Sunday, April 14, 2013

Military belittle rebels’ warning vs. vote-buying

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Apr 15): Military belittle rebels’ warning vs. vote-buying

The declaration of the communist group based on the region assailing possible vote-buying by candidates relative to the conduct of the May 13, 2013 elections is nothing but phoney talks.
So said the acting spokesperson of the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City, Captain Amado Gutierrez.

According to Gutierrez, the declaration was only made to cover up the activities of the communist group demanding money from candidates, especially in areas still considered under their “influence.

“Probably, it’s part of their propaganda to offset the issue that they are demanding permit to campaign fee and permit to win fees from candidates as can be confirmed from recently recovered documents,” Gutierrez said in a phone interview.

Earlier, Santiago Salas, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front based here in the region, issued a warning for candidates not to resort to vote-buying and coercion.

He said that those caught resorting to vote buying and coercion would be dealt with accordingly and that any money taken from the candidates intended to buy votes would be confiscated from them.
Gutierrez added that they have been issuing appeals to the candidates not to resort to vote-buying or succumb to the demands of the rebel group for them on permit to campaign or win fees.

The military in the region has appealed to the candidates to report to them if they are being asked by the local communist group on their permit to campaign or win fees.

“This guidance was already downloaded to our unit commands in the front line,” Gutierrez said.
According to the military, candidates were being asked to pay P50, 000 up to P5 million by the rebel group, depending on the position being sought by the candidates.

Salas himself made a strong denial on this in a previous statement.

Gutierrez said that the military in the region support fair, clean and honest elections adding that they do not meddle relative to the conduct of the elections.

“We do not delve on endorsing any candidate as it is against the policy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.

He also said that in coordination with the Commission on Elections and the Philippine National Police, they have established checkpoints and combat operations to deter any acts by any armed groups, particularly the New People’s Army, that could affect the peaceful outcome of the balloting on May 13, 2013.

PDEA, DND join forces vs rebs-drug traders alliance

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Apr 15): PDEA, DND join forces vs rebs-drug traders alliance

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Department of National Defense (DND) will collaborate to contain the reported protection of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) of illegal drugs activities aimed at beefing up their logistical resources to bring down the government.

Liza Baoy, PDEA-8 information officer, said the agency and DND have received reports that the NPA is turning to the illegal drugs trade as a major source of funds to procure weapons and sustain their more than three-decades old uprising against the government.

“There were confirmed reports that leaders of some local drug syndicates have forged ‘unholy alliances’ with rebel groups for protection and self-preservation,” Baoy said.

Alleged involvement of NPA rebels in the maintenance and cultivation of marijuana plantation sites in the countryside, particularly in Cordillera region, had been exposed since the early 80s. In some cases, government troops raiding secret cannabis plantation have come under heavy fire from suspected NPA guerrillas guarding these sites.

“Illicit production, trafficking, sale, distribution and use of illegal drugs are potential dangers enough to unsettle our domestic stability and tranquility. There were several heinous crimes committed by perpetrators who are under the influence of illicit substances,” Baoy added.

The findings, according to Baoy are reasons enough for the PDEA and DND to launch a massive campaign against illegal drug trafficking and abuse.

This is by way of providing PDEA with much-needed intelligence and manpower and logistical resources.

“The two bastions of law enforcement and peace likewise vowed to combine their forces and resources in order to keep the citizenry safe and free from drug-related harms,” Baoy said.

“While the PDEA’s foremost mission is to suppress the supply of illegal drugs in the country, DND’s mandate is to guard against external and internal threats to national peace and security,” she added.

'Army to stay non-partisan’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 15): 'Army to stay non-partisan’

Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, 3rd Infantry Division commander, yesterday vowed to ensure that the Philippine Army in Negros and Panay will be apolitical and non-partisan in the May 13 elections.

“We are carrying a big responsibility in this electoral process and that is our commitment to ensure that our troops strictly observe the conduct of honest, orderly and peaceful elections and remain apolitical and non-partisan at all times,” Mabanta said.

He also said the 3rd Infantry Division remains committed in its mandate to support the police and the COMELEC in the implementation of election laws.

The holding of joint Comelec checkpoints by the Philippine National Police and Army in Negros and Panay recently led to the arrest of three ranking rebel leaders in Ilog, Negros Occidental in Jaro, Iloilo City, that also yielded several high-powered firearms, explosives and ammunition.

Mabanta supervises the internal peace and security operations of the 302nd and 303rd Infantry Brigades in Negros island, and 301st Infantry Brigade in Panay.

He reminded troops that the only political exercise they are allowed is to vote.

The Regional Joint Peace and Coordinating Center composed of the Comelec, AFP and PNP, will meet this week, on election-related issues and concerns, and their preparations for the election next month.

Mabanta said the Philippine Army in Negros and Panay is fully committed, and well prepared to address any armed threats. “Thus, we also fully support the campaign for a truthful, peaceful and free elections,” he added.

Photo: Balikatan constructs footbridge in San Pascual, Zambales

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 14): Photo: Balikatan constructs footbridge in San Pascual, Zambales

A Philippine Seabee high-fives a U.S. Navy engineer after mixing a batch of cement for the construction of a footbridge in San Pascual, Zambales. The footbridge is being built as part of this year’s Balikatan Exercise. Barangay residents were previously cut off from their community, and had to make a 40-minute detour around the San Pascual River to reach schools and markets. During Balikatan 2013, Philippines and U.S. military service members are working together on construction projects to help communities in need. (PNA photo courtesy U.S. Navy)

Roadside bomb explodes in Cotabato town

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 15): Roadside bomb explodes in Cotabato town

Residents of a remote village in Makilala town, North Cotabato were roused from sleep when a powerful bomb went off around 9:00 p.m. Sunday, a military spokesman said.

Lt. Nasrullah Sema, chief civil military operations officer of the 57th Infantry Battalion, said the roadside bomb was planted at Purok-Dos, Barangay Malasila, Makilala, which was at least 50 meters away from the community proper.

Sema said no one was hurt in the bombing incident. "It, however, caused panic and alarm among the villagers," he said.

The explosion took place when the military vehicle of the 57th IB was about to pass through the barangay road.

Sema believed the communist guerrillas operating in the hinterlands of Makilala town were behind the latest roadside bombing.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Haron Akas, commander of Task Force Cotabato, disclosed that several business establishments and politicians in North Cotabato have received extortion threats from the New People's Army (NPA). Akas said traders have admitted having received such letters from the NPAs demanding from them particular amount.

Sema added some politicians were also prevented by the NPAs from campaigning in areas in the hinterlands of North Cotabato because of their failure to secure permit to campaign, which, he said was tantamount to asking money.

"The election is a democratic process. The NPAs have no right to ask money from the politicians who would want to campaign," Sema said.

Breakaway Moro rebel group vows not to disrupt Maguindanao polls

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 15): Breakaway Moro rebel group vows not to disrupt Maguindanao polls

The breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Monday said it will not interfere with the national and local elections next month in Maguindanao and will not prevent its followers from voting.

Abu Misry Mama, speaking for the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), also assured candidates that they are free and safe to campaign in their areas.

"As long as the candidates promised to work for the benefit of the Bangsamoro people, we will not oppose it," Mama said, adding that they will help the government conduct a peaceful election in the province.

He said as an organization, the BIFM does not participate in electoral process or do things that will disrupt the peaceful conduct of elections.

"As in the past, we did not participate and we did not disturb the election because that is not our business," Mama said.

Mama stressed that the BIFM will not endorse, campaign for or against a particular candidate.

"Candidates are free to visit our territories in Maguindanao if they want to campaign," he added.

The BIFM, under former MILF brigade commander Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato, broke away from the mainstream MILF due to ideological differences.

It has been pushing for independence of Mindanao while the MILF agreed to settle for genuine autonomy in Muslim dominated areas in Mindanao.

Mama also said that a lot of candidates have so far conducted campaign sortie in BIFM identified areas in Maguindanao's first and second districts.

