Friday, February 1, 2013

Rebels behind burning of van in Surigao del Sur?

From Rappler (Feb 2): Rebels behind burning of van in Surigao del Sur?

Suspected members of the communist New People's Army burned a vehicle of a banana company in San Agustin, Surigao del Sur on Friday morning, February 1, a military official said.  Col Romeo Gan, commanding officer of the 401st Brigade, said in a press statement that a container van owned by Dole and loaded with bananas was flagged down by at least 8 heavily armed guerrillas along Sitio Saungan, Bgy Salvacion at around 8:30 in the morning.

The rebels, believed to be from the Guerrilla Front 19A of Northeastern Mindanao Regional Command, immediately burned the container van, Gan said.

The driver and helper of the truck were not hurt in the incident, the military reported. Gan said troops from the 29th Infantry Battalion were immediately deployed to conduct pursuit operations.

Meanwhile, a member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) was killed by suspected NPA fighters in Brgy. Sinubong, Veruela, Agusan del Sur on Wednesday evening, January 30.

The casualty was identified as CAA Ruel Atipon who was inside his house during the incident.
The military said a small NPA unit harassed a military patrol base prior to the killing of Atipon.
"After the harassment, one gunshot was heard from outside the patrol base and was later found out to be inside the house of CAA Atipon in Purok 1A of the same barangay," the military reported.

MILF bucks decommission of weapons, men

From the Daily Tribune (Feb 1): MILF bucks decommission of weapons, men

While it is elated over the pronouncement of the government chief negotiator, Prof. Miriam Ferrer-Coronel, that a peace agreement might be signed this March, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is not expecting “normalization,” including decommissioning of its weapons and forces, to take place within the date.

In a statement on its Web site,, the MILF noted that only a few substantive issues are left for discussion following the successful 35th Exploratory Talks between the Front and government of the Philippines (GRP) peace panels in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last Jan. 21 to 25. The MILF, however, stressed “it is no-no to count the chicks before they are hatched.”

“It is also said that only few substantive issues are left for discussion on the three of the four annexes: power-sharing, wealth-sharing and transitional arrangement and modalities. However, by its nature, normalization is not expected to be finished on time alongside the three annexes,” the MILF said.

“It will take the nature of a work in progress, simply because such issues like decommissioning of MILF weapons and forces, gradual redeployment of government troops and establishment of police in the Bangsamoro are very complex and would require in-depth study and research on models around the world and how the experts handled them successfully,” it added.

Following the signing of the Framework Agreement between the GRP and MILF peace panels last Oct. 15, some MILF commanders have expressed apprehension over the provision for decommissioning of combatants and their firearms while there was still no final peace pact.

“While we want to settle these issues once and for all, care and sensitivity are the cornerstones of the parties’ approach,” the Front also said.

The MILF, however, noted the credibility of Coronel as the government chief negotiator for “she knows many things that are hidden to most of us. She knows where the peace process is heading to and how surmountable the remaining issues on the table are.”

Coronel, “like a good driver, knows how to negotiate a rough terrain and succeed (in getting) through it. Besides, she knows that pure speculation is not good. She (will have) nothing to gain when in the end what she said does not happen,” the MILF said of Coronel, who replaced now Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen.

“Indeed, it is nice to hear that great news! How we wish it comes true! Frankly, we are inclined to agree with her. We believe her optimism is not without basis,” the MILF stressed.

“When someone like the head of the government peace panel makes a timely and exciting prediction, we want her prediction comes true!” the MILF also said.

US warns nationals vs travel to Mindanao, Sulu

From GMA News (Feb 2): US warns nationals vs travel to Mindanao, Sulu

Citing the threat of "terrorist and insurgent" activities, the United States' State Department warned its nationals of possible risks in traveling to Mindanao and Sulu. In a Jan. 30 update to its travel warning, the Bureau of Consular Affairs urged US citizens to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu archipelago and exercise extreme caution in Mindanao.

"The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu Archipelago and the island of Mindanao. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated June 14, 2012, and reflects continuing threats in those areas due to terrorist and insurgent activities," it said.

In Sulu, it cited the "high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there."
On the other hand, it said criminal groups have clashed sporadically with the military in Mindanao, particularly in rural areas.

Terrorist groups have kidnapped international travelers and carried out bombings that have resulted in injuries and deaths in Mindanao, it added.

Peace pact

However, the travel warning also noted negotiations toward a comprehensive peace agreement are ongoing following last October's signing of a framework peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

"In Cotabato City, and in the Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces, the government maintains a state of emergency that compels a greater police presence in those areas," it said.

The State Department also noted that security and safety conditions in urban centers of Davao City, General Santos City, and Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao are "generally more controlled."

"Nevertheless, U.S. Embassy employees must receive special authorization from Embassy security officials to travel to any location in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago, including these urban centers," it added.

The State Department reiterated its concern about the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against US citizens and interests throughout the world.

It also remided US citizens that "terrorism can occur anywhere."

Enrolment program

Also, the State Department encouraged US citizens in the Philippines to enrol with the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program or at the US Embassy in Manila.

"By enrolling, you can receive the Embassy's most recent security and safety updates during your trip. Enrolling also ensures that we can reach you, or your designated emergency points of contact, during an emergency," it said.

Silence of human rights groups on ambush ‘deafening’

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Feb 1): Silence of human rights groups on ambush ‘deafening’

COLONEL Oscar Lactao, commander of the 303rd Brigade of the Philippine Army, noted what he described as “deafening silence” from militant human rights groups despite the fact that eight civilians were killed in a massacre in Barangay Puso, La Castellana town.

Lactao issued this statement as he welcomed the announcement from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that it will investigate the incident. "However, I hear a deafening silence from other groups and organizations advocating human rights," he said.

"If they are true to their selves and to their advocacy, they will do what is necessary," added Lactao, apparently referring to the condemnation that he expects from the professed human rights activists.
Lactao said that like his counterparts in the police as well as key government officials, Army officials are still waiting for a statement from the New People's Army (NPA) on the incident.

The NPA has been tagged as responsible for the ambush-massacre, which happened last January 27.
Lactao admitted that he himself did not conclude immediately that it was the NPA rebels who were behind the massacre, but said all indications point to the communist rebels as the assailants.

"Apparently, they have turned into terrorists from being revolutionaries," he said.

On reports that the assailants were armed with AK-47 rifles, Lactao said the firearm is commercially available, thus it is not surprising that the perpetuators have it in their possession.
Empty shells of the said firearm were recovered by police and civilians in the crime

FAB helps attract more businesses in Mindanao

From MindaNews (Feb 2): FAB helps attract more businesses in Mindanao

The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has helped attract more investments in Mindanao, especially within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), officials said Friday.

Gathering for the Mindanao Development Forum here Friday, officials also appeared bullish over the prospects of the area especially once the comprehensive peace pact will be forged.

The FAB, which was signed on October 15, 2012, paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro that would replace the ARMM by 2016.

“We have a positive outlook,” Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority, said in a press conference.

“That is why we are selling Mindanao to prospective investors,” she noted, adding that “all sectors in Mindanao are helping and working together to move the economy of the island forward.”

In November last year, Antonino said that Malaysian investors committed to pour investments worth at least P25 billion to Mindanao in the next few years.

There are many business prospects in Mindanao, she continued, citing that Indian businessmen have also expressed an interest to engage in coco coir production in the area.

