Wednesday, February 20, 2013

MILF: MILF Local agencies strengthen reporting and feed backing mechanism

From the MILF Website (Feb 20): MILF Local agencies strengthen reporting and feed backing mechanism

The local agencies of the MILF in Sugoda Buayan Province recently held an inter-agency meeting on February 9 at Campogan Beach Resort in Glan, Sarangani Province, in order to strengthen their reporting and feed backing mechanism.

Around 87 participants comprised of the provincial and municipal officers of the Political Committee, Social Welfare Committee, Dawah Committee, Tarbiyah Committee, Agency for Youth Affairs, Officers of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces and representatives from the Darul Ifta from Sugoda Buayan shared their respective accomplishment reports in the assembly.
Among the issued they discussed was how to regulate solicitation for important activities they conduct in the grass root level. They also amended the schedule of their regular inter-agency meeting from quarterly to bi-monthly.

The participants underwent brainstorming in order address some concerns and challenges they encounter in the course of the delivery of services in the communities.

The BIAF members were also reminded to avoid wearing of military uniform outside the perimeter of their camps which is part of the ceasefire mechanism between the MILF and the government.

One of the most important issues discussed was how they can widen their scope and be more efficient in advocating the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in the Sugoda Buayan Province which is comprised of Sarangani, South Cotabato and General Santos City.

The participants were amenable that advocating the FAB is a tedious task but they have to impart their resources and effort to popularize the said agreement which is hoped to pave way for a lasting and effective solution for the Mindanao problem.

Gov’t troops recover NPA camp

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Feb 20): Gov’t troops recover NPA camp

An alleged camp of the rebel group, the New People’s Army, was recovered by the government troops in San Isidro town, Northern Samar last Monday afternoon.

The recovered NPA camp was located in Barangay Happy Valley of said town, Lt. Colonel Noel Vestuir, commanding officer of the 20th Infantry Battalion which is based in Lope de Vega, also in Northern Samar.

Vestuir, in a press statement, said that the abandoned camp was discovered by the government troops while doing their combat patrol along the area at around 1:05 in the afternoon.
The Army official said that the soldiers, led by Sergeant Antonio Seberre, recovered, among others, two improvised anti-personnel mines; two detonating cord; electric firing wires; a rifle grenade and some personnel belongings of the rebels.
Vestuir said that the recovery of improvised explosives inside the abandoned camp only confirmed that the rebels are out to commit “atrocities” against the people.
“The use of landmines is a gross violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law wherein the Communist Party of the Philippines/NPA/National Democratic Front are signatories,” Vestuir said.
Along this line, Vestuir asked the NPAs to return to the folds of the law and live normal lives.
“With the series of discovery of their camps, it is clear that we have already narrowed the sphere of their influence and it would not be long for our troops to eventually find them,” Vestuir said.
The discoveries of these camps, albeit abandoned, were mainly due to the cooperation of the people in the barangays, the Army official said.

Peace pact boosts government's development efforts in Mindanao–DAR

From the Business Mirror (Feb 20): Peace pact boosts government's development efforts in Mindanao–DAR

