Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Interview: The Long Struggle For Moro Autonomy In The Philippines

From the Eurasia Review News & Analysis (Jan 30): Interview: The Long Struggle For Moro Autonomy In The Philippines

[Interview with MNLF Central Committee member Commander Haji Ibrahim “Bambi"]

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is a nationalist political organization that has been waging an armed struggle against the Philippine state since its establishment in 1969.

It struggles for the independence of Bangsamoro. As defined by the MNLF, the territory of Bangsamoro covers Sulu, Mindanao, and Palawan—otherwise known as MINSUPALA, encompassing some of the poorest areas of the Philippines.

Unlike its Islamic offshoot, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), MNLF is not a religious organization, and it styles its ideology as Egalitarianism. A racially and religiously inclusive organization, MNLF calls for independence and social justice for the most exploited and marginalized people of the Philippines—a country where according to a 2011 survey, some 20.5 percent of families, or about 4.1 million, go hungry while 51 percent, or some 10.4 million families, consider themselves poor.

MNLF Central Committee member Commander Haji Ibrahim “Bambi,” 67 years old, met the author for an interview in January 2013 at an undisclosed location in Sabah, Malaysia.

AV (Andre Vltchek): Peace process, peace agreements, broken peace agreements, and more processit appears a never-ending saga. You are facing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), one of the most brutal and corrupt armies in the world, which is determinedly supported by the former colonizers of the Philippines, the United States, Spain, and indeed Europe. Do you have any chance to win the war and consequently the independence for your people?

CB (Commander “Bambi”): It would not be easy. We would all have to unite: MNLF, MILF, and the Marxist groups. MILF would have to agree to join the constitutional process and agree to negotiate, something they are refusing to do. We all have to sit down and talk.

The United States, Europe, and the entire West would then have to join our effort to implement, and then support, a real peace agreement.

The peace process is in danger, because most of the terms agreed on during the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and later at Jeddah Accord in 1987 were never implemented. The government is now busy dealing with the MILF. On top of it, the peace process would have to go through the constitutional procedure, within the government of the Philippines. It would have to go through the Senate and through the Congress. And the fact that there are more Christians than Muslims in both institutions, even in the Mindanao local Senate, would further complicate things.

Once I attended a meeting sponsored by one of the EU countries. There were also representatives of Colombia there, of Indonesia, as well as three people from the U.S., probably CIA. I told them, “American brothers, you are not our enemies, are you? You were preaching to us about freedom for so many years and decades. But when you are here, you are not seeking peace, instead you are siding with the Philippines government against the will of the people.”

AV: What exactly is the United States trying to achieve by supporting the Philippine regime?

CB: The U.S. goal is to control the entire Pacific. It wants to prevent China from playing any significant role in this part of the world.

The U.S. is playing a very dangerous game by training the Philippine military, justifying it by the “search” for Abu Sayyaf fighters. All this is against the Philippine Constitution—the U.S. military is not allowed to operate on the territory of the Philippines. But conducting joined exercises like “Balikatan” is supposed to give “legitimacy” to illegal military acts.

AV: What are you called by the U.S.?

CB: In the past, they used to call us Maoists or Communists. We are not on that terrorist list of theirs. But they consider us their main enemies. Abu Sayyaf is on their terrorist list, of course. But the CIA created Abu Sayyaf during the government of Ramos, to undermine the MNLF. Both the U.S. and Philippine governments needed more bombs to explode, more weapons to be used, in order to have their military budgets approved. It is also no secret that during the wave of kidnappings by Abu Sayyaf, 80-90 percent of the ransom money used to go directly to the military leaders.

The government and the U.S. say to the MNLF: “Oh, you can’t control your own people—look at Abu Sayyaf!” They say no peace can be reached if we can’t control Abu Sayyaf. It is undeniable that some Abu Sayyaf fighters are former members of MNLF, including Commander Nur.

But what they refuse to say and acknowledge is that we hate Abu Sayyaf! We have nothing to do with them. All over Mindanao, people are distancing themselves from them, seeing them as clients of the U.S. forces. Abu Sayyaf has such a bad image!

The MNLF even fought Abu Sayyaf. Once they kidnapped a female medic from our ranks. We attacked their camp and freed the medic.

AV: Is the U.S. using propaganda to justify its presence in the Philippines?

CB: Yes, the propaganda is used all over the Philippines. The U.S. is always portrayed as liberators, as good guys. People are flooded with movies, books, and shows… Douglas MacArthur is presented as liberator, and people actually believe it, after all those years and decades of propaganda.

And then the story of liberating us from the Japanese! Of course old people in the Philippines were not used to the character of the Japanese, when they occupied the country—like bowing. There were cultural misunderstandings, and even crimes committed by the Japanese. But Japanese invaders never performed mass slaughter of the Philippine civilians, while the U.S. did. What is guarded as some secret is that the U.S. was much more brutal than Japan in this part of the world, and that brutality was occurring even before the Japanese occupation. Just recall the Balangiga massacre.

AV: I heard, from Philippine academics, that the U.S. is igniting the conflict between several regional players in Southeast Asia and China over the Spratly Islands. It apparently found exceptionally willing collaborators in the latest Philippine administration.

CB: Once again: the U.S. wants to have full control over the Pacific. For that it needs countries like the Philippines—client states.

We provoked the problem of the Spratly islands. Our government dares to play this game because it knows that it has U.S. behind it.

It is worth mentioning that the Spratlys were historically part of the Sulu Sultanate. The islands are called, in the local language, “Manangkayan,” or “Giant Clam.” Sulu sultans were extremely close to China. There are graveyards of Chinese people all over Sulu. Chinese emissaries were living right next to the sultan’s palace. China was the closest ally of Sulu before the Spanish conquerors arrived. What followed, you know: things were turned upside down and the Spaniards massacred around 10,000 Chinese people in one go, just because they did not want to abandon their culture, to change their name.

But in the Philippines, very little is known about the history of the region.

Why provoke China? The government is spending so much money on modernizing warships. For what purpose? Is it to go to war with China on someone else’s behalf? Why not improve Philippines instead? There is so much misery there.

AV: You were one of the leaders of MNLF for so many years and decades. Did things change? Is the MNLF aiming at autonomy now?

CB: First we called for independence. Then Islamic countries pressed us. They told us try autonomy first and go from there.

Ideally, we wanted independence of all Mindanao. We felt that this is an essential goal as we were kept behind by Manila—absolutely behind. I personally would have settled in the past for Mindanao being first just one state inside the country, similar to the arrangement they have here in Malaysia. You give the capital 20 to 30 percent of the natural resources, etc. But after achieving such an arrangement, I would still be pushing for full independence.

AV: Would it be a Muslim or a secular state?

CB: It would be, and would have to be, a secular state. There are now more Christians in Mindanao than Muslims. It would be a state for all of us: for Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists, and for Chinese people. In our ranks, we have Christians, and many Chinese support us.

AV: What political and economic system do you envision for it?

CB: A mixed system. Definitely not a purely capitalist system—look at the Philippines; we don’t want that. I wish for open socialism.

AV: What about the Marxists? Would you cooperate with the Marxist guerillas in Mindanao?

CB: Of course! Around 1976, I met and incorporated some of their fighters. More precisely, we joined forces. At that time I was in command of some 70 men and their group in that particular area had only 7 or 8 people. We always see them as our allies. Those who are fighting against the Philippine government, that brutal and corrupt power, are our allies.

AV: When you say “brutal and corrupt power,” do you have in mind the Maguindanao massacre?

CB: Exactly. That was one of the most terrible examples of how corrupt and brutal the power in the Philippines is. It was a terrible story of the Ampatuan clan trying to demonstrate to President Arroyo just what it could do in its own province. And the message was: we can do anything! Because, although the West calls the Philippines a “democracy,” the rulers can do anything they feel like to their own people. In Maguindanao, people who went against the Ampatuan clan got massacred; women, including journalists, were raped before being murdered. The women were shot in their genitals and then decapitated. Fifty-seven people, including 34 journalists, died. Once you go against the rulers, this is what happens to you in the Philippines.