Recently, Antonino also said that 15 businessmen belonging to the Putrajaya Chamber of Commerce visited Mindanao for investment prospects.

Acting ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said in an interview after the FAB signing that ARMM has become “investment-friendly”.

He cited that Del Monte Philippines, Inc. has put up investments in Maguindanao and that Unifrutti, a multinational company, also plans to expand its banana plantation in the province.

Also at the press conference, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that “the potentials of Mindanao are huge.”

He said the government is hopeful that with the FAB, the political hindrance will be addressed, apparently referring to the rebellion waged by the MILF.

Video: Member of Abu Sayyaf reads statement with captive Rodwell in the background

Posted to You Tube channel (chemalful) associated with the al-Harakat al-Islamiyah or Abu Sayyaf Group (Jan 30):  Video: Member of Abu Sayyaf reads statement with captive Rodwell in the background

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the Universe. May Allah bestow peace and blessings upon our Leader Muhammad, Leader of those who strive in Allah's way and Imam of the pious. May He also bestow peace and blessings upon his family and his companions, and all those who strive for the Sharee'ah until the Day of judgment. We the Alharakatul Islamiyya in southern Philippines,
Our Jihad will continue with the permission of Allah azza wa jalla, we will raise the flag of Islamic Sharee'ah and we would not be perturbed by the people who dispute with us and also not the people who aggress us, until you witness the dignity and the supremacy in our Ummah, or we will be meeting Allah azza wa jalla while in the advance and not in retreat. To the Australian government, in behalf of the majlisus Shura of Alharakatul Islamiyya in southern Philippines, we officially inform you that your citizen Warren Rodwell is in our custody and control since he was abducted at Ipil, Sibugay Province, Mindanao Philippines last December 5, 2011 and now facing Islamic sharee'ah, if you have concerned with your men, we will give you a chance to save his life before it's too late, as soon as possible time, otherwise he will suffer unusual way of Death. To our brothers in Islam we would like to make it clear that our activities like this are not for personal interests or just to gain money for personal use, let it be known to everyone we are on war against the forces of shaytan in the Philippines, its allies and supporters, and whatever we gain from this war is to be used for our future operations and other necessities. Majlis Shura 09392214839

MILF: Exclude Bangsamoro from Mindanao agenda

From the MILF Website (Feb 2): MILF: Exclude Bangsamoro from Mindanao agenda

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has made it clear as a matter of policy in dealing with the Aquino administration and foreign entities that any development program intended for Mindanao should exclude the Bangsamoro to avoid confusion and to give justice to it. In the previous administrations, the government had sourced millions of dollars intended for the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao, which were mainly situated in Moro-dominated provinces, but when it came to implementation those were rechanneled to other areas.

This was the statement of Muhammad Ameen, chairperson of the MILF Secretariat, in response to reported growing interests of many states and international aid agencies as well as investors to come to the Bangsamoro and participate in the rehabilitation and development of the new political entity.

“It is time the issue of Bangsamoro should not be dealt through the larger ambit of the Mindanao agenda,” he explained, saying that it is time that the Bangsamoro should determine their destiny and what is good for them.

He disclosed that one of the priority areas communicated to the government for rehabilitation and development are watershed areas which were devastated by unscrupulous mining companies and loggers and the dredging of the Rio Grande de Mindanao (Pulangi River), which snakes though North Cotabato and Maguindanao and causes almost year-long flooding.

He also called on Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDa), to give weight to the position of the MILF.

The MinDa has recently formed Task Force on Mindanao Rivers to conduct a rapid assessment of all critical rivers across the island.

She told media men during a press conference that the task force will become a major project under the Mindanao Nurturing Our Water (MindaNOW) program, which is “a set of integrated interventions designed to facilitate the effective management of Mindanao’s natural resources, adopting the ridge-to-reef approach to planning.”

The task force will be composed of volunteer experts from Mindanao and that it will be included in presenting MindaNOW to donor agencies for possible funding.

Aside from conducting rapid assessment, the task force will recommend an integrated action plan that will address the immediate rehabilitation of identified critical rivers.

Antonino said that several mountain ranges in Mindanao have become denuded, resulting in the destruction of watersheds and the overflowing of rivers, particularly citing the Masara and Kaban mountain ranges in Mawab, Agusan del Sur and Monkayo, Compostela Valley, respectively.

VPC-NPA condemns the heinous slaying of Dodo Autillo

Posted to the CPP Website (Jan 31): VPC-NPA condemns the heinous slaying of Dodo Autillo

Dencio Madrigal
NPA Far South Mindanao Regional Operations Command (Valentin Palamine Command)

The VPC-NPA condemns in the strongest possible terms the heinous slaying of Herminio Nim Autillo in Brgy. New Janiuay, Mlang, North Cotabato, on January 25, 2013, Friday last week.
Herminio, or Dodo, was gunned down by men riding in tandem inside the Autillo compound past 4:00 in the afternoon. He was having a haircut when the 2 assailants armed with pistols approached, and then one of them shot him at the back of his head in close range.

The VPC-NPA expresses its deepest sympathies to the Autillo family and the friends of Dodo at the time of their grief and injustice. In the initial investigation conducted by the VPC-NPA, two most possible motives behind his murder were established – (1) he could be a victim of an AFP perpetrated extra judicial killing; and, (2) the motive could be political and election-related.

AFP agents have been following Dodo because he is a known former NPA member. He was a peasant activist before his brief stint in the underground movement. It has been more than a decade after he resigned; and since then he was not actively involved in any revolutionary activity. But he remained a military target and constantly under surveillance. At the time the AFP conducted RSOT operations in New Janiuay, the military plotted to kill him because he refused to surrender. But he was able to thwart the military’s attempt.

The military intelligence unfoundedly believes he is still active in the underground movement, placing him in their order of battle. He was their attainable target for retaliation after the AFP have undergone defeats and incur a number of casualties in a series of fire fights in Makilala town.

Under the Oplan Bayanihan framework of the US-Aquino regime, murdering of innocent civilians like Dodo have become rampant. Death squads backed and funded by government and military authorities are tasked to perform the butchery. Extra-judicial killing is the state’s execrable ploy to silence the revolutionaries, the mass activists they suspected as sympathizers or supporters of the revolutionary movement, and including government critics by sowing terror and creating turbulence.

On the other hand, the motive could be political and election-related. Dodo was an active organizer in the local election campaign. He was a plucky attacker and critic of corrupt local politicians. Heated conflicts between political groups are escalating as the election campaign period approaches. Dodo is a defenseless victim caught in a clash between feuding powerful political cliques.

The aggravating political and election-related crimes and the growing number of its victims only prove that the US-Aquino regime’s campaign to disband warlordism in the Philippine politics is a dud. In this situation, a “peaceful, honest and free” election is never possible.

With regards to the Dodo Autillo murder, the VPC-NPA is still conducting its further investigation. The masterminds and perpetrators of the crime must be held accountable and must be punished. In response to the grave abuses and ruthless persecution of civilians perpetrated by the state and its agents, the VPC-NPA calls on all NPA units in the region to carry out tactical offensives in order to punish human rights violators, political warlords and the most brutal armed units of the AFP for their grave crimes against the people.

