits to invest in future Bangsamoro territory — DFA

Japan has committed to develop the future Bangsamoro territory, and pour more investments in the country, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Thursday. Japan, the only country that became part of the International Monitoring Team and the International Contact Group, was committed “in a big way’’ to the talks between the government and former fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Del Rosario said.  “They are also very committed to helping in terms of the development programs there,’’ Del Rosario told reporters in Malacañang.

Visiting Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida called on President Aquino in Malacañang, on Thursday, after earlier meeting with Del Rosario. After signing a preliminary deal in October 2012 setting up a Bangsamoro territory, the Philippine government and the MILF have been threshing out some key issues prior to crafting a comprehensive final agreement. Japan was also gung-ho on pouring investments in the country in view of the improved economic environment, the Secretary said.  “A new Philippines is being presented and the Japanese are very much interested in upping their investment activities in the Philippines. And one area of possible investors, which we are pursuing with in an aggressive fashion are the SMEs (small and medium enterprises) – the Japanese SMEs,’’ he said.

The Japanese government would also help the country build and operate Light Railway Transit extension lines, including LRT 1-South to Cavite, and LRT 2-East to Antipolo City, as well as the Bohol airport, Del Rosario said. “We also discussed official development assistance (ODA). We discussed the political approaches to the strategic partnership—the strategic bilateral dialogue that will take place. In the area of ODA, we discussed certain projects such as those projects of infrastructure that would be supported by the Japanese government,’’ he said.

According to earlier reports, the conglomerate DMCI Holdings Inc. would team up with Japan’s Marubeni Corp. for the P60-billion public-private partnership project to operate and maintain LRT 1 (Light Rail Transit Line 1), an official of the local firm said on Friday. The LRT line 1 extension project runs from Baclaran in Pasay City to Imus, Cavite. Another train project is the LRT line 2 East Extension from Sampaloc, Marikina, to Antipolo’s Masinag Junction.

Aquino calls for lasting truce with leftist rebels

From the Philippine Star (Jan 11): Aquino calls for lasting truce with leftist rebels

President Benigno S. Aquino III recently called for a lasting ceasefire with the leftist New People's Army (NPA) to lessen the collateral damage caused by their decades-long struggle. "Of course, it is important for us to have a long ceasefire, especially to lessen the collateral damage," said the President during an interview with the Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) yesterday.

The government and the leftist rebels are under truce, which started on December 20 last year and will end on January 15. The President said he has to see "good faith" and "gestures of goodwill" in the peace process from the leftist rebels. "So that's what we want, to put a stop on the bloodshed among Filipinos," he added.Aquino also asked the NPA to stop the use of landmines, citing that so far there were at least 25 civilians who were killed due to this explosive device, which is being banned by at least 160 countries, including the Philippines.

Police nab Abu Sayyaf member in Taguig

From the Philippine Star (Jan 11): Police nab Abu Sayyaf member in Taguig

The Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested early today a suspected member of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group in Metro Manila, a ranking police officer said. PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. said that joint police and military operations resulted in the apprehension of Suhod Salasim in Taguig, a city of Metro Manila, at around 6:20 a.m. The suspect was nabbed by virtue of three arrest warrants for his involvement in the kidnapping of nurses in a hospital in Lamitan City in June 2011, kidnapping and illegal detention of teachers and students in Sumisip town, both in southern Philippine province of Basilan. Authorities recovered from Salasim a grenade and two cartridges of ammunition for M203 grenade launcher, Mr. Cerbo said.

The Abu Sayyaf was founded in earlier 1990s by Islamic extremists, and it has degenerated into a loose alliance of local armed bandit groups over the past decade, carrying out a series of public terrorist attacks and high-profile kidnapping.

Sara mum on Rody giving money thru NPA

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 11): Sara mum on Rody giving money thru NPA

DAVAO City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio refuses to give her opinion about her father, Vice Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte, handing over an amount to the New People’s Army (NPA) for victims of Typhoon Pablo. "I don't want to comment on his statements or actions. Live and let live," she told Sun.Star Davao in a text message.