AV: I was once working in Gingook and Cagayan de Oro, in Mindanao. I was invited by one of the mightiest ruling clans in the country, because I was a friend of one of the greatest Philippine musicians, who happens to belong to it. At a dinner party, members of the clan began discussing the upcoming elections: whom they are going to pay, whom they are going to bribe, and how much money will be involved. They knew who I was; some even read my books before they invited me. But they had no fear. They were certain that nothing could endanger their power and their plans. They were even naming names of their allies in the government at the table, in front of me.

CB: You are right: they have absolutely no fear! They buy votes, openly. Everybody knows how much is paid and by whom. It is utter madness.

AV: How many people in Mindanao support the MNLF?

CB: 99 percent of the Muslims. Now we are in the process of explaining to our Christian brothers that ours is not a Muslim cause, and that not all the Muslims are bad.

AV: How bad is anti-Muslim propaganda and discrimination in the Philippines?

CB: Bad, very bad. And it has been spread for centuries.

What they don’t say is that before the Spaniards came to colonize us, all these were actually Muslim lands, even what is now Manila. Then they began destroying our culture, attacking our religion. They forced us to become Pablo or Pedro, instead of Ibrahim or Abdullah. In the past, Spanish people called us “pirates.” But who are really the pirates here? Aren’t pirates those who invade your country and then plunder it?

Under Marcos, Christian militias called Ilaga began chasing away Muslim people from their homes in Mindanao.

There were also large resettlement schemes and many land grabs of Muslim lands, designed to make Muslims a minority in their own areas.

AV: How many people have died in the war so far?

CB: We don’t have exact numbers, but even a long time ago we calculated that well over 100,000 civilians must have died. Often we had no time to bury our dead—they were sometimes eaten by dogs. It was terrible. So just in the 70s, over 100,000 people died.

In Zamboanga Norte in 1976, I could only count human heads—68 heads in all—because the government forces had burned the bodies. All of the victims were highlanders from the Kalibugan tribe. Some skulls were big, those of adult men and women, but some were tiny—those of the babies. And this was just one massacre of so, so many!

Marcos introduced martial law during his administration. We lost more fighters during that period, but the government of Philippines had three times heavier losses than we did.

AV: So what is it going to be now—a war or negotiations?

CB: We have to join forces—all of us who are fighting for independence and justice. But we have already fought so much! We fought during Marcos; once I fought for 6 months, day and night, without any rest.

I am tired. I am tired of fighting. I am 67 years old. I know that this war could go on and on, for another 100 years.

I know the culture of the people in this part of the world. What frightens me is that one day some religious fanatics could influence our young boys. It can happen, you know, if there is no solution to the conflict. It would be extremely dangerous scenario.

AV: At 67, are you still actively involved in the struggle?

CB: Yes, I am still a member of the Central Committee and Commander of the Special Forces of MNLF.But I am now actively looking for peaceful solutions. The peace agreements we had are not solid. I want all the opposition to join, to unite, to negotiate.

AFP to adopt 'transitional justice' in dealing with wanted MILF fighters

From GMA News (Jan 30): AFP to adopt 'transitional justice' in dealing with wanted MILF fighters

The military will use “transitional justice” in dealing with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members with pending arrest warrants, Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said Wednesday.

“We support 'yung peace process, but we also are after 'yung justice, 'yung rule of law,” Bautista told reporters. “Kaya nga pinag-uusapan 'yung transitional justice mechanism natin ito.”

Bautista did not elaborate on transition justice, which is an approach to achieving justice in times of transition from conflict.

“These matters are in fact being discussed under the framework agreement… The panels are meeting. In fact, one of the things discussed is transitional justice. So, let's wait for the final outcome of the negotiations,” he said.

He was referring to the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, which will pave the creation of a new political entity in Mindanao. Government and MILF negotiators are in the process of finalizing the annexes and other details of the agreement.

The military chief gave the statement weeks after Col. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Army’s 104th Brigade, made a public appearance with MILF commander Dan Laksaw Ansawi in Basilan for a peace dialogue.

A picture published in a newspaper showed Galvez embracing Asnawi, who had been linked to the July 2007 killing of 14 Marine soldiers—10 of them beheaded—in Al Barka town in Basilan.

Asnawi has pending arrest warrants for various atrocities, including the October 2011 killing of 19 Special Forces officers and men in Al Barka town.

Bautista reiterated that both the government and the MILF are concerned about the peace process and rule of law. “There is an understanding na kailangang merong transitional justice,” he said.

Asked if the discussions on the “transitional justice” have virtually suspended the enforcement of arrest warrants against MILF rebels with pending arrest warrants, Bautista said it is better to wait for the final outcome of the negotiations.

“There is no final outcome yet on the negotiations. Let's just wait for the negotiations, on what will be the disposition of those issues,” he said.

“We must be very patient in this,” Bautista added. “It's not an easy thing and gaya ng nasabi ko, it's better that we talk about this issue rather than fight over this issue.”

USS Guardian to be dismantled, but may further damage Tubbataha

From GMA News (Jan 30): USS Guardian to be dismantled, but may further damage Tubbataha

After wrestling with various other options, the US Navy has announced that it has no other choice but to dismantle the minesweeping vessel that has been stranded on Tubbataha Reef since January 17, according Defense News, a news site about the US military.

The US Navy had been preparing to lift the entire ship with giant floating cranes to deeper water or onto another ship. But the close proximity of salvage ships to the reef for the lifting operation would pose a greater risk to the reef, the US Navy has determined.

“Our only supportable option is to dismantle the damaged ship and remove it in sections,” Capt. Darryn James, spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told Defense News on Tuesday.

Lory Tan, president of WWF Philippines, lamented that dismantling the ship is the "least desirable" solution because the operation, though now apparently unavoidable, would entail more movement on the reef than if the ship were lifted intact.
"It's too early to say, but basta may gumalaw dyan, may pwede mangyari," said Tan, who is also a member of Tubbataha's protected area management board.

"If they're not careful, it could be messy," he added.

The grounding of the USS Guardian is an unprecedented problem for the US Navy with a complex mix of crucial factors, including unpredictable weather conditions, the coordination between the two governments, and environmental concerns.

"We suggested in the beginning that (the Tubbataha Task Force) develop various (recovery) scenarios. The last option was the breakup," he added.

The US Navy has apparently decided that the last and least desireable option is now probably the only option.

Leftist rebel killed in clash with military in S. Philippines

From the Global Times (Jan 30): Leftist rebel killed in clash with military in S. Philippines

A leftist rebel was killed Tuesday in a clash with government security forces in the southern Philippine province of Davao del Sur, a military official said on Wednesday.

The soldiers were on a patrol mission at Kiblawis village in the town of Kiblawan when they encountered undetermined number of New People's Army rebels, said William Rodriguez, spokesman for the Army's 1002nd Brigade.

He said a fire fight ensued, leaving one dead on the enemy side, adding "We have no casualties. We have recovered the slain rebel's body."

The NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging a guerrilla campaign in the countryside for more than four decades. The military estimates that the NPA strength at more than 4,000 men scattered in more than 60 guerrilla fronts throughout the country.

Brother of anti-mining tribal leader slain

From Rappler (Jan 30): Brother of anti-mining tribal leader slain

The brother of fugitive Blaan tribal leader Daguil Cafeon was slain in an alleged encounter with soldiers in the remote village of Kimlawis in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur Tuesday morning, January 29. Killed was Kitari Cafeon who, according to the military, was hit in the hip and rushed to the Allah Valley Hospital in Koronadal City but died several hours later.