A PEACE pact facilitated by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) between Christians and Muslim agrarian-reform beneficiaries in Makilala, North Cotabato, recently will help boost the government’s peace effort in Mindanao.
Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes said the peace covenant signed by leaders of two warring groups of farmers on January 31 could put an end to almost four decades of bloody encounters over the 178-hectare land in the area.
Delos Reyes said the signing of the Peace Covenant would enable the DAR to complete the process of land titling as well as actual distribution of land.
He commended the agency’s field officials and personnel and the local government officials of North Cotabato for working hand in hand to forge the agreement between the feuding groups in Sitio Lacobe.
“Now, our people in the field can do their work, without fear of intimidation, to ensure that only deserving agrarian-reform beneficiaries would own a piece of land in the contested area,” he added.
The implementation of agrarian reform program in Sitio Lacobe had been hampered by bloody encounters between two groups of farmer-beneficiaries—the Baclid group and the Christian ARBs.
The rift reportedly turned more violent after the Baclid group and the Christian ARBs sought intervention from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the National Democratic Front (NDF), respectively, to firm up their claim to the contested area.
The roots of the problem were traced to the early 1970s, when a group of Moro farmers led by a certain Sailila Baclid was displaced from Sitio Lacobe owing to armed encounters between the Moro “Blackshirts” and the Christian “Ilagas.”
The Baclid group claimed that they were adamant to return to their land in Sitio Lacobe because the Ilagas were against the presence of Moros in the area. Their problem turned worse when some of the Ilagas joined the communist New People’s Army, which used Sitio Lacobe as a training ground.
The Baclid group recounted that in 1990, the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (Maro) of Tulunan, North Cotabato, met with Sailila Baclid and advised the latter and his group to return to their land in Sitio Lacobe.
The move was necessary to enable the DAR to include the Baclid group on the list of potential agrarian-reform beneficiaries who may be given individual parcels of land under the program.
The Baclid group managed to return to their land only after the NPA’s local unit gave them permission to do so, enabling the Moro farmers to construct houses anew and plant rubber trees, rice and corn.
In 2001, for unknown reasons, NPA guerrillas allegedly attacked the Moro residents in Sitio Lacobe, forcing Baclid and his group to leave the area.
Sometime in January 2005, it was the turn of Christian agrarian-reform beneficiaries to leave the area owingto threats and harassments by armed groups identified with the MILF.
It was alleged that some members of the MILF, who sympathize with the cause of the Baclid’s clan, were out to reclaim the land belonging to the Moro farmers.
A series of dialogues organized by the DAR and the local government were held to find a solution to the conflict, but to no avail. One of the dialogues was even participated in by then-Party-list Rep. Joel Virador of Bayan Muna and MILF Spokesman Eid Kabalu.
Later in 2007 an ambush in Sitio Lacobe resulted in the death of a certain Salem and a member of the Baclid family.
A breakthrough occurred in January last year, when both the Baclid group and the Christian ARBs agreed to meet separately with Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (Paro) Marion Abella through the intervention of Edriz Gandalibo, appointed deputy governor for Muslim Affairs by Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, and Pastor Estrella and Reynulfo La Paz of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Cotabato.
During the consultations, Abella mapped out lots of the contested area in Sitio Lacobe and identified beneficiaries from both the Baclid group and the Christian ARBs.
This effort further gained ground in the later part of the month when Governor Taliño-Mendoza called for a province-wide consultation-meeting for all land-related conflicts in the province.
Apprised of breakthroughs in the Lacobe band conflict, she promised support for the negotiations and vowed to help finance the survey cost in the contested area, if necessary.
On August 3, 2011, the local government of Makilala formally endorsed the issue to the DAR for intervention and speedy resolution.
With Reyes’s orders, DAR Regional Director Nasser Musali and Abella stepped up their coordination efforts with the provincial government and reached out to the conflicting parties through the help of influential groups to forge a peace agreement between the feuding groups of farmer-beneficiaries.
On January 31 delos Reyes stood witness as the DAR formally sowed the seeds of peace and development for the farmers of Sitio Lacobe through a Peace Covenant signed by the two groups.
The DAR offered a long line of development projects that will be laid down to help the community.

Troops track down NPA rebels in Bukidnon attack

From the Business Mirror (Feb 20): Troops track down NPA rebels in Bukidnon attack