He also stressed that the BIFM does not collect any campaign fee unlike the New Peoples Army (NPA).

The BIFM operates in the hinterlands of the towns of Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak, Datu Piang, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Hofer, Sultan sa Barongis, Kabuntalan and SK Pendatun.

Hundreds of frozen anteaters found on Chinese vessel stuck on Tubbataha

From InterAksyon (Apr 15): Hundreds of frozen anteaters found on Chinese vessel stuck on Tubbataha

The Philippine Coast Guard said Monday it had found hundreds of frozen scaly anteaters, or pangolins, in the cargo hold of a Chinese boat that ran aground at Tubbatah Reef last week.

Wildlife officials have been informed of the surprising discovery, which could lead to more charges against the 12 crewmen of the Chinese vessel, who have been arrested.

"We found 400 boxes containing anteaters aboard the vessel, and we are now determining where these came from," PCG spokesman Lieutenant Commander Armand Balilo told AFP.

He could not say whether the pangolins were frozen alive or had already been butchered as meat.
A protected species, pangolins are widely hunted in parts of Asia for their meat, skin and scales.
In China, they are known as a delicacy and are purported to have medicinal qualities.

According to the International Union of Conservation of Nature, all eight species of the insect-eating mammals are protected by international laws around the world.

Two -- the Malaysian and Chinese pangolins -- are in its "red list" of endangered species.
Pangolins are also found roaming in the wild in Palawan.

Balilo said the vessel remained stuck in Tubbataha, while the PCG awaited arrival of a salvage ship to tow it away.

Prosecutors charged the 12 Chinese fishermen last week with illegal poaching and with corruption for attempting to bribe Filipinos officials, and if convicted they could face long jail terms.

It was not immediately clear however what additional charges, if any, are to be filed against them with the discovery of the pangolins, Balilo said.

The grounding of the 48-meter boat came amid deep tensions between the Philippines and China over competing territorial claims in the South China Sea, which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

China claims virtually all of the South China Sea on historical grounds, including waters close to the shores of its neighbors.

The Philippines, as well as Vietnam, have accused China of bullying other claimants as it aggressively stakes out its claims.

Moro splinter group takes non-partisan stance in polls, but welcomes poll candidates

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 14): Moro splinter group takes non-partisan stance in polls, but welcomes poll candidates

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) has assured election candidates that it is safe to campaign in rebel territories.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of the BIFM, said in a phone interview on Friday that candidates must not fear the Moro rebel group.

“We are friends  of the people. The politicians must not fear us. They are welcome if they want to go inside our communities and talk with us,” Mama said.

Mama, however, stressed that leaders and fighters of the BIFM have been forbidden from participating and voting in the upcoming elections.

“We will not endorse and support any candidates,” he said.

Mama said they have lost faith in the present electoral system wherein most of the elected leaders have consistently neglected the Moro people.

“But our families and the civilians in our territories have the option to vote,” Mama said.

The BIFM, led by former Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato, is claiming to have at least a thousand heavily armed fighters.

The group splintered from the MILF after serious disagreements in the conduct of the peace negotiations.

For the past elections, the MILF has also enforced a policy barring fighters and leaders from participating in the elections.

DVIDS: Senior enlisted gather for bilateral professional military education

From DVIDS (Apr 14): Senior enlisted gather for bilateral professional military education

Bilateral senior enlisted gather for professional military education

CAMP EMILIO AGUINALDO, Philippines – U.S. Marine Sgt Maj. Howard L. Kreamer asks a question on the Armed Forces of the Philippines slide during the Philippine-U.S. Senior Enlisted Seminar and Team Building Event 2013 April 6 at the Commissioned Officers’ Club at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo. The seminar is part of Balikatan 2013, an annual bilateral exercise in its 29th iteration which provides a venue for AFP and U.S. military forces to develop and continue to enhance interoperability across a wide range of military actions. The focus of the seminar will be the sharing of knowledge by senior enlisted from both nations on how to adapt and improve enlisted training, develop an understanding of the differences in career progression and continue to strengthen military-to-military relations. Howard is the command sergeant major for III Marine Headquarters Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Courtney G. White/Released)

CAMP EMILIO AGUINALDO, Philippines – Senior enlisted members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. service members gathered for the Philippine-U.S. Senior Enlisted Seminar and Team Building Event 2013 at the Commissioned Officers’ Club at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo April 6.

The seminar is part of Balikatan 2013, an annual bilateral exercise in its 29th iteration that provides a venue for AFP and U.S. military forces to develop and continue to enhance interoperability across a wide range of military actions.

The three-day seminar offers senior enlisted from the AFP and U.S. military an opportunity to share the wealth of knowledge they have acquired through years of unique military experiences with their counterparts.

“There are 11 senior enlisted service members from AFP and about eight from the U.S. military,” said Philippine Army Sgt. Maj. Guillermo P. Francisco, the sergeant major of AFP. “During the seminar, they will partake in guided discussions on leadership, training, education and senior enlisted empowerment.”

The focus of the seminar will be the sharing of knowledge by senior enlisted from both nations on how to adapt and improve enlisted training, develop an understanding of the differences in career progression and continue to strengthen military-to-military relations.

During the exercise’s planning conference, specific guided discussion topics were chosen to foster a great deal of participation from both sides, said U.S. Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. John J. Elliott, the operations chief for 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

“Both nations will discuss their roles and responsibilities, assignments and training,” said Elliott. “The topics which were selected allow each service present to have input and the ability to share their views.”

The seminar marks the first time the AFP Air Force and Navy senior enlisted have joined with their U.S. counterparts to discuss the issues facing each military in an academic setting, according to Francisco.

“Prior to this seminar, only our Army has been able to meet with our senior enlisted counterparts,” said Francisco. “This is a good experience for all those involved to get a better understanding for each other’s organizations.”

In addition to the guided discussions, the senior enlisted service members involved will visit training sites at Camp O’Donnell and Crow Valley to view the bilateral training of the exercise, said Philippine Army Master Sgt. Rogelio P. Caacbay, the director of AFP professional military education for enlisted personnel.

“Events like this seminar allow those involved to develop friendships and have a better undertraining of each other,” said Elliott. “This is important as we may work together on future operations.”

While the 19 senior enlisted participating in the seminar are an important piece of Balikatan, nearly 8,000 Philippine and U.S. service members are simultaneously participating in training centered around humanitarian civic assistance projects; a bilateral typhoon-based disaster relief scenario command post exercise; and knowledge sharing and interoperability field training exercises.

These wide array of events are scheduled to take place at several locations throughout Luzon including Camp Aguinaldo, Camp O’Donnell, Crow Valley, Fort Magsaysay, Clark Field, Subic Bay and the Zambales area. The exercise is scheduled to conclude April 17.

Photos: III Marine Expeditionary Force Flikr Photo File--Exercise Balikatan 2013

III Marine Expeditionary Force Flikr Photo File: Exercise Balikatan 2013

Balikatan means "shoulder-to-shoulder," and characterizes the spirit of this bilateral Philippines-U.S. exercise. Exercise Balikatan 2013 (BK '13), will take place April 4-18, in various locations throughout the Philippines. Combined staff exercises and field training will take place at Camp O’Donnell and Crow Valley in Tarlac, Subic Bay, and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija. (75 photos/203 views/ items are from between 21 Mar 2013 & 10 Apr 2013)

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Operations vs Kiram followers in Sabah to end in a few days — Malaysian PM

From GMA News (Apr 14): Operations vs Kiram followers in Sabah to end in a few days — Malaysian PM

Ops Daulat, the Malaysian government's operations to flush out followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III from Sabah, may end in a few days' time, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Saturday.

Speaking at an appreciation ceremony for security forces, Najib said the operations will continue but through the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom).

"The actual fact is that 'Ops Daulat' will end but all police and military actions that are necessary are taken, until all the terrorists or their collaborators are eliminated totally," he said, according to a report on Malaysia's New Straits Times.

