Wednesday, January 16, 2013

AFP: Protest action mere propaganda

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 17): AFP: Protest action mere propaganda

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) is set to file charges against leaders of militant groups who allegedly spearheaded the protest action of Typhoon Pablo victims that stopped traffic for 12 hours along the national highway in Montevista, Compostela Valley, Tuesday.Police Superintendent Filmore Escobal, officer-in-charge of the Police Regional Office-Davao Police Community Relations Division, said they are filing charges of alarm and scandal, as well as obstruction to traffic against instigators of the protest that caused inconvenience to the riding and motoring public.

Escobal did not identify the militant leaders whom they are going to charge, as they are still collating enough evidence against them. The PNP is also eyeing to file charges for illegal assembly. The militant groups that allegedly led the protest include Barug Katawhan, Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Anak Pawis, Kadamay and Karapatan.

Asked for comment, Juland Suazo, Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao spokesperson, said filing a complaint against them is a form of “harassment against Barug Katawhan, an alliance of typhoon survivors in various communities of ComVal (Compostela Valley) and Davao Oriental.” “Biktima na ng bagyo, deprived pa ng relief goods, malapit pang dinisperse, at ngayon may planong isampang kaso sa mga typhoon survivors and their support groups,” he told Sun.Star Davao via Facebook chat.
“Walay dautan sa barikada, dunay barikada tungod dunay dautan. (There is nothing wrong with a barricade. There was a barricade because something is wrong). The barricade was an organized response to government ineptitude, militarization and continuing plunder of the environment. It was definitely done and led by the organized masses,” he added.

Thousands of Pablo victims formed a human barricade along the national road in Montevista starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, causing traffic for hours and stranding hundreds of vehicles and commuters. The barricade caused a 25-kilometer stretch of traffic. The protesters complained of alleged sluggish relief response from government and demanded for a stop to large-scale mining and illegal logging activities. They also asked for 10,000 sacks of rice and wanted the military not to take part in the distribution of relief goods.

Tension rose when Compostela Valley Governor Arturo T. Uy and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman headed to the barricade in the morning and tried to negotiate with the protesters. Both got a rude welcome.Leaders of the protesters chided government and inflamed using a microphone when Soliman tried to grab the microphone, but she was denied. "That's unfair, that's unfair," Uy told the protesters, and then grabbed the microphone himself to take his turn in denying the allegations. Members of the PNP just kept watch and exercised maximum tolerance.

Both Uy and Soliman eventually left the barricade upon sensing it was futile to continue talking with the protesters. The militant groups and residents only cleared the highway when a truck bearing some 1,900 food packs from the Provincial Government arrived around 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Major Jake Obligado, chief of the Civil Military Operations Battalion of the 10th Infantry Division, accused the militant groups of capitalizing on the poor and distressed people of Compostela Valley to create noise. "We see this activity as mere propaganda," Obligado said during the regular Club 888 Forum at the Marco Polo Davao on Wednesday. "Personally, I don't call them as progressive. They are problematic (groups)," he added.

Obligago said the military also took part in the rescue and relief operations after Pablo hit Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental last December 4. "Since day one, we were there. We were there during rescue operations. We were there during relief operations. Where were they (militant groups) when the calamity struck? They were never there," he said. "Since day one, they were irrelevant and insignificant," he added.

Obligado said there was also deception on the part of the militant groups as days earlier, they went house to house to inform the residents that Manny Pacquiao and Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte are arriving in Montevista to give relief goods. Obligao went to claim that the number of protesters who took part in the barricade is only 1,500.

DSWD-Davao Director Priscilla N. Razon, meanwhile, denied allegations that relief goods did not reach the calamity victims in the area. "We have covered practically all the barangays (affected)," said Razon, who appeared in the same forum held Tuesday morning. She said there are 130,000 families affected by Pablo in Compostela Valley alone and that they already distributed close to 200,00 food packs.

Razon said Soliman was in Compostela Valley as there was an ongoing UN mission and to visit New Bataan and Barangay Andap when they heard reports that people are trooping to Montevista to stage a protest action. Right away, she said Soliman proceeded to Montevista to meet the protesters. "The secretary was firm enough to say that ‘I was ready to face them,'" Razon said, adding that Soliman is giving in to one of the demands of the protesters, which is to give the 10,000 sacks of rice they are asking.

Razon, however, made it clear they will only release the 10,000 sacks if the militant groups will submit a distribution plan for the DSWD to know who the intended beneficiaries are and where these will be distributed. "We are accountable to the people because it's the people who pay taxes," she said.

Army on alert as ceasefire ends

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 16): Army on alert as ceasefire ends

The Army's 3 rd Infantry Division has placed its troops on alert status, following resumption of its internal peace and security operations, as its synchronized ceasefire with the New People's Army ended yesterday. Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, 3ID commander, however, said they will continue to support the effort of the region for nation-building through deployment of the Army's “Bayanihan” teams, in the countryside.

Their alertness is also in line with the May 13 elections, he added. Mabanta also reminded government troops in Negros and Panay to strictly adhere to existing regulations pertaining to firearms control program and actively and diligently participate in ensuring honest and orderly elections.

