Thursday, February 21, 2013

Eight Moro detainees allowed to post bail by Taguig Court

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 21): Eight Moro detainees allowed to post bail by Taguig Court

In a hearing held on February 15, 2013, Branch 271 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig in Taguig City granted the petitions for bail of eight of the accused in the case of “People v. Alu Binago, et. al”.
The “no bail” recommendation of the court seemed overwhelming at first for those who had been accused of the multiple charges related to the August 18, 2008 attack in Maasim, Sarangani. Still, they challenged the recommendation, for they believed that “the truth shall set [them] free,” as told by one of the accused.

Some of the petitions for bail had been filed as early as mid-2012, but it was only on February 15, 2013 that the prosecution finally admitted that they had no witness to present. In fact, the witness who was supposed to be presented by the prosecution at the hearing could not be located at his purported address, even when he was subpoenaed by the court.

The court thus recommended a P200,000 bail for each of the accused.

The eight (8) detainees are: Eduard Guerra, Jayon Saligan @ Comdr Aguilar, Anwar Mustafa, Nasser Bansil, Tawasir Sulani, Dido Binago, Jover Leonsily, and Jamer Sadavao. One other detainee, Rico Watamama, had died earlier while in jail.

The families of the detainees are now raising money to cover their bail.

Army facilitates livelihood training for coastal barangays of Castilla

From the Philippine Informaton Agency (Feb 21): Army facilitates livelihood training for coastal barangays of Castilla

The 903rd Infantry Brigade facilitated the seaweeds training and seminar to help residents in coastal barangays in the municipality put up an alternative livelihood.

Members of the Barangay Defense System (BDS) and residents residing along the coastal barangays of Castilla attended the training.

Brgy Chairwoman Domingga Miraflor welcomed the participants to the training. Messages of inspiration as well as sharing of experiences and expertise were given by Regional Seaweed Action Officer Mr. Ed Serrano; SEAGRASS President Mr. Red Lasay; Provincial Agriculture Office - Fisheries Division Chief Mr. Serafin N. Lacdang; Castilla Municipal Councilor Vicente Astano; and Cpt Arnel G. Sabas, the Civil Military Operations (CMO) Officer of the 903rd Brigade.

Sangguniang Bayan Secretary and Castilla Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer (MENRO) Mr. Reynaldo C Marchan, gave lecture-demonstration to the participants and likewise discussed the Fisheries Law (RA 8550).

Mr. Amelito M Golloso Sr., Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Sorsogon technical staff, discussed the importance of seaweeds and its economic value, major aquaculture commodities, seaweeds farming including harvesting and drying, different culture methods, farm maintenance, and major seaweed diseases.

Before the culmination activity, the 903rd Brigade led by Cpt Arnel G. Sabas, conducted a gift-giving activity to the participants.

Meanwhile, 903rd Brigade Commander Colonel Joselito Kakilala said that the skills training and the seminar conducted for the fisher folks will surely add up as an alternative livelihood for the residents.

“The livelihood project will soon be replicated to other coastal areas of the province with the assistance and cooperation of other stakeholders in line with the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP)-Bayanihan,” he further said.

Gov’t chief negotiator urges traditional leaders in south to enhance their role in peace process

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): Gov’t chief negotiator urges traditional leaders in south to enhance their role in peace process

Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer encouraged the traditional leaders of royal houses in the south to come up with a paper on how they envision their roles and further contribute to building peace in the future Bangsamoro region.

“Magandang input kung ano ho ba talaga ang role ninyo na pamumunuan ninyo mismo (It would be good if you give us inputs about the role that you will lead yourselves). Let us make the engagement more positive and constructive,” Coronel-Ferrer addressed the leaders of a royal clan in Maguindanao called the Maharadjah Tabunaway Descendants Council of the Philippines (MTDCP) who organized a peace forum on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) held February 9 in Cotabato City.

Attended by more than 200 participants, the forum brought together six royal houses and their representatives. These included the Royal Houses of Rajah Buayan; Maguindanao; Dungun in Tawi-Tawi; Sibugay in Zamboanga del Sur; Kapatagan Valley in Lanao del Norte; and Kabuntalan.

Coronel-Ferrer said that she touched base with the royal houses as the panel continues to pursue inclusivity in the peace process. “Traditional leaders and royal houses can play a role in the FAB by participating in the consultations that will be conducted by the Transition Commission in drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

The FAB, which was signed by the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last October 15, 2012, serves as the roadmap for the creation of the Bangsamoro entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The parties continue peace negotiations on the four annexes to the FAB that will altogether comprise a comprehensive agreement. These annexes are on Power-sharing, Wealth-sharing, Normalization, and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities.

Women leadership was also highlighted in the forum as it was mainly organized by them. Hadja Bai Putri Marieta Nor-Aisha P. Mindalano, who heads the MTDCP, stressed the importance of the gathering. “We gathered here to promote peace and accelerate the role of royal house because achieving peace is everyone’s responsibility,” she said.

