Thursday, January 24, 2013

Kawagib condemns Sheik Mursalum’s disappearance

From the Zamboanga Today (Jan 25): Kawagib condemns Sheik Mursalum’s disappearance

As the Muslim world commemorates the Maulidin Nabi (Birth Of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him), Kawagib Moro Human Rights said yesterday it is one with the families and fellow religious leaders of Sheikh Bashier Mursalum in condemning his abduction and enforced disappearance.

According to witnesses, Ustadz Mursalum was abducted allegedly by the military on January 22 at Labuan, Zamboanga City. An adventure van hit Ustadz Mursalum then armed men got, shot him and forced him inside the van. The family has not heard from him since, and even local police have no clue whether he is still alive or dead.

Mursalum is a Modeer (principal) at the Madrasa in Labuan and well respected by the Muslim community in Zamboanga City.The Darul Iftah in Zamboanga held a meeting yesterday to show their support to the family in finding Mursalum.

“Kawagib Moro Human Rights (Zambasulta Chapter) is united with all the Muslims in Zamboanga City who are calling for Justice to Ustadz Mursalum.  We ask the military to shed light to the suspicion that they are the ones responsible and surface Mursalum.”

Kawagib upholds the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and believes that Mursalum’s case can be submitted to its Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC).

“This incident merely reinforces our belief that despite of the ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), at the stage where the rights of the Moro people are being crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission for the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the reality is that the human rights of ordinary Moro people are still being violated.

Until now, Moro people are subjected to indiscriminate terrorist-tagging and arbitrary arrests based on a ‘defective’ warrant of arrest issued for the ASG crimes in 2000-2001. Several of those presented as ASG underwent abduction and enforced disappearance for days where they were tortured and finally surfaced after their abductors availed of the warrant of arrest.

Such has been the case of Muhammadiya Hamja who was twice abducted, tortured and imprisoned at the Basilan Provincial Jail due to the warrant issued by Judge Leo Jay T. Principe of RTC Branch 1 of Isabela City.

We call for the immediate investigation of Mursalum’s disappearance and calls for the Commission on Human Rights and Department of Justice to look into the matter. Along with the rest of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Zamboanga Peninsula, we pray for his safe return.”
Press Release from Abdulbaser Datumanong, Coordinator.

Video: More US ships heading for Tubbataha

From ABS-CBN (Jan 24): Video: More US ships heading for Tubbataha


A US navy official says the grounded USS Guardian is badly damaged and its fuel must be removed before the ship can be lifted from the Tubbataha Reef. However, it could take about a week more before the trapped minesweeper is removed from the world heritage site when bigger US ships arrive in the area for the salvage operations. The USS Guardian ran aground in Tubbataha last week and has caused damage to about a 1,000 square meters of corals. - ANC, Top Story, January 24, 2013

Video: EXCL: Video shows US warship running aground on Tubbataha reef

From ABS-CBN (Jan 24): EXCL: Video shows US warship running aground on Tubbataha reef

EXCL: Video shows US warship running aground on Tubbataha reef

Aabot sa 500 US personnel ang nakatutok ngayon sa salvage operations ng USS Guardian matapos sumadsad sa Tubbataha reef. Makikita naman sa unang pagkakataon ang video ng barko nang una itong sumadsad sa Tubbataha reef. Exclusive, nagpa-Patrol, Jeff Canoy.  TV Patrol, Enero 24, 2013, Huwebes

(Up to 500 U.S. personnel are now focused on salvage operations for the USS Guardian after it was stranded on the Tubbataha Reefs. Also see for the first time the video of the ship when it was first stranded in the Tubbataha Reefs. Exclusive, had a Patrol, Jeff Canoy. TV Patrol, January 24, 2013, Thursday)

Amid Tubbataha brouhaha, militants picket US embassy

From ABS-CBN (Jan 25): Amid Tubbataha brouhaha, militants picket US embassy

Several members of the militant group League of Filipino Students (LFS) on Friday morning held a lightning rally at the US Embassy in Manila to protest the grounding of a US Navy warship on the Tubbataha Reef.

Some 15 student-activitsts threw red paint at the logo and gate of the US Embassy to protest the destruction of the coral reefs in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-declared heritage site by the grounded USS Guardian.

The group condemned the Palace's supposed soft treatment to the US Navy over the incident. They also called for the junking of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). Three Manila policemen were caught unprepared by the lightning rally. They were augmented by additional troops only after most of the rallyists left the area.

Some members of the media were also hit with red paint at the height of the rally.
The traffic in the area was also snarled by the incident.

The USS Guardian remains grounded on the reef. An initial survey revealed that the warship has damaged at least 1,000 square kilometers of the protected reefs.

AFP-NPA clashes displace 85 families

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 25): AFP-NPA clashes displace 85 families

At least 85 families have been forced to leave their homes because of a series of armed clashes between government forces and communist rebels in Barangay Cabilao, Makilala North Cotabato, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Coordinating Council. But according to Lt. Col. Noel dela Cruz, commanding officer of the 57th Infantry Battalion, the sites of the firefights were several kilometers away from the nearest civilian houses. He, however, confirmed the evacuation of some residents upon the advice by state troopers to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

Dela Cruz said the series of encounters against a group of New People’s Army that splintered into two three groups started at around 2 p.m. Tuesday after soldiers received information about the alleged extortion activities of the rebels in the area. He said his troops will secure the houses against looters. Our main objective is to neutralize this NPA unit operating in that area to end their terroristic activities such as extortion,” dela Cruz said.

The Office of Civil Defense-Region 12 coordinated with the Makilala Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to attend to the needs of the evacuees. After the military lifted its suspension of military operations or ceasefire, the NPA also ended its truce declaration on January 15. Clashes between state troopers and rebels in several parts of the country resumed.

US ship to be lifted off reef as it takes on water

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 25): US ship to be lifted off reef as it takes on water

Philippine and US authorities have decided to lift the US minesweeper USS Guardian from the Tubbataha Reef by using a crane ship, an official said Thursday. “The Task Force Tubbataha and the US Navy have chosen lifting to salvage the USS Guardian,” Coast Guard chief information officer Armand Balilo said. He said US authorities had contracted Singapore-based Smit Towing Co. to lift the 68-meter-long ship, put it on a salvage barge and bring it to a shipyard.

The Philippine Coast Guard has said the USS Guardian has damaged 1,000 square meters of Tubbataha Reef. The minesweeper itself was damaged and taking on water, and would have to be lifted off the rocks in an operation that could last another week or two, a US Navy official said. Balilo said the process of extracting the fuel from the minesweeper was under way and could be completed within 48 hours. He said US Navy personnel had begun draining the USS Guardian of fuel.

Before the USS Guardian could be removed from the reef, about 56,000 liters of fuel would be siphoned off to avoid spills, Rear Adm. Thomas Carney, commander of the Navy’s Logistics Group in the Western Pacific, told reporters.

The ship, which is based in Japan, crashed into the reef before dawn Jan. 17 while on its way to Indonesia after making a rest and refueling stop in Subic Bay, a former American naval base west of Manila.

All of its 79 officers and crew were transferred to two other US vessels the following day for safety reasons as the 1,300-ton ship was unable to maneuver on its own and buffeted by strong winds and waves.

Carney said the ship was hard aground about 30 meters from the edge of the reef, a marine sanctuary that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “It’s got hull penetration in several places, and there is a significant amount of water inside the ship right now,” he said.

