Sunday, March 17, 2013

Malaysia eyes action vs hackers from both sides in cyberwar over Sabah

From GMA News (Mar 18): Malaysia eyes action vs hackers from both sides in cyberwar over Sabah

Malaysian authorities may go after hackers from both sides after a recent cyberwar that stemmed from clashes in Sabah between Malaysian security forces and followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III affected some 200 websites.

This was the threat made by Malaysia's National Security Council, which said at least 36 Malaysian websites had been defaced, according to a Sunday report by Malaysia's The Star Online.

“In Malaysia, cyber hacking is a criminal offense against the laws of the country, irrespective of whether it has been committed by citizens or by foreigners,” said NSC secretary Datuk Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab.

Mohamed noted the cyberwar between Philippine and Malaysia hackers lasted from March 1 to 4, coinciding with deadly clashes between Malaysian security forces and Kiram's followers.

The Star online report said Section 4 of Malaysia's Computer Crimes Act of 1997 carries a fine of up to RM150,000 (P1.951 million), and/or imprisonment of up to 10 years.

Armed clashes on March 1 and 2 prompted Malaysia to launch an offensive against Kiram's followers on March 5.

The Star Online's report said Malaysian hackers first attacked Filipino government and private websites, after which Filipino hackers responded in kind.

It said up to 200 websites from both countries were defaced before hackers called a truce.

Mohamed said 36 "local private" websites were defaced but would not say how many government sites were affected.

“None of these critical websites suffered any major problem,” he said.

Mohamed also admitted it may not be easy to pinpoint who the attackers were, even as he confirmed neither government was involved.

He claimed the Philippine side "suffered a bigger problem compared to the Malaysian side.”

Mohamed also said it will be up to the Malaysian Attorney-General to act against the hackers, even as he said getting at the Filipino hackers will need cooperation from the Philippine side.

Malaysia files terror raps vs Kiram, allies

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 18): Malaysia files terror raps vs Kiram, allies

The brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III will face charges in Malaysia for leading 200 armed men in Sabah, which touched off a conflict that has claimed over 60 lives, the police in Malaysia said Sunday.

State police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said Malaysia will seek the extradition of Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram if it is proven that he has escaped back to the Philippines, Malaysia’s Star Online reported on Sunday.

Quoting Hamza, the Star Online said an investigation under the state’s Security Offenses Act has been initiated against Kiram, whom Hamza described as “leader of the terrorist group” in Sabah.

“We have put up an investigation paper and we will deal with it according to our laws. We will apply for him to be extradited and he will face charges in Malaysian courts,” Hamza said.

In Taguig City, the spokesman of the Sulu Sultanate, Abraham Idjirani, laughed off reports that Agbimuddin has left Sabah.

“We were able to talk to him last Saturday and he remains in Sabah. That is their black propaganda as we all know this is election time in Malaysia,” Idjirani said.

The Malaysian government has recanted its earlier statement that Agbimuddin, the so-called crown prince of the sultanate, has escaped. It said manhunt operations against Agbimuddin and the remnants of his army in Sabah continue.

Idjirani said the Royal Security Army in Sabah numbers around 170 after more than 30 fighters returned to Tawi-Tawi last week due to the Malaysian force’s continued bombardment.

Bernama, Malaysia’s national news agency, said fresh fighting broke out in Tanjung Batu at around 10 am Sunday, resulting in “one more Sulu terrorist” killed.

Army field commander Lt. Gen. Datuk Seri Zulkiple Kassim said the security forces came in contact with “the terrorists” twice on Sunday.

“In the 10:15 am contact, we managed to kill one of the terrorists while three others escaped,” he told a press conference held jointly with Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib at Ops Daulat’s headquarters at Felda Sahabat 16.

The latest death has brought to 62 the number of the armed followers of the sultanate killed since the start of the military offensive on March 5, Bernama said.

CPDF seeks release of jailed Cordillera NDF consultant

From the Business Mirror (Mar 17): CPDF seeks release of jailed Cordillera NDF consultant

THE Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF) has urged the Aquino administration to release Kennedy Bangibang, a CPDF official and consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF) on Cordillera and national minority affairs.
CPDF Spokesman Simon “Ka Filiw” Naogsan said Bangibang was illegally arrested on February 23 by policemen at a checkpoint in Bangao Proper, Buguias, Benguet, along the Halsema Highway.
“A full-blooded Igorot and a member of the CPDF since the first quarter of 1987, Bangibang has fully grasped the deeply-rooted issues of the national minorities and is thus pivotal in the ongoing peace negotiations between the NDF and the government of the Philippines. His arrest and continued detention does not speak well of the so-called peace overtures of US-Aquino regime now much heralded in the media,” Naogsan said.
Bangibang, who hails from a remote village in the Cordillera, started as a youth activist and became part of a group of Cordillera college students from Baguio who integrated with the peasant masses in early 1987.
Naogsan said “[Bangibang] took part in the patriotic effort to expose and oppose the ringleaders of the renegade CPLA [Cordillera People’s Liberation Army] and its counter-revolutionary masquerades. From then on, he became a full-time underground activist and revolutionary leader.”
CPDF also condemned the Gestapo-like manner and illegal arrest of Bangibang by elements of the Regional Intelligence Unit–14 of Philippine National Police (PNP)–Intelligence Group under Sen. Insp. Rommel Saguilot.
“The culture of impunity ingrained in the PNP/AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] threw away the basic and proper requirements of making an arrest and proper conduct in police checkpoints. Saguilot did not identify himself at the checkpoint, if ever he was present. Although most were in police uniforms, the [policemen’s] name plates were missing. They handcuffed the suspect without first identifying their target and appraising the suspect of his constitutional rights,” CPDF argued.
The 51-year-old activist was handcuffed and dragged to a waiting jeep despite his protests and the plea of other passengers.
He was not served any arrest warrant.
“The national minority concern is among the issues to be tackled in the next round of peace talks, now centered on the aspects of drafting a Comprehensive Agreement on Socioeconomic Reform. Because of the arrest of numerous NDF consultants and the apparent insincerity of the US-Aquino regime, the negotiations have been stalled since February 2012. The arrest comes a day after the Royal Norwegian Government’s Team of Facilitators’ visit to Malacañang wherein the Palace reiterated its pursuit of the peace negotiations,” Naogsan said.
“Bangibang’s arrest and continued incarceration is another monkey wrench thrown to derail the continuance of the stalled peace talks. The PNP/AFP generals continue to be preoccupied with their monkey business of bounty-hunting. The pretentions of the US-Aquino regime to engage in peace talks is undermined by releasing P466.88 million of public funds for the capture of 235 revolutionary leaders. In reality, taking cue from the US Counter-Insurgency Guide of 2009, Oplan Bayanihan’s aim is to use the peace talks to force the revolutionary movement to surrender, a ploy that the NDF continues to thwart,” Naogsan said.
Meanwhile, the NDF in Rizal (NDF-Rizal) has indicted three soldiers belonging to the 16th Infantry Battalion for the rape of a 17-year-old girl in Rizal in 2011.
NDF-Rizal Spokesman Arman “Ka Arms” Guerrero said the indictment was handed down by a people’s court constituted in the province to try the soldiers, who were identified as Pfc. Alexander Barsaga, Pfc. Ronnie Castro and Pvt. Rocky Domingo.
Guerrero said the complaint against the three was filed in 2012 by concerned citizens who were appalled by the gang rape.
“With all these pieces of information, the prima facie evidence was established. Thus, the revolutionary movement formally indicts Pfc. Alexander Barsaga, Pfc. Ronnie Castro and PVT. Rocky Domingo for the abuse and the gang-rape of Erika, a 17-year-old high school student and resident of Sitio Radar, Pinugay, Baras, Rizal. Also indicted was the Commanding officer of the 16th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army for aiding and abetting his subordinate soldiers in their crime against the victim and his family under the guise of implementing Oplan Bayanihan (OPB),” Guerrero said.
“A warrant of arrest has been issued by the Revolutionary People’s Court ordering New People’s Army [NPA] units to arrest and bring the three soldier gang-rapists and their commanding officer to the People’s Court to face the charges against them. The arresting NPA unit is cautioned to prepare to defend themselves when serving the said arrest warrant because the accused are armed and dangerous. To hasten the arrest and prosecution of the indicted government soldier gang-rapist, we are calling the people of Rizal to inform the nearest NPA units and People’s Militias for any information on their whereabouts so that justice will be served,” he said.
The NDF-Rizal official also called on all women and child rights advocates to help and protect Erika and other victims of abuse and rape by government soldiers.