Vice Mayor Duterte had admitted handing over money to the communist rebels, but denied this was from government for the rebels. The money, he said, was from a lady philanthropist who wants to help the calamity victims in rebel-infested areas.

Earlier, Duterte was accused of giving P125 million in revolutionary tax to the NPAs during his visit to their camp last December 26. The accusation was maliciously revealed in a video posted on Youtube. "I just want to let the people of Davao City know that there’s nothing really mysterious there. I am pointing out to you the source. Pero bilib talaga ako nito (philanthropist), this is not the first time," the vice mayor said. Duterte admitted turning over P500,000, but said the money was not from government. He said part of the amount was also given through the military.

This lady philanthropist, the vice mayor said, also gave P1 million check for the cancer patients at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC). The vice mayor earlier said that a military officer could be behind the allegations.

Suspected JI man's wife denies charge

From the Sun Star (Jan 11): Suspected JI man's wife denies charge

The wife of a Malaysian national, believed to be a member of international terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, denied Friday charges filed against her before the Regional Trial Court (RTC). Annabelle Nieva Lee, who hails from Sorsogon province, pleaded not guilty during her arraignment in the case filed against her for violation of Presidential Decree 1866, as amended by Republic Act 9516, or The Illegal Possession of Firearms, Ammunition or Explosives. The accused was accompanied by her legal counsel, lawyer Ben Joseph Tesiorna.

Lee was arrested on December 14, 2012 after his husband, Mohd Noor Fikrie Bin Abd Kahar, was shot dead by authorities along Camus St. in this city. The arraignment was held around 8:30 a.m. Friday before RTC Branch 14 Judge George E. Omelio. Personnel of the Davao City Police Office (DCPO) and members of Special Weapons and Tactic (Swat) team were deployed to the Hall of Justice to secure the area.

Before the arraignment proceedings started, Omelio requested the accused, through her counsel, to take off the veil (Hijab) that revealed only her eyes to confirm that she is really the accused. But Lee refused to do so, unless photojournalists and TV cameramen turned off their cameras. Omelio denied the request of the accused. It was Prosecutor Faizal Padate who told Omelio that the accused is "not allowed to show her hair, ears and even her neck." "Of course, we respect that (she is not allowed to show her hair, ears, and neck). But how will the people know if she is really the accused, if we cannot see her face? We need to see her face," Omelio ruled. The court scheduled the pre-trial of the accused on February 14, 2013.

Omelio also granted Friday the petition to transfer the accused to the custody of the Naval Intelligence and Security Group (NISG) from the Davao City Police Office (DCPO). Major Bill Pasia, NISG commander, earlier requested DCPO Director Ronald dela Rosa to transfer Lee to their custody for security reasons.

When asked for comments, Tesiorna said his client believed she had not committed any crime.
"Ingon ana na among posisyon wala'y sala ang akusado, dili pwede an muamin siya sa sala na wala niya gihimo. Dili ko musugot atong evidence sa prosecution, kay butang nato granted without admitting na member sa terrorist group iyang bana pero akong kliyente isip asawa, buot pasabot terrorista na pud siya? Dili na ana (That's our position, that the accused is innocent. Granting her husband was a terrorist, this doesn’t automatically mean that she is also a terrorist)," Tesiorna said. Tesiorna said they will file a petition for bail, as the evidence is not strong enough to charge the accused. 

But dela Rosa, on the other hand, said the illegal possession of explosives filed against the accused is non-bailable. "Based on the operation that we had conducted here, we believe that the evidence we presented before the prosecution is enough to charge the accused though it will be up to the court whether to grant their request for bail," dela Rosa said. The City Prosecutor's Office found probable cause to charge Lee based on the evidence presented by the authorities. Recovered from the possession of the accused was the improvised explosive device made from 60mm mortar. Authorities also recovered mobile phones and other "explosive materials" from the accused. The accused was transferred Friday to Naval Forces NISG detention facility for security purposes.

