Monday, February 18, 2013

Army, LGU conduct joint outreach programs

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 19): Army, LGU conduct joint outreach programs

Hundreds of indigent and local folks from sitio Salumayag, Halapitan, this town, benefited from the free basic services brought by the joint medical-LGU mission, outreach program, operation haircut and pulong-pulong on February 7.

The medical outreach mission successfully treated 779 beneficiaries: 224 residents benefited from medical consultations and check-up; 122 patients received free medicines; 122 residents had their blood pressure taken; 110 availed of weighing/operation Timbang; and 28 got free haircut.

A pulong-pulong (forum) was conducted to address the issues and concerns of the residents. It appears from records and verbal accounts, that members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Fontrebels harass residents to join the armed group. 

Basilio Anuat aka Datu Bantolisan, tribal chieftain, said, “My heartfelt gratitude goes to our army, especially to the officers and men of 8th Infantry (Dependable) Battalion, for facilitating the government’s programs and services to reach this sitio. The program of the army is very beneficial to our constituents especially to our poor families. I would also like to thank the health office of San Fernando for their support.”

The 8th Infantry (Dependable) Battalion headed by Lieutenant Coronel Jose Maria R. Cuerpo II, commanding officer, together with the Health Office of San Fernando, Bukidnon headed by Dr. Angelina Ibon-Edma, merged to conduct this Free Medical Mission, Outreach Program, and Operation Haircut for the poor families especially the indigents of the said sitio.

The activity was also participated by the 3rd Platoon, Medical Company headed by Second Lieutenant Christine Jean S. Zamora and P/SInsp Edward Tagarda-Agpalza, Chief of Police, San Fernando Municipal Police Station.

“The Philippine Army, as part of the community, has long to serve and improve the health condition of our less fortunate brothers living in the depressed areas where social and medical needs are rarely felt by these communities,” Cuerpo said.

He added purely military operations remain inadequate solution to our decade-long problem on insurgency. We need complimentary and concerted effort to address the issues on poverty, injustice, illiteracy and illnesses to achieve a lasting peace in the province.

Army eyes closure agreement with rebel group

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 18): Army eyes closure agreement with rebel group

The Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, of which Negros Occidental is under its command, is looking forward to the actuality of a closure agreement with Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa-Pilipinas (RPM-P)/ Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA)- Tabuara-Paduano Group (TPG).

3ID Commander MGen Jose Z Mabanta in an interview said that they are in constant touch with the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process as to the closure agreement.

According to Mabanta, the agreement is already at the table of President Benigno S. Aquino III awaiting the President’s signature.

“We would have wanted the closure agreement before the start of the election season, however, I think there are some kinks along the way, some technicalities that have to be fixed but it can be signed anytime, so we are looking forward to the day that there will finally be a closure agreement,” Mabanta told PIA.

This agreement aims for the disposition of arms and forces and mainstreaming of RPM-P/RPA-TPG members into society, transform the group into a legitimate socio-political organization and provide development support to TPG-identified areas.

“We encourage even members of the CPP-NPA to set aside their so called protracted warfare, put their firearms aside and join the parliamentary system, and return to mainstream society,” Mabanta said when asked for his reaction on former RPA-ABB commander Stephen Paduano aka Carapali Lualhati joining the election race.

Mabanta added that they are eagerly awaiting the closure agreement because it is something big. Even the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Framework with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is still a basic framework that has still a lot of issues to be settled while the closure agreement with the RPA is the totality.*

AFP commends liberation group for heeding call for peace

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 18): AFP commends liberation group for heeding call for peace

An Army official commended members of the former Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) for heeding the call of government to resolve conflicts through peaceful means.

MGen. Joel Ibanez, commanding general of the 5th Infantry Division (ID) based in Gamu, Isabela, said the CPLA positively responded to the call of the Aquino government to resolve issues that keep on dividing the Filipinos through dialogue and development partnership.

“Our CPLA brothers from Kalinga and other Cordillera provinces are good examples of how we can make a step forward of making peace possible,” he said as he thanked the former combatants for trusting the 5th ID for the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) process that took place.

