Wednesday, March 13, 2013

MILF: Peace Process More Important Than Sabah

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 14): MILF: Peace Process More Important Than Sabah

The Mindanao peace process is more important than the Sabah issue, and the forthcoming talks in Kuala Lumpur should push through as scheduled.

This was the declaration made by MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal as he described the conflict in Sabah as a "non issue" when asked by reporters if the on-going conflict between Malaysian security forces and followers of the Sultanate of Sulu will be discussed when formal talks resume later this month.

"I don't think it would be raised in the formal talks," he said. "It's a non issue, we would not hear that."

Iqbal likewise confirmed that there have been suggestions made that the peace talks should be postponed in light of the escalating violence in Sabah.

He said that they have received "some ideas from unscrupulous persons who wanted to tie up the negotiations with the Sabah standoff" about a week ago.

"I don't want to give more details because this could create another problem," Iqbal stated. "It's not formalized but we can feel it. There are so many players. After all this has not come from the other side, from some other people."

"I cannot name names at this point in time, it's a sensitive issue," he added. "I told them this is more important than what is happening in Sabah. If you're trying to relate the peace process with the Sabah standoff then you are trying to destroy the situation."

But what is important, Iqbal emphasized, is that the issue of postponement did not come from MILF.
"For us, it's all systems go," he stressed.

During the resumption of the formal talks, Iqbal expressed optimism that they would be able to "wind up with the more substantive issues" particularly on the issue of sharing of power.

"I think we could manage to settle that," he said.

The peace talks are scheduled to resume in Kuala Lumpur from March 25 to 27.

Princess Jacel takes Sabah fight to Twitter

From GMA News (Mar 14): Princess Jacel takes Sabah fight to Twitter

The daughter of the beleaguered claimant to the Sulu sultanate has opened another front in the battle for Sabah – Twitter.

Just a day after joining Twitter, Princess Jacel Kiram, daughter of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, has already engaged some tweeps over the sultanate's claim over Sabah.

Princess Jacel's battles in the Twitterverse began Wednesday night after Twitter user Fatin Nadia (@kinkywildcat) told her, "Salam @jacelkiram please tell your brothers to go home to the Philippines. Thank you."

The Sulu monarch answered with a feisty "@kinkywildcat please tell your government to give our land back!"
Despite this, Nadia did not back down and instead told the princess that if she really loves Sabah so much then she should live there and "make it work."

"@jacelkiram is it all about greed? Fighting about land after giving it away. If you want to be angry, be angry at your ancestors," she said.

"@jacelkiram True owners are the Sabahans (who are Msians). People who live there, grew up there. This claim is so 1961 and late," she added.

Twitter users ZR (@ziadrazak) and Son Goku Tweet (@newsedisi) joined the conversation to support Nadia.

"It's not YOUR land. Sabah belongs to Sabahans “@jacelkiram: @kinkywildcat please tell your govt to give our land back!” said ZR.

"@jacelkiram I'm Malaysian n Sabahan. Will never ever wanted to be part of Philippines," added Son Goku Tweet.

User 5thGenerationVampire (@Aethevo) tried to defend the Sulu sultanate's claim by saying the Malaysian government is just being nice to the Philippine government because it knows that if the matter is brought before international courts, Malaysia would lose Sabah.
"@jacelkiram @kinkywildcat it's very unfortunate that the land grabber is the one abusing the true owner of the land. Very unfortunate :(" he said.

Princess Jacel also got into an argument with Twitter user Geminianeyes (@geminianeyes) who said:

"Honestly though, Ms @JacelKiram, did you really expect us to 'welcome you with open arms' when YOUR 'ARMY' landed on our shores with guns?"

An insulted Princess Jacel countered the user with: "@geminianeyes excuse me.... read history its never yours! Malaysia never owned Sabah! they are still paying rent!"

But as the conversation progressed, the argument turned personal after some Twitter users accused her of being a "fake" princess.

"Oi yellow bitch! Your father's not even listed as one of the recipients of the money! Bloody fake Royalty @jacelkiram @geminianeyes," said user HRH Sultan SeaDemon (@seademon).

"There is no need for lives to be lost because you want to be a princess @jacelkiram Just go to ToysRus and get the crown and shoes," said another user Jason Jonathan Lo (@jasonlo1).

Princess Jacel, however, no longer responded to the said tweets.

Jacel's brother, Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram, is presently in Sabah leading the sultanate's armed followers in a bid to supposedly reclaim the peninsula for the sultanate. They are now being hunted down by Malaysian security forces.

Malaysian security forces have been conducting offensives in Sabah to flush out Kiram's followers, following deadly clashes that started March 1.

The sultan offered a unilateral ceasefire, but Malaysia has rejected it and instead insisted on the unconditional surrender of Kiram's followers.

Gov't to File Charges Against 36 Members of Sulu Royal Army

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 14): Gov't to File Charges Against 36 Members of Sulu Royal Army

The government is preparing to file criminal charges against a group of armed followers of Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram III that was recently intercepted by the Philippine Navy in the waters off Tawi-Tawi.

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said the 36 members of the royal army of the Sulu sultanate who were apparently part of the standoff in Sabah can immediately be charged with illegal possession of firearms, citing an existing gun ban during the election period.

De Lima, in a Palace press briefing, said they will also investigate other possible violation of the country's laws by the sultan's followers who are currently detained in a naval facility in Tawi-Tawi.

She said Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, was not part of the group that were on board on two boats fleeing the conflict in Sabah.

MNLF: 3/1 Kampung Tandou Massacre: Defining Tragic Saga of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo (SSNB)

Anti-Malaysian propaganda piece posted to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF-Misuari) Website (Mar 13): 3/1 Kampung Tandou Massacre: Defining Tragic Saga of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo (SSNB)