The military has not monitored any violation during the month-long ceasefire in Negros island, that started Dec. 20 last year, and ended yesterday. Capt. Ryan Joseph Cayton, deputy 3ID Public Affairs Division chief, yesterday said two self-confessed amazons, Joecel Labanza and Precy Ortiz, both medical officers of the NPA in Panay and Rizal province, as well as Leo Glorian, finance and logistic officer, surrendered to an intelligence unit of 3ID in Capiz.

Mabanta, meanwhile, reminded government troops to exert effort in denying hostile actions the NPA may initiate, and help local government units and other stakeholders in the delivery of basic social services to the people of Western Visayas, unhampered.

Through the Regional Joint Security Control Center and the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center in different provinces of Negros and Panay, he said the 3ID will continually support and augment forces to the Philippine National Police with the guidance of the Commission on Elections, in order to ensure safe and clean elections here in the region.

Mabanta added that to they are now continually conducting information dissemination and awareness among their personnel on COMELEC resolutions that cover lectures on proper conduct of checkpoints, implementation of gun ban and liquor ban, and duties as Deputy of the Commission.

Militant leaders slam murder raps

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 16): Militant leaders slam murder raps
Six leaders of progressive organizations in Negros Occidental yesterday slammed the military for implicating them in the murder of an Army lieutenant two years ago in Cadiz City, a claim that they described as “baseless”. In his affidavit-complaint, copies of which were distributed yesterday to the local media, rebel-returnee Freddie Sanchez implicated Fred Caña, secretary general of Karapatan, Christian Tuayon of Bayan, Ronald Ian Evidente, spokesperson of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, Clarizza Dagatan, chair of Gabriela-Negros, Bernardino Patigas, spokesperson of Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights, and Gualberto Dajao, chair of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Region VI, as among those behind the killing of 1Lt. Archie Polenzo. Polenzo, company commander of the 62nd Infantry “Unifier” Battalion, was killed in a gun-battle with the platoon-size K ilusang Larangan Northern Negros of the New People's Army on March 7, 2010 at Sitio Aluyan, Brgy. Caduhaan, Cadiz City.

In a press conference yesterday at the Negros Press Club building in Bacolod City, Tuayon dismissed the accusation as “another trumped-up charge” against leaders of progressive groups, aimed to silence them from criticizing the government. While they are not afraid of getting arrest warrants, Caña said they only ask for due process of law.

Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said he cannot speculate on the case since it is in the court already. “Let us allow the judicial system to operate,” Lactao said. He added the incident happened before his assignment in Negros, and the case has progressed since then.

Caña said they only acquired copies of the affidavit, and the amended information for the murder of Polenzo, through their legal council last Friday. Dagatan said their conscience is clear, and there is no way for them to become murderers, especially because she is connected with the Gabriela Women's Party, a group that helps abused women. She added that they were deprived of their civil rights since they were not given a chance to explain their side. Patigas and Evidente also said fabricating charges is a frustrated move of military since its Oplan Bayanihan campaign is a failure.

In a text message sent to the DAILY STAR, Dajao condemned the inclusion of his name in the case of Polenzo. Other respondents in the case, who had been arrested and freed from jail after posting bail, were Romeo Nanta, alleged NPA regional commander of Negros; Rogelio Danoso “alias Ka Gildo”, Hernando Llorente and his wife Faith Roseen Basergo, Nilda Natan Bertulano, Marilyn Badayos and Romulo Bitoon. Sarah Alvarez and Anecita Rojo remained in jail as of this time, police records show. Julia Tabat, alias Ka Pinay, another respondent in the murder charge, died in an encounter late last year in Candoni, Negros Occidental.

Incoming AFP chief to continue controversial counter-insurgency program

From GMA News (Jan 16): Incoming AFP chief to continue controversial counter-insurgency program

Incoming military chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Wednesday vowed to continue the governments's counter-insurgency program despite claims by a human rights group that it has resulted in government abuses on suspected communists. Bautista said the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan would be his pet project as he urged those involved in the armed struggle to give up their fight in order to allow the country to move forward.

“Lahat tayo ay gusto na tumahimik ang bayan at tayo ay umunlad. We owe it to our people to win the peace, ang objective ng IPSP Bayanihan ay to win the peace,” he told “News To Go” anchor Kara David in an interview Wednesday. "Ito ang kinakailangan natin ngayon, we owe it to our people to be able to establish the peace and security condition so that we can finally move forward as a nation," he added. Malacañang announced Bautista's appointment Tuesday, two days before the turnover ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. He will replace the retiring Gen. Jessie Dellosa.

IPSP Bayanihan

It was Bautista who crafted IPSP Bayanihan, the military’s blueprint in winning the peace in the countryside, when he was deputy chief of staff for operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The IPSP Bayanihan was unveiled by President Benigno Aquino III during the celebration of the military’s foundation anniversary in December 2010. The campaign plan was implemented by government troops on Jan. 1, 2011.
Bautista said he was passionate about winning peace because it was the advocacy of his father, the late Brig. Gen. Teodulfo Bautista, who was killed by Moro National Liberation Front rebels in 1977 during a negotiation in Sulu. “He gave up his life for peace so 'yun ang naging advocacy ko rin, to be able to continue yung efforts niya,” he said.