DDR is the core agenda of the memorandum of agreement signed between the Aquino government and the CPLA in 2011 towards the transformation of the CPLA from an armed group to a socio-economic force.

In last quarter of 2012, the Philippine National Police completed the conduct firearms inventory of the the former members of the Cordillera Bodong Administration-CPLA now called the Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development(CFPD). The inventory and turnover of firearms is part of the disposition of arms and forces provision of the agreement.

“Giving up your firearms is a clear manifestation of your desire for peace even at the risk of your personal safety,” Ibanez said. “All we need to do is sacrifice our personal interest for the greater good,” he added.

He said this paradigm shift was clearly demonstrated by the CPLA leadership when they chose to work hand in hand with government to better the lives of communities.

Aside from the 164 already integrated to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, more than one hundred former combatants and their dependents recently applied for reintegration to the military. Along with the group's disposition of arms and forces and livelihood assistance, the integration of qualified CFPD into the AFP is a commitment of the MOA.

Ibanez assured that the AFP will increase the number of recruits for this special training for CPLA provided they undergo DDR and are qualified.

All demands of armed Filipino group were rejected, says Sabah police chief

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 19): All demands of armed Filipino group were rejected, says Sabah police chief

Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib has dismissed reports that some of the armed Filipinos had slipped past a tight security cordon mounted by a combined force of Malaysian police and military personnel.

“We know where they are and they are surrounded,” Hamza said on Sunday, adding that police were continuing their preparations for the deportation of the group holed up in a seaside village.

He said the group had agreed to go back on condition that its representatives were allowed to meet with certain Malaysian personalities.

Hamza said the group was also seeking recognition as the Royal Sultanate of Sulu Army, in addition to a promise that there would be no deportation of the Sulu community, which had been in Sabah for a long time, as a result of an ongoing Royal Commission of Inquiry on the state’s illegal immigrant problem.

All the demands were rejected, he said.

“We have told them this was the wrong platform and they will have to go back,” Hamza added.

Asked about the growing number of Malaysians who have expressed irritation about the situation through various online social network sites, he said: “We have to look at this from various perspectives.

“We are dealing with human beings. They are not militants and they came because of certain demands. If they come here as militants such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, our approach would have been different.

“Most of the people from southern Philippines are also related to the people in Sabah,” he said.

On Philippine media reports quoting Sultan Jamalul Kiram III as telling his brother, Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram, to stay put at Kampung Tanduo, Hamza said “that was his personal opinion.”

He noted that while Kiram was recognized by the Philippine government as sultan of Sulu, the people of Sulu crowned Jamalul’s kin, Ismail Kiram, as their sultan.

In the Know: PH claim to Sabah ‘dormant’ but KL pays annual rent

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 19): In the Know: PH claim to Sabah ‘dormant’ but KL pays annual rent

In October last year, President Aquino described the territorial dispute with Malaysia over Sabah as “dormant at this point in time.”

While the Philippines’ pending claim to Sabah is dormant, the country has never relinquished its claim to Sabah and Kuala Lumpur continues to pay a yearly rent to the heirs of the sultan of Sulu.

The Philippines’ claim to Sabah (formerly North Borneo) is based on the historic ownership of the territory by the hereditary sultans of Sulu.

North Borneo, which used to be under the sultan of Brunei, was ceded to the sultan of Sulu in 1704 after the sultan of Sulu helped quell a rebellion instigated against the sultan of Brunei, according to descendants of Sultan Jamalul Ahlam of the kingdom of Sulu.

Sabah was leased to the British colonizers of what is now Malaysia in the late 19th century. In 1878, Ahlam leased Sabah to the British North Borneo Co. for 5,300 Mexican gold pieces a year. The company religiously remitted payments until 1936, when Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, the 32nd sultan of Sulu, died.

The British consul in Manila recommended the suspension of payments because President Manuel L. Quezon did not recognize Kiram II’s successor. In 1950, Sultan Punjungan Kiram, crown prince of the sultanate at the time of Kiram II’s death, went to the British consulate in Manila to demand the resumption of payments.

Kiram II’s heirs also filed a case in the Sessions Court of North Borneo, which directed the British company to resume payments. The company complied for several years, but it stopped paying when its rights to Sabah were transferred to the newly established Federation of Malaysia in 1963. The new government assumed the payment but in ringgit.