Army in Tarlac trains soldiers it classifies as ‘world class’

From the Business Mirror (Mar 17): Army in Tarlac trains soldiers it classifies as ‘world class’

CAMP O’Donnell, Capas, Tarlac—The Philippine Army (PA) based here has intensified its training of incoming soldiers and officers as it aimed to have “world-class” members under the Army Transportation Road map (ATR).
The PA described the ATR as “ambitious” and covers a period of 18 years. The Army also aims to serve the people and secure the country “hand in hand” with the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) program.
The PA, which is set to celebrate its 116th anniversary on March 22, wants to win peace through the IPSP and ATR.
Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said “a world-class army begins with a world-class training.”
Bautista, a former PA commanding general, launched the ATR late last year. The top military officer wants the PA to be a source of “national pride” with world-class soldiers by 2028.
The PA camp in Capas is home to the Training and Doctrine Command (Tradoc), headed by Maj. Gen. Benito Antonio T. de Leon.
De Leon said the Tradoc and its training facilities is the main PA base to train aspiring soldiers. He said the Tradoc also supplies PA officers but the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio City “is still the main source of Army officers.”
Improvements are under way at the Tradoc as 10 buildings are set to be completed before 2013 ends, said de Leon. He said the Tradoc has revised its school curriculum to fit into new paradigm spelled out in the IPSP and ATR.
De Leon invited the BusinessMirror and at least 20 local and national journalists in what he described as “media day.”
De Leon said the event “specifically recognizes the important role of the media as partner in protecting and defending the people by the use of the pen.”
The media practitioners were briefed on the various operations of the Tradoc where more than 1,000 people are in training as of March.
Tradoc sits on a 210-hectare hilly portion of Capas, sharing the camp with the PA’s light armor division occupying some 160 hectares. The AFP peace operating unit sits on a small area at Camp O’Donnell.
The journalists were toured in the vast Tradoc facility.
Col. Medardo Geslani, deputy commanding general of Tradoc, and Col. Ramon Bombais Jr., chief of staff, joined the media in the boodle fight at the training ground for soldiers.
There are at least 84,000 members of the PA. There are 10 infantry divisions in the country, four of which are in Luzon.

Marines commandant seen to head Wescom

From the Business Mirror (Mar 17): Marines commandant seen to head Wescom

MAJ. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, Marines commandant, is reportedly the strongest contender for the post of Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, who is scheduled to retire on April 1.

Sabban, the youngest member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1978, reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56 on April 1. He heads the Armed Forces Western Command (Wescom) based in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
Wescom’s area of responsibility covers the West Philippine Sea (WPS), where the Philippines actively claim at least seven islets and two reefs composing the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), a municipality of Palawan.
The oil-rich maritime area is also actively being claimed in whole or in part by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.
Sabban’s exploits against terrorism and insurgency earned him the respect of the militaries abroad.
Military sources said Sabban could have been appointed Armed Forces chief of staff if not for his involvement in coup attempts against the mother of President Aquino, the late President Corazon Aquino.
Guerrero, also a battle-tested Mindanao warrior against terrorism, is a member of PMA Class of 1981.
If Guerrero bags the Wescom post, he will get another star.
Under the present Armed Forces table of organization, the Marines commandant is a major general (two star).
Reportedly, classmates Brig. Gens. Alexander Balutan and Romeo Tanalgo of PMA Class of 1983 are on the list of contenders for Marine commandant.
Tanalgo was the former Sulu Island commander before he was promoted to his current position as head of the Armed Forces’ Command Center based in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Balutan is the commander of the 1st Marine Brigade based in the Cotabato provinces. He was among senior officers who exposed the the alleged rigging of the 2004 presidential election where the military was allegedly used by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to secure her win in the race.

US deputy defense secretary in town

From the Business Mirror (Mar 17): US deputy defense secretary in town

A RANKING United States defense official started an official visit to the Philippines on Sunday as US President Barack Obama’s national security advisor was reported to cite a “strategic pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific region.
US Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter arrived in the country on Sunday for a five-day visit “to continue US defense consultations on a range of common security challenges,” the US Embassy in Manila said.
Carter’s visit comes after a US Armed Forces Press Service article quoted US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon as saying that the US sees a “need to focus on regions that will shape global order in coming decades.”
“It was clear that there was an imbalance in the projection and focus of US power,” the article quoted Donilon as saying.
“It is clear that, as we look forward, maintaining security in a dynamic region will demand greater trilateral coordination from Japan, Korea and the US.” Donilon was also quoted as saying that “the shift in focus toward the Asia-Pacific region isn’t just a matter of military presence.”
He cited long-standing alliances with Thailand and the Philippines to address counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The US Embassy in Manila said that Carter’s visit “will reinforce our strong commitment to our allies and partners in the Asia region.”
Other countries in Carter’s itinerary include Japan, South Korea and Indonesia.
Carter’s visit coincides with the annual combined joint-command post exercise by the US Navy’s 7th Fleet and the Republic of Korea. That exercise called Key Resolve 2013 started on March 11 and will end on March 21, the last day of Carter’s visit to the Philippines.
The visit of Carter, a three-time recipient of the US Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal, is ahead of the annual Philippines-US military bilateral training exercise from April 5 to 17.
Called Exercise Balikatan 2013, the 29th joint exercise will also see armed forces personnel from both countries conducting field training in Camp O’Donnell, Crow Valley, Subic Bay and Fort Magsaysay.
Prior to his most recent government service, Carter was chairman of the International and Global Affairs faculty at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and co-director of the Preventive Defense Project.
The US Embassy in Manila said Carter will “also visit US service members to thank them for their service.”