Army Capt. William Alfred Rodriguez, spokesman of the 1002nd Brigade based in Sarangani province, said a squad of soldiers from Task Force Kitako led by Sgt Edwin Olpoc was conducting foot patrol when it was reportedly fired upon by the armed tribal group led by Daguil Cafeon. After a brief encounter, Cafeon and his group reportedly withdrew, leaving behind Kitari.

The Cafeon (not Capion as previously reported) brothers and their group have been called bandits by the military.

In October 2012, Cafeon’s wife Juvy was killed together with his son and his wife’s son by first marriage when a platoon of soldiers strafed their house in nearby Sitio Datal-Alyong, also in Kimlawis, during an early morning raid.

Cafeon was unharmed because he had opted to sleep the night before in a nearby farm. The military then claimed the killing was a result of an encounter but human rights groups called it a massacre.
Cafeon himself had told media there was no exchange of gunfire as he was some 200 meters away from their house when the soldiers fired at his wife and children. Following protests, the military investigated its men and put them under court martial.


The Cafeon brothers are wanted for a string of ambuscades that left at least 6 people dead, most of them security guards, drill contractors and consultants of Sagittarius Mines Inc.. Several arrest warrants have been issued against them and their group.

Cafeon and several Blaan residents Bong Mal, Tampakan town of South Cotabato took arms to protest the ongoing mining operations of SMI in their area. Daguil Cafeon is accusing SMI of encroaching into their ancestral domain. Cafeon’s two other brothers have also joined him and are likewise wanted by the government.

A local crisis committee working to free rebel hostages

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 30): A local crisis committee working to free rebel hostages

The local government unit of Laak, Compostela Valley province will be negotiating with New Peoples Army rebels for the freedom of an abducted soldier and a policeman who have been in the hands of the latter for the past 12 days.

Lt. Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division said Private First Class Jezreel Culango and PO1 Ruel Pasion remain in the hands of their captors after they were held captived by the rebels disguised as soldiers on January 17 in Barangay Imelda.

He said that a local crisis committee has been formed to talk to the rebels and facilitate for their release.

The soldier was about to visit his girlfriend in Barangay Mangloy, Laak while Pasion, a member of the San Isidro Police Station just happened to pass by in the area when they were accosted by the rebels.

Paniza called the incident, a desperate move by the rebels to get public attention, after their front organizations failed in their propaganda to hit government efforts in reaching out to areas hardest hit by typhoon Pablo.

In a separate interview, Chief Superintendent Jaime Morente, director of the Police Regional Office 11 also confirmed the initiative of the local government of Laak to negotiate the release of the captives.

He also hoped that just like in previous abductions of government personnel, victims will be treated well and will be released unharmed.

“Wish the captives will be freed soon to appease their respective families,” Morente said.

Army repairs 82 houses, gov't buildings in typhoon areas

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 30): Army repairs 82 houses, gov't buildings in typhoon areas

A total of 82 houses, nine government facilities and one chapel had been repaired by the Joint Task Force Tambayayong, an initiative of soldiers to help areas hardest hit by Typhoon Pablo which struck the region last December 4, 2012.

Captain Severino David, spokesperson of the EastMinCom disclosed the information based on the report of Colonel Edgardo Clerigo, commander of the JTF Tambayayong.

The number of rehabilitated structures comprised of 60 houses repaired in Compostela Valley, 22 houses in Davao Oriental, six school buildings in Barangay Pasian, Monkayo, Compostela Valley, a police installation in Montevista, one chapel in New Bataan and two day-care centers in Boston and Baganga, respectively, from January 14 to 26 this year.

David said the repair works will continue in order to help survivors bring back their lives to normalcy.

Lt. General Jorge Segovia, commander of the EastMinCom said the effort to assist communities will go on as part of the recovery and rehabilitation effort by government on the disaster- affected areas.

He said it is the soldiers’ way of going beyond the call in giving service to the people which they are sworn not only to protect but also to assist in times of great need.

Segovia also thanked the support of the local government units and non-government organizations for this pursuit.

He also urged other sectors to extend their support by providing donations by way of construction materials.

“This support will assist greatly in the mobilization to help the affected areas re-establish and to expedite their move towards recovery. More than ever, the Joint JTF Tamabayayong exhibits the inherent nature of Filipinos to uphold the spirit of Bayanihan,” Segovia pointed out.

Peace committee to bring dev't projects to Tabuanlasa Islands

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 30): Peace committee to bring dev't projects to Tabuanlasa Islands

The Provincial Peace and Development Coordinating Committee will visit Tabuanlasa municipality on Jan. 30 - 31 to bring development projects and government services to this hard-to-reach islands south of Basilan.

Dubbed “Bayanihan sa Tabuanlasa Tungo sa Kapayapaan,” the residents of Sulloh and Lanawan islands will benefit from the services and programs that participating agencies and organizations will be bringing.

The project was conceived to rehabilitate the municipality, particularly in rebuilding some shelters destroyed in past conflicts that displaced a number of families, said Tahira Ismael, provincial administrator.

The 104th Philippine Army Brigade in Basilan will lead in the rebuilding of 37 permanent shelters, particularly in the village of Sulloh, Tapiantana. This housing project is supported by the provincial government of Basilan and the regional government of ARMM.

More than a hundred visitors are expected to arrive in Tabuanlasa, to include several participating government agencies, non-government organizations, the military and police, and media.

The Nagdilaab Foundation Inc. and the Basilan Advocates for Peace, Environment, and Sustainable Development Association Inc. (Bapesda) are expected to conduct psycho-social intervention to the children; they will also be distributing school supplies.

The Provincial Health Office and the Tabuanlasa municipal health office will lead in the conduct of medical and dental program in tandem with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The provincial Social Welfare and Development personnel and the AFP will conduct feeding sessions with the kids, too. Local teachers will also have a dialogue session with the Department of Education-ARMM.

The Basilan Jaycees Inc. is also expected to turn-over to the local schools around 20 boxes of books. The Asia Foundation, through Bapesda, had promised to donate books to the elementary schools.

At the preparatory meeting in Isabela City, Tabuanlasa Mayor Muktar Y. Junaid was elated, expressing his gratitude to the Provincial Peace and Development Coordinating Committee also known as Team Basilan for the initiatives.

Tabuan-Lasa is one of the 11 municipalities and a city that comprise the province of Basilan in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The town is politically subdivided into 12 barangays, and is part of the lone congressional district of Basilan with a population of 13,384 people.

The 12 barangays that make up Tabuan-Lasa, which were formerly part of the municipality of Sumisip, are situated in the islands and detached from mainland Basilan.

Army doubles efforts to rid Samar of insurgents

From the Philippine Information Agecny (Jan 30): Army doubles efforts to rid Samar of insurgents

“We have reduced the enemy’s capabilities,” said Colonel Romeo Labador, the commanding officer of the 801st Infantry Brigade as he reports to the Samar Peace and order Council, Monday. He cited a decline in the number of insurgents collectively known as CNN meaning, CPP/NPA/NDF.

“We have cleared 42 barangays,” he added. By this he meant barangays that have been influenced by the CNN and now have withdrawn support to the insurgents. He added that they also have reduced the enemy capabilities citing a reduced number of insurgents and firearms.

He reported that their forces focused more efforts on the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) which target the hearts of the local populace. This approach involves governance, delivery of basic services, economic reconstruction and sustainable development and security sector reform.

So that presently, Labador and other army battalions focus their resources in converging with their civilian partners in government bringing them to the hinterlands which they called peace and development forum. Government agencies lay out their programs to the locales and accommodate their reasonable needs, the army also bring their medical/dental services.

One army commander said that Samarnons have become insurgents because they feel neglected by the government, through the army, government services will be brought to their barangays.

While there is no let-up in their security measures, the army feels that combat does not necessarily end the war.

The team of Labador also proudly declared that for the past year, there was no report of any human rights violation of their troops based at Barangay Fatima, Hinabangan, Samar.