Every year, the Malaysian Embassy in the Philippines issues a check in the amount of 5,300 ringgit (about P77,000) to the legal counsel of Ahlam’s descendants. Malaysia considers the amount an annual “cession” payment for the disputed state, while the sultan’s descendants consider it “rent.”

MILF to Sulu sultan’s heirs: We consulted you on peace talks

From the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Feb 19): MILF to Sulu sultan’s heirs: We consulted you on peace talks

“We have reached out to you as we did to other groups in Mindanao on the subject of resolving the conflict in Mindanao. We did this on several occasions particularly when the MILF peace panel had a sortie in Zamboanga City more than a year ago.”
This was the explanation of Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the MILF Committee on Information, in response to allegation purportedly coming from one of the spokesmen of the Sultan of Sulu that they were not consulted on issues surrounding the GPH-MILF peace negotiation.

Currently, followers of the Sulu sultan are reportedly involved in the standoff in Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia.

In the Zamboanga forum, one of the relatives of the Sulu sultan asked the policy of the MILF regarding the sultanate especially the Sulu sultanate and the answer was: “We want to preserve it but we will not revive it.”

“The sultanate is part of Moro history and heritage and it is one of the basis of the present Moro’s assertion of its right to self-determination,” Musa stressed.

He, however, clarified that the MILF will not stand on the way if the various sultanates would want to revive themselves.

“We respect their decisions,” he added.

In 1935, Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon abolished the sultanates and the datu system. In one of his meeting with them, he had this blunt message:

“… The sultans have no more rights than the humblest Moro and that under my administration the humblest Moro will be given as much protection as any datu under the law, and that his rights will be recognized exactly as the rights of a datu will be, and that every datu will have to comply with his duties as citizen to same extent and in the same manner that the humblest Moro is obligated.”

In the sultanate or datu system, the people are generally divided into three categories: the nobles, the commoners, and the slaves. Some say correctly or wrongly this system has roots in the caste system in India. The only difference is that amongst Moros, slaves were at times given the chance to buy his or her freedom or were freed by benevolent nobles.

Asked to comment on the Sabah standoff, Musa declined to make any statement, saying it is highly sensitive issue that the MILF Central Committee has not yet made the necessary guidelines.

“It is better to remain silent,” he confessed.

Military housing backed

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 19): Military housing backed

Vice President Jejomar Binay said soldiers who are ready to give up their lives for the country need more than a roof over their heads.

“The housing program for soldiers is only part of the government’s efforts to improve lives in recognition of their unselfish contribution in shaping a new Philippines,” he said in Pilipino at the homecoming of the Philippine Military Academy over the weekend.

Binay, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, said he expected the Department of Budget and Management to release on time over P20 billion pledged by the national government for the housing needs of the armed forces.

Addressing the PMA alumni following the parade of classes at Borromeo field, he underscored the discipline of the soldiers joined by the citizenry to reject oppression in the historic EDSA Revolution of February 1986.

Binay said the same sense of discipline would enable the nation to face “more complex issues on our territorial integrity, such as the challenge of the West Philippine Sea,” climate change and internal security.

PAF gets last batch of Polish helicopters

From the Philippine Star (Feb 18): PAF gets last batch of Polish helicopters

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) took delivery of two brand new helicopters yesterday morning at Clark Air Base in Pampanga.

Col. Ernesto Okol, PAF spokesman, said the arrival of the two W-3A Sokol (Falcon series) helicopters at the Clark Air Base, which is adjacent to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, completed the multi-billion contract between the PAF and the Polish firm PZL-Swidnik that involved the purchase of eight helicopters.

“The delivery completes the contract for the government to purchase eight Sokol helicopters from PZL-Swidnik in the amount of P2,857,864,625.18,” Okol said.
PZL-Swidnik delivered to the PAF the first batch of four Sokol helicopters on Feb. 2, 2012. The next two aircraft were delivered in November last year.

The procurement deal is part of the military’s modernization program currently being pushed by the Aquino government.