Alleged NPA leader nabbed in Iloilo

From ABS-CBN (Mar 17): Alleged NPA leader nabbed in Iloilo

An alleged leader of the New People’s Army in Western Visayas was arrested by the 301st Brigade of the 82nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army as well as elements of the Jaro Police Station in Iloilo.
Bernabe Tubongbanwa, 30, was nabbed last Saturday while attending a fiesta in Balantang, Jaro. Tubongbanwa is allegedly a finance officer and a regional intelligence officer of the NPA.

He was caught with documents from the Coronacion Chiva Waling Waling Command, a grenade, an improvised explosive device and a knife inside his bag.

A warrant of arrest for Tubongbanwa has been out since November 2011.

Because of the recovered explosives, Tubongbanwa will be charged with violation of the Comelec gun ban.

Malaysia detains Kiram relatives - report

From ABS-CBN (Mar 17): Malaysia detains Kiram relatives - report

Only 50 of Kiram’s men in hiding - report
MANILA, Philippines -- Relatives of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu are among the 104 detained by Malaysian forces in Sabah for allegedly engaging in security offenses, a report from state news agency Bernama said.

In a report, Bernama quoted Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib as saying that Kiram’s relatives were detained under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012.

The authorities did not say when they will undergo prosecution.

The website of Malaysian Law explained that the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012 “provides for special measures in dealing with security offenses as scheduled in the Act.”

The law repealed the Internal Security Act 1960 “while recognizing the grave risks to internal security and public order presented by the threat of terrorism, sabotage and espionage.”

A key provision in the law states that a police officer “has special powers of arrest and detention over persons whom he has reason to believe to be involved in security offenses.”

Malaysia earlier tagged Kiram’s followers as “terrorists.”

“We are also investigating others who have links with the terrorists,” Army Field Commander Lt. Gen. Datuk Seri Zulkiple was quoted as saying.

The same news agency also reported that the mop-up operations in Sabah to reign in on the royal army’s followers will continue against the 50 men of Kiram who remain in hiding.

“We will finish [the operations] as soon as possible,” said Hamza Taib.

MNLF: MNLF Chairman's Greetings on the 45th Bangsamoro Freedom Day, March 18, 2013

Posted to the MNLF Website (Mar 17): MNLF Chairman's Greetings on the 45th Bangsamoro Freedom Day, March 18, 2013


Nur Misuari: Jabidah Massacre

Posted to the Facebook page of Nur Misuari (Mar 15): Jabidah Massacre

The massacre

The sole survivor of the Massacre, Jibin Arula, recounted how the young Moro recruits were taken in batches of twelve to a remote airstrip where they were executed with machine guns by their military handlers. Arula, who was wounded in the left knee,[3] managed to attach himself to driftwood long enough to be rescued by fishermen from the nearby province of Cavite.

 Though there has never been an official count, the number of dead ranges from 28 to 60 according to Philippine government estimates, to over two hundred according to the MNLF.!/photo.php?fbid=532627570114328&set=a.343289739048113.78383.185093644867724&type=1&theater

MILF: MILF prov’l committee conducts series of advocacy

From the MILF Website (Mar 17): MILF prov’l committee conducts series of advocacy

The Kutawatu Provincial Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had successfully conducted an advocacy and orientation on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) held at the municipality of Lebak, Sultan Kudarat province last March 10.

The event attended by hundreds of stakeholders from the sectors of the society in the said municipality.

The advocacy was initiated by Abubakar Abas, Al Hadj who is the Chairman of Kutawatu Provincial Committee.

Dr. Tomas Antok was the main speaker of the event. He discussed and detailed the contents of the Agreement on the Framework of the Bangsamoro. He was followed by Mayor Rolando P. Garcia of the Municipality of Kalamansig who also gave affirmation on the significance of the FAB in the current Peace process thru the straight path journeying by the President Benigno Aquino III. He encouraged the tri-peoples of Lebak and his municipal town to support the FAB for this could give a real peace in Mindanao particularly in the core territory of the Bangsamoro. He believed that the inclusivity of the other contiguous territory is in the process of acceptability.

The municipal Mayor of Lebak was also invited but failed to attend for unspecified reasons.

Dan Dimaknal, a member of the MILF-BIAF General Staff, explained the importance of the FAB to the lives of the people in Mindanao.

He urged the people of Lebak to support the FAB for this could give a real peace in Mindanao particularly in the core territory of the Bangsamoro.

Kutawatu Provincial Chairman Abubakar Abas Al Hadj challenged the municipal leaders of Lebak to provide example on the tasks given to them by the leadership of the MILF.

B/Gen. Alexander Balutan, a Brigade Commander of 1st Marine Brigade, also emphasized the significance of peace in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, Nas Pulindao who is also a member of the Committee gave updates on the current status of the peace talk between GPH and the MILF. He also gave a wide understanding to the issues on the Transitional Arrangement and Modalities and the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) that was signed in the Joint Statement during the 36th exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last February 25-28, 2013. He also challenged the Armed Forces of the Philippines especially the Marines, the Local Government Unit of Kalamansig and the concerned citizen to be actively involved towards forging real peace in Mindanao.

The forum ended with the mass oath-taking of the members of the municipal committees composing the province of Kutawato last Saturday afternoon, March 10.

Bail hearing for JI suspect’s wife set

From the Sun Star-Davao (Mar 17): Bail hearing for JI suspect’s wife set

THE wife of the Malaysian national linked to international terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is set to appear anew before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Tuesday for the scheduled hearing for her petition for bail.

Records of the case filed before the RTC Branch 14 showed that Presiding Judge George Omelio set the next hearing of the case of Annabelle Nieva Lee, of Sorsogon province, at 2:30 p.m. of March 19, 20 and 22.

Lee was charged with Presidential Decree 1866, as amended by Republic Act 9516, or The Illegal Possession of Firearms, Ammunition or Explosives.

Omelio, in his order dated February 14, said the accused through her counsel, lawyer Ben Joseph Tesiorna, said she “has no knowledge as to the contents of the bag she carried” when she and her husband Mohd Noor Fikrie Bin Abd Kahar were cornered by the authorities on December 14, 2012.

