Monday, January 28, 2013

Joint convention to help Al-Barka, Basilan held

From the  Philippine Information Agency (Jan 28): Joint convention to help Al-Barka, Basilan held

A joint convention of the military, police, the Moro Islamic liberation Front (MILF), and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) was conducted recently at the town of Al-Barka in Basilan to help it rebuild itself.

In a report, Basilan police chief PSSupt Mario M. Dapilloza said that the convention has tackled the project proposal offered and funded by the IMT with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The proposals discussed include the construction of school buildings in the municipality that would address its primordial need of educating its children and youth to build a better Al-Barka in the near future.

Dapilloza said that the convention held last December 5 with the MILF commanders, together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the IMT is a manifestation of government’s sincerity to complete the peace process and the on-going talks with the MILF in implementing the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).

He also said that the Aquino administration is committed to the completion of the FAB, with the military and the police providing the needed support on the ground. The efforts, he added, include the support from local and international institutions to advocate for the full realization of the peace framework of the government with the MILF.

“Everything is towards the common goal of peace and development of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” he stressed.

He said the police is working closely with the military and other agencies as part of its advocacy to promote collaborative efforts in attaining peace and development for the Bangsamoro.

With the election period at hand, the Basilan Provincial Police Office (BPPO) also introduced at the convention its Safe and Secure Elections (SAFE) 2013 program and some issue and concerns related to the elections. The police hope that the MILF could help in maintaining peace and order during the forthcoming national and local elections.

Dapilloza and the military’s 104th Brigade Commander Col. Carlito V. Galvez have conveyed their appeal to the convention participants of the need to work together, especially on the significant role that each individual could contribute to attain a safe, free, and peaceful elections.

Abu Sayyaf Refuses to Free Foreign Hostages

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 28): Abu Sayyaf Refuses to Free Foreign Hostages

Al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf gunmen in the Philippines have refused to free foreign hostages after two weeks of negotiations but the militants have no immediate plans to harm the captives, a spokesman for another Muslim rebel group said Monday.

Hundreds of rebels of the Moro National Liberation Front, which signed an autonomy deal with the government in 1996, have encamped in the foothills of mountainous Patikul town on southern Jolo island for two weeks to negotiate the release of foreign and Filipino hostages long held by the Abu Sayyaf in its jungle lairs.

Various Abu Sayyaf militants are believed to be holding two European bird watchers, a Japanese treasure hunter, a Jordanian journalist, a Malaysian man and at least two Filipinos hostage.

The Moro rebels were not disarmed after signing the 1996 peace deal, and most returned to their rural villages on Jolo, where the smaller but more violent Abu Sayyaf also has a presence.

Moro rebel commander Khabir Malik said his group has taken the initiative to seek the freedom of the hostages to help the government clean up the image of Jolo, a poor Muslim region where the Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for bombings, high-profile kidnappings for ransom and beheadings, primariliy in the early 2000.

U.S.-backed military offensives have crippled the Abu Sayyaf in recent years, but it remains a national security threat. Washington has blacklisted the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organization.
Malik said he met an Abu Sayyaf militant, Jul-Asman Sawadjaan, over the weekend to seek the release initially of a Jordanian journalist and two Filipinos, who were believed to be held by the extremists in Patikul's jungles since June last year. But the extremists did not show any sign that they would free their captives soon, Malik said.

Other Abu Sayyaf commanders are believed to be separately holding two European bird watchers, who were seized in February last year in nearby Tawi Tawi province, a Malaysian man and a Japanese treasure hunter in Jolo's jungles.

“It's not easy but we're doing everything to win their freedom,” Malik said. “We're observing maximum tolerance, and we'll stick with the negotiations.”  Malik, however, suggested the Moro forces could consider other options _ including a rescue operation and armed confrontation with the hostage-takers _ to secure the captives' freedom, saying the Abu Sayyaf militants “can't always have their way.”

Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan said on Monday that the Moro rebels were acting on their own but added he recently convened a meeting of a provincial crisis committee, which includes police and military officials, to be prepared for any possible clashes between the two rebel movements. The Moro commanders, he said, would not be permitted to take any step that would compromise the safety of the hostages. “There is no crisis now, but we have to be ready if one erupts,” Tan said by telephone from Jolo.

Paduano relinquishes RPA leadership

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Jan 28): Paduano relinquishes RPA leadership

STEPHEN Paduano, commonly known as Carapali Lualhati, said that with the accreditation of Abang Lingkod party-list, he has already relinquished the leadership of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA) to transitional leaders.

Paduano, who is the number one nominee of Abang Lingkod, said he has already filed his Certificate of Candidacy, and that he has relinquished the RPA leadership in a conference held last year. He said they will concentrate on transformational socio-economic political organization or the electoral process.

Abang Lingkod, which has a coalition with 1-DSWD, is the number 136 party-list, or the last group on the list of party-lists that are allowed or accredited by Comelec to have its representatives at the House of Representatives for the May 2013 elections.

Paduano said that with his 20 to 25 years at the countryside, he can personally relate with the needs and the plight of the farmers, especially the Agrarian Reform beneficiaries.  He stressed the importance of giving support services for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) beneficiaries in order to survive and sustain the lands given to them.

In fact, in a survey they have conducted in Negros, about 75 to 80 percent of the Carp beneficiaries no longer possess the land given to them because of the lack of support services from the government.

He also said that Abang Lingkod will also look after the welfare of the fisherfolk and the urban poor.
Abang Lingkod's third nominee is former first district board member Willy Saratobias.

Meanwhile, Paduano said the final peace agreement between the RPA and the government may happen anytime because all the pertaining documents are already at the table of President Benigno Aquino III.

Photo Essay: Masbate drone, USS Guardian's Tubbataha misadventure: End VFA, uphold Philippine Sovereignty!

Posted to the pro-CPP Arkibong Bayan (People's Archive) (Jan 27): Photo Essay: Masbate drone, USS Guardian's Tubbataha misadventure: End VFA, uphold Philippine Sovereignty!

Continuing US defilement of Philippine sovereignty spews out of Masbate waters
News Release
   Reference: Vince Casilihan
   January 8, 2013

   Insidiousness substantiates the oppressor.