Demand disclosure of US air force commander's mission at Clark--CPP

From the CPP Website (Feb 1): Demand disclosure of US air force commander's mission at Clark--CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today urged the Filipino people to demand disclosure of the mission of US air officers who were in the Philippines recently to meet with top defense and security officials of the Aquino government.

The commander of the United States Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Herbert J. Carlisle, was at Clark Air Field in Pampanga the other day where he met Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta, AFP chief of staff Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and PAF commander Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino de la Cruz. Official statements released by the AFP and US embassy state only that the military officials discussed matters of “mutual interest”.

“Are the US government and its puppets planning to set up a drone airbase at Clark?,” said the CPP. The CPP pointed out that US defense officials have long expressed their desire to build a facility in the Philippines to house and operate its military drones. These were first raised in the discussions of the Strategic Defense Dialogue (SDD) held in Washington early last year, and reiterated in a subsequent meeting of the SDD and the Mutual Defense Board in Manila.

“The Filipino people stand firmly against any plan to set up more military facilities in the Philippines. They demand an independent foreign policy and aspire for genuine national freedom and sovereignty,” said the CPP.

“In the drive to increase its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, the US government and military are more and more making use of the Philippines as one of its military strongholds which serve as a base and platform of operations for its naval and air forces,” pointed out the CPP. “The plan to set up military facilities to house its drones has been one of the key items in the US agenda in the Philippines.”

Plans to set up military facilities in Clark and Subic come on top of the permanent base of operations of the 700-strong Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) of the US Pacific Command inside Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City,” said the CPP.

“The US also wants to supply or facilitate the sale of refurbished or low-end jet fighters to the Philippine Air Force in an effort to enable the PAF to serve as an auxiliary to US Air Force operations in the Asia-Pacific region,” pointed out the CPP.

CPP: Filipino people protest docking of US nuclear attack submarine--CPP

From the CPP Website (Feb 1): Filipino people protest docking of US nuclear attack submarine--CPP

The Filipino people resolutely protest the docking of another US military submarine at Subic Bay, “adding further insult to the injury of the recent intrusion of a US naval ship at the Tubbataha reef marine reserve.”

The entry and docking today of the USS Cheyenne at Subic Bay is a “another affront against Philippine sovereignty by the US imperialist government and its military,” said the CPP. “It is a brash show of contempt for the Filipino people’s national dignity, aspiration for national freedom and demand to end US military domination and violations of Philippine territorial integrity.”

The docking today of the USS Cheyenne comes just around two weeks since the USS Guardian naval minesweeper ran aground at the Tubbataha reef marine reserve, damaging around 2,000 square meters of coral and raising howls of protests against the US military. Just around a month ago, another US nuclear submarine, the USS Bremerton, docked at Subic.

With US plans to further increase the rotational presence of its naval forces in the Philippines and in the Asia-Pacific region, the number of dockings of US warships and submarines at Subic, Manila and other Philippine ports is bound to rise this year to more than 80, or an average of seven to eight foreign military vessels a month.

“Every American warship that docks in the Philippines reduces the country to a military outpost of the US in the Asia-Pacific region and likewise reveals the farcical claims of Philippine sovereignty by the puppet Philippine government,” said the CPP. “The rising number of US naval vessels that dock and patrol in Philippine seas increases as well the possibility of more environmental damage such as the destruction of the Tubbataha corals and the reported dumping of human and toxic waste off the coast of Subic last year.”

The docking of the USS Cheyenne at Subic Bay also raises the matter of nuclear safety and violations of the constitutional ban on the entry and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. The USS Cheyenne is described by the US Pacific Command as a Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine capable of launching Tomahawk missiles which are long-range rockets that can be armed with nuclear warheads.

“The Aquino regime should be assailed for its puppetry to the US imperialist government and its military in defending the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” said the CPP. In an interview after the US incursion at Tubbataha, Aquino claimed that the VFA has nothing to do with the presence of the USS Guardian in the wildlife reserve as there was no military exercise there.

“This is a complete lie meant to preempt the demands for the abrogation of the VFA,” said the CPP. The CPP pointed out that the entry, docking and ship patrols by the US naval forces in the Philippines are all being carried out under the terms of the VFA.

“In the first place, the USS Guardian was allowed to enter Philippine sovereign waters and dock at Subic under the VFA. Furthermore, with the VFA, the US soldiers behind the illegal incursion and environmental damage at Tubbataha are now beyond the authority of the Philippine government as they have been flown back by the US military to their base in Sasebo, Japan.”

MILF: Editorial--Success in the peace talks

Weekly editorial posted to the MILF Website (Feb 1-7): Editorial: Success in the peace talks

Government chief peace negotiator, Prof. Miriam Ferrer-Coronel, has claimed that the signing of the GPH-MILF comprehensive agreement will most likely take place in March this year. It is barely one month away from now.

Indeed, it is nice to hear that great news! How we wish it comes true!

Frankly, we are inclined to agree with her. We believe her optimism is not without basis. After all, she is the chief peace negotiator of the government. As such, she knows many things that are hidden to most of us. She knows where the peace process is heading to and how surmountable the remaining issues on the table are. Like a good driver, she or he knows how to negotiate a rough terrain and succeed to get through it. Besides, she knows that pure speculation is not good especially for someone like her. She has nothing to gain when in the end what she said does not happen.

During the GPH-MILF 35th Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur last January 21-25, the two Parties have made tremendous achievements in their talks including the signing of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT). But the Parties are not discussing them openly, because in negotiation, nothing is agreed until it is agreed --- and signed. Besides, it is no-no to count the chicks before they are hatched.

It is also said that only few substantive issues are left for discussion on the three of the four Annexes: power-sharing, wealth-sharing, and transitional arrangement and modalities. However, by its nature, normalization is not expected to be finished on time alongside the three Annexes. It will take the nature of a work in progress, simply because such issues like decommissioning of MILF weapons and forces, gradual redeployment of government troops, and establishment of police in the Bangsamoro are very complex and would require in-depth study and research on models around the world and how the experts handled them successfully. While we want to settle these issues once and for all, but care and sensitivity are the cornerstone of the Parties’ approach.

Frankly and in reiteration, we rejoice at the current gains of the peace talks. This is made doubly encouraging when someone like the head of the government peace panel makes a timely and exciting prediction. We want her prediction comes true!

Madaris teachers from Socsskargen undergo Capacity Enhancement Training

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 1): Madaris teachers from Socsskargen undergo Capacity Enhancement Training 

More than a hundred Madaris (plural for Madrasa) teachers from South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City attended a day-long Capacity Enhancement Training aimed to enrich their skills in teaching, managing classrooms and improve the grading system.

The activity, hosted by Ittihadul Madaris bil Philippines, Inc. on January 28, 2012 at Mahad Shar’i al-Islamie in Purok Camasi, Barangay Ligaya, General Santos City, was supported by the Bangsamoro Development Agency-Southern Mindanao Region (BDA-SouthMin), Tambilawan Halal-Certified Restaurant, some young professionals, and Islamic Care Association (ICA), Inc.

Most of the participants are handling kindergarten classes in Madaris which have availed the UNICEF’s Tahdeeriya Program.

The program assists in upgrading the kindergarten classes of 500 identified Madaris all over Mindanao through institutionalizing curriculum which meets the requirements of the Department of Education.

It further supports relevant trainings for the Madaris teachers and also brings other interventions such as vaccination, provision of educational supplies, and feeding of the pupils.