This was pointed out on February 14 as the case was called for a pre-trial conference and the hearing on the petition for bail for the accused.

Kahar was gunned down when authorities led by Senior Superintendent Ronald dela Rosa cornered him and his wife along Camus Street around 10:30 p.m. of December 14, 2012.

Lee was arrested for carrying the bag that contains a bomb.

Tesiorna, in his motion to admit and fix bail, said the allegation that Lee is the wife of the slain terrorist was the only evidence clearly established by the authorities, hence "it cannot suffice for the denial of the constitutional rights of the accused to bail before conviction."

He said the evidence of the prosecution to prove the guilt of Lee is not strong since the basis for the filing of the case against the accused is the allegation that she was initially in possession of the black bag allegedly containing the improvised explosive device.

The lawyer also said that the complainants, in their joint-affidavit, only stated that it was only Kahar who declared that he had a bomb.

"Nowhere in their affidavits did they state that the accused commit any overt act or utter any threatening word in support of the action of her slain husband," Tesiorna said.

Lee pleaded not guilty when arraigned on January 11.

Police alerted vs NPA

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Mar 17): Police alerted vs NPA

POLICE forces in Zamboanga Peninsula have been placed on alert against possible hostile actions that might be carried out by the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People's Army (CPP-NDF-NPA) in line with its 44th founding anniversary.

The CPP-NDF-NPA is set to mark its 44th founding anniversary on March 29 and the government noted that the insurgents stage attacks as they are about or celebrating their anniversary.

Police Regional Office (PRO)-Zamboanga Peninsula Chief Superintendent Juanito Vaño said he has ordered his forces to be on alert and to initiate defensive measures to pre-empt any possible violence that the CPP-NDF-NPA may carry out ahead of the scheduled anniversary.

"Secure all police camps, vital installation, economic key points and places where people converge. Work and coordinate closely with the local government units, our force multipliers and the military, to prevent harassments of PNP personnel, ambuscades, raids, and sabotage of cell sites," Vaño said in his directive addressed to his city and provincial directors.

His area of jurisdiction covers the police commands in Zamboanga City and the three Zamboanga provinces - Zamboanga dell Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay.

Vaño told his field commander that the NPA might employ tactical guerilla style warfare on soft targets such as isolated and less fortified police and military outposts, government installations and infrastructure and vital facilities in the region.

60 families flee as Army, NPA clash in Agusan Norte

From MindaNews (Mar 17): 60 families flee as Army, NPA clash in Agusan Norte

CARMEN, Agusan del Norte – Some 60 families from two villages here left their homes after soldiers of the 58 Infantry Battalion traded fire with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels last March 15.

Gripped in fear, villagers quickly packed what their hands could carry as the sound of gunfire and explosions echoed across the mountain side near the town center of Carmen which started at around 3:30 Friday afternoon.

Ernesto Palatulon, chairman of Sitio Kabayawa, Barangay Poblacion expressed how thankful he was that no one in his family nor among the villagers got hurt.

“I was not in the sitio that time but we heard it as far from here in the town proper. I was so afraid for my family that I immediately hurried towards my house in the hills. Thankfully my children and their families were also on their way out of the village when I arrived, thankfully no one got hurt,” said Palatulon.

He explained that even though the local government did not order any evacuation, the people were so frightened that they left their houses in a hurry.

“Just in Sitio Kabayawa alone 47 families evacuated. Other families from Sitio Makupa and from Tubod evacuated as well,” he said.

Charlito Rabadan, a farmer from Sitio Kabayawa, said he was out in the field when it all happened and immediately hurried back home.

“All six of us, including my wife and children, immediately came down from our home in the hills. We saw other families rush to the town proper, too. Loud automatic gunfire from the mango plantation where the encounter took place echoed across the hills,” said Rabadan.

One of the teachers in the elementary school in Sitio Kabayawa who requested anonymity revealed how she and other teachers immediately guided the school children out the school.

“The children cried and shouted as they panicked. We tried to keep them calm while moving out of the school down towards the town proper,” said the teacher.

Rabadan confirmed what the teachers did, saying it was heroic. Some of the teachers, he added, were even crying as they guided the children.

On the other side of the encounter area in Sitio Campo Uno, Barangay Rojales residents also heard the exchange of gunfire but only few evacuated.

Raymond Obejero, a motorcycle driver, said a mountain separates their village from the clash site, and so most of the residents felt safe. But he did not bother taking the chance, so he and his family left and headed towards the poblacion.

1Lt Nestor Endozo Jr., Alpha Company commander of the 58IB, explained that the encounter took place after they pinpointed the NPA’s location in the valley.

The soldiers recovered unexploded landmines, ammunitions, 20 pieces of uniforms, 20 pieces of food containers and other materials and paraphernalia used by the NPA, Endozo said.

Residents reported that gunfire was last heard 7 a.m. Saturday. Most of the residents of Sitio Kabayawa still have not returned to their houses and managed to stay with relatives and friends in the town proper as military operations in the area continued until Sunday.

In January 2009, the town’s municipal hall and the police station were attacked by NPA rebels, killing a police officer.

Soldiers accused of posing as NPA rebels

From the Manila Times (Mar 17): Soldiers accused of posing as NPA rebels

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA) traded accusations over the weekend over the issuance of permits to campaign (PTC) with the rebel group claiming that government troopers had been posing as rebels and charging local candidates for the issuance of the permits.

National Democratic Front-Bicol spokesman Greg Bañares, in a radio interview, cited a mayoral candidate and three vice mayoral candidates in the first district of Albay and a vice mayoral bet in the third district were allegedly receiving text messages demanding a certain amount to allow them to campaign in rebel-controlled areas.

He said that the candidates were told to deliver the money in a designated place where someone posing as a Maoist rebel would meet the candidate or his representative.

“These are fake rebels,” said Bañares.

The rebel group spokesman claimed that the Maoist militant group had traced the numbers used and found out that it came from someone from the Ninth Infantry Division based in Camarines Sur.

Bañares said that the practice of the rebels is simply to write and invite candidates to a meeting in a designated place where a negotiator would discuss the campaign permit.

“That is our practice and we don’t have to use a mere text messages or letter without the succeeding formal dialogue,” Bañares added.

Meanwhile, Col. Ricardo Visaya, commander of the 901st Brigade of the Army denied the allegations of the rebel group spokesman, saying that soldiers are not engaged in “extortion.”

“Our duty is to give protection and security to all including candidates,” he told The Manila Times.

Visaya noted: “It is ironic for the NPA to deny their true color as an underground movement surviving on plain extortion.”

The army commander cited that in a gun battle two weeks ago two guerillas were killed and allegedly yielded a list of candidates subject to the campaign permit.