The recovery of a crashed US drone on the waters of Brgy. Bagahanglad, San Jacinto, Masbate on January 6 affirms the US imperialists' continuing outright violation of the country's sovereignty. Vince Casilihan of Karapatan-Bikol deplores the presence of a US drone on Philippine territory as "an incursion of the US to spy on the rich natural resources of the country in its rampage of imperialist plunder." According to Casilihan, the said drone have most certainly surveyed, at the very least, the lands and seas of Bicol to provide the US valuable data on rich mineral deposits and other natural assets of the region for prospective pillage.

Likewise, Karapatan maintains that the incident amplifies the government's blatant disregard of the Constitution. "For one," Casilihan adds, "drones such as the one found in Masbate are US military weaponry and are launched from the US Navy's advanced nuclear-powered warships. The government clearly violates the Philippine Constitution on provisions in relation to nuclear weapons, and as regards foreign military troops and facilities."

No less than PNoy himself confirmed that he has allowed US drones to fly over Philippine territory to conduct reconnaissance flights, telling of his servility to US dictates on military interventionism. To this, Casilihan prompts the public of another ominous role of US drones slyly flying Philippine airspace. “Clearly, these drones are being used to assist in the government's counterinsurgency campaign Oplan Bayanihan which has been ultimately formidable on the part of the civilians," he said. "News reports abroad abound with the ineffectiveness of drones in identifying legitimate military targets, and PNoy's government is heedless to the international clamor against drone-led attacks that have essentially targeted civilians," Casilihan laments.

Moreover, with US Embassy officials quick on denying that the US Navy drone is being used for spying, Casilihan retorts. "Whom are they fooling? Drones are otherwise called unmanned aerial vehicles. They are remotely controlled and have spying capabilities, and Philippine Navy officials at best are saying that the recovered drone is largely used in reconnaissance," he clarifies.

With these, Karapatan enjoins all patriotic Bicolanos to condemn the government's shameless acquiescence of Philippine sovereignty to the US and oppose US intervention that pervades the Philippine's military affairs. "We have in the past succeeded in holding back RP-US Balikatan War Exercises in 2009, and have astoundingly protested the recent Operation Pacific Angel of 2012. Our continuing fight should be for the abrogation of the VFA and the Mutual Defense Treaty that are nothing but licenses for the US to ram their guns on the Filipino people while they despoil our country," concludes Casilihan.

US still doesn’t know why ship is at Tubbataha Reef

From the Business Mirror (Jan 28): US still doesn’t know why ship is at Tubbataha Reef

THE United States (US) government wants to know the circumstances about the grounding of the minesweeper USS Guardian at Tubbataha Reef. Despite repeated apologies to the government, the US remained silent on why the warship disregarded Philippine maritime laws and a UN convention that prohibits ships from passing through a world heritage site such as the Tubbataha Reef on Sulu Sea.
“The US Navy is undertaking an extensive investigation to assess the circumstances and facts surrounding the USS Guardian accident. The ship had just completed a port call in Subic Bay and was transiting directly through the Sulu Sea en route to its next port of call in Indonesia when the grounding occurred,” the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement.
“All relevant factors will be looked into during the course of the investigation, and the proximate cause of the incident will be made public at a later date,” it added. The embassy said the removal of the ship’s fuel has been completed.
“A US Navy-led salvage team has removed the bulk of fuel oil and materials that could pose environmental risks, such as paint, solvents and lubricants from mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian [MCM 5], which ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef on January 17,” it said.
The US Navy continues to remove materials from the ship, to assess and manage structural issues and to prepare the Guardian for safe removal, all the while seeking to protect the natural environment of Tubbataha Reef, it added.
“No fuel has leaked since the grounding, and all of the ship’s approximately 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel was safely transferred to the US-contracted Malaysian tug-boat, the Vos Apollo, during controlled defueling operations completed on January 25,” it said.
The embassy said salvaging of the ship will start on February 1.
“US Navy ship salvage and maritime architecture experts continue to develop the salvage plan and perform work to reinforce the structure of the ship, such as reinforcing the hull with Kevlar lines in an effort to reduce the strain that the ship sustains due to wave action. Two heavy lift ship-borne cranes have been contracted to support the salvage operations, and are due to arrive on-scene by February 1st,” it said.
Meanwhile, the Embassy said the 69 Guardian sailors not needed for recovery operations were transferred to the USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) on January 22 for transit back to the ship’s forward-base in Sasebo, Japan. The USNS Rappahannock is expected to dock in Sasebo on Monday.
“The Guardian’s commanding officer and other technical experts from among the crew remain on-scene near the Tubbataha Reef, to work with the recovery team, in coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy and local environmental agencies,” it said.