Bautista also expressed optimism that the signed Bangsamoro framework agreement would prosper and will be an example for other groups to give up their armed struggle. “Sana ito ay magtuloy tuloy na, magkaroon ng normalization at sana maging halimbawa ito at inspirasyon sa iba pang grupo dyan na i-abandona na ang armed struggle dahil ang armed struggled o conflict ay hindi ang solusyon sa ating mga problema. Ang solusyon ay magtulong tulong tayo, magkapitbisig tayo sa diwa ng bayanihan,” he said.

Human rights abuses

But in a press statement, human rights group Karapatan said Bautista's appointment at the time that IPSP Bayanihan is on its last year of Phase 1 implementation was no coincidence. The group said Bayanihan, in its two years, had caused numerous cases of human rights violations, victimizing members and leaders of progressive organizations, including innocent civilians suspected of being members or supporters of the communist New People’s Army.
“Oplan Bayanihan, despite its ‘people-centered’ and ‘respect for human rights’ catch-phrases already resulted in 137 incidents of extrajudicial killings and 154 cases of frustrated extrajudicial killings (as of Dec.30, 2012),” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said.

But in a phone interview, AFP spokesperson Col. Arnulfo Burgos assured Karapatan that their fears were unfounded as IPSP Bayanihan puts prime attention on the protection and promotion of human rights. He further said that counter-insurgency plan was crafted with the help of stakeholders such as religious groups, academe and even progressive groups. “How can they say that? The emphasis of IPSP Bayanihan is human rights. They can read IPSP Bayanihan at makikita nila doon that all undertakings advocate the protection and promotion of human rights. It was also the first time that the crafting of a security plan involved the stakeholders. I advise them to read it, it's on the Internet or they can ask for copies of that,” Burgos said.

MILF probing involvement of members in hostilities

From the Philippine Star (Jan 16): MILF probing involvement of members in hostilities

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is now investigating on the reported involvement of certain MILF groups in hostilities in Central Mindanao following the Jan. 13 imposition of a nationwide gun ban by the Commission on Elections. Von Al-Haq, speaking on the MILF’s behalf, told reporters that the gunmen that ambushed and killed Tuesday two security escorts of a barangay chairman in Banisilan town in North Cotabato could be guerillas that have long been dropped from their roster of members due to various offenses. “Some of them have long allied with local politicians,” Al-Haq said.

The fatalities, Takanda Mamukao and Muslimin Ampuan, were on their way to Midsayap, North Cotabato along with Sonny Kadil, who is the chairman of Barangay Pantar in Banisilan, on board separate motorcycles when gunmen emerged from one side of the road and shot them with assault rifles. Kadil survived the ambush unscathed but Mamukao and Ampuan both died on the spot from gunshot wounds in different parts of their bodies.

The Banisilan municipal police said Kadil, in a statement, already implicated a certain Commander Bataga as among the gunmen that perpetrated the attack. Bataga is a known henchman of Commander Faron, a former MILF commander whom the local police and the military have long tagged as “lawless element” owing to his involvement in criminal activities that drew flak from local villagers. Al-Haq said they would also look into what could have caused the deep-seated animosity between Kadil and his adversaries, to determine possible solutions that can stave off recurring hostilities between them. “The MILF leadership does not condone any misbehavior of any member. The MILF do not also allow any member to join partisan groups,” Al-Haq said.

Lt. Col. Roy Galido, commanding officer of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion, said Faron also has an existing tactical alliance with the group of a certain Commander Tanda, a former leader of the Moro National Liberation Front in Banisilan, who was also booted out of the MNLF for his involvement in lawless activities. “All of them are of the same feathers now. They are all lawless elements now,” Galido said.

Galido recommended the participation of the government and the MILF’s joint ceasefire committee in addressing the peace and security concerns hounding Banisilan town. Al-Haq said they are also helping defuse the tension between two feuding groups in Datu Piang, Maguindanao that figured in a series of recent firefights, amidst Comelec’s nationwide ban on carrying of firearms, which started Jan. 13.

Sources from the Army’s 6th Infantry Division said the hostilities in Datu Piang involved the combined groups of Commanders Benaw and Duma Anayatin, and their common enemy, Commander Quiapo, and his followers. Benaw and Anayatin are both identified with the MILF while Quiapo is known for his links with the MNLF.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, newly-designated spokesman of 6th ID, said their commander, Major Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, wants the conflict involving armed groups in Datu Piang settled peacefully by the town’s peace and order council and the joint government-MILF ceasefire committee. Hermoso, however, said the 6th ID will uphold its constitutional mandate to prevent innocent villagers from getting trapped in the hostilities between the feuding groups.

More activities lined up to support FAB

From the Philippine Star (Jan 16): More activities lined up to support FAB

Central Mindanao’s Muslim and Christian folks are set to witness on January 29 a parade of hundreds of boats on a historic river connecting the legendary ilod and raya areas of the flooded plains of Maguindanao in yet another show of support to the on-going talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The geographical identity ilod means the downstream area of the marshy Maguindanao, while raya refers to the upper delta of the province.