Prior to the final delivery of the helicopters, a PAF team conducted a pre-delivery inspection of the two new aircraft at the PZL-Swidnik facility in Poland early this month to ensure that all the parts and the equipment to be delivered are in proper order.

“The two main fuselages and other equipment and parts of the two Sokols were transported into the country aboard an AN-124 transport plane yesterday.

After the inspection and inventory, maintenance personnel from PZL-Swidnik would assemble the two helicopters and PAF pilots would conduct test flights, Okol said.

PH tells Pinoys in standoff: Leave

From Rappler (Feb 18): PH tells Pinoys in standoff: Leave

The group of Filipinos who crossed into the Malaysian state of Sabah to reclaim it as their territory last week should "leave peacefully to prevent further bloodshed," the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday, February 18.

"We are endeavoring to have the group leave Lahad Datu peacefully and this remains to be a work in progress in coordination with the Malaysian government. We want this issue to be settled in a peaceful manner," DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez told Rappler in a text message.

Hernandez noted that the Philippine government appreciates the Malaysian government's "resolve" to handle the issue "through negotiation."

"As to who the group is and its objectives, we don't have an official confirmation yet," he added.

Meanwhile, security officials in Sabah continue to plan the deportation of the Filipinos as negotiations have come to an end."

"We did not entertain any demands set by them and also did not give them any recognition," Malaysian Internal Security and Public Order Director Salleh Mat Rasid said on Sunday, February 17.

According to the online site of Malaysian newspaper Daily Express, Salleh explained the foreigners have not been yet transferred back to Tawi-Tawi because the weather has not been good for sea travel.

"What is important is that the safety of this State is always guaranteed and we will go through with the deportation soon," said Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib.

No timeline for deportation

Hamza added that "police are making efforts to deport them" but refused to specify exactly when that will happen.

"Now we can only carry out the process of sending them back so that they can find a suitable channel to air their demands," he explained, and added: "Whether they agree or not, we have to deport them (…) They are not supposed to say anything, they are in our country."

Hamza denied rumors that the group had flown a Philippine flag in the area and that Ismail Kiram, a descendant of the Sulu sultanate was involved in the negotiations.
Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram said on Sunday in Manila that his followers -- some 400 people including 20 gunmen, although Malaysia puts the number at 80-100 -- will not leave despite being cornered by security forces.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte called on Saturday for a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

The southern Philippine-based Islamic sultanate once controlled parts of Borneo, including the site of the standoff.

Its heirs have been receiving a nominal yearly compensation package from Malaysia under a long-standing agreement for possession of Sabah. (Read: Sabah standoff: 'Publicity stunt.')

PHL now conducting study of possible anti-ship missiles

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 18): PHL now conducting study of possible anti-ship missiles

A committee is now evaluating the best and most affordable missile which will be hopefully installed on the country's two Hamilton-class cutters now in service at the Philippine Navy (PN).

The Department of National Defense (DND) observer said that missiles being evaluated are the anti-ship type which will give the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) more capability in protecting the country's maritime domain.

Having the anti-missiles will also give the two ships more firepower in engaging would-be poachers and intruders.

The DND official declined to identify the exact type of missile being studied and stressed that the matter is "top secret".

Some defense officials earlier said that the Harpoon is the ideal missile system for the PN's Hamilton-class cutters as the weapon was already deployed aboard the USCGC Mellon, the sister ship of the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, in January 1990.

The USCGC Mellon also received an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) suite, including the AN/SQS-26 sonar and Mark 46 torpedoes.  The ASW suite and Harpoon capability were removed due to fiscal constraints in the latter part of the 1990s, but served as a proof of capability for all USCG cutters.

The Harpoon is an all-weather, over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile system, developed and manufactured by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing Defense, Space & Security).

In 2004, Boeing delivered the 7,000th Harpoon unit since the weapon's introduction in 1977. The missile system has also been further developed into a land-strike weapon, the standoff land attack missile.

The regular Harpoon uses active radar homing, and a low-level, sea-skimming cruise trajectory to improve survivability and lethality.

The missile's launch platforms include:

* Fixed-wing aircraft (the AGM-84, without the solid-fuel rocket booster).