Soldiers too are protectors of the environment

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 30): Soldiers too are protectors of the environment

Sixty soldiers assigned in Western Visayas underwent a three-day training recently on environmental laws, policies, and regulations in compliance with the 3rd Infantry Division's Executive Order No. 23 also known as "Declaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests and creating the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force."

The training also gave the soldiers a better understanding of guidelines in the implementation of anti-illegal logging operations.

Livino B. Duran, technical director, FMS of DENR-6 lauded the initiative of the 3rd Division for this training saying, "As law enforcers, we are in charge of handling and apprehension of forest violators and as partner agencies, we continue to collaborate to protect our environment and its resources."

Col. Wilson Leyva, chief of staff 3ID, said, "At this time when we are directly feeling the adverse effects of climate change, it is imperative upon us to take a pro-active measures including the implementation of the National Greening Program to ensure the protection of our environment from degradation caused by illegal activities."

The creation of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force will allow the troops together with the DENR and PNP top enforce the moratorium and lead the anti-illegal logging campaign.

The Task Force is also mandated to ensure the implementation of the Executive Order under the supervision of the DENR and likewise assist the agency in the enforcement of other environmental laws.

In Region 6, Resolution No. 2012-002 series of 2012 prescribing the mechanics of operation for Anti-Illegal Logging Campaign was signed last March 2,2012 in Iloilo City by then Regional Executive Director Julian Amador of DENR, Dir. Evelyn Trompeta of DILG, PC/SUPT Cipriano E. Querol of PNP 6 and MGen Jose Z. Mabanta Jr, Commanding General of the 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army.

Nine NPA rebels abandon armed struggle in Catanduanes

From Philippine Information Agency (Jan 30): Nine NPA rebels abandon armed struggle in Catanduanes

The Army unit in the island province of Catanduanes continues to win the peace as a significant number of NPA rebels abandoned the armed struggle and joined the main stream of the society this January.

“Nine NPA rebels made the right decision to go down the mountains from the period Jan 17-27 this year,” said Lieutenant Colonel Rodolfo Batang, commanding officer of the 83rd Infantry Battalion based in San Andres town in Catanduanes.  

Batang said the primary activities the unit is focusing now is the enrichment of knowledge of the former rebels through livelihood programs and seminars that they hope would enable them to support themselves when they are taken back to the mainstream society.

In 2012, also eight NPA rebels surrendered to the 83rd Infantry Battalion under the leadership of Batang.

“Through our Bayanihan Teams (BTs) which are deployed in insurgency influenced areas in Catanduanes, the citizens are educated on the importance of the IPSP 'Bayanihan' campaign of the AFP against insurgency,” said Brigadier General Ricardo R Visaya AFP, commander of the 901st Infantry Brigade in Daraga, Albay.

The brigade has operational jurisdiction of Army units in Albay and Catanduanes.

“The active presence of our BTs and the continuous operations drove them to voluntarily go down the mountains because they are no longer able to move freely among the masses from whom they used extortion money and other insurgency tactics,” Visaya said.

He also said that these surrenderees should set as examples for other rebels to follow.

Aside from the “snowball” of surrenders, Visaya said that through the efforts of the Bayanihan Teams, an M16 rifle, an M203 grenade launcher and 46 pieces of 40mm grenade launcher ammunition were also surrendered last January 20, 2013 in San Vicente, Virac, Catanduanes.

Prayer rally held for slain victims of La Castellana ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): Prayer rally held for slain victims of La Castellana ambush

A prayer rally was held Tuesday in Barangay Cabacungan, La Castellana, Negros Occidental as tribute to the nine fatalities in the ambush early Sunday morning believed perpetrated by members of the New People’s Army.

The prayer rally was attended by residents particularly families of the victims and military personnel led by 303rd Infantry Brigade commander Col. Oscar Lactao. Local officials of La Castellana led by Mayor Albert Nicor and officials of Barangay Cabacungan and Barangay Puso also joined the prayer rally.
A mass was also held for the victims of rebel atrocities after which Mayor Nicor expressed his sorrow for the untimely demise of the victims and hope that this gruesome incident will not happen again. The families of the victims cried for justice for their kin who were indiscriminately sprayed with bullets, with rebels not even sparing innocent minors and civilians. They strongly condemned the rebels who perpetrated the gruesome crime.  Despite the fear gripping the two hinterland barangays the days following the bloodbath, anxious residents hope the terror-filled atmosphere will fade away so that they could go back to normal life. Col. Lactao, however, observed that the tense situation has somehow stabilized in the two adjoining barangays days after the grisly incident where a police officer and eight civilians mostly members of the Barangay Peace-keeping Action Team were killed and 12 others including two police officers and four minors were wounded. He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines will extend a helping hand particularly financial assistance to the bereaved families of the slain victims. The military authorities also making validation relative to the information on the suspected lairs where the rebel perpetrators are holed. Earlier, C/Supt. Agrimero Cruz, regional director of the Police Regional Office 6 based in Camp Delgado here ordered the creation of Task Force La Castellana headed by Negros Occidental provincial director S/Supt. Celestino Guara to investigate the incident and track down the suspects.

Photo Essay: UP community says: Save Tubbataha, Junk VFA (Palma Hall, UP campus)

Photo essay posted to the Arkibong Bayan (People's Archive) (Jan 30): Photo Essay: UP community says: Save Tubbataha, Junk VFA (Palma Hall, UP campus)

UP Community Says Save Tubbataha Junk VFA
January 30, 2013

Concerned members of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman community express outrage over the wanton damage of the Tubbataha Reef by the USS Guardian, a US mine sweeper that initially docked at Subic last January 12 and was supposed to make a stopover at Puerto Princesa City before going to Indonesia.

The Tubbataha Reef, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993, is part of the Coral Triangle which contains at least 40% of the world fish and 75% of the world’s coral. It also serves as one of the key sources of coral and fish larvae of the greater Sulu Sea which sustains the fishing activity in the surrounding area. (Source:

US Navy estimates place the damage at 1,000 square meters of the marine protected area. However, until the US mine sweeper is removed from the site, the extent of the damage cannot be determined. . According to environmental experts, it takes one year for a millimeter of coral to grow naturally and 250 years for a meter of coral to mature. The warship has damaged thousands of years’ worth of coral growth and the delicate balance of the ecosystem it supports.

That the US Navy will only be fined US$300 (or roughly PhP12,000) for every damaged square meter is unacceptable even if it may be legal. The Coral Reef is priceless and its damage is made worse by the blatant and arrogant disregard of the US forces of territorial integrity and Philippine sovereignty.

First, the warship ignored the warning of the Park Rangers that they were entering a protected area and should not proceed. Instead the US Captain referred them to the US Embassy.

Second, when the ship ran aground, the crew prevented the Park Rangers from boarding the ship by going into a battle formation.

This is not the first time that US military presence, allowed by the Visiting Forces Agreement, has
brought harm to our people and our environment and encroached on our sovereignty. The US has not yet cleaned up the toxic wastes that they left in Subic and Clark since 1992. Just recently, a US Naval contractor dumped solid and human waste in the vicinity of Subic Bay. Drone and missile testing is being done inside our territory. The New York Times reported the admission by US officials that in 2006 an American Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, fired a “barrage of Hellfire missiles” in the “jungles of the Philippines”. Early this year, a US drone was discovered floating off the island of Masbate. President Aquino himself has admitted that he has allowed the overflights of US drones over Philippines.

US military forces, battle ships, and warplanes can move around Philippine territory and do damage to the people and environment with impunity because of the Visiting Forces Agreement.

It is in this light that concerned members of the UP Diliman community strongly call on the Aquino administration to make the US Navy accountable for the damage to the Tubbataha Reef and to assert the Philippines’ territorial integrity and national sovereignty .

We renew our call to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement. This call is consistent with the patriotic tradition of the University of the Philippines .