Ustadz Refae Antao, handled some topics on teaching methodologies. He underscored the importance of upgrading the teaching facilities like using multi-media presentation as visual aid for the preschoolers.

Veteran educator Sheikh Norden Husen discussed and elaborated classroom management and grading system. He is currently the Tarbiya Representative of the MILF Central Committee.

MILF Tarbiya Committee Chairman Sheikh Ahmad Duli shared some teaching strategies. He said Madaris teachers have big role to play, citing “education of the young ones will tell the future of our communities.”

The resource person who has devoted most of his adulthood to teaching urged the participants to sacrifice in educating the young Moros with profound Islamic knowledge.

He also recognized the newly installed set of officers of Tarbiya Committee in Sugoda Buayan Province.
Sheikh Abdulbayan Laguialam, Provincial Madaris Coordinator of Sarangani shared some insights on the role of Asatidz (plural for Ustadz) in moulding the youth. He said teachers, as secondary parents, have big role to play in producing productive Moro citizens in the future.

Ustadz Mohaliden Kudanding, the activity coordinator and Secretary of the Tarbiya Committee in Sugoda Buayan Province, thanked the supporters of the training.

He looks forward for the Officers and members of the Tarbiya Committee to undergo organizational development training to improve their group and capacitate them in holding activities geared towards intensifying Islamic education in the province which is the primary mandate of their group.

Kudanding said that little help from stakeholders when pooled together can make a meaningful outcome like the training. He added that the training is the initiative of the Tarbiya Committee.

BDA-SouthMin facilitated the resource mobilization for the snacks of the audiences and lunch of the resource persons and guests. ICA was in-charge for the venue and other logistic needs.

Having no huge budget for the training, the participants brought their own lunch packs.

Tahdeeriya program is being implemented by the BDA in collaboration with Tarbiya Committee.

NPA owns up to deadly Negros attack, says sorry

From ABS-CBN (Feb 1): NPA owns up to deadly Negros attack, says sorry

[Includes video report posted with article]

The New People’s Army (NPA) has owned up to a deadly attack on a non-military truck in La Castellana town in Negros Occidental last Sunday which killed 9 people, and apologized to the victims' kin.

In a recorded statement sent to ABS-CBN by JP Regalado, spokesperson of the Leonardo Panaligan Command of the NPA, the group said they originally planned to conduct a checkpoint in Barangay Pusok in La Castellana town with the intention of disarming alleged members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team who were carrying firearms.

However, the rebels claimed someone from the civilians in the truck fired shots at them, which forced them to return fire at the passengers of the vehicle heading towards them.

The group said it regrets that the civilians were collateral damage to what could have been a simple and quick process of disarming civilian police.

They admitted some lapses on their part in the incident that resulted to the deaths of a policeman, 3 barangay peacekeeping action team members, 2 barangay tanods and 3 civilians last January 27.
Nine other persons were also wounded.

However, the NPA insists that it was not an ambush. They said the Philippine National Police (PNP) should not have used the vehicle of the barangay.

They also admitted having violated the 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Because of this, they are willing to own up to their mistakes and will also conduct their own investigation on the incident.

The NPA also apologized to the families of the innocent civilians who died in the incident.

Cheyenne, Tom Clancy’s attack sub, arriving in Subic Friday

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 1): Cheyenne, Tom Clancy’s attack sub, arriving in Subic Friday


‘TOM CLANCY’S SUB’ The USS Cheyenne (SSN 773), a Los Angeles-class submarine, is scheduled to arrive in Subic Bay Friday for a routine port visit. This stop in Subic will permit the Cheyenne to replenish supplies as well as offer its crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation. Cheyenne is the primary subject of Tom Clancy’s novel “SNN,” a fictional war over the Spratlys. PHOTO FROM US EMBASSY INFORMATION OFFICE
In Tom Clancy’s world of fiction, it’s a US nuclear submarine that fights China over the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The submarine, according to Wikipedia, is the USS Cheyenne, a nuclear attack submarine belonging to the US Pacific Fleet.

In Clancy’s novel “SSN,” the Cheyenne battles China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) warships in the disputed Spratlys.

The Cheyenne is arriving Friday in the former US naval base on Subic Bay, Zambales province, not to battle the PLA but for a “routine port visit,” according to the US Embassy.

Tubbataha mess

Unfortunately the Cheyenne is arriving amid deep embarrassment for the US Navy whose minesweeper USS Guardian is stuck on the southern atoll in the Tubbataha Reefs, a Unesco-World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea.

In a still unexplained misadventure, the Guardian ran aground on the atoll on Jan. 17.

As the ship is badly damaged, the US Navy has decided to break it apart.

The US Navy is facing investigation and fines in the Philippines for the mess.

The Cheyenne, commissioned in 1996, left port in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December for a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific, the US Navy said on its website.

Bombed Saddam

The port call at Subic “will permit the Cheyenne to replenish supplies as well as offer its crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation,” the US Embassy said in a statement issued Thursday.

The Embassy did not say how long the submarine will stay in the Philippines.

The Pacific Fleet describes the 110-meter-long Cheyenne as “one of the most capable nuclear attack submarines in the world.”

The Cheyenne is known to have launched Tomahawk missiles during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 to bring down the dictator Saddam Hussein and flush out his alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Saddam fell but no WMD was found anywhere in Iraq.

The US Navy website says the submarine is armed with harpoons, Tomahawk missiles and torpedoes and is capable of laying mines.

The US Navy says the Cheyenne has a crew of 129 sailors.

Militant opposition

The activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), which has long opposed US military presence in the Philippines, criticized the Cheyenne’s visit, saying it “sends the wrong message that the Philippine government is a pushover.”

“We have to make a point and send a clear message that what happened in Tubbataha was wrong and that the US should be accountable. We can’t act as if it’s business as usual, as if nothing happened,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.

Groups to sue US Navy for Tubbataha damage

From the Philippine Star (Feb 1): Groups to sue US Navy for Tubbataha damage

Militant groups said on Friday that they would be suing before the Department of Justice next week the US Navy officials and the 79 crew member of USS Guardian which ran aground on Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17.

Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list said the complaint will be filed before the DOJ main office in Manila on Monday.

"The Filipino people should continue to pursue the cause for justice and sovereignty...There is no substitute to justice and sovereignty," the groups said.

The groups said that while the public apology issued by visiting US lawmakers in the country regarding the Tubbataha incident is good, the American legislators should not think that justice has already been served.

"We all deserve justice and full respect of our national sovereignty more than the press statements issued by Washington officials. We don't live in forgive and forget politics. This is why a formal complaint against the rapists of Tubbataha Reef park will be filed on Monday," the groups added.

Earlier, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list scored President Benigno Aquino III for allowing the crew of USS Guardian to leave the country and return to their home port in Sasebo, Japan several days after after incident.

Group hits another entry of US ship in Phl

From the Philippine Star (Feb 1): Group hits another entry of US ship in Phl

Militant group Bayan on Friday slammed the presence of another US Navy ship in the Philippine amid the still unresolved Tubbataha incident USS Guardian. Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said the docking of the USS Cheyenne in Subic, Philippines has added insult to serious injury.

"The port call by this nuclear submarine sends the message that it’s business as usual under the Visiting Forces Agreement. It’s as if the whole Tubbataha incident never happened. This is despite the fact that the US has yet to fully explain why a minesweeper was present in a protected marine area," Reyes added.