A separate report on The Star Online quoted him as saying that while Ops Daulat will end "in name," police and armed forces will maintain efforts to wipe out intruders and their supporters.

"No one inside or outside the country will be allowed to jeopardize our security, peace and safety of the country," he said at an Ops Daulat appreciation ceremony for security forces.

Earlier Saturday, Najib officially launched Esscom, which has four key strategic areas of operations - intelligence gathering, improving coastal surveillance, increasing capacity to intercept intruders or people coming into the sea area; and increasing capacity to capture intruders who managed to slip into the mainland.

Najib also announced a special award called Pingat Kedaulatan Negara (National Sovereignty Medal) which will be given to all individuals who served in Ops Daulat.

Ops Daulat started March 5, in the wake of deadly clashes March 1 and 2 between Kiram's followers and Malaysian security forces.

Before the deadly clashes, Kiram's followers had engaged the Malaysian forces in a three-week standoff.

Army units linked to Burgos case ordered to submit report on 2007 operations

From GMA News (Apr 14): Army units linked to Burgos case ordered to submit report on 2007 operations

The Philippine Army's leadership has ordered all units linked to the disappearance of political activist Jonas Burgos in 2007 to submit a report on all operations they undertook that year, a military spokesperson said Sunday.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes gave verbal and written directives earlier this month for troops to provide information on all their operations six years ago to be able to gather information “that may help in locating Jonas,” Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said.

“He [Coballes] wants that if there is an investigation, we are ready to present our documents…All documents pertaining to 2007 operations of the directed units should be collated, sealed and he shall be the only one who can direct their opening,” Cabangbang said.

The Army spokesman said the directives were particularly given to the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, 7th Military Intelligence Battalion and to the 57th Infantry Battalion and to “selected staff” at the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio.

Last Friday, the Supreme Court ordered the Armed Forces' leadership to submit a confidential report on the whereabouts of soldiers allegedly linked to Burgos' disappearance.

Burgos, a political activist and son of the late press freedom advocate Jose Burgos, was abducted in a restaurant at the Ever Gotesco Mall along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on April 28, 2007. The license plate number of the vehicle used in his abduction was traced to a vehicle impounded at the camp of the Army's 56th Infantry Battalion in Bulacan.

The Court of Appeals recently implicated an Army officer, Maj. Harry Baliaga, as the one primary responsible for Burgos' enforced disappearance. President Benigno Aquino III has also asked the Department ofJustice to direct the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a “focused, dedicated and exhaustive” probe on the Burgos case.

Ex-general slapped with 11 perjury raps

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 14): Ex-general slapped with 11 perjury raps

The Office of the Ombudsman has filed eleven counts of perjury against retired Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot before the Sandiganbayan for numerous false declarations in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth from 1993 to 2003.

In an order signed on April 5, 2013, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales denied the respondents’ motions for reconsideration and affirmed a 2005 resolution with modification that the Information for Perjury should exclude Ligot’s interest in Parmil Farms, Inc.

The order found that Ligot’s interest in Parmil Farms Inc. was declared in his SALNs for the years 2001 to 2003 as the SALN form required only the declaration of business and financial interest.

The perjury cases formed part of the Consolidated Supplemental Resolution which also provided that forfeiture proceedings under Republic Act No. 1379 be initiated before the Sandiganbayan against respondents Ligot, his wife Erlinda Yambao Ligot, their children Paulo Ligot, Riza Ligot, Miguel Ligot, and relatives Edgardo Yambao and Miguela Ligot-Paragas for the “recovery of unexplained wealth covering the identified properties or the equivalent value for those already disposed in the amount of at least P 135,280,822.11.”

The Consolidated Supplemental Resolution dismissed, for lack of probable cause, the charge of perjury and violation of RA No. 6713 against Ligot-Paragas.

Records showed that Ligot, his wife and three children filed their Motion for Reconsideration on September 13, 2005 while Edgardo Yambao filed his Motion for Reconsideration on September 14, 2006.

These motions were among several cases unresolved by the former Ombudsman and were discovered during the office-wide inventory of cases directed by Ombudsman Morales upon her assumption to office. These cases were immediately referred for appropriate action to the Ad Hoc Review Committee created pursuant to Office Order No. 121, series of 2012.

Ligot’s motions seeking the forfeiture of the cases were earlier denied in an order dated March 30, 2012. Forfeiture proceedings are now undergoing trial before the Sandiganbayan.

Another former comptroller of the military, former general Carlos Garcia, was charged with plunder but his case was dismissed by the Sandiganbayan on April 11, 2013 as part of a plea bargain deal where he pleaded to a lesser offense of indirect bribery.

AFP not anti-gay — Burgos

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 14): AFP not anti-gay — Burgos

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos clarified that the AFP is not against homosexuals in the military as long as the applicant passes all the requirements and classifications in training.

The spokesman gave the assurance to prevent public perception that the AFP is anti-gay or anti-lesbians.

“We in the AFP do not discriminate applicants in terms of sex, religion, ethnic and racial background so long as he or she passed all the requirements and qualifications for training.

Applicants for AFP membership have to meet and pass the prescribed physical, mental and medical standards required for a rigid military training and discipline,” Burgos, a member of the Philippine Military Academy class of 1988, told the Daily Tribune.

According to Burgos, there has been no change in the policy of AFP regarding whether to allow gays to serve in the military.

“The applicant must fully comply and satisfy all the requirements before he or she will be accepted to undergo training.

Once inside the organization, he or she must strictly abide with well-established norms, procedures and codes of conduct which are in keeping with the tradition and highest standards of soldiery.

Governed by the Articles of War and Code of Ethics, all members must follow and obey all rules and regulations required and demanded by the organization,” Burgos said.

Compostela Valley police chief Senior Supt. Camilo Cascolan said he sees no problem in allowing gays from entering the AFP or the Philippine National Police.

“It’s okay. There are plenty of gay NPA commanders here. They are good in PR (public relations) and also brave,” Cascolan said.

Armed Forces around the world are agog whether to allow gays to enter the military, especially in combat operations.

Among those that openly accepted gays in military service were the US Army and US Marines.
Before, the US military has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy for gays and lesbians in the military.

The policy prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian or bisexual persons from military service.

The restrictions were mandated by United States federal law. The DADT policy means gays can serve but should not display any ungentleman like behavior, which includes showing signs/manifestations of homosexuality.

But in January, President Barack Obama urged the US Congress to repeal the DADT and urged that open gays be allowed to serve in the military.

“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are,” Obama said.—-burgos

Favoritism still strong in AFP system under Aquino

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 15): Favoritism still strong in AFP system under Aquino

Favoritism in the promotion system at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has remained despite promised reforms and transparency by the commander in chief President Aquino.

Concerned military officers, who requested anonymity, expressed disappointment over the continued malpractice in the promotion system in the 120,000-strong organization, with senior officers being left out in the appointment by junior officers who have “padrinos.”

“The game remains who you know, it’s not what you know,” a senior Army officer told The Tribune.

“They have prostituted the system of seniority, lineal listing and merit system in the organization just to position their favored officers,” the officer added.

The officer cited recent promotions of officers who were junior in the seniority and lineal listing to star-rank positions or 07 positions, including a supposed schoolmate of President Aquino from Ateneo de Manila University and a mistah of Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who is an honorary member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1984.

“Worse, you will never know if you are being considered in the promotions because by this time (07 posts) the board that makes the recommendation and submits its shortlist which is confidential. You will just be surprised with the announcement of appointments,” the officer said.

“So, where is transparency there? There are even times when those appointed did not come from the shortlist. That set up only gives room to politicking, lobbying – prostitution of the promotion system,” he added.

Another official based in Camp Aguinaldo said that “padrinos” are not limited to top-ranking AFP and Department of National Defense (DND) officials but also include politicians.

According to the officer, favoritism in the military promotions starts even at the 06 level, meaning full-fledge colonels in the Army and the Air Force and captain for the Navy. Worse, it has spread even to the technical positions in the AFP – to include military lawyers, doctors, among others.