New 47th IB head supports five-year peace, dev’t plans

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 11): New 47th IB head supports five-year peace, dev’t plans

Lt. Col. Enriqueto Deocadez, newly-installed commander of the 47th Infantry Battalion, expressed his full support to the 5-year Peace and Development Program of the provincial government of Negros Occidental. This will be done through active advocacy and mobilization of multi-sectoral Peace and Development Teams in southern Negros, Deocadez said. “Our cooperation and mutual understanding to uplift the people’s well being will become a foundation for selfless and dedicated service,” Deocadez assumed the 47IB command Wednesday in Brgy. Tiling, Cauayan, with all mayors of southern Negros, and Rep. Mercedes Alvarez present. The five-year peace and development program of the provincial government aims to include more than 100 conflict-affected barangays, including those in southern Negros.

Deocadez., who had spent more than a decade of his military career in Visayas, reminded 47IB personnel to always adhere to human rights and the rule of law, and observe the rules of engagement. Major General Jose Mabanta, 3rd Infantry Division commander, ordered Deocadez to sustain the implementation of the Army’s Transformation Road Map and relentlessly pursue efforts to “win the peace” in southern Negros. Within a year or two, Mabanta said they may declare southern Negros as “insurgency-free”, citing the absence of major NPA activities and the number of rebels who had surrendered to them in the past two years.

Lt. Col. Rodrigo Sosmena, outgoing 47IB commander, acknowledged the all-out support extended to them by Alvarez and her brother, Ilog Mayor John Paul Alvarez, and local chief executives of Kabankalan and Sipalay, Candoni, Cauayan and Hinobaan. Sosmena distributed plaques of appreciations to all the southern Negros local chief executives.

In anticipation of the May 13 elections, Deocadez said they will formulate strategies to ensure peaceful and orderly elections in the area. Before his designation as 47IB commander, Deocadez served as the executive officer of the Army’s 301st Infantry Brigade in Dingle, Iloilo, and headed the Task Group Boracay. Sosmena is projected to head the Division Training Unit of 3ID at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz.

Gov't slammed over arrests of alleged NPA members, supporters

From the Philippine Star (Jan 11): Gov't slammed over arrests of alleged NPA members, supporters

Rights group Karapatan on Friday called on the government to stop the series of illegal arrests and detention of civilians whom the Aquino administration accused as members or supporters of the New People’s Army.  Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay raised the alarm as 28 people were successively arrested and detained in less than one month, from December 2012 to early January this year. "The government’s desperation to meet the Oplan Bayanihan’s 2013 first phase deadline shows in the manner by which these arrests were conducted and the increasing pattern of filing trumped-up charges against activists and civilians," she said.

Palabay said the government has established a very dangerous pattern of inserting names in existing warrants of arrest to legitimize false charges and clamp down on persons perceived as enemies of the state. She cited the case of security guard Rolly Panesa who the military insists until now as the P5.6-million prized-catch “Benjamin Mendoza” of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The group also noted that indigenous people in Negros Occidental were arrested and jailed in the course of military operations in the community, accusing them of coddling NPA members. The 28 arrested were from Cagayan Valley, Negros Oriental and Occidental, Quezon and members of Courage and Piston, organizations of government employees and drivers, respectively and, of Act Teachers Partylist, the rights group added.

FAB forum gains participants from areas outside ARMM

From the Philippine Star (Jan 11): FAB forum gains participants from areas outside ARMM

Policemen display on the hood of their patrol car a tarpaulin sign announcing the January 9-10 forum on the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro in Buluan, Maguindanao which was organized by Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and supported by government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer (inset) - John Unson

Personalities who are not from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and opposed the botched 2008 memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) have attended Thursday’s huge consultation on the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) in Buluan, Maguindanao. The FAB, signed October 15, 2012 by the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Malacañang, aims to establish a new autonomous political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The consultation, jointly organized by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and the league of municipal mayors in the province, was supported by the office of Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the government’s peace panel negotiating with the MILF. Ferrer, who addressed thousands of participants to the FAB forum, cited the provincial government of Maguindanao for embarking on the activity, which she said would boost to the on-going GPH-MILF peace talks. “Let’s continue helping each other in supporting the peace process,” Ferrer told thousands of participants to the forum, held at the Buluan municipal gymnasium.