"We oppose any further port calls, incursions, maneuvers and exercises by US warships in Philippine under the VFA. This agreement simply allows the US too much leeway. An unlimited number of US ships can enter the Philippines for unspecified reasons, for an indefinite period of time, and for a wide range of activities," he said.

He said that considering all the US Navy's infractions within the country's territory, the Philippine government should act to scrap the VFA.

"The practice of 'routine port calls' must be stopped. To protect our environment, VFA must be junked," Reyes said.

2 soldiers killed in Compostela ambush

From the Philippine Star (Feb 1): 2 soldiers killed in Compostela ambush

Two people were killed in a series of attacks by leftist rebels in the southern Philippines, authorities said today.
A soldier was killed after a dozen of New People's Army guerrillas assaulted two army detachments in the eastern province of Compostela Valley early today, according to Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesman for the 10th Infantry Division.

Leftist rebels also attacked a militia detachment in nearby Agusan del Sur province late on Wednesday evening but were repulsed, with the gunmen venting their ire on an off-duty militiaman living just meters from the militia outpost and killed him in front of his family, said Superintendent Martin Gamba, police spokesperson in Caraga region where Agusan del Sur is located.

Paniza, the army official, said the camp commander identified as a Sergeant Mina, was killed as he and his men fought it out with the rebels in Malamodao village, Maco town around 6 a.m.

Another group of rebels also fired at an army outpost in nearby Mabini town almost the same time as that of the Maco attack, but were pushed back.

Police and military units in the southern Philippine region were now put on alert following the incidents.

The 4,000-strong NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is fighting a leftist insurgency in 60 Philippine provinces since 1969.

Phl launches independent probe on stuck US Navy ship

From the Philippine Star (Feb 1): Phl launches independent probe on stuck US Navy ship

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has started its independent inquiry to determine the real circumstances surrounding the grounding of the United States Navy minesweeper in Tubbataha Reef off Sulu Sea.
PCG Commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said today that a Maritime Casualty Investigation Team (MCIT) was created to gather the physical and documentary evidence needed to know why the US Navy vessel strayed into the protected area. This, even after the park rangers manning the reef warned them that they were dangerously treading a sheltered area.

He said that Rear Admiral Luis Tuason, who heads PCG's MCIT, met with Rear Admiral Thomas Carney, the on-scene commander of the salvage operations to gather technical data on the maritime incident.

The MCIT was created on top of the Task Force Tubbataha that was formed right after USS Guardian ran aground in the maritime protected area on Jan. 17.

Concerned government officials already briefed President Benigno Aquino III on the situation at the Tubbataha Reef today.

Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino asked for the timetable in salvaging the vessel, but he did not give any deadline.

The president was also informed that the United States has decided to disassemble the vessel before vertically extricating it from the site instead of physically lifting the whole ship, she added.

The USS Guardian, which came from a port call in Subic Bay in northern Philippine province of Zambales, was enroute to its next port of destination when it ran aground in Tubbataha Reef almost two weeks ago. It has been stuck in the reef since then. The task force has initially estimated that 1,000 square meters of the corals have been damaged.

'Docking of US submarine in Subic has diplomatic clearance'

From the Philippine Star (Feb 1): 'Docking of US submarine in Subic has diplomatic clearance'

The docking of a US nuclear-powered submarine in Zambales has diplomatic clearance, a senior government official said today. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte issued the statement amid opposition by some leftist groups to the scheduled arrival on Friday of USS Cheyenne in the former US naval base in Subic Bay.

"This (arrival of US submarine) has diplomatic clearance from the Department of Foreign Affairs and in consultation with the Department of National Defense and our navy for a routine replenishment," she told a news briefing.

USS Cheyenne's visit to the Philippines is under the auspices of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the two governments.

Valte also clarified that under the Constitution what is prohibited is the entry of nuclear armaments, not a nuclear- powered vessel.

The arrival of a U.S. submarine came amid the grounding of USS Guardian in Tubbataha Reef off Sulu Sea.

Valte said the government expects USS Cheyenne to take all the necessary precautions to avoid similar accident in the Unesco World Heritage site.

NPA Surrenders to CAFGU Detachment Under 55IB

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Feb 1): NPA Surrenders to CAFGU Detachment Under 55IB

At about 1130pm Tuesday, January 29, 2013, a member of Local Communist Movement surrendered to the CAFGU Detachment of Alpha Company, 5IB under the operational control of the 55th Infantry Battalion, the Commanding Officer of the 55IB, LTC Rommel Almaria, reports.

Almaria stated that a certain Alex Dungog aka Ronald, 28, of SECCOM JOJI of Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee surrendered without firearm to a CAFGU Detachment at Tambulig, Zamboanga del Sur under the operational control of his battalion. Accordingly, the said NPA member is a resident of Brgy. Tabugon of same municipality and joined the Local Communist Movement sometime on October 2011, and he decided to go back to the folds of the law due to family reason and hardship living in the mountains.

The Commander of the 1st Infantry Division, MGen Ricardo Rainier Cruz III commended the Bayanihan Team and the local officials of Brgy. Tabugon of said municipality for the successful negotiations. He also gladly welcomed the decision of Alex Dungog to go back to his family and live a peaceful life. He further said that he expects more members of the NPA to abandon their armed struggle in the days to come due to the sincere efforts of soldiers and local government officials who are facilitating to bring peace and development to the countryside thru the Bayanihan Team Operations.

It can be recalled that an NPA member with firearms surrendered to a CAFGU Detachment under 55IB at Ozamis City last December 2012.

Rebels on test mission ambush suspects

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb1): Rebels on test mission ambush suspects

If the police is to be believed, New People’s Army rebels on a test mission are the suspects in the ambush of civilians and policemen in Brgy. Puso, La Castellana, Negros Occidental.

Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, caretaker of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, yesterday said the suspects may not have been aware that civilians had hitched a ride with the policemen, barangay tanods and members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team,on their way to Brgy. Cabacungan, La Castellana.

Guara said the target of the NPA were policemen and BPAT members, as well as the two rebel returnees. “They (suspects) may have been thinking that all passengers of the truck were policemen and BPAT members,” he added

Based on the accounts of survivors and residents in the area, some of the armed suspects were young men, police investigations show. The fatalities succumbed to gunshot wounds in the head. Guara said the ambushers were helped by rebels in the area, whom they had used as “look-outs”.

The barbaric killing of civilians elicited condemnation from families of the victims and government officials.

Before the incident, Guara said there were reports of “arms landings”originating fromother areas of Visayas in some coastal areas of Negros Oriental, citing Army intelligence reports.

Police probers are now validating the names of that cropped up in their investigation as the suspects in the massacre.

Jolemar Canja, wife of the late PO1 Canja, yesterday received an initial P83,500 assistance from the Public Safety Benefit Fund Inc., handed to her by Chief Supt. Manuel Felix, deputy regional police director for Administration of the Police Regional Office 6.

Felix saidthe two injured policemen, PO3 Constantino Villegas and Police Officer 2 Jeffrey Alvarez, both assigned at the Cabacungan police outpost in La Castellana, will receive the Medalya ng Sugatang Magiting, for their bravery.

Villegas and Alvarez are expected to be conferred medals by Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz, regional police director of the Western Visayas, who is expected to be at the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office headquartersin Bacolod City today.