* Surface ships (the RGM-84, fitted with a solid-fuel rocket booster that detaches when expended, to allow the missile's main turbojet to maintain flight).

* Submarines (the UGM-84, fitted with a solid-fuel rocket booster and encapsulated in a container to enable submerged launch through a torpedo tube).

* Coastal defense batteries, from which it would be fired with a solid-fuel rocket booster.

Standoff will not affect talks

From Business World (Feb 17): Standoff will not affect talks

The standoff between Malaysian forces and armed supporters of the Sultanate of Sulu in Sabah will not affect talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), both sides said yesterday.

"It [standoff] will have no effect on the peace process to which the parties and major stakeholders remain committed," Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Q. Deles said in a text message yesterday.

A similar position on the issue was expressed by Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, when asked if the conflict will not affect the talks.

"Yes. I’m sure," he said in a separate text message.

The incident may have revived past differences between Manila and Kuala Lumpur over the ownership of Sabah, even as relations have improved in recent years with Malaysia facilitating the peace negotiations between the government and MILF since 2001.

Peace efforts broke down in 2000 after the Estrada administration adopted an all-out war policy against the Moro rebels.

Last week, Malaysian authorities reported the intrusion of at least 100 armed men in Lahad Datu, a town east of Sabah in Borneo. Lahad Datu can be reached via an hour-long boat ride from the southernmost province of Tawi-Tawi.

Malaysian officials and Philippine authorities have confirmed that the armed men clad in camouflage are supporters of the Sultanate of Sulu on a mission to reclaim Sabah.

By history, Sabah has been part of the regional power of the sultanate prior to Spanish colonization of the Philippines in the 16th century, as well as the British empire in Malaysia.

It has been noted that the British government has been paying rental fee to the sultanate for Sabah. However, during the declaration of independence of Malaysia in 1957, the entire Sabah was made part of Malaysia. The position of the Sulu Sultanate over the issue has been overshadowed when the Moro revolt against the Philippine government in Mindanao started in the 1960s.

Sulu is now one of the southernmost provinces of the Philippines.

Professor Ali T. Yacub, who has been advising the Sulu sultan, said in a interview that the conflicting claims over Sabah by Malaysia and the heirs of the Sulu sultanate is a wake-up call to the Philippine government on the issue, which had been raised during consultations and fora organized by the state on the current talks with the MILF.

Mr. Yacub said that the position of the Sultanate of Sulu was ignored during the consultations.

"The Philippine government should not underestimate this sensitive situation. If not handled quickly, it will escalate to something bigger," he said in an interview yesterday.


Meanwhile, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has advised armed followers in Sulu against joining and reinforcing the armed group in Sabah.

"The MNLF is not a party to this issue," according to a statement released to media yesterday.

Explaining the armed group’s aim, a leader cited the claim to citizenship in the sultanate.

"They demand to be acknowledged as citizens of the Sultanate of Sulu," Abdullah Kiram, a son of the Sultan of Sulu, Ismael Kiram the II, told Reuters in Manila.

"They want to be acknowledged as citizens of their own land. They own Sabah," he added.

The Philippine government has taken steps to address the situation.

"This matter is being handled by the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) in coordination with security forces," said Ms. Deles.

CPP: Abide by people's government guidelines regarding election campaigns

From the CPP Website (Feb 18): Abide by people's government guidelines regarding election campaigns

Without exception, all candidates and their political parties participating in the May elections who plan to conduct their political activities within territories under the authority of the People’s Democratic Government must abide by all prevailing guidelines and secure the permission of the duly authorized revolutionary committees.
These guidelines seek to ensure that the reactionary elections are conducted in a way that do not violate the people’s rights and interests and in a manner that is peaceful, orderly and beneficial to the people.

Candidates and their representatives shall be allowed access to territories of the People’s Democratic Government to conduct their political campaign as long as they comply with the guidelines governing the conduct of their political campaigns related to the reactionary elections.

They shall be prohibited from bringing along their private armed goons or military, police or paramilitary escorts. They shall not be allowed to intimidate, threaten or coerce the people or employ violence against opposing political camps.