The event was attended by former North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Piñol, South Cotabato Rep. Daisy Avance Fuentes, and Lualhati Antonino, who is chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority, who were all critical of Malacañang’s peace overtures with Moro factions during the time of presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. ARMM acting governor Mujiv Hataman, who was also at the forum, said he welcomes the participation to the activity of Piñol and the latter's political rival, the re-electionist North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, and Fuentes and Antonino. “This is an indication that we are united in this peace process so there is no reason now for us to fail,” said Hataman.

Also present in the forum were members of the ARMM’s 27-seat Regional Assembly, and provincial governors Sakur Tan of Sulu, Sadikul Sahali of Tawi-Tawi, Jum Akbar of Basilan, and Mamintal Adiong Jr. of Lanao del Sur.

Hataman even recalled in a speech how North Cotabato’s various communities opposed the MOA-AD, the supposed basis for the government and the MILF to set up Moro homeland the rebel group was to govern through the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

The Supreme Court declared the August 5, 2008 signing of the MOA-AD as unconstitutional.
Hataman, who is running for ARMM governor in May polls, said that even if he is elected, he will be willing to step down by 2015 to give way to the Bangsamoro region under FAB.

Preceding the forum was Tuesday’s peace caravan involving hundreds of vehicles--- led by Maguindanao provincial officials and members of the league of mayors -- that toured the province and several towns in North Cotabato. Mangudadatu said he is grateful to his constituents in the province for the outpouring of support to efforts to educate the public about the FAB and the newly-created Transition Commission, or Transcom. The TransCom, created through Executive Order 120, will oversee the implementation of the FAB and the drafting of the Basic Bangsamoro Law that would enable the creation of the Bangsamoro region.

Mangudadatu also lauded Major Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, which has jurisdiction over Maguindanao, and the chief of the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command, Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, for helping local government units, non-government organizations and peace advocacy groups educate the public about the FAB and the TransCom.

Mangudadatu, during a plenary session that capped the forum, approved seven resolutions drafted by technical working groups from the ARMM provinces recommending to the government and MILF panels various proposals to hasten the Mindanao peace process. One of the resolutions called on the two panels to recognize the need to involve non-Muslims and the lumad sectors, or the so-called non-Moro indigenous people, in the setting up of the proposed Bangsamoro region. Another resolution asked the GPH and MILF panels and the five provincial governors in the autonomous region to convene and discuss the viability of involving local government units in the TransCom and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

Also approved by Mangudadatu were similar resolutions tasking the five ARMM provincial governors and mayors to launch information campaigns, with the help of the media, to hasten public understanding on the need to push the FAB forward as a community initiative; and urging the TransCom to conduct extensive dialogues about the Mindanao peace process.

The MILF was represented in Thursday’s FAB forum by the chief secretariat of the group’s peace panel, Datu Jun Mantawil, who also spoke about their appreciation of the efforts of third parties in educating the local communities about the peace negotiations.

Peace talks between the government and the MILF started January 7, 1997, but collapsed in 2000, in 2003 and in 2008 due to peace and security issues that hounded many flashpoint areas in Mindanao supposedly covered by the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities.

The thorny and contentious peace talks gained headway in recent years with the participation of foreign donors and international peace advocacy organizations, including the peacekeeping contingent International Monitoring Team, which is comprised of military officers from Malaysia, Libya, Brunei and Indonesia, and non-uniformed conflict resolution experts from Norway, Japan and the European Union.