Visayas claimed that the list showed that a candidate for a seat in Congress and governorship are charged P500,000 to P600,000 for a permit-to-campaign.

He added that a barangay captain is even charged P20,000 for the said permit. Mayoral candidates, meanwhile, are charged P100,000 to P200,000, according to Visaya.

“These NPA [rebels] are a bunch of liars that they have to implicate soldiers in their own monopolized racket,” the army commander said.

“I am urging candidates facing the PTC demand to come to us for their security and protection,” he said, adding that the “PTC is the lone handiwork and brainchild of the underground movement.”

Malaysian forces clash with Sulu gunmen anew; 1 dead

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 17): Malaysian forces clash with Sulu gunmen anew; 1 dead
Another Sulu gunman was killed while three others were being hunted down following two brief clashes between Malaysian security forces and the armed Filipinos in Tanjung Batu Sunday.

In a report quoting an Army officer identified only as “General Zulkefli,” a Sabah radio station said security forces were conducting mopping up operations to clear the village of remaining “terrorists” when a small group of gunmen fired on them around 10 a.m.

The state-run Berita Nasional Malaysia (Bernama) on the other hand said the incident was reported by Lahad Datu Army Field Commander Lieutenant General Zulkiple Kassim during a news conference Sunday morning.

Zulkiple was quoted as saying that security forces “came into contact with the terrorists twice so far today, at 9:55 a.m. and 10:15 a.m., respectively.”

“In the 10:15 a.m. contact, we managed to kill one of the terrorists while three others escaped,” Bernama quoted the military commander as telling reporters in Felda Sahabat.

“The body of the dead terrorist will only be brought out when it is totally safe to do so,” Bernama further quoted Zulkiple as saying.

The latest casualty has brought the number of slain Sulu gunmen to 62 as per Zulkiple’s recollection.

The Malaysian security forces on the other hand had already suffered 10 deaths, since the assault on Agbimuddin Kiram’s group started on March 5.

The latest Malaysian casualty was an army soldier, who was killed during Tuesday’s clash with Sulu gunmen in Sungai Nyamuk.

There had been no casualty on the Malaysian Army side during Sunday morning’s firefight in Tanjung Batu, Zulkiple had reported.

Malaysian police chief Inspector General Hamza Taib had earlier told a news conference, which was reported on by the Bernama-operated Radio 24, that the mopping up operations had shifted to Tanjung Batu following the “clearing” of the other red zone areas of Tanduo and Sungai Nyamuk villages.

Hamza said the two villages were now “free of terrorists.”

But he said security forces would remain in the cleared areas to ensure that the Sulu gunmen could not re-enter them as the manhunt under Ops Daulan continues.

Despite declaring the areas “clear of terrorists,” Hamza said security forces were still not about to allow displaced villagers to return to their homes unless it was ascertained the fleeing gunmen had not left booby traps that could threaten their safety.

He said Malaysian security forces were also unsure about the whereabouts of the remaining gunmen but it was possible they were in the Tanjung Batu area.

Aquino: Sabah claimants put Filipinos in harm’s way

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 17): Aquino: Sabah claimants put Filipinos in harm’s way

President Aquino pitched for peace in resolving the Sabah conflict on Sunday, saying his administration prefers to talk things out.

Criticized for not doing enough to resolve the Sabah conflict, Aquino told the 124 new graduates of Philippine Military Academy here that “earnest dialogue is more effective, more productive, and more beneficial to all, as opposed to pointing weapons at each other.”

“Forbearance and reason are not equivalent to cowardice. On the contrary, these are the measures of true courage and resolve,” he said.

Aquino stressed that the people who provoked the crisis had put about 800,000 Filipinos working and living in Sabah in harm’s way.

He had previously assailed the leaders of the Sultanate of Sulu when their followers’ attempt to assert the sultanate’s claim over Sabah provoked Malaysian authorities to hunt them down, killing more than 60 fighters.

On Sunday, the President told the PMA graduates that true leadership demanded that he should weigh his decisions in favor of Filipinos who were put in harm’s way instead of protecting the Sabah claim that, he said, was “forcefully asserted by the Sultanate of Sulu, no matter how legitimate.”

He cautioned the new graduates that all problems that Malacañang encounters, and which they would soon face as military officers, are rooted in people who act for their self-interests.

“Whether or not the sultanate’s claim over Sabah is legitimate, how can this be weighed against the lives and employment that would be imperiled if outright conflict between our two countries starts?

We all know that every action has a resulting reaction, and there are problems that could not be solved using gunpowder–problems will beget problems when addressed by violence or recklessness,” he said.

Mr. Aquino said the new officers would be well aware that buying weapons and gasoline and hiring the vessel that took 200 armed Filipinos on Sabah’s shore, is a logistically complicated and expensive task.

“Did the Sabah incursion masterminds realize that provoking a skirmish would hurt other people? Like the estimated 800,000 Filipinos living and working in Sabah? What would happen if our neighbor, Malaysia, decides to deport these Filipinos after years of earning its trust?” the President said.

He said Malaysian leaders would not simply relinquish Sabah after years of control over the island nor would the Philippines drop its claim, but resolving this dispute requires a calm, studied negotiation governed by international laws.

“We already know how complicated this issue is. Could any Malaysian prime minister so easily agree to let go of a land that for so long has been subject to their laws?” Aquino asked.

He cited the manner by which the country protected its right over the West Philippine Sea using what he called a “rules-based approach” when China began sending vessels to Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.

He also cited the progress made in negotiating peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“We have already seen the positive fruits of dialogue with our countrymen who, like us, want the Bangsamoro to progress,” he said.

But senatorial candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance blamed Mr. Aquino for the Sabah crisis.

UNA staged a campaign rally here simultaneously with the sortie of the administration’s Team PNoy.

“The responsibility [for the Sabah dilemma] lies with the Aquino administration,” said former Sen. Ernesto Maceda at a press conference here.

“He never took the side of the Sultanate of Sulu that is why they became exasperated, forcing them to act on their own… From the very beginning, [the administration had not] protected them and the Filipino people in Sabah,” Maceda said.

But Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, a Team PNoy senatorial candidate, in a separate news conference, said the government would not aggravate the situation by provoking conflict.

“Definitely, we cannot gain much with a war with Malaysia. In the 1960s, Congress already passed a resolution calling for a resolution to the Sabah crisis under international laws. And international laws frown upon war. We don’t prohibit self-defense but war would be troublesome. International tribunals on the other hand are for our benefit,” Angara said.

The President arrived here shortly after 9 a.m. He was joined by Vice President Jejomar Binay, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and top officials of the military.

Mr. Aquino handed out diplomas to 124 members of PMA Pudang Kalis Class of 2013, led by class valedictorian, Army 2nd Lt. Jestony Lanaja.