The war in North Borneo ('Sabah' now changed by Malaysians) between the federal state of Malaysia and the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo (SSNB) started with the peaceful visit of the Sulu Sultanate crown prince, Rajah Muda Azzimudin Kiram, some family members and Tausug civilian constituents to Kampung Tandou, a small village of ten houses 60 kms. from Lahad Datu, on February 9, 2013.
The younger brother of SSNB Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III, Rajah Muda Azzimudin and around 135 Tausug Muslims were escorted by a 20-member SSNB Royal Security Army in crossing the Sulu Sea up to the shore of the considered Sulu Sultanate homeland 'Sabah'. While some Tausug rahyat (constituents) were going back home as long time residents of Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna, some joined the peaceful journey back home to the perceived Sulu Sultanate domain with the fondest thought of settling permanently in 'Sabah'. The Sulu Sultanate members and Tausug followers were just too conscious of the historical fact that North Borneo belongs to the SSNB leadership and people of Lupah Sug (Sulu), but only leased to a commercial British Company in 1878.
Despite the fact that North Borneo was leased on a permanent basis with the stipulated $5,000 (Mexican dollars) yearly rental by SSNB Sultan Jamalul Alam to a British Company represented by Gutavus Baron de Overbeck of Hong Kong and Alfred Dent of London on January 22, 1878, this did not prohibit the Sulu Sultanate family members and Tausug constituents from visiting, settling and departing from the SSNB ancestral homeland in their own discretion.
However, the situation seemingly changed when the British government mysteriously annexed North Borneo to include it a part of the Malaysia federation given independence in 1957. The gross injustice was done without consulting the Sulu Sultanate, which holds the propriety right, and eversince protested against the dubious somewhat land-grabbing transaction.
Driven by economic greed and megalomaniac arrogance forgetting to be Muslims, but acting plainly as plain Malays similar to the fallen Arab leaders in the contemporary period, the Malaysian government leaders under the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) justified the broad-daylight land-grabbing of the Sulu Sultanate homeland with a rigged referendum in 1963 and merely pursuing the payment of the annual rental amounting to $5,300 (Malaysian dollars) to the SSNB family heirs. Thus, the UMNO-led Malaysian government leaders have claimed eversince that 'Sabah' is under the sovereignty of federal Malaysia though how cosmetic and awkward it may be.
The Sulu Sultanate and Muslim Tausug constituents protested this gruesome injustice from the beginning. Authorizing the Philippine government under President Diosdado Macapagal in 1963, SSNB Sultan Ismael Kiram I in concurrence with crown prince, Rajah Muda Datu Punjungan Kiram, father of now Sulu Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III, and the members of the Ruma Betsara ('House of of Decission') filed a formal protest and legal claim to the Malaysian-occupied North Borneo territory with the International Court of Justice in Hague.
However, the official 'Philippine Sabah claim' was only activated during the time of the Macapagal administration and the succeeding Marcos government, which historically figured in the March 18, 1968 Jabidah massacre over the attempted clandestine invasion of 'Sabah'. But during the presidencey of Corazon C. Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph E. Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo up to Benigno S. Aquino III, the 'Sabah claim' has had remained dormant. This mysterious circumstance has led some sectors, particularly the Tausug professionals and youth, to suspect that all the post-Marcos period Filipino presidents were bribed by the UMNO-led Malaysian government rulers with the yearly billion dollars income derived from mineral and agricultural rich 'Sabah', except former President Joseph E. Estrada. It is common knowledge that the former Machiavillian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad hated the guts of President Estrada and Chairman Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) for patronizing and siding with the ousted former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who was facing a frame-up charge based on sodomy manufactured by the Mahathir regime. He was later declared innocent and vindicated by the Malaysian court under Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi.
Thus, on this development, the Sulu Sultanate under Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III and family heirs were compelled to revoke the authority given to the Philippine government. They decided to pursue the 'Sabah' ownership issue and valid claim on their own limited means and peaceful terms based on the principled legacy that the Sulu Sultanate Tausug constituents have a share to the North Borneo proceeds.
The UMNO-led Malaysian government leaders have always with pride proclaimed that 'Malaysia is an Islamic state." This is even proudly reechoed by the present Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. But, as Muslims, how is it that they are evasive to peacefully resolve the 'Sabah' controversy with the once historically known 'Islamic Empire' (Sulu Sultanate) in early Southeast East Asia region? Why result to bribery and treating a fellow Muslim like a low mendicant begging for his moral share of ownership?
As revealed by Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III, during the Philippine Ramos government, the Malaysian Mahathir regime attempted to put to rest the 'Sabah' issue by offering the Sulu Sultanate family heirs the amount of Two Hundred Fifty Millions U.S. dollars ($250,000,000). But the principled Sulu Sultanate ruler, who is always modest and proud in proclaiming himself the "poorest Sultan in the world", categorically rejected the offer as the amount was far down below the true value worth of 'Sabah' in contemporary period. Furthermore, he bewailed that not a single cent was meant and mentioned for the wholistic development of Sulu archipelago for the welfare of the Tausug people. Yet, it is common knowledge again to the learned Tausug constituents both residing in Sulu group of islands and inside 'Sabah' that the billions American dollar income from the oil-drillings and timber plantations in the Malaysian-occupied North Borneo have greatly helped develop the federal capital Kuala Lumpur and other poor Malaysian federal states. The UMNO-led federal Malaysian government officials had shrewdly schemed from the beginning that 'Sabah State' would only be entitled to three percent (3%) of its whole income and the rest is allotted for the central government.
By this simple immoral implication, could this not also mean that the UMNO-led Malaysian government leaders from the time of Prime Minister Abduh Rahman Putra Alhaj up to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak have had benefitted handsomely by billion American dollars from mineral and agricultural rich 'Sabah'?
Thus, it is no wonder then that former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed could be the 'richest man in Asia' personally worth around '42 billions American dollars', according to Malaysia Chronicle,
Thus, could this be the hidden reason why the UMNO-led Malaysian government officials have become indignantly evasive and afraid to face the Sulu Sultanate owner claimants in the International Court of Justice? But could only afford to bribing some key Christian Filipino officials and offering only peanut-amount to the family heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.
As said earlier, the peaceful visit to Kampung Tandou village in Lahad Datu could have just remained a pleasant series of visitation for the Sulu Sultanate family members and Muslim Tausug followers living inside and outside 'Sabah'.
However, using the 'law of the jungle' that 'the mighty is always right' and invoking 'sovereignty', 'honor' and 'pride' prelude to a hotly-contested national election, the UMNO-led Malaysian government rulers turned it into a war event by using the full force of the Malaysian military over a majority Tausug Muslim civilians protected only by more than ten armed Sulu Sultanate Royal Security Army. The SSNB security force was intended only to protect the royal family members and followers from sea pirates. Thus, the one-sided war event on March 1, 2013 in Kampung Tandou turned literally into a massacre characterized by the Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak massacre in Jolo island during the American colonial regime in the 1930s.
On that fateful day of Friday, March 1, ten Tausug Muslim defenders of the Sulu Sultanate historical legacy and one woman civilian with her 8-year old son were killed by around 3-batallion strong Malaysian commandos that sustained only two deaths and four injured after hurried retreat.
Nonetheless, the massacre of the twelve Tausug wayfarers in Kampung Tandou enraged some supporters in Semporna to seek revenge by ambushing a convoy of Malaysian police force the following day of March 2, killing 8 policemen and wounding several others. The ambush event occurred while Rajah Muda Azzimudin Kiram and a reduced small group of followers were undertaking the mass burial rituals for the 12 martyred companions. Majority of the Tausug civilians in the group have left earlier for their respective residences in Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna.
The two blood-letting incidents on March 1 and 2, the first bloody events ever to happen in 'Sabah' between the Malaysian military and defiant Tausug Muslims, gave the justification for the federal Malaysian government to transform 'Sabah' into a police garrison state, drumbeating an all out war or total surrender or face being wipe out. The Malaysian military mobilized five more battalion forces from all over federal states in augmenting the three battalion forces already stationed in Lahad Datu to conduct the major war offensive.
On nightfall of March 4, the Malaysian soldiers evacuated all the villagers from Kampung Lumbin and Kampung Batu, which are within 17 kms. east of Kampung Tandou in Lahad Datu with Condor APCs.
On the morning of March 5, about 7:00 a.m., Jet fighter planes RMAF F/A Hornets and Hawk 208s helicopter gunships screamed in over Kampung Tandou and dropped laser guided bombs, sending six large almost continuous explosions to be heard far away to the center district of Lahad Datu. This was followed by mortar bombardments on Kampung Tandou. While from the sea, around seven naval gunships guarded tightly the seashore area.
After more than one hour of massive bombardments using the latest lethal weapons of mass destruction available to the Malaysian military arsenal, the 2,000 strong fighting force, comprising of army and police personnel, moved-in for the attack at about 8:30 a.m. They conducted house-to-house searches, but found the Sulu Sultanate crown prince and the few trusted remaining Royal Security Force nowhere in sight.
Nonetheless, strange it may seem, for face-saving propaganda in justifying the massive war-footing preparation conducted on a vacated supposedly war zone, the Malaysian military had to dig up the mass graves of the Tausug Muslims killed earleir and presented a photo of it to the Malaysian controlled media as clear evidence ot its success. Worse, to prove further the supposedly overwhelming success of its military operation coded 'Ops Daulat', the Malaysian military came up with a surprise listing of more casualties of the Sulu Sultanate followers apprehended in Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna, totalling 32 deaths. The Malaysian military presented a photo for evidence, but the photo shown became a laughing stock in the international media when it was identified as the shame photo of the Patani rebels killed in the Thailand border by the Thai military soldiers.
Lately, the Malaysian military has proudly announced that it has killed 52 Sulu Sultanate followers in the 'Sabah' war zone. How true? Nobody knows because no Malaysian or foreign media are allowed in the area of operation except in the town center to await only a press conference or media briefing arranged by the Malaysian authorities.  
On March 6, this year, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations (UN) called for a ceasefire, urging an end to the Malaysia-Sulu Sultanate war in Sabah and for the two parties to engage in a peaceful dialogue. The following day, the SSNB Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III declared a unilateral ceasefire at 12:30 p.m., urging Malaysia to reciprocate.
However, the Malaysian government altogether rejected the UN peace call, refused the entry of the International Court of Justice to assess the actual situation in Sabah and also denied assistance to the representatives of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to inspect the actual condition of both the Filipino workers and Tausug residents in the affected areas.
Furthermore, the Malaysian authorities continued prohibiting both the local and foreign media to conduct their on fact-finding investigation of the 'Sabah stand-off, crisis and war'.
Why? Apparently, the strict prohibitions were all done for a purpose because the Malaysian government has to conduct the stringest crackdown in 'Sabah' over the Tausug Muslim residents in the affected areas and in other areas, particularly Sandakan, Tawau, Kudat, etc. The Malaysian military in 'Sabah' was given the blanket authority to hunt and kill the supposedly Sulu Sultanate followers and supporters, including arresting, torturing and killing Tausug innocent male residents just to come up with the number of persons that originally accompanied the Sulu Sultanate family members to Kampung Tandou.
Given the license thus by the UMNO-led federal Malaysian government officials to kill every suspicious-looking residents in 'Sabah' and to hunt down the Sulu Sultanate followers everywhere for total liquidation, the Malaysian military conducted a massive operations in the villages thickly populated by long-time residents coming from Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan and even Zamboanga.
After the villages, the Malaysian military conducted house-to-house search in bigger towns, like Sandakan, Tawau and Kudat, and just arrested any Tausug they could locate with or without proper documentary papers of stay. The Malaysian media reported on March 11 that 222 Tausugs have been arrested so far and the number could still increase.