U.S. commander: Pivot to Asia will not mean any new bases in the region

From InterAksyon (Feb 1): U.S. commander: Pivot to Asia will not mean any new bases in the region

President Benigno Aquino (R) greets U.S. Pacific Command Commander Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear during a visit at the presidential palace in Manila July 16, 2012 REUTERS

The United States' pivot to Asia will not mean any new bases in the region, but existing alliances will be strengthened and modernized, the chief of US Pacific Command (PACOM) told reporters Friday. "The US has no intention of establishing more bases" in Asia, Admiral Samuel Locklear told reporters in a telephone news conference from PACOM headquarters in Hawaii.

"What we hope to do with our partners... is to continue to operate closely," he said, adding "this part of the world has been pretty safe" in the past 60 years.

The comments came as Washington increases military exercises with allies and gradually moves its most advanced ships, weaponry and aircraft to Asia as part of a long-term strategy. The shift comes as several Asian countries face friction with China over disputed territory and borders in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

"There has been significant speculation, scepticism about the US rebalance towards the Asia Pacific region. Let me just say this: The rebalance is a strategy of collaboration and cooperation," Locklear said. "And the keystone of our rebalance will be... the strategy to modernise and strengthen our five Pacific treaty alliances," he said.

He also said Australia is "a critical pillar" in the US rebalance and that the Asia-Pacific region cannot be considered in isolation from the Indian Ocean, while welcoming New Delhi's role in building security networks.

"There is no simple answer to one security organisation that will work" like NATO in Europe, because the region "is too diverse", he said. "So the model that -- sometimes people ask me like this 'why don't you have a NATO in the Indo-Asia-Pacific?' -- I served in NATO before, it's a fun organisation but I don't see a parallel here," he said.

"I'd rather (see) what I refer to as a patchwork of security relationships in various parts of this vast region that work together to be able to sense and understand where the security moment is, and to work together to ensure the (security) environment is strong enough to withstand any shocks.
"India is taking a leadership role in working to build some of these security networks, and we welcome that," he said.

Asked about the ongoing tensions between China and Japan over territorial claims to a set of islands in the East China Sea, Locklear repeated that the US did not take a position on the archipelago's final sovereignty. "What we do expect is these disputes will be done in a fashion without coercion, and that ultimately will be satisfying and decided between governments and without military interventions."

In the wider Asia-Pacific region, he said it was important to build "a code of conduct" in waters that every country, including China, will be obliged to follow. He also noted the United States is encouraging the nations that have territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the East China Sea "not to introduce military hardware aspects that could lead to miscalculation".

Japan and China have repeatedly butted diplomatic heads over who owns Tokyo-controlled islands called the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China. Beijing separately has disputes with other regional capitals, including Manila and Hanoi.

Soldier slain as NPA attacks Compostela Valley patrol bases

From InterAksyon (Feb 1): Soldier slain as NPA attacks Compostela Valley patrol bases

A soldier was killed as New People’s Army guerrillas simultaneously attacked Army patrol bases in Compostela Valley province Friday morning.

Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, Army spokesman, said the rebels attacked the Malumadao patrol base in Barangay Malamudao, Maconacon town and the Anitapan patrol base in Barangay Anitapan, Mabini town around 6 a.m.

Government troops also clashed with NPA fighters in Samar Thursday.

Captain Gene Orense, spokesman of the Army's 8th Infantry Division, said troops of the 87th Infantry Battalion clashed with the rebels at an NPA camp in Barangay Rizal, Basey town 11:15 a.m. Thursday.

The rebels retreated after a 45-minute gun battle, leaving behind an M16 rifle, a rifle grenade and ammunition. The soldiers suffered no casualties.

PNoy set to appoint Solcom chief as AFP's No. 2

From InterAksyon (Feb 1): PNoy set to appoint Solcom chief as AFP's No. 2

File photo of Solcom chief Alan R. Luga

President Benigno Aquino III is set to appoint Lieutenant General Alan Luga as vice chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Luga, classmate of AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Dimalupig” Class of 1981, is the commander of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) based in Camp Nakar in Lucena City.

On Friday, Luga got his third star rank along with Vice Admiral Edgar Abogado, commander of the Central Command based in Cebu City.

Luga will replace Lt. Gen. Noel Cobbales, who was earlier appointed Philippine Army chief.

At least three contenders vie for the Solcom post that will be left by Luga - 8th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Gerardo Layug, 6th ID commander Maj. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, and 1st ID commander Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Rolando Tenefrancia on Friday officially assumed his post as new AFP inspector general replacing Lt. Gen. Irineo Espino, who had earlier been appointed PMA superintendent.

Tenefrancia is former head of the Civil Relations Service, whose command is now under Brig. Gen. Rolando Jungco, former AFP adjutant general. “The turnover of unit and office symbols does not only represent the military tradition of changing of the guards, butalso of the AFP’s value for the organization’s growth and dynamism," Bautista said Friday.

"This also manifests the continuity of responsibilities that our newly designated officers had accepted and must accomplish,” he added.

Suspected ranking NPA leader charged for Negros Occidental ambush

From InterAksyon (Feb 1): Suspected ranking NPA leader charged for Negros Occidental ambush

File photo of Romeo Nanta from the Philippine National Police

A suspected ranking New People's Army (NPA) leader was among those charged for the killing of nine people in an ambush in Negros Occidental last weekend.

The 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army said Romeo Nanta, allegedly the head of the NPA's Regional Operations Command, was among the 50 people who were charged with multiple murder for the ambush of the mostly civilian victims in La Castellana town.

Nanta was arrested on November 7, 2011 in Barangay Zone 2, Cadiz City and was charged with rebellion, robbery-in-band, and attempted and frustrated murder. He is currently out on bail.

The Army had blamed human rights group Karapatan for securing Nante's provisional liberty. It said Nanta was released from prison after Karapatan-Negros secretary general Fred Caña posted bail for the suspected NPA leader. "Their actions have led to this La Castellana ambush," Mabanta said on Friday.  He urged Karapatan to bring out Nanta for him to face the charges.

NPA apologizes for Negros ambush

From Rappler (Feb 1): NPA apologizes for Negros ambush

The New People’s Army (NPA) Leonardo Panaligan Command claimed responsibility for the recent ambush in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, which killed a cop and 8 civilians and wounded 12 others.

In a tape-recorded statement, the command's spokesperson Ka JB Regalado apologized for the deaths of the civilians. He admitted lapses committed by the guerrillas and said they are now being investigated.

Regalado said the rebels' original plan was to disarm the policemen and members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) who were travelling from a nearby village. He questioned though the use of a civilian vehicle by the police, saying the cops were attempting to use civilians as "human shield."

Regalado denied they shot the victims in the head, as claimed earlier by the police. He said they also confiscated 7 firearms -- 2 M16 assault rifles, a sub machine gun, M2 carbine rifle, a shotgun, caliber .45 pistol, and 357 magnum revolver.

Police investigators said the victims, on board a Fuzo Canter vehicle, were on their way home after attending a fiesta when they were ambushed by about 20 armed rebels on January 27 in Barangay Puso, La Castellana.

Puso barangay chairman Florencio Nellis admitted he had sought help from the La Castellana police to secure the three-day barangay fiesta. Three policemen and BPAT members were dispatched to the place.

