Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Malaysian security operations in Sabah now in 'stabilization' stage

From GMA News (Apr 2): Malaysian security operations in Sabah now in 'stabilization' stage

The Malaysian government's operations against the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III on Tuesday entered a third stage, which is focused on stabilization, Armed Forces chief Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said.

According to a report by Malaysia's state-run Bernama news agency, Zulkifeli said this stage seeks to restore public confidence in the security situation and facilitate the people's return to their homes.

"Soldiers will be stationed in the affected villages to enable the residents to go about their daily routine without fear," added Zulkifeli.

Under the third stage, Zulkifeli explained that the army and police will hold joint patrols using armored vehicles. Residents forced to flee their homes will be allowed to return.

Previous stages of the operations were “offensives”, which started March 5, and “mopping-up” where the remnants of Kiram's men were hunted down.

Meanwhile, a separate Bernama report quoted Zulkifeli as saying the operations against Kiram's followers will continue despite the coming 13th General Elections.


US deploys second warship as North Korea tensions rise

From GMA News (Apr 3): US deploys second warship as North Korea tensions rise

The Pentagon said on Tuesday that a second US guided-missile destroyer had taken position in the western Pacific on a missile defense mission, as tensions rise over North Korea's threats of war against the United States and its ally, South Korea.

The announcement is the latest confirmation of minor adjustments to the posture of the US military, which is seeking to reassure allies in Seoul and Tokyo of American military capabilities to respond to any moves by Pyongyang.

US defense officials announced on Monday that the USS John McCain, an Aegis-class guided-missile destroyer used for ballistic missile defense, was being put into position to operate off the Korean peninsula.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said on Tuesday the McCain had arrived at a "pre-determined location" in the western Pacific. He added that another destroyer, the USS Decatur, had also taken position in the western Pacific "to perform a missile defense mission as assigned by our combatant commander."

"They (the McCain and the Decatur) will be poised to respond to any missile threats to our allies or our territory," Little said.

The Pentagon denied reports that a floating, X-band radar was being deployed to the waters off Japan, saying no decisions had been made about what would be done with the radar once at-sea testing in the region was finished.

The radar is used to track an adversary's missiles as part of a missile defense system.

"It's incorrect to tie the (radar) at this point to what's happening on the Korean peninsula right now," Little said.

News of the latest US move to bolster missile defenses around the Korean peninsula came as North Korea said on Tuesday it would revive a mothballed nuclear reactor able to produce bomb-grade plutonium.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the crisis over North Korea had gone too far and he appealed for discussion and negotiation. "Nuclear threats are not a game. Aggressive rhetoric and military posturing only result in counter-actions, and fuel fear and instability," Ban, a South Korean, told a news conference during a visit to Andorra.

New Book: 'From bin Laden to Facebook' debuts in Singapore

From Rappler (Apr 2): 'From bin Laden to Facebook' debuts in Singapore

INTERNATIONAL EDITION. From bin Laden to Facebook went on sale in Singapore on April 2, 2013. Photo by Katherine Visconti.

INTERNATIONAL EDITION. From bin Laden to Facebook went on sale in Singapore on April 2, 2013. Photo by Katherine Visconti.

SINGAPORE - What are terrorists doing on Facebook? And what can you do if someone you care about is abducted?

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa tackles these questions in her second book, "From bin Laden to Facebook: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 years of Terrorism," which became available worldwide in hardcover and digital editions on Tuesday, April 2.

First launched in the Philippines in October last year, on the 10th anniversary of the Bali bombings, "From bin Laden to Facebook" made its debut here at Global Security Asia 2013, where government officials, security experts, academics and businessmen met to discuss counter-terrorism and security issues.

Facebook connects more than a billion people globally and it is now a source of danger,” said Ressa who has tracked the spread of terrorism in the world and on the worldwide web.

What gives Ressa’s story punch is her powerful first-hand experience. As CNN’s lead investigative reporter in Southeast Asia for 18 years, she reported about terrorist attacks from the frontlines, right where they happened. Her video reports were found in Osama bin Laden’s private archive.

Later as the head of the Philippines' largest news network, she harnessed all of that experience to lead a crisis team which in 10 days in 2008 negotiated for the release of reporter-anchor Ces Drilon and cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderrama, who were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf.

The behind-the-scene story of that kidnapping forms the backbone of "From bin Laden to Facebook," around which Ressa weaves the history and the evolution of the jihadi virus in the Philippines. She makes sense of it all with social network theory, to provide a broad view of a network where each node is an actor (including terrorists and even herself), where each tie is based on the strength of relationships, and where everyone is interconnected.

“It’s all based on who is tied to whom and then you can see what flows through those ties,” Ressa explained.

“As we are utilizing social media to bring government closer to people, through her book, she shows that others are making use of the same instruments to spread an ideology of violence and terror,” wrote Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in a review on the book jacket.

“Her research into the methods of terrorist groups still active today will enable a better understanding of how these groups operate – and will serve as a good resource for those seeking peace and stability for all,” he added.

Longtime New York Times correspondent Seth Mydans called Ressa "one of the leading experts on terror in Southeast Asia," who "has written a fascinating and important primer on the ties of family and loyalty that bind the region's Islamist networks."

Going global

Ressa’s first book, "Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia,” was largely read by the intelligence community and has been called “the first book on the rise of terrorism in Southeast Asia."

But she wants her second book to reach a broader audience. A Philippine version of the book has been available since October and was one of the Inquirer's Top 10 books of 2012. Now an international version can be bought in Singapore, either online at www.worldscientific.com or at most Kinokuniya bookstores for around USD $35.

The assistant marketing manager handling the book, Lee Hooi Yean, expects the book to start selling on Amazon.com by the end of the month, by which time a Kindle and hardback version will be available.

AUTHOR. Ressa signs the inner jacket of her new book at a security conference in Singapore. Photo by Rappler/Katherine Visconti.

AUTHOR. Ressa signs the inner jacket of her new book at a security conference in Singapore. Photo by Rappler/Katherine Visconti.


4th Infantry recognizes exemplar units, promotes officers

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 2): 4th Infantry recognizes exemplar units, promotes officers

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City -- The 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division recognized the exemplary performance of units and pinned the ranks to newly promoted officers during the Monday flag-raising ceremony, here Monday.