Thus, when Malaysian military atrocities committed against innocent Tausug civilian residents began to spread like wild fire all over 'Sabah', the rush and panic desperation to flee and escape to Tawi-Tawi and Sulu followed. Some who have actually escaped from Sabahhave recounted the horrible tales encountered by both innocent Filipinos and Tausug Muslims. A 32-year old Amira Taradji, who was too happy to reach Jolo, related the sad tale she witnessed, " they dragged all the men outside the houses, kick and hit them. They ordered Filipino men to run as fast as they could and shoot them."

On one hand, some have decried the worst 'police brutality' they have encountered and witnessed in today's Sabah, outlining the whole tragic episode they have experienced with the remarks, "we are treated like animals" by the Malaysian military.


In truth, the violent hostilities between the battalion-strong Malaysian military and the hundred-size followers of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo could have been averted had the Malaysian government showed its Islamic responsibilty to solve the crisis peacefully.

The 3/1 Kampung Tandou massacre of 12 Tausug Muslims and succeeding atrocities committed by the Malaysian military against both the Filipinos and Tausugs, who are compelled to escape the declared war zone of Sabah, could not have happened at all if only the professed Muslim Malaysian leaders have a compassionate heart to solve the Sabah issue with the aggrieved party -- the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.

It is another issue, if the Malaysian leaders have not always proclaimed that 'Malaysia is an Islamic State' because it would save the trouble for the Muslim Tausugs of the Sulu Sultanate to pursue seeking justice related to the ownership of North Borneo ('Sabah'). But, the Muslim leaders of Malaysia, sad to say, have never displayed a Muslim heart in solving the Sabah controversy. They have had proudly paraded themselves as colonialist land-grabbers for many years justified by the measly M$5,300 yearly rental to the real owners - the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, and the Tausug Muslim constituents - without the slightest thought that the Divine One has ordained punishment and retribution for the greedy and criminals. How mighty and strong they may be in the mortal world!

The sad case of the Kampung Tandou tragedy is one defining point. Instead of directly engaging peace dialogue with the Sulu Sultanate Islamic leadership to diffuse the whole situation from the beginning, the UMNO-led Malaysian government leaders used the Philippine government to even threaten and arrest Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III. Truth to tell, the unIslamic attitude shown by the Malaysian government had only enflamed the volatile situation to reach a breaking point. That is exemplified now by the ugliness of war, killings and atrocities committed by the Malaysian military on the innocent Filipinos and Tausug Muslims.

On this end, acting as Muslims, both the Malaysian government leaders and Sulu Sultanate rulers must invoke the Mercy, Guidance and Infinite Wisdom of Allah Almighty to help them find a peaceful solution to the worsening problem. Surely, peace and peace dialogue as ordained by Islam are the golden keys to the comprehensive solution to any conflict.

AFP: Operation Pacific Angel 2013 Ends; Over 7,000 Benefit from Medical, Engineering Services

From the Armed Forces of the Philippines Website (Mar 12): Operation Pacific Angel 2013 Ends; Over 7,000 Benefit from Medical, Engineering Services

Soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and United States Armed Forces (USAF) officially handed over the symbolic keys of the newly-renovated classrooms to school officials of Bio-os Elementary School during the joint turnover and closing ceremony of Operation Pacific Angel 2013, yesterday in Amlan, Negros Oriental.

Three elementary schools in Negros Oriental benefitted from the week-long joint and combined AFP-USAF Humanitarian Civic Action/Civil Military Operation activities which started March 4. Bio-os Elementary School in Amlan and Pamplona Central Elementary School in Pamplona received facility repair, renovation and upgrades; and Tugawe Elementary School in Daiun was installed with a water tower, and its classrooms were repainted.

Speaking on behalf of AFP, Vice Admiral Edgar L. Abogado, Commander of AFP Central Command said the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HA/DR) operation Pacific Angel is much aligned with the Filipino Aspiration for lasting peace and progress. “The participation of everyone, the AFP, USPACAF, the civil authorities, and the community, depicts clearly the spirit of Bayanihan and Balikatan,” he said.

Rear Admiral Jose Miguel Rodriguez, the AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations, J7 on the other hand said the AFP wants to be able to bring in the civilian sector in times of calamity. “The challenge is to catalyze the civilian sector to take responsibility for Disaster and Risk Reduction Management and not be wholly dependent on national government and the military alone. This exercise is a testament to that success in working harmoniously together,” He said.

The closing ceremony was attended by Hon. Bentham P. Dela Cruz, Municipal Mayor of Amlan, Negros Oriental, Mrs. Robin Diallo, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy, Major General Jon R. Shasteen representative of USAF, and Vice Admiral Edgar L. Abogado.

Civilians Benefit from Pacific Angel MEDCAPs

Meanwhile, over 7,000 civilians from Negros Oriental benefitted from the series of Medical Civic Action Programs (MEDCAPs) conducted during the week-long Operation Pacific Angel 2013.