The President, in his speech, stressed that conflicts like the Sabah issue are “among the crossroads that [cadets] will face as soldiers.” “Will you allow emotions to cloud your judgment, or will you face challenges with calm?” he asked.

In his valedictory speech, Lanaja, a son of a “tuba” (coconut wine) gatherer from Hagonoy, Davao del Sur, appeared to agree with the President.

“As a young boy, I have always pictured the PMA as a war factory–a laboratory full of experts focused on crafting war machines, custom fitting then steadily improving them for the very purpose of war …

“Indeed we the cadets are custom-fitted, having been molded in accordance with the norms and customs of the military.”

“[But] the academy trains young men and women in the noble profession of soldiery who profess to promote the cause of peace because it is in times of peace that no lives are wagered,” he said.

6 other nations to join Philippines-US joint exercise

From the Philippine Star (Mar 17): 6 other nations to join Philippines-US joint exercise

Australia, Brunei, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand will take part in this year's Balikatan joint military exercise to be held in the Philippines next month, apart from the host and the United States, a Philippine military official said here Sunday.
They will participate in the Multinational Maritime Security Roundtable Discussion for the upcoming Balikatan Exercise 2013, which will run from April 5 to 17, said Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

However, the six countries will not be taking part in the actual field training exercises which will be limited to Filipino and US forces alone, Burgos added.

"The roundtable discussion seeks to determine specific humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in high-traffic international waters, and build response confidence among multi-national partners," said Burgos.

"The event will be one of the highlights of this year's military exercise wherein more than 8,000 soldiers from the AFP and US military are set to participate," he said.

Burgos said the annual Balikatan exercise seeks to "further promote and foster the existing friendship" between the two countries and "advance the security and stability of the region in the near future."

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA TEMPLATE | Diplomacy, dialogue to be used in Sabah claim - Aquino

From InterAksyon (Mar 17):  WEST PHILIPPINE SEA TEMPLATE | Diplomacy, dialogue to be used in Sabah claim - Aquino

President Benigno Aquino III affirmed the country's claim on Sabah, but stood firm his administration would pursue it through dialogue and diplomacy similar to its handling of the dispute over West Philippine Sea.

Speaking here at the Commencement Exercises of the Philippine Military Academy Padang Kalis Class 2013, Aquino took a swipe anew at individuals whom he said were behind the group of armed Sulu natives who occupied Sabah which triggered the fighting with Malaysian forces.

"Alam naman po natin na ang bawat aksyon ay may katumbas na reaksyon at di maaring daanin sa kalburo, mga problemang manganganak din ng problema kung ipipilit din lang ang dahas. Ang kailangan, masinsin at tapat na pagsusuri at usapan upang mahinog ang tamang solusyon," Aquino said.

"Di ba't mas produktibo kung ang paninindigan ay dadaanin sa matinong usapan at kung ito'y isusunod sa batas at sa malinaw na patakaran," he added.

Citing the country's dispute with China over claims on Bajo de Masinloc in the West Philippine Sea, the President said it was being pursued on a "rules-based approach" and peaceful means.

"Kung dadaanin ito sa pagkamaton at pangangahas, lolobo lang ang problema at malamang ay mapamana lang ito sa susunod na salinlahi," he said.

Aquino said the Sabah issue was complex and both governments of the Philippines and Malaysia would not easily let go of each claims on the oil-rich territory.

"Kayo nga po ang lumagay sa lugar ko. Lehitimo man o hindi ang hinaing ng mga nagtungo doon, paano ito titimbangin sa harap ng buhay at kabuhayan na malalagay sa peligro kung magsimula ang hidwaan," he said.

He said these forced were thinking only of their self-interest and not the welfare of some 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah, who would suffer the backlash of the fighting and Malaysia's possible retaliation against the Filipinos.

Faced with challenges as they serve in their respective units, Aquino told the PMA graduates to always decide based on reason and calm.

"Ang hinahon at katwiran ay hindi katumbas ng kaduwagan, bagkus ito ang sukat ng tunay na tapang at paninindigan, dahil sa ganitong paraan, naisasaalang-alang ang kapakanan hindi lamang ng mga nasa kasalukuyan kundi ng mga darating pa sa kinabukasan, iyan mismo ang sangandaang haharapin ninyo bilang mga kawal," Aquino said.

This year's batch has a total of 124 graduates, including 19 female. Of the graduates, 67 will be deployed in the Army, 24 in Air Force, and 33 in Navy.

The top 10 graduates were: Jestony Aman Lanaja, Maryam Dinamling Balais, Proten Atchico Bonacua, Jesse Nestor Berces Saludo, Joselyn Dimapilis Advincula, Leode John Ruiz Tulang, Mark Ferdinand Villamin, Vanessa Pascual Factor, Jhed Tabangcura Dumocloy, and Maila Agrabio Maniscan.

All gradutes will be commissioned as Second Lieutenant.

THE VOTE AND THE BOAT | US sub tender visits former US naval base

From Rappler (Mar 17): THE VOTE AND THE BOAT | US sub tender visits former US naval base

The American submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) across the "Hands That Freed The Nation" Memorial. CHUCHAY FERNANDEZ/

SUBIC BAY, Philippines – The American submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) made a routine port call at Subic Bay on Friday, staying on through a hot weekend.

In an image tinged with sweet irony, the USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) docked at a spot on Alava Pier right across the so-called “Hands That Freed The Nation” Memorial immortalizing the historic September 1991 Philippine Senate vote that ended nearly a century of US military bases presence in the country.

The memorial stands beneath what is touted to be the Philippines’ largest flagpole, right beside the pier and facing Building 229, housing key offices in the central civilian authority installed after the US bases pullout, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

The statue of Inang Laya stands in the middle of a row of palm prints rendered in metal plaques, on which are also etched the most memorable excerpts of the explanatory votes of the 12 senators who voted “No” to renewing the Philippines-US bases treaty, and were called “Magnificent 12.”

The 12 senators who voted against the bases treaty were Joseph Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Wigberto Tanada, Victor Ziga, Orlando Mercado, Jovito Salonga, Sotero Laurel, Agapito Aquino, Ernesto Maceda, Teofisto Guingona Jr., and Rene A.V. Saguisag.

The visit of the Emory Land, and its crew of 410 -- 106 of who are Filipino-Americans -- "highlights the strong historic, community, and military connections between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines," the US embassy in Manila said in advance of the boat’s visit.

"This visit will allow the ship to conduct maintenance, replenish supplies as well as give the crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation," the US embassy said.

Of the Filipino-Americans on the ship, 26 are sailors and 80 are civilian mariners, many of them from Botolan, Olongapo City, San Antonio, and Pasay City.

During the ship's visit to Subic, the crew will conduct "subject matter expert exchanges" with the Philippine Navy and also conduct community service projects in schools, medical institutions, and orphanages, and other activities.