The fluvial parade, organized by the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, the provincial government of Maguindanao, and local officials in different towns, is to be participated by members of the MILF residing in areas straddled through by the Butilen-Tamontaka river, where big rivers that spring from mountain ranges in the adjoining Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato provinces fuse together, draining downstream into the Moro gulf at the western side of Cotabato City. Organizers said President Benigno Aquino III has been invited to witness the fluvial parade, which is to kick off a sports competition among soldiers, policemen and MILF guerrillas at Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, newly-installed spokesman of 6th ID, said they are grateful to non-government organizations, local officials, led by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, peace advocacy outfits and the MILF for helping organize the fluvial parade. Local officials in the first district of Maguindanao said initial estimate of motorized boats and other small wat. Hermoso said the office of Mangudadatu and the league of mayors in the province have also been helping impose security measures to ensure the safety of Moro folks that would participate in the activity.

“We are grateful to the leadership of Maguindanao province, the joint GPH-MILF coordinating committee on the cessation of hostilities, NGOs, the religious and traditional leaders and the Philippine National Police for helping in this `peace endeavor’ which is a showcase of strong cooperation among all sectors helping build lasting peace in this part of the country,” Hermoso said.
The activity is a “brainchild” of the 6th ID’s commander, Major Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, in support of the October 15, 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB), according to Hermoso.

The Fluvial parade will start at Butilen area in Kabuntalan town in the first district of Maguindanao. Participants will eventually converge at the downstream channel of the Tamontaka river, that connects to the Moro Gulf at the western coast of Cotabato City, near the Sultan Bolkiah Grand Mosque. The Butilen-Tamontaka waterway was once a navigable shipping route used by the Spaniards from the 16th to the 18th century, which led them to dry lands in what are now chartered towns of Datu Piang, Rajah Buayan and Sultan sa Barongis, where they established garrisons that were eventually overran by Moro warriors led by ethnic Maguindanaon datus.

Preceding the January 29 fluvial parade and the government-MILF sports competition at Camp Siongco was the huge FAB forum in Buluan town in Maguindanao, which Mangudadatu’s office organized. The forum, participated in by thousands of residents, traditional and religious leaders, was attended by Mariam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the government's peace panel negotiating with the MILF. The FAB aims to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a Bangsamoro region as envisioned by the MILF.

ARMM’s acting governor, Mujiv Hataman, said he and members of his regional cabinet are to participate in the fluvial parade to show their cooperation with the 6th ID’s effort to generate public support to the FAB. The 6th ID covers the entire Maguindanao province, where the MILF has dozens of duly-acknowledged enclaves, including its main bastion, Camp Darapanan, at Sultan Kudarat town in the first district of the province.

Units of the 6th ID saw action when President Joseph Estrada declared an all out war against the MILF in 2000. The same unit also waged war against the MILF in 2003 and 2008, when Central Mindanao was rocked by rebel-Army encounters precipitated by the collapse then of the peace talks.
There has been no military-MILF encounter in the 6th ID’s territory in the past 17 months owing to the close coordination by both sides in addressing domestic peace and security issues.

The 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities crafted by the government and the MILF in Cagayan de Oro enjoins both sides to mutually cooperate in resolving peace and order problems in potential flashpoints in Mindanao.ercraft that would participate in the fluvial parade is about 500.

3 named as top contenders for Army chief post

From the Philippine Star (Jan 16): 3 named as top contenders for Army chief post

Three senior Army officials are the top contenders for the unit's top position that will be vacated by newly-appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista. Bautista of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Dimalupig Class of 1981 is taking over command of the AFP on Thursday from outgoing AFP chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa of the PMA Class of 1979.

Dellosa is bowing out of the military service as he is reaching the military’s mandatory retirement age of 56 on January 20. President Aquino is presiding over the command turn-over from Dellosa to Bautista at the AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Being considered for the post that wioll be vacated by Bautista are AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes, Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) commander Maj. Gen. Alan Luga and Maj. Gen. Ceasar Ronnie Ordoyo, 6th Infantry Division commander based in Awang, Maguindanao. Coballes and Ordoyo belong to the PMA Class of 1980 while Luga is a member of PMA Class 1981.

Sources said that of the three, Coballes, former commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincon), is at present the top choice to be the next Army chief.

MILF: Editorial--Talking to men of religion

Editorial posted  to the MILF Website (Jan 16-23): Talking to men of religion

Talking to men of religion especially Catholic bishops is like doing an almost endless discourse on ideas that touch human lives. This was proved during a recent forum in Davao City sponsored by the Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue in which the “Role of the Catholic Church during the Transition Period of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement (FAB)” was the main theme. Members of the MILF peace panel and some 37 Catholic bishops and lay workers had engaged in more than two hours of friendly and pleasant exchange of views and ideas on the issue of the FAB and other related matters.

From the first minute of the question-and-answer session, the level and quality of question --- let us not speak of the answers --- had been so high that the MILF representatives had jokingly complained that the questions have not subsided in intensity and substance.

This kind of engagement is not surprising. The bishops are not only well-educated, besides masters of their vocations, but before they entered the seminary and become priests, they have to pass through stringent rules and requirements. This is not the first time the MILF peace panel had faced the bishops and archbishops in a dialogue. Many such dialogues have taken place in Mindanao and Manila and many of those were spearheaded by Archbishop Fernando Capalla, Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, and Archbishop Antonio Ledesma. And this will not be the last.

More meetings are expected to follow, as both sides see the positive side riding roughshod over the demerits, if any. Many if not most of the barriers of misunderstanding and misgivings between the followers of the two confessional groups have been bridge or neutralized. When leaders of religions talk and decide to fuse understanding, cooperation, if not unity amidst disunity of their beliefs, the good effects on their followers are far-reaching.