A total of 6,502 residents from Dumaguete City, and 1,008 from Tanjay City benefitted from the health service operations provided by soldiers and medical personnel from the AFP and USAF. General healthcare, optometry, dental, physical therapy, and circumcision were the services offered at both MEDCAP sites.

Among the beneficiaries were 38 families affected by the recent 6.9 magnitude earthquake which hit Guihulngan City last February 2012. Ninety-two patients coming from the affected families currently living in Guihulngan’s Tent City were brought to the two sites in Tanjay and in Dumaguete City. Transportation to the two MEDCAP sites was provided by troops from the 11th Infantry Battalion based in Guihulngan so that these earthquake victims can avail of the free medical and dental services offered by Operation Pacific Angel.

Ophelia Acbal, 34 yrs old, of Sitio Looc, Guihulngan, came down from Tent City to have the pain in her leg checked. It was found that she had a fractured leg and was given medicine for the pain and new crutches to help her walk after she was treated by the doctors. Acbal expressed her gratitude for the pain medicine provided by the visiting forces having lived with the pain for almost a year. “Now that my leg is treated I can now look forward to finding work and providing food for my family as soon as it heals,” shared a teary-eyed Acbal.

Operation Pacific Angel is an annual humanitarian assistance program sponsored by the USPACIFIC command and implemented by the US Pacific Air Force (PACAF) in partnership with the AFP. The aim of OPA is to enhance the response capability of the AFP and the local civil authorities during disasters and calamities. Additionally, this exercise aims to test and improve interoperability between the two armed forces with the participation of the local stakeholders in disaster response and rehabilitation.

This undertaking is part of AFP’s continuing engagements with the US Armed Forces for the benefit and development of rural communities in the country. Pacific Angel 2013 is an opportunity for the AFP and USAF to strengthen its friendship by keeping in touch with the people of Negros Oriental through various humanitarian assistance and disaster preparedness activities.

P135-M Peace And Dev’t Projects For Surigao Del Norte

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 14): P135-M Peace And Dev’t Projects For Surigao Del Norte

Officials of the provincial government of Surigao del Norte, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) yesterday inked a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the implementation of the P135 million peace and development projects in the seven municipalities of Surigao del Norte and Surigao City.

The MOA signing of these projects were done during the 74th Full Council Meeting of the Regional Development Council (RDC) at city’s inland resort, hotel and convention center here yesterday.

These projects comprising of roads are under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan or PAMANA peace and development program of the OPAPP are located in the municipalities of Malimono, Bacuag, Sison, Del Carmen, Mainit, Gigaquit and San Francisco, all of SDurigao del Norte province and Surigao City.

In this MOA, concerned officials led by RDC Chairperson and Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol F. Matugas, DILG and OPAPP agreed to “help one another” for the successful implementation of PAMANA projects in different conflict-affected areas.

PAMANA is the government’s peace and development program and framework which seeks to improve governance and empower communities through community-driven projects that address the people’s needs while promoting peace.

The program is under the supervision and implementation of the OPAPP.

Other than providing economic development in conflict-affected areas, PAMANA will also assists in capacitating LGU’s to provide programs for reintegration of rebel returnees, developing psycho social de-briefing tools or interventions for mainstreaming and mapping support mechanisms.

These projects are also the convergence framework through which the national government, local government units and development agencies provide targeted interventions in identified conflict-affected areas (CAAS) focused on responsible governance; improved delivery of basic services; sustainable development and economic reconstruction; and security sector reforms by ensuring delivery of basic services, implementation of transparent and accountable mechanisms and capacity building of communities while ensuring that income generating activities and economic development are supported and employment opportunities being provided.

Also part of the PAMANA projects are farm-to-market roads, water and light system and other driver towards economic upliftment.

“These PAMANA projects also played a vital role in our far-flung communities, especially those in conflict-affected areas,” said Gov. Matugas.

Complete Dismantling Of Guardian Soon

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 14): Complete Dismantling Of Guardian Soon

Salvage personnel are moving towards the complete dismantling and removal of the USS Guardian from the Tubbataha Reef following the removal of the grounded minesweeper’s two engines last Wednesday.

“The first main engine and second engine were pulled out and removed,” said Task Force Tubbataha head Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista.

“The boom from fantail was removed and transferred to Jascon 25,” he added. However, they still need to dismantle two more main engines and three auxiliary engines before proceeding to the next section of the vessel.

Evangelista said the removal and transfer of two auxiliary engines and one of the remaining two main engines are underway.

Dismantling efforts began last month and were scheduled to be completed by March 23, the deadline imposed by U.S government on the salvage work. Among those already dismantled and removed were the parts of the 68-meter Guardian’s superstructure namely funnel or smokestack, mast, and the bridge deck section.

MILF presses talks, ‘dedma’ on Sabah

From Malaya (Mar 13): MILF presses talks, ‘dedma’ on Sabah

PEACE talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government would resume next week in Kuala Lumpur despite the conflict between Filipino Muslims and Malaysian forces in Sabah.

“As far as we are concerned, it will resume as scheduled, on the third week of March,” said MILF spokesman Mohagher Iqbal of the peace negotiations which are being brokered by the Malaysian government.

Iqbal would not disclose the exact date of the resumption of the talks. The last round of talks was held also in Malaysia from February 25 to 27, a few days before the fighting in Sabah broke out.

Iqbal said the ongoing conflict in Sabah should not affect the peace negotiations, noting that both the Malaysian and Philippines governments “are trying to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”

“Why should we complicate this issue (peace talks) when that (Sabah) is another issue?...We believe this (talks) should push through. Otherwise, there will be a complication,” he said.

Iqbal would not comment on the Sabah dispute, saying “that’s complicated.”

He added, “We have a no-comment policy (on the Sabah issue).”

To be discussed in the next round of talks are annexes on power and wealth sharing and normalization, which are being drafted in addition to the framework agreement signed by both sides last October.

The framework agreement and the annexes will make up the final peace agreement that will pave the way for the establishment of a new political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao created by the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front.

Iqbal said wealth and power sharing have already been discussed in the last round of talks. He said wealth sharing is “practically settled…but it has yet to be signed and subject of review.”

Iqbal would not give the details of the wealth-sharing agreement, pending a final agreement.
“As to the power sharing, it’s almost settled though there are some points that are hard to be resolved,” he said.

Iqbal said there is no timeframe as to when the two peace panels will complete the annexes of the framework agreement “but we have to fast track it because we are running out of time.”

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said there is no reason to replace Malaysia as third party facilitator in the peace negotiations with the MILF because Malaysia had been helpful and “we’re close to an agreement.”

Lacierda said a peace agreement would benefit not just the MILF but the whole of Mindanao, including the Kirams whose followers are holed out in Sabah and the MNLF.

Lacierda dismissed the opinion of former peace adviser Jesus Dureza that Malaysia’s role as peace facilitator has been “blown to pieces” because of the violent operations it launched against Filipinos in Sabah.

“Last time I checked, Jess Dureza was not the peace negotiator for the successful framework agreement…Where are we right now in our framework agreement? We only have two-and-a-half issues of the annexes. The framework agreement has been crafted, agreed upon,” he said.

He added that the incident in Sabah affects mostly members and supporters of the Sultanate of Sulu while “the framework agreement is bigger than the Sabah standoff.”

3-way race for AFP post

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 14): 3-way race for AFP post

Marine Corps Commandant Maj. Gen. Rustico Guerrero has emerged as among the three contenders to replace Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, the current commander of the Western Command based in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, military sources said.