Dismantling of USS Guardian stuck on Tubbataha Reef nears completion

From InterAksyon (Mar 17): Dismantling of USS Guardian stuck on Tubbataha Reef nears completion

The dismantling of the United States Navy minesweeper USS Guardian from Tubbataha Reef in Sulu Sea is nearing completion, Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, Palawan district commander of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), said Sunday.

Evangelista said the salvage team hired by the U.S. Navy to disassemble the ship is now "preparing for the cutting of the hull."

If the weather is good then it will only take six days to dismantle the ship’s hull,” the PCG commander added.

The minesweeper has been stuck on the marine sanctuary since January 17, 2013 and has reportedly destroyed more than 4,000 square meters of the supposedly no-navigation World Heritage Site. The U.S. government has pledged to pay for the damage.

Evangelista said the dismantling could probably be completed within this month as originally scheduled by the US Navy.

“[M] ost of the work is done below deck. The focus (now) of the salvage team is the preparation of the hull for cutting and lifting,” Evangelista said.

Earlier, the U.S. Navy said it would finish removing the grounded minesweeper of the 7th Fleet on or before March 23. However, due to intermittent bad weather that prevented the early salvage of the ship , the U.S. Navy moved the deadline to complete the dismantling to the second week of April.

Leading the salvage operation is the Jascon-25 crane ship hired by the US Navy from Singapore. Supporting the operations are the USS Safeguard, USNS Wally Shirra, SMIT Borneo, Barge S-700 (Seabridge), Tug Archon Tide, Tug Intrepid, Vos Hercules and Malayan Towage salvage vessel Trabajador-1.

Top PMA cadet shares 'mixed feelings' upon graduation

From Rappler (Mar 17): Top PMA cadet shares 'mixed feelings' upon graduation

"Let us keep the values of courage, integrity and loyalty intact, and let it be a beacon that would guide us daily in our thoughts and deeds."

This was the message of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of of 2013's topnotcher, Cadet 1st Class Jestony Lanaja.

The 22-year-old Lanaja, who hails from Davao del Sur, topped the 124 members of "Pudang Kalis" to become valedictorian.

Pudang Kalis stands for soldiers with heart and honor, unified in strength, and is derived from a Muslim term for "sacred sword."

In his graduation speech, Lanaja talked about the sufferings he and his classmates went through and the temptation of giving up.

"Let me just say there were more than enough to break us - body and spirit. Give up! Because we mssed our families and the carefree lives we used to live. Resign! This was an option not a few times entertained by many of us. But no, we never gave up," he said.

Lanaja called his 4 years in the academy "well worth it," and talked about having mixed emotions over graduation.

"I am engulfed by mixed feelings of joy and melancholy. I am happy that rigid training have come to an end. But fear grips me too for what lies ahed and how to live up to the expectations of many is overwhelming," he said.

In a touching moment, he spoke in his dialect to express his gratitude to his parents Antonio and Erlina, a tuba gatherer and a housewife, saying all he had achieved was because of them. He also thanked his classmates for "being a source of strength."

Of the 124 graduates, 67 were from the army, 24 from the air force and 33 from the navy. There were 105 males and 19 females.

Lanaja grew up in a poor community without any electricity until he reached fourth grade. He is the eldest of 3 siblings -- Angeline who has dropped out of school, and John Patrick, who is deaf mute.
The young cadet worked in a sugar cane plantation and a coconut farm to earn money for college. He was elected as a councilor in his barangay and studied in a trade school, before he entered the PMA.

Video: AS IT HAPPENS: PMA 108th Commencement Exercises

From Rappler (Mar 17): AS IT HAPPENS: PMA 108th Commencement Exercises

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) held its 108th Commencement Exercises Sunday, March 17. The Pudang Kalis class of 2013 had President Benigno Aquino III as guest of honor.

The ceremony was broadcast live from Fort Del Pilar, Baguio City. The full ceremony can be viewed below, courtesy of RTV Malacañang (RTVM).

Thumbnail[You Tube Video: 108th Commencement Exercises of the PMA Pudang Kalis Class of 2013 at following URL:!]

2,631 Filipinos flee Sabah as of March 13

From Rappler (Mar 17): 2,631 Filipinos flee Sabah as of March 13

WORKING SUNDAY: DILG-ARMM Asec Sharifa Pearlsia Dans and DSWD-ARMM head documentor Eduardo Baird (Photo by CARMELA FONBUENA)

WORKING SUNDAY: DILG-ARMM Asec Sharifa Pearlsia Dans and DSWD-ARMM head documentor Eduardo Baird (Photo by CARMELA FONBUENA)

The influx of Filipinos from Sabah continues. There are 272 who arrived in Tawi-Tawi's Taganak island on Sunday, March 17.

About 30 of them were accommodated in a ferry naval boat. They are expected to reach Tawi-Tawi's capital Bongao Sunday evening.
The Philippine Navy is now arranging to pick up the rest, according to Sharifa Peralsia Dans, chair of the Crisis Management Committee coordinating center.

Taganak is an island very close to Sandakan in Sabah - a distance of about 15 nautical miles.
From March 5 to March 13, DSWD data show the government has assisted a total of 2,631 Filipinos - mostly undocumented - who fled Sabah as a result of the standoff between Malaysian security forces and followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III. Kiram's group is staking their claim on the disputed territory.

Most of them came from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi -- 1,460 and 1,171, respectively.

But Dans acknowledged there's "definitely" more than 2,631 Filipinos who fled Sabah.

"We know that we might not be able to capture all," Dans told reporters Sunday afternoon at the headquarters of the Crisis Management Committee in Zamboanga City.

"If you are aware of the map of the Sulu archipelage -- we have 410 islands -- any island or local government unit is a veritable destination. It is very wide," Dans added.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development has processing centers in Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga City attending to the Filipino "returnees."

Those who were "processed" in Taganak, for example, will be processed again in Bongao. Those who need to go to Zamboanga City before they are able to go home will be processed again in Zamboanga City.

"If you just returned, more or less you are still confused. You are overwhelmed," Dans said.

DSWD processing center in Mampang, Zamboanga City (DSWD photo)

DSWD processing center in Mampang, Zamboanga City (DSWD photo)

Talk of a March 25 operasi?

Dans said many of the Filipinos returnees fled Sabah because they are afraid of the possible crackdown as a result of the standoff.

One of the returnees Dans was able to "interview" told her about a supposed March 25 "operasi" or operation by the Malaysian police to crackdown on Filipinos in Sabah. (There's an estimated 800,000 Filipinos in Malaysia, most of them are in Sabah.)

"Whether that will push through or not is another thing. She said they decided to flee Sabah before the operasi," Dans narrated.

