Monday, April 1, 2013

1st UNICEF-funded Tahderiyya Program feted in Central Sulu

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 1): 1st UNICEF-funded Tahderiyya Program feted in Central Sulu

The Madrasa Shafie Al-Islamie located at Philippine Muslim College Compound, Bus-Bus Street, Jolo, Sulu is one of the madaris accredited by Tahderiyya under the UNICEF Program through the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), a development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The Tahderiyyah Curriculum Development is one of the programs of the UNICEF and on the other hand, the BDA was established in accordance with the Humanitarian, Rehabilitation and Development Aspect of GRP-MILF Peace Agreement of June 22, 2001.

In an interview with Sheikh Alawie M. Jajie, Director of Madrasa Shafie Al Islamie, he said that, “there are more than three hundred pupils who enrolled for SY 2012-2013 but only 17 Tahderiyya pupils graduated this school year. The first commencement exercises or “Pagtammat” in Tau Sug vernacular was held last March 30, 2013 (18th of Jumadil Awwal 1434) in Hijrah Calendar.

Hj. Zesar H. Alil, the Provincial Chairman of Central Sulu was invited to grace the occasion and deliver an inspirational message since this area is within his operational jurisdiction. Due to prior commitment, he instead sent his provincial secretary and information officer to represent him.

Sheikh Alawie said that, “as far as the operation of the madrasa is concerned, he expects that more children or “murid” (pupils) will enroll this coming school year”. But his apprehension is that the madrasa may run short of classrooms if number of children that may enroll increases.

As early as this, the predicament of Sheikh Alawie should be resolved to avoid clogging of classrooms by more children enrolling next school year which may not be conducive for learning for pupils. Efforts to improve the madrasah by the madrasah management through construction of additional classrooms should be done by now by seeking financial assistance from generous institutions and individuals.

'Order AFP to tell truth on Jonas,' Bayan dares PNoy

From InterAksyon (Apr 2): 'Order AFP to tell truth on Jonas,' Bayan dares PNoy

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan on Tuesday challenged President Benigno Aquino III to order the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which the Court of Appeals held accountable for the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos, to disclose all relevant information on the abduction of the missing activist.

“There is a renewed clamor for the AFP to surface Jonas and to reveal all information related to his abduction. As commander-in-chief, it is the duty of Aquino to ensure that the AFP cooperates fully with the courts and other institutions,” Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said in a statement.

“Aquino's silence or lack of interest can mean that he is tolerating the cover-up,” Reyes added. “So far the statement made by the AFP spokesman -- that the AFP will cooperate -- sounds more like an April Fool’s joke than a declaration of policy.”

Reyes’ statement came a day after the Burgos family filed an ex parte motion before the Supreme Court based on newly discovered evidence that the military was responsible for seizing Jonas on April 28, 2007.

The evidence included a photo of Burgos soon after the abduction, an after-apprehension report, a psychosocial report and a “biography” of the activist.

Prior to the CA ruling, the AFP insisted it had nothing to do with the disappearance of Burgos, son of the late world press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr., claiming he was a communist rebel officer who had fallen victim to a “purge” within the revolutionary movement.

“Aquino must give clear and firm instructions to AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista to fully disclose all information on the abduction of Jonas,” Reyes said.

“The AFP can do this even without any court order,” he stressed. “The AFP cannot feign ignorance. The AFP must reveal the truth. Already, there is new evidence coming to light pointing to the involvement of the military.”

“There is no doubt in the minds of the court, and in the minds of the public, that the AFP is involved in the abduction. The big question is, when will the AFP finally reveal the truth about the fate of Jonas? Where is Jonas?” Reyes said.

BIFF harasses Army detachment after arrest of member

From InterAksyon (Apr 2): BIFF harasses Army detachment after arrest of member

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters rained bullets on an Army detachment in Datu Piang, Maguindanao Monday night after soldiers reportedly arrested one of its members.

The attack by the rebel group, which broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but the incident terrorized residents, caused no casualties but left residents terrorized, Colonel Edgar Gonzalez, commander of the 1st Mechanized Brigade, said.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misrie confirmed the attack was triggered by the arrest and said their leadership would not guarantee that there would not be a recurrence unless the military releases their captured member.

As of this posting, the military said the situation has been brought under control with the assistance of the MILF’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.

Last year, attacks by the BIFF on Army detachments in Maguindanao closed the national highway for almost a week.

NPA’s permits-to-campaign fund raiser for leftist bets

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 2): NPA’s permits-to-campaign fund raiser for leftist bets

The collection of permits-to-campaign (PTCs) and permits-to-win (PTWs) by the New People’s Army (NPA) is part of the efforts of the communist group to raise funds to finance the campaign of the so-called “Legal Left Organizations” and their candidates, the military claimed yesterday.

Capt. Gene Orense, spokesman of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division (ID), claimed that the NPA also wants to have access to “pork barrel” by infiltrate government bureaucracy, especially the legislature, by fielding in or supporting candidates in the upcoming May elections.

According to Orense, the NPA move was contained in a document entitled “Election Action Plan 2013” recovered by elements of the 87th Infantry Battalion (IB) during a clash in Basey, Samar.

In the paper, Orense claimed that the NPA would also be using the upcoming May elections to recover lost grounds, particularly in Eastern Visayas region, and infiltrate the country’s legislature by fielding in or supporting candidates.

“The NPA in Eastern Visayas region will capitalize the election period in visiting the communities and at the same time pursue their so-called recovery and expansion efforts in the communities, as revealed in the recovered document,” said Orense.

“The election will also be their means of gaining resources through the PTC and PTW fees generally to support their terroristic activities against government troops and also finance the campaign of the Legal Left Organization,” Orense added.

Orense, however, did not identify the communist-supported candidates or groups.

“We all know the left-leaning candidates running for party-list, and some personalities are running for even seat at the Senate and Congress. So part of the PTC and PTW scheme is to support their candidacy, that was stated in the document,” said Orense.

According to Orense, the recovered document showed that the NPA’s “main objective in joining the forthcoming election which is to pursue and advance their electoral struggle by infiltrating the government bureaucracy particularly the legislative branch and access the government resources, like the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel to support the insurgency movement.”’s-permits-to-campaign-fund-raiser-for-leftist-bets

Despite ‘right connect,’ a good choice for AFP command post

From Malaya (Apr 2): Despite ‘right connect,’ a good choice for AFP command post

MAJ. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, is being groomed to become the new commander of the Davao-City based AFP Eastern Mindanao Command, according to military sources.

The current Eastmincom head, Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, is due to reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on April 13.

Cruz is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1980, which includes presidential sisters Kris, Ballsy, Pinky and Viel as honorary members.

“He (Cruz) is a shooting enthusiast like President Aquino,” one of the sources said.

The source also said 10th ID commander Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, also of PMA Class 1980, is also being mentioned as a possible successor of Segovia “but his name is not as loud as that of General Cruz.”

Qualifications-wise, the official said Cruz has no derogatory record. Cruz is a well-rounded officer who has spent much time in intelligence and operations field. Cruz once served as Army assistant chief of staff for intelligence.

A second source said President Aquino addresses Cruz by the first name. “He (President Aquino) knows General Cruz well. He knows him as a one of the top shooters, top gun in the Armed Forces,” he said.

The official said Aquino has been seeing Cruz in shooting games like the Game of the Generals, a periodic shooting competition among military and police generals.