For the MILF, this bridging effort is first of all what Islam enjoins its followers to undertake to reach out to people, tribes, and nations. The Qur’an says in Chapter 49, Verse 13: "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, And made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (Not that ye despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well-acquainted (with all things)." In dealing with the Christians (and Jews) the Qur’an said: “And argue not with the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), unless it be in (a way) that is better (with good words and in good manner ….”

Islam also enjoins Muslims to honor treaties or agreements made with a non-Muslim party. If Muslims have agreed to forge an agreement with them, then it is not permissible to break that covenant, to commit mischief in their land, to betray anyone, to steal, to kill or to do any destructive action, and so on. Finally, there is no reason why Muslims should not cooperate with non-Muslims with regard to establishing truth and combatting falsehood, to support the oppressed and ward off danger from mankind, such as cooperating to fight an oppressive common enemy, to prevent pollution or to protect the environment, or to combat epidemic diseases and so on.

Bautista vows to make leftist rebels irrelevant

From the Manila Times (Jan 16): Bautista vows to make leftist rebels irrelevant

INCOMING chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista vowed on Wednesday to bring down the insurgency problem to a negligible level before the end of his tour of duty or before the Aquino administration vows out on 2016. “That is our goal for the NPA [New People’s Army] to be irrelevant, for the armed struggle to be ended, to render the armed struggle irrelevant,” he said. “By the end of my term, substantially, I’ m not saying zero, it can never approach zero.”

Bautista explained that as Armed Forces chief he would be in better position to implement the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan, the government new anti-insurgency strategy, than when he was the commanding general of the Philippine Army. “I would be in a better position to influence the implementation of Bayanihan as chief of staff because I would be the operational commander and chief of staff unlike ng CGPA [commanding general Philipine Army] where I am somewhat limited because the CGPA is only a force provider. But now I will have a direct hand in the implementation of Bayanihan,” he said. He pointed out that the timeframe of Bayanihan is up to 2016 but stressed that by this year there must be substantial accomplishments on its target achievements. Among those already accomplished in line with the Bayanihan principle, Bautista further said, was the signing of the framework agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The IPSP-Bayanihan is the AFP’s new anti-insurgency campaign strategy , hoping that it will be the right formula that will end the decades-old communist insurgency. Under the IPSP, the desired result is to reduce the capabilities of internal armed threats to a level that they can no longer threaten the stability of the state and civil authorities can ensure the safety and well-being of the Filipino people. The strategy focuses on winning the peace and not just defeating the enemy, anchored on the whole-of-nation approach and people-centered security/human security approach. The whole-of-nation approach serves as the Armed Forces’s guide in implementing the IPSP, while the people-centered approach reflects the paradigm shift that the AFP pursues in said plan

Meanwhile, the military leadership, through spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., hailed the appointment of Bautista as the 44th chief of staff of the AFP, confident that he would be able to continue the ongoing military programs, initiatives and reforms in line with the goals of the IPSP Bayanihan and the accomplishment of its constitutional mandate.

“Being the chief architect of IPSP Bayanihan and now at the helm of the AFP, we are highly optimistic that he would be able to lead and enable the organization ot make vital progress and significant development which will help the organization and its partner agencies and stakeholders to achieve the shard goals of a just and last peace for our country,” Burgos said. Bautista was then the AFP deputy chief of staff for operations, or J3 in 2010 when he spearheaded the crafting of the IPSP Bayanihan in consultation with all stakeholders. The 125-strong AFP was also optimistic that under Bautista’s leadership, the ongoing military modernization and capability upgrade will further move forward to achieve a minimum credible defense posture.

Gen. Jessie Dellosa, outgoing chief of staff, will officially step down on Monday when he reaches his 56th birthday. However, the change of command ceremony will be held Thurday to accommodate the schedule of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who will preside the military proceedings. Burgos said that the whole ceremony, which include a testimonial review for Dellosa, would be made simple by reducing to half the number of participants in the parade so as to reduce and allow more troops to devote their time in their discharge of duties.

Gov’t, Moro rebels need to ink peace deal before 2016

From Business World (Jan 15): Gov’t, Moro rebels need to ink peace deal before 2016

Government and Moro negotiators should hammer out a peace agreement that could be fully implemented before President Benigno S. C. Aquino III steps down from office in 2016, a lawmaker said yesterday. “They should move their time frame from 2016 to at the very least 2015,” Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano told media during a visit.

He said the two sides should identify issues that will make the agreement binding and lead to political stability in Mindanao such as the giving up of arms on the part of the rebels. “My fear is in the end, it will not be about the framework agreement and the principles, but who will be the leaders [of Bangsamoro that will replace the autonomous Muslim region],” he said.

The two sides signed the peace plan, called the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, in October last year which provides, among others, for the creation of a 15-member Transition Commission that will draft the Bangsamoro basic law. Under the proposal, the new law, which would create the new political entity, will take effect by 2016.

