Monday, March 25, 2013

Army rejects NDF ceasefire offer for release of captured ComVal cop

From GMA News (Mar 25): Army rejects NDF ceasefire offer for release of captured ComVal cop

The Army has turned down a request from the National Democratic Front to cease offensive military operations to pave the way for the safe release of a police officer captured by the New People's Army on March 18.

In a statement issued Sunday night, NDF Southern Mindanao Chapter spokesperson Rubi del Mundo said the NDF has ordered the release of PO3 Ruben Nojapa Jr. of the Nabuntaran municipal police station in Compostela Valley on "purely humanitarian grounds."

"The release decision was based on purely humanitarian grounds in the wake of the appeal made by Nojapa’s family and peace advocates that have expressed support for a negotiated settlement within the bounds of international humanitarian law," del Mundo said.

According to a report on Davao Today, Nojapa's wife appealed to the NPA to release her husband.

The statement also enjoined the Army and "the US-Aquino regime’s provincial police force" to cease offensive military operations so that Nojapa can be released, a request which was rejected on Monday by the Army's 10th Infantry Division.

"We will not. If they want to release him, they can just simply release him and leave him anywhere [to] find his way [home]," said 10th ID commander Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo.

He also claimed that the rebels have been intensifying extortion activities in the past months, including the intimidation of candidates to collect "permit to campaign" and "permit to win" fees.

"Sad to say, they are doing a lot of intimidation, threats of extortion, including on the candidates…We cannot just allow them to do those things," he added.

Davao Today quoted Compostela Valley police chief Senior Superintendent Camilo Cascolan as saying a suspension of offensive police operations "is decided by the headquarters."

It also quoted Maj. Jake Obligado, chief of the 10th ID’s Civil-Military Operations, as saying last Thursday that they will not declare a suspension of offensive military operations. Obligado was quoted in the Thursday interview as saying the military "will not negotiate with the terrorists."

The NDF, which called Nojapa a prisoner of war in its statement, claimed the NPA "arrested" him on March 18 at a checkpoint in Barangay Mainit in Nabunturan. According to a report on the Mindanao Examiner, Nojapa's companion, SPO2 Randy Masambo, managed to escape.

Del Mundo said Nojapa, 50, is "well," with NPA medics administering his anti-hypertensive drugs and monitoring his blood pressure.

Del Mundo also said the NPA investigated Nojapa and found "no sufficient evidence" to prosecute him for "serious crimes ... against the Filipino people and the revolutionary movement."

‘NPA strength down 75 percent in NegOr'

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 25): ‘NPA strength down 75 percent in NegOr'

The armed strength of the New People's Army in southern Negros Oriental, that allegedly reached its peak of 93 red fighters in 2010, has been reported by the 302 nd Infantry Brigade to have been reduced to 28 fighters as of December last year, posting a reduction by about 75 percent.

Col. Francisco Patrimonio, 302 nd Infantry Brigade commander, said the NPA in southern Negros Oriental is diminishing and losing its grasp on its mass base.

Patrimonio said the latest encounter between 79 th Infantry Battalion soldiers, led by 1Lt. Mark Anthony Calamba, and about 15 NPA fighters in Sitio Malangsa, Brgy. Mantiquil, Siaton, Negros Oriental, was a product of information from residents in the area.

Army soldiers were approaching an abandoned house near the encounter site, when they were fired at by rebels, triggering a running gunbattle, Capt. Cresencio Gargar, 302 nd Infantry Brigade Civil Military Operations officer, said.

The firefight lasted for almost five minutes, and the rebels withdrew in separate directions. No casualty was reported on the government side. Empty shells and kitchen utensils were found at the encounter site.

Patrimonio said the latest encounter will continue to put the NPA rebels on the run, further exhaust and force them to abandon the armed struggle.

Before the encounter, seven rebels who surrendered to the 11 th Infantry Battalion were given financial assistance by Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo, through the efforts of its commander, Lt. Col. Wilfredo Isaac.

Patrimonio attributed the decrease in strength of the NPA in southern Negros Oriental to their sustained combat operations and deployment of Bayanihan teams in conflict-affected communities.

The teams are immersed in conflict-affected barangays and helping facilitate the resolution of primary issues usually exploited by the NPA.

Communist rebels terrorize towns in Compostela

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 26): Communist rebels terrorize towns in Compostela Valley

TAGUM CITY—Communist rebels launched near simultaneous attacks against government troops in several towns in Compostela Valley on Monday, police and army officials said.

The incidents happened in Maco, New Bataan and Mabini municipalities but did not cause any casualties, Senior Superintendent Camilo Cascolan, Compostela Valley police chief, said.

At least 30 New People’s Army rebels conducted a checkpoint along the Nabunturan-Maragusan road in Magangit village, New Bataan town past 5 a.m., and flagged down motorists according to Lieutenant Vilma Mojado of the army’s 1001st Infantry Brigade.

Mojado said the rebels also burned the tires of a packed passenger bus.

“The rebels also tried to lure government troops into a trap by assaulting the Army patrol base in the village. They planted landmines along the troops’ possible route,” she said, adding that the rebels detonated a bomb before taking cover.

At about the same time the incident in New Bataan was unfolding, NPA rebels also strafed the detachment of the 1001st Infantry Brigade in Sitio (sub-village) Quarry, in Mapaang village in Maco town, said Cascolan.

He said another group of NPA gunmen also harassed the outpost of the 72nd IB in Cabuyoan village in Mabini town around 5:30 a.m.

No casualties had been reported in all of the attacks, which the NPA carried out amid an earlier call by their leaders for a halt to military operations in the province, supposedly to speed up the release of P03 Ruben Nojapa, whom the communist insurgents had abducted on March 18.

Aussie man to help catch his kidnappers

From World News Australia (Mar 26): Aussie man to help catch his kidnappers

Australian man Warren Rodwell has begun providing crucial information that is hoped will see his kidnappers brought to justice.

Australian man Warren Rodwell, who spent 15 months in the hands of Islamic terrorists in the southern Philippines, has begun providing crucial information that is hoped will see his kidnappers brought to justice.

Mr Rodwell, who was released in the early hours of Saturday morning, was on Tuesday continuing his recuperation in Manila with his Australian sister and brother at his side.

His harrowing ordeal has left him emaciated and very weak.

But it's understood he has already begun debriefing security authorities in an effort to help them hunt down the jihadists that kidnapped him from his home on the island of Mindanao, in the southern Philippines in December 2011.

While he was moved around to various jungle hideouts during his time in the clutches of members of the al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf group, it is believed the former soldier will be able to provide vital clues that could help in the man hunt.

The head of the Philippine police's anti-kidnapping unit, Renato Gumban, said that Mr Rodwell would provide an "intelligence debriefing".

He was expected to remain in Manila for at least another week to rest and undergo medical treatment, Senior Superintendent Gumban added.

Australia also stood willing to assist in the investigation, if asked by local authorities.

"We look forward to a speedy investigation and prosecution of those involved in Mr Rodwell's kidnapping," a spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in Manila on Tuesday.

He said that Mr Rodwell needed time "to recover and adjust in privacy".

"The decision on Mr Rodwell's return to Australia is a matter for him."