Responding to the rebel statement, Capt. Ryan Joseph Cayton, spokesman of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said, “This is another diversionary tactic of the NPA to clean their name and escape guilt." Cayton challenged the NPA to come out and answer for their crimes.

The families of the victims have appealed to President Benigno Aquino III to order government to fast-track the probe.

Warring clans in North Cotabato town ink peace covenant

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 1): Warring clans in North Cotabato town ink peace covenant

Peace and order is expected to be restored soon in Sitio Lacobe, Barangay Malabuan, Makilala, North Cotabato after a peace covenant was signed yesterday between two battling clans in the area. The signing was participated by Datu Tocs Baclid and Danny Llup, representatives of the involved groups.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) headed the activity since land conflict is the main reason of the clash.

The fight started early in 1980s before Sitio Lacobe became a fighting ground. It was said that Llup’s group wants to take possession of the land where Baclid’s group resides.

Currently, through the effort of the provincial government and other involved agencies, warring clans signed an agreement with regards to equal farm lot allocation.

The activity was witnessed by North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza, Makilala Mayor Rudy Caoagdan, members of the provincial council, barangay officials and residents of the place.

Meanwhile, Mendoza is expecting that the covenant signing will end the long time misunderstanding between the two groups.

The activity which was tagged as ‘Kanduli sa Kalinaw ug Kalambuan’ is also anticipated to open doors for projects and programs that the provincial government implement.

Mindanao Area Commander visits 4ID

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 1): Mindanao Area Commander visits 4ID

The 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division received the Commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command in front of the Admin building, Jan 31. LtGen Jorge V Segovia, AFP, Commander of Eastern Mindanao Command was given full military honors and was welcomed by all the officers and men of the Division. He visited the Division to get updated on the Internal Peace Security situation in 4ID area. This is also a way for him to directly communicate to his subordinate commanders his operational guidance.

EastMinCom has also operational control over two other Divisions, 6th Infantry Division stationed in Cotabato and 10th Infantry Division stationed in Davao.

LtGen Segovia also visited the Division on April 26, 2012 after his assumption as the Commander of EastMinCom last April 19, 2012. His visit yesterday was his first during the term of Major General Nestor A Añonuevo AFP as Division Commander of 4ID.

Major General Nestor A Añonuevo AFP, Commander, 4ID said, “The Division warmly welcomes LtGen Segovia. This is a good opportunity to synchronize the effort of the Division with that of the Eastern Mindanao Command. This also timely that preparation for the upcoming May Election has already started. With this, the people can be assured of the enhanced services of your Army all year round. Rest assured that your army under the direction of the Eastern Mindanao Commander will exert all efforts to ensure the conduct of a smooth and credible May 2013 election.”

12 municipalities and a city in Eastern Samar declared insurgency free

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 1): 12 municipalities and a city in Eastern Samar declared insurgency free

Twelve municipalities and one city in Eastern Samar have been declared insurgency free and Manageable Conflict-Affected and Ready for Development Areas (MCA-RDA) by the local governments and the military by year end 2012 and first month of CY 2013.

The municipality of Quinapondan, Eastern Samar was the latest municipality of Eastern Samar to be declared as MCA-RDA during a simple ceremony held at the Municipal Hall of Quinapondan, E. Samar on January 31.

According to Nedito A. Campo, Mayor of Quinapondan, “We cannot move forward without addressing peace and development. We can not develop our community without maintaining and preserving peace and order, and there could be no peace in our Municipality without putting development programs in our town.”

“I would like to congratulate the Philippine Army, the Philippine National Police for helping us, the people of Quinapondan for achieving a very peaceful community,” added Campo.

In his message, Lt. Col. Napoleon Z De Vera, commander of 14th Infantry (Avenger) Battalion said, “ We are not from this province but we have learned to love it. We saw and observed the potential of the province to be more developed and we must not hamper this development. We must unite all our efforts through the spirit of "Bayanihan" in further attaining peace and development of our province.”

For the year 2012, the municipalities of Taft, Maydolong, Balangkayan, Hernani, San Julian, San Policarpo, Sulat, and Borongan City were declared as MCA-RDA, while the municipalities of Salcedo, Guiuan and Mercedes were declared as insurgency-free areas. The municipality of Balangiga was the first municipality to be declared as MCA-RDA last January 8, 2013.

Leyte LGU provides assistance to 28 former rebels

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 1): Leyte LGU provides assistance to 28 former rebels

The provincial government of Leyte recently, through the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) had once again distributed reintegration funds to 28 former members of the New People’s Army who have decided to return to mainstream society.

Each former rebel received P10,000 worth of pre-surfacing assistance while another P25,000.00 was also given to each of the five who surrendered with firearms.

The distribution was the highlight of the Ceremonial Awarding of Financial Assistance to 28 Former Rebels held at Barangay Cagnocot, Villaba, Leyte on Wednesday morning, January 30, 2013, which was attended by Leyte Governor Mimietta Bagulaya.

Bagulaya expressed the Provincial Government of Leyte’s gratitude to the military, police and other government agencies who worked hand in hand in the implementation of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

Bagulaya also commended the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer, Mrs. Clotilde Malatbalat and third district board member Hon. Rolando Piamonte who were equally instrumental to the success of the event.

The said official was impressed by the courage of the former rebels who will be reintegrated in their respective communities.

Lt. Col. Joel Alejandro Nacnac, commanding officer of the 19th Infantry Battalion based in Brgy. Aguiting, Kananga, Leyte said that the recipients of the provincial assistance were former members of the Front-Committee Leyte (FC-L) which the military battled for several years.

Meanwhile, Col. Rafael Valencia, area commander of the military in Leyte, in his speech, urged the recipients to serve as examples to their former comrades by encouraging them to return to the folds of the law and avail of the programs in store for them.

Valencia further said that the assistance received by the former rebels is just the start of the new life and brighter future that lies ahead of them and their respective families.

The purpose of said distribution of financial assistance is to give chance to former rebels to rejoin the mainstream of society and to provide a peaceful avenue, to help eradicate the armed rebel organizations in the province and to address their legal, economic and psycho-social needs and create opportunities for a change to be a productive citizens in the country, and their transition to peaceful civilian life.

Free medical services benefit over 4T Negrense

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 1): Free medical services benefit over 4T Negrense

A total of 4,588 individuals recently received free medical and dental civic action program (MEDCAP) services in five local government units in Negros Oriental.

Capt Anacito Naz, Philippine Army's information officer here said the 302nd Infantry Brigade in collaboration with the Aba Child Ministries of Tunga Dauin, Kindness in Action Emmanuel Foundation of Edmonton, Alberta in Canada and the 79th and 11th Infantry Battalion conducted the MEDCAP on January 21 to 25 in the cities of Canlaon and Bais, and the municipalities of La Libertad, Dauin and Bacong.

The five-day MEDCAP included free medical and dental services, eye check-up, blood pressure examination, haircut and massage services which started at the Canlaon Complex.

In Canlaon City, Capt Naz said some 942 individuals benefited from the said activity broken down as follows: 208 persons for medical consultations, 293 for the blood pressure examination, 168 individuals for dental check-up and 57 for tooth extraction and cleaning, 91 for eye check-up, 47 availed of free haircut and 78 massage services.

The medical groups proceeded to La Libertad town on the second day to serve 963 people. The following number of recipients who availed of particular services were: 274 for medical consultation, 259 for dental check-up and tooth extraction, 257 for the blood pressure examination, 75 for eye consultation, 32 had haircut done and 63 for massage services.