“By this time, those officers who have links with politicians start to ‘maneuver’ to position themselves to key units. They start elbowing others just to get their choice posts,” the officer said.

“Since, the 07 positions are much lower than the number full-pledge colonels in the ranks, many officers, who in most cases are the deserving ones, get displaced, and by-passed even by officers junior than them but have proper connections,” he added.

While both officers admitted to the principle of presidential trust and confidence in the promotions of AFP chief of staff and other top positions in the military organization, they urged the Aquino administration to preserve seniority, lineal listing and merit system in the military promotions to really professionalize the ranks.

“The organization will never be professionalized with this malpractice. Favoritism has no placed in the military, it will only destabilize the ranks,” a source said.

During the earlier months of the Aquino administration, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was accused by former Navy officer Feliciano Angue of favoritism by giving juicy positions to AFP officers who served under him during his active days in the military.

Angue, a member of the controversial PMA Class of 1978 which has former President and now detained Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo as honorary member, was forced to retire.

Relax, it’ll take very much more to host US bases anew

From Malaya (Apr 14): Relax, it’ll take very much more to host US bases anew

DEPUTY presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte yesterday said the reestablishment of the US bases in the Philippines would only be considered under an “extreme emergency,” like if war breaks out in the Korean peninsula.

Valte, in an interview over Radyo ng Bayan, said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was just doing his job of looking at all possible scenarios relative to national defense when he revealed that government is considering allowing the US to set up bases again in the country as an option.

“Only in the case of extreme emergency, iyung katulad pong pinag-uusapan na digmaan. So hindi naman po ganoon, hindi po in the present situation,” she said.

Gazmin on Friday said the Constitution does not allow US bases in the country, but it might be considered as an extreme measure, and subject to Congress’ approval.

Gazmin and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario have said the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States requires either of the countries to come to the aid of its ally if it is attacked by another country and the Philippines would stand by its commitment.

The Philippines, amid the tension, had put in place contingency measures including evacuation plans in case the situation escalates.

Tensions have been brewing in the Korean peninsula since the North’s new leader Kim Jong-un ordered a third nuclear weapons test in February and later announced that it is entering a state of war with South Korea.

Pyongyang had also warned foreigners in South Korea to leave following their threat of a thermonuclear war, as well as warned of attacks against American troops and its territories amid its brinkmanship with Seoul.

Records from the DFA showed that there are about 80,000 Filipinos residing and working in South Korea while data from Commission on Filipinos Overseas showed that there are only about 15 Filipinos based in North Korea.

US deploys sea Radar

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 12): US deploys sea Radar

A powerful US military sea-based radar is now in place to detect any possible missile launches by North Korea, according to a senior US defense official.

“The SBX is in position,” the defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP late Wednesday.

The official would not offer more details but confirmed the SBX, a floating X-band radar that resembles a giant golf ball, had reached a location at sea where it could track missiles fired by the Pyongyang regime.

US and South Korean forces remain on heightened alert amid expectations North Korea will launch a missile or multiple missiles before the April 15 celebrations for the birthday of the North’s late founder, Kim Il-Sung.

The United States has already bolstered its missile defenses in the region to help protect allies South Korea and Japan as well as US bases in Guam.

Guam has raised its official threat level and on Thursday tested its emergency alert system after warnings from North Korea identifying the island as a potential missile target.

With a North Korean missile test expected at any time, authorities said the US territory in the western Pacific was on yellow alert, the middle phase of a three-step “traffic light” system comprising green, yellow and red levels.

“This means we should continue with our daily lives while preparing ourselves for any potential of an emergency,” the government said in a statement, describing the risk to the island as “medium.”

“It also means the government pulls its resources together through the emergency operations centre to ensure we are prepared to respond to emergencies.”

Two US Arleigh-class destroyers have been sent to the western Pacific with anti-missile weaponry while ground-based THAAD interceptor batteries had been deployed to Guam, a US territory about 3,380 kilometers (2,100 miles) southeast of North Korea.

The US military also staged shows of force as part of drills with South Korea, with over-flights by B-52 and B-2 bombers as well as sophisticated F-22 fighter jets.

The floating X-band radar, which sits atop a platform similar to an oil rig, had been stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

The SBX radar, which is 85 meters (280 feet) tall and operated by civilian contractors, is supposed to detect missile launches over a range of at least 2,000 kilometers.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel warned Wednesday that North Korea has come very close to a “dangerous line” with its sharp statements and provocative steps.

“North Korea has been, with its bellicose rhetoric, its actions, has been skating very close to a dangerous line,” he said during a press conference at the Pentagon. “Their actions and words have not helped defuse a combustible situation.”

Rally set to end Sabah crisis

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 14): Rally set to end Sabah crisis

A rally is set for April 21 in Jolo to press the Malaysian and Philippine government to peacefully resolve the Sabah issue once and for all.
Abraham J. Idjirani, spokesman of the sultanate, said the “massive rally” will be attended by prominent leaders from the political, professional and religious sectors as well as some former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leaders in support of the sultanate's Sabah claim.
This developed as another of Jamalul Kiram III's younger brothers, Datu Alianapia who is living in Semporna, Sabah, had eluded his Malaysian pursuers.
Idjirani said the datu is now with Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and his men, and being treated from injuries he sustained while on the run. He added that Agbimuddin, the crown prince, now has about 500 “volunteers” with him from Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and other parts of Mindanao.
“About 80 percent of them are armed,” Idjirani said. “The Malaysian military knows where they are, but not the specific area. Even if the rajah doesn't stay in one permanent area, their stronghold has widened,” he added.
He said Agbimuddin has no plans to leave Sabah now that he has more men.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian government has announced that Operation Daulat (Sovereign) in Sabah is ending in a few days under the new Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom).

Other countries may join Balikatan: US General

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 13): Other countries may join Balikatan: US General 

United States Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey VTOL aircraft lands in Crow Valley, Tarlac during the RP-US Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder) military exercises on Friday. More than 8000 Filipino and US soldiers are participating in this years (Balikatan exercise)

CLARK FIELD, Pampanga- The "PH-US Balikatan Exercise" may soon turn into a multilateral event with more nations now looking at the possibility of joining the annual military and humanitarian maneuvers.

Brig. Gen. Richard Simcock II, the US exercise director for "Balikatan 2013", said they welcome the interest of other militaries to participate in the exercise where both Filipino and American soldiers have been learning useful military and humanitarian and disaster response techniques.

He added this practice will greatly improve security and stability in the region.

Simcock likewise noted that this year, Australia sent a small team to observe some of the training and project sites in the on-going Balikatan 2013 as they consider joining future exercises.

The observation team from the Australian Defense Force visited the Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force (JCMOTF) and Combined Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force (CJCMOTF) last April 6.

According to Australian Army Lt. Col. Michael Scott, the head engineer planner of Headquarters Company, 6th Brigade, the Australian Defense Force sent a small observer team to exercise Balikatan to look for future opportunities of involvement.

“We’re looking for opportunities to potentially integrate into future exercises," said Scott.

The team received an exercise overview briefing at the JCMOTF headquarters by the JCMOTF Operations Officer Lt. Cmdr. Joe Harder who also answered more specific questions from the group.

In a report released by the US Marine Corps, Harder was quoted as saying, “They (Australian observer team) are visiting exercise Balikatan 2013 to look for opportunities to participate with partner nations in the years to come."

Harder added, “The US is supporting the Australian visit by giving them an overview of how the execution is being conducted and to help identify gaps and capabilities that can expand the effectiveness of the mission vice just coming and doing the same thing which would just add more redundancy to the mission.”

Scott said "Balikatan" is a great exercise to observe due to the longstanding relationship between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US military.

Philippine Army Capt. Felipe Estrada, on the other hand, said: “We have learned many techniques and tactics during the exercise already, so when other countries like Australia want to be combined with the training then we would learn even more practices to deliver within the community.”

Estrada is the officer in charge of construction at the Looc Elementary School project site which is among those visited by the Australian group.