US Navy paid Hawaii $15M for 2009 coral reef incident
THE US government is facing so far a fine of P38 million for the damage caused by the USS Guardian. The fine can be considered small, compared to what the US Navy had to pay Hawaii in 2009 for the damage caused by the USS Port Royal, a guided missile cruiser, that ran aground and damaged coral reefs in Hawaii, less than half the size of the estimated damage in Tubbataha Reef.
The USS Port Royal on February 5, 2009, ran aground less than a kilometer from the Honolulu International Airport in Hawaii and destroyed about 890 square meters of coral reef, for which it was fined a total amount of $15 million, or about P610 million, according to World Wildlife Fund-Philippines.
The US Navy promised to pay the State of Hawaii $8.5 million to settle claims over coral-reef damage, plus another $6.5 million for reef restoration—including the reattachment of 5400 coral colonies to expedite regrowth.
For the Philippines, Tubbataha is the cradle of marine life. Formed from the eruption of undersea volcanoes nearly 15 million years ago, Tubbataha, or “long reef” in the Samal dialect, features dramatic coral-coated slopes and drop-offs patrolled by over 600 species of fish—ranging from the fingernail-sized Striped Triplefin (Helcogramma striata) to the truck-sized Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus), largest of all fish.
A Unesco World Heritage site, the Tubbataha Reef boasts of unparalleled biodiversity levels. A typical square kilometer of healthy coral reef annually yields up to 40 metric tons of seafood. Tubbataha Reef generates over 200 metric tons of seafood yearly.
An official of the Climate Change Commission, Commissioner Heherson Alvarez, proposed that an assessment on the damage to be paid by the US government for the Tubbataha incident be left to the Unesco, since the reef is a Unesco World Heritage site.
As of Monday, the 68-meter long USS Guardian still sits on the northwestern portion of the Tubbataha Reefs’ South Atoll, its wood-and-fiberglass hull breached and taking a pounding from 10-foot waves brought in by the hanging amihan—the northeasterly winds from Siberia.
A composite team from the US Navy, Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard are now braving violent currents and swells to remove 15,000 gallons of fuel from the stricken ship.
If successful, marine engineers will attempt to de-water and refloat the craft using a crane vessel—a ship specialized in lifting heavy loads. “Like a ticking taxi meter, the passing of each minute and hour raises the stakes,” WWF-Philippines Vice Chairman Jose Maria Lorenzo Tan, a member of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board, said.
Nevertheless, Tan said that safety must be the primary consideration over speed saying that “hasty efforts might do further harm to the reef.”
Preliminary assessments indicate that the area damaged by the 1300-ton ship spans at least 1600 square meters—almost twice the area flattened by the USS Port Royal in Hawaii in 2009.
Tubbataha Reefs Park Supt. Angelique Songco says that under Republic Act 10067, or the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009, a fine of about $300 or P12,000 per square meter is mandatory, plus another $300 or so per square meter for rehabilitation efforts.
Given the estimated size of damaged reef, the minimum fine would be $960,000 or P38 million—still miniscule compared with the fines paid by the US for its 2009 Port Royal incident. Further sanctions include unauthorized park entry, non-payment of conservation fees, destruction of resources and the obstruction of law enforcement.
“This is not the first grounding incident in the park—all previous cases paid the fines for damages. We will not ask for anything more than what the law requires. We wish only for the US Navy to be responsible enough when entering our protected areas,” Songco explained.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. said the US government will take steps to address the environmental issues that have arisen from the incident.
“Clearly, parallelisms between the USS Guardian and the USS Port Royal can be made. In the case of the Port Royal, the US Navy did the right thing by working cooperatively to fund the restoration and continued protection of the damaged reef. It is our hope that the same respect accorded to the people of Hawaii be given to the Philippines. For even though corals, sponges and fish shall one day return to the stricken site—the scars borne by the USS Guardian will take years to heal,” Tan said.

Ambushed cops failed to engage rebels because of defective rifles

From the Business Mirror (Jan 28): Ambushed cops failed to engage rebels because of defective rifles

In Photo: The body of a victim in the ambush in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, lies on the back of the truck that was riddled by bullets by communist guerrillas. Nine people, including a policeman, were killed in the incident. (AP)

THE government-issued rifles of the policemen who were ambushed with several other noncombatants by communist rebels at dawn on Sunday morning in Negros Occidental malfunctioned, preventing them from engaging the guerrillas in a gunbattle.

Killed in the incident were Police Officer 1 Richard Canja, two barangay tanod and six noncombatants. Nine more were wounded in the ambush that happened in Barangay Puso, La Castellana, Negros Occidental.
Among the wounded were PO3 Constantino Villegas and PO2 Jeffrey Alvarez.
“Si PO3 Villegas at PO3 Alvarez naka-return fire pa but according to them nag-malfunction ang mga baril nila,” Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, Negros Occidental police command officer in charge, said.
The victims were onboard an Isuzu Elf light truck and were on their way home from a benefit dance when ambushed.
Guara said the ambushers shot the fatalities in the head to make sure they were dead. “Parang may finishing na ginawa sila [ambushers].… Paisa-isa na binaril sa ulo,” he said.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II condemned the incident and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“They were coming home from a barangay fiesta when they were mercilessly killed…ruthlessly attacked by what early reports say are New People’s Army rebels,” Roxas told National Police personnel and employees during Monday’s celebration of the force’s 22nd founding anniversary in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
He reiterated the government’s commitment to upgrade the capability of the police force to effectively and efficiently respond to security threats.
“Toward this goal our Commander in Chief [President Aquino] is determined to strengthen the National Police, not only through capability upgrade and new weapons but also through projects that directly benefit and improve the lives of our policemen and their families such as providing housing, education and health care,” he said.
Roxas said the National Police leadership, led by Director General Alan Purisima, should always bear in mind is to insulate the men and women in the service from “the temptation of corruption and wrongdoing that threaten to corrode the integrity and reputation of our organization and our capability to effectively serve our people.”
He also remined the force of its job of ensuring a safe and clean elections. “Dapat din maging handa tayo sa malaking pagsubok na darating. Nariyan ang eleksyon sa Mayo at ang National Police pa rin ang pangunahing ahensya na inaasahan ng taumbayan upang mapangalagaan at matiyak na ito ay maging maayos at mapayapa. Dapat natin tiyakin na maging sagrado ang resulta ng halalang ito at tunay na gusto ng taumbayan ang mangibabaw because our democracy is as strong only as the foundation from which we build it,” Roxas said.

4 soldiers killed in NPA ambushes
FOUR soldiers were killed and 19 wounded in clashes between New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas and soldiers in North Cotabato and Davao Oriental since January 22.
Rigoberto F. Sanchez, spokesman for the Merardo Arce Command, which leads the Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command of the NPA, said four soldiers were killed when NPA fighters under the Wilfredo Zapanta Command of Guerrilla Front 18 Operations Command blasted two vehicles of the 28th Infantry Battalion (IB) in Lupon, Davao Oriental, at 12:12 a.m. on January 22. Fourteen soldiers were also wounded in the ambush.
The Magtanggol Roque Command-Guerrilla Front 51 Operations Command also ambushed soldiers of the 57th IB on a military truck in Sitio Alang-alang, Barangay Kisante, Makilala, North Cotabato, at 10:30 p.m. on January 25, wounding five of them.
“The NPA ambush in Makilala was aimed at deterring troops who were on their way to their tactical command post in the Alang-alang detachment where the military mounted two batteries of 105mm howitzer that conducted shelling operations toward the village of Cabilao. Soldiers’ bullets also hit a child in the ear,” Sanchez said.
“The NPA’s command-detonated explosive [CDX] was directed against the notorious 57th IB elements who serve as goons for the Energy Development Co. [formerly Philippine National Oil Co.] in Kidapawan and the Dole Philippines banana plantation in North Cotabato,” he added.
The Charlie Company of the 57th IB started operations in the area on Christmas, violating the temporary cease-fire between the government and the National Democratic Front, Sanchez said. He added that the attack in Lupon was staged to punish the 28th IB, which Sanchez described as “a notorious human-rights violator in Davao Oriental.”
In defending the use of the CDX, Sanchez said: “The NPA violates no laws and international instruments as it continues to use CDX in its guerrilla 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 Armed Forces and the US-Aquino administration’s continuing policy of committing brazen abuses like massacre, torture and extrajudicial killing of civilians and noncombatants.”