GOVERNMENT forces have been sent to pursue New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas who staged several attacks early Wednesday in Bukidnon.
“Yes…ongoing…[pursuit operations were launched] immediately after the attacks were reported,” Lt. Col. Eugenio Osias, Army 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division spokesman, said.
He said the attacks launched by some 100 NPA rebels began in Sumilao at 6:30 a.m. and in Impasugong and La Fortuna towns 10 minutes later.
Osias said the targets were the Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. compound in Camp Phillips, Manolo Fortich town, and the Dole Food Co. Inc. compound in Impasugong.
Osias added that about 15 armed rebels were in each of the checkpoints they set up and that about 50 entered the Del Monte compound in three vans and an Isuzu Forward truck.
“Pagpasok na pagpasok, inisprayan lahat ng mga guardia. Patay ang isa, dalawa ang wounded. Sinunog nila iyong tractor, truck sprayer and other equipment,” Osias said, adding that the rebels also ransacked the offices, taking with them valuables, cellular telephones and computers.
He added that the rebels also placed spikes along Sayre Highway.
Osias said the rebels took the Dahilayan barangay chairman and four habal-habal drivers as human shield, “Kasi nakadikit nga yung tropa [ng 4ID]; so iyon ang ginawa nila para hindi makahabol [ang mga sundalo].”
He said the barangay chairman was released midmorning.
Osias said initial inventory revealed that the rebels were able to get a caliber .38 revolver from one of the security guards, and M-16 and an M-14 rifles from policemen they intercepted at the checkpoints.
“We were initially told it was armed robbery so the first responders were eight policemen.”
Osias added the 4ID initially cleared first the highway and secured Camp Phillips.
He said policemen have secured the crime scenes.
Investigators have yet to come up with an estimated cost of damage that Del Monte and Dole sustained.
While both multinational agricultural companies have pineapple plantations in Bukidnon, Del Monte said in its reports last year that it has decided to abandon its banana production.
On the other hand, Dole Food won in a lawsuit filed by 2,935 “plaintiffs claiming to be banana workers who had been injured from alleged exposure more than 30 years ago to the agricultural chemical DBCP.”
Osias said charges will be filed against the NPA rebels who participated in the attack for including civilians among the targets.
“By involving noncombatants in their operation, the NPA has violated international humanitarian law.”

‘Crising’ stops US contracted ships to extricate USS Guardian

From the Daily Tribune (Feb 21): ‘Crising’ stops US contracted ships to extricate USS Guardian

Strong winds and rough sea conditions brought about by tropical depression “Crising” resulted in the stoppage yet again of the ongoing efforts by United States-contracted salvage ships to extricate warship USS Guardian from the Tubbataha Reef where it ran aground last month.

Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, commander of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Palawan District, said that salvage ship Jascon 25, contracted by the US Navy from Singapore, only managed to position itself at the site upon its arrival in Tubbataha on Tuesday.

“There is still no salvage activity because of the unfavorable weather and sea conditions prevailing in the area… because Crising passed through the southern tip of Palawan,” said Evangelista.

“They decided yesterday (Tuesday) to let the weather disturbance to pass,” added Evangelista.

Until yesterday morning, Evangelista said that very rough seas and strong winds were being experienced in Tubbataha.

The PCG official said that Jascon 25 initially tested its dynamic positioning system, which does not require ship anchoring on seabed, in Tubbataha and it worked well.
“It’s for safety reasons,” said Evangelista. “As soon as the weather improves (the activity will proceed),” he added.

Earlier, Jascon 25 and SMIT Borneo, another US-contracted salvage ship also from Singapore, went back to Puerto Princesa City to transfer equipment and personnel necessary in the actual dismantling of USS Guardian also due to rough sea conditions.
Jascon 25 returned to Tubbataha on Monday only to encounter continuing rough seas and strong winds brought about by tropical depression Crising.

Evangelista said that SMIT Borneo is just awaiting additional equipment to be utilized in the dismantling of USS Guardian before leading back to Tubbataha Reef.‘crising’-stops-us-contracted-ships-to-extricate-uss-guardian.html

CPP: CPP congratulates NPA raid on foreign-owned plantations

From the CPP Website (Feb 20): CPP congratulates NPA raid on foreign-owned plantations

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) commended and congratulated the New People’s Army (NPA) for successfully launching simultaneous raids against large multinational plantations in Bukidnon. “The punitive attacks against the multinational plantations have long been demanded by the indigenous people and peasant masses in Bukidnon and other parts of Mindanao whose ancestral lands have been seized, plundered, despoiled and poisoned by big foreign multinational corporations.”

Yesterday, several companies of NPA Red fighters under the North Central Mindanao Region (NCMR) command simultaneously attacked the Del Monte motorpool garage at Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon; the Del Monte fertilizer warehouse and logistics office at Vista Villa, Sumilao, Bukidnon; and the Dole Philippines office in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon. They proceeded to disable the equipment and destroy other capital goods used in the pineapple plantations.

Other NPA units set up several checkpoints along the highway stretching from Malaybalay, Bukidnon to Cagayan de Oro to prevent the entry military reinforcements. Initial reports by the NPA command indicate that at least ten high-powered rifles and scores of assorted firearms were confiscated in the simultaneous raids.