Dans said it's going to be a big challenge if the so-called operasi is true. She recalled the time between 2002 and 2004 when 60,000 Filipinos were reportedly deported because of Malaysia crackdown on undocumented migrants.

In Baguio City on Sunday, President Benigno Aquino III criticized Kiram in his speech during the graduation ceremony of the Philippine Military Academy. Aquino said Kiram thought only about himself, and this was the root of all problems.

"Did its masterminds consider how their actions would affect the majority?," Aquino asked, saying the recent skirmishes between Malaysian authorities and the Sulu army have put the lives of 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah in danger.

"Did the masterminds of this situation consider any of this as they provoked and aggravated the situation—as they gathered the funds needed to rent boats, to buy gasoline and food, guns and bullets?"

'INTERVIEW': DSWD processing center in Mampang, Zamboanga City (DSWD photo)

'INTERVIEW': DSWD processing center in Mampang, Zamboanga City (DSWD photo)

Antique declared insurgency-free

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): Antique declared insurgency-free

Economic development is expected to be felt in the province of Antique starting this year after Gov. Exequiel Javier and Major Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. of 3rd Infantry Division jointly declared the province as insurgency-free recently.

Mabanta explained that the declaration of Antique as “manageable conflict-affected and development-ready” province means that CPP-NPA-NDFP’s capabilities in the area have been cut down.

“We were able to overcome the so-called fear of communist affectation. We are now moving out of that and ready to accept investment,” Mabanta added.

On the other hand, Javier said the declaration is an assurance that the army, together with the police, will continue their efforts in bringing peace and development in the province.

He is also enthusiastic that the vicious cycle of poverty in the province will slowly end as they open the province for business.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Alwine Almase, Commanding Officer of the 82nd Infantry Battalion based in Antique, said the declaration is a “victory” for the Antiqueños.

He also thanked other security stakeholders who made the declaration possible. Since January of last year, Almase said there has been no encounter between government forces and insurgents in the province.

Col. Arnold Quiapo, Commander of the 301st Infantry Brigade, for his part, vowed to continue their Bayanihan Team Activities in the hinterland barangays of Antique together with their partner agencies.

These Bayanihan activities include the implementation of government’s development programs such as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, Alternative Learning System and KALAHI-CIDSS of Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Aquino hails PMA 'Pudang Kalis' Class 2013

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): Aquino hails PMA 'Pudang Kalis' Class 2013

President Benigno Aquino III on Sunday hailed this year's graduating cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) who called their batch "Pudang Kalis."

"The Pudang Kalis Class of 2013 is 'replete' with these kinds of stories, of men and women who have battled through their share of hardship and emerged triumphant," the President said in his speech during the PMA commencement exercises held at Fajardo Grandstand, Borromeo Field, Fort Gregorio H. Del Pilar, here.

"From Maryam Balais, your salutatorian, who fractured her hand during training, to Cadets Aragona, Gonzales, Landicho, and many other classmates who worked as fastfood crew members before entering the PMA. All of you are beneficiaries not only of your own hard work, but of the collective efforts of those around you," he said.

President Aquino challenged the PMA graduates "that the efforts and the sacrifices made by those who helped you succeed will give rise to an abiding sense of responsibility within you -- that you will likewise dedicate time, energy, and the same kind of loyalty to your fellow men."

"The work of the entire Filipino people brought you to today’s triumph. It is my hope that your every action from here on is dedicated to this same people -- because, after all, is it not true that all problems arise from those who think only of themselves and of their own interests," he said.

The President cited this year's valedictorian Jestoni Lanaja, in hurdling so many challenges before he became a PMA cadet.

"He (Lanaja) did not grow up well-off. His brother never had the chance to go to college, and his sister could not get her disability treated in hospitals. But through years of drawing palm wine, his father supported Jestoni until he became a cadet here in the PMA. Now, Jestoni bears the Presidential Saber, a symbol of the honor and of the great responsibility that comes with being class valedictorian," he said.

The President also mentioned Prolen Banacua, who is graduating third of PMA Class 2013.

"Even before he (Banacua) became a soldier, he battled with and ultimately overcame Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I am sure that his pride and joy is equaled, and even perhaps surpassed, by his father, who worked as a machinist, and by his mother, a factory worker -- both of whom strived to ensure that Prolen did not face cancer alone, and that their son would have a good future to look forward to, one made possible by a good education," he said.

President Aquino also cited the situation in Sabah, Malaysia, which led to a bloody conflict, and displacement of Filipinos who have been residing there.

"Did its masterminds consider how their actions would affect the majority? We have an estimated 800,000 Filipinos quietly living and working in Sabah. Did the masterminds of this situation consider any of this as they provoked and aggravated the situation -- as they gathered the funds needed to rent boats, to buy gasoline and food, guns and bullets? You would know this from your classes in Logistics," he said.

The President said it is clear that "whoever was behind this only thought of themselves and of their own interests, disregarding those of their fellow men."

"And even if we believe that those who went to Sabah only wanted to stand up for what they believe in -- wouldn’t it have been better for everyone involved if they did so through calm and reasonable discourse, in accordance with the law and the appropriate processes," he said.

"If we were to resort to saber-rattling and violence, the problem would only grow bigger, and in all likelihood, would only carry over to the next generations. We have already seen the positive fruits of dialogue with our countrymen who, like us, want the Bangsamoro to progress. Earnest dialogue is more effective, more productive, and more beneficial to all, as opposed to pointing weapons at each other. Forbearance and reason are not equivalent to cowardice -- on the contrary, these are the measures of true courage and resolve, because through these we are able to consider the well-being of not only those living in the here and now, but especially those in the years to come," he stressed.

As the next leaders of the Armed Forces, President Aquino said, "you bear on your shoulders a grave responsibility."

"And as someone who is a little bit older than you, perhaps this is the lesson I can impart: whenever you face a dilemma, you need only put yourselves in the shoes of those that will be the most affected, the most abused, the poorest, those who are in most need of your protection -- and I can promise you, what is right and what is wrong will become clearer. They who are in the margins of society, they who are our 'bosses', the Filipino people -- they are the ones who will set the direction we must take; so long as we always keep their well-being in mind, we will never stray," he stressed.

"The time for training is done, the time for theories is done, the four years of vacation you have spent in Fort del Pilar is done. Today, you begin to put what you learned into practice. Go forth, and show our nation that it was not wrong in selecting you as part of Pudang Kalis Class of 2013 of the Philippine Military Academy," he said.

"Pudang Kalis" means "Puso't Dangal ng mga Kawal ng Lahing Nagkakaisa" or "Soldiers with Heart and Honor, Unified in Strength."

It was derived from a Muslim term which means "sacred sword" that is passed by a Muslim clan generation to generation.

The PMA Batch 2013 -- 105 males and 19 females -- used the name for the belief that they are like a sword whose blade will never perish from generation to generation.