MILF: MILF congratulates Geneva Call for landing in world’s top 100 NGOs

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 29): MILF congratulates Geneva Call for landing in world’s top 100 NGOs

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has congratulated the Geneva Call (GC) for landing one of the world’s top 100 non-government organizations (NGOs). This is the second year that GC has been given this category by the Global Journal’s Top 100 best non-government organizations.

Speaking for the MILF central leadership, Mohammad Ameen, chair of the MILF secretariat, told Luwaran that aside from congratulating GC for the feat, the MILF also feels honoured because it had signed the Deed of Commitment with GC that the former commits to the non-use of victim’s triggered anti-personnel landmines including production and stockpiling of these prohibited weapons in war.

“Our partnership has been ongoing for more than a decade and it is improving as years go on,” Ameen said.

“I personally congratulate GC’s president Elizabeth Decry for this feat and her leadership,” Ameen added.

Geneva Call engages with armed non-State actors, liberation movements, insurgents and guerrilla groups in conflict zones worldwide, so that they understand and adhere to international humanitarian norms, such as banning anti-personnel mines, prohibition of sexual violence and stopping the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.

Not only that, Geneva Call holds them accountable for their behaviour by encouraging signature by the armed non-State actor of the Deed of Commitment. This unique and innovative Deed of Commitment helps bring armed groups to discuss, and ultimately to make their own, key humanitarian norms and change the way they act towards civilians. Nor does Geneva Call stop there - it ensures that these commitments are sustained and monitored on the ground over time.

In a press release, GC had this to say: “Geneva Call is hugely honoured to find itself - for the second year running - in The Global Journal’s Top 100 Best non-governmental organisations. This means so much to the team and our partners in the field, and recognizes Geneva Call’s role in protecting civilians in conflict,” said Elisabeth Decrey Warner, founder and President of the Geneva-based organization.”

The statement further disclosed that up to 68th from 94th, Geneva Call ranks in 2013 alongside many of the world’s top charities, recognised for their qualities and unique work. The list was compiled according to key criteria including impact, innovation and sustainability.

For the feat, GC also thanked donors, supporters and partners, as well as its dedicated and committed staff and interns for helping the organisation achieve its goal: the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Philippine extremists refuse to free foreign hostages

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 28): Philippine extremists refuse to free foreign hostages

Armed members of Moro National Liberation Front, a Muslim rebel group that signed a 1996 peace pact with the Philippine Government, arrive at Patikul town on the volatile island of Jolo in southern Philippines on Jan. 15, 2013, to seek the release of foreign and Filipino hostages long held by al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf gunmen. AP PHOTO/NICKEE BUTLANGAN

A Muslim rebel group says al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf gunmen have refused to free foreign hostages after two weeks of negotiations but the Abu Sayyaf won’t take any immediate or drastic steps that could harm the captives.

Moro National Liberation Front commander Khabir Malik said Monday that he met an Abu Sayyaf militant, Jul-Asman Sawadjaan, over the weekend to seek the release of a Jordanian journalist and other foreign and local hostages held in the jungle of southern Sulu province’s Patikul town but the extremists refused and gave no indication when they would free their captives.

Moro National Liberation Front rebels, who signed a 1996 autonomy deal with the government, have encamped near the Abu Sayyaf’s jungle lairs in Patikul for two weeks to demand that the extremists free their captives.

Gunmen shot civilians as they begged for their lives

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 29): Gunmen shot civilians as they begged for their lives

The civilians begged for their lives, but the gunmen didn’t care. They shot them all. The brutality of it makes the survivors doubt that their attackers were communist New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas.

“It doesn’t seem they were NPA even if they yelled ‘Long live the NPA,’ because [NPA guerrillas] usually spare civilians,” said Avelino Ordoñez, 48, a village peacekeeper who survived the ambush on a truckload of policemen and villagers in Barangay Puso, La Castellana town, Negros Occidental, early on Sunday.

Kids allowed to go

Ronnie Lapiado, 41, a village volunteer and also a survivor of the attack, said that when the gunmen opened fire on the truck the passengers who were standing were hit but those who were sitting on the truck’s bed were not, because the bullets’ did not penetrate the vehicle’s sides. Lapiado said the civilians called out to the gunmen, “We’re civilians, spare us.”

The gunmen ordered them to get off and lie face down on the ground, Lapiado said. There were children in the group, but the gunmen allowed them to go, he said. He said he took off his volunteer’s uniform and jumped off the truck.

Ordoñez did not take off his uniform and jumped off the vehicle with his wife, Virginia, and joined the rest who were lying on their stomachs on the ground.

Civilians shot

Virginia Ordoñez, 50, threw herself on her husband’s back to conceal his uniform, but the gunmen probably had already seen it.

They opened fire on the civilians, yelled “Long live the NPA,” and withdrew.

With his wife covering him with her body, Ordoñez survived the shooting. She did not. Lapiado was wounded in the hands, but survived the attack. He, too, doubted that the gunmen were NPA guerrillas because they shot the civilians.

Nine, including a policeman, were killed and 12 (not nine as earlier reported), including two police officers, were wounded in the ambush.

Lapiado said the group helped to secure a village dance contest in Puso on Saturday night. He said there were 22 people on the truck when they left the village after the dance. But as they were leaving the village, civilians on foot, including children, asked for a ride on the truck. Lapiado said there were more than 30 people on the truck when the gunmen attacked the vehicle.

Senseless deaths

On Monday, Florencio Nilles, Puso village head, expressed sadness over the attack on the policemen and village volunteers who kept the peace during the fiesta in his community. He described the deaths as senseless. “It is difficult for us in our village to understand how such a cruel crime could be committed,” Nilles said.

Ismael Villanueva, head of neighboring Cabacungan village, where some of the dead and wounded came from, said the victims were good men. The policeman who was killed was a good man and the village peacekeepers worked as volunteers, he said. La Castellana Mayor Alberto Nicor said it was a sad day for the town.