Sabban, the youngest member and the last to retire from among the Philippine Military Academy Class “Makatarungan” Class 1978 graduates, was slated to bow out of service retire on April 1.

Guerrero, battle-tested in Mindanao, is a member of PMA Dimalupig Class of 1981.

The other contenders for Sabban’s post, brigadier generals Alexander Balutan and Romeo Tanalgo, are classmates (PMA Matikas Class).

Tanalgo was former Sulu commander before he became head of AFP Command Center based in Quezon City.

Balutan is the commander the 1st Marine Brigade in Cotabato and among the senior officers who exposed the 2004 alleged election fraud.

Aquino: No plan to meet with Reds

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 14): Aquino: No plan to meet with Reds

President Benigno Aquino III has no plans of meeting Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison any time soon.

Contrary to claims of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said there was never a plan for a dialog because “there was no meeting of the minds.”

According to a report of the NDFP National Council, the meeting between Mr. Aquino and Sison was proposed by presidential political adviser Ronald Llamas during informal talks in Utrecht late 2012 and was supposed to happen early this year in Hanoi.

NDF chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni said what was supposed to be a historic meeting will no longer push through because of the duplicity of the government.

But Lacierda said this was only the “spin” of the NDF, adding that the communist group have themselves to blame for making impossible demands.

“That is just a spin of NDF. There were no agreements made on whether to meet with Mr. Sison,” Lacierda said.

“There were certain commitments that they want from us that were not acceptable to the government…There was no meeting of the minds,” the Palace official added.

Jalandoni claimed the government was trying to trap the communist group into signing an indefinite ceasefire agreement while refusing to release detained consultants and New Peoples’ Army leaders.

Both the government and the CPP-NDF negotiating panels last held informal talks in Feb. 2011.

Meetings under a special track were held late last year, where they agreed to discuss the forging of a Common Declaration of National Unity and Just Peace, which upon signing by the parties will trigger the immediate implementation of a truce.

Despite Jalandoni’s claim, the issue of prisoner release was not discussed during the special tracks meeting, and neither was it contained in the joint communique signed in December.

Kiram thumbs down pullout

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 14): Kiram thumbs down pullout

Withdrawal talks with Roxas unauthorized

Sulu Sultan Jamlul Kiram III on Wednesday ruled out a withdrawal of his supporters from Sabah, saying that he did not authorize his younger brother, Esmail, to negotiate a disengagement by his followers with Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

Roxas had said Esmail broached the possibility of a disengagement in their closed-door meeting in Camp Crame Monday.

The sultan said he had authorized the meeting with Roxas, but did not put withdrawal on the table, saying that the brother leading the Sabah forces, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, refuses to pull out.

“We’re already in third base, why should I back out?” Kiram told reporters in his residence in Maharlika Village in Taguig City.

The sultan also suspected that the government was using his younger brother Esmail to divide his family.

Malaysia’s foreign minister on Wednesday said the authorities would not let the sultan’s followers in Lahad Datu, Sabah, meet with Philippine officials or family members who might seek to negotiate their safety.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said that authorities could not guarantee the safety of any negotiators.

A spokesman for the sultanate, Abraham Idjirani, said the sultan’s forces remained intact, and that the group led by General Haji Musa, one of the top leaders reportedly killed by the Malaysians, had regrouped.

Idjirani denied the Malaysian reports of Musa’s death.

“Raja Muda called us last night and said he has communicated with Haji Musa. They later met and regrouped their forces,” Idjirani said.

Agbimuddin, younger brother of Sultan Kiram, sailed to Sabah on Feb. 12 to revive the sultanate’s long-standing claim over the resource-rich Sabah. The sultanate had said that only a handful of the 235-contingent are armed for personal security of the crown prince.

Fighting resumed in Tanjung Batu, Lahad Datu on Tuesday, resulting in the death of a Malaysian soldier and two Sulu gunmen, the Malaysia’s Star Online reported.

The New Straits Times reported Wednesday that the Malaysian police were confident that “terrorist leader” Agbimuddin Kiram was still alive and remained at Felda Sahabat.

It quoted Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib as saying that the sultanate’s men had scattered around three villages in Lahad Datu.

In Taguig City, a source close to the Kiram family said two speedboats carrying supplies such as food and ammunition have sailed from Tawi-Tawi and landed in Sabah, successfully evading a naval cordon.

“These men transported much need supplies to the forces of Raja Muda. No naval blockade can stop these people because they know the area like the back of their hands,” the source said.

Idjirani would not confirm the information, saying only that Agbimuddin and his men were “relatively safe.”

Lahad Datu was the training area of the former Moro National Liberation Front before it signed a peace accord with the Philippine government. The town is said to have stockpiles of weapons previously provided by the Malaysian military that were kept in storage over the years.

The Coast Guard on Wednesday said it arrested two members of the Royal Army of Sulu and confiscated their pistols onboard a motor boat near the Philippine-Malaysian border.

The arrest came a few hours after Navy personnel arrested 18 other Royal Army members also near the border. Seventeen of 18 arrested were armed with M-14 and M-16 rifles and a shotgun.

Idjirani again dismissed the Palace allegations of a political conspiracy to create a crisis in Sabah.
“The NBI is already investigating this. They have even sent men to Sulu and Tawi-Tawi but they got nothing,” Idjirani said.

If indeed the sultanate has been funded by powerful personalities to destabilize Sabah and sabotage the Malaysian-brokered peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the spokesman said, they would not have sent only 200 men to start a war in Sabah.

“If there was a conspiracy, we could have sent thousands of men. What can these 200 men do to contest the military might of Malaysia? Malaysia has about 100,000 soldiers and policemen,” he said.

He also said the sultan’s adviser, Pastor Saycon, had advised the sultan against sending men to Sabah last year, when the sultan had grown tired of President Aquino’s refusal to discuss the sultanate’s claim on Sabah.

Saycon, who was summoned to answer questions about his alleged involvement, accused the Palace of fabricating a conspiracy theory to distract public attention from the killing of Filipinos in Sabah.

Idjirani also denied that former Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari had helped fund the Sulu expedition and even sent men to reinforce Agbimuddin’s forces.

“Nur Misuari is a historical constituent of the sultanate. He merely conveyed his concern to the royal army facing the entire armed forces of Malaysia because he believes our forces are no match to them,” he said.

The NBI on Wednesday said it would summon former President Gloria Arroyo – who is under hospital arrest – to answer questions about the Sabah crisis, but denied this was part of a Palace witch-hunt.

NBI Deputy Directory Reynaldo Esmeraldo said others to be questioned were former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Jose Cojuangco Jr., lawyer Oliver Lozano, members of the Marcos family as well as the Kirams.

Esmeralda said they were still in the process of gathering and collecting evidence.
He denied charges of a witch-hunt.

“This is an opportunity for them to explain their hand in the Sabah incident, whether they were involved or not,” he said. “Remember, this is a fact-finding investigation to determine the truth.”

As fighting between the sultan’s followers and Malaysian forces continued, another group of 500 refugees from Sabah arrived in Bonga town in Tawi-Tawi.

These include more than 150 children and infants and more than 130 women, the largest batch so far to arrive from Sabah.

Roxas said the government has stepped up efforts to avert a humanitarian crisis in Tawi-Tawi.

Roxas said that majority of the Sabah evacuees – about 1,500 in all so far — were staying in Taganak Island and Bongao in Tawi-Tawi and Jolo in Sulu.