Save the Tubbataha Reef!

US Troops Out Now!

Junk the Visiting Forces Agreement

US lawmaker apologizes for grounded USS Guardian, silent on destruction to reef

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 30): US lawmaker apologizes for grounded USS Guardian, silent on destruction to reef

At the height of crisis facing the United States Navy involving its grounded minesweeper USS Guardian, a congressional delegation composed of the members of the United States Congress and a city mayor from the state of California arrived in Manila conveying apologies, particularly on the Tubbataha incident, in a meeting with President Aquino yesterday morning in Malacañang.

“We had a courtesy call by the congressional delegation headed by Rep. Ed Royce of California. He was together with Congressmen Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, Vernon Buchanan of Florida, Matt Salmon of Arizona, and Eliot Engel of the 16th District of New York,” said Edwin Lacierda, presidential spokesman, who gave the information that Royce officially extended the apology to the President. “The US congressional delegation also, through Congressman Ed Royce, expressed regrets over the Tubbataha Reef (incident),” Lacierda said.

Aside from the congressional delegation, Lacierda said, the city mayor of Daly City has also tendered for a courtesy call along with other city officials.“We had a courtesy call from Mayor Raymond Buenaventura of Daly City. He is a Fil-Am. He is the second Filipino-American mayor of Daly City,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda refused to provide details of the discussion done by the delegation with the President which according to him lasted for almost an hour. He only said that it was a “fruitful discussion.” “So it was a very fruitful discussion. So, overall, we had a very good courtesy call by these two delegations. And, again, we look forward to deeper business relations and the opening up of more economic opportunities between the US and the Philippines,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda insisted that the courtesy call to the President was meant for trade discussion. “This is primarily a trade delegation. They were talking about business opportunities. In fact, to strengthen their economic ties with the Philippines and to explore more opportunities here was the emphasis of our discussion. In fact, after the meeting with the President, this particular congressional delegation was going to have lunch or did have lunch with the economic cluster team,” Lacierda added.

He said he was uncertain whether the courtesy call was scheduled before of after the day of Tubbataha incident in Sulu sea on Jan. 17. He said the regular protocol was that a courtesy call has to be arranged through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). “We’ll verify that but it’s always coursed through the DFA. For instance, apart from the congressional delegation (there was also) a request to pay a courtesy call on the President by Mayor Buenaventura of Daly City. So everything is done through DFA when it comes to foreign government officials who would like to pay a courtesy call on the President,” Lacierda said.

Al Barka raid leader now immune from arrest

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 30): Al Barka raid leader now immune from arrest

The peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had virtually turned fugitives who are members of the rebel group into untouchables, with their warrants of arrest sus-pended, in-cluding that on Dan Lak-saw Asnawi, the MILF commander who led the Al Barka carnage of 19 Special Forces soldiers, including four junior officers, in 2011.

This was evidenced by a Jan. 21 public meeting between Army 104th Brigade chief Col. Carlito Galvez and Asnawi in Sumisip, Basilan where the two, along with some of their men, witnessed a supposed peace covenant between warring clans in the area.

The government and the MILF signed in Oct. 15 last year the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that seeks to create a substate for the rebel group.

Asnawi, commander of the 114th Base Command of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), was tagged in the Oct. 18, 2011 clash between combined MILF and Abu Sayyaf fighters and members of the Army’s elite 4th Special Forces Battalion in Al Barka town.

The Special Forces were dispatched to serve an arrest warrant against Asnawi and Abu Sayyaf leader Long Malat for their involvement in the 2009 killing of 14 members of the Philippine Marines, some of them were beheaded, also in Al Barka.

The 10-hour clash resulted in the killing of 19 Special Forces soldiers, four of them junior officers. Again, Asnawi was charged, in fact he was among the subjects of President Aquino’s declaration of “all-out justice.”

At a press briefing yesterday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista did not categorically answer queries why Asnawi was not arrested during a meeting with Galvez and how could justice be served to the victims of his atrocities. Galvez is the military commander in Basilan province.

“These matters are in fact being discussed in our Framework Agreement, our panels are meeting. In fact, that is one of the things being discussed, the transitional justice. So we just wait for the final outcome of the negotiations,” replied Bautista when asked why Asnawi was not arrested.

“We have decided, both sides have decided to end the armed struggle, we had the Framework Agreement to settle these issues peacefully,” added Bautista.

Pressed what are the sentiments of the soldiers on the matter, Bautista replied “we support the peace process but we also are after justice, rule of law…that is why the transitional justice is being discussed, this is our mechanism.”

Likewise, the Philippine Army is having a difficult time implementing the elections gun ban on areas in Mindanao which are supposed territories of the MILF.

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division even had to issue an appeal to the public to help in the effective implementation of election gun ban in those areas. “We need cooperation from the commuters and motorists during implementation of gun ban to avoid delays,” Col. Dickson Hermoso said.

Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said gun owners should make documents at hand so that it can be checked by soldiers manning checkpoints without delay. The 6th ID covers the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato. The 6th ID is based in Barangay Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Hermoso made the appeal following complaints by motorists that soldiers are “very strict” in the gun ban implementation that causes heavy traffic flows along highways in Maguindanao.

More than a dozen election gun ban violators have been arrested and at least 20 assorted firearms were confiscated. According to Hermoso, there are local officials who, sometimes, refused to be subjected to inspection, thereby causing delays and traffic jams.

In implementing election gun ban which began on Jan. 13, the military and the police are applying “plain view” principle. Maguindanao is home to many loose firearms, including those in the hands of MILF, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and other armed groups.

Relatedly, Bautista yesterday received his fourth star from Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin during simple donning of ranks ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo.

Visiting American lawmakers reiterate US apologies for minesweeper grounding

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 30): Visiting American lawmakers reiterate US apologies for minesweeper grounding

Visiting members of the United States House of Representatives reiterated their country’s regrets for the grounding of the USS Guardian on the protected Tubbataha Reef, an official of the US Embassy in Manila said Wednesday.

Brian Goldbeck, the Embassy’s Chargé d’ Affaires, shared this on his Twitter account Wednesday morning, recounting the visit of US lawmakers headed by US Congress foreign affairs committee chairman Ed Royce and five of his Capitol Hill colleagues on Tuesday afternoon.

“In Royce meeting with Speaker (Feliciano Belmonte) plus 11 members, [US lawmakers] expressed regrets re Guardian incident, commitment to protect environment and close cooperation with the Philippine government,” Goldbeck said in his account (@USEmbManilaNo2).

US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. and top officials of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet had apologized for the incident, saying the US is aware of the importance of Tubbataha’s unique environment.

The US Congress delegation visited the Philippine House of Representatives on Tuesday after a meeting with Cabinet secretaries at the Department of Foreign Affairs, where the two parties are known to have had no discussion of the incident.

US Representatives Gregory Meeks, Vern Buchanan, Eliot Engel, Matthew James Salmon and Thomas Anthony Marino joined the delegation in the three-day visit, the first three known to be members of the US Congress’ environmental caucus.

DFA officials had confirmed that the two sides virtually had no discussion of the US Navy ship accident as talks focused on expanding Philippine-US defense and economic cooperation and Philippine gains in the areas of preventing human trafficking and human rights violations and climate change mitigation.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje was known to have briefly mentioned the incident but “there was not much of a discussion” of the incident, said Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia.

Militant umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, which has long been opposed to US presence in the Philippines, said it was “mind-boggling” why the reef accident was not taken up in Tuesday’s DFA meeting.

“The PH government should have impressed upon the US congressional delegation that we are dead serious in seeking damage claims for Tubbataha. The PH government should have impressed upon the US congressional delegation that the initial attitude of the officers and crew of the USS Guardian was unacceptable,” said Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. in a statement.

Bayan is among groups pressing for US accountability, criticizing why the crew of the USS Guardian was allowed to leave the ship and sail off to Japan base without first facing liability for the accident.