The proposed peace deal under the Aquino administration would be the third for Mindanao as the first was signed between the administration of then president Ferdinand E. Marcos and the Moro National Liberation Front of Nur Misuari in Tripoli, Libya in 1975. In 1996, Mr. Misuari’s group and the administration of then president Fidel V. Ramos also inked another peace agreement.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the other group then headed by the late Ustadz Hashim Salamat, parted ways with Mr. Misuari’s group in the 1970s because of their disagreements in principles, with Mr. Salamat’s group banking on religion as basis for governance while Mr. Misuari’s group was more secular in nature.’t,-Moro-rebels-need-to-ink-peace-deal-before-2016&id=64332

Abu Sayyaf rebels reject MNLF demands to free foreign captives

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 16): Abu Sayyaf rebels reject MNLF demands to free foreign captives

Abu Sayyaf rebels holding at least 5 kidnapped foreigners have rejected demands by a former Muslim rebel group to free their captives being held in the southern Philippines, security officials said Wednesday.

Officials said a senior leader of the Moro National Liberation Front, Habier Malik, tried to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf for the freedom of the hostages in the hinterlands of Sulu Island. “As far as we know, the Abu Sayyaf has rejected the MNLF efforts to secure the release of the hostages, not without ransoms,” said Army Col. Rodrigo, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City. Just recently, about 2,000 MNLF members headed by Malik, tried to persuade the Abu Sayyaf to free the foreign captives, including two Filipinos.

Rodrigo said Malik’s group has returned to their bases. “The efforts of the MNLF to secure the freedom of the hostages are unilateral on their part and have the permission of the local government officials and military commanders on the ground. But our efforts are also continuing to safely recover all the victims,” he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Police said the Abu Sayyaf is holding a Japanese treasure hunter, Toshio Ito, 66, since 2010 and he was last reported to have been helping the rebel group in cooking food for them and freely moves around. Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra, the Sulu police chief, said aside from the Japanese, the Abu Sayyaf is also holding Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani, 43, and his two Filipino assistants Rolando Letrero, 22, and Ramelito Vela, 39. The trio, he said, went to Sulu province in June last year to secretly film the Abu Sayyaf for a documentary on Al Arabiya News Channel. Prior to his detention, Atyani has had previously travelled to the province in secrecy to interview terrorist leaders, the Philippine military said.

The military has previously said it would arrest Atyani for espionage should he be released by the Abu Sayyaf. Atyani had also clandestinely interviewed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

Freyra said two European wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland; and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, from Switzerland, kidnapped in February his year in Tawi-Tawi province had been brought to Sulu. “As long as the MNLF (members) don’t put the law in their own hands or violate the law in pursuance of their efforts, I don’t see any problem. We welcome all efforts in securing the safe release of the hostages,” Freyra said in a separate interview.

Police in Tawi-Tawi said the duo was allegedly seized by members of the Moro National Liberation Front. Another group of kidnappers are also holding a Malaysian fish trader Pang Choon Pong, who was seized in October 2011 in Tawi-Tawi, but his fate remains unknown.

In November last year, Malaysian authorities said two of its nationals were seized by 5 gunmen disguised as policemen from a palm oil plantation in Sabah near the Philippine border. It said the two, who are cousins, were both working for the plantation in Lahad Datu, and had been taken at gunpoint. Their companions said the gunmen spoke in Malayu and Tausug, a dialect commonly used in the southern provinces of Tawi-Tawi and Sulu. There were no immediate reports whether the foreigners are being held in either of the two provinces, but Malaysia said the victims could be in Tawi-Tawi.

Abu Sayyaf rebels are also holding an Australian adventurer, Warren Rodwell, a former soldier, who was kidnapped in the seaside town of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay province in December 2011. Rodwell, 54, is married to a Filipina Miraflor Gutang, 28. The rebels have originally demanded $1 million ransom for the release of Rodwell, but eventually lowered this to only $460,000. It was not immediately known how much ransoms the Abu Sayyaf is asking for the remaining captives, who are being held by different rebel commanders.

Rise of 'Bayanihan' architect to AFP chief bodes more rights abuses - Karapatan

From InterAksyon (Jan 16): Rise of 'Bayanihan' architect to AFP chief bodes more rights abuses - Karapatan

The appointment of the general who conceptualized the government’s counterinsurgency campaign, Oplan “Bayanihan,” to head the Armed Forces of the Philippines can only mean an “escalation of human rights violations” in the country, the advocacy group Karapatan said Wednesday.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, in a statement, blamed Bayanihan for 137 extrajudicial killings and 154 frustrated murders as of December 30 last year. These include the killings of Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio, Dutch aid worker Willem Geertman, and indigenous peoples’ leaders Jimmy Liguyon and Juvy Capion, among others, she said.

The “Internal Peace and Security Plan,” which touts itself as being “people-centered,” is the brainchild of current Army chief, Lieutenant General Emmanuel Bautista, who is set to take the reins of the AFP on Thursday. Aside from extrajudicial killings, Karapatan also noted an increase in the number of allegedly illegal arrests -- 27 as of December -- including that of security guard Rolly Panesa, who was supposedly mistaken by the military to be a ranking communist rebel leader.

"There are still incidents of bombings and indiscriminate firing, the use of schools, chapels, medical facility and other public places for military purpose. People are still forced to leave their homes because of military atrocities in their communities,” Palabay added. She said this made Bayanihan no different from Oplan Bantay Laya, the counterinsurgency program under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

NBI wants to know: Who ordered the Atimonan operation? Why was military involved?