According to NDF-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, the simultaneous raids on the plantations in Bukidnon are punitive measures against the multinational corporations whose operations in the province are among the root causes of the massive flooding in Cagayan de Oro in the aftermath of typhoon Sendong in December 2011. “This is one way of delivering justice to the 2,000 people who died in the floods.”

“We have been calling on the owners and operators of these plantations to reorient their businesses and stop the expansion of their plantations in Mindanao,” added Madlos. “These plantations have caused grave damage to the environment.”

The Del Monte and Dole companies are among the biggest multinational corporations operating in the Philippines. Del Monte has 23,000 hectares of pineapple plantations in the country. Its Camp Philips plantation in Bukidnon spans 9,000 hectares. It also operates a 5,000-hectare banana plantation in Agusan del Norte. Dole Philippines, on the other hand, operates more than 35,000 hectares of pineapple and banana plantations in various parts of Mindanao.

“Workers and farm-workers employed by these big multinational corporations are among the most exploited and oppressed,” pointed out the CPP.

“Under the Aquino regime, foreign multinational corporations are ever expanding their operations,” said the CPP. Peasant organizations exposed last year an offer by the Aquino government to open up another 44,000 hectares of land in Quezon, Bukidnon for plantations, threatening peasants and rice production in the area. The Aquino regime also supports these multinational corporations by providing them armed protection by allowing them to set up Investment Defense Forces that will be trained and commanded by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The CPP calls for subjecting these vast plantations to land reform and converting these to the production of food crops primarily for local consumption. “We must put an end to the dominance and control of foreign big multinational corporations which decide which crops to produce for the export market.”

The CPP urged the NPA in various parts of Mindanao to continue stepping up its offensives against foreign multinational corporations and their armed minions. “The revolutionary forces must punish the worst of the plunderers and destroyers of the environment which are responsible for grave calamities which have killed thousands upon thousands and dealt massive harm on the people’s livelihood over the past several years.”

CPP/NPA: NPA attacks Del Monte and Dole-Stanfilco

Posted to the CPP Website (Feb 20): NPA attacks Del Monte and Dole-Stanfilco

Alan Juanito
NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Operations Command (Jiito Tito Command)

The New People’s Army under the Mt. Kitanglad Sub-Regional Command of North Central Mindanao Region launched coordinated and simultaneous attacks on Del Monte and Dole-Stanfilco companies around 6:00 pm this February 19, 2013.

The NPA units attacked the motor pool and admin building and destroyed the equipment in Del Monte Philippines’ main camp in Camp Phillips, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon; attacked a Del Monte sattelite camp in Villavista, Sumilao, Bukidnon; and confiscated firearms from the armed security guards in Dole-Stanfilco’s La Fortuna Plantation in La Fortuna, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon. In a partial report gathered from the field operations command, the NPA has so far destroyed nine heavy equipments, two warehouses and an office in the satellite camp in Villavista. The NPA seized 19 assorted firearms as well as computers from this operation. Some of these were seized from the unit under Supt Jumalon of PNP -Manolo Fortich, unaware that the NPA were ready to intercept them on the way to the main camp. An armed security guard was killed while two others were wounded, all belonging to Kadre Security Agency owned by a Palparan minion, Pastor Alcover.

This simultaneous and coordinated military operation is a forthright statement that the revolutionary movement is determined in meting out punitive actions against the giant agribusiness companies for exploiting and oppressing the workers, peasants and Lumads, and seriously ravaging the environment. After a series of killer typhoons wrought havoc to the hapless victims, the culpability of the environmentally-destructive operations of logging, agribusiness and mining companies is repeatedly exposed. Now is the time to serve justice to the victims of these man-made calamities.
The sudden surge of flood water in Cagayan River caused by Tropical Storm Sendong, which swept thousands of lives and billions worth of property, clearly shows the extent of current environmental destruction in the region. The once lush watershed forests of Kitanglad and Kalatungan Ranges, where the headwaters of the tributaries of Cagayan River originate, are gradually being denuded until now. In its foothills are waves upon waves of pineapple and banana plantations owned by the imperialist Dole and Del Monte companies. During heavy downpours, tons of soil contaminated with toxic chemicals is washed out to Cagayan River.