Scott said they were able to see a lot of the projects that are part of the Balikatan 2013 and these gave them some good exposure to what’s actually being done between the Philippine and American services during this year's bilateral exercises.

“Balikatan is a good opportunity and we’re looking forward to observing the rest of the exercise and seeing if there are any opportunities for Australian involvement in the future," said Scott.

MILF pins talks’ snag on gov’t

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 14): MILF pins talks’ snag on gov’t

The negotiations between the government and Muslim rebels look to have hit a bump.

The separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is none too pleased that the latest round of exploratory talks ended in Kuala Lumpur last Thursday without the negotiating panels signing at least one of three annexes to the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.

“Something is wrong,” said Maulana Alonto, a member of the MILF negotiating panel.

The two sides failed to complete a single one of the annexes on wealth-sharing, normalization and power-sharing.

What they did complete were the terms of reference on the much-touted Sajahatra Bangsamoro, a joint government-rebel development program for communities in Mindanao.

Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the government’s chief negotiator, said in a text message the government was putting the draft of the three annexes through a “diligent review,” which, she said, would ensure a smoother implementation in the long run.

“[The] government is just as keen as the MILF to finish the comprehensive agreement as soon as possible. But it would rather err for the moment on the side of prudence,” Ferrer said.

She said the road map to the election in 2016 of officials for the new Bangsamoro political entity was “in place.”

MILF panel members were quoted in the MILF’s website as saying they had hoped the wealth-sharing annex could have been signed at least during the latest round of talks.

Alonto said the panels had already initialed the annex on wealth-sharing during the last exploratory talks on Feb. 25.

He said “expectations were high” that there would be no further discussions on the wealth-sharing annex as the text had already been initialed by both sides.

While the panels could both take the annex back to their principals, President Aquino and MILF chair Ebrahim Murad, for a “cursory review,” this should only be “routine because the panels had already concurred on the language of the initialed text and consultations had been held with their principals before the initialing took place,” he said.

“We were not prepared, however, for the sudden announcement by the (government) panel that they needed more time to revisit and review the wealth-sharing annex despite the fact that more than a month was ample time to make such a review,” Alonto said.

He said that he and his MILF colleagues now believe that there was “something wrong… a very serious question of credibility.”

“We are racing against time but the way things are turning out, time might outrun us,” he said. quoted another MILF panel member, Abdulla Camlian, as saying that the problem may lie either with the government negotiating team or Mr. Aquino himself.

“I think there is much traffic between him and his negotiators and we may be looking at a communications problem between them as the culprit. Let us wait, for certainly the real score will be known sooner or later,” Camlian said.

DFA chief: More US troops allowed under PH-US defense pact

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 13): DFA chief: More US troops allowed under PH-US defense pact
Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario said Saturday a greater presence of American troops in the country should be welcomed as such was allowed under the long-standing mutual defense treaty between the Philippines and the United States.

The country’s top diplomat, however, stressed that the establishment of any US military facility could be granted only if it would be under the control of the Philippine military and would not violate the Constitution, which bars the US from using military bases in the country.

“Our MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty) calls for joint action if either Philippines or US is attacked. It would then be logical to assume that in the event of an attack on the Philippines or on our treaty ally, the US would be allowed to use our bases,” Del Rosario told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“For example, if the US were to propose a facility in the Philippines to support humanitarian assistance, disaster response and maritime security—one that is mutually beneficial, one that is controlled by the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and one that is not violative of the Philippine Constitution— we should welcome that form of assistance and cooperation,” he added.

Del Rosario made the comment when asked about Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s statement Friday on the possibility of restoring US bases in the Philippines in case of war on the Korean Peninsula.

Gazmin said Friday that permitting the return of US bases in the Philippines might happen “in cases of extreme emergency,” including the possible breakout of war in the Korean Peninsula.

Amid doubts about its weapons and nuclear launch capabilities, North Korea has threatened to wage war against South Korea and its ally, the United States, following fresh international sanctions for its nuclear tests earlier this year.

The two countries along with Japan, another defense ally, have raised their defense posture in the face of Pyongyang’s persistent war rhetoric.

The Philippines is closely monitoring developments on the Korean Peninsula, mainly to look after the welfare of some 40,000 Filipinos known to be residing there.

The Philippine Embassy in Seoul has been on Alert Level 1 since North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un came out with his nuclear threat two weeks ago.

Under this alert level, embassy officials are in constant contact with the Filipino community in Korea and continue to refine an evacuation plan for Philippine nationals if the tension escalates.

US bases in Clark, Pampanga and Subic Bay, Olongapo City were closed down in 1992 following a Senate vote, ending nearly a century of US military presence in the country.

But defense cooperation between the two countries has been close in the last 20 years since. Most recently, both sides vowed to further deepen such relationship amid common concerns in the region.

In meetings in Washington D.C. earlier this April, Del Rosario reaffirmed such ties with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

During the meetings, US officials discussed progress in increasing rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines and the conduct of further joint military exercises in the areas of both defense and humanitarian and disaster response.

The US is keen on the security situation in the Asia Pacific amid its defense pivot to the region.

PH, US air forces show off firepower at Clark

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 14): PH, US air forces show off firepower at Clark

CLARK FREEPORT—In a rare exhibit, the Philippine and United States armed forces taking part in this year’s Balikatan military exercises on Saturday presented their aircraft for public viewing, turning the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) Haribon flight line here into a large amusement park for children and civilians.

The display of air power was mounted to “let the people see what we are using,” Maj. Gen. Virgilio Domingo, the Philippines’ Balikatan exercise director, told reporters. Viewing was free.

Brig. Gen. Richard Simcock II, head of flight training at Clark, said the Balikatan activities were “not directed at any particular country in the region.”

The exercises aim to improve our interoperability to enable us to address any crisis, manmade or natural,” said Simcock, replying to an Inquirer question on whether adjustments had been made in Balikatan, in light of the tension between North and South Korea.

Domingo said he was not sure if this was the first time an exhibit of this kind was staged under Balikatan, which is being conducted here for the 29th time.

Balikatan had been a periodic military exercise until the Philippine Senate rejected on Sept. 16, 1991, the 1947 Philippine-US military bases agreement.

The Balikatan resumed when the Senate approved the Visiting Forces Agreement in 1999.

Balikatan camps, however, are off-limits to reporters and civilians.

The US Marine Corps put on display an F-18 fighter jet, also known as a Hornet, an MV-22 transport plane, also called Osprey, and the KC-130 carrier.

On the Philippine side were displayed an UH-1H (Huey), an MG-520 attack helicopter, the trainer aircraft SF-260 and S-211, and the light attack turboprop OV-10 (Bronco).

Najal Flores, one of 80 students at Tacondo Elementary School in Barangay Margot in Angeles City, scampered from one aircraft to another.

Showcase for kids

“It’s their first time and they’re excited,” said Arsenia Mallare, the teacher who accompanied them to the exhibit.

Their unofficial tour guide, Technical Sgt. Ilinda Johnson, said it was not a problem showing the kids around the military hardware in the sweltering heat.

Cadet Maj. Rhea Andaya, a business administration student at the University of the Philippines, said she appreciated the exhibit. She said that because the Balikatan had been “clouded by issues,” the exhibit helped explain what the US forces were doing in the country.

“You can see the assurance of readiness of the PAF,” said Andaya, who was with 10 first class cadets of her school’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

US Marine pilot Capt. Brian Radler found himself swamped with questions from the students. “What does your F-18 jet do? How far does it go? These were the stuff of queries I got,” said Radler, who arrived on Thursday for the Balikatan.

Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya, PAF Balikatan director at Clark, said the joint training was “not about modern or old (aircraft).”

“In terms of procedures and doctrines, we are pretty much the same,” said Canaya. “This gives our Filipino pilots the opportunity to gain more knowledge on how the US operates. We learn techniques and tactics. Our pilots benefit from the exchange.”