Mr Rodwell was released on Saturday after his kidnappers accepted a ransom payment of about $A94,000.

They had initially threatened to kill him unless a $US2 million ($A1.93 million) ransom was paid.

JCMOTF underway in advance of Balikatan 2013 official kickoff

From the Defense Video and Image Distribution System (DVIDS) (Mar 24): JCMOTF underway in advance of Balikatan 2013 official kickoff
ZAMBALES, PhilippinesPhilippine and U.S. armed forces members attached to the Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force broke ground on a series of projects in advance of the official start of Exercise Balikatan 2013.

The JCMOTF is a combined U.S.-Philippine task force in charge of managing the humanitarian and civic assistance (HCA) projects to improve the two countries’ military civic assistance interoperability. During these events, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and U.S. personnel are conducting multiple medical, dental, veterinary and engineering civic action projects in the Zambales province.

During this 29th iteration of the bilateral exercise, U.S. and Philippine units will work shoulder-to-shoulder to accomplish eight engineering civic action projects (ENCAP), six cooperative health engagements, eight community relations activities (COMREL), five subject matter expert exchanges and two medical COMRELS.

“The amount of work we are prepared to do as a joint team can’t be overstated,” said U.S. JCMOTF Commander Navy Capt. Rod Moore. “My AFP counterpart and I have developed a series of activities that will both increase our abilities to function as a team, and will leave a lasting, positive impression for the people of Zambales. It’s our honor to be here, working alongside such wonderful, professional people.”

In the coming days leading up to the official start of the exercise, April 5, ground will be broken on the remaining ENCAP construction projects. Work will continue steadfast so that engineers will meet the completion dates for each project. Medical and religious ministry participants will also make several visits to barangays and municipalities throughout Zambales to provide support to the local communities.

“We go out and meet with local health workers and provide training and medical advice where it’s needed,” said Army Maj. Kate Flocke. “We’re also working with the AFP’s 24th Infantry Battalion to do some ‘train the trainer’ events so that we can be a force multiplier and allow them to provide better treatment for their soldiers.”

Lt. Cmdr. Ron Kennedy, JCMOTF chaplain, has scheduled other community relations activities in the area. He says that getting to know the local citizens and spending time with each other is just as important as the engineering projects.

“Repairing a school or installing a bridge are certainly important and will definitely be appreciated, but many times it’s the intangible things like a basketball game between the U.S. military and a local orphanage that can create lasting memories and a tighter bond,” said Kennedy.

There is a sharp focus on the engineering projects that help increase quality of life for many, but that is not the only goal of the exercise.

“Each Philippine and U.S. service member should come out of the exercise better trained and equipped than before,” said ENCAP Operations Officer Navy Lt. Javier Lopez-Martinez. “As we go through the process, construction products will be given to the local communities, but the greatest impact will be the increased professional capacity of everyone in our joint team.”

For Peter Lim, Mayor of the Zambales municipality of San Narciso whose district is benefiting from several of the scheduled ENCAPS, two of the projects come at an important time of the year.

“The San Pasqual footbridge currently under construction was one of many projects for which we simply could not find funding,” said Lim during the official ground breaking ceremony of a 60-meter footbridge that will connect two overgrown and often flooded areas of the community. “Thanks to the U.S. and Balikatan, farmers in San Pasqual will be able to transport their crops to the village center.”

Just south of the footbridge, U.S. and AFP engineers are building a new schoolhouse for the Omaya Elementary School and adding a new roof to the existing schoolhouse – more than doubling the current classroom space.

“They had more schools around here that have been flooded out, so they are overcrowded,” said the Omaya Elementary School construction site officer-in-charge Air Force Master Sgt. Benjamin Bone. “The impact is huge for this community. We’ve had a great welcoming from the local people, children have been looking out from a distance at the job site, where it’s safe, and everyone is involved. It’s awesome how involved the community has been.”

According to the San Pasqual footbridge construction site AFP officer-in-charge Lt. j.g. Romel Sotero, the level of teamwork shared between the U.S-Philippine Navy Seabees has led to a lasting relationship.

“We have great teamwork,” said Romel. “We are all out on the site working together. It’s a great avenue to learn from each other, and share techniques. We’ve all had a great time, and will be sure to continue learning from each other down the road.”

Balikatan is an annual Republic of the PhilippinesU.S. military bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement. Balikatan in Filipino means “shoulder-to-shoulder” and characterizes the spirit of the exercise and the Philippines-U.S. alliance.

AFP, Army build footbridge, increase Tapuac safety

From the Defense Video and Image Distribution System (DVIDS) (Mar 24): AFP, Army build footbridge, increase Tapuac safety

BK13- Tapuac footbridge project groundbreaking

Combined Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force (CJCMOTF) Commander Philippine army Col. Arnulfo Pajarillo, right, and Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force (JCMOTF) Commander Navy Capt. Rod Moore bury a time capsule during a groundbreaking ceremony in the Tapuac area of the Masinloc Municipality. U.S. and Philippine Army engineers are working together to build a new footbridge for the local community. The project was one of eight engineering civic action programs (ENCAP) missions being performed by JCMOTF units in support of exercise Balikatan 2013. Balikatan is an annual Republic of the Philippines-U.S. military bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement. Balikatan in Filipino means "shoulder-to-shoulder" and characterizes the spirit of the exercise and the Philippines-U.S. alliance. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Fahey/RELEASED).

TAPUAC, Philippines - A combined U.S-Philippine team of Army engineers broke ground on a new footbridge that will allow residents of Masinloc Municipality’s Tapuac area to safely cross a wide stream and more easily transport their crops.

According to Masinloc’s Vice Mayor Jeff Bautista, local residents often feared for their children’s safety and he remembers a time when makeshift survivor rafts were the only form of transportation.

“The children used to ride a bamboo raft that would barely float across the river. It was very dangerous. This new footbridge will help a lot of children who need to get back and forth from school,” said Bautista. “On behalf of the entire community, thank you very much.”

The new footbridge’s design is based on an existing program used by Virginia Tech University called Bridges to Prosperity. The program’s goal is to provide cost effective methods for building small bridges in remote areas with limited resources. The U.S. adapted this curriculum and built a smaller mock-up of the Tapuac footbridge at a training site in Hawaii. In addition, the U.S. engineers conducted an intense virtual training program that better prepared them for their current task.

The design will create a safer, near-level surface made of wood planks with chain-link fence walls. With cable strung through hardened stanchions anchored in concrete, the bridge can sustain much larger weight loads than the existing footbridge. Its three-foot tread surface will also stand high above the water during the rainy season.

“For the last two years, the water during the rainy season has come up to the very bottom of the existing bridge,” said Tapuac resident Lea Galano. “It’s right there at bridge height and very scary. We take our shoes off, so we don’t slip and are constantly worried about our children who cross the bridge at least twice each day to go to school.”

Galona says she will also be able to transport at least twice her usual load of crops to the villages market, and the increased safety of the bridge will dramatically reduce the level of worry shared among the parents.

“It’s great to see the safety of our children being taken so seriously,” Galona added.

The combined U.S. and Philippine team met for the first time a few days prior to the groundbreaking. Excited to get started, the two units began sharing construction ideas.

“This is a big learning experience for my unit and my first time ever working with Americans,” said Philippine Army officer-in-charge 1st Lt. Lumerey Tolentino of the 522nd Engineering Construction Battalion. “For the community, this is big. Instead of carrying one sack of rice at a time over an unpredictable structure, they will be able to drive dozens of bags over a secure path. You can imagine how this changes things for them.”

The skills traded between the team of engineers will increase the two countries’ interoperability during a real-world disaster or humanitarian aid project.

“Balikatan provides an opportunity to trade ideas, work as a single unit and plan in advance,” said Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force Commander Navy Capt. Rod Moore. “The more time we spend planning now means less time planning if a natural disaster or other event brings us together in the future.”

The Tapuac footbridge is one of eight engineering civic action program (ENCAP) missions being performed by JCMOTF units in support of exercise Balikatan 2013.

Balikatan is an annual Republic of the Philippines –U.S. military bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement.

Deles says PNoy sought postponement of GPH-MILF talks in KL

From MindaNews (Mar 25): Deles says PNoy sought postponement of GPH-MILF talks in KL

The March 25 to 27 peace negotiations in Kuala Lumpur between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) did not push through as scheduled, upon the request of President Benigno Simeon Aquino. But no reason was cited for the requested postponement.

“The President has requested that the 37th round of formal exploratory talks that was originally scheduled to begin today, March 25, be reset to April next month,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said in a six-paragraph statement posted on the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) at 2:42 p.m. Monday, March 25.

“Government Peace Panel Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer with two other panel members – Yasmin Busran-Lao and Senen Bacani – are currently in Kuala Lumpur to personally convey the request and to set with their counterparts the new date for the talks,” Deles said.

The resumption of the talks has been hounded by criticisms if at all Malaysia should still remain as third party facilitator given the crisis in Sabah (see other story).

Only one paragraph out of the six-paragraph statement was on the postponement.
This week’s round of talks would have worked on the last three of four annexes needed to complete their comprehensive peace agreement.

The paragraph on the postponement was buried on the fourth, as the statement gave prominence to the first en banc meeting of the 15-member Transition Commission (TransCom) scheduled for the first week of April.

The document was titled “Statement of Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles on the forthcoming Transition Commission en banc meeting” and the first three paragraphs were on the TransCom.

The MILF-led transition body, composed of eight representatives from the MILF and seven from government, is tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would guide the Bangsamoro, the “new autonomous political entity” that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by 2016.

But the TransCom can effectively do its task only if the annexes are completed.

The four annexes – power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization and transitional arrangements and modalities, were supposed to have been finished, as agreed upon in the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), before end of December 2012.

Only the Annex on Transitional Arrangements was finished in the last talks in February.

But like the TransCom, the Transition Annex can work only if the three other annexes shall have been completed so both parties know what to transition to.

Also under the FAB, as soon as the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified, the ARMM is deemed abolished and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) led by the MILF will take over until regular elections are held for the first set of officials during the May 2016 Presidential polls.

Deles’ statement said Ferrer and Iqbal during their meeting in Kuala Lumpur Monday “will likewise discuss the preparations being undertaken for the Transition Commission.”

“As the President said today, “ Deles’ last paragraph read, “it is important to finish all the annexes, which requires reaching a meeting of the minds on these annexes. This will, in turn, help in the process of crafting a new organic act so that the final outcome will be legislation all stakeholders agree to, and rally behind.

MindaNews sources in Kuala Lumpur said the panel chairs and two members each were set to meet in the presence of the third party facilitator, Malaysian Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed at 3 p.m. at the Palace of the Golden Horses hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

MNLF: MNLF Condemns Abuduction and Possible Killing of Sheikh Bashier B. Mursalon and Other Harassment

From the MNLF Website (Mar 26): MNLF Condemns Abuduction and Possible Killing of Sheikh Bashier B. Mursalon and Other Harassment

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is alarmed by the tragic situation prevailing in Zamboanga City, involving the abduction and possible killing of a respected and religious Muslim theologian, Sheikh Bashier Bantal Mursalon, on January 21, 2013.

A married man, 36-year old Sheikh Bashier is a peaceful resident of Labuan, Zamboanga City. A graduate of Khartoum University, Sudan, he is credited to have established an Islamic learning center (madrasah) in Labuan and Patalon Barangay, Zamboanga City. It was reported that he was abducted along the highway proceeding to the city proper while riding alone in a motorcycle by a group of seven unidentified men riding on a black SUV. Without any prooof or evidence, he was accused by City Director de Ocampo to be involved in kidnapping activities in Labuan.

His case has been brought to the attention of the Zamboanga City Police Force on January 28 and Mayor Celso Lobregat of Zamboanga City on January 29. The Muslim Ulama/Guru Crisis Management Committe (CMC) has filed his case with the Commission on Human Rights on January 31 and subsequently filed a complaint against some policemen of the Labuan Police Station on February 4. On February 9, the Crisis Management Committee also sought the help of Congresswoman Beng Climaco to request a special investigation of the case by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in lieu of the Task Force Bashier created by the Zamboanga City Police Force. On February 12, the CMC appealed to Councilor Abdurahman Nuno to conduct a public hearing on the controversial case and formally filed a 33-page petition on February 15 signed by all ulama/guru and available Muslim constituents of Zamboanga City for the public hearing to be conducted in the open session of the City Council. Finally, on February 18, the ulama group and Muslim constituents held a condemnation public rally and demonstration prelude to the City Council public hearing that henceforth decided in recommending the transfer of the full investigation of the Sheik Bashir case to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) from the Task Force Bashier created by the Zamboanga City Police Force.

Furtheremore, the MNLF also has expressed alarm and dismay over the case of another Muslim religious teacher (guru/madaris), who was arrested in Ciudad Medical Zamboanga Hospital after only being released from medical treatment on March 4, this year. He is up to date imprisoned in Sta. Maria Police Station, Zamboanga City, awaiting fair trial although his case of mistaken identity is already referred to the Commission on Human Rights by the Crisis Management Committee of the Muslim ulama/guru of Zamboanga City.

On these two episode surrounding the tragic fate of Muslim religious teachers in Zamboanga City, the MNLF can only condemn with strongest term the abduction, harassment and persecution incidents and expect due justice to prevail.

On behalf of the members of the MNLF Central Committee and the Bangamoro freedom fighters in the ground all over Mindanao, we also wish to express our support and sympathy with the victimized Muslim Ulama and their family members, and await for the concerned authorities to render positive and objective judgment over the cases.

Chairman, Central Committee
Moro National Liberation Front

MILF: Outstanding Young Moro Achievers recognized

From the MILF Website (Mar 26): Outstanding Young Moro Achievers recognized

Five graduating Moro youth were recognized for their remarkable achievements and excellence in various fields of endeavour during the 6th Kanduli and Young Moro Achievers Award held at Phela Convention Center in General Santos City on March 16, 2013.

The activity, which was aimed to raise the profile and celebrate the success of the graduating Moro youth, was organized by the Young Moro Professional Council (YMPC) and Circle of Peace Builders (COPS).