Three officers were promoted from first lieutenant to captain after successfully complying with the requirements for the said promotion, while three units received plaques in recognition of their commendable performances in all aspect of Internal Peace and Security Operations.

During the ceremony, Colonel Victor A Gealan, division adjutant, read the confirmation of promotion of 1st Lieutenant Aurelson P Coloma (Inf) PA; 1st Lieutenant Joe Ryan A Manalo (Inf) PA; and 1st Lieutenant Marlou C Daguio (Inf) PA based on the authority letter from the office of the president dated October 28, 2011. Major General Nestor A Añonuevo AFP, Commander 4ID, personally pinned the ranks insignias to the above mentioned officers.

After the pinning of ranks, the Command presented plaques to the 401st Infantry “Unity Brigade and to the 8th Infantry “Dependable” Battalion for having been adjudged as the “Best Infantry Brigade” and “Best Infantry Battalion of the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division during the annual performance evaluation of the field units for calendar year 2012 conducted by Headquarters Philippine Army.

Also presented during the awarding was the certificate of recognition to the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division by Clarissa C Rosales, President of Gender Advocates and Women in the Government Service in Region 10, for the most valuable assistance and support to all the endeavors of GA-WINGS 10 that inspired all the members in making the celebration of Women’s Month fruitful and successful.

MGen Añonuevo said, “I congratulate the three officers for a well-deserved promotion and I urge you to continue your dedication to duty and be ready to face more challenges and responsibilities that may come in your way.”

“I also extend my congratulations to 401Bde and 8IB for their exemplary performances that made them the best Infantry Brigade and Best Infantry Battalion of the Division, respectively. Let us continue our efforts in making our area peaceful to give way to development that in turn will make the lives of the people better. Again, congratulations and keep up the good work,” Añonuevo added. (4CMO/4ID/PA/PIA10)


AFP assists 128 displaced Filipinos from Sabah

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 2): AFP assists 128 displaced Filipinos from Sabah

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has continued to assist hundreds of displaced Filipinos from Sabah who are fleeing from the ongoing tension there.
Col Rodrigo T. Gregorio GSC (INF), Commander PIO of Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) disclosed in a press statement that on March 29, 2013, another set of displaced persons from Sabah arrived in Zamboanga City aboard a Philippine Navy vessel, BRP Apolinario Mabini.

With direct instruction from WesMinCom, the said vessel picked up the 128 DPS (displaced persons from Sabah) at Taganak, Tawi-Tawi last March 28 and proceeded to Jolo Pier in Sulu to drop the 55 of the 128 DPS who came from the said province.

Then from Jolo Pier, BRP Apolinario Mabini set out towards Zamboanga City to ferry the remaining 73 DPS and at around 12:40 p.m. of the same day the Apolinario Mabini arrived at Ensign Majini Pier, Naval Station Romulo Espaldon, Lower Calarian, Zamboanga City.

Gregorio said upon the arrival of the DPS at Ensign Majini Pier, personnel from the Crisis Management Committee (CMC) BASULTA (Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi) were already in the area. The DPS were then transported to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Processing Center at Bargangay Talon-Talon in this city where they would be documented for proper identification.

Since the tension started in Sabah, hundreds of Filipinos fled and arrived in Zamboanga in batches. The displaced Filipinos are mostly from Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. These provinces have also set up crisis management teams to receive, document, and assist returning Filipinos.

The AFP through the WesMinCom has been ready to provide necessary assistance to those who have been affected by the Sabah crisis, exhausting all its resources, from transportation to manpower to ensure that proper assistance is being provided to DPS.

Team Basilan has also been leading the reception and assistance of returning Basileños. The provincial and local governments, together with the local social welfare personnel and the 104th Sultan” Brigade have provided meals, relief goods, and transportation to the displaced persons. A staff from Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) is also around to encourage displaced Filipinos to enroll in its livelihood skills training program.


7th Infantry caps Army anniversary with 'Concert for Peace'

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 3): 7th Infantry caps Army anniversary with 'Concert for Peace'

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija -- The 7th Infantry Division (7ID) recently capped the Philippine Army’s 116th anniversary with a “Concert for Peace” featuring popular rock bands Kamikazee and Soapdish.

“The activity aims to boost the morale of our uniformed men and women in Central Luzon and establish a good rapport with the community showing that we are always ready to lend a helping hand,” said Commander Major General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr.

“We want to instill into the minds of our brothers and sisters in Region 3 that our division is a good neighbor,” Catapang added.

Apart from Kamikazee and Soapdish, other performers were the 7th Civil Military Operations Peace Jammer, 24th Infantry Battalion, 48th Infantry Battalion “Guardians,” 703rd Infantry Brigade “Agila,” Special Operations Command, and local bands in Nueva Ecija.


Kato's men raid Army detachment in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (Apr 2): Kato's men raid Army detachment in Maguindanao

Soldiers foiled Monday night an attempt by followers of renegade cleric Ameril Umrah Kato to take over a roadside Army detachment in Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

Col. Edgar Gonzales, commander of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said members of Kato’s self-styled Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) surrounded and fired at the detachment in Barangay Pagatin in Datu Piang using assault rifles and shoulder-fire grenades.

The soldiers inside the detachment managed to return fire, preventing the BIFM bandits to advance into their position.

The attack sent hundreds of villagers running for their lives.

“Fortunately, not one of the soldiers there, or any of the people residing in the surroundings was killed or wounded in the encounter. The incident triggered panic among villagers there,” Gonzales said.

Local officials have called on the police to file criminal charges against the BIFM bandits that pulled off the attack.

Gonzales said Army intelligence operatives were still trying to determine the identities of the attackers.

“They immediately scampered away after sensing that they have not inflicted casualties on the soldiers they subjected to heavy fire,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales said the villagers have confirmed that the gunmen were members of the BIFM, which raided and plundered several farming villages in a spate of attacks in August last year.

The BIFM is led by the foreign-trained preacher Kato, a former senior commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who was booted out for serious infractions of the MILF’s revolutionary rules.