Traditional leaders of Royal Houses cited the importance of preserving customary laws and enhancing its usage as a source or reference to the administration of justice and promotion of peace and order in the Bangsamoro. Explaining its significance, Bai Mindanlano said that “Customary law has been part of our Bangsamoro system of life that provided for maintenance of peace and welfare in our communities. It can define how traditional cultural heritage is shared, developed, and appropriately sustained within a community. It can also define rights and responsibilities of every community members on important aspects of their life and culture.”

She underscored that MTDCP recently signed a manifesto and submitted it to the peace panels of GPH and MILF where they expressed “hope that the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will be drafted by the Transition Commission will consider preserving the historic existence and the role of the Royal Houses and the Traditional Leaders in the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government.”

Hadja Bai Cabaybay D. Abubakar, who is also a leader of MTDCP, said that the GPH-MILF peace process, particularly the developments on the FAB, is being followed by the Bangsamoro people. “The FAB is a manifestation that the parties are committed to end the war. The challenge is for people to come together for the success of the FAB,” she said.

MILF representative Nurudin Salam, on the other hand, expressed his gratitude to President Aquino for his commitment to implement the FAB within his term. “We are very thankful to the FAB which recognized the Bangsamoro.”

On the same note, 6th Infantry Division spokesman Col. Dickson Hermoso, who was also present in the forum, thanked the royal house for its support in pushing for peace in Mindanao, and the Aquino administration for putting the peace process a priority. “We thank President Aquino whose concern is peace and development which can be achieved if we all cooperate,” he stated.

MTDCP is composed of members who belong to the same clan who traced their descent from Radjah Tabunaway and his brother Radjah Mamalu who led the Rajadom or royal leaders in Maguindanao during the pre-colonial period.

According to the organization, Shariff Mohammad Kabunsuan, who was said to be the first Islamic missionary who came to the Philippines, was welcomed by Tabunaway who was the ruler in Maguindanao. With consent, the people converted to Islam and began adopting the Sultanates system of leadership. In the process, Tabunaway conferred Shariff Kabunsuan the honorary title of sultan. Mamalu, on the other hand, chose to practice indigenous beliefs and moved upland.

Non-Muslim indigenous peoples now called the Lumad thus trace their ancestry to Mamalu while the traditional rulers who adopted Islam revere Tabunaway. Both brothers swore to live together in peace and to always help each other, a message that continues to resonate today.

PN beefs up patrol off Sulu Sea in wake of Sabah stand-off

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): PN beefs up patrol off Sulu Sea in wake of Sabah stand-off

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Thursday announced that it has beefed up its patrol operations off the Sulu Sea in wake of the ongoing stand-off between Filipino Muslims followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram and Malaysian forces in Sabah.

"The PN thru Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) in Zamboanga City has been supporting the efforts of Western Mindanao Command in ensuring that security will be enforced and that issues will be resolved peacefully," PN spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said.

Under NFWM, Naval Task Force 62 is now ready to conduct maritime patrol operations with Malaysian authorities. Six PN ships along with one Islander aircraft are now on stand-by for duty which aims to stabilize and secure the situation.

"As an archipelagic state, the PN plays a crucial role in maritime operation such as defense, interdiction, patrolling and law enforcement. Guarding more than 36,000 kilometers of vast territorial waters, the PN intensify its naval operation in the country's backdoor - Sulu Sea," Fabic stressed.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista earlier said that the military will conduct more patrols in common maritime borders with Malaysia to prevent breakaway factions of Muslim rebel group from entering and creating civil unrest in Sabah.

Bautista issued this statement in wake of the tense stand-off between Malaysian authorities and 200 Filipino Muslims who illegally entered Lahad Datu, Eastern Sabah last week claiming the land as theirs as part of the former sultanate of Sulu.

Malaysian authorities have contained the incident and placed these individuals in a secure location after defusing the situation peacefully. "The chief of the Malaysian defense forces, Gen. Tan Sri Dato' Sri Hj Zulkifli Hj Zainal Abidin, has requested us to patrol our borders as they will patrol their side to prevent illegal entrants so that the situation in (Sabah) will not get further complicated," he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said the activities of this Filipino group was “not sanctioned” by the Philippines government.

DFA Secretary Alberto Del Rosario sought the assurance of the Malaysian authorities to ensure that the rights of those Filipinos, who the DFA claimed are “permanent residents in Sabah and who may be among the group,” are respected. “In this regard, we therefore urge these concerned individuals to return to their homes and families,” he added.

NPA rebels release soldier, cop in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): NPA rebels release soldier, cop in Compostela Valley

The New People’s Army (NPA) released a soldier and police officer here Thursday afternoon after 34 days in captivity.