The USS Guardian, a minesweeper, rammed into Tubbataha Reef on the morning of Jan. 17 following a refuel and re-supply port call in Subic. The US Navy has cited faulty navigational equipment as the cause of the accident. Concerned groups have called the incident an environmental disaster.

Philippine and US authorities are now working on the delicate removal of the warship from the marine sanctuary without causing further damage to the Unesco World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea. Since its grounding two weeks ago, the USS Guardian has reportedly damaged some 1,500 square meters of sensitive coral habitat in the protected reef.

AFP chief stands by soldiers in Quezon shooting incident

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 30): AFP chief stands by soldiers in Quezon shooting incident

Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista is standing by the officers and men of the Army’s 1st Special Forces Battalion implicated in the bloody Quezon incident. “Our direction is unity of effort with all security forces to address security issues. Our soldiers, they just do their job. As long as they (were) doing their job, there is nothing really to worry about because they did what they think was right,” Bautista said in a press conference Wednesday at the Defense Department.

Bautista declined to comment on the Philippine Daily Inquirer report that the Special Forces troopers have been offered to become state witnesses. “I think the Justice Department and or the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) can answer that,” he said.

Bautista said the military is now reviewing the protocols followed by the soldiers when the Philippine National Police calls for augmentation force in its operations.

Bautista said the PNP’s notice of request, made by the team of Superintendent Hansel Marantan, was “under a tight time frame.”  “There was no time to study the situation. We are reviewing how we can have due diligence given time constraints. We want to be deliberate,” Bautista said.

Initial media reports said that there were 25 Special Forces troopers involved in the bloody clash between government security forces and an alleged group of gun-for-hire led by reported jueteng lord Victor “Vic” Siman in Atimonan town in Quezon province last Jan. 6.

However, Philippine Daily Inquirer sources said of the 25 soldiers, only around 14 were actually deployed to the checkpoint on Maharlika Highway, including Abang.

The rest were left at a police station in Quezon. Of Abang’s group, four others were stationed at the first checkpoint and did not participate in the shooting incident, one of the Inquirer sources said.

Siman and 12 others were killed in the clash. Only Marantan was injured from the side of the government security forces.

La Castellana Mayor Says Ambush Isolated, Dares NPA Rebs to Issue Statement

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Jan 30): La Castellana Mayor Says Ambush Isolated, Dares NPA Rebs to Issue Statement

Barangay Puso, La Castellana, Neg. Occ. - Mayor Alberto Nicor considered Sunday’s massacre-ambush in Barangay Puso here as an isolated case but nevertheless challenged the New People’s Army (NPA) to issue a statement whether they are behind or not the incident which left a policeman and eight civilians kiled and 12 others wounded. He assured visitors to the town and those engaged in business not to be afraid.

Nicor said the local government unit has extended cash assistance to the families of the victims.
He said the town government also help in the burial of whose who were killed. Nicor said the provincial government through Provincial Board Member Melvin Ibañez has also extended food stuff and cash assistance to the victims.

Rep. Alejandro Mirasol (5th district, Neg. Occ.) has also committed to shoulder the hospitalization of the victims who are confined in the government hospitals.

Nicor, who described the incident as inhuman, said it is the first time that such incident happened here.

Previous insurgency-related incidents involved burning of farm equipments, but has not claimed the lives of innocent civilians. If it was the NPA who were behind the ambush-massacre, then they should come out with a statement, he said.

Military officials here pointed at the NPA rebels as the ones behind the ambush citing witnesses’ accounts that the ambushers before leaving the area shouted, "Mabuhay ang NPA."

‘Ambush-Massacre Victims’ Kins Cry for Justice’

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Jan 30): ‘Ambush-Massacre Victims’ Kins Cry for Justice’

Barangay Puso, La Castellana, Negros Occ.- Immediate families of victims of the ambush-massacre in Barangay Puso, La Castellana town early dawn, Sunday, January 29 are crying for justice as they condemned what they called as a heartless and inhuman act of suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who spent about 300 empty shells of various caliber of high-powered firearms on the about 30 passengers, including three policemen, on board a civilian truck.


Mayor Bordig Nicor at thre ambush site eysterday.*(APT photo)

Military and local officials described what happened as an ambush massacre citing that the about 20 armed NPA rebels opened fire indiscriminately on the victims for several minutes.

Avelino Ordoñez, 48, narrated to reporters who went to the area yesterday, how his wife shielded him from the rain of bullets. His wife, Virginia Ordoñez, 50, succumbed to at least 27 gunshot wounds and one of the eight who died on the spot. What is more heartless is that one of the rebels continued to shoot at her despite the fact that she was already dead, Ordoñez said.

He recalled that he even shouted to one of the armed men that they were civilians and the truck they were using was that of the barangay, however, he said he was told that it was their fault they were together with the cops.

Ordoñez also recalled that he was among those standing at the back of the truck when he heard the first volley of fire and he saw some of his companions falling one by one. He said the firing kept on for about 30 minutes. He also saw one of the armed men jump up at the back of the truck and finished off a man who was still moving and asking for help.

Ordoñez said he stayed in the area until daylight and picked up the internal parts of his wife as her body was blasted by the bullets fired. "Why did they do this to us? We want justice," Ordoñez said.
He said of those who survived including children jumped off the truck and escaped.


Gema Dingcong, wife of the truck driver, Ricky Dingcong said she cannot accept what happened to her husband. "They have no conscience," Dingcong’s widow said. She described her husband as a good provider and hasd no vices.

She asked what will happen to their two children now that her husband was killed in the ambush-massacre. "Dapat tagaan hustisya and kamatayon sang bana ko," she cried. Her husband’s face was distorted beyond recognition as his head was blasted by gunfire from the ambushers. Her husband was also among the first who was killed.


Rommel Canja, elder brother of Police Officer 3 Richard Canja said his brother was killed because of his uniform. He claimed that even as a policeman, his brother had no known enemy and was very close to the residents in their barangay.

Canja who was hit in the first volley of gunfire as he was seated at the front seat of the Canter truck was allegedly finished off by the assailants at close range with a gunshot in the head as he was lying down in the ground.

His remains are at the Barangay Cabacungan Hall and not in his house in Barangay Puso due to apprehension of his immediate family.


Earlier, Sr. Supt. Celestino Guara, Provincial Police Office caretaker, said Canja was the target of the assailants because he spearheaded the forming of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) in Brgy. Puso.

But his elder brother Rommel believes it was incidental that it was his brother who was on duty when the barangay officials requested for security for the benefit dance being held as part of the Puso barangay fiesta celebration.

The Canter truck was supposed to ferry the policemen back to the poblacion after securing the programs and benefit dance and the civilians just requested to hitch a ride home.
Canja and eight other civilians were killed in the ambush massacre while 12 others were wounded.

Photo: Peace Rally/Anti-NPA Protest Action

Posted to the Negros Daily Bulletin (Jan 30): Photo: Peace Rally/Anti-NPA Protest Action


PEACE RALLY.’ Residents, young and old alike, of Barangays Puso and Cabacungan near the foot of Kanlaon volcano in La Castellana, Negros Occidental yesterday held a "Peace Rally" at the Cabacungan plaza, denouncing Sunday’s ambush that killed nine and wounded several others. They were specifically denouncing the New People’s Army (NPA) they believe is the group responsible for the massacre. La Castellana Mayor Alberto Nicor said he is urging residents to be vigilant and to immediately report presence of armed men.

Photo: Anti-NPA/Peace Demonstration

Posted to the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 30):  Photo: Anti-NPA/Peace Demonstration

     Students joined the peace rally in Brgy. Cabacungan, La Castellana.

AFP chief gets 4th star

From InterAksyon (Jan 30): AFP chief gets 4th star

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Emmanuel Bautista was promoted Wednesday to General, the highest rank in the military, and received his fourth star from Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, himself a former AFP chief.