From InterAksyon (Jan 16): NBI wants to know: Who ordered the Atimonan operation? Why was military involved?

Top police officials and ground operatives involved in the bloody Jan. 6 operation in Atimonan, Quezon showed up at the headquarters of National Bureau of Investigation Wednesday morning. And the main questions that the NBI wants answered are: Who ordered the operation that saw 13 people killed? Why was the military involved in a purely police operation?

As of noontime, seen arriving at the NBI headquarters included relieved Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) regional police chief Chief Superintendent James Melad and his men. They arrived on board a white van. NBI is also expecting Southern Luzon command chief Maj. Gen. Allan Luga to justify the presence of military personnel in a purely police business. The NBI has restricted media access to the interrogation of the police officers.

But a source said the NBI is willing to exonerate the low-ranking policemen for information that would get to the bottom of what now appears to be an ambush and not the shootout that it was initially reported to be.

For his part, NBI senior agent Danielito Lalusis said some 50 police and military officials are expected to present themselves for questioning. He also wondered at the participation of an elite military unit, the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), in the purely police operation.

Lalusis said the NBI finds it extremely significant to determine who actually issued the directive and gave clearance to it. “Who gave the go-signal for the operation? How were the men briefed before the operation, and why were elite operatives tapped for the supposed encounter?” he said.

President Benigno Aquino III has authorized the NBI to investigate the carnage. An initial report of the NBI probe is reportedly already released to Malacanang. Initial police reports said the PNP operatives on field engaged in a shootout perceived members of a gun-for-hire group.

New PH map to include 'West PH Sea,' EEZ

From Rappler (Jan 16): New PH map to include 'West PH Sea,' EEZ

The official map of the Philippines will include in 2013 for the first time the name "West Philippine Sea" for maritime territories claimed in the South China Sea as well as the 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This was confirmed on Wednesday, January 16, by officials at the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria), which has already submitted drafts for approval to Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

"Previously, in the old maps, the EEZ was not yet indicated, but for the new maps we will now have to produce, we will have to include the EEZ," Namria's Mapping and Geodesy Department director Ruel Belen told Rappler. Belen explained that apart from the EEZ and the "West Philippine Sea," updating the national map is "business as usual." "It's normal for Namria to update information on the map, it just so happened that we needed to put in new information, in this case the West Philippine Sea," he said.

China -- which disputes Philippine sovereignty over certain maritime territories in the area -- ignores the new official name and rejects the full EEZ as drawn by Manila. Malacañang said last year that calling the area "West Philippine Sea" should be no cause for conflict.

Tasked by Aquino

Namria immediately started working on the new map when President Benigno Aquino III instructed the government agency to do so in September 2012. Under Administrative Order No. 29, Namria was to publish charts and maps covering areas “around, within, and adjacent to” the Spratlys (Kalayaan Island Group) and Scarborough Shoal (also called Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc), both claimed in full or in part by China.

It took a team of 10 experts less than a week to complete the task, but much more time was needed for Malacañang and the DFA to go over the drafts. One controversial issue was where to put and how to write the text of the new official name "West Philippine Sea." The text could either be written horizontally but not covering the whole EEZ, or vertically inside the 200-nautical-mile demarcation line that highlights the area of sovereign national territory, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),  and the matter was resolved then the government chose the latter option. "They instructed us that this is where the [name] 'West Philippine Sea' should be placed," said Joaquin Borja, officer-in-charge of Namria's Cartography Division.

Another sticky point was the new official name itself. "The former name of that part of the world is South China Sea, so when we name it as such, West Philippine Sea, definitely there will be a not-so-good reaction from the party," Namria chief administrator Dr. Peter Tiangco told Rappler. Tiangco said that in any case Namria did as it was told: "Technically we don't have any problem, it's our bread and butter."

China already has own new map

Namria submitted their final drafts to Malacañang and the DFA a few weeks ago, but the government has still not given the final approval. DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said on Monday, January 14, that the mapmakers will have to use our laws to draw up an official map of the country [so that] all parts of our national territory will be included." "It is very clear that based on UNCLOS, we have the 200 nautical miles of EEZ and that area in the West Philippine Sea is clearly part of our national territory," Hernandez noted when asked if the EEZ would be included in the new official map.

The DFA is now mulling a protest against China after Beijing announced that it was set to publish a new official map of the South China Sea that will include areas claimed by the Philippines. China's official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday, January 11, that the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation had approved new national maps including for the first time the more than 130 islands and islets that Beijing claims in the South China Sea.

The editor of the maps said that the charts "will be very significant in enhancing Chinese people's awareness of national territory, safeguarding China's marine rights and interests and manifesting China's political diplomatic stance." In late November 2012, China increased tensions with other claimant countries in the South China Sea after Beijing started issuing its citizens new biometric passports with a map based on the controversial 9-Dash line. The Philippines and Vietnam refused to stamp the travel documents.,-eez

Armed men attack town in northern Palawan, steal church bell

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 16): Armed men attack town in northern Palawan, steal church bell

Mayor Rommel Dela Torre of the municipality of Magsaysay in Palawan reported that on Monday, armed men suspected to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) attacked an island in his jurisdiction and stole the church bell. In an interview with Dela Torre, he said they have since sounded the alarm to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) station in the Calamianes Group of Islands, where the armed men are expected to go after stealing the church bell on Alcoba island barangay.