Private First Class (Pfc) Jezreel Maata Culango of the 60th Infantry Battalion and Police Officer 1 Ruel Pasion of San Isidro Police Station in San Isidro, Davao del Norte were released around 2:00 p.m. Thursday somewhere in the hinterlands of Compostela Valley. They were received by religious groups and immediately brought to their respective families.

Culango and Pasion were snatched by the NPA rebels in a roadblock at Laak, Compostela Valley last January 17. Pasion was on his way to San Isidro police station while Culango was on his way to visit his girlfriend when separately spotted by the rebels manning a checkpoint in Laak.

Prior to the release, the NPAs asked for a four-day unilateral ceasefire from Feb. 19-22 in some areas in Southern Mindanao to pave way for the release of Culango and Pasion.

DND to buy P979-M coast watch system

From the Philippine Star (Feb 21): DND to buy P979-M coast watch system

The Department of National Defense (DND) will acquire coast watch system equipment worth P979 million to secure the government's energy projects.

In a bid bulletin, DND said the project would involve the supply and delivery of coast watch requirements, boats, firearms and ammunition, oil takedown equipment, and night vision devices.

DND Undersecretary Eduardo Batac, chairman of the DND Special Bids and Awards Committee, said the project is divided into five lots or projects.

Lot 1 involves the purchase of coast watch system requirements worth P877 million to enhance maritime domain awareness and security of energy service contract areas.

The second lot entails the procurement of two rigid hull inflatable boats worth P63.16 million. The supply and delivery of firearms, accessories and ammunition worth P21.81 million constitute lot 3.

Lot 4, meanwhile, involves the supply and delivery of P10.58-million worth of gas and oil platform takedown equipment and gears.

The supply and delivery of night vision devices worth P6.39 million constitute lot 5. All the packages will be accompanied with integrated logistics support.

DND Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said the project would also involve radars and sensors, which will form part of a command and control communications system.

He declined to say where the devices would be installed, citing security reasons.
Earlier government statements, however, said service contract zones are located in, among other areas, Cagayan, Central Luzon, Northwest Palawan, Mindoro Cuyo, East Palawan, Cotabato and Sulu Sea.

The natural gas projects in Palawan are located in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the subject of a tense territorial dispute in the region.

The Philippines is claiming several islets, shoals, reefs and sandbars in the West Philippine Sea. China claims the entire area while Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

DND said the acquisition would be conducted through open competitive bidding. The bidding would be done in two stages.

The deadline for the submission of bids for some equipment under Lot 1 and Lots 2 to 5 will be on March 11 at 9 a.m.

For the other components of Lot 1, the deadline for the submission of offers is on April 24 also at 9 a.m.

Interested firms may purchase bid documents worth P75,000 from the DND Bids and Awards Committee Secretariat.

A pre-bid conference for the project will be held on Feb. 27 to allow the prospective bidders to raise their questions and concerns.

Lull in clashes between gov't and MILF forces to continue

From the Philippine Star (Feb 21): Lull in clashes between gov't and MILF forces to continue

Government and rebel truce monitors and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) will continue with the tight enforcement of all preliminary security agreements covering flashpoint areas in Mindanao despite the improving security climate in far-flung Moro-dominated areas.

This was the consensus reached by the three groups during the 43rd regular meeting of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in General Santos City early this week. The three parties also held the 22nd government-MILF-IMT tripartite meeting while in General Santos City.

The Malaysian-led IMT, comprised of military officers from Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Libya, and non-uniformed conflict resolution experts from Japan, Norway and the European Union, has been helping enforce since 2003 the government-MILF 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities.

The meetings ended with the reaffirmation by the three parties to continue cooperating in strengthening the enforcement of the ceasefire pact to sustain the momentum of the GPH-MILF talks.

The three parties have acknowledged that security conditions on the ground have indeed improved following the crafting last October 15, 2012 of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB), which aims to establish an MILF-led new autonomous political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Army Gen. Gilberto Jose Roa, chairman of the GPH ceasefire committee, his MILF counterpart, Said Shiek, and IMT’s representative, Gen. Datuk Abdul Rahim bin Mohd Yusuff, of the Malaysian Royal Armed Forces, gave credit to the cooperation of their respective groups in maintaining peace and order in areas covered by the ceasefire.

The government’s chief negotiator, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, who also attended the meetings in General Santos City, lauded the joint ceasefire committee and the IMT for having succeeded in addressing security concerns in flashpoint areas in Mindanao promptly.

There has been a “zero” encounter between government and MILF forces in Mindanao for more than a year now as a result of the cooperation of local government units, the joint ceasefire committee and the IMT in addressing domestic peace and security issues.

Ferrer said she was elated with outstanding GPH - MILF joint security cooperation for President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim’s joint launching last February 11 of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro program for rebel-held areas in Mindanao.