Meanwhile, Air Force Brigadier General Rolando Jungco, current head of the Office of The Adjutant General, has been named the new commander of the AFP’s Civil Relations Service.

Jungco, of Philippine Military Academy “Sandigan” Class of 1982, finished his Masters in National Resource Strategy at the ICAF National Defense University in Washington DC. He will replace Major General Rolando Tenefrancia, who has reportedly been designated head of the Office of The Inspector General. Jungco will turn 56, the mandatory retirement age, on May 28, 2014. A native of Batangas, Jungco was assigned to the CRS in 2008, helping develop new concepts and methodologies in civil-military operations. He received his first general’s star on March 24, 2012.

Police files charges vs ComVal barricade leaders

From Rappler (Jan 30): Police files charges vs ComVal barricade leaders

Local police filed charges against the leaders of a road barricade in Montevista, Compostela Valley protesting the alleged poor government relief services.

Sr Supt Camilo Cascolan, officer-in-charge of PNP ComVal, said 8 persons were pressed with public disorder charges for leading more than 5,000 angry residents in the roadblock. Cascolan said the public disorder charges include alarm and scandal, tumultuous and public disturbance, and unlawful utterances.

Local authorities identified the leaders as Carlos Trangia, Bello Timdasan and Grace Curso from Barug Katawhan; Juland Suazo from environmentalist group Panalipdan; Sheena Duazo of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan; Tony Salubre of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas; Mae Fe Ancheta-Templa of Balsa Mindanao and a Lenny Camino.

Cascolan explained that they are just doing their responsibility, which is to preserve order in their area of responsibility.,He explained that the objective of the residents would never justify their form of protest.,"Their means is wrong," Cascolan said.

In a statement, Barug Katawhan remarked that the case is a form of political harassment in an attempt to pacify the rage of the residents. "It is actually an attack against thousands of typhoon victims who deserve a sustainable environment and equitable relief services," Barug Katawhan said.

The ComVal PNP brushed off the allegations explaining that the protesters must appreciate that maximum tolerance was exercised during the incident. "They must now answer it in the court," Cascolan added.

Barug Katawhan said they would continue their vigilance in monitoring government relief and rehabilitation services in the affected areas., "We appeal for your support to expose and oppose this harassment. The typhoon survivors and their support groups will not be cowed. The people are rising to demand justice for the people and environment," Juland Suazo posted in his Facebook timeline.

More than 5,000 residents and militants occupied the national highway in Montevista on January 15 for more than 10 hours paralyzing the only supply route for towns affected by Typhoon Pablo.
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman and ComVal Governor Arturo Uy personally talked with the protesters to urge them to voluntarily disperse which ended up in a shouting match after several deadlocks in the negotiations.

Hours before midnight, the residents lifted their barricade after the local government agreed on the minimum demands of the protesters. At least 1,900 family packs and 100 bags of rice were distributed while Soliman committed to add 10,000 bags of rice.

US lawmakers support PH legal track on China

From Rappler (Jan 30): US lawmakers support PH legal track on China

PH-US TIES. President Benigno Aquino III exchanges views with the United States Congressional Delegation headed by newly selected chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs Representative Edward Royce, during the courtesy call at the Music Room, Malacañang Palace on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. Photo by Gil Nartea / Malacañang Photo Bureau

PH-US TIES. President Benigno Aquino III exchanges views with the United States Congressional Delegation headed by newly selected chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs Representative Edward Royce, during the courtesy call at the Music Room, Malacañang Palace on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. Photo by Gil Nartea / Malacañang Photo Bureau

A visiting delegation of 5 US congressmen supports the Philippines' decision to ask an arbitral tribunal to resolve the territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.

The lawmakers conveyed this message to President Benigno Aquino III during a courtesy call in Malacañang Palace on Wednesday, January 30, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

In a statement, the DFA said the US Congressional Delegation headed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep Ed Royce told Aquino that "the Philippines’ legal track promotes the peaceful resolution to the dispute" in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

"The outcome of the proceeding would provide more stability and predictability in the region," the DFA quoted the American congressmen as saying.

They also "expressed that they will convey back home that the US should take a stronger stance in the West Philippine Sea dispute," the DFA said.

East Asian tour

The US lawmakers visited the Philippines from January 23-30 on the 3rd stop of a tour around East Asia that took them first to South Korea and Taiwan, and will end in China.

On Tuesday the delegation met with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Energy Secretary Carlos Petilla and Natural Resources and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to discuss maritime security, defense, trade and investment.

After the meeting, DFA Assistant Secretary for American Affairs Carlos Sorreta said the lawmakers "were very interested in the merits of our arguments" regarding the West Philippine Sea.,"We conveyed our determination to see this case through and they have said they will support it," he told reporters.

Sorreta added: "Their next stop is China, and it is our hope [that] they will discuss it with the Chinese."

Military repairs 82 houses, 9 gov’t facilities in ‘Pablo’-hit Davao areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): Military repairs 82 houses, 9 gov’t facilities in ‘Pablo’-hit Davao areas

A total of 82 houses, nine government facilities and one chapel have been repaired by the "Joint Task Force Tambayayong," an initiative of soldiers to help areas hardest hit by typhoon "Pablo" last December. Captain Severino David, spokesperson of the EastMinCom disclosed the information based on the report of Colonel Edgardo Clerigo, commander of the "JTF Tambayayong."

The number of rehabilitated structures comprised of 60 houses in Compostela Valley; 22 houses in Davao Oriental; six school buildings in Barangay Pasian, Monkayo, Compostela Valley; a police installation in Montevista; one chapel in New Bataan and two day-care centers in Boston and Baganga, respectively, from January 14 to 26 this year. David said the repair works would continue in order to help survivors bring back their lives to normalcy.

Lt. General Jorge Segovia, commander of the EastMinCom, said the effort to assist communities would go on as part of the recovery and rehabilitation effort by government on the disaster-affected areas. He said it was the soldiers’ way of going beyond the call of duty by giving service to the people which they are sworn not only to protect but also to assist in times of great need.

Segovia also thanked the support of the local government units and non-government organizations for this pursuit. He also urged other sectors to extend their support by providing donations by way of construction materials. “This support will assist greatly in the mobilization to help the affected areas re-establish and to expedite their move towards recovery. More than ever, the 'JTF Tamabayayong' exhibits the inherent nature of Filipinos to uphold the spirit of Bayanihan (cooperation),” Segovia pointed out.

La Castellana ambush a cover-up of NPA’s dwindling strength- PA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): La Castellana ambush a cover-up of NPA’s dwindling strength- PA

Military officials said the Sunday ambush in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, where nine people were killed and six were wounded, was the New People's Army's (NPA) way of showing that it was still a force to reckon with despite its dwindling strength.

Capt. Ryan Cayton, deputy spokesperson of 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Camp Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz, said the La Castellana carnage was just a cover-up of its already weakening forces and desperate armed struggle.

Earlier, Police Regional Office Western Visayas (PRO6) regional director Police C/Supt. Agrimero Cruz Jr. also called on government agencies concerned, particularly the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), to extend help in the pursuit of justice. Cruz said the rebels inhumanity was a blatant and clear violation of human rights for the brutal killing of victims despite they begged for their lives.
Meanwhile, latest information reaching Iloilo City on Wednesday said the wounded victims including the two police officers were already stable. Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office OIC director Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, who also head the Task Force La Castellana investigating the bloody incident, said PO2 Jeffrey Alvarez and PO3 Constantino Villegas have been allowed by the hospital’s attending physicians to leave as outpatients after they were given immediate medical treatment for the gunshot wounds on their legs.

Other wounded victims identified as Jason Oximar, Victoriano Donasco, Jamil Roma, Bonifacio Bayate, Cristituto Perolino, Jerry Lacuedo, Roger Behar and Antonio Tornea were also reported in stable condition at the Western Visayas Regional Hospital in Bacolod City. Guara said of the wounded civilians presently confined in the said hospital, four were minors, two of whom has already been declared outpatients.