More than a hundred and fifty attendees composed of graduating Muslim college students, parents, guests, Muslim leaders, and professionals attended the event.

The five awardees who were recognized were Mukthar Kutba Guialel for Community Service Excellence, Eyadzhemar Abdusalam for Leadership, Nazeh del Rio for Community Excellence, and Datu Shariff Pagayao and Sittie Fayza A. Banisil for their Outstanding Academic Performance.

In his message during the awarding rites, SMI Stakeholders Education and Disclosure Superintendent Romeo Martin, cited the Moro youth for working in pursuit to excellence and congratulated the graduating students for completing their tertiary education, an important step to success.

Sarangani Governor Miguel Rene Dominguez hailed to Moro awardees for their accomplishments and for being “role model to their fellow youth.”

National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Field Director Atty. Guialil Kanda urged the young Muslims to strive to be competitive and excel in whatever fields they track.

In her written message, General Santos City Mayor Darlene Custodio encouraged the Moro youth be take part in addressing the challenges faced by the city like power crisis.

The major sponsors were the Provincial Government of Sarangani, City Government of General Santos, Kalinaw Sarangani, Sagittarius Mines Inc, Dole Philippines Inc, and Nutratech Global.

YMPC, which was organized in 2001, has advocacies related to, but not limited to, education and literacy, youth empowerment and development, cultural preservation and research and entrepreneurship.

COPS is a group of young peace advocates comprised of settlers, Moro and Lumad. It espouses the holistic transformation of the communities for sustainable peace and development through peace advocacy, education and research, socio-cultural activities, environmental protection and cultural preservation.

MILF: CSO Youths Staged Simultaneous Peace Rally for Resumption ng GPH-MILF Peace Talk

From the MILF Website (Mar 26): CSO Youths Staged Simultaneous Peace Rally for Resumption ng GPH-MILF Peace Talk

A group of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organization stage again a simultaneous peace rally in Cotabato City, North Cotabato City and Davao City.

In Cotabato City the members of youths Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) staged a peaceful rally at the Sultan Kudarat Monument, Tantawan Park, this morning of March 25, 2013, in which last March 18, also staged a same simultaneous peace rally.

They called on the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to preserve the gains of the peace process and remain steadfast in upholding the supremacy of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

“We staged again a series of peace rally in protest to the Government of the Philippines, not to postponed the peace talks with MILF. The peace talks must be given priority rather than the Sabah issue as it is a clear manifestation of sabotage of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.” Dats Magon, spokesperson of the groups, said.

The March 25 to 27 peace negotiations in Kuala Lumpur did not push through as scheduled, upon the request of President Benigno Simeon Aquino, and no reason was cited for the GPH requested postponement.

The aimed of the peace rally is to save the gains of the peace talks between the GPH and MILF panels in which arrived to signing of Framework Agreement on ther Bangsamoro (FAB) last October 15, 2012, in Malacanang, Manila.

Part of their press statement, the groups call on:

1. Preserve the gains of the peace process and continue the negotiations on the other unresolved annexes so that they can sign a comprehensive compact agreement in soonest possible time;

2. The peace panels to ignore unscrupulous politicians, ill-minded groups and individuals, and carpetbaggers who are bent to destroy the peace process for their personal gain;

3. The Philippine and Malaysian Governments to consider the Sabah Crisis as a separate issue that shall not in any way derail the GPH-MILF peace Process;

4. The GPH and the MILF Peace Panels to issue a Joint Policy Statement that will contain among others, the issue on Sabah; considering it as a separate issue; resolving it peacefully; and addressing the human rights situation thereat, and
The groups called on all peace loving people of the country and other nations to support the peace process between the GPH and MILF until a Comprehensive Agreement is ink that will provide opportunity for the people in Mindanao to leave in harmony, peace, prosperity and progress.

Before the end of the rally, Dats Magon announced that they the received information message from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia that a on-going “special meeting” between GPH_MILF peace panel is being held, in which the group shout the Takbeer “Allahu Akbar”.

The result of the special meeting between the negotiating panels of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) held in Kuala Lumpur on March 25, 2013, ended with a firm commitment of the two parties to continue the talks in an expeditious manner.

As stated in their press release:

The special meeting was called in lieu of the 37th round of Formal Exploratory Talks upon the request of the Government.

 The parties discussed the composition of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) and the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP), the convening of the Transition Commission in the first week of April 2013, and the Terms of Reference of the Task Force Sajahatra Bangsamoro.

 The parties agreed to meet in the second week of April 2013 for the 37th round of Formal Peace Talks.

CPP/NPA: NPA warns against derelict, despotic politicians; reiterates revolutionary policies on elections

Posted to the CPP Website (Mar 25): NPA warns against derelict, despotic politicians; reiterates revolutionary policies on elections

Rigoberto Sanchez
NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command (Merardo Arce Command)

Candidates vying seats at the provincial, congressional and mayoral levels should adhere to the policies and programs of the People’s Democratic Government with regards to the forthcoming electoral exercise of the reactionary US-Aquino regime.

The New People’s Army, as a separate and distinct armed force, exercises control over a significant portion of territory in the country, under an effective and responsible command. It acts for and in defense of the constituency of the People’s Democratic Government while the organs of political power govern such territories.

As the masses participate in the reactionary electoral process, politicians and bourgeois political parties are interested in reaching out to them. It is only proper and fair for these politicians to respect the distinct territories held by the revolutionary government and coordinate with the NPA and people’s militia, organs of political power, revolutionary forces and Party branches. In doing so, candidates must comply with the following requisites:

a. Demonstrate sincerity in both words and deed as they relate with the masses;
b. Undertake concrete actions to conform to campaign promises especially within revolutionary territories;
c. Desist from performing counterrevolutionary intelligence activities against the NPA and revolutionary movement;
d. Abstain from carrying out anti-social activities like gambling, drinking, prostitution and other decadent bourgeois exploits that affect the youth and promote profligate culture;
e. Deter from conniving and/or conspiring with the AFP and Oplan Bayanihan;
f. Provide material and financial help to fund mass production campaign, education, health, and immediate infrastructure projects especially in areas badly hit by Typhoon Pablo and other calamities; and
g. Shun from carrying firearms.
The requisites hew with the CPP’s policy and practice to classify mayors, governors and members of congress as allies, neutrals or enemies.

The AFP and the US-Aquino regime attempt but fail miserably to debunk the notion that the revolutionary forces can determine the outcome of the reactionary elections, especially in its areas of mass base and influence. The AFP is allergic to the very idea that the NPA can let progressive and neutralized candidates win while it can also isolate the most rabid ones.

In general, the revolutionary forces have long considered the electoral process of the reactionary state as farcical because traditional politicians of the exploiting classes monopolize this fleeting circus.

The reactionary elections do not reflect the people’s will nor can it dispel the people’s discontent. No matter who wins, there will be no fundamental change within the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system in a country ruled by the big compradors and landlords that lay prostrate to imperialist dictates. Thus, the people’s war persists as the ultimate and viable solution in attaining the people’s aspiration for social emancipation.