The program, a convergence of health, socio-economic services and, and livelihood interventions designed to address poverty and underdevelopment in beneficiary areas, was launched Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute in Simuay area in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Heir asks for aid for 'Royal Army' in Sabah

From the Philippine Star (Feb 21): Heir asks for aid for 'Royal Army' in Sabah

An heir to the Sultanate of Sulu on Friday said that they have sent word to their supporters in Sabah to support the 200 members of the "Royal Army" who have been holed up in Lahad Datu since last week.

Paramount Sultan Ibrahim Bahjin Shakirullah II of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo (now Sabah) said in a statement that they are supporting the "Royal Army" members' assertion of their rights.

“It is the common aspiration of all leadership in the Sultanate to assert our historical rights and ultimately redeem our lost territorial heritage,” Bahjin Shakirullah said.
According to Bahjin Shakirulla, they have already sent words through their emissaries in Sabah appealing to their supporters, who are already residing in Sabah, to give moral, economic, logistic and other forms of help to the 200 members of the Royal Army.

The Royal Army of Sultan Jamalul Kiram have been holed out in Lahad Datu for almost a week now.

Earlier reports said that the Malaysian authorities were allegedly imposing a food blockade around Lahad Datu.

Bahjin Shakirullah stressed that they will never advocate violence and they intend to settle the issue peacefully and within the ethical and legal grounds.

“We do not want to bleed the heart of our brothers who have been in fraternal relationship with us since time immemorial,” Bahjin Shakirullah stated.

The heir also called on all members of the Royal Houses of the Sultanate to decide and take a unified stand on their Sabah claim.

Bahjin was apprehensive that any sultan who will venture to settle the matter alone “may be heading for disastrous end.”

He also reminded that any negotiation on the ownership of Sabah should only involve the Sultanate and Malaysian government. He said the Philippine government and other entities should not be allowed to intervene in the negotiations.

MILF members to participate in UN ceasefire mediation training

From GMANews (Feb 21): MILF members to participate in UN ceasefire mediation training

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front will send two members of its ceasefire committee to participate in a United Nations ceasefire mediation course in Norway from late February to early March.
In an article posted on its website Sunday evening, the MILF said the 2013 United Nations Ceasefire Mediation and Management Course will take place February 25 to March 8.
Nominated to represent the MILF are Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) secretary Rasid Ladiasan and CCCH member Abbas Salung.
"Organizers disclosed that negotiations and management of cessation of hostilities and ceasefire arrangements are a critical part of war to peace transitions," the MILF said.
Sponsoring the training are the Norwegian Defence University College (NDUC), Norwegian Defence Command and Staff College (NDCSC), Norwegian Defence International Centre (NODEFIC), and the UN Department of Political Affairs.
The MILF noted the organizers of the event had admitted there is limited guidance or experts to assist mediators and their teams in the ceasefire mediation aspect of peace-making.
Compounding the situation is that ceasefire arrangements have become more complex in their objectives and their approaches, the MILF said.
"Today, ceasefire arrangements no longer only seek to stop the military engagement between opposing forces, but also to protect civilians, as well as lay the foundations for a political process," it said.

Sulu sultan denies trying to sabotage govt-MILF peace talks with Sabah standoff

GMANews (Feb 21): Sulu sultan denies trying to sabotage govt-MILF peace talks with Sabah standoff

Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, whose followers are currently engaged in a standoff in Sabah with Malaysian authorities, on Thursday denied accusations his group is trying to sabotage the Philippine government's ongoing peace talks with the secessionist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“I did not sabotage whatever it is. Gusto ko matapos na.... Wala akong alam diyan,” Kiram told “News To Go” co-anchor Howie Severino.

He, however, maintained that his group was left out from discussions of the framework peace agreement, which the Philippine government and the MILF signed last year.

Some 400 of Kiram's followers, including 20 gunmen, have been in a standoff with Malaysian police in Sabah since early this month, as they assert their claim on what they call their ancestral territory.

The Islamic sultanate, which is based in Mindanao, once controlled parts of Borneo, including the site of the standoff. The sultanate's heirs have been receiving a nominal yearly compensation package from Malaysia under a long-standing agreement for possession of Sabah.

Kiram earlier said his loyalists went to Sabah to protest the peace deal, which he said handed control of much of Sulu to the MILF, supposedly ignoring the sultanate.

MalacaƱang has refused to answer Kiram's claim that the standoff in Sabah was a consequence of the peace deal. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Philippine and Malaysian authorities are already trying to solve the standoff.

Kiram, however, insisted that his followers will not leave the area until Malaysian officials fly to Manila or a “neutral” territory to negotiate with him.

“Andiyan na 'yan. Hindi na aalis yan. Sabi nila, patay na kami bago kami aalis... Let the Sabah officers come to Manila and we will talk or somewhere in a neutral country ,” he said.