Although no resident was hurt, Dela Torre said fear has overwhelmed the residents of the island barangay because the armed men might return.  He narrated that on Monday at around twelve noon, around 10 armed men wearing bonnets and heavy firearms went to Alcoba and stole their historical church bell. “There were past attempts to steal our church bell, but they all failed except on Monday when the armed men came,” he said.

They only discovered it was missing On Tuesday morning.  The town mayor called on police and military authorities in Palawan to help them get back the bell that has been in their church for years and years. He said the history that goes along with it make it a priceless possession of the not only the church but the people of Magsaysay.

3 NPA members surrender to PA Capiz

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 16): 3 NPA members surrender to PA Capiz

Three members of the New People's Army (NPA) had surrendered to the Philippine Army (PA) in Sigma, Capiz. In a military report reaching here Wednesday morning said the surrender of the three rebels Monday before the Philippine Army’s intelligence unit in Capiz led by 1Lt. Roldan Castillo and Technical Sergeant Francisco Alvarez was confirmed by Capt. Ryan Joseph S. Cayton, deputy chief of Public Affairs Office of the 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division (3ID)in Capiz.

Cayton has identified the returnees as Joecel Labanza alyas Ka Jacky/Nhene, a medical officer of Igabon Platoon, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay (KR-P) under the leadership of Joan Diaz alyas Jerry; Precy Ortiz alyas Ka Leah/Nhene, also a medical officer under Commander Rhea from Montalban, Rizal; Leo Glorian alias Ka Rio, a finance and logistic officer of Tugalbong Platoon, KR-P led by Juvy Benedicto alyas Bobong.  Cayton said too much hardship in the mountains and unfulfilled promises on the part of the NPA hierarchy aggravated by their concern to their respective families that hounded them most has drove these rebel cadres to give themselves up before soldiers of the 3ID in Capiz. He said Maj. Gen. Jose Z. Mabanta, commanding general of the 3ID based in Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz, also assured them of government assistance while in the process of relocation as well as livelihood training programs to be provided by the government to rebel returnee in their decision to return to the fold of law and live a peaceful life together with their families in the mainstream society.

Outgoing AFP chief to get PHL Legion of Honor

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 16): Outgoing AFP chief to get PHL Legion of Honor

Outgoing Armed Forces chief-of-staff Gen. Jessie Dellosa will be presented the Philippine Legion of Honor with the Degree of Commander this Thursday. Dellosa will be given this honor for his “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service rendered” as AFP chief. The award will cite Dellosa’s competence and leadership in leading the implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan where he rallied the military in sustaining gains in internal security operations; community building and development; organizational reform; support to peace process; territorial defense; and humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Dellosa held AFP’s top post for more than a year after assuming office on Dec. 12, 2011. He will be reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56 this Sunday. President and AFP commander-in-chief Benigno Aquino III will preside over the testimonial review in honor of Dellosa that will be followed by the change of command ceremony where he will formally relinquish command to newly-appointed AFP chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.

As compared to last year’s AFP anniversary celebration and previous change of command ceremonies, the activity will be simpler. The motorized contingent and sky diving exhibition were shelved, along with the assets and capability demonstration. Six battalions coming from the National Capital Region will participate in the ceremony. The Special Operations Command of the Philippine Army will be the only AFP unit outside National Capital Region to join the parade. This makes the parading troops 50 percent less compared to AFP Day’s 12 battalions.

Unlike in the past change of command ceremonies, cadets from the Philippine Military Academy and Officers Candidate School will not form part of the parading elements. These are all aimed in making the event simple. “Although the Testimonial Review has been a long held military tradition to pay homage to retiring military leaders for their selfless service to the AFP, this honor is still dedicated to the whole military organization and our soldiers who supported, trusted, and believed in my visions for the AFP,” Dellosa said.

Incoming AFP chief vows to initiate more SSR, fulfill military's constitutional mandate

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 16): Incoming AFP chief vows to initiate more SSR, fulfill military's constitutional mandate

With his appointment as Armed Forces chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista has vowed to initiate more security sector reforms (SSR) and do everything in his authority to fulfill the military's constitutional mandate. He said that SSR, under the broadest of contexts, is the effort to make the AFP more efficient, transparent, and more oriented in participation in community development - the basic precepts of Internal Peace and Security Plan "Bayanihan", the military's ongoing solution to armed insurgency in the Philippines.

Bautista also added his appointment as AFP chief will give him more authority and leeway to implement "Bayanihan". He added this is because the AFP chief is considered the operational post, unlike his former job as Army chief which is only limited in nature as he is only assigned to provide the needed force requirements to implement the program. "I will (now) have a direct hand in the implementation of 'Bayanihan'," Bautista stressed.

Under "Bayanihan" the military, with assistance of civilian stakeholders, must win the peace through community development works and other peaceful pursuits by 2016. Bautista said the results seem very satisfactory so far as proven by the signing of the Framework Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last October. He added he is hoping the New People's Army will be an inconsequential force by the end of his term in 2014.

Birth in the Family

We will gone to celebrate a birth in the family.  Posts and commentary will be limited over the next several days.