Philippine coast guard chief Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena said efforts to remove the fuel had been hampered by the rough waters and another attempt would be made Thursday.

Carney said heavy items aboard the ship would be taken off to lighten it before the vessel was loaded on another ship or barge. He said the operation could last a week or two. “I want to express my deepest regret for the circumstances that we are all in right now,” Carney said.

He said an investigation would look into all the factors that might have led to the grounding, including a reported faulty digital chart, sea conditions, weather and the state of the ship’s navigational equipment.

The Philippine government has said it wants to fine the US Navy for the damage and illegal entry into the marine sanctuary. Angelique Songco, head of the Protected Areas Management Board, which is in charge of the reef, says the government imposes a fine of about $300 per square meter of damaged coral plus about the same amount for rehabilitation and other violations.

Carney said that after the ship was removed, the damage to the reef would be assessed and the two governments, which have close military and political ties, would discuss any claims.

‘Stubborn’ China not sticking to law in sea dispute — Palace

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 25): ‘Stubborn’ China not sticking to law in sea dispute — Palace

Contrary to China’s warning that the Philippine move bringing the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) dispute to an international arbitral tribunal could “complicate” the issue, Malacañang yesterday maintained that the latest step is a legal approach to resolve the tension peacefully.

At the same time, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, at a press briefing, cited Beijing’s “stubbornness” on its nine-dash line claims on South China Sea has prompted the Philippine government to take legal action.

“We have approached it from the diplomatic, from the political and now we’re availing of the legal approach. It does not take away the fact that in the diplomatic (track), we’re still part of the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). We are continuing to draft the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. How does it complicate?” he asked. “Is it not better to elevate it to the arbitral tribunal?” the Palace official added.

Lacierda cited continuing talks between Manila and Beijing but China remained firm on its nine-dash line claims over the disputed sea, practically gaining ownership of the entire territory. “They have never moved back from the position of their nine-dash line theory. Every time we speak to them, they have always invoked the nine-dash line.

So how does one resolve a situation where they are firm and stubborn in claiming a nine-dash line theory which does not exist in international law?” Lacierda explained. “And so the best venue is to go to an arbitral tribunal, a third party where the rule of law and a rules-based approach to resolve the disputes can be made,” he added.

The Palace spokesman cited numerous diplomatic protests and note verbale, at least 18 of them, have been filed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) against China but the issue has not been resolved.

Lacierda also stressed the government will pursue the case it filed before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas (ITLoS) even if China would not agree to participate in the proceedings.
“The Philippines will pursue the procedures and remedies available under Annex 7 of UNCLoS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas) to achieve the award outlined in the statement of claim. Annex 7 of UNCLoS provides for a compulsory proceeding with binding arbitration,” said Lacierda, citing the DFA position.

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei was quoted as saying that “we hope that the relevant country honors its promises, and…does not take any action to complicate or expand the problem.”

Reacting also to a statement by China that the Philippines is illegally occupying the Spratly Islands, Parañaque City Rep. Roilo Golez, for his part, said the Spratlys and other reefs and shoals within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines have been part of the country’s territory since the 17th century while Beijing’s claim was made only some four decades ago.

China claimed that the Philippines does not have the legal personality to bring the issue to the artbitral tribunal of the UNCLoS. But Golez pointed out that the Philippine map which has been handed down by the Spanish government during its occupation would show that the disputed islands are indeed part of the country. He said that the delineation of the Philippine territory was even more strengthened by the establishment of the 200-mile EEZ.

The China claims were formulated in 1947 by the then Nationalist Government in a map with a nine-section, U-shaped demarcation encompassing the Paracel Islands east of Vietnam, the Spratlys west of the Philippines, and other uninhabited features such as the Scarborough Shoal.

Golez maintained that the islands being claimed by China, which include the Mischief Reef, which Beijing had already occupied, are “very, very far” from its shoreline.  He stressed it is China that is illegally occupying the Mischief Reef since 1995.

Golez said China should now abandon its plan of occupying the Spratly Islands and answer the issues raised by the Philippine government before the arbitral tribunal of the UNCLoS. The lawmaker said the House of Representatives has already approved a resolution supporting the actions of Malacañang and the DFA to bring the issue before the United Nations.

NPA suffers five dead in clashes

From Malaya (Jan 24): NPA suffers five dead in clashes

THREE communist rebels died and three government troops were injured in a clash in Tigbao town, Zamboanga del Sur on Wednesday. Members of the Army’s 14th Scout Ranger Company were on security operation when they clashed with at least 80 rebels at the vicinity of Sitio Maimbong in Mati village around 2:45 p.m.

Maj. Edgardo Amores, spokesman of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division based in the province, said the rebels belong to the Section Committee Kara and Regional Guerilla Unit of the Western Regional Party Committee under one Natan and one Elyong. Amores said the two sides traded gunfire for about an hour and 20 minutes. He said the rebels left their three dead comrades.  Soldiers found an AK-47 rifle, M14 rifle, and M1 Garand rifle.

In Sorsogon, two NPA assassins were killed during a firefight with soldiers in Gubat town yesterday morning. One of the slain rebels was identified as Richie Espenida, alias Ka Bilog, a member of the NPA Sparu – a unit involved in assassinations or liquidations.

A ranking NPA leader surrendered in the Cordilleras last Monday. Connie Santiago Valera alias James/Yasser, 29, male, of Pobalcio Lacub, Abra, gave himself up to police and military forces in Sitio Abubutok, Barangay Lenneng Licuan-Baay, in Abra. Valera was one of the leaders of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines. He is No. 5 in the 4th quarter PNP Order of Battle for 2012.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the government wants the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) to show sincerity in their pursuit of peace in light of the NPA attacks in Bukidnon, Zamboanga del Norte, and Camarines Sur in the past few days.

“We would like to see more sincerity on the part of the NPA. The burden of showing their sincerity in pursuing peace is no longer with us. Again, we have stated that we have shown our preference for peace,” he said.

Alleged ASG member nabbed in Basilan

From InterAksyon (Jan 25): Alleged ASG member nabbed in Basilan

An alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf with a P600,000 bounty for kidnapping was arrested Thursday in Isabela City, Basilan, the military said. Colonel Rodrigo Gregorio, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said soldiers and policemen cornered Muin Hamja, alias Abu Kudri, Sudjarapula, Usman and Suhud Ivo Makiring, in Barangay Kumalarang around 2:48 a.m. Thursday. The suspect is facing charges before Isabela City Regional Trial Court Branch.

MILF: Editorial--Judge not by your way

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Jan 24-31): Judge not by your way

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been mum on the criticisms hurled against it by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). We know it is not beneficial to both organizations if they are dragged into the verbal tussle. However, it is not good either if the MILF allows the one-way verbal assault continues. There must be a brake to it by way of this explanation.

The CPP in its 44th Anniversary Statement released last December 26, 2012 criticized the MILF bitterly for allegedly submitting itself to the supreme authority of the oppressive Manila government. It alleged further that the main objective of the Manila government is to pacify and subordinate the MILF and use it for the political and economic purposes of Manila and Washington. Truth is, this is very difficult to ascertain, but so far, the MILF finds the Aquino administration as real partner in peace-making.

In this write-up, we do not intend to defend or glamorize the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the four Annexes. Such an act is not necessary. The Agreement will prove its correctness or incorrectness in the course of time. History will judge the MILF. Our purpose here is to appeal to the CPP to give the MILF the benefit of the doubt whether its decision to sign the FAB with the Manila government will redound to the benefits of our people, or it is a doomed exercise.

The MILF and the FAB are different from the MNLF and the GPH-MNLF Final Peace Agreement of September 2, 1996, respectively. The leadership of the MILF also differs from that of the MNLF, especially in orientation and approach.

More importantly, we appeal to the CPP not to judge the MILF and its policies and decisions on the basis of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology. Besides, the MILF and the CPP are coming from two different points. The CPP believes in armed struggle as the sole route to people’s liberation, while the MILF gives armed struggle and non-armed struggle almost equal footing in freeing the Bangsamoro from bondage. We hope this appeal will not be like a voice in the wilderness!

MILF: Inclusion of Lake Lanao to National Integrated Protected Area System opposed

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 25): Inclusion of Lake Lanao to National Integrated Protected Area System opposed

A public hearing was conducted last January 16 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 10 (DENR-10) at the Provincial Capitol, Marawi City for the inclusion of Lake Lanao as a protected watershed area under the National Integrated Protected Area System Act (NIPAS Act) or otherwise known as Republic Act 7586 was opposed. Affirmation by a majority of the stakeholders present will pave the way for the inclusion of Lake Lanao under the control and supervision of the national government.

Speaking in behalf of MILF 2nd Vice Chairman Alim Ali Solaiman and as chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Bangsamoro Development Agency, Dr. Saffrullah M. Dipatuan expressed strong opposition to this measure on the basis that it will pre-empt any arrangement that will be agreed upon by the peace negotiating panels of the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation which are currently discussing the Annexes of power sharing and wealth sharing of the recently signed Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

 He said that Lake Lanao and Agus River issue is an integral part of the on-going negotiations on power and wealth sharing that must not be decided upon unilaterally by any party.

“We are earnestly asking H.E. President Simeon Benigno C. Aquino, III to stop the move of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to include Lake Lanao under the NIPAS Act in deference to the finalization of the discussion of the GPH-MILF peace panels on power and wealth sharing issues in order to preserve the gains of the peace process,” he further said.

Report said that more than 99% of the stakeholders who presented their views and positions were in accord with the position of the MILF.

Notable among them were Board Member Ansary Maongco who represented the provincial government of Lanao del del Sur, Pipalawan Naga of Save Lake Lanao Movement (SALLAM), Commissioner Bai Omera D. Lucman of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, Judge Abuali Cali of the Ulama League of the Philippines, Atty. Padoman Paporo of the Philippine Muslim Women Council, Datu Musa Sultan of the Saksi Islamic Radio Forum representing the NGO’s, Dr. Bashary Latiph of the PMA-Lanao del Sur Medical Society, local media representatives, women and youth sector representatives, and many more. Only two among the hundreds of participants expressed an affirmative view.

Regional Executive Director Ruth Tawantawan of DENR-10 assured the participants that the reason why she personally came to Marawi City is to hear for herself the real sentiment of the Meranaos and that the result of the public hearing will be conveyed to Secretary Ramon Paje of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Manila.

MILF: MILF to investors: Come after peace is fully restored in Mindanao

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 24): MILF to investors: Come after peace is fully restored in Mindanao

“Come and invest in the Bangsamoro until peace is fully restored in this region. This was the main message of MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim to prospective investors including foreign businessmen in the Bangsamoro after the successful signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro last October 15 in Manila.

The message was part of the Murad’s speech delivered during the eighth World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in Johore Baru in Malaysia last December 4-6. Murad was accompanied by three senior leaders of the MILF when he attended the forum.

The forum, which was initiated in 2003 as a business-centric complement to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Kuala Lumpur, had now grown into a non-political and non-religious platform focusing on the role of women and youth leaders. The annual forum had been held three times in Kuala Lumpur, and also in Pakistan, Kuwait, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan. London was likely to become host next year.

Murad’s presence in the forum had helped spur socio-economic development and encourage especially Malaysian businesses to look at the Bangsamoro region for investment opportunities.
About 70 speakers from 28 countries had attended the WIEF at Persada International Convention Centre.

The MILF leader had been very frank in telling would-be-investors that now is not the right time to invest in the Bangsamoro, saying the MILF and the government are still trying very much to solve the bloody mess in Mindanao.

He stressed that real peace can only come in the Bangsamoro if the current peace negotiation succeeds and all agreements would fully be implemented and the parties have signed the “exit agreement” marking the formal end of the conflict.

CPP/NPA: NPA campaigns against 84th IB's environmentally-disastrous schemes

From the PRWC Blog (Jan 23): NPA campaigns against 84th IB's environmentally-disastrous schemes

Simon Santiago
NPA-Southern Mindanao Regional Command. Regional Political Department

In a punitive action against the protector of environmentally-destructive capitalist incursions, Red fighters hit one of the elements of the 84th Infantry Battalion in a sniping operation in sitio Tabak, Brgy. Tawan-tawan, Baguio district, Davao City, on January 22 at 2 pm. The 84th IB withdrew two of its platoons and used as human shield Tabak's tribal leader Datu Sito Saman.

The NPA offensive is only one of the many region-wide punitive actions in the last three days as the revolutionary forces escalate the campaign to protect the environment and against its plunderers.

The 84th IB has been raring to start full-scale offensive against the New People's Army's Guerilla Front 54 Operations Command. During the temporary ceasefire on January 1, a platoon of soldiers forced the evacuation of poor, hungry residents in the village of Brgy. Tambobong; two days later, another two truckloads of soldiers and an APC arrived while seven days later, the fascist AFP troops were augmented with two more truckloads. On January 20, the fascist troops sneaked in at an NPA temporary storage area in Brgy. Tawan-tawan and stole 9 sacks of rice. They forced eight residents in sitio Tabak to haul off the stolen goods to the far-flung Brgy. Carmen.

Full-scale offensive military operations by some 15 truckloads of 84th IB-10th Infantry Division AFP troops scoured other peasant villages of Carmen, Manuel Guianga, Tamayong and Cadalian, all in Baguio district on January 14, or prior to the lifting of the GPH-NDFP ceasefire. The counter-revolutionary AFP operations were meant to protect the large banana and pineapple plantations in Baguio district that have wrecked Davao's watersheds and have aggravated the impact of heavy flooding in the low-lying villages of Davao city since last weekend.

Forests of Baguio district, along with Marilog and Calinan districts were shaved off and laid bare in the yesteryears by the logging concessions of Alcantara and Sons, real estate magnate Consunji who owns the Sodaco, the Maguindanao Timber Corp owned by the Robillos, and the concessions of Luis Santos and Yuheco.

The renewed exploitation of agricultural lands in Baguio district included the boundary of the Mt. Apo protected watershed area, and the important water tributaries like the Davao river, Talomo river, Panigan river, Tamugan river and Suwawan river.

The rapid commercial crop expansion in the restricted environmentally critical water and watershed areas is the culprit of the heavy flooding in Davao's low-lying plains. This is exacerbated with the hydroelectric dam of Aboitiz-owned Hedcor in the Tamugan-Panigan river and the MRC Allied Mining owned by Lucio Tan in the Marilog district.

Paving the way for the rapid capitalist exploitation of peasant hinterland villages of Davao city are the military operations of the 84th IB and tribal opportunist leaders or dealers like Joel Unad and the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples or NCIP that sell off large tracts of forestal areas for pseudo-reforestation projects. The reforestation scheme is merely a front for commercial logging abetted by checkpoints put up by the 84th IB. Recently, some 620 hectares have been sold in Brgy. Tawan-tawan, the nucleus of 84th IB operations.

It is the height of hypocrisy on the part of the AFP to project itself as defenders of typhoon Pablo victims and saviors of flood victims, when on the sly and in the main, it protects the destroyers of environment and oppressors of the people. Its Oplan Bayanihan Peace and Development Program act as bodyguards and goons of the environmental plunderers of Davao city's poor third congressional district area where the city's remaining watershed areas are found.

(Sgd.) Simon Santiago
Political Director
NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Command

CPP/Ang Bayan: Intensify political struggles and the national-democratic propaganda movement

Posted to the CPP Website (Jan 24): Ang Bayan: Intensify political struggles and the national-democratic propaganda movement

The Filipino people are fed up with Aquino’s lies and false promises of change which they have been hearing for the past three years. As time passes, his “righteous path” and “clean governance” shibboleths repeated ad nauseum are being exposed as empty slogans. His “kayo ang boss ko” (you are my boss) is pure blarney. Obviously, Aquino’s real bosses are his friends in big business, foreign capitalists and the US government and military.

It is plain to see that the solution to poverty, hunger and the exploitation and oppression of the toiling masses and the petty bourgeoisie lies neither in Aquino nor in his florid but empty speeches. No matter how much gimmickry, spectacle or tales about the “good news” Aquino resorts to, he can never conceal the real conditions of the people.

He is grasping at thin pieces of straw, which represent his manipulated “popularity.” In truth, the toiling masses have had enough of him. Neither could Aquino inveigle the middle strata in the face of mounting violations of human rights, his extreme servility to the US, abuse of political power, corruption and crime. Fully aware of all this, Aquino has been intensifying the campaign of suppression against the people’s democratic struggles.

The people must confront Aquino’s remaining three years in power with stepped-up political struggles. They must hold the Aquino regime accountable for its transgressions and crimes against the people. They must muster their power by organizing and through collective action.

Conditions are exceedingly favorable for massively arousing and mobilizing the people on the basis of resisting incessant oil price hikes, added taxes, wage freezes, deteriorating and more expensive health and education services, widespread demolitions of urban poor communities, lack of decent housing, the foreign plunder of the country’s mineral resources, repression and human rights abuses, landgrabbing, the neglect of calamity victims, the surrender of the nation’s sovereignty and kowtowing to the US’ every command.

The Filipino people must train their anger on the Aquino regime, demand retribution, shake it to its very foundations and work for its early demise. The intensification of political struggles in the cities will likewise contribute to strengthening the armed struggle in the countryside.

THE Party and the revolutionary forces must lead the instensification of the people’s political movements and struggles. Strengthening the mass movement in the cities is among the most important political requisites for bringing the people’s war to the threshold of the strategic stalemate. Let us use the commemoration of the 43rd anniversary of the First Quarter Storm of 1970 to recall the lessons of strengthening the revolutionary and democratic mass movement in the cities.

Just as the three-month surge in the mass movement in 1970 played a role in building the foundations of the people’s war, strengthening and advancing the mass movement in the years ahead is one of the keys to ensuring that the target of achieving a leap in the people’s war to a higher stage within the current decade is met.

Hundreds of thousands were mobilized from January to March 1970 in gigantic protest actions that thundered from Metro Manila towards other urban centers nationwide. This was the result of years of arousing the people, conducting persevering propaganda and education work and organizing among the ranks of workers, semi-proletariat, youth-students, women, professionals, church people and other sectors of society.

The ruling Marcos regime was severely isolated and shaken until it could no longer rule in the old way. Fascist terror reigned with the imposition of martial law in 1972. But this failed to crush the fledgling revolutionary movement. Instead, the people’s war gained strength as thousands of activists went to the countryside. They gave momentum to the task of expanding the armed struggle in the rural areas. They reached out to and organized hundreds of thousands and even millions of people. The revolutionary movement could not have achieved its current expanse and strength if not for the significant contributions of the products of the First Quarter Storm of 1970.

It is fine to revisit the lessons from such an important part of Philippine revolutionary history because they serve to guide us in our current efforts to create a new and brilliant chapter in advancing people’s war.

A strong and surging urban mass movement is the people’s weapon in resisting oppression and exploitation. It is the way to arouse and mobilize them and take the ruling clique and the entire ruling system to task. Party-led forces must arouse the people and muster their revolutionary mood. The urban democratic mass movement must be strengthened in order to make loud and clear the people’s clamor for revolutionary change and to form various types of alliances.

There is no dearth of outstanding issues that should be addressed by the mass movement. The crucial task for the mass movement is to put forward critical analysis and lay out the correct line of struggle to rally the people against the ruling reactionary clique and system.

At the same time, we must tirelessly reach out to the masses and form schools or study circles in factories, campuses or communities to discuss the program for national-democratic change.
Identifying and laying down the correct line of action will rouse and mobilize the people in their millions and pave the way for organizing and uniting them to fight for their national and democratic aspirations. Thus, they can train their anger not only against the ruling regime but against the rotten ruling system that it represents and defends.

The role played by the youth-student sector in invigorating the people’s democratic struggles is undeniable. They must mobilize massively not only to address their issues on campus, but even the issues and problems of the toiling masses in the cities and countryside. They must take action en masse and go to factories and communities and bring these issues to their schools and in the streets.

The organized strength of the masses of workers must be built anew. The reactionary government has launched brutal attacks against their unions and their basic rights. We must undertake the various ways of organizing workers—into unions or various forms of associations—in order to give primacy to their cries for higher wages, job security and better working conditions.

The good and advanced elements that emerge from strengthening the mass movement must be gleaned and brought together in revolutionary mass organizations, which must be boldly expanded and continuously broadened and strengthened through political education and mass campaigns and struggles.

The revolutionary mass organizations are the source of Party members and fighters of the New People’s Army. A powerful mass movement serves as a wellspring of activists, proletarian revolutionaries and Red fighters.

The Party is sharply identifying, analyzing and resolving the problems that have been stopping or holding back the continuous advance of the democratic mass movement in recent years. The revolutionary forces are determinedly persevering in exposing the ruling Aquino regime, intensifying political struggles and thoroughly advancing the national-democratic propaganda movement.

USS Guardian fuel extraction underway to prevent oil spill in reef

From GMA News (Jan 24): USS Guardian fuel extraction underway to prevent oil spill in reef

The critical process of fuel extraction from the grounded USS Guardian in Tubbataha Reef is now underway and may be expected to be completed within 48 hours, according to the Philippine Coast Guard. However, the full extent of the damage to the UNESCO-declared marine wildife preserve won't be known until the ship is removed by the end of January.

CG Spokesperson Cmdr. Armand Balilo told GMA News Online that, as of Thursday morning, US Navy salvage personnel have already begun draining the Guardian of its fuel. He said that this was crucial to eliminate the danger of oil spills and make the ship lighter, lessening its impact on the reef as well as making it easier to remove.

However, Balilo said that the actual extent of the damage to the reef cannot be determined until divers are able to survey the entire area presently occupied by the ship. "Kapag natanggal na yung ship, tsaka namin maa-assess at pwedeng sukatin (ang buong damage)," Balilo said.

The damage had earlier been conservatively estimated at 1,000 square meters, but World Wildlife PHL's Lory Tan, who has been studying aerial photographs of the grounded US ship, estimates the damage as closer to 2400 square meters.

At least two privately-contracted lift ships are currently underway from Singapore and are scheduled to arrive on January 30 to help extract the Guardian. Until then, Balilo said that the ship is expected to remain stable and hopefully won't do further damage.

On January 20, three days after the Guardian ran aground, continuous waves from the north caused the ship to shift 90 degrees, but it has remained in this position since then. "Hindi natin alam, mahirap mag-speculate sa day-to-day operations. Pero as of now, walang movement ang ship," he explained.

Ship structure

Meanwhile, the Guardian's design as a minesweeping vessel may actually have helped lessen damage to the atoll, according to Lt. Cmdr. Glenn Pacheco, Operations Officer of the Palawan Coast Guard. "It has a wooden hull, so yun yung nasira nung tumama sya (sa reef)," Pacheco explained.

He pointed out that minesweeping vessels normally have wooden hulls encased in a very thin outer layer of aluminum, so as not to attract magnetic underwater mines. Had the Guardian's hull been made of metal plating, as in other military ships, it would have plowed straight into the reef, ripping it apart. Pacheco also said that minesweepers are designed with fuel tanks elevated higher above the water compared to other vessels as a precaution against underwater mines. This therefore made the fuel tanks more accessible for extraction.

However, Pacheco said that an assessment has yet to be made of the integrity of the Guardian's ballast tanks —compartments that are designed to be flooded with seawater, to help stabilize the ship.
He said that the ballast tanks would need to be emptied so that recovery crews can safely lift the ship. It is hoped that the water contained in the tanks is just local seawater, or else it might contain organisms that are not indigenous to the area and which may harm the corals.

If so, then the salvage crews would have to find a way to safely empty the tanks. But "the salvage crews have standard procedures depending on the situation," Pacheco assured.

Salvage options

Originally, three options were being considered for extracting the Guardian: lifting, towing, or dismemberment. According personnel on the ground, towing would have been the most straightforward option if only a small portion of the ship were stuck on the reef, or if the ship were buoyant enough to permit it.

On the other hand, dismemberment was being considered as an option only if there was no other way to remove it than by breaking it up into smaller, lighter, more manageable chunks.

However, according to Balilo, it was decided to lift the entire ship off the atoll because this would have the least negative impact on the reef. "The foremost consideration was the safety of the reef," Balilo said. "Ang concern talaga namin is yung reef mismo."

He said the current lull in the monsoon-related weather is facilitating the fuel-extraction operation. Depending on weather conditions, the extraction may be completed on Friday or early Saturday, Balilo said.

Anikow died from stab wound in the neck

From the Philippine Star (Jan 24):  Anikow died from stab wound in the neck

The chief medicolegal officer of the Southern Police District on Thursday maintained that United States Marine George Anikow died from a stab wound in the neck that he allegedly sustained during a brawl with four men near the Rockwell Center in Makati City on the early hours of Nov. 24. Testifying at the continuation of the bail petition hearing of the accused at the sala of Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 59 Judge Winlove Dumayas, Dr. Voltaire Nulud said Anikow’s cause of death was a “lacerated left carotid artery.”

It was Nulud who autopsied Anikow’s body at the morgue of the Rizal Funeral Parlor in Pasay City where it was brought from the Makati Medical Center. Nulud, under questioning from Assistant City Prosecutor Hannah Arriola, told the court that a person who had sustained such a wound, if immediately unattended, would result in death within 10 minutes. “There would be severe blood loss and it will be followed by hemorrhagic shock as the brain will be deprived of blood,” said Nulud.

Nulud, however, could not explain when asked by defense lawyers, why an examination conducted by the Makati Medical Center where Anikow was rushed following the alleged brawl did not mention the supposed fatal neck wound. “We requested for the clinical abstract but up to now, we have not received it,” he said.

Defense lawyer Teodoro Jumamil, representing accused Crispin dela Paz, then showed Nulud an anatomical sketch from the Makati Medical Center signed by a certain Dr. Anastacio that showed no injuries on Anikow’s neck. “There is no injury on the neck,” Jumami said. Nulud told the court that it was his first time to have seen the sketch from the Makati Medical Center.

Jumamil then asked Nulud if it would be impossible for a man who has his carotid artery slashed to survive beyond 10 minutes. Nulud said yes. Jumamil then asked Nulud how come doctors at the Makati Medical Center pronounced Anikow dead at 7:20 a.m. on November 24. “If the injury was unattended, it (injury) would have been irreversible at five to 10 minutes,” Nulud said.

Jumamil then countered that Rommel Saavedra, a security guard at the Rockwell Center who had previously testified, told the court that Anikow was left unattended on the ground for at least 45 minutes. Jumamil then asked Nulud if the fatal stab wound on Anikow’s neck could have been inflicted elsewhere away from the place where the brawl took place. However, just before Nulud could answer, Arriola raised an objection and Judge Dumayas upheld it. Meanwhile, defense lawyers pointed to alleged lapses in Nulud’s conduct of Anikow’s autopsy.

Nestor Ifurong, counsel for accused Galicano Datu asked Nulud if he had opened and examined Anikow’s internal organs, to which Nulud said he did. Ifurong however questioned why Nulud did not state in his medicolegal findings all the examinations he had performed on Anikow. “Why did you not outline your autopsy in your report?” asked Ifurong.

Nulud answered that outlining the medicolegal report is not a procedure in the Philippine National Police. “It is not our process, Sir. We did a complete autopsy and we only state the remarkable findings,” he said. Ifurong then asked why Nulud did not state that he examined Anikow’s heart and lungs in his medico-legal report. “It was a grossly unremarkable heart and we did open his lungs,” Nulud said.

Ifurong then told Nulud that it was only his “say so” that an examination of Anikow’s head, heart and lungs were made as these were not recorded in the medico-legal report. Nulud answered, “yes Sir.”

Defense lawyers also quizzed Nulud as to why no blood-alcohol test was done on Anikow to determine if he was indeed drunk during the brawl as testified earlier by Saavedra. Nulud said Anikow tested negative for alcohol when fluid from his stomach was examined.

Nulud told the court that he requested for the conduct of a blood-alcohol test but was told by the chief of the Pathology Department of the PNP Crime Laboratory at Camp Crame to instead just collect fluid from Anikow’s stomach saying that the blood is already clotted.

Nulud however agreed with the defense lawyers that a blood-alcohol test is a more effective method in determining alcohol level in the blood. Nulud said that it is possible that alcohol in Anikow’s blood was removed as part of hospital procedure when he was rushed to the Makati Medical Center.

US Navy ship taking on water on Philippine reef

From the Philippine Star (Jan 24): US Navy ship taking on water on Philippine reef

A U.S. Navy official says a minesweeper that ran aground on a reef in the Philippines has been punched full of holes and is taking in a significant amount of water. Rear Adm. Thomas Carney said Thursday that 56,000 liters (15,000 gallons) of fuel must be removed from the USS Guardian before a crane ship can lift it from the Tubbataha Reef.

Carney, the commander for the Navy's Logistics Group in the Western Pacific, expressed his "deepest regret" over the Jan. 17 accident and says the Navy is committed to removing the ship from the reef.

The Philippines says it wants to fine the Navy for the damage and illegal entry into the marine sanctuary that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Human rights group doubts new AFP Chief rights record

From the Bicol Today (Jan 23): Human rights group doubts new AFP Chief rights record

Barely not enough time to warm up his seat, newly installed AFP chief of staff Lt. General Emmanuel Bautista again received renewed flak from human rights groups, after environmental groups have sniped on him over the week. HUSTISYA, a group of human rights victims, criticized the appointment of General Bautista in sarcastic manner. “A great move for the government, a greater threat for the Filipino people,” said Cristina Guevarra in a statement sent Friday to Bicol

According to Guevarra, Hustisya secretary general, “it is not a surprise that the government will appoint the brains behind Oplan Bayanihan, as the government targets to quash the so-called armed threats this year.”

We were not wrong when we warned that more human rights violations will come when Lt. Gen. Bautista was appointed Army chief in 2011. We closed the year 2012 counting more victims. A hundred more families of those extrajudicially killed are seeking justice, while more persons face trumped-up charges and illegal arrests,” Guevarra said. She said that another human rights group, Karapatan, has documented 137 victims of extrajudicial killings by the end of 2012.

“Can our families still hope for justice when the new AFP chief will only direct his men to implement the same old counter-insurgency program, only with a different name?” Guevarra poised the question in her statement. Citizens groups have been alarmed over the rise of human rights violations and abuses committed on civilians as a result of the government anti-insurgency campaigns in the countryside. Some reported that body counts of civilians arising from extra-judicial killings have been increasing over the past years.

Oplan Bayanihan, according to Hustisya, is a “cut-and-paste” Filipino version of the US counter insurgency guide released in 2009. “After two years, Oplan Bayanihan cannot hide behind pro-people and pro-human rights slogans, not even with music videos that sing of peace and development. In its two years, Oplan Bayanihan is a repeating nightmare of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya, which makes anybody vulnerable to rights violations,” Guevarra explained.

She said Bautista’s appointment reminds them of “how the past administration rewarded its loyal minions in the military for their bloody campaign against so-called enemies of the state.”

“We witnessed their increased military presence in communities, and questioned their defense for government projects such as large-scale mining, logging and plantations. We can only find peace if Oplan Bayanihan is put to a stop,” Guevarra lamented.

Army clear landmine blast site in DavOr

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 24): Army clear landmine blast site in DavOr

Members of the 28th Infantry Battalion recovered the electric wire which the rebels used as detonating cord in blowing up a military convoy which left one soldier killed and 13 others wounded in Sitio Mainit, Barangay Calapagan, Lupon, Davao Oriental last 12:20 am Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Lt. Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division said the rebel used a command detonated improvised explosive device in inflicting harm on the soldiers who were conducting security and relief operation in the area as government reaches out to remote places to assist survivors of typhoon Pablo. He said that as of 9 am Wednesday, soldiers cleared the area already from improvised landmines to ensure the safety of passersby.

Paniza said among the 13 wounded, four victims are in the hospital, where two of them remain in critical condition. “All survivors of the blast remain in the hospital for medical treatment,” he said. Paniza said the blast in Lupon happened at the time when the anti-insurgency drive had been turned over to its local government to handle.

He observed that the rebels were are able to create chaos in Barangay Calapagan since it is located in the boundary shared with Maragusan, Compostela Valley, where they can easily run to evade pursuing government troops. “Certainly, the rebels can still move in the boundary areas, even if we declare Lupon as cleared from their influence,” Paniza said.

He clarified that the troops were conducting inspection and risk-assessment of the extent of landslides in the area caused by the bad weather when the incident happened. Paniza said the soldiers even left a team as responders in case landslide and flash flood would occur. “The soldiers were involved in the ongoing relief operation when the incident happened,” he said. Paniza said the blast could have killed all soldiers if the military truck was weak enough to handle the explosion.

He lamented that the rebels continue to defy the Comprehensive Agreement in the Respect for Human Rights and International Law which stressed the respect for the individual’s right to life. “It seems that their leaders who signed the agreement with our government no longer control their members on the ground which describes the continued defiance on the CARHRIHL,” Paniza said.

Major Jacob Thaddeus Obligado, commanding officer of the 10th Civil-Military Operations Battalion said that the series of violent incidents perpetrated by the rebels only demonstrate that they want their presence felt, since they lost their relevance to the communities immediately after typhoon Pablo hit Davao Region.

Soldiers clash with NPA rebels in Bukidnon

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 24): Soldiers clash with NPA rebels in Bukidnon

MARAMAG, Bukidnon -- A gun battle between the government troops and the New People’s Army (NPA) occurred early Tuesday morning, January 22 in Kasilaan sub-village, Barangay Halapitan in San Fernando, Bukidnon. Lt. Col. Jose Maria Cuerpo II, Commanding Officer, 8th IB, said the government forces led by 2nd Lt. Cirian Rosero of Bravo Company, 8th Infantry Battalion, 4ID, Philippine Army, were on combat clearing operations at 5 a.m. when they encountered about 10 armed NPA rebels believed to be members of Sangay ng Platon Pampropaganda 3, Front Committee 6, North Central Mindanao Regional Committee under Reynante Tumbalang also known as “Kumander Jigger.” "The NPA rebels immediately fled the scene after the firefight that lasted for about 40 minutes," he said.

While the soldiers are combing the area to flush out the fleeing communist rebels, they recovered one US Springfield Single Shot Garand rifle and assorted subversive documents. Cuerpo said there were no casualties reported on the pursuing government soldiers, while undetermined casualties were reported on the enemy side.

“The 8th Infantry “Dependable” Battalion troopers will continue to exert proactive actions to foil any forms of armed threat that will hamper normal activities of the community,” he said.  He also stressed that maintenance of peace to pave way for development is their prime objective in carrying out their tasks. (8IB/4ID/PA/PIA Bukidnon)

Army steps up “Bayanihan” with IPs in Isabela town

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 24): Army steps up “Bayanihan” with IPs in Isabela town

The 11th Infantry Battalion with the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) recently conducted a pulong-pulong and gift giving dubbed “Bayanihan para sa Kapayapaan” in Brgy. San Agustin, Isabela town. About 1,500 residents led by Brgy Kapitan Agapito Eurauba attended the activities where the soldiers explained the Battalion’s present thrusts and programs in connection with the Armed Forces of the Philippine’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan.”

After the pulong-pulong, the MSWDO personnel led the distribution of foodstuff which included rice, canned goods and noodles to 95 families from the “Bukidnones” tribe, a group of indigenous people (IP) residing in the mountainous parts of the barangay, particularly Sitio Mahopaho and Sitio Hiniwaan.

Prior to the synchronized Holiday ceasefire between the government and the NPA, troops from the 11IB discovered an NPA Training Camp in Barangay San Agustin which resulted to a bloody firefight.

Since the ceasefire, the soldiers pulled-out while some residents evacuated to the barangay proper to avoid the crossfire. Some members of the “Bukidnones” tribe however opted to stay and toil their farms.

At the pulong pulong, Brgy Kapitan Agapito Eurauba informed his constituents that this activity was aimed to allay their fears.

Company Commander Lt. Jimrhic Obias stressed that the NPA’s took advantage of the holiday ceasefire by returning to this area in camouflage attire, pretending to be soldiers and threatening the people, in their effort to discredit the AFP and win back the people.

Lt. Col. Willy Isaac, commander of the 11th Infantry Batallion said that just as the AFP’s Bayanihan Campaign had been succeeding in other parts of Negros, the 11IB troopers will remain steadfast in its “bayanihan” efforts for San Agustin and adjacent barangays.

Manhunt on vs. NPAs after clash with soldiers in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24): Manhunt on vs. NPAs after clash with soldiers in North Cotabato

MAKILALA, North Cotabato -- The Army's 57th Infantry Battalion has continued its clearing operations and intelligence gathering activities following a fierce firefight here Wednesday that left a soldier and two communist guerillas killed. Colonel Noel dela Cruz, 57th IB chief, also blamed the New People's Army (NPA) for continuously harassing soldiers in remote villages because they could not collect revolutionary taxes from hapless civilians.

The two-hour encounter took place around 2 p.m. Wednesday in Barangay Cabilao here that left a soldier killed and two others wounded. Dela Cruz said at least two guerillas were believed killed as civilians informed the military that two men were carried by retreating guerillas towards the slope of Mt. Apo, the country's highest peak. Dela Cruz did not identify the slain infantryman and the wounded soldiers pending notification of their families.

Citing intelligence information, Dela Cruz said the rebels, belonging to Front 72, had been mulcting civilians during harvest season, an act the civilians have been seeking relief from the Army. He said the rebels have also intensified its harassment against multi-national firm like the Stanfilco for its failure to provide revolutionary tax.

De la Cruz said the "extortionists" are operating in large number so the Army had to use 105 howitzers to drive the guerillas away from civilian populace in Makilala villages which are earlier influenced by the NPA but later liberated by the military through peace and development initiatives. Dela Cruz said the peace and development activities will continue in the remote villages here and nearby towns despite continued attacks and harassment by communist guerillas.

Army scores against NPA rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24): Army scores against NPA rebels

Soldiers from the 8th Infantry Battalion engaged a group of armed New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in a 40 minute firefight in Bukidnon Wednesday morning, an army report said Thursday. Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias Jr., spokesperson of the army’s Fourth Infantry Division here, said that the army soldiers were on patrol when they encountered about 10 armed NPA rebels in the hinterlands of Halapitan, San Fernando, Bukidnon about 5:30 Wednesday morning.

He said an informant tipped the soldiers of the presence of NPA rebels reportedly conducting force taxation and collecting food stuff from the poor farmers in the area. Osias said the responding soldiers were on routine patrol when informed of the presence of the NPA rebels resulting in the 40-minute firefight.  Recovered from the scene was a US Springfield Single Shot garand rifle with a defaced serial number, four rounds of live ammunitions, and assorted subversive documents. Osias said that no casualty was reported on the government side "though it was not clear whether the NPA suffered casualties, too."

Army seize firearms cache in Marawi City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24): Army seize firearms cache in Marawi City

Philippine Army troops seized a cache of high-powered firearms and arrested two people while enforcing the election gun ban in Marawi City, military officials announced Thursday. Lt. Col. Ralph Raul Sespeñe, commander of the Army’s 65th Infantry Battalion, said the arrest and seizure were made Wednesday night at a checkpoint in Barangay Datu Saber, Marawi City.

Arrested were Muslimin Binao Ali and Junaid Ali, according to Sespeñe. Sespeñe said the suspects, who were aboard a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) with no registered plate number, even tried evade the checkpoint prompting the troops to flag down the SUV.

The troops have noticed in plain view that one of the two occupants of the SUV is in possession of a Minimi 5.56-mm rifle, Sespeñe said. The 5.56 mm Minimi is an air-cooled, gas-operated automatic weapon and is used for direct support of friendly units. It can be installed on a tripod or a mounting device of vehicles, helicopters and boats and used as a light machine gun.

Sespeñe said that more guns or a total of 12 high-powered firearms were found inside the SUV upon further visual search was made. Among the high-powered firearms that were confiscated to include the Minimi 5.56-mm rifle were: one SAR Galil rifle; one 7.62-mm M-14 rifle; four M653 5.56-mm rifles (Baby Armalites) with M-203 grenade launchers; two 5.56-mm M-16 rifles; one Caliber .308 rifle; one 9-mm machine rifle; and, one U.S.-made 12 gauge shotgun.

The arrested suspects were turned over to the police in Marawi City for the filing of case against them while the vehicle and the firearms were brought to the headquarters of 65th Infantry Battalion for legal disposition processing.

Meanwhile, Army’s 1st Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen Ricardo Rainier Cruz III said the efforts of “our soldiers will continue to ensure a peaceful and credible national and local election of this coming May 13, 2013 election.” The election gun ban, which took effect nationwide last Jan. 13, is aimed to curb violence related to mid-term election in May. The election gun ban will remain in effect until June 13.

Cops pursuing lead in Maguindanao grenade attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24): Cops pursuing lead in Maguindanao grenade attack

MONTAWAL, Maguindanao, Jan. 24 (PNA) -- Police are following up a lead to identify the two men who lobbed a hand grenade in the residential compound of a public school supervisor on Wednesday night. Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson, Maguindanao police provincial director, said police in Datu Montawal town have the initial information about the two suspects who casually walked in front of the residential compound of Delia Daniel, Montawal schools division supervisor at about 7 p.m. and tossed a fragmentation grenade.

Delia escaped unharmed but two of her house helpers were slightly injured when the grenade, which first landed in the roof of Delia's house, rolled down and landed where the two victims were located. Delia believed she was the target of the attack.

Jocson said the Montawal police were under strict instructions to get the suspects at all cost to prevent similar incident in the future. The two suspects, who wore ski masks, arrived on board a motorbike and casually walked in front of the Delia's residential compound then lobbed the grenade.

Daniel has admitted to police investigators she has been receiving death threats prior to the bombing. She recalled that every election period since 2004, she received threats because of her strict implementation of election laws as an official of board of election tellers in (missing text).

Her two house maids are now recuperating at a private hospital in nearby Kidapawan City. The grenade attack came while the election gun ban is being implemented nationwide.

2 NPA fighters killed, 2 soldiers wounded in Sorsogon clash

From InterAksyon (Jan 24): 2 NPA fighters killed, 2 soldiers wounded in Sorsogon clash

Two alleged members of the New People's Army were killed and two soldiers wounded in a clash with government troops in Gubat, Sorsogon Thursday morning. Lieutenant Colonel Teody Toribio, commanding officer of the 31st Infantry Battalion, said his troops had been informed by concerned residents of the presence of two suspicious-looking persons in the vicinity of Centro 2, Barangay Carriedo at around 9:05 a.m.

When the soldiers from the 31st Infantry Battalion approached the two, they ran away.
On reaching Centro 2, about five rebels opened fire at the soldiers, triggering a gunfight.
Toribio identified one of the slain rebels as Richie Espenida alias Ka Bilog, an alleged NPA hitman and an extortionist. "They are targeting off-duty soldiers, policemen and CAFGU," Toribio said.

MILF to respect election gun ban

From Rappler ((Jan 24): MILF to respect election gun ban

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said it would respect the election gun ban imposed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), a senior rebel leader said. Von Al-Haq, spokesman of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, said the MILF leadership has issued a memo ordering all members to adhere to the gun ban and keep their firearms within their camps. “Members of the BIAF are prohibited from roaming around urban areas and highways to avoid violating the Comelec gun ban,” Al-Haq said.

The Moro rebel spokesman added that the MILF would strictly observe the ceasefire mechanism so that the on-going peace negotiations would not be disrupted. “If there would be BIAF movement it will properly observe the ceasefire mechanism,” Al-Haq said.

"All alleged violations will be investigated and the findings will be submitted to the Disciplinary Board for them to determine what violation was committed and its corresponding sanction and punishment," Al-Haq added. The Comelec imposed the gun ban last January 13 and will be terminated on June 12.

US ship to be lifted by crane from Tubbataha reef

From Rappler (Jan 24): US ship to be lifted by crane from Tubbataha reef

WAITING FOR THE CRANE. A Philippine Coast Guard boat is seen wading through water as he tugs a boat towards the US Navy minesweeper. AFP PHOTO / PCG

WAITING FOR THE CRANE. A Philippine Coast Guard boat is seen wading through water as he tugs a boat towards the US Navy minesweeper. AFP PHOTO / PCG

A week after the USS Guardian minesweeper ran aground on Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, authorities have finally decided to extricate the ship from the coral by lifting it with a crane and then transferring the vessel to a barge. "Today we decided it is going to be lifted. We will wait for the arrival of two crane ships from Singapore. The boat will be lifted and brought to a shipyard," Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr Armand Balilio said in a press conference here on Thursday, January 24.

Balilio explained the operation will not begin until early February, when the Singapore-based maritime salvage company hired by the US Navy is ready to conduct the extrication. After ruling out other options such as dragging the ship from the reef with a tugboat or dismantling it piece by piece, the final decision to lift the vessel was warranted by a preliminary assessment on the damage on the hull.

The USS Guardian crashed into the reef on January 17 and two days later was turned 90 degrees by strong currents and winds. At least 17 m of the hull are rammed into the reef, accounting for an initial estimate of about 1,000 sqm of damaged coral in the multi-awarded conservation project and a paradise for divers.

STUCK ON THE REEF. The USS Guardian hit the upper side of Tubbataha's South Atoll on January 17

STUCK ON THE REEF. The USS Guardian hit the upper side of Tubbataha's South Atoll on January 17

Salvage operation 'very complicated'

Also present at the Puerto Princesa press conference was US Navy Rear Admiral Thomas Carney, who just arrived from Singapore to take over the coordination of the salvage operation for the Americans. Carney confirmed that "the option that we hoped to be able to tow the ship off the reef is not available."

"It's too badly damaged. It's got hull penetrations in several places, and there's a significant amount of water inside the ship right now," said the rear admiral, who heads the US Navy's logistics group in the Western Pacific.

He described the salvage operation as "a very deliberate, complicated process" involving at least two more US Navy vessels that could take up to two weeks to complete. "It depends on the environmental conditions out there as to how safely we can proceed," he said of the timeline.

The USS Guardian's hull sustained serious damage from the crash and is currently flooded in several parts, a crucial factor that led authorities to reject towing the vessel into deeper waters.

Balilo stressed there is no danger of an oil spill and there is an ongoing operation to pump the remaining fuel from the ship's tanks. "We will continue that operation today, taking out the fuel from the ship to prevent serious marine damage," he said.

Carney explained that the USS Guardian had listed after being battered by huge waves, and the most pressing issue was to remove 57,000 litres (15,000 US gallons) of fuel. "The first priority is to get the fuel out of the ship as soon as possible," Carney told reporters.

DAMAGE ASSESSMENT. A Philippine Coast Guard diver inspects the coral damage near the ships's hull. Photo courtesy of PCG

DAMAGE ASSESSMENT. A Philippine Coast Guard diver inspects the coral damage near the ships's hull. Photo courtesy of PCG

Too early' to assess damage

Two days after the park management announced that it will immediately fine the US Navy for entering the area without permission and other violations of the law governing Tubbataha, the Americans have not yet said a word on whether or when they will pay. "The Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board is still waiting for their commitment to pay. So far we haven't received a formal reply from the US side," said park superintendent Angelique Songco.

Carney said it was too early to determine how much damage the USS Guardian has caused in Tubbataha, a UNESCO World Heritage site in a remote part of the Sulu Sea famous for its rich marine life and coral that rival Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

The incident has stoked anger in the Philippines, with the US Navy yet to explain why it was sailing through a protected marine sanctuary en route to Indonesia.

Carney declined to explain why the Guardian was sailing in the area, saying that was still the subject of investigation, however he repeated a US Navy apology made last weekend. "We express our deepest regret that we are in this situation, and we are committed to removing the ship from the reef as soon as possible," he said.

22 policemen facing charges in Atimonan shootout under restrictive custody -- PNP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24): 22 policemen facing charges in Atimonan shootout under restrictive custody -- PNP

At least 22 policemen, including two officials, were placed under restrictive custody and now facing administrative charges due to the shooting incident in Atimonan, Quezon province that killed 13 people last Jan. 6. This was revealed by Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima on Thursday.

In a press conference, Purisima said two officials -- Sr. Supt. Valeriano de Leon, former police chief of Quezon province; and Chief Supt. James Melad, former Calabarzon regional police office director -- and the Atimonan policemen are included in the administrative charges and placed in restrictive custody at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City during the pendency of the case.

Also under restrictive custody are P/Supt Hansel Marantan, P/Supt. Ramon Balauag, Police Inspector Grant Gollod, Police Senior Inspector John Paulo Carracedo, Police Inspector Timoteo Orig, Police Inspector Ferdinand Aguilar, Police Inspector Evaristo San Juan, SPO3 Joselito Q. De Guzman, SPO1 Claro L. Cataquiz Jr., SPO1 Arturo Comia Sarmiento, PO3 Eduardo L. Oronan, PO2 Nelson P. Indal, PO2 Al Bhazar K. Jailani, PO1 Wryan B. Sardea, PO1 Rodel Talento, PO3 Benedict Dimayuga, PO1 Allen C. Ayobo, PO1 Esperidion L. De Leon, PO2 Ronnie Serdena, and PO2 Esperidion Corpuz.

Purisima said the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) investigation report concluded that there were four operational lapses committed by the 22 police officers during the Atimonan shootout. "I have approved the recommendation of PNP's Internal Affairs Service on those charged PNP personnel who took part in the Atimonan case that they be in restrictive custody here in Camp Crame during the pendency of the case against them," Purisima said.

Purisima said the violations were on jurisdiction, prescribed uniform, composition, and marked vehicles. On the jurisdiction aspect, Purisima said that the first checkpoint was conducted in Plaridel, Quezon but manned by Atimonan police officers. “Ang ginamit po ng mga pulis dun sa checkpoint nila ay police Atimonan where in fact the place where the first checkpoint happened was in Plaridel, Quezon so meron ng violation ng jurisdiction,” Purisima explained.

The officers, he said, were also not in their prescribed uniform and were not able to comply with the required number of policemen in a checkpoint. Purisima added there was also an absence of marked vehicles at the second checkpoint.

Purisima said the police personnel have been placed in restrictive custody to make them available for the ongoing investigation of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). The PNP chief said that charges against them is based on the violations of the police operational procedures while other charges will likely come in, based on the result of the investigation of the NBI.

The investigation will be finished within the 90-day period that will officially start as soon as the directorate for personnel records and management handles the case and is expected to create a summary hearing body.

According to PNP internal affairs service chief, Police Director Alexander Roldan, the accused may be booted out from the service, depending on the result of their investigation. The charges against the police personnel stemmed from the violations of the police operational procedure in setting up the second checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon.

Purisima also approved the recommendation of the Internal Affairs Service to secure presidential clearance for the conduct of pre-charge investigation against Sr. Supt. De Leon and Melad under the principle of command responsibility. “The Atimonan incident may have placed the entire police organization in bad light but we take it as an opportunity for us to aggressively push for the necessary reform programs to give the Filipino the best service and protection they deserve from the Philippine National Police,” he said.