KL papers revisit Anwar-Nur links

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 14): KL papers revisit Anwar-Nur links

After Malacañang claimed that the Sabah incident was part of a conspiracy, Malaysian media revisited the five-year-old revelation of controversial document archive Wikileaks implicating Malaysian leader Anwar Ibrahim and Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari.

The news portals Malaysia Today and Malaysian Insider and a number of personal and anonymous blogs reprinted excerpts from a diplomatic communique that was leaked from the United States embassy in Manila in 2007.

The secret cable was reprinted amid fears from the Malaysia opposition People’s Justice Party (PKR) that their leader Anwar may soon be arrested by the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) which has linked him to the deadly incident.

But there was no claim of illegal activity in the cable, titled 07MANILA1534, which reported conversations US diplomats supposedly had with Filipino lawyer Ombra Jainal, who represented the MNLF, and Filipino general Benjamin Dolorfino, who has since retired.

According to the cable, Jainal described Misuari as “a strong advocate for the recovery of Sabah” while Dolorfino related that Misuari had once bragged that he could conquer Sabah in two hours. The cable quoted Jainal as saying Misuari detested the Malaysian government for arresting and turning him over to the Philippine authorities in 2002.

“Misuari once commented to (Philippine Major General) Ben Dolorfino that when the timing was right, the MNLF could invade Sabah at 5am and control it by 7am,” Malaysia Today quoted the cable as saying.

Manila Standard Today tried to contact Misuari for a reaction, but he declined to comment.

“Dolorfino commented that Malaysia is not only concerned about Misuari’s intentions towards Sabah, where he apparently still has hundreds of followers, but also about his recent contacts with Malaysian opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim,” the cable said.

The cable also claimed that the Malaysian government, then under Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, was wary of the close relationship between Misuari and Anwar.

“Anwar is described as an “old friend” of Misuari’s… Over the past several months, Malaysian officials have held at least three meetings with Misuari and his wives,” the cable surmised, based on statements collected from both Jainal and Dolorfino.

But the reprinting of the Wikileaks document raised fears among Malaysian opposition leaders that Kuala Lumpur may be preparing to arrest Anwar, who is renewing his bid to become prime minister in general elections that must be called by June 27.

Another news portal Free Malaysia Today, a pro-Anwar publication, quoted PKR deputy president Azmin Ali as saying it is highly probable that Anwar may be arrested and characterized the move as Kuala Lumpur’s way of diverting public attention from its supposed mistakes in handling the Lahad Datu issue.

“For the past 15 years, they have tried blaming Anwar for everything wrong in the country, but to link him to the Lahad Datu incident is highly preposterous,” Azmin was quoted as saying.

Free Malaysia Today said pro-UMNO newspapers have played up news reports from the Philippines that a politician linked to Anwar had invited the Sulu intruders to Sabah. The claim was categorically denied by Anwar and Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

Last week, President Aquino told Palace reporters there are signs of a conspiracy that led to the bloody intrusion of Sulu terrorists in Lahad Datu and at least two newspapers published reports from unnamed Philippine intelligence sources that the intrusion was instigated by a leader from the Malaysia.

Balikatan 2013 to undertake community projects in Zambales

From the Business Mirror (Mar 13): Balikatan 2013 to undertake community projects in Zambales

IBA, Zambales—A military exercise between the Philippines and the United States scheduled in this province and other parts of Luzon next month is expected to benefit local communities through humanitarian-assistance projects to be implemented under the bilateral training program.
According to a statement from the United States Embassy in Manila, participants in Balikatan 2013, which will take place from April 5 to 17, will undertake joint humanitarian-assistance projects in communities throughout Zambales.
The volunteer-assistance projects will include the construction and repair of school rooms and other infrastructure in selected communities, with preliminary work on community-infrastructure projects beginning in mid-March.
Meanwhile, military medical personnel from both the Philippine and American contingents will provide free medical, dental and veterinary care during the two-week exercise period.
The Balikatan program, named from a Filipino word that means shoulder-to-shoulder, is an annual Philippines-US military bilateral-training exercise and humanitarian- assistance engagement meant to improve inter-operability between Philippine and American military forces, and lately, as a venue to train for humanitarian disaster response.
The US Embassy described the program as a “signature element of our two nations’ robust treaty—alliance relationship” and stressed its focus on “training both the US and Philippines armed forces to provide relief and assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety.”
In this year’s exercise—the 29th such activity to be held so far—Armed Forces personnel from both countries will conduct combined staff exercises and field training to improve interoperability and contingency planning.
As in past trainings, the military exercises shall be held at the Subic Bay Freeport, Crow Valley in Pampanga, Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
The US Embassy said the two parties have also invited “a small number of personnel from other partner nations in the [Asia-Pacific] region to attend a portion of the exercise.”
Last year, local community groups also benefited under a special Balikatan program wherein participants learned earthquake-rescue techniques during training held at the Subic Bay Freeport.
Members of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority’s fire and rescue team, the local chapter of the Philippine National Red Cross, and the Olongapo City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council participated in the activity, along with some members of the Hawaii National Guard.

Activists gear up for huge protest

From the Business Mirror (Mar 13): Activists gear up for huge protest

SEVERAL groups are gearing up for a nationwide protest action on March 20 to condemn the government’s alleged anti-poor policies, such as privatization, and failure to prevent prices from going up.
In a news conference in Quezon City on Wednesday, Elmer Labog of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Steve Ranjo of the Pagkakaisa ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston), Bea Arellano of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap, Vencer Crisostomo of Anakbayan and Joms Salvador of Gabriela vowed to mobilize their members to express their disgust over the planned privatization of 26 public hospitals and mass-transport systems in Metro Manila.
The groups called on the public to join the protest, dubbed Protestang Bayan vs Nagtataasang Presyo at Pribatisasyon, during the news conference, wherein they tagged President Aquino as “traitor to the people” for allegedly serving big capitalists to the detriment of Filipinos.
Labog, KMU chairman, said the failure of the Aquino administration to stop fuel, electricity and water increases is proof that Mr. Aquino is pro-capitalist and anti-poor.
“[President] Aquino is clearly a bentador ng bayan. He is serving big capitalists to the detriment of Filipinos,” Labog said.
The groups said the increases in the prices of petroleum products and the increasing rates of public utilities are untenable in the face of stunted wages and incomes.
“The overpricing being undertaken by the oil cartel is obvious. It should be implementing a big-time rollback amid the weakening of the dollar but has hiked prices since the start of the year,” Ranjo, Piston secretary-general, said.
For his part, Arellano said: “Where will the poor go the moment public hospitals are privatized? President Aquino should watch out as we vow to hold militant protests on March 20.”
The groups were referring to the planned privatization of 26 public hospitals, mostly in Metro Manila, which is being stiffly opposed by various groups.
“The big capitalists in the power and water sectors are having a grand time while Filipinos suffer from increasing rates. The government should junk the Electric Power Industry Reform Act and revoke its contracts with the independent power producers,” Salvador, Gabriela secretary-general, said for her part.
The groups said buildup protest actions will be held starting on Thursday, leading up to the March 20 “people’s protest.”
This will include pickets at Manila Electric Co.’s head office, MRT and LRT.
In addition, a Metro Manila-wide noise barrage and a rally at the historic Mendiola Bridge will be held on March 15.
On March 18 the groups will picket the oil depot and as well as the Department of Health office in Manila.
On March 19 there will be a picket in front of the Department of the Interior and Local Government office in Quezon City to protest the demolition of squatter colonies in Metro Manila.