Indeed, the masses clamor for real change and alleviation of their suffering. More than three months after the December 4 tragedy, the typhoon victims—victims for they continue to be such—are in even direr conditions, in stark hunger and constant state of need. The US-Aquino regime has grossly neglected them, dished out token assistance while hoarding calamity funds and international aid. Worse, the regime has attempted to alter the fascist collar of its running dogs in the AFP as people’s heroes, not goons of environmental destroyers for what they really are.

Thus, the people should denounce those who have neglected and worsened the plight of Typhoon Pablo victims. The people should identify and isolate the re-electionist officials and incumbents who have maliciously and wickedly aggravated the economic and political conditions of Typhoon Pablo victims. The same despotic re-electionist officials that ride on the back of the brutal Oplan Bayanihan as with the rest of other candidates in the region, should also be opposed.

Politicians who have taken hook, line and sinker the rabid, anti-people and duplicitous Oplan Bayanihan of the AFP are crooks that the people must oppose; they should not be supported at all.

CPP/NDF: Aquino government commits war crimes in violating International Humanitarian Law

Posted to the CPP Website (Mar 25): Aquino government commits war crimes in violating International Humanitarian Law

Luis Jalandoni
NDFP Negotiating Panel

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) condemns in the strongest possible terms the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and its armed forces for committing war crimes in violating international humanitarian law.

Earlier, in a statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed that the New People’s Army killed an average of one civilian per week in 374 violent incidents in 2012. This, and the statement that the civilians killed in the 27 January La Castellana incident were deliberately targeted, are sheer lies and mere psywar attempts aimed at discrediting the revolutionary national liberation movement in the country represented by the NDFP.

To set the record straight, the figures being peddled by the AFP are false, to say the least, paling in comparison to the number of violations of international humanitarian law actually committed by the armed forces of the GPH. Under the Aquino administration alone, 748 violations of international humanitarian law were recorded from complaints filed against the GPH with the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC).

The use, occupation or attack of private residences, schools, and other public places (e.g. day care centers and barangay halls) is the leading violation against civilians, with 146 recorded incidents. Not included in this number is the use of the Sadanga National High School in Mountain Province by elements of the 54th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army as a military detachment since 2009, as reported by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2011.

The other common violations were: divestment of property, 121 instances; killings, 102 instances; destruction of property, 87 instances; and forcible evacuation and displacement, 72 instances, all of which were committed in pursuit of military and paramilitary operations against civilians and communities suspected of supporting or under the influence of the revolutionary movement.

Other violations of international humanitarian law were also recorded:
  • indiscriminate gunfire, strafing, bombing, and aerial bombardment of civilian communities (51 instances), from which four (4) civilians had died;
  • use of civilians in police, military or paramilitary operations as guide and/or shield (34 instances);
  • exploitation of children in the context of armed conflict (19 instances);
  • forced recruitment or conscription of children (14 instances);
  • and the creation, maintenance and support of paramilitary groups within civilian communities (nine instances).
There were also victims who, aside from being forcibly displaced from their residences, collectively experienced denial of humanitarian access and medical attention (nine instances), food and other economic blockades (five instances), and hamletting (two instances).

Fallen revolutionary fighters who, under international humanitarian law were entitled to rights as hors de combat, suffered from atrocities in the hands of GPH security forces. There were four (4) horrifying incidents of mutilation and desecration, and refusal to tender the remains of NPA members who were killed in battle.

The GPH has been diverting the people’s attention away from these deplorable facts — of committing war crimes in implementing Oplan Bayanihan, the US-designed counter-insurgency military strategy of the AFP. But the people will not be fooled and misled by psywar propaganda of the GPH. They have stood witness to the truth that GPH armed forces are war criminals and leading violators of international humanitarian law. No amount of perverting the news will change this fact.

Once again, the Aquino government is being reminded that it is responsible for these gross violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. It is accountable under universally accepted rules of war and international humanitarian law, as well as agreements which the GPH has forged with the NDFP. As such, it should address these violations, abide by its commitment under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and engage in good faith in the peace negotiations in order to solve the roots of armed conflict.

‘Tubbataha’ to cut US ship in 4 sections

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 26): ‘Tubbataha’ to cut US ship in 4 sections

On the final stage of dismantling a US ship that ran aground on Tabbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea, salvor ships and crew will cut the hull in four sections this week and bore holes for steel cables of giant cranes that will lift them out of the water, Coast Guard officials said on Monday.

Task Force Tubbataha Chief Enrico Efren Evangelista said the hull, which is four layers of wood with the outer portion made of oak, will be cut in four sections in six straight days of good weather conditions.

“Once the hull is completely cut, it will be lifted immediately,” Evangelista said.

The USS Guardian, a 68-meter long minesweeper, ran aground on January 17 on Tubbataha Reef, a marine sanctuary, while transiting the Sulu Sea. Marine biologists estimated about 4,000 square meters of corals were destroyed.

The US apologized and blamed a faulty map for the mishap but park rangers said the captain and crew ignored warnings to avoid the area. The US Navy chose to dismantle the ship to avoid more damage to the reef.

Coast Guard Chief Information Officer Armand Balilo said the salvor ships and crew will work through the Lenten holiday to speed up removal of the USS Guardian in the area.

He said the crane ship Jascon 25 has taken out the funnel, engine, mast, sonar, communication equipment and bridge and was looking forward at removing the watertight bow sections, auxillary and main machine rooms, and stern.

Balilo said the Coast Guard will formally conduct an investigation into the incident after the salvage operation has been finished in the next few weeks in good weather conditions.

The US government has offered compensation for the damages on the reef and proposed a rehabilitation of the area after the USS Guardian has been removed from the area.

The salvor ships involved in the salvage operation are the Jascon-25, SMIT Borneo crane barge, USNS Salvor, USNS Safeguard, USNS Wally Schirra, M/Tug Archon Tide, M/Tug Intrepid, M/Tug Trabajador-1, and Barge S-7000 of the Malayan Towage and Coast Guard vessel BRP-Romblon.

China runs naval drills off PH shores

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 26): China runs naval drills off PH shores

China racheted up the pressure in pressing its claim over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) by conducting a naval drill right at the Philippines’ northern backdoor near the Babuyan Islands.