They shall not be allowed to conduct vote-buying activities or to bribe community leaders in exchange for votes.

They shall abide by the schedules to be determined by the local committees in order to prevent overlapping with schedules of other candidates and cause the least disruption to the economic, political and cultural activities in the area. They will be encouraged to conduct face-to-face dialogs with the people in order to provide them an opportunity to hear the people air their grievances and express their opinion and lay out their programs of action.

The People’s Democratic Government reserves the right to restrict the entry of candidates who are guilty of serious crimes against the people and the revolutionary movement. These include the incorrigibly corrupt government officials, those guilty of grave abuses of human rights, drug lords and people running and protecting criminal syndicates. Candidates who use the election campaign to facilitate the entry of military and police intelligence agents will likewise be prohibited entry in areas under the jurisdiction of the revolutionary authorities.

These guidelines have been drawn up in accordance with the demands of the Filipino people. For long, they have been victims of a rotten election system. Under the oppressive ruling system, dirty reactionary politicians, tyrannical landlords and brutal warlords hold sway and subject the people to coercion, intimidation and bribery in their drive to get themselves “elected”.

Reactionary elections have never been about democratic discourse, but about the use of armed might and wealth to force and bribe themselves into power. Once in power, these reactionary politicians use the bureaucracy and its coercive apparatus to further the oppression and exploitation of the people.

The emergence and existence of the People’s Democratic Government alongside the reactionary government of the big landlords and big bourgeois compradors have provided the people with an instrument to confront the reactionary elections, oppose its most brutal and anti-democratic facets and gain palpable benefits from it. By enforcing its guidelines, the People’s Democratic Government has effectively reduced incidents of violence related to the conduct of the reactionary elections within its areas of jurisdiction.

Over the past several years, the reactionary regime and its armed forces have disparaged the guidelines governing reactionary elections inside areas of jurisdiction of the People’s Democratic Government. Such a derogatory campaign seeks to undermine the fact that the revolutionary movement effectively exercises state power and that such state power is widely recognized and respected.

Despite such counter-revolutionary propaganda, candidates and political parties participating in the reactionary elections continue to approach the revolutionary authorities in order to seek compliance with the guidelines and policies of the People’s Democratic Government. Meetings are conducted freely at the national, regional, provincial and local levels in order to discuss the problems of the people, the programs of action of the candidates and the program and policies of the revolutionary movement.

Such meetings also provide the opportunity to explore areas of possible cooperation and coordination including the promotion of agricultural production, raising rural income and advancing educational, literacy, cultural, health care and other programs of the People’s Democratic Government.

The rottenness of the reactionary elections and the reactionary bureaucratic system are part of the oppressive and exploitative ruling system that the Filipino people seek to overthrow and replace with a genuine democratic system of governance.

Within the areas of jurisdiction of the People’s Democratic Government, such a system of democratic governance is being exercised and developed where the people conduct genuine democratic elections to select their officials and representatives from their ranks, and where they can fully engage in political and state activities.

CPP: AFP Suspension of Military Operations required for release of 2 POWs

From the CPP Website (Feb 17): AFP Suspension of Military Operations required for release of 2 POWs

Rubi Del Mundo
NDFP Southern Mindanao Chapter

In response to the National Democratic Front Southern Mindanao’s earlier decision to release the two prisoners of war (POWs), the New People’s Army Comval North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command has unilaterally declared a four-day suspension of military offensives on February 19-22, 2013 in the towns of Kapalong, San Isidro, Asuncion, New Corella all in Davao del Norte and Laak in Compostela Valley.

This is to pave way for the safe and orderly release of POWs Private First Class Jezreel Maata Culango (serial No. 89158) of the 60th Infantry Battalion and Police Officer 1 Ruel Pasion (Badge No.194812).

While on temporary ceasefire in the aforesaid areas, the NPA remains in active defensive posture against the enemy’s attack.

The 10th ID-AFP should reciprocate the SOMO and cease from its fascist Oplan Bayanihan operations, or else further delay the release of the two POWs.

As an act of humanitarianism, the NDF deems it appropriate to archive the documentation pertaining to its preliminary investigation against the two POWs who were involved in the 60th IB and PNP’s counter-revolutionary and anti-people military operations in Comval and Agusan boundaries.