Karapatan Leadership Woes: Fred Caña Resigns

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Mar 13): Karapatan Leadership Woes: Fred Caña Resigns

Camp Peralta, Jamindan, Capiz - A stalwart of Karapatan, Fred Caña quit as Secretary-General of Karapatan - Negros recently after a series of deliberate attacks launched by the NPA against lives, properties and government projects and infrastructures in the provinces of Negros Island.

Information from an open source said, Caña’s resignation as Secretary General of Karapatan came after pressures brought about by the La Castellana Massacre and his inability to bail out low level CPP-NPA-NDF members.

Open sources also disclosed, Fred Caña is a long time member of Karapatan and has a misunderstanding with the party and that his voice and position are being disregarded. The Karapatan top leadership has been in confusion since they don’t have people who are qualified and capable to replace Caña.

MGen Jose Z Mabanta Commander 3ID said "This is a good development, it shows that Karapatan leadership is facing a precarious position and disunity. Mabanta however stressed that justice is still a long way. They have yet to surrender the suspects whom Fred Caña has bailed out especially the suspects of La Castellana Massacre."

Records show that since 2006, KARAPATAN-NEGROS through Fred Caña has bailed out NPA suspects that have totalled Php 2.4 Million with cases ranging from frustrated murder, attempted murder, robbery in band and arson.

For the year 2012, Fred Caña of Karapatan Negros has bailed out 3 NPA suspects for their robbery-in-band cases. Including Romeo Nanta, the others are Faith Roseen Basirgo alyas Bea/Hannah and Hernando Llorente alyas otoy/adoy. Some of the recent suspects are Faith Roseen Basirgo alyas Bea/Hannah and Hernando Llorente alyas otoy/adoy. Both were arrested last Apr 18 2011 in San Carlos City for robbery in band and was bailed out for an amount of Php 80,000 three days after.

Col Oscar Lactao, Commander of Negros Occidental Army forces said "We are calling on the Karapatan members to take a look at the La Castellana massacre if this action is consistent with your advocacy and principles of human rights and international humanitarian law."

Mabanta continued to call in his statement "We enjoin the people of Negros to be vigilant in fighting against the injustices caused by the CNN and Karapatan. Let us continue our Bayanihan culture and enjoy a peaceful community for the sake of our children and the future generation."

Plans for 'first historic meeting' between PNoy, Joma scuttled by govt duplicity - Reds

From InterAksyon (Mar 13): Plans for 'first historic meeting' between PNoy, Joma scuttled by govt duplicity - Reds

Communist rebels said alleged duplicity by government representatives, specifically presidential political adviser Ronald Llamas, had scuttled what could have been the “historic meeting” between President Benigno Aquino III and Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison.

Ironically, according to a lengthy report by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ delegation to a “special track” meeting with government representatives, it was Llamas himself who proposed the Aquino-Sison meeting, to be held in Hanoi early this year, during talks in The Netherlands in October and November last year.

A copy of the report, submitted to the NDFP’s National Council, was obtained by InterAksyon from Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the Front’s negotiating panel, which represents the communist rebels in peace talks with government.

The proposed meeting was supposed to be reminiscent of the one between Aquino and Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo last year that speeded up negotiations with the Moro rebels, and was supposed to “stimulate the forging of a general or common declaration for effecting truce and cooperation” between the government and the NDFP.

However, according to Jalandoni, the idea collapsed because of two issues -- the government’s continued failure to release detained consultants of the rebel peace panel and its alleged “maneuver to trap the NDFP into indefinite (simultaneous and unilateral) ceasefires without moving towards a truce and cooperation with the premises and requirements for such truce and cooperation.”

The NDFP said that, since 2005, it has been proposing a “truce and alliance based on a general declaration of common intent” in response to government’s calls for an indefinite ceasefire “without any clear basis,” which the rebels see as a ploy towards their capitulation.

In early 2011, in a proposal to Aquino, the NDFP proposed that its proferred “truce and alliance” be worked out “on a special track” separate from the formal peace talks. Although Aquino, through Llamas, responded that “the proposed points were doable,” the government continued “harping on the line that ceasefire is good for the people but said nothing about the subnstantive points for agreement.”

Nevertheless, both sides continued to discuss the “special track” until, accordign to Jalandoni, at a meeting in Utrecht on October 7 last year, Llamas discussed the proposed Aquino-Sison meeting with the CPP founder and “promised” that jailed NDF consultant Alan Jazmines would be “present (therefore already released) in Hanoi” and that Aquino “had approved the release of four political prisoners” on the fulfullment of “certain requirements.”

At the same meeting, and in a subsequent one in Amsterdam in November at which Norwegian Ambassador Ture Lundh, the third party facilitator of the talks between the communists and the government, was present, Jalandoni said “Ronald was asked by Joma to form their Special Team for the Special Track and get credentials and mandate from” Aquino.

However, when they met again on December 18 at the Norwegian embassy in The Hague, the government delegation “said there was no special team and they had no mandate to sign” any agreement or discuss the release of the jailed rebel consultants.

Nevertheless, both sides agreed to meet again early this year to discuss the following:
  • Common declaration of national unity and just peace
  • Further upholding national independence, democracy and human rights
  • Committee for National Unity, Peace and Development
  • Agrarian reform, rural development and national industrialization
  • Truce
These topics were supposed to be incorporated in a joint press communique to mark the Aquino-Sison meeting.

It was at the December meeting that the recent Christmas season truce, the longest ever declared between the communists and governemnt, was agreed on.

When the two groups met again on February 25 and 26, both sides exchanged drafts for the proposed joint communique.

However, the NDFP said the discussions fell apart because the government delegation’s draft was hingd on “simultaneous unilateral and indefinite ceasefires in disparate areas only to reduce the level of violence under the auspices and control of the reactionary state and armed forces” without addressing the roots of the armed conflict, which the rebels insisted should be the basis of any truce.

On February 26, the NDFP had concluded that Llamas’ “proposal to have an Aquino-Sison meeting in Hanoi, with Alan Jazmines attending, was not a serious offer but a mere ploy or bait to entice the NDFP” into agreeing with the government delegation’s “irrational” contention that, the ceasefire aside, the other points to be included in the joint press communique could be hammered out “in just one or two meetings.”

The meeting adjourned when the government delegation said they could no longer proceed.

Although Lundh convened side bar consultations with Llamas and Sison “with the obvious purpose of reconvening the meeting,” Llamas later said “he would like to go home and consult” Aquino.

“By its actuations during the Amsterdam meeting on February 25 and 26, 2013, the GPH has exposed itself as not really interested in any truce and cooperation arising from a special track,” the NDFP report said.

“Indeed, the GPH wants nothing but the pacification and capitulation of the revolutionary forces of the Filipino” and is not “interested in addressing the roots of the armed conflict through negotiated social, economic and political reforms,” it added.

The rebels said the government “has the burden of showing that it is sincerely interested in continuing the peace negotiations in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and subsequent agreements.”

MILF-GPH to resume talks in Malaysia next week

From InterAksyon (Mar 13): MILF-GPH to resume talks in Malaysia next week

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will resume peace talks in Malaysia next week notwithstanding the continuing crisis in Sabah, where followers of the Sulu sultanate have been battling Malaysian security forces.

“As far as we are concerned, it (peace talks) will resume as scheduled on the third week of March,” Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF’s chief negotiator, said in a phone interview.

However, he did not give a specific date for when the talks will be held.