People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, said on Monday that the South China Sea Fleet under the Navy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army recently dispatched several modern warships to carry out “high-sea training mission” in the Bashi Channel, also called Basi, a strait located between the borders of the Philippines near Babuyan Islands in Y’Ami, and Orchid Island in Taiwan.
While Bashi Channel is considered an international passage, China’s decision to conduct its high-sea training in the area, was seen as Beijing’s way of sending a strong message to the claimants in the South China Sea, including the Philippines, which had repeatedly rejected Beijing’s “excessive claims” of the disputed territories.
Early this year, the Philippines brought its case before an international tribunal under the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea, and invited China to participate.
China rejected the invitation and insisted on resolving the dispute through bilateral talks.
A Chinese naval expert, Zhang Junshe, described the high-sea training of the Chinese Navy as a “routine” military training, which he said conforms with international laws.
He also urged other countries to refrain from conducting close-in tracking or interfere with the normal training of the Chinese naval taskforce.
He added that normalized high-sea training is indispensable to enhance Chinese Navy’s capability of “fighting and winning battles”
Zhang said the Chinese naval training was actually the second time that crossed the “first island chain” in 2013.
He identified the warships which are set to participate in the naval drills as “Lanzhou,” a guided missile destroyer, “Yulin” and “Hengshui” both guided missile frigates and the “Jinggangshan” an amphibious dock landing warship, which are equipped with long-range air-defense and anti-ship missiles, short-range quick air-defense guns and ship-borne helicopters, and are of comprehensive combat capabilities such as strong regional and point air defense as well as anti-submarine and anti-ship capabilities.
The taskforce, he said, would sail across the Bashi Channel and carry out a series of actual combat confrontation drills in the Western Pacific on such training subjects as maritime maneuver operation, maritime sovereignty protection, high-sea escort, support operation, and so on.
The Manila Standard Today tried to reach Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez and presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, but both were unavailable for comment as of press time, although the Foreign Affairs said late last week that they were still ascertaining the exact location of the drills.
The Chinese Navy’s drills comes at the heels of the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russia in Moscow over the weekend.
Xi’s visit, according to Chinese news websites, was aimed at strengthening “exchanges and cooperation” between the military forces of the two countries.
But even before Xi’s visit, which includes meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, China had already decided to buy two dozen fighter jets (Su-35) and four Lada-class submarines from Russia.
Reports said the purchase was China’s first large-scale weapons technology purchases from Moscow in a decade.
The report, which did not give a value for the purchases, said it was the first time in 10 years China had bought “large military technological equipment” from Russia.
The deal comes as Beijing expands its military reach — it commissioned its first aircraft carrier last year — and is embroiled in a bitter territorial row with Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Two of the submarines will be built in Russia, with the other two to be built in China.
China and Russia are expected to co-operate further in developing military technology, the report said, including that for S-400 long-range anti-aircraft missiles, 117S large thrust engines, IL-476 large transport aircraft and IL-78 aerial tankers.
Xi visited Moscow from Friday to Sunday for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, his first trip abroad since becoming head of state earlier this month.
The countries signed around 30 energy and other agreements during the visit.
Xi also met Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and became the first foreign leader to visit the Russian armed forces’ control centre.
Moscow and Beijing, which were once bitter foes during the Cold War, have strengthened cooperation in recent years to counterbalance what they see as US global dominance.
As this developed, another US warship docked in South Harbor in Manila on Monday, a day after three US warships docked in three different sites in the country.
A Philippine Navy statement said that the USS Reuben James (FFG 57), an Oliver Hazzard Perry- class guided missile frigate of the US Navy headed by Commander Daniel W. Valascho arrived on Monday for a routine port call/visit intended for the replenishment of logistic supplies, routine maintenance of shipboard and crew liberty.
It said the ship, which has 24 Officers and 172 enlisted personnel, will stay in the country until March 29.
Last week, the USS Ohio submarine, the destroyer USS Decatur, and the submarine tender USS Frank Cable docked in Subic in Zambales, Manila, and Cebu, respectively.
An RP-US Balikatan exercises are also scheduled next month.

Grenade attack in NCotabato town

From the Philippine Star (Mar 25): Grenade attack in NCotabato town

Tension spread in an old Moro farming enclave in Midsayap, North Cotabato after unidentified gunmen blasted Sunday night a powerful grenade near a mosque surrounded by houses of local farmers.

The shelling came less than a week after gunmen fired a B-40 anti-tank rocket at a segment of a bridge being built not far from the mosque.

Senior Inspector Henry Narciso, chief of the Midsayap municipal police, said investigators are still trying to determine who could have fired the grenade projectile near a mosque in Barangay Tamped, which triggered panic among local villagers.

Barangay officials said the grenade, fired from a distance using either an M-79 launcher, or an M203 rifle, could have been aimed at the worship site, but fell short of range.

Local villagers suspect the attack was perpetrated by a group trying to extort “protection money”.

NPA to release captive cop

From the Philippine Star (Mar 26): NPA to release captive cop

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The New People’s Army (NPA) will soon release a policeman kidnapped in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley last March 18, the spokesman for the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Mindanao chapter said Sunday.

The impending release of PO3 Ruben Nojapa is ”in compliance with the NDF’s long-standing policy of lenient treatment of prisoners of war” and the 1949 Geneva Conventions as well as the GPH-NDF Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, said NDF-Southern Mindanao spokesman Rubi del Mundo.

“No sufficient evidence was established to warrant the prosecution of Nojapa for serious crimes committed against the Filipino people and the revolutionary movement,” Del Mundo added.

Del Mundo also cited the appeal of Nojapa’s family through the humanitarian group Sowing the Seeds for Peace, led by Bishop Delfin Callao.

Nojapa’s family earlier asked the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to suspend military operations to pave the way for his release.

“We value the trust of PO3 Nojapa’s family in our movement and we assure them of our earnest support,” said the convenors of Sowing the Seeds for Peace.

Rebels torch quarrying equipment

From the Philippine Star (Mar 25): Rebels torch quarrying equipment

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – Communist rebels torched heavy equipment worth about P500,000, bunkhouses and a generator set in a black sand quarrying site in Camalaniugan, Cagayan last Saturday, authorities said.

The attack was a reprisal against the management of Well Resource Mining Corp. for refusing to pay “revolutionary taxes” to the insurgents, police said.

The rebels, belonging to the New People’s Army’s Danilo Bien Command, also disarmed two security guards before fleeing.

Tribesmen seek detachments

From the Business Mirror (Mar 25): Tribesmen seek detachments

LEADERS of the B’laan tribes in South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur have asked the Armed Forces to set up detachments in their ancestral lands as they fear attacks from communist rebels and other armed groups.
In a resolution signed on March 20 in General Santos City, the 10 B’laan tribal chieftains from the four provinces urged the military leadership to relocate the detachments in Datal Alyong and Kiamo in Davao Del Sur to the boundaries of their ancestral domains in Datal Biao and Salnaong, in Tampakan, South Cotabato; and Bongmal, Barangay Kimlawis, Davao del Sur.
This, the chieftains said, will prevent the entry of New People’s Army (NPA) members and other armed groups to their areas.
“We recognize the value of joint-assistance between the tribal groups and the Armed Forces when the situation needs it against threats from the NPA and other outside groups,” the resolution said.
“The Bongmal B’laan community is the only remaining pure B’laan Indigenous Peoples Community without Bisayans and other outsiders and where our customs and customary laws are very much alive,” it added.
They said the B’laan community volunteers have been defending and safeguarding the borders of sitio Gumuket Ayem, Bongmal including the Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) properties from violent threats.
The B’laan chieftains, accompanied by their elders and clan leaders, said they do not want further bloodshed in their communities.
“Most of our families and other descendants of the B’laan tribes in Bongmal are surviving children of the unsolved massacres perpetrated by illegal logging operators and land grabbers. Some of those suspected of these murders are still there and they interfere in our communities’ internal affairs,” they said.
The tribe leaders added that the Armed Forces remain as their primary ally in maintaining peace and order in their ancestral lands.