US combat ships arrive

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 3): US combat ships arrive
Filipino, American Troops All Set For 2013 War
More US ships have arrived in the country to offload military personnel and combat equipment for the 29th annual PH-US military exercise dubbed “Balikatan 2013.”
On Tuesday, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) dropped anchor in Manila for a port call before proceeding to Subic Bay.
Tortuga is part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and is deployed in the US 7th Fleet area of responsibility.
During Balikatan, which will take place in Central Luzon April 5 to 17, the Tortuga will support Philippine and US troops’ joint training for humanitarian assistance and disaster response scenarios.
Cmdr. John Barnett, commanding officer of USS Tortuga, noted that Balikatan contributes to regional security and stability, as well as, strengthening America’s roots of cooperation with the Philippine people.
“This exercise (Balikatan) helps us maintain a high level of interoperability… It enhances military-to-military relations and combined combat capabilities,” said Barnett.
Earlier, US Navy ships and personnel assigned to Military Sealift Command also transported Marine Corps combat equipment and supplies to Subic Bay in support of Balikatan and for the Freedom Banner exercise held March 21-26.
Freedom Banner is a (US Pacific Command-directed) exercise that supports multiple countries throughout the region,” said US Marine Col. Mark J. Menotti, assistant chief of staff for Logistics, 3D Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“This is the first time in more than 20 years that Freedom Banner is supporting the Philippines, which gives us an opportunity to build closer ties with the Philippine armed forces,” said Menotti.
Designed to deliver military cargo and supplies in response to a contingency, Marine Prepositioning Force ship USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011), and its crew, transported 270 tactical vehicles and amphibious assault vehicles culminating in a pierside offload during Freedom Banner 2013.
A USN report said dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2) also provided support by remaining offshore during the exercise, testing ship-to-shore sustainment of troops and equipment.
MSC-contracted vessel MV Capt. Steven L. Bennett delivered additional Marine Corps cargo from Okinawa. The 687-foot container ship offloaded 430 pieces of equipment, including vehicles, containerized equipment and break-bulk cargo.
The USN said that at the conclusion of the Balikatan exercise, cargo will be reconstituted aboard Lummus and Sacagawea. The reconstitution also concludes Freedom Banner 2013. Remaining cargo is then delivered back to Okinawa aboard a to-be-determined contract vessel.

Military seeks ‘closure’ to Burgos abduction case

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 3): Military seeks ‘closure’ to Burgos abduction case

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which is being increasingly implicated in the mysterious disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, said it wanted a closure to the issue and it is not against the possible reopening of the enforced disappearance case as it said it will provide legal assistance to its personnel implicated in the issue.

AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said the move of Edita Burgos, mother of Jonas, urging the Supreme Court to reopen the case of her missing son is an exercise of her constitutional right.

“That’s coming from them, right? So that’s their constitutional right and on our part it’s also good (so that) once and for all, truth will be known,” Burgos said.

“Our intent is to put a closure to this issue,” Burgos said.

In an urgent special motion filed by Mrs. Burgos on Monday, she asked the SC to reopen the case and receive the new pieces of evidence linking the military to the abduction of her son from a Quezon City mall on April 28, 2007.

Among the new pieces of evidence presented by Mrs. Burgos was a photograph of Jonas inside what appears to be a detention cell supposedly taken a few days after his abduction.

The move to reopen the case came days after the Court of Appeals declared the AFP accountable for the disappearance of Jonas. The CA particularly identified Army Maj. Harry Baliaga as responsible for the case.

However, Baliaga remained in the active roster of the Army and is currently assigned in a staff position to the Philippine Army’s Adjutant’s Office. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said Baliaga is not restricted.

Cabangbang explained that while Baliaga, who was only a lieutenant when Burgos was abducted, was implicated in the case, no formal charges have been filed against him.

“When you get promoted, you will be given clearances and if you will be given a clearance…you should certify that you do not have any case and if he was promoted to major, it’s only because there is no case filed against him,” said Cabangbang.

“He was implicated but I do not think it (case) prospered…this is another decision (CA order), this is a new decision which did not come out when he was promoted,” said Cabangbang.

Colonel Burgos also stressed that the military will be providing legal assistance to the personnel implicated in the case.

“Whenever we have personnel having cases heard, there is always that responsibility for the organization to provide legal assistance,” said Burgos.

Burgos said the AFP will comply with the Court of Appeals directive and fully cooperate with the investigations as they have done in the past.

“We will coordinate with the investigative bodies, i.e., the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation,” Burgos stressed.

In its March 18 ruling, the CA “declared Major Harry A. Baliaga, Jr. responsible for the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos [and] declared the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly the Philippine Army, accountable for the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos.”

The CA cited a December 2011 Supreme Court (SC) ruling (Balao v. Macapagal Arroyo) to distinguish accountability from responsibility.

“Accountability... refers to the measure of remedies that should be addressed to those who have exhibited involvement in the enforced disappearance without bringing the level of their complicity to the level of responsibility... or who are imputed with knowledge relating to the enforced disappearance and who carry the burden of disclosure; or those who carry, but have failed to discharge, the burden of extraordinary diligence in the investigation of enforced disappearance,” the SC ruling read.

Baliaga, a 1st Lieutenant at the time of the incident, belongs to the 56th Infantry Battalion based in Bulacan province.

In March 2011, the Commission on Human Rights, with a directive from the SC to re-investigate the matter, concluded that the military had a hand in the disappearance and pointed to Baliaga as Jonas’ principal abductor.

Malacañang said that if there is positive evidence that points to culpability of certain individuals in connection with the disappearance of Burgos, “they will have to face the full force of the law.”

“Our actions are guided by evidence. The justice system operates on the principle of innocent until proven guilty,” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

“If there’s evidence that points to the culpability of certain individuals, they will have to face the full force of the law,” he noted.

The pieces of evidence in the hands of Edita Burgos allegedly marked as “confidential” by the Philippine Army include: After Apprehension Report, Psycho Social Processing Report, and Autobiography of Jonas Burgos.

Allegedly, these new pieces of evidence have been attached to Mrs. Burgos’ motion but will remain sealed until ordered opened by the court.

Mrs. Burgos told the high court that any “premature leak” of these pieces of information may compromise her own personal security.

“The newly discovered evidence will prove that the officers and enlisted personnel of the particular unit of the 7th ID and the 56th IB are responsible for the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos; that these units captured and interrogated him and based on the same evidence, could probably continue to detain him or God forbid, had disposed of him in the manner that only they could explain,” the motion read.