The environmental damage caused by pineapple plantations is comparable to that of mining, since the natural terrain is levelled using heavy machineries in preparation for planting. According to an environmentalist, for every hectare of pineapple, 100 tons of soil is eroded yearly.

Since the last decade, these agribusiness companies have been competing for amassing agricultural lands which are the main source of livelihood for the great majority of the population. Del Monte, Dole and SUMIFRU, which dominate this sector, in collusion with landlords, are the most agressive in grabbing the lands being tilled by peasants for food crops and replacing them with fruits for export.

Del Monte has been operating in the region for almost a hundred years now. Up to 90’s, Del Monte occupied 45,617 hectares of pineapples plantations. This does not include other areas which were not declared or which are nominally owned by other landlords and contract growers. From pineapple plantations, it expanded its operations to other fruits for export such as bananas and papayas. It continues to buy or rent land not only in Bukidnon, but has expanded now to the municipalities of the eastern part of Misamis Oriental accumulating a total of 57,172 hectares.

These wide stretches of land which are turned into plantations were once tilled by peasants and Lumads who were evicted from their homes and livelihood. They stand powerless against the company’s armed security, much more in legal battles in the reactionary court. The peasants and Lumads who were stripped of their lands are now tilling the slopes on the fringes of the plantations. There are even documented cases of gastro-intestinal epidemics involving displaced families feeding on food crops planted on the plantation periphery contaminated with highly-toxic chemicals Del Monte uses.
In 2010, it ranked 82nd of the top 1000 corporations in the Philippines with P16.67 billion revenue. While the Campos family which owns this company rakes billions of pesos in profits, the workers here remain poor because of low wages and lack of benefits; constantly fear getting laid off for expressing grievances; and endure the suppression of their rights by the armed security.

Dole on the other hand started investing here in the last decade. It now operates 16,698.7 hectares of plantations: 2,034 of which are planted with pineapple while 14,664 are utilized for banana. In 2010, it ranked 39th of the top 1000 corporation with P26.97 billion in revenue. Its workers suffer from exploitation and oppression. They receive poor wages—most of them are seasonally hired contractual workers—and, like the Del Monte workers, suffer from health-hazardous working conditions and the unjust treatment of the management. They worry all the more today for fear of getting laid off summarily because of Itucho Corporation’s impending takeover after the sell-of of Dole last year.

Once more, we reiterate our call to these companies to end all their environmentally-destructive operations, landgrabbing and their exploitative and oppressive activities. They must immediately stop the expansion of their plantations. As to their contractors, we warn them again to seriously consider the security of their business before closing deals with multinational agribusiness companies such as Del Monte and Dole.

CPP/NDF: The people's government confronts Tan political dynasty in Western Samar for serious crimes

Posted to the CPP Website (Feb 20): The people's government confronts Tan political dynasty in Western Samar for serious crimes

Fr. Santiago Salas (Ka Sanny)
NDFP Eastern Visayas Chapter

The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas said today that the People’s Democratic Government is confronting the Tan political dynasty in Western Samar for serious crimes against the people and the revolutionary movement. “The Tan political clan headed by Rep. Mila Tan in Western Samar is preparing to continue its hold on on the top elective positions in the province in the coming May elections,” said NDF-EV spokesperson Fr. Santiago Salas. “But the Tan family today is being held accountable by the people’s government for gross corruption, abetting human rights violations, and collaborating with the military’s “counterinsurgency” campaign. These serious crimes are grounds to deny entry to political candidates from the Tan family in areas under the jurisdiction of revolutionary authorities.”

Fr. Salas noted that Rep. Milagrosa Tan and her children, Gov. Sharee Ann Tan and Vice Gov. Stephen James Tan, have long been advancing their political and economic interests bygoing along with the fascist campaigns of the 8th Infantry Division. Aside from the three incumbent officials who are running for reelection, Rep. Tan’s two other children are seeking the mayoralties in Calbayog and Catbalogan cities, while her brother-in-law is running for congressman in the first district. “Human rights violations have raged in the province since 2005 under then 8th ID chief, the butcher Gen. Jovito Palparan, but the Tans never condemned but in fact helped cover up the military’s rights violations. They also slammed the door on rights violation victims seeking assistance, as well refused as to aid areas suffering from intense militarization.”