“When there are competitions, he (President Aquino) approaches and exchange jokes (with Cruz)...He has high regards for General Cruz. In one instance during a Game of the Generals, the President joked that since General Cruz was there, what is left for grabs is the second place,” he said.
“He is the best shooter among the generals in the Armed Forces, no one beats him (in shooting competitions),” he said of Cruz.

AFP realignment in Mindanao: Eastmincom to focus on NPA

From Malaya (Apr 2): AFP realignment in Mindanao: Eastmincom to focus on NPA

THE Armed Forces has re-aligned its forces in Mindanao, transferring the operational control of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division to the AFP Western Mindanao Command from the Eastern Mindanao Command.

The move will allow the Davao City-based Eastmincom to concentrate on the fight against the communist New People’s Army, said Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, AFP deputy chief of staff for operations.

The move will also leave the Zamboanga City-based Wesmincom addressing all issues that are related to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said Baladad.

“This is in support to the peace process with the MILF,” he said.

The area of operation of the 6th ID is Central Mindanao, bailiwick area of the MILF which is negotiating a peace agreement with government. The 6th ID is under Brig. Gen. Romeo Gapuz.

The development leaves Eastmincom with two divisions under it – the 4th ID and 10th ID. Eastmincom is currently commanded by Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia.

Wesmincom will now have two Army divisions under its control, namely the 6th ID and the 1st Infantry Division. Wesmincom is under the command of Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo, a former 6th ID commander.

Baladad said Eastmincom will now “concentrate on the fight against the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA” and Wesmincom will focus on the “implementation of the peace process.”
“There will be no confusion (in addressing concerns),” he added.

Capt. Severino Vicente David, Eastmincom spokesman, said NPA-infested portions of North Cotabato, which used to be an area of 6th ID, will remain under the Eastmincom.
“What are left to us are NPA areas,” said David.

The area of operations of Eastmincom includes Compostela Valley, a known NPA stronghold.
A military official familiar with the realignment of forces said two Army battalions, earlier attached to the 6th, have been left to man North Cotabato. He said the two battalions are now attached to the 10th ID.

“This is a good move actually because Wesmincom will concentrate on MILF activities. On the other hand, Eastmincom will focus on counter-insurgency,” the source said.

China naval drill unthreatening — PH

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 2): China naval drill unthreatening — PH

Malacañang said yesterday it is not threatened with China’s naval exercises near the West Philippine Sea as long as they are conducted in international waters.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte allayed fears that the naval exercises conducted by China will reach Philippine territory

Valte said the naval exercises are being done in the Bashi Channel, which is not part of the Philippines.

The Bashi Channel is the body of water that separates the Philippines and Taiwan.

 “I understand that last week, there were certain naval exercises made by the Chinese Navy and that was in the Bashi Channel, which I understand to be part of the high-sea (training),” Valte said.

“As long as andun sila, wala naman tayong problema (As long as they are there, we don’t see any problem) because as long as they are in international waters and as we have said earlier, as long as our maritime zones are respected then wala naman tayong problema doon (we don’t see any problem with that),” she said.

The military drills involved China’s modern ships.

It will be recalled that the Philippine government has brought the territorial dispute on the West Philippine Sea before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), a move which was rejected by China.

The Palace however expressed optimism that the Philippines was able to file a good case before the international tribunal, which will be the “great equalizer” on the territorial dispute.

Sack intel chief, Aquino urged

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 1): Sack intel chief, Aquino urged

After the Court of Appeals decision holding the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) responsible for Jonas Burgos’ enforced disappearance, President Aquino must remove from office and investigate top military officials implicated in the incident, according to Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares.

“Other officials who were implicated in the Burgos enforced disappearance, particularly Brig. Gen. Eduardo Año, must also be investigated… After the Court of Appeals decision, President Noynoy must immediately sack and prosecute Año and other military officials involved in human rights violations,” Colmenares said in a statement.

Jonas’ mother Edita had protested the President’s appointment of Año as the chief of the Intelligence Service of the AFP last December.

Año headed the intelligence operations of the Philippine Army when Jonas was abducted in 2007. Edita eventually filed a complaint against him and other military officials in the Department of Justice for her son’s disappearance.

Jonas, an agriculturist and the son of the late press freedom icon Jose Burgos, was taken by several men from a restaurant in a Quezon City mall on April 28, 2007 and has not been seen since.

Colmenares said others who should also be held accountable for Jonas’ disappearance include the Judge Advocate General’s Office that withheld the report on the case, the police who refused to conduct an investigation, the fiscals who refused to prosecute and others who did not act in pursuit of

He said the Court of Appeals ruling gave weight to the earlier findings of United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston that the military was responsible for the spate of extrajudicial killings of activists in the country. Alston had attributed the killings to the military’s operations against communist insurgents.

“I hope this will serve as a step forward towards the prosecution of those responsible for the thousands of victims of human rights violations and for justice to dawn upon the families who were left suffering for so many years,” the lawmaker added.

Colmenares also dared the Philippine Army to cooperate with the courts and to compel Maj. Harry Baliaga to face the complaints against him in relation to Burgos’ disappearance.

The appeals court said in its decision that the Philippine Army, as well as Baliaga, was responsible for Burgos’ disappearance. But even before the ruling came out, Edita already filed a criminal complaint against Baliaga and top armed forces officials before the Department of Justice.

Cop, companion shot dead in Escalante City

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 2): Cop, companion shot dead in Escalante City

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines—A policeman and a police asset were reportedly killed by six men in front of the public market in Escalante City around 6:35 p.m. Monday, said Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, Negros Occidental police director.

PO1 Bejien Tanguan and Joseph Lutrago who were on board a motorcycle were killed while in front of the public market in Barangay (village) Balintawak, Guara said Monday evening. He added that the suspects were believed to be members of the New People’s Army.

Tanguan was able to fire back, hitting one of the suspects who was brought by his comrades on board a tricycle to a still unknown location, Guara said. Pursuit operations were ongoing.

Tanguan and Lutrago had gone to a gasoline station to fill their motorcycle with fuel but they were gunned down when they drove onto the highway in front of the market.

Guara, however, could not give further details on the shooting.

Lutrago was reportedly a supporter of Escalante mayoral candidate Santiago Barcelona and Negros Occidental Gov. and reelectionist Alfredo Maranon Jr. of the United Negros Alliance. Barcelona and Marañon are running against Escalante Mayor Melecio Yap and Vice Governor Genaro Alvarez Jr. of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, respectively.

Lutrago’s brother Armando Martinez Lutrago, a former member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, was gunned down by unidentified armed men in Barangay Libertad, Escalante City, on Dec. 3, 2003.

The Philippine National Police had earlier listed Escalante City as an election hotspot.

Escalante City falls under Category 1, where employment of private armed groups by candidates and intense political rivalry are likely to occur, Guara said in January.

The police recorded a series of extra-judicial killings in Escalante City from 2007 to 2010, majority of which took place during election periods, and responsibility for many of these killings was claimed by the NPA.

Yap was stripped of his supervisory power over the local police by the Napolcom in 2011, following allegations that he was sympathetic to the NPA and the occurrence of alleged extrajudicial and unsolved killings in Escalante.

The Escalante mayor had denied the allegations.

Yap also stressed that the Monday night killing was not politically motivated and that it was insurgency-related.