Lacierda assured that part of the mandate of President Aquino as commander-in-chief is “to ensure justice for all,” even when it involves uniformed men in government.


Another US navy vessel docks here

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 3): Another US navy vessel docks here

An amphibious dock landing ship of the United States 7th Fleet has docked Tuesday in Manila, the US Embassy in Manila said.

An amphibious dock landing ship of the United States 7th Fleet has docked Tuesday in Manila, the US Embassy in Manila said.

The USS Tortuga is the latest and the eighth US Navy ship to either make a port call or join military exercise with the country’s naval forces since the start of the year.

The first US Navy ships to visit the country this year was the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Cheyenne and the Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian in January, followed by the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Stockdale in February.

In March, five US Navy ships made port calls in the country, namely the Submarine USS Ohio, the Destroyer USS Decatur, Submarine tender USS Frank Cable, the Sub Tender USS Emory S. Land and the US 7th Fleet Flagship USS Blue Ridge.

The USS Guardian minesweeper, however, crashed into the Tubbatahha Reef on Sulu Sea off Palawan on January 17.

The ship was extracted completely from the Unesco World Heritage Site area three months later, after salvage ships cut it down to pieces.

The US Embassy in Manila said the USS Tortuga would participate in this year’s Philippine-U.S. Balikatan exercises. It added that after the ship docks in Manila, it would make a brief stop in Subic.
The Balikatan is slated on April 5-17 and the concentration of the military exercises would be in Luzon in the province of Zambales.

“The Tortuga will support Philippine and U.S. troops’ joint training for humanitarian assistance and disaster response scenarios. The Tortuga is part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and is currently on deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. The Bonhomme Richard ARG reports to the commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan,” the Embassy said.

The unusual large number of port call of US Navy ships and joint military exercises came at a time when the Philippines and China are embroiled in a bitter territorial dispute over the islands and waters in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), particularly in the Spratlys Islands, parts of which clearly belonged to the country by virtue of its 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

At least seven islets and two reefs in the Spratlys were located within Philippine territory called the Kalayaan Island Group.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia are claiming parts of the Spratly Island.

The Chinese are also claiming ownership of the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal which is located off Masinloc, Zambales, the site of the naval drills that would be conducted under the Balikatan exercises.


Philippine military chief visits Zamboanga

From the Mindanao Examiner Blog site (Apr 2): Philippine military chief visits Zamboanga

Photo released by the Western Mindanao Command to the Mindanao Examiner shows Philippine military chief General Emmanuel Bautista and General Rey Ardo in Zamboanga City. 

Philippine military chief General Emmanuel Bautista flew to Zamboanga City to meet with his commanders and assess the progress of the so-called Internal Peace and Security Operations in the southern region.

General Rey Ardo, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, briefed Bautista about its security efforts, including the crisis in Sabah. Details of the briefing were not made public.

Bautista also ordered military commanders to stay apolitical ahead of the May local and national elections and to constantly engage with the different stakeholders, government and non-governmental agencies, civil society and peoples’ organizations to ensure peaceful, orderly and credible elections.

The military was previously linked to election scandals and cheating and other poll violations.


Wescom chief vows to uphold claim over West PH Sea

From ABS-CBN (Apr 2): Wescom chief vows to uphold claim over West PH Sea

Major General Rustico Guerrero, the new chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (AFP Wescom) based in Palawan, has vowed to continue upholding the country's territorial claim over the West Philippine Sea.

This came after AFP Chief Emmanuel Bautista ordered Guerrero to protect the country's maritime domain in the disputed area.

Guerrero gave his commitment when he assumed his new post in a turn-over ceremony.

Guerrero replaced Lieutenant General Juancho Sabban, who retired after serving the military for 39 years.

In the same ceremony, Bautista commended Sabban for being able to maintain the country's "credible defense posture" against China in the West Philippine Sea.


USS Guardian's crew honored, transferred to new warship

From GMA News (Apr 2): USS Guardian's crew honored, transferred to new warship

Despite the flak they received in the Philippines, crew members of the USS Guardian were recognized by the United States Navy for the “courage and dedication they showed” after their sea vessel ran aground on the world famous Tubbataha Reef off the coast of Palawan, a report from the United States Pacific Fleet said.

The report said 79 crew members of USS Guardian were handed letters of recognition after they were transferred to a new warship, the USS Warrior, in Sasebo City in Japan last March 27.

"It was an incredible challenge but you demonstrated the greatest character in meeting that challenge," Lieutenant Commander Mark Rice, commanding officer of the USS Warrior, was quoted in the report as saying. "All 79 Guardian sailors made it home because of it. As we move towards the future, know that I have always been proud to be part of this crew."
Last January 17, the USS Guardian ran aground in the Tubbataha Reef due to strong currents while on its way to Indonesia after reportedly completing a port call in Subic Bay. It took salvors over the two months, or until March 30, to completely remove the ship from the area.

The marine protected area's management said the grounding of the American minesweeper may have damaged some 4,000 square meters of the reef. The US government has already apologized for the incident and has vowed to provide compensation for the reef's rehabilitation.

Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez earlier called on the Philippine government to determine through an investigation if the USS Guardian's crew's actions may be considered as unauthorized entry to the country's territory.

A member of the USS Guardian's crew, Lieutenant Junior Grade Jared Shrader, was meanwhile quoted in the United States Pacific Fleet report as saying that he and his colleagues underwent training after their sea vessel got grounded.

“The crew has been training for the last month and a half, running drills and visiting other ships. We’re excited to get on board, take possession of this new warship and get back out to sea like we were meant to do,” Shrader said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Assessment Team will leave Puerto Princesa on Tuesday night for Tubbataha on board World Wildlife Fund research vessel, Navorca, according to WWF CEO Lory Tan.

He said the assessment reports are expected to be submitted to the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board on Friday afternoon.