US port calls in Philippines to continue - Gazmin

From the Philippine Star (Jan 28): US port calls in Philippines to continue - Gazmin

Port visits of US vessels to the Philippines would continue despite the grounding of a warship in Tubbataha Reef, the Defense department said Monday. “This (port call) is part of our relationship with the international [community],” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said when asked whether the port calls would go on despite the Tubbataha incident. “If a request for port call is filed, as long as there is nothing unusual with the port call, we do accept port calls,” Gazmin added.

Gazmin said the subsequent port visits of foreign ships have nothing to do with the grounding of the USS Guardian, which has caused damage to the reef’s coral network.
When asked what can be done to prevent similar incidents, Gazmin said: “That is a very hard question to answer. As you very well know, the captain (attributed the incident to) faulty chart. How do we address that?”

The military earlier said the grounding of the USS Guardian would not disrupt the subsequent exercises between the US and the Philippine armed forces. “This [incident] won’t affect the conduct of our exercises,” Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said. “Nobody wanted that incident to happen."

Burgos said the military is already planning for the next Balikatan exercises between US and Filipino troops to be held this year. Balikatan literally means shoulder to shoulder and is an annual exercise designed to improve the interoperability between US and Philippine troops.

On January 17, USS Guardian ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef’s south atoll off Palawan, triggering calls for the US to rehabilitate the area. The 1,300-ton, 68-meter-long warship had just completed a port call in Subic Bay and was en route to Indonesia when the grounding occurred.

Known for its extensive coral network, the Tubbataha Reef in Sulu Sea is one of only five Philippine sites declared as Word Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The other World Heritage Sites in the country are cultural houses in the town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan, the Rice Terraces in the Cordilleras, and a grouping of baroque churches – San Agustin in Manila, Miag-ao in Iloilo, Paoay in Ilocos Norte and Santa Maria in Ilocos Sur.

Tubbataha, which spans 130,028 hectares, was declared a protected area, which means that swimming or diving in the area requires special permits from the government.
The environmental threat posed by the grounding of the ship has prompted militant groups to call for the scrapping of the Mutual Defense Treaty.

US ships have been conducting frequent “routine port calls” in Philippine waters after US bared plans to deploy majority of its naval fleet to the Pacific by 2020. The move is in line with the US’s efforts to boost its presence in the Asia Pacific.

Military blocks NPA access to Cotabato farming villages

From the Philippine Star (Jan 28): Military blocks NPA access to Cotabato farming villages

The military is bracing for New People’s Army (NPA) attacks as soldiers have blocked most entry and exit routes to farming communities in North Cotabato where rebels collect “protection money” and forage for food.

This, as five soldiers and two civilians were wounded in yet another roadside bombing in Barangay Kisante, Makilala town Friday night, three days after soldiers and NPA guerrillas thrice clashed in a nearby district in the municipality. Three insurgents and a soldier were killed while seven others were reportedly wounded in the encounters, according to local officials.

The soldiers wounded in Friday night’s roadside bombing in Barangay Kisante – Cpls. Mohammad Nur Sali and Hassan Sarip, Pfc. Allan Urop, and Pvts. Michael Purol and Vincent Sumug-oy – sustained shrapnel wounds and are now confined in a hospital in North Cotabato.  Two civilians waiting for a passenger vehicle not far from the scene of the explosion were also injured.

“Apparently the bombing was in retaliation for the heavy losses suffered by the NPA rebels in the area during recent encounters with government forces there,” said Col. Ademar Tomaro, commander of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade.

Local officials said more than a dozen NPA rebels have been killed in encounters with soldiers in Makilala and Magpet towns in recent weeks while attempting to go to farming communities to collect “revolutionary taxes” and get food supplies.

“They could not get close to the villages whose residents they force to shell out money and rice and other provisions because our soldiers have efficiently been guarding all the routes connecting them to these areas,” Tomaro said.

RPP-ABB leader in Iloilo killed in ambush

From the Philippine Star (Jan 29): RPP-ABB leader in Iloilo killed in ambush

The provincial commander of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPM-P/RPA-ABB) was killed in an ambush Friday afternoon.

Tababa, 45, suffered 11 gunshot wounds. He had just fetched his seven-year-old daughter from school and was driving a motorcycle on their way to Barangay Bagacay in Tigbauan, Iloilo when three men hot him. His daughter was unharmed.

Ka Rolly, spokesman for the RPM-P/RPA-ABB’s Nilo de la Cruz faction in Panay, vowed to avenge Tababa’s death.

In a text message, Ka Rolly said they will “do everything to impose justice to whoever is responsible for the killing.”

Initial investigation pointed to leaders of the New People’s Army, of which the RPM-P/RPA-ABB is a breakaway group, as suspects. Investigators are also eyeing a land dispute in which Tababa stood as a witness.

A source said the incident was election-related since the victim was allegedly connected with a political kingpin in the first district of Iloilo.

Paduano not RPA-ABB chief anymore, now in partylist push

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 28): Paduano not RPA-ABB chief anymore, now in partylist push

Stephen Paduano is no longer national commander of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, he is now concentrating on the campaign of the Abang Lingkod Partylist group.

Paduano, who was known as Carapali Lualhati when he was national commander of the RPA-ABB, said Friday he gave up the post during their national congress in June to concentrate on mainstream politics in the light of their peace agreement with the government.

On Friday, Paduano celebrated his 48th birthday at the Benjamin Hall in Bacolod City that was attended by Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) and Jeffrey Ferrer (Neg. Occ., 4th District), and numerous mayors, barangay captains, comrades and relatives.

He said the final draft of the RPA-ABB peace agreement with the government is already on the desk of President Benigno Aquino III for approval.

Meanwhile, their forces are now concentrated on mainstream socio economic politics, he said.

He said Abang Lingkod is a partylist group that will fight for the interest of farm workers, the urban poor and Negrenses.

Paduano also stressed the need for support services for agrarian reform beneficiaries.

According to records, Paduano is the number one nominee of Abang Lingkod. Negros Occidental Board Member Patrick Lacson, who was second nominee, has withdrawn; former Association of Barangay Captains president Willie Satatobias is third nominee, and the fourth is from Tarlac.

Paduano said it is immaterial who the nominees are as long as they are from Negros so they can represent the concerns of the farm workers and Negrenses.