Domingo admitted that the PAF aircraft were not at all sophisticated compared to the US air fleet. “But the aircraft we have does service for our armed forces,” he said.

Simcock said the United States was not making a permanent presence in the Philippines. “We have a rotational presence for interoperability,” he said.

According to him, the Balikatan “gives exceptional training day and night, and air to ground.”

Gov't to accelerate peace process with MILF: Official

From the Philippine Star (Apr 14): Gov't to accelerate peace process with MILF: Official

The government is trying hard to fast-track the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a senior government official said today.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte made the statement after the MILF, the largest Muslim rebel group in the country, warned the Aquino administration of prolonging the peace process, stressing that the "clock is ticking away."

"We know what they feel when it comes to peace talks and all sides are really doing their work to discuss and to come up with decision in all the issues involved on the remaining annexes," she said in an interview over a state-run radio station.

The MILF officials have raised concern on the government's apparent prolonged process to complete the three annexes of the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). The annexes include wealth-sharing, power-sharing and normalization.

After their 37th round of talks last week in Malaysia, the government and the MILF agreed to resume the negotiation after the May midterm polls.

MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal earlier expressed hope to sign the three annexes and the comprehensive peace agreement before the May elections.

The comprehensive peace agreement aims to establish the Bangsamoro entity that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and will end the four decades armed struggle in southern Philippines.

'No definite plans to reestablish US bases in Phl'

From the Philippine Star (Apr 14): 'No definite plans to reestablish US bases in Phl'

The Philippine government on Sunday stressed that there are no definite plans to reestablish the United States bases in the Philippines even if it was one of the scenarios discussed in anticipation of the brewing tension in Korean Peninsula.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, in an interview over a state-run radio station, said Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin had already clarified that the possibility of reestablishing the US bases was just one of the scenarios that is being studied by the government.

She added that the establishment of US bases would only be considered under "extreme emergency" like if war broke out between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea which is not present at the moment.

Gazmin on Friday said that the Philippine Constitution does not allow the setting up of US bases in the country, but it might be considered as one of the extreme measures in case an "extreme emergency" develops in the Korean Peninsula.

Both Gazmin and Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the United States requires either of the countries to come to the aid of its ally if it is attacked by another country and the Philippines would stand by its commitment.

The Philippines, amid the tension, had put in place contingency measures including evacuation plans in case the situation escalates.

Gen Garcia: How the big fish got away

From Rappler/Newsbreak (Apr 11): Gen Garcia: How the big fish got away

STILL IN JAIL. Despite the court's ruling, retired Maj Gen Carlos Garcia is still in jail due to a case filed against him by the military. File photo by Newsbreak

STILL IN JAIL. Despite the court's ruling, retired Maj Gen Carlos Garcia is still in jail due to a case filed against him by the military. File photo by Newsbreak

(Editor's note: On Wednesday, April 10, the Sandiganbayan upheld the plea bargain deal entered into by retired military comptroller Carlos Garcia and the Office of the Ombudsman. The controversial deal allowed Garcia to escape plunder charges. The book "The Enemy Within," written by Glenda M. Gloria, Aries Rufo and Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza looked into this deal. We are reprinting excepts from the chapter on the Garcia deal written by Aries Rufo.)

The senior prosecutor’s words carried an air of resignation: “I just cannot stomach the plea bargain.” He was on the phone with a colleague who had called him to ask why he had suddenly become inactive in the Garcia plunder case. The senior prosecutor said, “This is going to explode. The deal has been submitted to the Sandiganbayan for approval.”

It was December 2010, and word had already leaked that the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) had entered into a plea bargain deal with the disgraced retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia. It was about the withdrawal of the plunder case filed against him in exchange for pleading guilty to the lesser offenses of indirect bribery and facilitating money laundering. The plea bargain required Garcia to surrender to the government his real estate properties, shares of stocks and bank deposits amounting to P135 million—which is not even half of the P303 million that he was accused of amassing. More importantly, it allowed him to post bail and spend Christmas at home after 5 years in jail.

A tsunami of protests greeted the deal that the prosecutors attempted to keep under wraps. With the imprimatur of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, it was hammered out by Garcia and his lawyer on one side and 5 state prosecutors on the other: Wendell Barreras-Sulit, Jesus Micael, Robert Kallos, Jose Balmeo, and Joseph Capistrano. Of the 5, only two—Balmeo and Capistrano—were part of the original team that prosecuted the ex-military comptroller for plunder. The rest entered the picture only when the plea bargain talks were about to begin.

The agreement was finalized only less than 3 months after a special division of 5 justices threw out Garcia’s petition for bail in a 3-2 vote, on Jan. 7, 2010. The verdict, however tight, meant that up to that time, the court was convinced that the evidence of plunder against him was solid.

Yet, the prosecution and defense still proceeded with the joint motion for approval of the plea bargain agreement, triggering public outcry that plunged the career of some, and raised the stock of others. It prompted a Senate investigation that pushed former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes to commit suicide.

Although the plea bargain deal was not among the listed complaints, it put the spotlight on Merceditas Gutierrez, who quit just before the Senate was to begin her impeachment trial in May 2011. It made instant self-styled heroes and heroines, as in the case of former Lt. Col. George Rabusa, who spilled the beans on the alleged “pabaon” system in the military, and former auditor Heidi Mendoza who was later appointed commissioner of the Commission on Audit.

What happened?

Based on court records and interviews with people privy to the case and Ombudsman insiders, we discovered that:

• The real estate properties and deposits that Garcia supposedly surrendered in the deal were already the subject of two forfeiture cases in the Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division, which was not even informed about the plea bargain deal.

• Gutierrez only showed token interest in the case. She hardly supported the team that prosecuted Garcia.

• Despite the importance and complexity of the case, it was a former Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) lawyer, who had indigents as former clients, who was assigned to handle it. From a mere “coordinator” of the team, this prosecutor assumed the burden of a lead prosecutor when the original prosecutors got promoted or refrained from further handling the case.

• The prosecution rested its case only on two pieces of evidence: the written statement of Garcia’s wife, Clarita, and the testimony of Heidi Mendoza on the supposed missing P50-million fund from the United Nations’ reimbursements to the Philippine military.

• Witnesses called to buttress Mendoza’s testimony debunked the former auditor’s court statements. Mendoza’s testimony also crumbled during cross-examination by Garcia’s lawyer.

• Despite its vast powers, the Office of the Special Prosecutor and the Ombudsman failed to persuade a single military supplier that supposedly provided bribes to Garcia to testify.

“We were beaten to the draw by the defense in talking to those suppliers,” one prosecutor admitted.
Thus, this is a classic story of how the big fish got away without trying too hard.

After PNA site hacking, govt to adopt security measures - Coloma

From InterAksyon (Apr 14): After PNA site hacking, govt to adopt security measures - Coloma

With the latest incident of hacking in government website, Malacanang on Sunday said it would adopt measures to strengthen the security of government websites.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma said the news on the hacking of the Philippines News Agency website had been released by a hackers group and shared by others on Facebook.

Shortly before 12 noon today, PNA’s site was defaced by what seemed like Chinese hackers.

The website showed a flag of China and the following message: "China Hacker EvilShadow Team. We are evil shadow. We are the team. We have our own dignity. China Hacker Lxxker."

The PNA website was back up after an hour.

The incident seemed to be in retaliation for the recent arrest of supposed Chinese fishermen whose vessel ran around on Tubbataha Reef.

The PNA website was first defaced by those claiming to be Chinese during the height of the issue over the disputed Scarborough Shoal.

"We continue to adopt measures that will strengthen the security of our websites," said Coloma in a statement.

Chinese hackers deface Philippines News Agency website

From InterAksyon (Apr 14): Chinese hackers deface Philippines News Agency website


The website of the government-owned Philippines News Agency has been defaced by what seems like Chinese hackers, it was learned Sunday.