Soldier wounded in encounter

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Apr 2): Soldier wounded in encounter

TACLOBAN CITY- A soldier was wounded in one of the clashes in Ormoc City recently.
In a press statement issued by the 802nd Infantry Brigade, government troops belonging to the 19th Infantry Battalion engaged alleged members of the New People’s Army in a series of fight fights on March 25 and the following day.
The first encounter took place in Barangay Liberty wherein the government troops, under Lt. Amin Macalintangui, engaged about 10 rebels.
The firefight, which lasted for 15 minutes, resulted to the wounding of a soldier who was hit at his left shoulder and was immediately brought to the Ormoc Sugarcane Planters Association-Farmers Medical Center (OSPA-FMC).
The wounded, who was not identified in the press statement of the 802nd IB, was right away released after he was given the necessary medical attention.
The soldiers conducted a hot pursuit operation against the rebels which resulted to the second engagement in Barangay Ga-as, 25 kms away from Liberty.
Unlike the first engagement, the second firefight did not result to any casualty to any of the pursuing soldiers who engaged the NPA members to a 15 minutes firefight.
Based on the press release of the 802nd IB, which is under the command of Colonel Rafael Valencia, blood stains were noticed where the rebels were positioned.
The government troops recovered from the rebels one back pack, an improvised bandoleer with six magazines for M16 rifle with 115 rounds live ammunitions and a magazine for AK-47 rifle with 12 live ammunitions.
Col. Valencia, whose headquarters is based in Camp Downes in Ormoc, said that the gun fights with the NPA rebels were the results of the continuous conduct of security patrols by the troops to protect the communities and the bayanihan teams conducting peace and development activities in these areas.
“Our main objective is to attain peace in order to sustain the pace of development in the Island of Leyte that will ultimately provide opportunity for the people to uplift their lives. I am calling everyone to join hands and work for a just and lasting peace,” Valencia said in the press statement.

NPA denies asking for campaign fees

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 2): NPA denies asking for campaign fees

The New People's Army Apolinario “Boy” Gatmaitan Command yesterday denied that they are requiring candidates to pay access fees to avail of permits-to-campaign (PTC) in their territories in Negros Occidental.

However, the statement it sent to media outlets yesterday said that candidates should not bring with them members of the Philippine National Police, Army, Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Bongcayao Brigade, militiamen or armed tanods.

These people are legitimate targets, the NPA warned.

The NPA statement also said the claim of the Army and the police that they are charging access fees for the granting of a PTC to campaign in their territories is a big lie.

If candidates receive an alleged PTC, it is an extortion activity by persons pretending to be members of the NPA, it said.

The NPA said any such activity should be reported to them so those responsible can be made to answer for their actions.

Meanwhile, Commission on Elections personnel in Bacolod City, accompanied by members of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, yesterday removed illegal campaign materials in the city.

Three teams joined the removal operations, that will be conducted almost daily, to show that they were serious about going after illegal campaign materials, Bacolod Election Officer Salud Milagros Villanueva said.

Provincial Elections Supervisor Wil Arceño also said a meeting with Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas officers in Negros is set for tomorrow afternoon at his office.

The COMELEC is seeking the help of the KBP to police its own ranks of blocktime radio programs paid for by politicians that are violating poll rules on regulated campaign airtime, he said.

The training of 857 Precinct Count Optical Scan machine technicians in Negros Occidental for the May polls began yesterday, Arceño also said.*


Aying new commander of 303 rd IB

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 2): Aying new commander of 303 rd IB

Army Col. Jon Aying is taking over the 303 rd Infantry Brigade command on April 5, and his predecessor, Col. Oscar Lactao, will assume as chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Command Center at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City tomorrow.

Aying had served as the deputy commander of the 303 rd Infantry Brigade, for more than a year, military records show.

Lactao, Aying and Chief Supt. Noel Constantino, who has been designated as director of the Philippine National Police Academy Academy in Silang, Cavite, are members of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1984.

Constantino, is the third member of PMA Class 1984 promoted to brigadier general, a rank equivalent to chief superintendent in the PNP. Before his new position, Constantino served as the deputy director of the PNP Directorate for Personnel Records and Management at Camp Crame.

Two months ago, Col. Norman Marcos Flores (PMA '84) assumed command of the Army's 1001 st Infantry Brigade in Mindanao.

Aying and Flores used to serve as commanders of the 61 st Infantry Battalion in southern Negros.

Lactao, who is due for promotion to brigadier general after the May 13 elections, will replace Brig. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo( PMA '83) who was designated as commandant of the Philippine Marines.

Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr., 3 rd Infantry Division commander, is expected to preside over the 303 rd Infantry Brigade turnover of command ceremony on Friday at Camp Major Nelson Gerona in Brgy.Minoyan, Murcia.


Cop, Marañon, supporter killed: It's insurgency-related, Escalante Mayor says

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 2): Cop, Marañon, supporter killed: It's insurgency-related, Escalante Mayor says
A policeman and a police asset were killed by about six suspected members of the New People's Army hit squad in front of the public market in Barangay Balintawak, Escalante City, at about 6:35 last night.

Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, Negros Occidental OIC police director, said PO1 Bejein Tanguan and Joseph Lutrago were on board a motorcycle when they were shot dead.

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 as of press time.

Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. last night condemned the killing. Lutrago was a supporter of mayoral candidate Santiago Barcelona and Marañon of the United Negros Alliance.

His brother, Armando Martinez Lutrago , a former member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, was also gunned down by unidentified armed men in Barangay Libertad, Escalante, on Dec. 3, 2011.

Escalante City has been listed by the PNP as a 2013 election hotspot.

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

The police had recorded a series of extrajudicial killings in Escalante City from 2007 to 2010, majority of which took place during election periods, and responsibility for many had been claimed by the NPA.

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

The mayor has vehemently denied the allegations.

Yap also stressed that the killing last night was not politically motivated, and was insurgency related, which should not be linked to him.

Yap said he was at a rally of the Nationalist People's Coalition in Barangay Old Poblacion about six kilometers away from the crime scene, that ended at 5:30 p.m. yesterday.

Present at the rally were NPC gubernatorial bet Genaro Alvarez Jr., his runningmate Eugenio “Bong” Lacson, and Rep. Julio Ledesma IV (Neg. Occ., 1 st District), he said.*


Malaysia charges 7 more Pinoys over standoff

From Rappler (Apr 2): Malaysia charges 7 more Pinoys over standoff

Seven more Filipinos and a Malaysian police officer are facing terrorism-related charges in Malaysia over their alleged participation in the Sabah standoff.