New AFP chief to assume Jan. 17

From the Philippine Star (Jan 11): New AFP chief to assume Jan. 17

The military will have a new leader on Jan. 17, three days before incumbent Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa reaches the mandatory age of 56. Dellosa will relinquish his post on Jan. 17 to accommodate the schedule of President Aquino, who will serve as the presiding officer of the turnover ceremony. “The Chief of Staff (Dellosa) will be turning 56 on Jan. 20 but the change of command ceremony will take place here in Camp Aguinaldo on Jan. 17,” AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said Friday. Burgos said they do not know yet who would succeed Dellosa as chief of the 125,000-strong armed forces.

Sources, however, said the race for the next AFP chief has been narrowed down to two – Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Lauro dela Cruz and Army chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista. Dela Cruz is reportedly being backed by a retired security official, whom sources said, is very close to Aquino. Bautista, meanwhile, is allegedly being supported by an incumbent security official. Dela Cruz is a graduate of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class ’80 while Bautista is a member of PMA class ’81. Burgos, however, denied that there is jockeying for positions in the military. “We are a professional organization. Everything goes through the process of the promotion system and the Board of Generals. Whoever will be selected is qualified for the post,” he said.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Aquino has finished interviewing the contenders for AFP chief. Gazmin said he conducted the interviews with the president and Dellosa. “The president will make the final decision. The position requires the trust and confidence (of the president) and capability,” he told radio station dzRH. Gazmin, however, said the Army has an advantage due to its huge number. “Yes because majority of those in the armed forces are from the Army,” the defense chief said in Filipino. “This year we need the help of the armed forces particularly the Army in the elections,” he added. The Army constitutes more than 60 percent of the military forces.

Gazmin, however, clarified that the selection for military chief contenders is not limited to the Army officials. Sources earlier revealed that Bautista, dela Cruz, Armed Forces Vice Chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes and AFP Southern Luzon Command chief Maj. Gen. Alan Luga were in the shortlist of contenders submitted to Aquino.

Army colonel up for 'admonition' for 2011 Basilan clash that killed 19 elite troops

From InterAksyon (Jan 11): Army colonel up for 'admonition' for 2011 Basilan clash that killed 19 elite troops

For his role in a botched operation in October 2011 that saw 19 Special Forces troops killed and 14 others wounded in a clash with fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Al Barka, Basilan, an Army colonel has been found guilty by a court martial and sentenced to an admonition. However, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos said Friday that the verdict against Colonel Aminkadra Undog “is recommendatory and shall be forwarded to the final convening authority who is the AFP chief of staff, General Jessie Dellosa. As the final convening authority, Gen. Dellosa may approve or disapprove the sentence imposed by the general court martial to Colonel Undog.” The disclosure of the verdict also did not provide details of the offenses Undog was accused of committing.

Aside from the recommended admonition, Undog is also up for suspension from holding any position and lowering in the military’s linear list, a move that would impact on future promotion. Undog, former commander of the Army’s Special Forces Regiment, is a bemedalled officer credited for the capture of the Abu Sayyaf’s Commander Robot in 2003. He was one of four officers in charge of the Al Barka operation charged with violating Articles of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman) and 97 (disorder and neglect to the prejudice of good order and military discipline). The court martial is still hearing the charges against Lieutenant Colonel Leo Pena, former commander of the 4th Special Forces Battalion in Basilan, which also include violation of Article of War 84 (willful or negligent loss, damage or wrongful disposition).

The two other officers -- former Special Operations Task Force Basilan commander Col. Alexander Macario and former Special Forces training school commander Lt. Col. Orlando Edralin -- were cleared for lack of evidence on October 30, 2011.

On October 18, 2011, a Special Forces company was deployed to Barangay Cambug in Al Barka to serve warrants of arrest against members of the Abu Sayyaf accused of involvement in the earlier killing of 14 Marines, 10 of whom were also beheaded.

A survivor of the incident earlier recounted the troops sent to Al Barka were members of Class 42 of a military scuba diving course and were under the impression they were on a so-called "test mission."
Instead, they apparently stumbled into the stronghold of the MILF’s 114th Base Command.
In the wake of the incident, the MILF blamed the military, saying the troops had encroached on territory they were barred from entering under a ceasefire agreement.