Instead of showing a list of news about the Philippines, the website simply shows a flag of China and the following message:

"China Hacker EvilShadow Team
We are evil shadow
We are the team
We have our own dignity
China Hacker Lxxker"

This seems to be in retaliation to the recent arrest of supposed Chinese fishermen whose ship grounded off the World Heritage Site, Tubbataha Reef.

Rebels blast Gazmin, Del Rosario for offering bases to US in case of war with NoKor

From InterAksyon (Apr 14): Rebels blast Gazmin, Del Rosario for offering bases to US in case of war with NoKor

Communist rebels on Saturday blasted Secretaries Voltaire Gazmin of Defense and Albert del Rosario of Foreign Affairs for offering the United States the use of military bases in the country should the Americans go to war against North Korea.

In a statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines denounced “the Aquino regime for blindly supporting US warmongering and for allowing the Philippines to be used as a military outpost and instrument of US hegemonism in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Earlier, Gazmin said the US could be allowed to station its forces in the country as an “extreme measure” in the event of an “extreme emergency” on the Korean peninsula.

And at the opening ceremonies of the 2013 Balikatan exercises in Camp Aguinaldo, Del Rosario said the Philippines is obligated by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty to extend military help to the US in case of war.

The 1987 Constitution prohibits the permanent basing of foreign troops on Philippine soil and the country kicked out American military bases in 1991.

However, US troops have been rotating in and out of the country under the Visiting Forces Agreement.

“As it is, the Philippines is already serving as a US military outpost as a result of the Aquino regime’s policy of providing full-access to the US military,” the CPP said. “US naval warships and fighter jets regularly dock and land in order to refuel, resupply and provide rest and recreation to US interventionist troops. A large 700-strong contingent of US soldiers under the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines is permanently stationed in Zamboanga.”

“US interventionism in the Philippines has now reached unprecedented heights since the dismantling of the US military bases in 1991,” it said. “Aquino’s shameless puppetry to the US imperialists and policy of full access have resulted in the sharp depreciation of Philippine sovereignty and caused the complete subordination of the Philippines to the dominant power of the US.”

Government troops seize NPA camp, firearms in Northern Samar

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 14): Government troops seize NPA camp, firearms in Northern Samar

BARANGAY, MAGSAYSAY, Lope de Vega, Northern Samar -- An abandoned camp believed to be of the New People's Army was discovered by government security forces at Happy Valley, San Isidro, Northern Samar at around 10:30 a.m. April 13.

Lieutenant Colonel Noel A. Vestuir, 20IB’s Commanding Officer, in his report to 803rd Brigade Commander, Colonel Rolando Malinao, said the camp was seized by the operating troops of 20IB led by 1Lt. Florencio Tayo III.

The camp has 15 bunkers that can accommodate around 20 persons, one kitchen, one comfort room, three outposts and has just been abandoned by the the rebel group as they evade armed engagement with the operating troops, Lt. Col. Vestuir said.

After thoroughly searching the area, the troops recovered four cal .38 revolvers hidden in one of the bunkers.

The camp was seized after 20IB launched sustained combat operations in the area in response to the information tipped-in by some residents in the nearby barangays who reported the presence of armed men roaming in the area enforcing their Permit to Campaign (PTC) strategy, extorting money and food stuffs from residents well as from the politicians.

The recent accomplishments by the 20IB troops against the NPAs in the area of 1st district of Northern Samar have disrupted the impending terroristic activities that are being hatched to be conducted by the NPA, Vestuir said.

The government troops has dislodged them from their guerilla camps and cut-off their supply support lines that they forcibly take from the residents in the area.

The fact that the discovery and seizure of the said camp in the area was made possible by the information provided by local populace, is a clear indication that the enemy revolutionary organization has already alienated the people and the communities where they got their support through their forced extortion activities, Vestuir added.

Lt. Col. Vestuir, 20IB’s Commanding Officer commended his troops for a job well done. He also thanked the local residents for their continued support in the government’s efforts of “Winning the Peace”.

Vestuir also called on the fleeing NPAs to lay down their arms in order to once again live decent and normal lives along with their families.

PAMANA to help Region 12’s poor, conflict-laden communities

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 14): PAMANA to help Region 12’s poor, conflict-laden communities

At least 17 poor and conflict-afflicted barangays in selected towns in the four provinces of region 12 will benefit from Pres. Benigno Aquino’s PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) Program, the Dept. of Agriculture 12 announced Saturday.

The PAMANA is the national government's program and framework for peace and development which is implemented among conflict-affected communities covered by the existing peace agreements.

To effectively implement the projects, a planning workshop and consultative meeting was recently conducted in Davao City to identify programs for the priority areas for PAMANA-MNLF Programming for the year 2014-2016 for non-ARMM MNLF areas.

DA-12 regional executive director Amalia Jayag-Datukan said PAMANA is a peace-building initiative of the government in conflict areas and has received less program interventions.

“It will be implemented in identified local government units (LGUs) in the region where each area will receive development programs according to the residents’ specific needs," Datukan said, adding that PAMANA will allocate funds for these projects thru the national agencies like the DA, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Interior and Local Government Unit, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, Department of National Defense and other involved agencies and LGUs.

Datukan identified the beneficiary communities as villages in the towns of Arakan, Banisilan, Carmen, Kabacan, Matalam, Midsayap and Pikit in North Cotabato; Glan, Maasim and Malapatan in Sarangani; Lake Sebu and T’boli towns in South Cotabato and; towns of Bagumbayan, Isulan, Kalamansig, Lebaj and Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat.

The identified projects include farm-to-market roads, post-harvest facilities, livestock dispersal, warehouses, multi-purpose buildings, water systems, livelihood projects, health centers, school building, evacuation or peace centers, other community infrastructure and other social services.

PAMANA program also aims to reduce poverty and vulnerability in conflict-affected areas through sustainable rural development, community infrastructure and focused delivery of social services.

It also aims to improve governance through partnerships with national and local institutions, building capacities for governance, and enhancement of transparency and accountability mechanisms.

A complementary track to peace negotiations, the program’s main strategy is to bring back government to PAMANA areas, ensuring that the communities benefit from improved delivery of basic social services and are served by responsive, transparent and accountable government units thru the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) and in coordination with its partner government agencies.

The project is also being implemented in other conflict communities, mostly in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur where the government forces and Moro rebels figured in years of armed conflict.

Now that a peace negotiation is underway and is almost complete, the OPAPP, through PAMANA, is all out in the implementation of various peace and development projects.

BAYAN: Bayan slams defense chief for bases remark

From the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-New Patriotic Alliance) Website (Apr 13): Bayan slams defense chief for bases remark

News Release
April 13, 2013

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today slammed Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for suggesting the possibility of the return of US bases in the country should a US war with North Korea break out.

Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. called the suggestion “another trial balloon aimed at gauging public opinion on the return of formal US bases.”

“Secretary Voltaire Gazmin is out of line, out of this world and maybe out of his mind when he suggested that a US war with Korea will justify the return of US bases. In the first place, why would we want the Philippines dragged into an armed conflict not of our making and not in our national interest? Why allow the Philippines to be used again as a staging ground for US military intervention in Asia? We were already the staging ground during the Vietnam War and the Gulf War of 1991,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The Cold War relic that is the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty obliges Philippine support for the US but does not automatically mean US support if the Philippines is attacked. There is a double standard there. We should abandon this antiquated and grossly one-sided pact,” he added.

Bayan said that the return of formal bases would mean a significant “levelling up” of US military presence in the country.

“Even without formal US bases, the US troops are already accorded virtual basing opportunities. This is in stark violation of the Constitution, because the VFA is not supposed to be a basing treaty. This anomaly has been going on for more than a decade now. They call it rotational presence, but in reality, it is a permanent and continuing presence. It is actual basing of troops. It is the actual entry of ships any time of the year to use PH facilities,” Reyes said.

“The DND cites the MDT as the basis of the extended stay of US troops in the Philippines. That’s hogwash. We invite him to re-read the MDT because nowhere in the agreement could you find the words ‘extended stay’. And nowhere in the agreement will you find the words “basing”. The DND is clearly misleading the public,” he added.