State news agency Bernama said the charges were read to the accused -- described to be "from the southern Philippines" and aged between 20 and 63 -- on Monday, April 1, first in Bahasa Melayu then in their local languages, Badjao and Suluk.
Five of the accused are facing two charges -- first, for waging war against the Malaysia king and second, for joining a "terrorist" group. The first charge carries a death penalty while the latter carries a life sentence. Another has been charged with joining a terrorist group.
One of the men is facing 4 charges. Aside from waging war and joining a terrorist group, he has also been charged with recruiting terrorists or participating in terrorism, and harboring terrorists.
A Malaysian police officer was also brought to court for refusing to disclose information about the standoff. If convicted, he could face up to 7 years of jail time and a fine.
Gov't ready to extend assistance
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez said the government is still gathering more information to confirm the reports but the government is willing to provide consular and legal assistance to any Filipino facing charges over the Sabah standoff.
"Our embassy in Kuala Lumpur has already inquired with Malaysian authorities regarding some pertinent details, such as the charges and the matter of legal representation, " he said in a press conference.
"[Once we confirm] we will go through the process of acquiring consular and jail access. We are ready to extend consular and legal assistance to our nationals who are facing charges in connection with the Lahad Datu incident," he added.
On Monday, the prosecution -- led by Sabah Prosecution Unit chief Jamil Aripin and Lahad Datu Deputy Public Prosecutor Datu Shukor Abu Bakar -- requested that the case be transferred to the Tawau High Court, where 8 more Filipinos are also facing charges over their alleged involvement in the standoff. The court granted the request.
Eight individuals were charged on March 20 with waging war against the Malaysian king and joining a terrorist group. The next hearing for their cases at the Tawau High Court has been set on April 12.
This brings the total number of individuals charged over their alleged involvement in the Sabah standoff to 16.
A consular team from the Philippine embassy visited 8 Filipinos on March 28 to check on the status of the Filipinos and help arrange legal representation for them.
As of March 20, a total of 107 people have been arrested under Malaysia's Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act in relation to the Sabah standoff.

NPA releases cop to Duterte

From Rappler (Apr 2): NPA releases cop to Duterte

FREE. Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte with freed NPA captive policeman Ruben Nojapa (R). Photo by Karlos Manlupig

FREE. Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte with freed NPA captive policeman Ruben Nojapa (R). Photo by Karlos Manlupig

COMPOSTELA VALLEY, Philippines - Wearing a plain white shirt, policeman Ruben Nojapa walked beside Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in a simple ceremony of his release after weeks of captivity inside a guerrilla zone in the mountains of Mawab in this province.

Nojapa was seized at a checkpoint manned by New People's Army rebels in Nabunturan town last March 18.

The National Democratic Front-Southern Mindanao Region said Nojapa was released after investigation proved that he was not involved in activities considered anti-people.

The release was also done as a humanitarian gesture from the revolutionary movement, said NDF-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Rubi del Mundo.

Nojapa cried and hugged his wife and family when they met inside the guerrilla zone. "I am thankful to the NPA for this order of release. I was not hurt. Not even a pinch," Nojapa said.

Nojapa shared that he was also allowed to celebrate his 51st birthday inside the camp last March 28. "It was okay. We had food," Nojapa said.

Duterte also thanked the revolutionary movement for the safe release of Nojapa. "I thank the Communist Party of the Philippines for looking at the case fairly," Duterte said.

Duterte, who is running for mayor of Davao City in May, has been a consistent negotiator and facilitator for NPA captives. "[To follow] government protocol, I will bring Nojapa to his superiors," Duterte said.

Various groups and the Nojapa family earlier appealed to the government to declare a temporary ceasefire to ensure the immediate and safe release of the captive.

However, Lt Gen Jorge Segovia, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the communists would release Nojapa with or without the suspension of military operations.

Having a captive inside a camp is a burden for the NPA, Segovia said.

As Nojapa said his goodbye to his former captors, he said he wanted to spend time with his family.
But because of what happened to him, Nojapa said he is planning to consult his family on the possibility of retiring early from the police.


US ship to arrive in Manila Tuesday to support Balikatan

From InterAksyon (Apr 2): US ship to arrive in Manila Tuesday to support Balikatan


Amid rising tensions in the Korean peninsula, South Korean allies the Philippines and the United States will push through with their annual joint military exercises on Friday, April 5.

On Tuesday, an amphibious dock landing ship of the United States 7th Fleet headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan, USS Tortuga (LSD 46), is expected to arrive in Manila today to participate in the "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises which will be held in various parts of the country. It is also expected to make a brief stop in Subic.

In an advisory sent to media outfits, the US embassy in Manila said the USS Tortuga and its 22 officers and 391 enlisted personnel will join the exercises particularly on joint training for humanitarian assistance and disaster response scenarios.

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

The Bonhomme Richard ARG reports to the commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harley.

The USS Tortuga has been deployed to aid in humanitarian response during Hurricane Katrina in the US and the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The Balikatan joint Philippine-US military exercises will be held from April 5 to 17.


Reds hit Aquino for 'coddling' abductors of Jonas Burgos

From InterAksyon (Apr 2): Reds hit Aquino for 'coddling' abductors of Jonas Burgos

Behind President Benigno Aquino III’s peace and human rights rhetoric and the accompanying road shows being launched by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Oplan Bayanihan (Internal Peace and Security Plan) is no different from the brutal campaigns of suppression of the past, said the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The CPP statement is in connection with the enforced disappearance of farmer-activist Jonas Burgos Jr. in April 2007.

“The CPP denounces the Aquino regime and the 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,” the CPP said in a statement.

Last week, the Court of Appeals (CA) ruled that the AFP and elements of the Philippine Army were accountable for the abduction of Burgos on April 28, 2007 in Quezon City. Burgos was having lunch inside a restaurant at the Ever Gotesco Mall when soldiers abducted him.

But the AFP has persistently denied its responsibility. It said that Burgos could have been a victim of the “internal purging” of the CPP and its armed wing, the New people’s Army (NPA)).

“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. 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 said.

It tagged Maj. Harry A. Balliaga Jr. as the alleged leader of the Burgos’s abductors and Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, current commander of the Intelligence Service AFP as responsible for ordering the abduction.

Where is Jovito Palparan?

“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,” the CPP said.

“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. 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,” it added.