All were shot in the head

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 28): All were shot in the head

Even the eight civilians were not spared the barbarity of the suspects in the ambush on the truckload of fiesta-goers, who were on their way home early Sunday morning in La Castellana, Negros Occidental. All the victims, including a policeman, had gunshot wounds in the head, Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, caretaker of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, said.

This indicated that the ambushers said to be New People’s Army members, had made sure they were dead, by shooting them in the head, before fleeing, Guara added.

Romeo Baldevarona, provincial chief of the Commission on Human Rights, said they will investigate the incident.

Two policemen and 10 civilians were injured in the ambush, police records show. Two assault rifles of the slain and injured policemen were reportedly taken by the suspects, who are now being pursued by government troopers.

What happened in La Castellana was reminiscent of the ambush of civilians by communist rebels in Brgy. Salamanca, Toboso, several years ago, where four were killed, military records show.

On Saturday, the slain policeman identified as RO1 Richard Canja and two injured colleagues, PO3 Constantino Villegas and PO2 Jeffrey Alvarez, with auxiliary policemen and barangay tanods, had been requested to help maintain peace and order at the fiesta of Brgy. Puso, in La Castellana.

On their way home, several civilians, including eight children, also boarded the six-wheeler Fuzo Canter truck, that was bound for the La Castellana poblacion.

Senior Inspector Gary Alan Resuma, La Castellana police chief, said they had accounted for 21 passengers of the truck, aside from the minors, as of last night.

Edwin Sevilla, a member of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team, who survived the ambush, said in a radio interview, that they were ordered by the armed men to alight from the vehicle.

Sevilla said he and the other survivors helped transport the injured victims through motorcycles.

Empty shells of .45 caliber pistol were reportedly recovered near the bodies of the victims.

Police probers have yet to determine the motive for the barbaric killing of the eight civilians and a police officer.

Guara said Canja had received death threats over a land dispute, and his adversaries may have enlisted the help of communist guerrillas to go after him.

Local government officials, police and military authorities in Negros strongly condemned the ambush, where even civilians were not spared by the NPA.

Youth activists storm US embassy anew to protest Tubbataha incident

From InterAksyon (Jan 28): Youth activists storm US embassy anew to protest Tubbataha incident

Youth activists stormed anew the United States embassy on Roxas Boulevardhere, disrupting traffic in the area. For the second time in less than a week, the militants took to the streets to protest the intrusion and subsequent grounding of the US Navy minesweeper USS Guardian in the protected Tubbataha Reef.

But members of the Manila Police District’s civil disturbance unit was prepared this time, not letting the protesters get near the gates of the US embassy.

Frustrated demonstrators instead hurled paintballs stuffed in eggshells at the signage of the USembassy. The student activists tried to pull one over MPD, converging far from the embassy on Padre Faura Street and then at Plaza Ferguson. However, MPD cops seemed to have anticipated this move and kept their position near embassy.

Traffic stalled

Motorists were stalled for the duration that the cops and the activists were pushing against each other that nearly resulted in a clash. Traffic flow was momentarily stalled at this part of Roxas Boulevard.

During the rally, the militants reiterated their call for the scrapping of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement. They also demanded that the US be held accountable for the incident in Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17.

60,000 liters of diesel fuel drained from USS Guardian - US embassy

From InterAksyon (Jan 28): 60,000 liters of diesel fuel drained from USS Guardian - US embassy

A salvage team from the United States Navy has drained an approximately 15,000 gallons (about 60,000 liters) of diesel fuel from the USS Guardian, the minesweeper stuck at Tubbataha Reef.

A statement from the US embassy said the salvage team has completed defueling of the ship on January 25. The fuel was transferred to the US-contracted Malaysian tugboat, Vos Apollo.

Meanwhile, authorities are still waiting for the arrival of two heavy lift ship-borne cranes due to arrive on February 1. The cranes will lift the USS Guardian from the reef and bring it to the nearest shipyard.

On the other hand, US Navy ship salvage and maritime architecture experts continue to reinforce the ship's structure including reinforcing its hull with Kevlar lines to reduce the strain on the ship as it is continuously battered by waves.

"The US Navy in the meantime, continues to remove material from the ship, to assess and manage structural issues and to prepare the Guardian to be safely removed, all the while seeking to protect the natural environment of Tubbataha Reef," the US embassy said.

It has been a little over a week since the ship went aground at Tubbataha Reef on January 17 and the US has yet to state why and how the ship went aground the protected marine sanctuary.

"The US Navy is undertaking an extensive investigation to assess the circumstances and facts surrounding the USS Guardian accident. The ship had just completed a port call in Subic Bay and was transiting directly through the Sulu Sea en route to its next port of call in Indonesia when the grounding occurred. All relevant factors will be looked at during the course of the investigation, and the proximate cause of the incident will be made at a later date," the US embassy said.

Meanwhile, 69 crew members of the USS Guardian were transferred to USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) on January 22 and will return to Sasebo, Japan today.
Only the ship's commanding officer and technical experts remain at Tubbataha Reef to assist in salvage operations.

Negros ambush victims shot in the head- PNP

From Rappler (Jan 28): Negros ambush victims shot in the head- PNP

AMBUSHED. Victims of an ambush in Negros Occidental on Sunday, January 27.

The 9 people slain in an ambush in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, were all shot in the head, police said Monday, January 28. This was disclosed by Senior Supt Celestino Guara, caretaker of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, who also said they're looking into the possibility that New People's Army (NPA) rebels from other provinces may have been behind the ambush on Sunday morning, January 27, that also wounded 12 others -- two cops and 10 civilians.

A resident of Brgy. Puso, La Castellana, in an interview with MBC Aksyon Radyo here, claimed the gunmen reportedly came from Bohol and Samar, with a guide from the local NPA command. They were reportedly looking for rebel returnees.

Edwin Sevilla, a member of Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team stationed at a police outpost in Brgy. Cabacungan, La Castellana, who survived the ambush, said the suspects positioned themselves on the left side of the road and shouted “Mabuhay ang NPA!” after the ambush.

The suspected guerrillas opened fire at a truck carrying the victims and other civilians, including children. The rebels reportedly asked the children to leave the truck before they started killing the victims.

The policemen, along with members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT), were in the area to secure the barangay since it was celebrating its fiesta. They were ambushed when they were on their way home from the fiesta Sunday morning. Senior Inspector Gary Alan Resuma, La Castellana police chief, said there were 21 passengers in the truck, aside from the 8 children.