The NDF-EV spokesperson also said the Tan political dynasty not only collaborated but even colluded in corruption with the military. “Through their control of the provincial government, the Tans ensured financial and material support for the Social Integration Program, the 8th ID’s surrender campaign against the New People’s Army. The Tans also lent support to the 8th ID’s brutal Special Operations Team campaigns of psywar and intimidation against the people. They also allowed the military to be the contractor in projects used for “counterinsurgency”, as well as supported relief and medical missions meant to deodorize the military’s human rights violations.”

Aside from conniving with the military, Fr. Salas also accused the Tans of maintaining its own private army composed not only of goons but mercenary soldiers and policemen as well. “The Tans are known to have soldiers from the 34th IB and the 87th IB in their payroll. They are also connected to the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines through Sgt. Emil Soza. The Tans meanwhile effectively control the police provincial mobile group through their man, Insp. Jovy Espinido. The other armed henchmen of the Tans are the Casaljay group based in Sta. Margarita and Calbayog City; the so-called Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan in Paranas and Hinabangan towns; and goons from Masbate who hide out in the islands of Tagapul-an, Almagro and Daram.”

Fr. Salas said the Tan political dynasty is notoriously corrupt and has used its political power to entrench and further its economic interests at the expense of the people. “The Tans represent the ugliness of bureaucrat capitalism where government is run to serve not the people but local and foreign big business interests. The Tans have various business interests that are flourishing while they are in political office: moneylending, commercial stores, real estate and shipping. The Tan political dynasty, especially its matriarch Rep. Milagrosa Tan, also has a long history of plundering state coffers for ghost projects. Because of their intertwined political and business interests, the Tans have also outraged the people with their nepotism and political patronage, exemplified by Rep. Tan and her four children running for key local positions as if just business as usual. While the Tans benefit from their political and economic power, the government employees and common people suffer grinding poverty, militarization, and deprival of basic social services. If the Tans will have their way, they will certainly further their oppression and exploitation of the people.”

The NDF-EV spokesperson said the People’s Democratic Government is confronting the Tan political dynasty in Western Samar to safeguard the rights and interests of the people in the coming reactionary elections, and to ensure these will be peaceful, orderly and beneficial. “The Tans are enemies of the people in Western Samar. They face restriction of electoral access in the territories under the People’s Democratic Government. The Arnulfo Ortiz Command of the NPA-Western Samar also have orders to enforce the prohibition of armed goons and military, police and paramilitary escorts during the election period, and to watch out for the Tans who are notorious for these. The Tan political dynasty is also warned that using violence against its rivals, as well as vote-buying and bribery, will not be tolerated in the revolutionary territories. It is furthermore the responsibility of the NPA and the revolutionary forces to discuss and unite with the people regarding the accountabilities of the Tan political dynasty, so as to expose the farce of reactionary elections and to clarify that only the overthrow of the reactionary ruling system will pave the way for a genuine democratic government.

Group demands release of political prisoners

From the Philippine Star (Feb 20): Group demands release of political prisoners

Rights group Karapatan will picket on Wednesday the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in Ortigas, Pasig City to call for the release of all political prisoners in the country.

Karapatan members will also demand from the OPAPP officials to free the detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultants.

The group will also call for the government to resume the stalled peace talks with the NDFP.

Protesters will converge in front of the OPAPP office, Agustin Building, F. Ortigas Jr. Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig aroun 11 a.m.

Bicol’s most wanted falls

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20): Bicol’s most wanted falls

Police operatives arrested on Monday one of Bicol’s most wanted persons and a ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay (village) Bacayon, Batangas City, the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol said Wednesday.

Arrested was Ramon Ariente, 53, alias Fausto and Butch, a native of Del Gallego town in Camarines Sur, according to Supt. Renato Bataller, PNP Bicol spokesperson.

Battaler said police operatives from Bicol and Batangas City, armed with a warrant of arrest, had an entrapment operation that collared Ariente on Monday in a hideout in Barangay Bacayon. The suspect carried a P2.3-million bounty on his head for a string of criminal cases for murder, robbery in band, arson and attempted homicide.