He would only say that the discussions would include the sharing of power and wealth in the new Bangsamoro political entity that will be created, and “normalization.”

“That is a separate issue, [a] security issue,” Iqbal said, referring to the Sabah crisis. “It cannot affect it (peace talks). As far as we are concerned, there is no effect, direct effect.”

However, he refused to comment further on Sabah, saying: "Our policy is not to comment. It's a very complicated issue."

Iqbal said it is important to continue negotiations with the government to avoid any complications to the peace process in Mindanao.

“Walang reason na magkaroon ng (There is no reason there should be a) delay, anyway the two governments -- Malaysia and the Philippines -- are trying to resolve the issue (Sabah) as soon as possible,” he said.

HUMANITARIAN MISSION | AFP deploys more assets to Basulta to serve Sabah evacuees

From InterAksyon (mar 13): HUMANITARIAN MISSION | AFP deploys more assets to Basulta to serve Sabah evacuees

Philippine Navy commandos by their patrol craft at the pier in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi. (photo courtesy of Task Force Tabang Basulta)

With Filipino evacuees continuing to flee the violence in Sabah, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has deployed more assets to the Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi area, or Basulta, to provide humanitarian aid.

In a statement, AFP spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos said 34 Navy ships have already been sent south, both to undertake maritime patrols and provide humanitarian assistance to the evacuees.

The Philippine Air Force has also placed its lone C-130 plane on standby to transport relief goods from Zamboanga City to Tawi-Tawi, where most of the evacuees have landed before heading to their hometowns.

The Philippine Navy vessel AT 291 departed Zamboanga City on Tuesday to deliver relief goods and 15 drums of fuel to Jolo and Tawi-Tawi.

Another Navy ship, the BRP Sultan Kudarat, ferried more than 500 evacuees from Taganak Island in the Turtle Islands to Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.

"While the transport of evacuees is ongoing, our troops on the ground continue to provide sea marshaling to all commercial vessels traveling from Zamboanga Pier to Suba-Nipa-Margosastubig, Lamitan, Isabela, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi to ensure the safety and security of the passengers," Burgos said.

The AFP also has mobile patrols at Wee Ben Pier, Tres Marias Pier and Hadji Taja Pier, all in Zamboanga City, and at Tumalutab Island and Sacol Island Pier.

Marine Battalion Landing Teams are also monitoring and patrolling the coastlines and securing all ports in the area.

The AFP has also stepped up intelligence monitoring in the Basulta area, Burgos said.

Navy arrests gunmen on way to Sabah

From Rappler (Mar 13): Navy arrests gunmen on way to Sabah

A group of 35 alleged followers of the sultanate of Sulu were intercepted early Wednesday, March 13, in the vicinity of Tawi-Tawi, the Philipine Navy said. The Navy seized firearms and ammunition from them.

Initial reports suggest they were on their way to Sabah, according to Navy spokesman Lt Cmd Gregory Fabic.

The group -- 34 men and one woman on board 2 vessels -- was stopped by the BRP Mariano Alvarez patrol ship and the BRP Jose Andrada at around 6.30 am.

Upon searching the boats, the Navy discovered "numerous firearms and ammunition," Andrada added.

The suspected supporters of the standoff led by the sultan's brother in Sabah are expected to arrive later this afternoon to be interrogated in Batobato, Tawi-Tawi.

A week ago another group of 67 followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III were also intercepted in Tawi-Tawi before heading to Lahad Datu, Sabah.

MILF: Focus on peace talks, not Sabah

From Rappler (Mar 13): MILF: Focus on peace talks, not Sabah

RAPPLER/File/Karlos Manlupig

The head of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group on Tuesday, March 12, broke their silence on the on-going violence in Sabah, Malaysia, saying his group is not interested to retake the disputed territory this time.

"We are more focused on the peace process and we don’t want it to complicate [it] with the issue of Sabah ownership. We feel the issue is separate from the peace process," Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said.

"You may recall that in the early stages of negotiations since 1970s to 1996, there was never mention of Sabah claim… because it is not part of the peace process. So why only now other groups are trying to say the framework of agreement did not mention of the Sabah?," he added.

Murad said they expect to sign a Malaysian-brokered peace deal with the Philippine government next month.

"I think in the power sharing almost only one issue not agreed yet and two issues on the natural resources. The sharing will be 75% and 25% on the government. But this has not been agreed yet," he said.

"We always put priority to the peace process despite our group is waging for war. However, we always believe that political settlement through negotiation is solution to the problem. The armed struggle is only a means to push forward the negotiation," he added.

Murad issued their position a month after a group of more than 180 militants led by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, the brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, arrived in the east coastal town of Lahad Datu in Sabah from southern Philippines to claim territorial rights to the land.

The standoff erupted into violence on March 1, and 61 people—53 sultanate followers and eight Malaysian policemen—have been killed in armed confrontation between the two sides.

AFP sends 34 ships to Mindanao

From Rappler (Mar 13): AFP sends 34 ships to Mindanao

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has sent 34 ships to Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (Basulta) as evacuees from Sabah continue to arrive in these provinces.

In a statement, AFP spokesman Col Arnulfo Burgos said the ships have already been sent to the Basulta area, where they will conduct maritime patrols and provide humanitarian assistance to evacuees.

The Philippine Air Force also placed its C-130 plane on standby to transport relief goods from Zamboanga to Tawi-Tawi.

The Philippine Navy's AT 291 departed Zamboanga City on Tuesday, March 12, to deliver relief goods and 15 drums of fuel to Jolo, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. Another Navy ship, PS22 arrived in Bongao Wednesday morning from Taganak Island in Turtle Islands.

"While the transport of evacuees is ongoing, our troops on the ground continue to provide sea marshaling to all commercial vessels traveling from Zamboanga Pier to Suba-Nipa-Margosastubig, Lamitan, Isabela, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi to ensure the safety and security of the passengers," Burgos said.

The AFP also has mobile patrols at Wee Ben Pier, Tres Marias Pier and Hadji Taja Pier all in Zamboanga City as well as in Tumalutab Island and Sacol Island Pier.

Presidential Adviser on Peace Process briefs UN experts

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 13): Presidential Adviser on Peace Process briefs UN experts

The Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, briefed on March 8 over 20 United Nations (UN) experts on the latest developments in the Mindanao peace process following the historic signing last year of the framework peace agreement between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Secretary Deles discussed the mandates of the different technical working groups. She also explained the roadmap for peace that envisions the eventual creation of the Bangsamoro, ending over four decades of insurgency in southern Philippines.

A 15-member committee is now drafting the Basic Law that, once passed by Congress and approved in a local plebiscite, will govern the Bangsamoro in time for the 2016 Philippine national elections.

“UN experts welcomed this opportunity and thanked the Philippines for personally keeping them up-to-speed on the Mindanao peace process, no less from Secretary Deles herself,” said Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations.

The experts come from various units, including the respective secretariats involved in mediation, peace building, political affairs and the Al-Qaeda sanctions committee.

The interactive discussion allowed Secretary Deles to address questions, such as the amendment of the Philippine constitution, possible constitutional challenges at any stage of the peace process, as well as the role of the facilitator, the International Contact Group, and possible greater UN involvement at a later stage, especially on development issues.

Secretary Deles highlighted the essential role that women play on all sides of the peace process, saying, “We cannot talk about the pursuit of peace without recognizing the role of women, especially today on International Women’s Day.”

Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, was in New York leading the Philippine delegation to the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, accompanied by Ambassador Libran Cabactulan.