Local government officials, as well as the police and the military Negros condemned the ambush.

Killed were PO1 Richard Canja, civilians Virginia Ordonez, Ricky Dingcong and Lito Lucban, barangay tanod members Mario Ricablanca and Teotimo Esplegera of Brgy. Puso, and BPAT members Ulysses Tamayor, Jonathan Mateo and Ramir Complesa.
Two policemen, Police Officer 3 Constantino Villegas and PO2 Jeffrey Alvarez, and 10 civilians were also injured in the ambush, police records show.

The gunmen also took away with them the two assault rifles of the slain and injured policemen.

China hopes for no more Huangyan Islands conflicts: FM

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): China hopes for no more Huangyan Islands conflicts: FM

The situation around the Huangyan Islands has remained stable and China hopes there are no more conflicts concerning the issue, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Monday. Hong's remarks came at a routine press conference after reports quoted Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III as saying he could not allow China to claim effective control over the Huangyan Islands, as doing so could encourage China to continue to move into the resource-rich Liyue Tan, also known as the Reed Bank.

"The Huangyan Islands are an indisputable part of Chinese territory," Hong said, noting the issues concerning the islands last year were caused by Philippine military vessels harassing Chinese fishermen and fishing boats.

Hong also stressed that China has a clear stance on the Liyue Tan, which is a part of the Nansha archipelago in the South China Sea. "China has undisputed sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and neighboring sea," Hong reiterated, calling on the two sides to resolve the disputes via bilateral negotiation and consultation, which, according to Hong, all parties have unanimously agreed upon.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Tuesday the Philippine government has taken the South China Sea disputes to an Arbitral Tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

PHL Navy spreads better service image in Bicol

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): PHL Navy spreads better service image in Bicol

They are the guardians of the seas, but in Bicol, members of the Philippine Navy (PN) have gained the public’s recognition as all-terrain and all-weather friends from whom civilians can expect good service anywhere, anytime.

Officers and men of the Naval Forces for Southern Luzon (NAVFORSOL) have been actively taking part in preemptive and full evacuations during impending or real-time disasters. They have also been into supporting and promoting tourism, sports, healthy lifestyle, efficient solid waste management, coastal clean-up, environmental conservation and protection, and various community education and outreach programs.

The most recent was the partnership with the local government of this city in the enforcement of the local anti-smoking ordinance. The fleet-marine personnel of NAVFORSOL have been deputized as enforcers of the ordinance after completing a series of enforcement trainings and orientation. Representatives from the city government turned over deputized enforcers' paraphernalia to NAVFORSOL on Jan. 24.

Navy personnel also regularly conduct career opportunities in the Navy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)for high school seniors inside the station. NAVFORSOL holds festivals inside the station such as Masbate’s “Rodeo Masbateño,” this city’s “Ibalong,” Albay province’s “Magayon” and “Karangahan sa Pasko” and the most recent was Quiapo’s “Feast of the Black Nazarene.” These are open for the public to watch and take part.

NAVFORSOL holds various events for the local media in the area. Its personnel make themselves visible to the public not only during times of disaster and other emergencies but also during various community-based events such as their regular participation in locally-sponsored fun runs and the regular morning “Hataw” physical fitness sessions at the city boulevard.

NPA rebels attack a militiaman’s detachment

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): NPA rebels attack a militiaman’s detachment

CAMP JAIME N. FERRER SR, Maharlika, Bislig City -- A civilian military volunteer was wounded when undetermined number of New People’s Army rebels(NPA) attacked a patrol base Sunday morning. First Lt. Jolito E. Borces, spokesperson of the Army’s 75th Infantry Battalion here, said that members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) in the area operated the patrol base.

He said the NPA harassed the patrol base resulting in a firefight. Borces did not identify the wounded civilian volunteer. Borces said the CAFGU member who returned fire expected the attack since civilians earlier informed government troopers of the presence of armed groups and individuals who were reportedly engaged in extortion activities in the area. He said residents reported that the rebels withdrew to unknown direction as they carried a possibly wounded comrade after the firefight.

Two-hour gun battle erupts between police, NPA rebels in Masbate

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): Two-hour gun battle erupts between police, NPA rebels in Masbate

A two-and-half hour hostilities erupted on Saturday between police forces and the communist rebels in Barangay Cantorna, a remote village in San Jacinto town in Masbate, a police officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol said Monday.

Members of the PNP 5th Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB), while responding to a call about sighting of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, engaged the group in a running gun battle that started at about 2 p.m. and ended at around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, said Supt. Renato Bataller, PNP Bicol spokesperson. Bataller said nobody from the police force was hurt during the skirmish in Sitio Kapatagan, Barangay Cantorna, San Jacinto town, while the NPA rebels fled towards Sitio Dao, a neighboring zone in the said village.

The RPSB 2nd Manuever Company led by Police Inspector Nicolas Malipot, Company Commander, set up a blocking force after receiving an information that another group of RPSB encountered a group of NPA in the said village. The police blocking force then engaged in a fire fight the undetermined number of NPA belonging to the Jose Rapsing Command operating in the island province of Masbate. San Jacinto is among the 14 towns in Masbate considered as election hot spots due to the presence of NPA rebels.

Army conducts clean-up drive in CDO

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): Army conducts clean-up drive in CDO

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City -- Soldiers from the Fourth Infantry “Diamond” Division conducted a clean-up drive along the roads of Barangays Patag, Bulua and Kauswagan all of Cagayan de Oro City this week. This activity is another product of the "bayanihan" (cooperation) spirit which aims to clean and beautify the surroundings and also to stop the breeding of dengue-causing mosquitoes, said Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias, Jr.

He said soldiers also removed garbage along the city’s major highways in Bulua and Kauswagan to clear waterways during heavy rains that often caused flooding in the area. Osias said the Army hopes the little activity would provide simple gestures that would encourage the citizenry to exercise cleanliness in their surroundings to eradicate diseases caused by mosquitoes such as dengue fever.

The clean-up and beautification activities showed the soldiers were concerned about the importance of personal health and sanitation in the community, Osias added.