9 NPA rebels surrender in Catanduanes

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): 9 NPA rebels surrender in Catanduanes

At least nine New People’s Army (NPA) rebels operating in Catanduanes gave up their armed struggle and surrendered on Monday to a Philippine Army (PA) official, Army Maj. Angelo Guzman, PA Bicol spokesperson, said Thursday.

Guzman said the strength of the communist movement is slowly waning after government forces heightened its “Bayanihan” program, an internal peace and security initiative aimed to end the four decades-old insurgency problem in the country.

Quoting Army Lt. Col Rodolfo Batang, commanding officer of the Army’s 83rd Infantry Battalion, he said the surrender of nine NPA rebels here is an indication that the command’s Bayanihan program is going on in full throttle.

Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, the newly installed AFP chief of staff, in a command conference in Manila told various AFP commanders to make “insurgency insignificant” by 2016. “They (rebels) have made the right decision to go down the mountains and abandoned the armed struggle and joined the main stream of society,” Guzman said.

He identified those who surrendered as Victor Soriao alias Vicvic, Edna Tavera alias Rona, Dante Coranes alias "Nhads", father and son Domingo dela Cruz Sr. alias "Kikay-Kikay" and Domingo Dela Cruz Jr., Eddie Tesorero alias "Taptap", Quimpo Ralla alias "Lilo", Florida Francisco alias "Pida" and Francisco Mejares alias "Ikwi."

Guzman said the NPA rebels surrendered in separate occasions from Jan. 20 to Jan. 27. Last year, a total of eight NPA rebels in Catanduanes surrendered to the command, he added. NPA rebels operating in the island province of Catanduanes belong to the Nerissa San Juan Command.

Guzman said those who surrendered are presently detained at the Army camp in San Andres town in Catanduanes and would undergo screening for the government’s “Balik-Loob” program. The rebels also surrendered an M16 rifle, an M203 grenade launcher and 46 pieces of 40mm grenade ammunition.

GPPB authorizes DND to start pre-negotiations with SK for fighter jets

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): GPPB authorizes DND to start pre-negotiations with SK for fighter jets

The Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) has authorized the Dept. of National Defense to start negotiations with South Korea regarding the acquisition of 12 KAI F/A-50 "Golden Eagle" fighter jets for the Philippine Air Force.

KAI is short for Korea Aerospace Industries. The F/A-50 is also known as the TA-50. The PAF decommissioned its last fighter jets, the Northrop F-5 "Freedom Fighter" last 2005, leaving the country with no supersonic interceptor capability.

This was revealed by Patrick Velez, DND assistant secretary for acquisitions, installations and logistics, Wednesday. The GPPB is chaired by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad. "The GPPB has already approved the KAI (F/A)-50 (for pre-negotiations) last December. Remember that KAI (fighter manufacturer) was designated as the number one in a certain list of proponents or possible suppliers (of the Air Force's next generation of fighter jets)," he added.

Velez said the pre-negotiations will determine whether the aircraft is acceptable for Philippines service. "And if everything pushes through, we might be able to finish the contract by February," Velez stressed.

The country is expected to spend P18 billion if this aircraft will be selected as the PAF's next supersonic fighter plane. The F/A-50 design is largely derived from the F-16 "Fighting Falcon", and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.

KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the F/A-50. The aircraft can carry two pilots in tandem seating. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots. The altitude limit is 14,600 meters, and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service. There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 liters, five in the fuselage and two in the wings. An additional 1,710 liters of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.

Trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow. The F/A-50 "Golden Eagle" uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a full authority digital engine control system jointly developed by General Electric and Korea Aerospace Industries. The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner. The aircraft has a maximum speed of Mach 1.4-1.5. Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN of thrust with afterburner.

And instead of the government-to-government bidding for the two frigates for the Philippines Navy, Velez said that the DND is now shifting to an "open bidding" so that the best possible and most capable ships can be acquired. The country is projected to spend around P11.7 billion for this frigates which must have the capability to engage air, surface and sub-surface targets and give the country a minimum credible deterrent in the West Philippines Sea. "Procurement process for the frigates must be done within the first quarter of 2013," Velez stressed.

DND decries corruption claims by TI

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): DND decries corruption claims by TI

Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin Wednesday denied claims by Transparency International United Kingdom, which claimed the Philippines is one of the countries whose defense sectors have very high risk of corruption.

"We have been very transparent since the time of President (Benigno) S. Aquino III (which started in 2010). We made a lot of reforms in the bidding process to make it more transparent," he added. Gazmin said they even invited members of the media, civil society groups and even the Makati Business Club when bidding proceedings are ongoing.

The DND chief added they even provided interested civilians with Defense System Management seminars to give the latter more understanding on how the bidding process in the military goes on. He also stressed that accountability is emphasized in the DND bidding process as timelines are strictly followed. Gazmin also added he was unsure on what time frame TI used in its surveys on the Philippines but emphasized that it could not be during 2010.

The Philippines, according to TI, is among the countries whose defense sectors were at “very high risk” of corruption as it has inadequate safeguards to prevent graft. Eighty-two countries were surveyed in this study.

AFP's Bautista says review underway for military-police assistance pact

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): AFP's Bautista says review underway for military-police assistance pact

Following the bloody Atimonan shootout which left 13 persons dead last Jan. 6, the Armed Forces Wednesday announced it is reviewing the cooperation agreement between soldiers and police in peace and security operations.

Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista, AFP chief, made this statement after 21 soldiers were implicated in the incident after responding to a call for help by local police. "We are reviewing (the incident) right now to make sure that such incident won't happen again," he added.

The AFP chief also mulls the installation of safeguards to eliminate such occurrence. Bautista stressed the soldiers implicated in the Atimonan case went there in good faith based on the request for assistance by the police. But the AFP chief said they will await the results of the official investigation before coming up with a decision on how to sanction these soldiers.

Despite rebel attacks AFP to pursue 'Bayanihan'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): Despite rebel attacks AFP to pursue 'Bayanihan'

Despite New People's Army attacks, the most violent being in La Castellana town, Negros Occidental, the Armed Forces ) announced that it will still continue to implement its Internal Peace and Security Plan "Bayanihan" . Nine people died in the La Castellana attack.

Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista, AFP chief, said this is because the latter offers the best way for insurgent fighters a chance for peace and to be integrated peacefully intp society. Despite this pronouncement, he said the military will fulfill its mandate of protecting the country and its citizens against external and internal aggression. "We will sustain 'Bayanihan' and what happened in (La Castellana, Negros Occidental) will serve as a wake-up call for us on whether we want violence to rule our country," he added.

PCG amenable to dismantlement option for USS Guardian

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): PCG amenable to dismantlement option for USS Guardian

As long as it has no adverse effects to the marine environment, the Philippine Coast Guard is amenable to the option eyed for the removal of the USS Guardian (MCM-5), still grounded at Tubbataha Reef at the Sulu Sea. "As long it will not have adverse effect on the marine environment, this option might be allowed," Coast Guard spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo said. However, he added this is still not final as US Navy salvage teams are still to present their salvage plan to Philippines authorities.

US Pacific Fleet spokesperson Capt. Darryn James earlier said the USS Guardian will be removed in sections and that dismantlement could last a month. This was after salvage teams found a "propagation of cracks" at the ship's hull. "After a full review of all possible alternatives, our only viable option is to dismantle the damaged ship and remove it in sections," James stressed.

Recovery options earlier eyed include towing and lifting. He further said the USN is "developing a thoughtful and deliberate plan to safely remove individual sections of the ship without causing the release of harmful materials." Two heavy lift ship-borne salvage cranes are now en route to Tubbataha and expected to arrive Feb. 1, during which the dismantling operations will begin.