Bayan Muna to 8th ID spokesman: 'Show proof Reds fund us or be sued'

From InterAksyon (Apr 2): Bayan Muna to 8th ID spokesman: 'Show proof Reds fund us or be sued'

Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares on Tuesday challenged the spokesman of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division to show proof of his claims that the New People’s Army is funding leftist party-list groups or be sued.

News reports quoted Captain Gene Orense as saying the rebels are also funding a number of local candidates who would then be “indebted” and support them if they win in the May elections.

Orense claimed the information was contained in a document, “Election Action Plan 2013,” that troops of the 87th Infantry Battalion supposedly recovered following an encounter in Barangay Rizal, Basey, Samar province on January 31.

The officer claimed the funds used by the NPA came from their supposed “permit-to-campaign and permit-to-win” scheme.

“We all know that there are left-leaning candidates who are running for seats as party-list representatives, and some of them are even running for seats in the Senate and Congress. Part of this PTC and PTW scheme of the NPA is to support the campaign of these candidates,” Orense was quoted as saying.

Sa kada eleksyon na lang ay ganito ang sinasabi nila para siraan kami,” Colmenares said, reacting to Orense’s claim.

“We challenge Capt. Gene Orense to present evidence. Otherwise we will file a case against him before the Ombudsman for electioneering and in violation of (an) AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) circular (issued) by (Defense) Sec. Voltaire Gazmin prohibiting vilification of party-list groups and Red baiting,” Colmenares said.

Magpakita na muna sila ng ebidensya at ipresenta ito sa korte bago sila magsalita. Malinaw naman sa aming track record na hindi ganito ang nangyayari (They should first show proof and present this in court before they speak. It is clear from our track record that what he claims is not true). Bayan Muna has no funds for TV ads nor for expensive election paraphernalia,” Colmenares said.

He surmised that the military could be raising the Red bogey against Bayan Muna because it is smarting from the Court of Appeals’ finding blaming the Army accountable for the enforced disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos.

The military as well as some government agencies have regularly labeled activists and leftist organizations as “fronts” of the communist rebels.

This practice has been linked by both local and international human rights groups to the continued extrajudicial murders of dissenters and other rights abuses.

The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Philip Alston, said such charges and the murders were part of state policy that targeted legal personalities and groups as part of the counterinsurgency campaign.


Philippines puts C-130 planes on standby for possible evacuation of OFWs in South Korea

From InterAksyon (Apr 2): Philippines puts C-130 planes on standby for possible evacuation of OFWs in South Korea

The Philippine Air Force has placed on standby two of its C130 planes for the possible evacuation of thousands of Filipinos in South Korea after tensions rose anew between Seoul and Pyongyang.

Air Force Commanding General Lauro Catalino dela Cruz issued a directive to prepare repatriation and evacuation plans of Filipinos "just in case it will be required by the government," said Air Force spokesman Colonel Miguel Ernesto Okol.

He said the Air Force already has an existing plan and "we just finalize details like the air route, ground handling, other support systems plus DFA efforts to secure diplomatic clearance. Then we tailor it to a specific area or country as the need arises."

The Air Force has already implemented such evacuation plans during the crisis in the Middle East, Okol said.

Earlier, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the situation in South Korea for the 42,000

Filipinos living and working there remains calm but urged them to be on alert. The United States also sent its destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, off South Korea.


Despite CA ruling, PNP chief says 'no evidence' to charge anyone for Burgos disappearance

From InterAksyon (Apr 2): Despite CA ruling, PNP chief says 'no evidence' to charge anyone for Burgos disappearance

Despite the Court of Appeals ruling holding the Army accountable for the abduction and disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos in 2007, the chief of the Philippine National Police on Tuesday insisted there is not enough evidence to implicate anyone.

"We do not have records of anything. Those are just reports. May statements na ganito, na ganu’n, we do not have that. Kailangan natin ‘yung tunay na imbestigasyon, dalhin natin sa kapulisan, execute ka ng affidavit (We need a genuine investigation, let us bring it to the police, execute an affidavit)" Director General Alan Purisima said.

He said witnesses’ statements should be given to investigators and not to media, and that these statements should be corroborated by other testimony or evidence to produce a strong case.

"What is your basis for saying these things? Based on your perception? Based on what you hear? Ganu’n ba ‘yun? Or nakabase ka sa evidence (Is that it? Or do you base it on evidence)?" he said.

Purisima said the PNP considers Burgos’ disappearance a "missing persons" case, “possibly due to” abduction or kidnapping.

Burgos, son of the late world press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr., was snatched as he lunched at the Ever Gotesco mall in Quezon City on April 28, 2007.

The ruling of Associate Justice Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente, Francisco Diamante and Remedios Salazar-Fernando, which granted a writ of amparo to Burgos’ family, said that, “with regard to authorship” of what it officially declared as a state-sponsored abduction, it holds “ACCOUNTABLE [capitals by the CA]” the Armed Forces of the Philippines “and elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly the Philippine Army” for this.

It named former Army Major Harry A. Baliaga Jr. “responsible” for the “enforced disappearance” even as it noted that several abductors are still “at large.”

It also directed the PNP’s Criminal Investigation Division Group to “exercise extraordinary diligence to identify and locate the abductors of Jonas Burgos who are still at large.”

But Purisima took exception to this, saying he did not "totally agree" that the PNP should be accountable for not conducting an exhaustive investigation into the case.

On Monday, the Burgos family submitted new evidence to the Supreme Court, including an "after-apprehension report" and a photo of an apparently dazed Jonas taken shortly after his abduction.

Meanwhile, the AFP is consulting its lawyers on the next steps it will take in handling the Burgos case.

"Through our Judge Advocate General, we have received already a copy of the Court of Appeals decision and as a result of that we have initiated a meeting, our military lawyers have met with the solicitor general. At the meeting, they are working for possible legal options, remedies that may be undertaken as a result of the decision," AFP spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos told reporters.

Burgos said they respect the decision of the Burgos family to revive the case and said they will comply with any court ruling.

Baliaga remains on active duty at Philippine Army headquarters.


AFP sees more extortion acts during election period

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 2): AFP sees more extortion acts during election period

The New Peoples Army (NPA) is expected to mount more violence during this year’s election period, military and police officials said.

Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, chief of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command at a press conference here Tuesday said, the recent atrocities committed by the members of the CPP/NPAs in some parts of Davao region like burning of equipment of businesses in remote areas and abduction of a policeman in Compostela Valley formed part of their alleged extortion activities against politicians including businessmen.

“They are getting violent to threaten politicians and businessmen,” Segovia said adding that the election period is just a continuation of typhoon "Pablo" disaster where insurgents usually take advantage to mount terroristic threats.

He said the rebel movement is bent on creating violence in different forms to gain attention during the election period.

Segovia also cited the abduction of PO3 Ruben Nojapa of the Nabunturan Police Station last March 18 in Barangay Anislagan, Nabunturan, Compostela Valley as part of the “noise” the rebel movement is making.

He believes the rebel movement will release the policeman even without a joint police and military operation as his abduction is an added burden to the group.


Army condemns NPA killings in Escalante City

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 2): Army condemns NPA killings in Escalante City

The commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, on Tuesday slammed the New People's Army for shooting to death a police officer and a civilian asset in Escalante City Monday night.

“The killing made by the NPA is a worst form of tactical offensive. It was done with treachery and goes to show how heartless they are,” said Major General Jose Mabanta Jr. in a statement.

“They have not achieved anything from what they have done other than make people aware that they no longer have their principles and ideals and are mere criminals and bandits,” he added.

On behalf of the 3rd ID, Mabanta expressed his deepest condolences to the bereaved families of slain PO1 Bejen Tanguan of Regional Public Safety Battalion and Joseph Lotrago, a former member of Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unity (CAFGU).

Initial investigation disclosed that Lutrago and Tanguan were on board a XLR 200 motorcyle towards the city’s public market when they were gunned down by eight rebels.


AFP amenable to reopening Jonas Burgos' disappearance case

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 2): AFP amenable to reopening Jonas Burgos' disappearance case

The Armed Forces Tuesday announced it is amenable to the idea of reopening the case of militant Jonas Burgos who went missing six years ago.

The military issued this statement after Editha Burgos, Jonas' mother, Monday went to the Supreme Court and filed a petition asking the SC to direct the Court of Appeals to reopen and re-investigate the case of her son.

"That's her constitutional right and we are open for anything that will settle this issue once and for all," AFP spokesperson Col. Arnulfo M. Burgos, Jr., said.

He added the military is one with the Filipino people in the search for truth and justice.

"We will cooperate with whatever order the SC and the investigating agency will issue. We are more than willing to present the necessary documents and people if needed," Burgos emphasized.

In its March 18 ruling, the CA "declared Major Harry A. Baliaga, Jr. responsible for the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos [and] declared the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly the Philippine Army, accountable for the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos."

The CA cited a December 2011 Supreme Court ruling (Balao v. Macapagal Arroyo) to distinguish accountability from responsibility.

“Accountability... refers to the measure of remedies that should be addressed to those who have exhibited involvement in the enforced disappearance without bringing the level of their complicity to the level of responsibility... or who are imputed with knowledge relating to the enforced disappearance and who carry the burden of disclosure; or those who carry, but have failed to discharge, the burden of extraordinary diligence in the investigation of enforced disappearance,” the SC ruling read.

Baliaga, a 1st Lieutenant at the time of the incident, belongs to the 56th Infantry Battalion based in Bulacan province.

In March 2011, the Commission on Human Rights, with a directive from the SC to re-investigate the matter, concluded that the military had a hand in the disappearance and pointed to Baliaga as Jonas' principal abductor.


Philippine Army sets qualifying tests

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 2): Philippine Army sets qualifying tests

PAGADIAN CITY, Zamboanga del Sur -– The Philippine Army (PA) is scheduled to conduct qualifying examinations in five places within the area of responsibility of the First Infantry “Tabak” Division for qualified and interested individuals who want to become officers and enlisted men.

First Infantry Division spokesman Major Edgardo Amores said the PA Aptitude Test Battery (PAATAB) will be for Officer Candidate Course (OCC), Officer Preparatory Course (OPC), Probationary Officer Training Course (POTC), and Candidate Soldier Course (CSC).

The examination dates and venues are as follows: Iligan City, April 11; Tabak Gymnasium, Upper Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur, April 13 and 14; Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, April 15; Zamboanga City, April 16 and 17; Dipolog City, April 19; and, Ozamis City, April 20.

Amores said generally the applicants must possess the following qualifications such as: Filipino citizens; never been married; physically and mentally fit; has no pending case in any court, and has a minimum height of five feet.

Specifically, however, Amores said the applicants for OCC must be 21 to 24 years old and at least a baccalaureate degree holder while applicants for OPC must be 21 to 31 years old, a graduate of POTC with a reserve rank of Second Lieutenant and a baccalaureate degree holder.

The applicants for POTC must have the following qualifications: at least 21 years old; college graduate and a graduate of advance Reserve Officers’ Training Course (ROTC) while the applicants for CSC must be 18 to 26 years old; at least 72 units in college and if the applicant is high school graduate, he/she must possess a certified skill needed in the military service

Amores said advised those wish to apply to bring National Statistics Office (NSO)-issued birth certificates, Form 137-A for high school graduate and transcript of records and diploma in the case of college graduates and a valid identification card on the day of the examination.

The PAATAB and pre-written examinations will be administered by the Army Recruitment Office for Mindanao (AROM), Army Personnel Management Center based in Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro City, he said.

They may contact Corporal Michael H. Asistin at +63917-716-52-30 for more information and details, he added.


Abducted cop freed in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 2): Abducted cop freed in Compostela Valley

The New People's Army (NPA) freed on Tuesday afternoon in Mawab, Compostela Valley the policeman it abducted last March 18.

P03 Ruben Nojapa Jr. was personally handed over to Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte around 2:30 p.m. in Sitio Mahayag, Barangay Nuevo Iloco in Mawab town.

From Mawab, Nojapa was brought to Camp Catitipan in Buhangin District here on board a helicopter to be reunited to his family.

Nojapa, assigned at the Nabunturan PNP, was abducted in a checkpoint in Barangay Mainit, Nabunturan town, Compostela Valley on March 18.

The cop was released after the NPA found no evidence to warrant his prosecution under their "kangaroo court."