A police intelligence report said Ariente is the current political officer and a member of the executive committee of the NPA Romulo Jallores Command operating in Camarines Norte. Before his arrest, Ariente replaced Nancy Ortega as the communist movement’s political officer after she was earlier arrested in Camarines Norte. The suspect was brought to Manila on Tuesday and was turned over to PNP custodial center in Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Army’s 7th ID urges local candidates not to give in to extortionists

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20): Army’s 7th ID urges local candidates not to give in to extortionists

FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija -- The 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division of the Philippine Army has called on the local political candidates not to give-in to any extortion demands by armed lawless groups.

Brig. Gen Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr., commander of the 7ID, said the armed lawless groups who claimed to have control over some areas are just extortionist trying to take advantage of the political candidates.

“I would like to emphasize, especially to our political candidates, that there are no more influenced barangays by those armed lawless groups in the whole area of responsibility of 7th Infantry Division,” Catapang said.

He said that security measures have been intensified to stop those kinds of illegal activities. However, he said the efforts of the military and the Philippine National Police (PNP) would not succeed without the cooperation of the political candidates.

“I appeal for your (political candidates) cooperation to deny any extortion demands by those armed lawless groups, 7ID is willing to provide area security during campaign period especially on far-flung areas by coordinating with us,” he said.

Catapang also encouraged local political candidates to ask their constituents with expired license or firearms without license to turn over to the nearest PNP for proper documentation and disposition. Those loose firearms might be used as an instrument for illegal activity during the election period, he said.

Likewise, he appealed to all local political candidates within regions 1 and 3 to cooperate for a peaceful and secure and fair election (SAFE).

PCG: Salvage sked of USS Guardian to be met despite inclement weather

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20): PCG: Salvage sked of USS Guardian to be met despite inclement weather

Despite being hounded by bad weather, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Wednesday expressed confidence that the salvage schedule of March 23 for the grounded USS Guardian (MCM-5) will still be meet.

US Navy salvage teams earlier said that retrieval works for the ill-fated minesweeper will be completed by the said date. PCG Palawan head Commodore Enrico Evangelista made this annoucement as salvage works was again postponed Wednesday as tropical depression "Crising" moved toward the province.

The weather disturbance is expected to exit the Philippine Area of Responsibility Thursday morning via Puerto Princesa City. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration(PAGASA)said there was a chance "Crising" might merged with a low-pressure area near Palawan. "So far there has been no change in our timeline of March 23. We expect work to continue nonstop once we actually start," he added.

The minesweeper ran aground on Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17.

For now, however, he said they have to wait for the weather in the area to improve. Evangelista said the crane ship "Jascon 25" is now in the Tubbataha Reef area and is maneuvering to get near the USS Guardian. But he said the salvaging work is halted to let the bad weather pass first.

He added that they expect to learn more about the extent of the damage to the reef once the USS Guardian is removed.

Military condemns NPA attack on Bukidnon pineapple farms

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20): Military condemns NPA attack on Bukidnon pineapple farms

The military on Wednesday vehemently condemned the senseless attacks of the New People's Army (NPA) on Del Monte and Dole pineapple farms in Bukidnon which also resulted in the death of one security guard and wounding of three civilians Tuesday evening.

"The Bukidnon incident is a clear violation of the Government of the Philippines-National Democratic Front Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. (Pineapple) plantations are not military installations nor camps. They are civilian workplaces within communities," 10th Infantry Division Civic Military Operation public affairs Major Jake Obligado said.

The NPA's act is also in violation of Part 4, Article 4 of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in the Philippines (CARHRIHL) which prohibits both the military and rebels from attacking non-military targets.

About a hundred members of the New People’s Army (NPA) simultaneously attacked the main compound of Del Monte Philippines, Inc. (DMPI) in Camp Phillips, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon and the compound of Dole Philippines in Impasug-ong town Tuesday, killing a security guard and injuring three others.

A report from the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in neighboring Cagayan de Oro said some 50 members of the NPA’s Guerilla Front 89 under alias Bagwis, Piton, Ambo and Arche, launched the attack in DMPI.

Lt. Col. Osias, spokesperson of the 4th ID, said the rebels on board trucks, vans and motorcycles arrived in Camp Phillips at around 6 p.m. Tuesday and immediately proceeded to the Del Monte truck parking facility and burned a tractor, truck sprayer and a truck.