Yap said that when the shooting occurred, he was at a rally of the NPC, which ended at 5:30 p.m., in Barangay Old Poblacion, about six kilometers from the crime scene.

Present at the rally were NPC gubernatorial bet Alvarez, his running mate Eugenio Bong Lacson and Rep. Julio Ledesma (Neg. Occ., 1st District).

Malaysia tightens control of barter trade, flow of foreigners into Sabah

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 2): Malaysia tightens control of barter trade, flow of foreigners into Sabah
While the Philippines has not given up its claim to Sabah, the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has asked Filipino barter traders to comply with fresh Malaysian regulations “notably requiring Filipinos and other foreigners” to present passports or seaman’s books if they wish to do business in the disputed state and the neighboring territory of Labuan.

In a statement, the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said the new guidelines would take effect on April 15, according to a note verbale the Malaysian Foreign Ministry sent to diplomatic missions around Malaysia.

The document states that crews of trade ships or vessels will be required “to produce valid travel documents, i.e. international passport or seaman’s book at all entry ports in Sabah.” The documents are now required before Malaysia issues Seaman Identification Cards (SICs) to Filipino barter traders.

This tightens immigration control in Malaysian ports allowing the barter trade—Sandakan, Tawau and Kudat in Sabah and one in the Federal Territory of Labuan—where Filipino traders previously only had to present a valid medical examination certificate and pay 50 Malaysian Ringgit in order to be issued SICs.

The document added that permanent Customs and Immigration Quarantine posts will start operations in ports in the towns of Kudat and Lahad Datu on Apr. 2, along with an Immigration Control Office at Karakit, Pulau Banggi also in Sabah “where all immigration and customs procedures will be enforced.”

“The Embassy wishes to call the attention of all barter traders and other concerned parties to the new regulation, otherwise they may be significantly inconvenienced if they are found by Malaysian authorities to be in violation,” Consul General Medardo Macaraig said in a statement released by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday.

Asked why the Philippines was abiding by Malaysia’s immigration regulations despite the country’s standing claim to Sabah, Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, the foreign office’s spokesman, said: “They (Malaysians) are in control of the area and they have come up with regulations. And if our people would like to continue on with these arrangements with barter trading, then there is a need to comply with that regulation.”

The DFA has been careful in references to Sabah and Filipino citizens there, ensuring that no official word could be interpreted as a surrender of the Philippines’ territorial claim. The Philippines has also refused to establish permanent consular presence in the territory as such would imply recognition of Sabah as a foreign land.

Citing the new rules, the Embassy said barter traders might only stay in Sabah for seven days, no extensions allowed. Crewmen are also barred from boarding a different boat until they return to their country of origin, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The DFA warned that violators could face charges under Malaysian Immigration Act and new regulations against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants in the country, with penalties ranging from five to 20 years in jail.

Malaysia imposed such stricter immigration and customs regulations in Sabah’s ports while its forces pursued members of the Sulu Royal Army still standing their ground to press for the Sulu Sultanate’s claims to the territory.

The Philippine government has been urging the Sultanate’s followers to return to Sulu to end the bloodshed, with assurances that it has not given up on the country’s claim to resource-rich Sabah.

The Philippine mission in Kuala Lumpur also said consular officials were finally able to visit on Mar. 28 eight Filipinos detained by Malaysian authorities in connection with the fighting between Malaysian forces and the Sulu Royal Army in Lahad Datu.

The Embassy said the visit to Filipino detainees at a prison facility in Tawau was arranged in coordination with the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General’s Chambers and Tawau prison officials.

The Philippines has been pressing for Malaysia to grant access for its consular teams to visit Filipino detainees in Sabah citing international law.

“Our team in Sabah has already visited the eight Filipinos detained under the custody of the Malaysian authorities. We are still waiting for the full report from our Embassy which I think will have first to be submitted to the President before we could share with you some details,” Hernandez said yesterday.

Tubbataha, US Navy divers to assess reef damage

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 2): Tubbataha, US Navy divers to assess reef damage

As it awaits the assessment dives that would determine the extent of the damage to Tubbataha Reef, the Philippine government is sending a Coast Guard team to Japan to resume its investigation into the grounding of the USS Guardian on the atoll, government officials said yesterday.

After the last section of the US Navy minesweeper was lifted off the reef on Saturday, a “final dive” would be conducted to assess the damage wrought by the Jan. 17 incident, said Undersecretary Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson.

Transportation Secretary Joseph E.A. Abaya, for his part, said he expected a “series of dives” by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) and the United States Navy to come up with an “accurate assessment” of the damage to the reef.

But the TMO said Monday only its divers and the US Navy’s would conduct the assessment dives.

Tubbataha Reefs Superintendent Angelique Songco said the TMO was organizing the assessment and it will be joined by the US Navy, represented by reserved officer and marine biologist Lee Shannon.

The Coast Guard on Monday confirmed this, saying the Tubbataha Reef management’s divers, not the PCG’s, would make the “final assessment” of the damage.

PCG spokesman Lt. Commander Armand Balilo, however, told the Inquirer the Coast Guard was “willing to assist the Tubbataha Management Office in conducting the reef damage assessment by providing resources like ships and rubber boats.”

Unesco assessment

Earlier, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Office (Unesco), which had declared the Tubbataha Reef a World Heritage Site, had volunteered a “team of experts” to assess the damage to the natural wonder.

But Task Force Tubbataha—composed of the PCG, TMO and other groups—did not take up the Unesco offer.

On Jan. 22, five days after the Guardian mistakenly entered the reef and promptly got stuck on it, 14 Coast Guards divers checked out the initial damage. They reported that up to 1,600 square meters of the reef had been damaged.

Meanwhile, the manual cleanup of the grounding site is expected to be completed Tuesday.

The reef damage assessment “will start as soon as the cleanup operation wraps up,” said Balilo.

Pending the assessment, Abaya said a three-man Coast Guard team, led by Adm. Louie Tuazon, would fly to Japan this week to resume the investigation of the grounding.

Since the Guardian’s crew refused to be personally interviewed, the Coast Guard team would be meeting with US Navy investigators, Abaya said.

“They have issues with a face to face [investigation]. That’s the agreement we had before they left. But we’re allowed to look at their investigation report and ask clarificatory questions,” he said in a phone interview.

The US-Navy contracted international salvage team finally lifted the stern (back) of the 68-meter warship off the reef on Saturday afternoon following weeks of a recovery operation that was often delayed by bad weather.

The cut sections of the ship were taken on the barge Seabridge S-700 to an undisclosed US military facility in Japan.

MILF reminds troops not to engage in political partisan activities

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 1): MILF reminds troops not to engage in political partisan activities

MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar. FILE PHOTO

COTABATO CITY, Philippines—The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has reminded its forces not to allow themselves to be used by politicians in any activity that would disrupt the much improved peace climate in Mindanao.

With the start of election campaign period for local candidates on Sunday, MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar has appealed to “all armed and unarmed MILF members not to follow orders that would disrupt harmonious co-existence of our people.”

“Let there be peace and allow our people to exercise their right of suffrage without threat and intimidation,” said Jaafar with a stern warning that violators may face “administrative sanctions such as suspension or possible relief that will be decided by the MILF Central Committee.”

He added that the coming synchronized ARMM and midterm polls should demonstrate the sincerity of the MILF as it works for the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity.

Jaafar reiterated that the group will remain neutral, “but non-combatant members and their families who are registered voters may freely choose their candidates.”

He said MILF commanders on the ground have been under instruction to adhere with the ongoing ceasefire agreement with the government.

Likewise, Jaafar enjoined candidates to be “above board” in their political rallies by presenting their platform of government without mudslinging or resorting to “personal attacks” that would create animosity and eventual violence.

Nash Maulana, regional executive director of the Bureau of Public Information, saw no need to resort to violence with the thought that most if not all candidates vying for elective posts in the ARMM are relatives by blood or by affinity.

Reelectionist Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu of the ruling Liberal Party and arch rival from the United Nationalist Alliance, Sultan Kudarat Mayor Tocao Mastura also agreed to individually work for a peaceful, honest and orderly conduct of the May 13 polls.

Jaafar has urged the Commission on Elections, religious and civic leaders to continue holding peace covenant signing rites among warring bets in the ARMM provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Chief Superintendent Noel delos Reyes, ARMM police director, announced that there was no election-related violence on the first day of the campaign period in the region.

“This is a good sign and let’s keep it that way,” Delos Reyes said, adding that “the ongoing GPH-MILF peace talks have something to do with the conducive tranquility that we are enjoying.”

Bemedaled Wescom chief Sabban retires from military service

From the Philippine Daily  Inquirer (Apr 2): Bemedaled Wescom chief Sabban retires from military service
PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines—Know and protect your own backyard.

Newly retired Marine Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban did just in his last three years in active military service as the straightforward, no-nonsense chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (Wescom) based in Palawan.

As WesCom commander from 2010 up to Monday, when he reached the mandatory age retirement of 56, Sabban had directed 14,000 security operations in his area of responsibility.

Sabban said the bulk of these missions comprised “sovereignty patrols” at the height of the country’s territorial dispute with China over the Philippines’ regime of islands in the Spratlys.

“(With) those 14,000, I still feel that they were not as much as we thought we should have exerted in the patrolling of our borders. Now we have another threat, the southern border. It (sovereignty patrol) increases as threats to national security arise,” he said, referring to the ongoing conflict in Sabah after the Sultanate of Sulu sent its ‘royal security forces’ to reclaim ownership over the North Borneo island.

In his speech at Monday’s turnover rites, AFP Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista cited Sabban’s strategy of combining “diplomatic, informational, military, economic, and socio political initiatives” in Palawan through partnerships with key local leaders.

The strategy resulted “in a shared concept of security that brings a quick and encompassing and coordinated response in the emerging security situation in the West Philippine Sea,” Bautista said.
Bautista also commended the Wescom for maintaining a “credible defense posture against the threats to our sovereign rights.”

Asked how he would explain to the public the concepts of national security and territorial defense as a civilian, Sabban said: “Simply that we should be aware of the extent of our backyard.”

Sabban noted that it used to be that “people were already in our backyard and nobody cared to ask them why they were there or to drive them out from our backyard.”

“This is important because like illegal settlers, the longer they stay there the bigger the problem that we will have to drive them away and eventually it might become legitimate for them to stay there,” Sabban said.

The Philippines lost Mischief Reef in the Spratlys to China in 1994, after the Asian superpower asserted its ownership over it. Mischief Reef is located some 130 miles from Palawan.

On Monday, China said it was sending its largest patrol ship, Yuzheng 312, to the West Philippine Sea to carry out a law enforcement mission.

This could well be the first test to Sabban’s successor, Marine Maj. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, who assumed the post as Wescom commander on Monday.

A military official told reporters that Philippine authorities have yet to monitor Yuzheng 312 in the country’s vicinity.

The official said protocols were in place should the Chinese ship venture into the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

“There are rules of engagement that we follow. If we monitor that a foreign vessel enters our EEZ, we report it to the Defense Department which informs the Foreign Affairs Department,” said the official, who requested anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Sabban said that facing up to China was one of the biggest challenges he had as Wescom’s commander.

“With our internal security operations, we were always superior in force but in territorial defense operations, we are very much inferior. Lakas ng loob lang,” Sabban said.

It was Guerrero’s third time to take over a position that Sabban vacated. He had earlier replaced Sabban as chief of the Joint Task Force Comet that went after Abu Sayyaf bandits and as commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps.

Guerrero said he would work with the stakeholders in Palawan, known as the country’s last frontier for its rich wildlife and natural resources, to maintain its security and peace and development objectives.

Bautista presented Sabban, whom he called “Sir,” with the latter’s collection of medals earned from his exploits in the battlefield and civil military operations. Sabban was the last member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class ’78 to retire. Bautista belonged to PMA Class ’81.

Sabban was also known to have taken part in attempts to overthrow the first Aquino administration in the 1980s.

NPA supporting some bets, claims official

From ABS-CBN (Apr 1): NPA supporting some bets, claims official

The communist New People's Army is planning to infiltrate government by supporting the candidacies of some local and national candidates, a military official claimed Monday.
Citing a recovered rebel document, 8th Infantry Division spokesman Capt. Gene Orense said the NPA will be using funds collected by the group to support some candidates sympathetic to their cause.

"Eventually, the [candidates] will give any kind of support (to the NPA)," the military official said.
Orense declined to name the candidates getting NPA support, saying they might be charged with electioneering. However, he noted that some leftist candidates are running in the party-list elections.

The military official claimed the rebel's plans were included in a document titled Election Action Plan 2013 that was seized by Army soldiers in Basey, Samar last January 31.

He said the document revealed the NPA intends to advance its struggle "by infiltrating the government bureaucracy, particularly the legislative branch and access the government resources (like) Priority Development Assistance Fund or the Pork Barrel to support the insurgency movement."

He said the NPA already intends to gain resources by charging candidates fees to allow them to campaign in rebel-infested areas.

Malaysian admits giving money to Kiram kin

From ABS-CBN  (Apr 1): Malaysian admits giving money to Kiram kin

A resident of Penang, Malaysia on Monday surrendered to authorities after being accused of funding the Filipino militants who entered Sabah nearly two months ago to revive a centuries-old claim to the resource-rich territory.
Datuk Seri Muhammad Ridzwan Sulaiman, Al-Ehsan Islamiah charity foundation president, surrendered to Malaysian authorities in Ampang Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, a report from Malaysia's "The Star Online" said.

Muhammad Ridzwan admitted to talking and giving money to a member of the Kiram clan, a certain Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram, one of the claimants to the throne of the Sulu sultanate.

Muhammad Ridzwan, who hails from George Town in Penang, said he met Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram last September 15 and 16, a separate report by Malaysian news agency Bernama said.

Muhammad Ridzwan, however, denied having any links to Jamalul Kiram III, the self-style leader who sent some 200 soldiers to Lahad Datu in Sabah to assert his ownership of the territory.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said Muhammad Ridzwan could help police in their investigation into the incursion.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar earlier said several individuals were under surveillance and would be arrested for treason for allegedly sending money to Filipino militants.

If convicted, these individuals could face life imprisonment or even death for committing treason.

CPP: Aquino, AFP is coddling Burgos’ abductors and human rights abusers--CPP

From the CPP Website (Apr 1): Aquino, AFP is coddling Burgos’ abductors and human rights abusers--CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounced the Aquino regime and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for “continuing to coddle and promote the abductors of peasant activist Jonas Burgos in 2007 and other key military and defense officials who are responsible for violating human rights and committing other crimes.”

In a ruling issued a few days ago, the Court of Appeals found the AFP and elements of the Philippine Army accountable for the 2007 abduction of Burgos in Quezon City. Burgos’ family and human rights organizations have long maintained this assertion but the AFP has persistently denied its responsibility.

“The AFP has long maintained the policy of denial of its role in the abduction of Jonas Burgos, as well as its responsibility in the abduction, illegal incarceration and torture of UP student activists Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, peasant activists Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo and hundreds of similar cases,” said the CPP. “They have gone the lengths of concocting one story after another putting the blame on the revolutionary forces for their crimes and violations of human rights.”

The CPP pointed out that the principal military official who was responsible for the actual act of Burgos’ abduction then 1st Lt. Harry A. Balliaga, Jr. has since been promoted by the Philippine Army to his current position as army major. Then Col. Eduardo Año, who was among those named in the complaint filed by the Burgos family, has since been promoted to general and was appointed last year by Aquino as chief of the AFP’s intelligence branch.

“The Aquino regime’s failure to arrest, detain and prosecute the notorious fascist general Jovito Palparan despite criminal charges having been filed against him, reveal Aquino’s hypocrisy in dishing out human rights and peace rhetoric,” added the CPP.

“By continuing to coddle these criminals in the AFP, the Aquino regime insists on promoting the culture of impunity among the military in its drive to intensify its war of suppression against the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces,” said the CPP.

“Aquino does not want to set a precedent of actually prosecuting and putting to justice any of the AFP officials involved in the long-running war of suppression lest this undermines and weakens its Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression which relies on the unmitigated brutality and fascist mindset of its military officials and men,” said the CPP.

“Behind Aquino’s noisy peace and human rights rhetoric and the accompanying roadshows being launched by the AFP, the Oplan Bayanihan is no different from the brutal campaigns of suppression of the past,” said the CPP.

MILF: Editorial--Not an insurmountable task

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Mar 31): Not an insurmountable task

Very soon, the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTA) will commit to work, especially the writing of the Basic, which will govern the new Bangsamoro political entity. Of course, this will come into force after Congress will enact a good legislation and after the people ratified it in referendum called for the purpose.

Contrary to seemingly popular belief, writing the Basic Law is not as difficult as one might imagine. As long as all the BTC members think and act as Bangsamoro and pursue what is best for the Bangsamoro, there is nothing to fear and doubt. Moreover, as long as they act within the purview of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), or to be precise, within the confines of the comprehensive peace agreement, which will be signed hopefully soon, there is nothing to worry. After all, the exercise is not a conspiracy against the mother state, the Philippines.

We believe all members of the BTC are honorable men and women. They are all committed to serve the interest of the Bangsamoro, without losing sight of the fact that they are after all still Filipino citizens.

As constituted, the BTC members came from the MILF and the government. But to us this does not make any difference. As long as they believe they are Bangsamoro, we cannot imagine of any contradiction within their ranks. Individually and collectively they can easily deliver and fulfill their mandate.

However, any deviation from the Bangsamoro agenda can easily be detected. It would unveil itself so easily and once brought to the open requires tact, wisdom, and experience in the handling. The BTC has a lot of members who have a good store of these qualities --- they can easily handle this kind of situation.

What is required in running the affairs of the BTC is teamwork, focus, goodwill, and selfless service to the people. Consensus-building is the heart of decision-making, while a division of the house rule is always a tool to create division, mistrust, and cliques. As much as possible, this should not be resorted to.

MILF: CBCS, MinHRaC hold one day forum-dialogue in Zamboanga City

From the MILF Website (Mar 31): CBCS, MinHRaC hold one day forum-dialogue in Zamboanga City

Consistent with its thrust of enhancing conciliatory efforts in Mindanao through advocacy programs the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) held a one-day forum-dialogue in Zamboanga City last March 30, 2013, with the theme dubbed as “ Bangsamoro Imperative for Unity and Solidarity towards KASAJITRAAN’. The activity was held at the Marcian Business Hotel in the City of Flowers.

The Forum was organized by CBCS- Zambaonga City and facilitated on by Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRac). It was attended by members of the two Moro fronts; the MNLF and MILF; the academe, religious leaders, women sector, youth and students. Other MNLF officers who were invited as official guests failed to attend. Mr.Muktar S. Jamud, CBCS Chairman of Zamoboanga City welcomed the participants. Prof. Alih S. Ayub, CBCS/academe presented the activity overview and also facilitated the program.

In the Morning session, before the open forum, the Facilitators implicitly stressed the importance of understanding and participation in the pursuit of sustainable peace in Mindanao, particularly in the Bangsamoro region. A facilitator further stressed that differences in views and understanding can be reconciled by discerning the main objectives; and that “we are in the same course and objective which stands on the common ground that the plight and interest of the Bangsamoro people must prevail”, he added. He further quoted some verses from the Holy Qur’an and Hadiths on the significance of participation and deep analysis of situations before undertaking any sort of actions.

In Afternoon session, Atty. Nasser Ynawat , Fil-Mus/CSO articulately explained the contexts of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). He elaborated how the ‘FAB’ takes its role as well as its crucial contributions to the Bangsamoro as a whole in their quest for doable peace and sustainable development in Mindanao.

Before the forum concluded, the participants have earnestly committed to take sorts of action plan in disseminating the FAB to Bangsasmoro communities and even outside the core areas of the proposed Bangsamoro region for public awareness and understanding.

Abu Sayyaf plans to stage bombings in Zambo: Police

From the Zamboanga Today (Mar 31): Abu Sayyaf plans to stage bombings in Zambo: Police

Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) linked with the Jamaah Islamiya (JI) in Western Mindanao is planning to stage bomb attacks in Zamboanga City, a top regional police official said.

But Police Regional Office 9 (PRO9) regional director Chief Supt. Juanito Vaño Jr. yesterday reiterated that the report is already being validated for confirmation.

Vaño told Zamboanga Today in his text message that the city is always a recipient of bomb threats but usual procedures has been done by local authorities.

Prior to the report, there were already previous report of same content where the Zamboanga City Police Office and intelligence units have doubled their target hardening operation to thwart the terrorists’ plan and their possible arrest.

Vaño appealed to the civilian community to report to the nearest police station if any suspicious persons or baggage seen or observe in their vicinity for the immediate response of the police personnel.

Meanwhile, the local police office remains on heightened alert in connection with the weeklong observance of the Holy Week and the upcoming May 13, 2013 election.

'Malaysia trying to undermine sultan followers' claim over Sabah'

From the Philippine Star (Apr 1): 'Malaysia trying to undermine sultan followers' claim over Sabah'

Malaysia's move to label the followers of Sulu sultanate as terrorists is a ploy to undermine the latter's claim over Sabah, a lawmaker representing Sulu province said on Monday.

Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong said Malaysia's action to call the sultan followers as terrorists seek to counter any international sympathy for the group and the latter's claim over Sabah.

Agbimuddin Kiram, younger brother of Sulu sultanate Jamalul Kiram III, with more than 200 followers, many of them unarmed, in February went to Lahad Datu to claim ownership over resource-rich Sabah. Agbimuddin is on the run following a standoff that sparked offensives between the sultan followers and the Malaysian security forces.