Bayan challenged on Malacanang to officially rebuff Gazmin otherwise Palace silence would mean and endorsement of the bases proposal.

“Is Gazmin’s proposal official Malacanang’s policy? Is that where Aquino is headed? The return of formal US bases and the reversal of all the gains in asserting national sovereignty the past 20 years?” Reyes asked.

“The DND cannot invoke the prospect of war in justifying the violation of the Constitution. What the DND is doing however is trying to conceal Aquino’s continuing violation of the Constitution, of allowing the permanent and continuing presence of US troops even without a formal basing treaty as required by the Charter,” he added.

A grand show of force, a tradeshow for US arms

Posted to the CPP-associated online publication Bulatlat (Apr 14): Balikatan 2013: A grand show of force, a tradeshow for US arms

MANILA – By now it is an inescapable fact that a large US-led military exercise is ongoing in the Philippines. For about two weeks until April 17, the country plays host to the 29th and largest US-led military exercises here. The US Embassy in Manila said the exercise will “enhance Philippine-US military interoperability and build military-to-military relations.” More than 8,000 Filipino and American military personnel are participating in drills being held in various locations throughout Luzon. US jet fighters are even slated to join the exercises, a rarity in previous joint military exercises in the country.

In the run-up to this exercise, US defense officials and US special forces troops had also flitted in and out of the country to discuss preparations with their Philippine counterparts. In fact, as US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas said during this Balikatan’s opening last April 5 at Camp Aguinaldo, members of US Armed Forces were here during typhoon Pablo four months ago. He boasted that that was why they were able to send aircraft to Mindanao within seven hours after the government requested aid in rescue operations.

“They want to be invited back,” Roland Simbulan, geopolitics expert and professor at University of the Philippines, said about Balikatan and US military basing here. He said that since the US announced its Asian pivot, it is concentrating in the region. Last year, an Asia Times correspondent estimated [2] that the US would include “probably another base in the Philippines in the short term, inciting animosity between the Philippines and Vietnam and China.”

The US already has one unofficial military base in Southern Philippines, plus access to former bases in Clark, Pampanga; Subic, Zambales, and other ports and airports of the Philippines. It has an unofficial base in Australia, where it deployed 2,500 US troops, and reports said it has been increasing deployment or bases or ships in South Korea and Japan.

This latest Balikatan exercise, Simbulan told, is playing a role vis-a-vis the heightening tension in Korean peninsula. “The ongoing Balikatan military exercise serves as one of the US’ show of force,” amid regional tensions that critics said are largely fomented by the US The latest is the trouble at the Korean Peninsula [3]. The US reportedly committed one action after another, from putting in place a “kill chain” to distorting North Korea’s recent satellite launch to be reported in the West as intercontinental ballistic missile test launch.

Balikatan 2013: A show for US’ shock and awe

Filipinos are traditionally not given a list of military hardware and equipment being used in the military exercise, nor the various interoperability issues they intend to work on as they build their “military-to-military relations.” The Balikatan military exercises, said the US Embassy, include humanitarian civic assistance, which so far have been duly reported with front page pictures in the news. Other activities of the military exercises itself, which include “senior leader engagements, a command post exercise, field training exercises, and maritime security and ship drills,” so far do not have detailed reports.

At least, the public is told that this largest Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder) exercise employs an amphibious dock landing ship of the US 7th Fleet, the USS Tortuga (LSD 46), which arrived in Manila on April 2. The Tortuga is part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and is currently deployed to the US 7th Fleet’s area of responsibility. The Bonhomme Richard ARG reports to the US commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, who is headquartered at the US military base in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.

While the military exercise is ongoing, another US warship, the US Navy’s first littoral combat ship, arrived for the first time in Manila (on April 8) and in Southeast Asia. Its port visit is for refueling and receiving supplies for the next period of its eight-month deployment. The combat ship’s port visit is unrelated to Balikatan, the US Embassy said. But it will take part in other US-led military show of force in the region, for example, in the International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference, and in select phases of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercise series in Southeast Asia.

A show for whom

In the first place, why is there a need for US and Philippine forces to “enhance interoperability, and build military-to-military relations”?

From releases of US and Philippine governments, the simplest explanation appears that as allies or treaty partners, “interoperability” will make it easier, or seamless, for troops of the two nations to work or mesh together or cooperate in missions, gathering and sharing of intelligence, etc. This implies that the US and Philippine armed forces are expected to operate like one, even if the Philippines is supposedly a sovereign and independent state. This apparent subordination of Philippine troops and territory to US government’s armed forces is one of the things that irked Filipino progressive groups.

In a rally in front of Camp Aguinaldo hours before Balikatan’s formal opening on April 5, they reminded the public that these US troops now doing war exercises and other vaguely defined operations in the Philippines had in fact killed nearly a fifth of the Philippine population in early 1900s, when it engaged the nascent Philippine Republic in a war.

For over a century Filipinos have continued to fight and die for Philippine independence, succeeding in 1940s but still remaining under the US government and US military by various economic and military treaties (from parity rights to military basing rights). After decades of campaigning, Filipinos finally shut down the US military bases in 1990s. But now, especially after the 2011 declarations of US pivot to Asia, they are back for increased “routine” dockings, landings, refueling, rest and recreation and military exercises such as Balikatan.

In case there are conflicts, such as shown by the case of the two Koreas, and the Philippine armed conflict with revolutionary groups, the “US will rely more on its allies for its ground operations,” Simbulan said, explaining that the US government, especially Obama has been traumatized by high casualties. American soldiers dying in wars around the world is politically costly for the US government. This is why the US relies more on small-unit special forces operations, training of surrogate forces, and use of high-tech equipment such as drones.

Military trainings to develop interoperability are crucial for the US, especially when it is about to drag an ally to start or join its war. Also, military exercises such as Balikatan plays a role in US sales of arms, Simbulan told

During Balikatan and other drills for interoperability, US troops demonstrate their equipment and Filipino soldiers, and the troops of other nations, which the US regards as its surrogate forces, get to try it out. Later, they can place orders for it. US provides soft loans for that, Simbulan said.

For the US economy

Three days before the start of Balikatan, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario met with Secretary of State John Kerry during the former’s visit to Washington to discuss the two countries’ bilateral relations last April 2. In Kerry’s remarks before the meeting, he said they would discuss ways to strengthen trade relations between the two countries, and in particular, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Two years ago, in a bid to enter the Tans-Pacific Partnership, the Philippines entered into an agreement with the US called the Partnership for Growth.

This partnership demonstrates the Philippines’ commitment to ‘economic reform’ to foster a more conducive investment environment. It has a joint steering committee composed of representatives from the US and Philippines, meeting every six months. It is essentially, a mechanism to shape Philippine economic policies to conform to the interests and needs of the US economy.

The Aquino is in need of a lot of funds, as the Philippines is frantically trying to boost the capabilities of its backward armed forces [4]. “Though Southeast Asians don’t like to hear it, there is an arms race going on in the region,” said Inkster, now head of trans-national threats and political risk at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“In a way military exercises are a big trade show where technics and weapons are demonstrated,” Smbulan said.

“If they (a country) buy weapons, it is in package deal, complete with military advisers and training in the use of the purchased weapons. They come in to train local units, armed forces, in how they can effectively use those weapons.

In the US at the beginning of Obama’s government, the US was supplying 20 percent of the developing world’s arms purchases. Before 2012 was over, this has jumped to 79 percent. The Obama Administration has increased the US industry’s arms sales to the Third World from a level of $9 billion per year during the 2004-2007 Bush years to $56 billion in the pre-election year of 2011.
Now that the Aquino government and the military had passed the Modernization Law, which also allows requests to exempt some contracts from public bidding, the country has gained billions of funds for arms acquisition.

URLs in this post:
[2] an Asia Times correspondent estimated:
[3] fomented by the US The latest is the trouble at the Korean Peninsula:
[4] to boost the capabilities of its backward armed forces: