Sunday, January 27, 2013

Abolish VFA, Filipino student group urges Aquino

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 27): Abolish VFA, Filipino student group urges Aquino

The League of Filipino Students questioned Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s sincerity to hold the US Navy accountable for the destruction of the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea. It said the President should immediately junk the Visiting Forces Agreement if he is resolved to make the US answerable to the accident and not just spouting mere rhetoric.

The challenge came after Aquino said the apology issued by the US Navy, albeit appreciated, is not sufficient to compensate for the damage done to the reef. Yet, he was quick to absolve the VFA from criticisms. “In the time of intensified anti-US Imperialist sentiment, Aquino is forced to feign dissatisfaction with the US in an attempt to pacify the Filipino people. But as a US lapdog that cannot bite the hand that feeds him, he exposed his own charade of patriotism in trying to maintain the VFA,” Mai Uichanco, LFS Secretary General, said in a statement to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Uichanco disputed Aquino’s claim that the VFA had nothing to do with the USS Guardian’s grounding in the marine sanctuary. She pointed out how port calls sanctioned by the VFA are what brought the US warship in the Philippines in the first place. “How does he plan on penalizing the USS Guardian’s crew when the VFA exempts US troops in the country from Philippine law?” Uichanco asked.

The youth leader even retaliated at Aquino’s remarks that the issued apology by the US Navy showed how the US respected the Philippines’ sovereignty. “How could he say we are being respected when all this time the US has reduced the identity of the Philippines to nothing more than a military base for its troops? Were the crew of the USS Guardian showing respect when they blatantly ignored the warnings radioed to them by our environmental authorities, or when they met with hostility the park rangers attempting to inspect their ship?” she asked.

She called out to the rest of the nation to continue their vigilance in keeping an eye on Aquino’s action—or inaction—over the following days. “As early as now, Aquino is showing signs of letting the US off the hook again. For this, the LFS calls on every patriotic Filipino to intensify the struggle for the liberation of the country not only from US Imperialists but also from their minions in the government,” Uichanco said.

Advocacy on FAB held in Zamboanga City; Mayor Lobregat in attendance

From the MILF Website (Jan 28): Advocacy on FAB held in Zamboanga City; Mayor Lobregat in attendance

MILF supporters and sympathizers held an advocacy forum on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) at the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) on January 20, 2013. The group named their program as ‘’GPH-MILF partnership on Peace Advocacy” with the theme “Bridging the Unity of the Bangsamoro a roadmap solution to Mindanao problem”.

Invited to the program as guest speakers were well known personalities in the city including Zamboanga City 1st District Congresswoman Maria Isabel Climaco-Salazar, 2nd District Congressman Enrico “Amor con amor” Basilio Fabian, WESMINCOM (AFP) Commander Lt. Gen. Ray Aldo, Zamboanga City Chief of Police (PNP) P/S Supt. Edwin Ocampo , Silsilah Foundation President Rev. Fr. Sebastian de Ambra, Peace Advocate of Zamboanga (PAZ) President Rev. Fr. Angelo Calvo, Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) President Dr. Milabelle E. Ho, Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinRHAC) President Atty.Galluash Ballaho, Muslim religious scholars, representative from Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and, of course, the City Government Chief Executive Mayor Celso L. Lobregat.

Mayor Celso Lobregat honoured the invitation but continued his gripes against the inclusion of any part of Zamboanga City in the proposed Bangsamoro government. In his remarks, Lobregat uttered these words: “We Zamboanguenos are for peace but we don’t want Zamboanga City be included in the ARMM or any name or moniker for the proposed Bangsamoro New Political Entity”. In his characteristic ways, he claimed that “Moro” is characterized by banditry, rapist, robbery, murder, usury, incest and etc. However, report received by Luwaran disclosed that Lobregat’s continued sour-griping did not spoil the program.

Also invited to shed lights on the FAB were former executive director of the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI), Dr. Tomanda Antok, and former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Assemblyman/Lawyer Atty. Nazer Ynawat who was not able come due to illness.

On his part, Tomanda delivered what the people highly expected from him but did not get away without answering difficult questions from the critics of FAB during the open forum despite thoroughly explaining all provisions of the FAB from the establishment of Bangsamoro to the putting in place of the regular Bangsamoro government in 2016.

Zamboanga City Muslims Students Association (MSA) acted as secretariat of the forum from start to finish.

In the same forum, Ibrahim Albani, a contender for the Sultanate of Sulu, stole the limelight from the Committee for his bold remark that “there would be bloodbath among Moro Muslims if they are not consulted until the Comprehensive Compact Agreement between the GPH-MILF is signed”. The warning was published in the local newspaper by the local media the day after.

CPP/NPA: NPA ambush in Makilala wounds 5 AFP troops, yields 18 casualties in Lupon

Posted to the PRWC Blog (Jan 26): NPA ambush in Makilala wounds 5 AFP troops, yields 18 casualties in Lupon

Rigoberto F. Sanchez
Merardo Arce Command, NPA-Southern Mindanao
26 January 2013

Red fighters sustained its campaign in two separate ambushes this week against the relentless Oplan Bayanihan operations of the Eastern Mindanao Command-AFP.

The Magtanggol Roque Command Guerilla Front 51 Operations Command ambushed fascist soldiers of the 57th Infantry Battalion-6th Infantry Division aboard Km 40 army vehicle on January 25, 2013 at 10:30 in the evening, wounding five troops in Sitio Alang-alang, Barangay Kisante, Makilala town, North Cotabato.

Earlier, Red fighters of the Wilfredo Zapanta Command Guerilla Front 18 Operations Command-NPA punished the fascist soldiers on January 22 at around 12:12 AM as they ambushed two KM 40 vehicles of the 28th IB, killing four and wounding 14 of the fascist troops.

Last night's NPA's ambush in Makilala was aimed at deterring troops who were on their way to its tactical command post in Alang-alang detachment where the AFP mounted two batteries of 105 howitzer that conducted shelling operations towards the village of Cabilao. A child was hit on his ear by the military's bullets.

The NPA's command-detonated explosive was directed against the notorious 57th IB that served as goons for the Energy Development Company (formerly PNOC) in Kidapawan and Dole Philippines banana plantation in North Cotabato. The 57th IB Charlie Company begun its operations last December 25, violating the previous temporary ceasefire between the GPH and the NDFP.

In Lupon, the NPA Red fighters continue to battle it out and vow to intensify its counter-offensive against the 28th IB, a notorious human rights violator in Davao Oriental. The fascist troops begun its operations 10 days ago.

The NPA violates no laws and international instruments as it continues to use command-detonated explosives in its guerilla warfare. It employs no stealth as it launches tactical offensive against legitimate targets, at the same time, abides war protocols and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. This is in contrast to the AFP and the US-Aquino regime's continuing policy of committing brazen abuses like massacre, torture and extrajudicial killing of civilians and non-combatants.

Tubbataha suit pushed

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 28): Tubbataha suit pushed

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas and Anakpawis called for the filing of a “millennium class suit” amid the environmental damage caused by USS Guardian after it ran aground Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17. “It will take a year for one millimeter of the mostly hard corals damaged in Tubbataha’s south to go back to its sound condition and about 250 years for a meter of the corals to mature,” said Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya chairman, citing marine experts.

The alliance of fishing communities and Anakpawis party list said Manila and Washington have yet to agree on the damage done to the UNESCO heritage site and its 360 species of corals that serve as breeding ground of 1,500 fish species as well. Hicap said the destruction of the Tubbataha habitat being a major fishing area would setback supply significantly. He said fish production in West Palawan Sea and Sulu-Celebes Sea is estimated at 800,000 metric tons per year.

Hicap, also Anakpawis vice chairman, of Anakpawis party list said the class suit should demand the US government a considerable amount for claims following the destruction of fishing grounds. “We don’t know at this time how much the fisherfolk should demand from Washington,” said Hicap, also Nakapawis vice chairman. “Is it 100 billion in peso currency or in dollars? We don’t know yet.”

He also called on Malacanang to prevent a repeat of the ecological mishap by revoking the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US.

Hicap said an expression of regret was inadequate for the harm done. “Whether US ambassador Harry Thomas is sincere or not in issuing that apology remains to be seen,” he said. “We deserve (more) than just a press release.” On Friday, the embassy issued a statement to the media amid reports of fuel leak amid other salvor concerns.

Heroic Act

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 27): Heroic Act

Bravery, determination, and heroics were the factors seen by the officials of the 10th Infantry (Agila) Division in the success of soldiers in repulsing the attack by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels over the weekend in Greenfield area, Barangay Sta. Juana, Tagbina, Surigao del Sur. “They (soldiers) stood the ground until their attackers fled to nearby Diwata range,” said a military official fot eh 10th ID.

Initial reports from the 75th Infantry Battallion (75th IB) based in Camp Jaime N. Ferrer in Maharlika, Bislig City, said the rebels attacked the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) detachment in Greenfield area at 10:50 a.m. on Saturday. The CAFGU’s gallantly returned fire, but one of their men was wounded. “The attackers also suffered many wounded or killed as witnessed by the populace saw them carrying their wounded comrades away from the harassed patrol base,” the report stated.

NPA admits to attacking troops in North Cotabato

From the Manila Times (Jan 28): NPA admits to attacking troops in North Cotabato

Communist rebels claimed responsibility for a series of attacks against government forces in North Cotabato City. Rigoberto Sanchez, a spokesman for the New People’s Army (NPA), said that rebel forces sustained its campaign against the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command. He said that rebels recently bombed a military convoy of the 57th Infantry Battalion in the village of Kisante in North Cotabato’s Makilala town, wounding five soldiers.

“The NPA’s ambush in Makilala was aimed at deterring troops who were on their way to its tactical command post in Alang-alang detachment where the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] mounted two batteries of 105 howitzer that conducted shelling operations toward the village of Cabilao,” Sanchez said in a statement sent to The Manila Times.

He said that the Maoist rebels used a command-detonated explosive in the ambush directed against the infantry battalion, which is protecting the Energy Development Co., or the Philippine National Oil Co., in Kidapawan City and the Dole Philippines banana plantation in North Cotabato.

He said that another attack killed four government troops and wounded over a dozen soldiers belonging to the 28th Infantry Battalion in Lupon town. There was no immediate statement from the Eastern Mindanao Command.

The rebels, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging war for decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country.

Dozens slain in clashes between soldiers, rebels

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 27): Dozens slain in clashes between soldiers, rebels

Hostilities between government soldiers and communist rebels erupted one after another in Mindanao, with at least seven clashes recorded starting Tuesday this week alone. The clashes that resulted in injuries or deaths to more than a dozen combatants from both sides as of Saturday were the continuation of the violence involving security forces and the rebels, which started as soon as the truce declared by the government and the communists ended on Jan. 15, and amid uncertainties on the resumption of the stalled peace talks.

Land mine

The latest incident this week was an explosion triggered by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in a remote area of Barangay Kisante here on Friday evening.  Lt. Nasrullah Sema, civil-military operations commander of the 57th Infantry Battalion (IB), said five soldiers and two civilians were injured in the 11 p.m. explosion that caught a military truck returning to the Army unit’s headquarters. Sema said the civilians, whom he did not identify, were sitting outside their houses near the road in Sitio Alang-alang when the explosion took place.

He identified the wounded soldiers as Corporals Mohammad Nur Sali and Hassan Sarip; Privates Michael Purol and Vincent Sumug-oy; and Pfc. Allan Urop, who remains in critical condition at a Davao City hospital due to the severity of the shrapnel wounds he suffered. “They planted the explosive near populated areas so civilians were hit,” Sema said.

He said the land mine attack was in retaliation to the “heavy losses” the NPA suffered in an earlier encounter here, in reference to Tuesday’s clash near the province’s border with Davao del Sur where four rebels were killed.

A soldier was also killed while another one was wounded in the said clash, according to Lt. Col. Noel dela Cruz, the 57th IB commander. Dela Cruz said the military had fired artillery rounds against the fleeing rebels and believed several rebels were hit in the explosions.

Also on Tuesday, a rebel spokesperson said a soldier was hit when an NPA sniper fired on elements of the 84th IB, who were patrolling a remote area of Barangay Tawan-tawan in Baguio district in Davao City. The claim by Simon Santiago, a rebel spokesperson, could not be independently verified as the military had not issued any statement about it. Santiago’s statement did not indicate the fate of the soldier. He also accused soldiers of using a tribal leader as human shield in their alleged bid to deter further attacks.

Punitive actions

Santiago said the Davao City incident was among “the many region-wide punitive actions” the NPA had launched in Southern Mindanao the past days as the military “has been raring to start full-scale offensive against the [NPA].”  He said days before the ceasefire unilaterally declared by both the government and the CPP had expired, the military had already deployed soldiers to Baguio district and had prepared for a major offensive.

Still on Tuesday, a soldier died and 13 others were injured when a land mine explosion NPA rebels had set off hit a military vehicle in Lupon, Davao Oriental, according to Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division. He said the slain soldier, Pfc. Jhassam Diaz, was initially wounded along with the other soldiers but he succumbed to shrapnel wounds while being transported to a government hospital in Tagum City.

Paniza said soldiers from the 28th IB were traveling in a convoy as they headed back to their headquarters in Lupon proper after assisting in the relief operations for flood victims when the explosion took place. He said the attack was “a clear manifestation of the NPA’s disrespect for international humanitarian law.”

The Lupon attack came a day after soldiers, who were on a search and rescue operation for another soldier and a policeman abducted by NPA rebels last week, twice clashed with communist guerrillas in Laak, Compostela Valley. Paniza did not provide additional details on the Laak clash.

A day after Tuesday’s series of fire fights, soldiers belonging to the 4th Scout Ranger Battalion also engaged NPA rebels in a heavy gun battle in Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur. The military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) based in Zamboanga City reported that three rebels were killed in Wednesday’s encounter that took place in Barangay Mati of the said town around 2:45 p.m.

Firearms recovered

Three firearms were also recovered, but three soldiers were wounded, the Westmincom said.

In Surigao del Sur, an undetermined number of NPA rebels harassed a patrol base of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) in Sitio Greenfield, Sta. Juana village, Tagbina town on Saturday, leaving a militiaman wounded,  Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said in a statement Sunday.

The attack also resulted in casualties on the NPA side, according to residents who had seen the fleeing rebels dragging their wounded comrades after a brief fire fight with the militiaman defending the patrol base, said Lt. Julito Borces, civil military operations chief of the Army’s 75th IB. “Prior to the harassment, residents said armed men were conducting extortion activities in their community,” said Borces, adding troops were now conducting pursuit operations against the rebels.


Barely a day before, alleged NPA rebels had executed an off-duty Cafgu member in Sta. Josefa town, in Agusan del Sur. Four men armed took 44-year-old Danilo Bacudan to a forested area in Awao village and shot him dead there past 2 p.m. on Friday, said Supt. Martin Gamba, spokesperson of Caraga police regional office.

The victim, a member of the 16th Cafgu Active Auxiliary under Charlie Company of the Army’s 23rd IB, was having a drinking session with relatives outside his house when he was taken at gunpoint, Gamba said. “He reportedly tried to escape,” said Gamba. The victim suffered bullet wounds in the head and leg. Gamba said investigators had recovered empty shells and deformed slugs from bullets of  AK-47 rifle and .45 cal. pistol at the site of incident.

Militiaman killed, another wounded in NPA attacks in Agusan Sur, Surigao Sur

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 27): Militiaman killed, another wounded in NPA attacks in Agusan Sur, Surigao Sur

A militiaman was killed and another was wounded in yet another series of attacks by alleged communist rebels in Mindanao, authorities on Sunday said. An undetermined number of NPA rebels harassed a patrol base of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) in Sitio (sub-village) Greenfield, Sta. Juana village, Tagbina town, in Surigao del Sur on Saturday, leaving a militiaman wounded, Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesperson of the army’s 4th Infantry Division, said in a statement.

The attack also resulted in casualties on the NPA side, according to residents who had seen the fleeing rebels dragging their wounded comrades after a brief fire fight with the militiaman defending the patrol base, Lt. Julito Borces, civil military operations chief of the Army’s 75th Infantry Battalion, said.  “Prior to the harassment, residents said armed men were conducting extortion activities at their community,” said Borces, adding troops have been pursuing the rebels.

Barely a day before, alleged NPA rebels had executed an off-duty Cafgu member in Sta. Josefa town, in Agusan del Sur. Four armed men took 44-year-old Danilo Bacudan to a forested area in Awao village and shot him dead there past 2 p.m. on Friday, Supt. Martin Gamba, spokesperson of Caraga police regional office, said.

The victim, a member of 16th CAA (Cafgu Active Auxiliary) under the Charlie Company of the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion, was having a drinking session with relatives outside his home when he was taken at gunpoint, Gamba said.  “He reportedly tried to escape,” said Gamba. The victim suffered gunshot wounds in the head and leg.

Gamba said investigators have recovered empty shells and deformed slugs from bullets of AK-47 rifle and .45 caliber pistol at the site of the killing.

MILF urges CPP-NPA to stop pre-judging peace talks with PH gov’t

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 27): MILF urges CPP-NPA to stop pre-judging peace talks with PH gov’t

Breaking its silence, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has asked communist rebels to respect its own struggle for self-governance over predominantly Moro-populated areas in Mindanao. “We hope this appeal will not be like a voice in the wilderness,” said a recent statement posted on the official MILF website.

It noted that it avoided being dragged into a verbal tussle with the Communist Party of the Philippines because it would not be beneficial to either of them. But the MILF said it was forced to respond in order to put a stop to the “one-way verbal assault…”

The MILF, which is about to wrap up 16-year peace negotiations with the Philippine government, pointed to the 44th anniversary statement of the CPP last Dec. 26 as having “criticized the MILF bitterly” particularly its decision to forge with the Aquino administration the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The communist leadership called the move a surrender — just like the action of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996. “In crucial provisions of the agreement, the MILF submits to the authority of the oppressive state based in Manila and gives up the possibility of seceding and establishing an independent Bangsamoro state,” the CPP statement read.

“Essential points for four annexes on transitional arrangements and modalities, power sharing, wealth sharing and normalization… confirm the submission of the MILF to the sovereignty and constitutional processes of the Manila government,” it further said.

The CPP claimed that the provisions on normalization “subjects the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the MILF to decommissioning while allowing the continuing presence (government) troops in Bangsamoro lands.”

With the MILF supposedly pacified, the communist rebels said the erstwhile rebel group could be used “for the political and economic purposes of Manila and Washington.” Later incidents saw the CPP using the ‘MILF analogy’ to explain its position vis-à-vis that of government.

In a Jan. 4 statement dealing on some issues surrounding its synchronized Yuletide ceasefire with government, the CPP warned government that communist rebels, unlike the MILF, could not be tricked into submission to its political authority. “In the case of the MILF, the Aquino government has even attempted to further subject it to the GPH’s authority by trying to renege on one of the key points in the Framework Agreement by insisting on appointing the chair of the yet-to-be-formed Transition Commission,” the CPP further said.

In answer, the MILF said it “finds the Aquino administration as real partner in peace-making.” “We do not intend to defend or glamorize the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the four annexes… The Agreement will prove its correctness or incorrectness in the course of time,” it stressed.

The Moro revolutionaries appealed to the CPP “to give the MILF the benefit of the doubt whether its decision to sign the framework agreement with the Manila government will redound to the benefits of our people, or it is a doomed exercise.”

The MILF explained that the current agreement has been far different from the one forged by the MNLF in 1996. “We appeal to the CPP not to judge the MILF and its policies and decisions on the basis of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology… The MILF and the CPP are coming from two different points,” the group said.

“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,” it added.

Senior AFP officers reshuffled

From InterAksyon (Jan 27): Senior AFP officers reshuffled

President Benigno Aquino III has approved the recommendation to reshuffle at least two key positions in the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) based in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, according to military spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr.

Rear Admiral Edgardo Tamayo will assume the post of Vice Commander of the Philippine Navy, replacing Rear Admiral Edgar Abogado who becomes the new Commander of the AFP Central Command.

Tamayo is set to relinquish his post as AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics (J-4) to Brigadier Gen. Gamaliel Cruz, current Chief of the Army Bids and Awards Committee and former Philippine Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics (G4).

Rear Admiral Roberto Santos is also set to become Deputy Chief of Staff for Education and Training (J8), replacing Rear Admiral Cornelio Dela Cruz Jr. who retires in February.
Santos is the current Commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command.

Colonel Ramon Roque Jueves will take over the AFP Real Estate Office (AFPREO), replacing Colonel Washington Catameo who is concurrent Acting Chief of AFPREO.

The change of command for J-4, J-8 and AFPREO will be held on Monday (January 28). “The constant and progressive changes are part of AFP’s dynamism that enables us to cope with the multifaceted challenges of the security environment. The changes go alongside our continued efforts to build a more professional, accountable, and transparent military organization,” AFP Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Emmanuel Bautista said.

How much will US pay PH for Tubbataha crash?

From Rappler (Jan 27): How much will US pay PH for Tubbataha crash?

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

How much fine the US Navy will have to pay the Philippine government for the damage caused by the grounding of USS Guardian in Tubbataha Reef Natural Park has become a persistent question.

After President Benigno Aquino III accepted the US Navy's apology for the incident and stressed that penalties must be paid after the minesweeper destroyed at least 1,000 sqm of reef, the question now is how much the Americans will be charged in the end.

Computing the penalties would be the final part of a long process, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya explained to reporters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 (NAIA-2) where he welcomed the Aquino from Switzerland. "Clearly the logical phasing is the removal of the ship, assessment of the marine environmental impact, then we proceed to the legal claims," he said.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a separate interview that there is no full assessment of the damage yet but based on existing laws, the US must pay $300 (more or less P12,000) per sqm of damaged coral. "That's the baseline assessment of the damage," she said in an interview with government-run radio station DzRB.

Valte nevertheless pointed out that the vessel is still waiting to be pulled out by a crane and then transferred to a barge. "[The ship] has yet to be removed so that [amount] may change after the vessel itself is extricated…We don't know the final figure, those are initial figures only," she said.

The USS Guardian ran aground inside the protected area of the marine park on January 17.

Salvage costs

The Philippine and the US Navy teams will each shoulder their own expenses to salvage the vessel, Abaya said.  "The least that we are shouldering is the presence of Coast Guard assets in the area and the Navy assets," Abaya said.  Abaya said as far as the expenses of the Philippines were concerned, "I haven’t gone through the math" but "at least you’d have here fuel expenses, water expenses, meals for our crew."

He noted that the Americans have "probably at least 4 vessels out there. One is the command ship, the USS Mustin. It’s a guided missile destroyer. There are two US naval reserve ships out there. There are two civilian tugboats. I think the USNS Salvor arrived last Friday (January 25) and these two civilian ships coming in. I would honestly have no idea how much their expenses are at the moment," Abaya said.

He also cited the need to provide assistance to the US Navy. "As a counterpart at sea, these are assistance that [we] would do when a naval vessel is aground or distressed in a such a situation," Abaya noted.

Rebel ‘leader’ surrenders

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Jan 27): Rebel ‘leader’ surrenders

An alleged leader of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines voluntarily surrendered to policemen and military operatives on January 21. The rebel returnee was identified as Connie Santiago Valera alias James/Yasser, 29, male, single, and a resident of Poblacion, Lacub, Abra.

Policemen claimed he is a member of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee and is listed as number five in the 4th quarter order of battle in 2012.
Valera surrendered around 4 a.m. at sitio Abubutok, Lenneng Licuan-Baay, Abra and is now under the custody of the Abra Provincial Police Office for documentation, debriefing, and proper disposition.

During the debriefing, Valera shared when he joined the communist movement, he experienced difficulties and disappointment, especially when he was used by the rebels in their various criminal activities in order to generate resources to sustain their existence in the mountains. After his realization, Valera then decided to surrender to start a normal and peaceful life with the community.

The operating troops that facilitated his surrender include operatives from the Regional Public Safety Battalion, Provincial Intelligence Branch, Lacub and Sallapadan Municipal Police Stations, Military Intelligence Group, 41st Infantry Battalion and 503rd Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Police Regional Office Director Benjamin Magalong cited that Valera’s surrender is another accomplishment of government forces in their effort to significantly reduce the number of communist rebels operating in the different parts of the region as he called on the remaining rebels to surrender for a peaceful life.

9 killed, 9 wounded in suspected NPA ambush in Negros

From InterAksyon (Jan 27): 9 killed, 9 wounded in suspected NPA ambush in Negros

SOCO elements are seen at work at the ambush scene in La Castellana. Nine people were killed, mostly civilians, in the early Sunday attack allegedly by the NPA. PHOTO COURTESY OF NEGROS POLICE PROVINCIAL OFFICE

Nine persons were killed, among them a policeman and village watchmen, in an ambush by suspected members of the New People’s Army in the central Negros Occidental town of La Castellana early Sunday morning.

The victims were waylaid around 4 a.m. as they were being ferried home in a truck from a benefit dance in the hinterland village of Puso.

The dead were identified as Police Officer 1 Richard Canja; Teotimo Esplegera and Mario Ricablanca, both members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team; the driver, Ricky Dingcong; Lito Lucban, Jonathan Mateo, Ulysses Tamayor, Ramil Complesa, and the lone woman fatality, Virgenia Ordoñez, according to Puso barangay captain Florencio Nellis, local radio station dyEZ Aksyon Radyo-Bacolod and

Wounded were PO3 Constantino Villegas, PO2 Jeffrey Alvarez, Bonifacio Bayate, Cristoto Perolino, Jerry Lacquedo, Roger Bajar, Jamil Roma, Victoriano Donasco, Jason Ocsimar, all residents of barangay Cabacungan. Nellis said two members of the Puso auxiliary police -- Edwin Sevilla and Verino Ordoñez -- escaped unscathed.

Sevilla told Nellis he heard the gunmen shout “mabuhay ang NPA (Long live the NPA)” after they rained down automatic rifle fire on the truck. Nellis said he was also supposed to ride the truck but backed off at the last minute.

“There could be several more who are dead,” the town police chief, Senior Insp. Gary Allan, said noting that some of the wounded who were rushed to two hospitals were in serious condition.

Nellis told the truck was ferrying the three policemen and at least 20 members of the auxiliary police who had been securing the fiesta in Puso for the past three days to Cabacungan, where a police sub-station is located.

Policemen found spent M16 and M14 shells at the ambush site, a downhill section of a road cutting across sugarcane fields just 700 meters from where the benefit dance was held. The gunmen opened fire as the truck slowed down to negotiate the slope, an indication they had carefully prepared the ambush, Nellis said.

Puso is located at least 20 kilometers from La Castellana town proper and borders the cities of Guihulngan and Canlaon in Oriental Negros.

La Castellana Mayor Alberto Nicor Jr. told dyEZ Aksyon Radyo-Bacolod he was “saddened” by the incident.

Negros Occidental board member Dino Yulo, who represents the fifth district that includes La Castellana, called the incident cause for “serious concern” since it is the second in as many months and, “more importantly, civilians are again innocent victims.”

On December 14, NPA guerrillas and Army soldiers clashed in the upland village of San Agustin in Isabela town, around 78 kilometers from here.Two soldiers were killed and four others wounded. The military said 19 rebels were captured but human rights advocates and even National Commission for Indigenous People said they were members of a local tribe.

Sunday’s ambush is not the first time in recent years that civilians have been killed in armed actions of the NPA.

In July 2009, three persons were killed and four others wounded when about 20 rebels ambushed civilians, some of them students on their way to school, in the village of Poblacion in the northern Negros Occidental town of Toboso.

The NPA admitted the incident was a mistake, and Negros rebel leader Frank Fernandez apologized to the victims’ families, promising an investigation by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA command in Negros. It is not known, however, what action the NPA took against the commanders and fighters who took part in the incident.

Two former NPA rebels killed

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Two former NPA rebels killed

Two former members of Revolutionary Proletarian Army– Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) were killed in separate incidents and the last two days by still undentified assailants.

One of the victims was Gina Gestalao, 35, who was shot to death in her residence at Brgy. Bulho, San Joaquin, Iloilo on Saturday evening. Gestalao sustained fatal gunshot wounds in her right breast and left eye inflicted by a .45 caliber pistol. Police investigators remained clueless as to identities of gunmen since no one has witnessed the shooting incident.

In a separate incident the other day, Gestalao’s uncle, Joven Tababa, 44, of Brgy. Bagacay, Tigbuan town was also peppered with bullets. S/Insp. Janelo Gepana of Tigbuan Municipal Police Station said Tababa was driving his motorcycle with his 7-year-old daughter Mia Bianca when unidentified armed men sprayed them with bullets.

Citing testimonies of witnesses, Gepana said Tababa managed to stop his driven motorcycle and run away with his daughter while the suspects kept firing at them hitting Tababa. Not contented, the suspects approached the helpless Tababa and shot him at close range several times in the different parts of his body. The gunmen took away his bag containing short firearm before going away.

The suspects spared the innocent child who was then brought to the district hospital in Guimbal, Iloilo for stress debriefing. Local residents in the vicinity told the Tigbauan PNP that they have seen at least eight unidentified persons fleeing in different directions after killing Tababa.

Update: 9 killed in Negros Occidental ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Update: 9 killed in Negros Occidental ambush

Police and soldiers are now pursuing the group of armed men,suspected to be members of the New People's Army (NPA), which perpetrated the ambush in Brgy, Puso, La Castellana, Negros Occidental barely past 3 a.m. Sunday.

Latest police report reaching here said the number of fatalities climbed to nine including a police officer identified as PO1 Richard Canja (not Tamba as earlier reported). Three of those killed were members of the Barangay Patrol Action Team (BPAT) identified as Jonathan Mateo, Ulysses Tamayor and Ramir Compleza and two tanod (security) members of Brgy. Puso identified as Mario Ricablanca and Timoteo Esplegera; truck driver Ricky Dingcong and civilian Lito Lucban and Virginia Ordonez.

Two police officers were also wounded during the ambuscade reportedly staged by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels operating in central Negros towns. PO2 Jeffrey Alvarez and PO3 Constantino Villegas both sustained sustain bullet wounds on their lower limbs.

Based on the police report, the three police officers along with BPAT members were deployed to Brgy. Puso to maintain the peace and order during Saturday's fiesta celebration. The victims were waylaid on their way home on board the Canter truck by more or less 15 armed men with high-powered firearms and peppered the trucks with bullets.

The truck driven by the slain Dingcong had 22 passengers, eight of whom are children. PO2 Dennis Melgareho of the La Castellana Police Station said initial investigation showed that before the gunmen left,they finished off the victims by shooting them on the head.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP)and military authorities in Negros Occidental have yet to determine the motive behind the ambush. Though they believed that the ambuscade was the handiwork of NPAs based on the testimonies of survivors who overheard the armed group shouting “Mabuhay and CPP-NPA” before they left.

Police and military authorities in Negros strongly condemned the ambush that even civilians were not spared by the NPA's desperate armed struggle. Surrounded by vast sugar plantation and located in the mountain area of La Castellana, the said barangay is also included in the list of "election areas of concern."

Independent body to inventory weapons - Panel

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan26): Independent body to inventory weapons - Panel

An independent decommissioning body will be created in the inventory of firearms of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the implementation of the security component of normalization, according to Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the government peace panel negotiating with the MILF.

“In the arrangement, we will create a decommissioning body—-a body that’s going to be an independent body that will see through, first of all, the kind of inventory that would have to be in place, and the program for the eventual decommissioning of both combatants and weapons,” Ferrer said during a video conference with reporters at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in Ortigas Center, Pasig City on Saturday.

During the video conference Ferrer and members of the government peace panel were at the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur for the 35th Formal Exploratory Talks with their MILF counterparts. When asked about the number of firearms involved in the decommissioning, Ferrer said: Ferrer said: “We do not have the figures yet. That’s a matter that’s going to be determined precisely in the implementation of the security components of normalization.” “Of course our AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) has its estimates, but that’s a matter that shall be mutually determined by both parties with the help of an independent body, an independent decommissioning body,” she added.

Ferrer said that the composition and the functions of the decommissioning body are still being worked out at the level of the Technical Working Group (TWG), “so for now we are guided with only what you will find in the Framework Agreement and that is the fact that we will put up this independent body that will assist in the decommissioning process.”

However, Ferrer explained that “the laying down of arms, which we of course do not equate with surrender because this is a negotiated process, it’s a process that is going to be a gradual and phased process, which will be accompanied by the political components, the political commitments of both parties, as well as the creation of a stable, safe, and secure environment on the ground, so in terms of an overall time frame what we can say is that complete decommissioning shall happen upon the completion of all the other elements of the Framework Agreement and the annexes.”

Negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF have been in progress and both peace panels described the 35th formal exploratory talks as a milestone with the signing of the Terms of Reference for the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT). The TPMT is the body that will review, assess, evaluate and monitor the implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

The two peace panels are expected to identify the members of the TPMT within one month. At the same time, the two parties also agreed to extend the respective tours of duty of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) for another year in recognition of their important roles in the peace process, without prejudice to adjustments that may be needed pursuant to developments in the crafting of the Annexes to the FAB.

Both parties expressed satisfaction on the continuing progress of the discussions on the annexes to the FAB,” the statement pointed out. These annexes are power-sharing, wealth-sharing, transitional arrangement and modalities, and normalization. “These issues pertain to jurisdiction over natural resources; transportation and communication; the extent of territorial waters; taxing powers; timetables for decommissioning and demilitarization; policing structures; the transition authority, among others,” Ferrer said.

The two sides have also been discussing the establishment of a Bangsamoro government. Since the December last year, the two panels met with a various sectors of society to inform the people on the development of their ongoing negotiations. The two panels agreed to meet again in February and have expressed confidence that the annexes will be completed and signed at the soonest possible time.

During the video conference, Ferrer was also asked about the MILF camps in Mindanao. In reply, Ferrer said: “It’s also part of the overall scheme where we will find the transformation of erstwhile conflict areas into peaceful communities,” adding, “so yung details nyan, again, will still have to be worked out in terms of the scheduling and the kind of interventions that will be necessary to see through these transformations,” Ferrer said in English and Pilipino.

Ferrer said that the week that past during the 35th formal exploratory talk was “very challenging.” “We not only had to find solutions to the remaining issues, we also had to clarify between us our understanding of the process,” she said.“And yet, we reached a milestone. We finished a draft Terms of Reference (TOR) on the Third Party Monitoring Team, the joint international-domestic body that will monitor the comprehensive agreement.

The four Technical Working Groups have arrived at good compromises on many of the remaining issues and have significantly reduced the number of unresolved items. We are reaping the tangible results of our TWG approach, six months after we formed our first two TWGs in August 2012,” Ferrer pointed out. “After five days, we have new proposed solutions on the table to all of the unsettled issues. We also have a clearer process now and a more definitive estimate of our time frames to complete the Comprehensive Agreement,” Ferrer said. The talks were held from Jan. 21-25.

CIDG, AFP foils extremists bombing attempt in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): CIDG, AFP foils extremists bombing attempt in North Cotabato

Operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) foiled a plot by the extremists' Bangsa Moro Freedom Fighter (BMFF) to stage a bombing in North Cotabato with the arrest of the bomber near a restaurant in Midsayap town, North Cotabato Sunday morning. Security forces also disarmed the improvised explosive device.

CIDG chief Director Samuel D. Pagdilao Jr said a certain Armos Salanggao, alias "Ryan", a member of BMFF Alpha Coy was arrested around 8 a.m. this morning near Park Hill Inn and Restaurant, in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Immediately after his arrest, the CIDG recovered the IED a few meters from the restaurant, near a gasoline station in Midsayap. Region 12 CIDG chief, Police Senior Superintendent Joselito Esquivel said the IED, a live 60mm mortar with “Bruno” marking, was recovered along with a detonating device made up of an old Nokia cellphone after the suspect led the authorities to where he placed the bomb.

Fearing that the other terrorists would learn about the arrest of Salanggao and remotely detonated the IED by cellphone, Esquivel said the CIDG wasted no time and immediately brought the IED to the headquarters of the 40th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, where it was detonated and rendered safe through disruption.

Esquivel said Salanggao is now under the custody of CIDG where he is presently being investigated to determine if there are still other IED planted in the area as well as the other BMFF members who are with Salanggao. Esquivel said that prior to the arrest of Salanggao this Sunday, he received a call from a Community Investigative Support member about the plot to bomb a populated place in Midsayap.

MILF: Maguindanao town holds Advocacy on FAB

From the MILF Website (Jan 27): Maguindanao town holds Advocacy on FAB

Educators of the District of Datu Montawal, Maguindanao under Maguindanao-1 Division, in coordination with the Local Government Unit (LGU) of the said municipality held an advocacy on the Framework Agreement between the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at Tunggol Central Elementary School Campus on January 22, 2013.

Delia E. Daniel, the District Supervisor of the said school, disclosed to Luwaran that the Schools Division Superintendent of the 1st Division of Maguindanao, with the full support of Mayor Otho C. Montawal, spearheaded advocacy forum.

The forum was attended by teachers, religious sectors, professionals, and other residents of the different villages. Many Christian residents also attended the forum.
  Also present were Abas H. Bayan, Al Hadj, MILF 108th Base Commander, Amerudin Abas, Eastern Mindanao Front Commander, and Lt. Col. Donald Gomirang, Commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion.

Madame Meriam A. Kawit Al-Hadja, the Division Superintendent, requested Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, to personally come and be the main resource speaker. But out of the country, Iqbal instead sent Nash Pulindao, one of his staff members, to represent him in the forum. Pulindao was tasked to discuss the different provisions of the FAB.

According to Mr. Abubakar Bandila, a teacher who listened attentively, the presentation was very clear and satisfactory to the participants.

An open forum followed to enable the participants to ask clarificatory questions. The gathering dispersed at about 3:00 P.M.