That’s the only way for Malaysian authorities to [undermine] the legitimate claim of the Sulu sultanate. They (Sulu sultanate followers) were called terrorists because a terrorist group is an organization that is an enemy of all nations...,” Loong said.

Loong, however, said the international community has been prudent and has refused to accept the terrorist label given to sultan followers, citing that even the United Nations has called for a halt to the hostilities.

US to send amphibious landing ship for Phl-US annual exercise

From the Philippine Star (Apr 1): US to send amphibious landing ship for Phl-US annual exercise

The United States is sending USS Tortuga, an amphibious dock landing ship of the US 7th Fleet, to the Philippines to participate in the annual bilateral military exercise, the US Embassy in Manila said here today.
The ship is to arrive in Manila on Tuesday and then have a brief stop in Subic before taking part in the Philippine-US Balikatan exercises.

During Balikatan exercise, which takes place on the island of Luzon from April 5 to 17, the Tortuga will support Philippine and US troops'joint training for humanitarian assistance and disaster response scenarios, the embassy report said.

USS Tortuga (LSD-46) is part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and is currently on deployment in the US 7th Fleet area of responsibility.

Earlier, the Philippine military said that six other countries - Australia, Brunei, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand - will take part in this year's Balikatan joint military exercise. They will participate in the Multinational Maritime Security Roundtable Discussion, but will not take part in the actual field training exercises which will be limited to Filipino and US forces alone.

P-Noy to name new Eastmincom chief

From the Philippine Star (Apr 1): P-Noy to name new Eastmincom chief

A member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class ’80 is reportedly being eyed as the next chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Military sources said Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III might be named the next chief of the Davao-based unit, one of the two unified commands in Mindanao.

Eastmincom chief Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia is set to retire on April 13.

”Talks are rife that (Cruz) will be named to the post,” a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

Cruz is the chief of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division based in Zamboanga del Sur. He was former assistant commander of the Davao-based 10th ID.

Aquino’s sisters – Ballsy, Pinky, Viel and Kris – are all adopted members of PMA Class ’80.

‘NPA strength dwindling’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 1): ‘NPA strength dwindling’

The New People’s Army had vowed to launch more tactical offensives to mark its 44th founding anniversary on March 29, but failed to project itself as still a force to reckon with, as its strength continues to dwindle in Negros and Panay islands, the military said.

Military records show that, since Col. Oscar Lactao assumed command of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, 21 months ago, the NPA strength in Negros has reduced from about 300 in 2010, to 210 this year, with 88 rebels having surrendered.

In the whole of the Western Visayas, the Army 3rd Infantry Division also reported a significant decrease of 49 percent in NPA strength, from 444 in 2010 to 227 in the first quarter of this year.

On the other hand, the Communist Party of the Philippines, in a congratulatory message to the NPA, said that, despite concentrated enemy attacks in Negros, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao, they have become stronger, and excelled at seizing initiatives, inflicting casualties and causing material damage to, and seizing arms from government forces.

Major Gen. Jose Mabanta, 3rd Infantry Division commander, however, said the CPP-NPA is losing its mass base support, while its ranks continue to go back to mainstream society and start a new life.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. recently distributed P149,338 worth of livelihood projects and financial assistance of P5,000 each to 15 rebel returnees in the province, facilitated by Lactao.

Despite the decrease in NPA strength, Mabanta admitted there is still a lot to be done. In the spirit of bayanihan, they will continue to work together and even harder with the local communities, the local government units, government agencies, the civil society organizations and all other stakeholders in putting an end to insurgency in Panay and Negros, he added.

In a statement it issued, the CPP said, the NPA must field strike forces to intensify their tactical offensives to seize more arms and create more units.

“The strike forces must carry out ambushes, raids and other disarming operations at an accelerated rate and with short rest periods. They must wage only the battles that they are capable of winning. They must target the stationary and moving weak points of the enemy,” the statement added.

Mabanta said they have received numerous surrender feelers from rebels due to the hardships they have been experiencing in the jungles, while others are thinking about their families and their future in the armed struggle.

EXCLUSIVE | Mug shot boosts case that Jonas Burgos was in military custody

From InterAksyon (Apr 1): EXCLUSIVE | Mug shot boosts case that Jonas Burgos was in military custody

After nearly six years of official denial by the military top brass, a photo of a newly apprehended - abducted is a more apt term- Jonas Burgos, filed with the Philippine Army by the military officers who took him as he lunched at a Quezon City Mall in April 2007, was obtained from reliable sources by

The photo shows a forlorn-looking, apparently dazed Burgos, who was 37 at that time. He looked shaken, obviously the result of a violent struggle with the five men and one woman whom two witnesses said had dragged him away as he shouted “Aktibista lang ako! (I’m simply an activist).”

Police investigation, pushed relentlessly by his mother Edita - the wife of the late world press freedom icon Joe Burgos Jr. - led to a license plate on the vehicle used to haul him off. The license plate belonged to a utility vehicle that had been parked inside a military camp in Central Luzon, having been seized by authorities in connection with an illegal logging case.

The military claimed the license plate was supposedly stolen by communist rebels, whom it also blamed for abducting Burgos as part of a supposed internal purge. It consistently denied there was ever an operation to get the activist-farmer, whose disappearance marks its sixth year on April 28.

Edita Burgos, through lawyer Ricardo N. Fernandez, went to various local and international forums to search for her son. Most important, she sought a writ of amparo from the Supreme Court, which ordered the Court of Appeals to convene a special investigating panel.

Last March 27, the Court of Appeals report that concluded the over three-year inquiry was disclosed to the press. It ruled that the 2007 abduction of Jonas Burgos was a military-sanctioned case of enforced disappearance, and held the Philippine Army “accountable” for it.

Army mum; AFP affirms HR policy; PNP to deepen probe

Reached for comment, the Philippine Army would not comment on the supposed mug shot that surfaced several years after he was seized in 2007.

"How can we comment on an ordinary photo that was taken from a camera and being distributed as a mug shot when in fact as far as we know, mug shots are being taken by the police and includes name and other markings," said Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, Army spokesman.

"We cannot comment properly on a single picture," he added.

The AFP, for its part, said it has yet to see a copy of the Court of Appeals ruling on the Burgos case, but said it would not tolerate human rights abuses committed by its personnel.

"The AFP condemns any act of violation of the basic and constitutional rights of individuals. We are doing every necessary step to ensure that all our personnel strictly follow the AFP rules, regulations and policy which are consistent with the internationally accepted agreements and laws," a statement from the AFP said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), meanwhile, said it will further intensify its investigation into the case of Burgos and will comply with the CA ruling, reported on March 27. The CA, following an SC-directed inquiry that ran three years, ordered the PNP to exercise greater diligence in getting to the bottom of the case, which the appellate court tagged as a case of enforced disappearance, qualifying for a writ of amparo.

NO COMMENT | Philippine Army mum over Jonas Burgos mug shot

From InterAksyon (Apr 1): NO COMMENT | Philippine Army mum over Jonas Burgos mug shot

The Philippine Army has refused to comment on the mug shot of activist Jonas Burgos that emerged and was distributed nearly six years after he was seized in 2007.

"How can we comment on an ordinary photo that was taken from a camera and being distributed as a mug shot when in fact as far as we know, mug shots are being taken by the police and includes name and other markings," said Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, Army spokesman. "We cannot comment properly on a single picture."

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for its part, said it has yet to see a copy of the Court of Appeals ruling on the Burgos case but said it would not tolerate human rights abuses committed by its personnel.

"The AFP condemns any act of violation of the basic and constitutional rights of individuals. We are doing every necessary step to ensure that all our personnel strictly follow the AFP rules, regulations and policy which are consistent with the internationally accepted agreements and laws," a statement from the AFP said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), meanwhile, said it will further intensify its investigation into the case of Burgos and will comply with the CA ruling.

Freed Australian hostage readies charges against Abu Sayyaf

From InterAksyon (Apr 1): Freed Australian hostage readies charges against Abu Sayyaf

Freed Australian hostage Warren Rodwell met with a Philippine prosecutor on Monday to help prepare charges against the Islamic extremists who held him in captivity for 15 months.

A gaunt, grim-looking Rodwell, who was in a wheelchair and escorted by Australian embassy personnel, filed a statement describing his ordeal before assistant prosecutor Aristotle Reyes at the Department of Justice in Manila.

"This is to process the investigation of the case. The statement can be used by the PNP (Philippine National Police) to pursue a complaint," said Reyes, without disclosing details of the statement.

Armed men posing as police abducted Rodwell, 54, from his home in a coastal town of the southern Philippines in December, 2011, and demanded $2 million for his safe release.

The militants freed a deeply emaciated Rodwell on March 23 after a payment, reportedly of P4 million (nearly $100,000), was made.

Authorities say the Abu Sayyaf, a small group of militants based in lawless islands of Mindanao and designated by the US government as a terrorist organization, was responsible for the kidnapping.

87 female cadets join PMA Class 2017

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 1): 87 female cadets join PMA Class 2017

Lt. Gen. Ireneo Espino, superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), led on Monday the incorporation rites of 267 fourth class cadets to the PMA Class of 2017.

The 2017 cadet corps has 180 male and 87 female members, so far the class with the most number of women.

The institution, known as the premier military school of Asia, started to accept female cadets in 1987 when the late President Corazon C. Aquino became the president and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The late president, also the first woman president of the Philippines, opened the academy to female cadets in recognition of women's capabilities.

Records show that a number of female cadets became topnotchers in their respective classes including 2nd Lt. Arlene de la Cruz who joined the Philippine Air Force.

In the recent commencement exercises with President Benigno S. Aquino III, a total of 17 female cadets graduated from the PMA "Pudang Kalis" Class 2013, with most of them landing at the Top 10 of their class with various awards in academics, military tactics, journalism and athletics.

Espino said that like their predecessors, Class 2017 will imbibe the honor code alongside the PMA motto of "Courage, Integrity, Loyalty."

Army dares NPAs to release cop abducted in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 1): Army dares NPAs to release cop abducted in Compostela Valley

The military here challenged the New People’s Army (NPA) to immediately release Police Officer 3 Ruben Nojapa, who was abducted on March 18 in a checkpoint in Nabunturan town in Compostela Valley.

Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division, also insisted that there is no need to suspend military operation in the area as demanded by the National Democratic Front (NDF) to pave way for the safe release of Nojapa.

“There is no military operation to stop given that all basic activities of the soldiers are focused on the peace and development outreach program,” Paniza said.

He said the communist rebels were reportedly merely using the abducted policeman as an issue in their propaganda campaign.

“We are not looking or pursuing the rebels. They can release the captured policeman even without this condition,” he pointed out.

Last week, the NDF announced that it is set to release Nojapa but demanded “to cease its offensive military operations in Compostela Valley.”

NDF spokesperson Ruby del Mundo said the communist movement found no evidence that the policeman had committed “serious crimes against the Filipino people and the revolutionary movement.”

Tubbataha management commends ‘safe’ salvage operation of USS Guardian

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 1): Tubbataha management commends ‘safe’ salvage operation of USS Guardian

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY -– The Tubbataha Management Office Monday commended the “safe and careful” salvage operation carried out by the salvors and their crewmen in the area.

This followed more than two months after the Task Force Tubbataha succeeded in lifting the last piece of the USS Guardian off the South Atoll of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

In an interview with the Philippines News Agency, TMO head Angelique Songco said the TFT, the salvors and all the crewmen involved in the retrieval and recovery of the decommissioned U.S. Navy minesweeper “did a fantastic job in making sure no major destruction will be incurred on the fragile reefs.”

“In the beginning, we were scared because we all thought the method they employed to salvage the navy ship will lay more damages on the reefs. Surprisingly, there’s none recorded so far,” Songco said, pending the scheduled April 8 commencement of the post-assessment on the coral island where the minesweeper got stuck stranded last January.

Philippine Coast Goard-Palawan District Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, also head in the province of the TFT and who has been on top of the salvage operation since Day 1, agrees with the TMO’s observation.

“This was very successful. This was done very carefully and very safely because not only the country is observing, the whole world is monitoring, especially non-government organizations for the environment and the media,” Evangelista added.

Except for a minor injury sustained by one of the crewmen of Jascon 25, the PCG-Palawan District commander noted the “very sincere effort” shown by the U.S. Navy in salvaging the mothballed USS Guardian.

The post-assessment of the coral island in the Tubbataha will take 10 days to finish, according to Songco, depending on the weather condition.

It will be conducted with the participation of marine biologists and scientists from the University of the Philippines-Marine Sciences Institute, U.P. National Institute of Physics, College of Science, Western Philippine University, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, TMO, Department of Science and Technology, Mapua Institute of Technology, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff, PCG-Palawan District, Naval Forces West-Philippine Navy, and other concerned agencies.

Songco said various agencies have volunteered to pitch in to cover the cost of the post-assessment, which will spend P200,000 on fuel alone.

“The DOST will shoulder most of the fuel expenses,” she said, belatedly adding the U.S. Navy has not offered any amount so far to help bear the cost of the post-assessment phase.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy, 7th Fleet, announced on its website that the crewmen of the ex-Guardian had been transferred to USS Warrior in Sasebo, Japan, where they will “remain forward deployed on CFAS effective Sunday, March 31.

The transfer came after the minesweeper was stricken off the naval registry on February 15 as it was already “beyond economical repair.”

Lt. Jg. Jared Shrader, Warrior’s Damage Control Assistant, was quoted in the website saying “it has been difficult for the crew, both officers and enlisted, not having a ship,” and that sometimes the crewmen experience confusion. But with Warrior as their new ship, they now have a clear purpose.

On March 30, at around 2 p.m., Jascon 25 and the other salvors deployed in Tubbataha in the Sulu Sea completed the retrieval of the 250-ton stern section off the atoll to a waiting tow vessel that will bring it to its final destination in Japan.

New WESCOM chief promises more military efforts for Palawan dev't

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 1): New WESCOM chief promises more military efforts for Palawan dev't

The new chief of the Western Command, Maj. Gen. Rustico Guerrero guaranteed Monday to double military efforts in Palawan to help it achieve its mission in the province.

Guerrero, who formally replaced Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban as the WESCOM commander on April 1, said with a “doubled military effort,” he will continue focusing on the three major aspects of developmental support for the province: that of ensuring territorial integrity of the areas under the command's jurisdiction, enhancing disaster response management, and strengthening partnerships with the civil groups.

"We will address the internal security concerns, we will continue to support the environmental groups and local government units' initiatives to sustain environmental protection efforts and, of course, we will find ways to further enhance disaster response in the province," Guerrero assured.

He said these tasks are not new to him, having served as PMC commandant prior to appointment as WESCOM chief because he has been undertaking the same in other parts of the countries where he was assigned.

"We will put the right people on the ground and we will assure you that [the military] will continue working with the people of Palawan to achieve the purpose of our presence here [in the province]," the newly-installed WESCOM commanding general said.

Guerrero also said he is not daunted by the challenges posed by limited resources that WESCOM has at its disposal because he believes the men and women of the different units under unified commands can augment its lack of physical assets.

The marine officer, however, stressed that “the cooperation of the local community is an essential factor in ensuring the success of the military's mission.”

He appeals to the public to observe the spirit of "bayanihan" or communal volunteerism that is the core of the military's Internal Peace and Security Plan.

Guerrero previously served as commanding officer of the 1st Marine Brigade and as superintendent of the Marine Corps Training Center. He is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1981.

He finished his Masters of Military Study and Command and Staff College in Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia, USA; took up Foreign Officers Tactical Intelligence Course in Queensland, Australia, and tactical, operational and strategic command courses in various military institutions in the country.

Prior to his assumption as commandant on August 24, 2010, he was the commander of the Joint Task Force Comet for almost one year in Sulu.

South Cotabato cop to get ‘Medalya ng Kagitingan’ for resisting NPA attack on outpost

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 1): South Cotabato cop to get ‘Medalya ng Kagitingan’ for resisting NPA attack on outpost

The Philippine National Police (PNP) will confer the medal of valor or “Medalya ng Kagitingan” to a policeman assigned in T’boli town in South Cotabato for “single-handedly” fighting off a band of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who attacked a police community outpost in the area about two weeks ago.

Senior Supt. Romeo Ver, South Cotabato police director, said Monday PNP Director General Alan Purisima endorsed the awarding of the prestigious medal to Police Officer 1 Roel Armecin in recognition of his “bravery and self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty.”

He said PO1 Armecin will receive the award in a ceremony scheduled this week at the PNP national headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

“This is a major achievement and at the same time a source of inspiration for the entire South Cotabato police,” Ver said.

The PNP said the “Medalya ng Kagitingan,” which is the highest award for courage and gallantry in combat, is given for actions involving “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life and limb above and beyond the call of duty.”

In case of actual combat, it said that the award may be given if an “enemy force is so overwhelming as compared to the government troops.”

Ver said the South Cotabato Provincial Police Office and the Police Regional Office (PRO) 12 recommended the award to PO1 Armecin for “bravely” resisting a raid staged by around 15 NPA rebels on a community police assistance center in Barangay Sinolon in T’boli town last March 20.

An incident report released by PRO 12 said Armecin and colleague Police Officer 3 German Golingay were manning the outpost when the NPA rebels arrived at around noon aboard a commandeered white Isuzu Elf truck and suddenly opened fire.

It said the rebels, who were reportedly carrying AK-47 rifles and other high-powered firearms, were believed to be members of the NPA’s Front 73 led by a certain Antonio Albotra alias “Ka Warren” and the Southern Alip Regional Guerrilla Unit-Far South led by one Ronie Nayre alias “Kumander Joy Joy.”

The rebels reportedly lobbed a grenade, fired inside the outpost, forcibly destroyed the cabinets and carted away a caliber .45 handgun issued to Golingay, three sets of PNP uniforms as well as various personal items owned by Armecin and Golingay.

During the attack, which left a civilian injured, Armecin was able to fight back and saw two of the rebels getting hit in the process.

The National Democratic Front-Far South Mindanao Region earlier admitted that the NPA’s Front 73 had staged the attack, which it described as a “punitive action” against the presence of multinational companies in the area.

The group claimed that one of the rebels who attacked the police outpost was killed in an ensuing firefight then.

But Ver said they received intelligence reports that two more rebels who were seriously wounded during the firefight have recently died.

He said one of the fatalities was allegedly a close relative of NPA Far South Mindanao leader Emmanuel Fernandez alias “Kumander Bobo.”

“That is the reason why we remain on full alert right now. They might be planning another major attack in retaliation for the killing of their comrades,” he added.

Ver said they have put in place the necessary security measures to avert similar attacks and local police units recently received augmentation from the regional police’s public safety battalion.

He said the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion also beefed up their presence in the area to help counter the any possible movements being planned by the rebels.

Police, Army hunt down ambushers of North Cotabato reelectionist councilor

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 1): Police, Army hunt down ambushers of North Cotabato reelectionist councilor

Police and military authorities in North Cotabato have put up peacekeeping forces in Banisilan town following an ambush against a reelectionist councilor Sunday afternoon.

Senior Supt. Danilo Peralta, North Cotabato police provincial director, has ordered the police in Banisilan to remain on heightened alert as the campaign period appears to be heating up.

Banisilan town Councilor Bobby Rajahmuda who is seeking reelection was on his way to a campaign sortie in the village of Busaun, Banisilan when armed men believed to be rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under Commander Tandah Tidong opened fire at around 3:00 p.m.

Rajahmuda and his driver Bobby Delfin were hurt but managed to elude fatal shots when his escort, Army Sgt. Vernie Hollero, returned fire.

Senior Inspector Ritchelle Alocilja, chief of the Banisilan police, said Rajahmuda and his companions were ambushed at an uphill curve in a secluded stretch of a farm-to-market road connecting the municipal center to Barangay Busaon.

Police investigators are now verifying allegations by witnesses that a certain Commander Tandah Tidong of the MILF and his men were behind the ambush.

Rajahmuda and his driver are now confined at a hospital in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

He told police that his family is locked in a long standing family feud with the family of Commander Tidong.

Rebels-turned-livestock raisers nominated for provincial award

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 1): Rebels-turned-livestock raisers nominated for provincial award

Who would have thought that people who once held guns could vie for an award in the Outstanding Animal Raisers for Public-Private Partnership category of the 20th Panaad sa Negros next week?

Negros Occidental provincial veterinarian Dr. Renante Decena on Sunday said he received a nomination from the Negros First New Life for Peace and Progress Association, Inc., based in Cauayan town.

The association is composed of 41 rebel-returnees from various municipalities and cities of Southern Negros and have been in the mountains for years fighting the government, he said.

When they surrendered their guns, Decena said the provincial government through Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. provided them with livelihood assistance to help them start their new life in the plains.

Decena also said he is proud to receive a nomination coming from the former rebels.

From guns, their hands now held animals like free range chickens and piglets which were given to them as initial capital for their livelihood program, Decena said.

Scholarships were also given to the children of rebel returnees who wish to gain skills, he added.

The group now raises 350 heads of free range chickens, 13 piglets for their swine fattening project, and three units of egg machines with 144 heads of layers, he said.

Members also underwent entrepreneurial training and are now engaged in small scale business in their community, he said. Trainings on basic animal management and raising were given to them to equip them with the skills in managing their livestock animals, he added.

The Pasidungog sa Manugsagod Sapat 2013 which is among the events in the 20th Panaad sa Negros Festival that will be held April 8 to 14 will not only highlight the group of former rebels but all small livestock raisers and commercial breeders in Negros Occidental.

But the inclusion of the NFNLPPAI is heart-warming for Decena because this will give the former rebels more opportunities to show the people that they too can live a harmonious life, he said.

Decena said he appreciated the handwritten letter from the group that expressed the members' gratitude to the PVO and the province of Negros Occidental for all the support extended to them.