The investigating body formed by the NDF found the two POWs to have committed lesser offenses, and thus recommended for their release. This, however, does not prevent the revolutionary forces from initiating future arrest against the two POWs should they be found to commit crimes against the people and other human rights abuses.

Sultan of Sulu: Leave Sabah? It's our home, the Malaysians merely pay rent

From InterAksyon (Feb 18): Sultan of Sulu: Leave Sabah? It's our home, the Malaysians merely pay rent

Followers of a Philippine sultan who crossed to the Malaysian state of Sabah this month will not leave and are reclaiming the area as their ancestral territory, the sultan said Sunday amid a tense standoff.

Sultan Jamalul Kiram said his followers - some 400 people including 20 gunmen - were resolute in staying despite being cornered by security forces, with the Kuala Lumpur government insisting the group return to the Philippines.

"Why should we leave our own home? In fact they (the Malaysians) are paying rent (to us)," he told reporters in Manila.

"Our followers will stay in (the Sabah town of) Lahad Datu. Nobody will be sent to the Philippines. Sabah is our home," he said.

The sultan did not directly threaten violence but said "there will be no turning back for us".

Malaysian officials have said that many of the group have weapons, but Kiram insisted his followers made the trip unarmed.

"If they have arms, they were already in Sabah," the sultan said.

The southern Philippine-based Islamic sultanate once controlled parts of Borneo, including the site of the stand-off, and its heirs have been receiving a nominal yearly compensation package from Malaysia under a long-standing agreement for possession of Sabah.

Kiram said he was prompted to send the group to Sabah after the sultanate was left out of a framework agreement sealed in October between Manila and Filipino Muslim rebels, which paves the way for an autonomous area in the southern Philippines that is home to the Muslim minority of the largely-Christian nation.

The sultanate's spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, later said the sultan's brother Raja Muda Abimuddin Kiram, who led the group to Sabah, had told him via telephone that the party was preparing to stay.

"The objective is to reside now in that place permanently, considering the sultanate owns Sabah by rights of sovereignty," he told AFP.

Idjirani said there were about 400 followers of the sultanate in the area, including about 20 who were armed.

On Thursday Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein put the number at between 80 to 100 gunmen.

Idjirani said the group would not instigate violence but would resist if provoked.

"We recognise the capability of Malaysia. We don't have the arms and capacity but we have the historical truth," he said, adding that the group's "fate is to see the recognition they are entitled to... or they die defending their ancestral rights".

Idjirani said President Benigno Aquino's senior aides had been in contact with the sultan and were willing to deliver a letter to the Malaysian government on his behalf for negotiations.

PH to bolster claim on disputed territories by asking UN to extend 200-mile EEZ

From InterAksyon (FEb 18): PH to bolster claim on disputed territories by asking UN to extend 200-mile EEZ

The Philippines plans to stake its claim before the United Nations on an area further outward from its western continental shelf to bolster sovereignty over territories in the West Philippine Sea.

Department of Energy (DOE) Undersecretary Ramon V. Oca said government agencies led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are preparing "the second part" of the country's claim over its continental shelf.

"If that is approved at the UNCLOS, that means we have the exclusive right to explore and exploit the resources within the continental shelf," Oca said, referring to the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas.

Under the UNCLOS, a coastal state's continental shelf extends 200 miles from its baselines. Claims beyond this limit are filed before the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) for resolution.

Last year, the UNCLCS approved the country's claim over its eastern continental shelf, which covers the Benham Rise, an undersea landmass spanning a 13 million hectare area in the offshore northeastern tip of Luzon.

The western flank of the Philippines' extended continental shelf covers parts of the West Philippine Sea.

Oca said the DOE has acquired seismic data from foreign oil and gas companies which had previously conducted exploration work in the area that "will form part of our basis."

However, the country's claims are still subject to those of its neighbors "because we might have overlapping claims [and] this has to be resolved by peaceful means," Oca said.

Besides China, the Philippines' extended western continental shelf may also overlap with territories being claimed by Vietnam and Malaysia.