Hot pursuit ongoing vs NPA members who staged ambush in NegOcc

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): Hot pursuit ongoing vs NPA members who staged ambush in NegOcc

The Scout Rangers and the Philippine National Police (PNP)on Monday continued with its pursuit of the members of the New People's Army (NPA) under the "Komiting Rehiyon ng Negros" who staged an ambush and killed nine in La Castellana, Negros Occidental last Sunday morning.

Capt. Reyan Caytan of the 3rd Infantry (SPEARHEAD) Division of the Philippine Army said that they continue to conduct hot pursuit operation until now with the Scout Rangers and the Philippine National Police in order to apprehend those members of the NPA under the Komiting Rehiyon ng Negros who staged the ambush in the upland barangay where nine people died and six others wounded.

Caytan said that based on their investigation, most of the NPA members were young and were Cebuano-speaking. The ambush took place at 3:45 a.m. Sunday when the NPAs fired at the truck with policemen, Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team and civilians on board. They were supposedly headed back to Brgy. Cabacungan from Brgy. Puso where there was a fiesta on the previous day.

The authorities and some civilians on board the truck helped in the maintenance of peace and order of the fiesta of Brgy. Puso. The Negros Provincial Police Office has identified PO1 Richard Canja of La Castellana Police Station as one of the fatalities. The dead victims were brought to the Nalagon Funeral Homes in La Castellana. The six wounded in the attack included PO3 Constantino Villegas and PO2 Jeffrey Alvarez, both assigned at the Cabacungan police detachment.

The Philippine Army believes that this ambush is the bloodiest incident that so far happened in the country lately especially when there is an election gun ban since Jan. 13.

Police sue leaders of 'human barricade'

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 27): Police sue leaders of 'human barricade'

THE Montevista police confirmed that they filed last Friday charges against eight leaders of the "human barricade" along the highway between Monkayo and Montevista towns last January 15. But Senior Inspector Duane Francis Ducducan, chief of the Montevista Police Station, said in a phone interview that he cannot remember the names of the eight since he does not have the list on hand.

Ducducan said the eight were charged with unlawful appearance, public disturbance, and obstruction of traffic under the Revised Penal Code. He described the eight as those who were interviewed on television.

Among the progressive groups involved during the barricade were Barug Katawhan, Bayan Southern Mindanao Region, and Balsa Mindanao.

"Sagad sa gipang-interview sa TV na mga nagpasiugda sa barricade nga naa atong panghitabo mao ang gipasakaan ug kaso (All the organizers of the barricade who appeared on television were sued). I don't have their names here as of now, pero tua na sa fiscal ang record (but the complaint is now with the fiscal)," Ducducan said. They filed the complaint in Nabunturan.

Ducducan added they submitted their affidavit of complaint around 10 a.m. Friday for regular filing. "The decision is now with the fiscal. Samtang kami, naghulat mi ug uban complainants na gusto pud mupasaka ug kaso laban sa mga organizers (while we will wait for others who want to file a complaint against the barricade organizers)," Ducducan said.

Around 5,000 residents from Montevista, Pantukan, Monkayo, New Bataan, Maco, Mabini, New Corella, Mawab, Lupon and Mati set up the barricade to call for a stop to mining and illegal logging and equitable distribution of relief goods.

The group also demanded an end to piece-meal distribution of relief goods and, instead, called for ration that will tide them over for a longer period. The human barricade blocked vehicle traffic for more than eight hours.

AFP condemns rebel attack in Negros Occidental

From the Sun Star (Jan 28): AFP condemns rebel attack in Negros Occidental

The Armed Forces said Friday that they condemned the attack in Negros Occidental on Sunday by the New People's Army (NPA) which resulted in the death of nine people, eight of whom are civilians, and injuries to nine. "While we support the efforts of the government for peace and development, our focused combat operations will continue to target those who continue to pursue armed violence that has caused suffering to our people and loss of innocent lives," military spokesperson Col. Arnulfo M. Burgos Jr. said.

He added the NPA perpetrated the attack despite the openness of the AFP to rebels returning to the democratic fold. "The NPAs continue to wage armed violence, disrupt the peace-building initiatives of the government and even disrespect the peace process by violating past ceasefire pronouncements," Burgos said.

The military spokesperson said Sunday's attack on non-combatants is clearly another violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law they signed. "Moreover, they continue to capitalize on soft targets, often resolving to inhumane tactics including the use of improvised explosive devices, conduct of ambuscades, extortion activities, and sabotage of vital economic facilities," Burgos stated.

The AFP is now coordinating with the National Police activated Task Force La Castellana to do pursuit operations against the perpetrators. "Our troops in the area will strictly follow the rules of engagement and will respect and promote human rights in all our operations," he added.

Major problem: NPA recruiting minors, claims army study of rebel returnees

Posted to the Mindanao Times (Jan 25): Major problem: NPA recruiting minors, claims army study of rebel returnees

Two in 10 New People’s Army rebels who surrendered to the government were minors, with ages ranging from 11 to 17 years old, a study conducted by the 10th Infantry Division (ID) revealed.

Maj. Jacob Thaddeus Obligado, commander of the Civil Military Operations Battalion, said the study they conducted was based on the 450 surrenderees who were randomly selected in a five-year period between 2006 until 2011.

Adding that the margin of error would be low since they covered more than half of the total surrenderees. The rebel returnees came from Davao Region, Cotabato and Sarangani areas under the 10th ID’s area of responsibility, Obligado said.

He said 30 of the minors came from Compostela Valley, followed by 21 from Davao del Sur, and 19 from Sarangani, rounding up the top three provinces which had the most number of surrenderees. Out of 100 minor respondents, 83 are male while 17 are female.

“The average age of entry is 17,” Obligado said. “The youngest age that was recorded was 11 while the oldest was 59.”

The commander also revealed that 78% of the minors are Lumads. Obligado said the study also revealed that the average educational attainment of the returnees is grade 3. “Though some were able to enroll up until grade 4, they eventually stopped or did not go to school,” he said.

Obligado doesn’t blame poverty as the main reason in joining the movement since the study revealed that only 5% of the respondents claimed the lack of livelihood opportunity as the major culprit.

Obligado disclosed that 86% of the returnees cited hardship and difficulties as their reasons for leaving, adding that they were always living in fear, under constant stress and always hungry.

He said they have yet to make a cross-index study to find out why a large number of surrendeeres came from Compostela Valley. “We will be looking deeper at the province: What is in Compostela? Why are there a lot of recruits?” Obligado added.