NPA sets 8 guidelines for bets seeking campaign ‘permits’

From the Business Mirror (Mar 25): NPA sets 8 guidelines for bets seeking campaign ‘permits

The New People’s Army (NPA) has said “crooks and anti-people” politicians will be allowed to campaign in guerrilla areas as it laid down seven guidelines for candidates to observe to qualify for “permits to campaign.”

In an e-mailed statement, the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Command, also warned “derelict and despotic politicians.”

Rigoberto F. Sanchez, spokesman for the NPA SMRC, said the candidates vying for political positions should abide by guerrilla policies and programs and to extend material and financial assistance to the guerrillas.

The statement said candidates “must demonstrate sincerity in both words and deed; undertake concrete actions conform to campaign promises; desist from performing counterrevolutionary intelligence activities; abstain from gambling, drinking and prostitution; not to connive and conspire with the Armed Forces; provide material and financial help to fund mass production campaign, education and health; put immediate infrastructure projects in areas badly hit by Typhoon Pablo; and shun from carrying firearms.”

It did not state, however, how much was being required from politicians but the military has insisted that the NPA rebels have been asking for the so-called permit to campaign fee.

In demanding that politicians abide by its guidelines, the NPA said that politicians could not discard its claim that it was an armed force that “exercises control over a significant portion of territory in the country, under an effective and responsible command.”

“As the masses participate in the reactionary electoral process, politicians and bourgeois political parties are interested in reaching out to them. It is only proper and fair for these politicians to respect the distinct territories held by the revolutionary government and coordinate with the NPA and people’s militia, organs of political power, revolutionary forces and party branches,” the statement said.

Notwithstanding the guidelines, the NPA said it would still let the Communist Party of the Philippines lay down further policies “to classify mayors, governors and members of Congress as allies, neutrals or enemies.”

“The Armed Forces is allergic to the very idea that the NPA can let progressive and neutralized candidates win while it can also isolate the most rabid ones,” the NPA said.

But it said that “in general, the revolutionary forces have long considered the electoral process of the reactionary state as farcical because traditional politicians of the exploiting classes monopolize this fleeting circus.”

PRE-MALAYSIA FEDERATION | The 'Malay' ties that bind, and a pan-Malay dream betrayed

From InterAksyon (Mar 25): PRE-MALAYSIA FEDERATION | The 'Malay' ties that bind, and a pan-Malay dream betrayed

If only because of family ties, there’s really nothing wrong with President Aquino hobnobbing with the Sultan of Johor, even if he is one of the most influential traditional leaders in Malaysia which has been forcefully trying to flush out loyal followers of the sultanate of Sabah that is resurrecting its claim over Sabah.

As a student in Harvard, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail, then a “tunku” or royal prince, was an ardent political admirer of the President’s charismatic father, the late senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, while self-exiled in Boston after undergoing heart surgery in the United States.

Ibrahim would later meet Ninoy in Singapore on his way home to Manila and join his family in Johor, which is adjacent to the island republic. The elder Aquino was believed to be also a close friend of Ismail’s’ father, Mahmud Iskandar Al-haj, who was sultan until he died in 2010.

Ninoy’s brother-in-law Ken Kashiwahara later wrote in the New York Times Magazine, ”On Aug. 14, Ninoy flew to Singapore using the fake passport with his real name. In Singapore he was met by the son of the Sultan of Johor and whisked across the border to Malaysia, where met with high-ranking officials from Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, to explain why he was going home and what he hoped to achieve.” After their meeting, Ninoy flew to Taiwan, his last stop on his way to Manila, where he was gunned down at the airport tarmac on Aug. 21.

Now, those ties between the Johor sultan’s family and the Aquinos have come back to haunt the President: Sultan Ismail is being tagged as Malaysia’s “link” to the Philippine president. The Sulu sultanate’s spokespersons alleged that this accounts for why Mr. Aquino “was lawyering for Malaysia.” Malacanang’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda, however, has replied, “how does one expect this government to support adventurism and armed approach in an issue that has …festered since the 19th century?”

The issue continues to heighten emotions and analysts say that could eventually affect close ties between the Philippines and Malaysia, even if the Philippines continues to play down the apparent diplomatic impasse on the issue

Perhaps it is best to consider that apart from looking at it diplomatically, one can start by looking at how both countries coped with a similar cultural heritage because of their Malay roots, and not suffer from a cultural amnesia, resulting from centuries of colonial domination.

For one, historian Dr. Cesar Adib Majul , wrote in his book “Muslims in the Philippines” that Muslim resistance, when Spain conquered the Philippines, was not an isolated or insignificant phenomenon, but “part of the general resistance of all Muslims people in Malaysia against Western imperialism, colonialism and Christianity.”

It was in this period that the sultanate acquired Sabah—then known as North Borneo – as a reward from the sultan of Brunei, for having quelled a civil war in his kingdom. In turn, the concern of the Sulu sultan for the survival of his fiefdom in the south against possible British intrusion forced him to lease Sabah in 1978.

Today, historian Zeus Salazar notes, 88 percent of Filipinos in Malaysia actually work in Sarawak and Sabah with probably the majority in the latter state, which is the very first area that once constituted, together with Sulu and part of Mindanao, the “bridge” between “Dunia Melayu” -- or One Malay race--and the Philippines. All this means that Filipinos were really in familiar surroundings, Salazar said.

"In terms of both custom and language – they know Malay, just as the inhabitants of Sabah are conversant with at least one of the languages of the Sulu-Mindanao area,” he said. “There lies the hidden reservoir for Dunia Melayu understood both as Bahasa Melayu and the culture and history that have kept it alive till now.”

Indeed, here lies the reality that sustains the Filipino dream of identification with the Malay race, with our national hero Jose Rizal and nourished after him by Filipino nationalist thoughts.

Malay nationalism

Salazar points out that it was Rizal and the other illustrados of the 1880s who required the reassuring comfort of a new nationality, “a new identity that they could only build upon the ideal of a ‘lost homeland’ whose bosom he (Rizal) would have to trace back in history to an equally lost Dunia Melayu.”

In his book “The Malay Connection,” Salazar wrote that Christian Filipinos actually recovered their Malay identity only in the late 19th century through the help of the Spaniards who considered them “inferior” because they were Malays.

Austin Coates also wrote in “Rizal: the Philippine Nationalist and Martyr” that the Indios Bravos, which Rizal organized in Paris in 1889, appeared to have had a “secret group” which pledged to the “liberation of the Malay peoples from colonial rule, a pledge to be made good first in the Philippines, later to be extended to the inhabitants of Borneo, Indonesia and Malaya.”

Salazar, however, pointed out that Rizal was actually interested in the broader language-and-culture-grouping (essentially the Malayo-Polynesian) to which the Tagalog and the Malays belong.

At the time of his martyrdom in December on 1896, Rizal was still learning Malay because it was common belief that Malay was the original of the Tagalog language, he said.

Double post-colonial identity’

Like Rizal, most nationalists then were on “the twin tracks of a double post-colonial identity for the Filipino.”

Salazar, for instance, cited Apolonario Mabini, who had no knowledge of the Bahasa Melayu – the Malay language -- but looked at “the Philippine Revolution within the broader framework of liberation for all Malayan peoples.”

In line precisely with Rizal’s Indios Bravos Project, Mabini’s Revolution was designed to “give light to the gloomy night in which the vilified and degraded Malay race finds itself, so that it may be led to social emancipation,” he said.

For this, Rizal was enshrined not only as a national hero, but also as the “pride of the Malay race." Wonder no more why Malaysia has always given Rizal a special place of pride in its commemorations.

With the entry of the Filipinos’ Malay past into textbooks and the popular consciousness during the first six decades of the 20th century, our Malay identity became almost a sine qua non to the Filipino identity and nationality, according to Salazar.

"Malay was just an idea congruent with the Filipino identity which itself had uncertain cultural contours,” he said.

"Nonetheless, it was reportedly an idea of “no uncertain emotional force” that became evident in the support that Tan Malaka got in 1927, in the largest English-language press and from the then already practically English-speaking elite, when he faced deportation by the American authorities on the instigation of Dutch colonizers.

As an influential Manila paper put it at that time: “The Filipinos would be hypocrites were they to misname their feelings as regards the nationalist movement in Java of which Tan Malaka is today the visible symbol in our minds. He is Malay as we are Malays, and this racial kinship stirs in us the deepest sympathy for him ….Tan Malaka might be Filipino patriot, of the generation of Rizal, come to life….We thus understand him….”

Pan-Malay irredentism

Five years later, student activist Wenceslao Vinzons revived the Pan-Malayan irredentism when he founded at the University of the Philippines the Perhempoenan Orang Melayu, or Pan Malay Alliance, which sought to “promote the study of the history, civilization and culture of the Malay race... and to develop a sentiment of unity among brown peoples.”

Salazar noted that Vinzons dreamed of a “unified Malaysia extending from the northern extremity of the Malay Peninsula to the shores of the remotest islands of Polynesia” with Manila students form the Philippines, along with those from Thailand, the Malay peninsula, Indonesia and Polynesia. The “miniature league of Malayan brotherhood, ” the historian said, held secret rituals with Malay as ceremonial language.

Malay was also the “common language” which Vinzons wished could be adopted by all Malay nations “in the vision of the United States” in order to “overcome our frailties, so that by our renewed racial vitality we may give birth to a new nationalism, that of Malaysia redeemed.”

Another UP student leader, Domocao Alonto, the organization’s vice president and Vinzon’s fraternity brother, later even filed a bill, as a congressman and later senator, renaming the Philippines as Malaysia. This was years before the federation of Malaysia was founded.

After a preliminary meeting with then Speaker of the House Manuel Roxas, Dr. Jose P. Laurel, UP President Rafael Palma, Dean Maximo Kalaw and Arturo Tolentino, Vinzons transformed his Pan Malayan Union into a political party, The Young Philippines, which was formally launched on January 7, 1934.

Among the prominent members who joined the party between 1934 and 1941 were Carlos P. Romulo and Diosdado Macapagal. Vinzon’s party developed a libertarian program, aspiring for the independence of nations under a foreign domination and the establishment of “a confederation of free Malayan Republics.”

Despite his commitment to Pan Malayan unity, Salazar wrote that Vinzons was also keenly aware of the need for a national language among Filipinos, continuing Rizal’s and Mabini’s double vision of nationalism – the “Filipino nationality within the greater Malay-speaking nations of Malaysian peoples.”

Most of the letters Vinzons wrote would end with either “Yours for a greater Philippines” or “Yours for a greater Malaysia.” It was also Vinzons who, together with Quezon, was instrumental in getting Tagalog approved as the national language of the Philippines.

Vinzons joined the guerilla movement during WWII and was executed by the Japanese for refusing to cooperate with them. His hometown in the Bicol province of Camarines Norte was later named after him.

Meanwhile, when Macapagal won the presidency of the republic, he sought an entente with Malaysia and Indonesia through the creation of Maphilindo with Vinzons’ pan-Malay unity as his guide.

Macapagal worked out with Tungku Abdul Rahman of Malaysia and Sukarno of Indonesia the Manila Accord of 1963, in which the three countries of Malay stock agreed “to take initial steps to establish Maphilindo through frequent and regular consultations at all levels to be known as Mushawarah Maphilindo.

That salutary sense of unity, however, was not to be for long, as colonizers rammed down their own agenda. “(But) With the creation of Malaysia and its attendant dispute between the Philippines and the new federation over Sabah, the corner of Kalimantan which with Sulu had been the historic bridge between Dunia Melayu and the Philippine area, the Pan-Malayan dream got its first shattering experience of the reality of modern realpolitik,” Salazar said.

NPA fighter slain in Samar clash

From InterAksyon (Mar 26): NPA fighter slain in Samar clash

A communist rebel was killed in a clash with government troops in Paranas, Samar on Monday.

The clash happened as the Armed Forces of the Philippines said it would not declare a truce with the New People's Army for the Holy Week.
Captain Gene Orense, spokesman of the Army's 8th Infantry Division, said troops from the 87th Infantry Battalion led by 1st Lieutenant John Rey Acasio, actying on complaints of rebel extortion, encountered five guerrillas in Barangay Sto. NiƱo at noon Monday noon.
The soldiers recovered a caliber .38 revolver and a hammock. They also found an abandoned NPA camp near the encounter site that could house 20 persons.

Malaysia moves residents out of invasion zone as it tries to root out Filipino invaders

From InterAksyon (Mar 25): Malaysia moves residents out of invasion zone as it tries to root out Filipino invaders

Malaysia's prime minister said Monday authorities would relocate residents of areas deemed vulnerable to foreign infiltration as they continued to try to root out Filipino Islamic invaders.

Prime Minister Najib Razak's announcement appeared to indicate a recognition that an armed invasion by more than 200 armed fighters had exposed deep-seated security problems in the eastern state of Sabah near the southern Philippines.

"The primary cause of the invasion of terrorists ... is the existence of settlements considered easily exposed to the danger of infiltration by illegal immigrants and stateless persons," Najib said.

He added relocations would affect areas near the invasion site but could be expanded to the entire state, which for centuries has had a porous sea border with the southern Philippines.

Armed followers of a self-styled Philippine sultan landed in Sabah six weeks ago to claim the state for their leader.

The incursion and a Malaysian counter-assault have left more than 70 dead -- mostly invaders -- according to authorities, and put rare stress on relations with Manila.

Najib gave no further details on the relocation plan.

However, the move could add to scrutiny of the Malaysian government's policies in the state and whether they had facilitated immigration by large numbers of foreigners with questionable national loyalties.

There are an estimated 800,000 Filipinos living in Sabah, whose total population is just over three million.

Sabah natives have long grumbled over an influx of Filipino Muslims in recent decades. Critics accuse the government of encouraging the flow to shore up electoral support for the Muslim-dominated central government.

The government denies the allegation.

Malaysian forces launched an assault three weeks ago to crush the insurgents and claim to have killed more than 60. Ten security personnel also have died.

But the government has released only sketchy details on the operation and have indicated they were struggling to stamp the invaders out amid fears militants may have melted away into area populations with the support of locals.

Last week, a Malaysian court charged eight Philippine nationals with terrorism-related offences, which is punishable by death.

They were among more than 100 arrested -- apparently Malaysian residents -- on suspicion of complicity in the incursion.