Naz added that in Bais City, 528 individuals availed of the various services with 225 beneficiaries given medical consultation, 121 had dental check-up and tooth extraction, 127 had their blood pressure examined, 38 individuals got free haircut and 17 for the massage services.

On the fourth day, Naz reported that in Dauin town, more residents availed of the free medical services totaling to 1,264 beneficiaries which included 310 for surgery.

In Bacong town, some 891 residents benefited from the program including the 15 surgery on the last day of the medical mission.

302 Brigade Command Commander Col. Francisco Patrimonio said the five-day MEDCAP was made possible through a series of coordination and meetings of the donor and concerned LGUs, national agencies and other participating NGOs.

Patrimonio added that the involvement of different stakeholders was consistent with the spirit of “Bayanihan” to address the health concerns of the Negrenses and a clear manifestation of commitment and dedication by peace loving citizens in order to serve the needy Filipino people.

42 rebel returnees want to re-avail of livelihood program

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 1): 42 rebel returnees want to re-avail of livelihood program

Forty-two former rebels in the province have renewed their partnership with the provincial government to continue availing of the rebel returnee livelihood program. The rebel returnees (RR) together with their respective barangay chairmen signed a memorandum of agreement with the provincial government headed by governor Leonard Mayaen extending the program this 2013.

Under the rebel returnee program, a qualified RR will receive P5,000 per month allowance in exchange to community service she/he renders in her/his barangay. The RRs are required to do community or civil works from Monday to Friday except holidays.

Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer Rosalinda Belagan said 2012 yearend assessment on the RR program revealed that these RRs have proven their worth in the community and even provincial affairs. She added that barangays that have RRs are becoming dependent on the assistance and services of these transformed rebels.

Among the community services the RRs are to perform include cleaning of pathways and roads, irrigation maintenance, tree planting, assisting in the day care centers and health stations, helping repair school buildings and doing other tasks that are assigned to them by their barangay leaders.

In the MOA, barangay chairmen are tasked to supervise and sign the daily time records of the RRs in their respective barangays. The RR program was started by Mayaen when he assumed as governor in 2010 to partly address the concerns of former communist rebels who returned to the folds of the law.

He explained that the RRs somewhat lost a part of their social standing and that they should be given a chance to prove their worth in the community adding that special privileges must be afforded to this group for them to start a normal life.

Meanwhile, Belagan disclosed that one RR beneficiary of the program was removed for his alleged continuous contact with his former comrades in the underground movement.

In the MOA and the EO No. 53 earlier issued by the governor, it provides that RR beneficiaries who continue their relations with the underground movement, those who refuse to send their children who are of school age to school and those who fail to live within the norms of the community will be disqualified in the provincial livelihood program.

Phil. Army’s 7ID vows to support police operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 1): Phil. Army’s 7ID vows to support police operations

The Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division (7ID) will continue upgrading technical and operational capabilities of its men, ranking military officials said on Friday. “Our troops will continue to improve their skills through the conduct of training both in combat and in law enforcement tactics and procedures initiated by the command to respond rapidly from the request for assistance of other security agencies of the government,” said Brig. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, Jr, 7ID commander.

This as Catapang lauded his men from the 3rd Infantry Battalion led by 1st Lt. Saturnino Enofre III, who reinforced the Nueva Ecija Provincial Police Office (NEPPO) in operation that resulted to confiscation of assorted firearms and ammunition from Mauricio Baltazar of Sitio Dipaan, Barangay Gen. Luna, Carranglan town recently.

The joint military-police operation netted one cal .45 pistol, one cal .22 revolver, one pistol type grenade launcher, one silencer for 9mm pistol and assorted live ammunition for grenade launcher, M16 rifle, 9mm pistol and Cal .45 pistol. The suspect, along with the seized firearms and ammunition, was brought at NEPPO headquarters for investigation and filing of criminal case of “illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.”

“The successful conduct of a joint AFP-PNP operation is a result of a well- planned and proper execution of the operation in coordination with other security agencies,” said Lt. Col. Mata, Commander, 3rd Infantry Battalion. “Rest assured that our troops (3rd Infantry Battalion) will ensure that peace and security in the province of Nueva Ecija will remain peaceful and in coordination with other security forces, we will implement the role of law and act humanely during the implementation of our task to conduct search and seizure,” Mata added.

OPAPP assures TransCom equal representation

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 1): OPAPP assures TransCom equal representation

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Deles has assured balance and equal composition of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (Transcom) which will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Deles made the assurance after some sectors raised the issue of possible domination by one sector in the TransCom, a vital body that will create the governing law of the New Autonomous Political Entity in Mindanao.

Among the sectors that will have representation in the Transcom are stakeholders, indigenous peoples, religious, youth, among others. Transcom will be composed of eight nominees from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and seven to be recommended by the government.

She said a search committee has submitted to President Aquino the government nominees. The President will soon announce the government nominees. She said the search committee have been screening members, identifying their capabilities, work experience, personal achievements and what they have contributed in seeking peaceful solution to problems, not only in Mindanao but anywhere in the country. She assured that President Benigno Aquino III had been very fair from the start and determined to attain peace in the island when other previous presidents failed.

On the other hand, MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said the MILF central committee has already chosen its nominees and will make the pubic announcement soon. He refused to give initial names of nominees but said they were all knowledgeable in the Mindanao peace process and have been involved in conflict resolutions through peaceful means.

The government and the MILF signed the Framework Agreement for Bangsamoro on October 15 last year as initial accord that will eventually give the Bangsamoro people right to self determination. Following the signing, the President issued Executive order 120 that created the TransCom which will draft the Bangsamoro basic law and for Congress to study and take action. The Mindanao peace process with the MILF under the Aquino government have achieved so many milestones.

Phil. Army, DENR conduct series of anti-logging operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 1): Phil. Army, DENR conduct series of anti-logging operations

The joint forces of the Philippine Army and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) here have recently conducted a series of anti-logging operations that resulted in the confiscation of a huge haul of lumber flitches and charcoal reportedly taken from mountain reserves in Nueva Ecija and Zambales.

Brigadier General Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr, commander of the Philippine Army 7th Infantry Division (7ID), said they are determined in their efforts in promoting environmental protection and preservation within the 7ID area of operations.”

“As deputized by the DENR as environmental protector, the 7th ID, in support to National Greening Program (NGP), a nationwide campaign of the government, would not hesitate to apprehend and file cases against the violators,” Catapang said.

The army official said that the joint PA-DENR team operations in Barangay San Lorenzo, Masinloc, Zambales recently led to the confiscation of illegally cut lumber flitches worth some P50,000. According to reports, the seized hot lumber were cut by illegal logging operators and abandoned them in the area.

The “hot” lumber flitches were floated down the San Lorenzo River to the town of Masinloc, and brought by army trucks to the office of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) for proper inventory and safekeeping.

Catapang also said that the 72nd Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC), along with the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) personnel based in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, has also confiscated 27 pieces of illegally cut lumber with an estimated volume of 522 board feet.

Likewise, he said the PA’s Task Force Sagip Likas-Yaman (TFSLY) confiscated about 98 sacks of charcoal with an estimated amount of P20,000 at Martin Village, Barangay Nazareth, Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija.