Tuesday, April 23, 2013

PHL-US joint search for missing WWII US servicemen in PHL continues

From GMA News (Apr 23): PHL-US joint search for missing WWII US servicemen in PHL continues

A joint Philippine-US investigation team is continuing the search for some 80 US soldiers missing since World War II in various parts of the Philippines.

In an article posted on its website, the US Embassy said the US Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) based in Honolulu is leading the efforts.

"The current search efforts, which will span April and May, will be concentrated in the Mindoro province in Luzon and Leyte province in the Visayas. The team hopes to locate sites for future recovery operations," it said.
Last January, the teams conducted preliminary investigations in Metro Manila and in Central, Northern and Southern Luzon.
JPAC activities are "closely coordinated with and facilitated" by Philippine agencies including:
  • Departments of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Health, Interior and Local Government, Environment and Natural Resources
  • National Museum of the Philippines
  • Bureaus of Customs and Immigration
  • Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement
  • National Bureau of Investigation
  • National Commission on Indigenous People
  • Armed Forces of the Philippines
  • Philippine National Police
The embassy added “the joint investigations follow the signing of a Statement of Intent on June 3, 2011 between the United States and the Philippines to collaborate in researching, investigating, recovering, and conducting forensic reviews of American POW and MIA remains."

A year after Panatag stand-off, shoal firmly controlled by China

From GMA News (Apr 23): A year after Panatag stand-off, shoal firmly controlled by China

For decades, fishermen along the northwestern Philippine coast treated the teeming fishing grounds of the Scarborough Shoal as their backyard, less than a day's boat ride away.

Now, they see it as a foreign country.

"I lost my livelihood when we lost 'Kalburo' to the Chinese," said Mario Forones, a 53-year-old who owns three fishing boats that worked the reef for about a dozen years before armed Chinese vessels arrived in force last April.

Locals call the shoal "Kalburo," their pronunciation of Scarborough. The Philippine government calls it Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.

Interviews with fishermen in two coastal Philippine towns - some of whom tried to fish the shoal as recently as this month - show how the Philippines has effectively ceded sovereignty of the reef about 124 nautical miles (230 km) off its coast after a naval stand-off last year.

China's consolidation and expansion of its grip on the disputed South China Sea looms over a gathering of Southeast Asian leaders in the tiny kingdom of Brunei this week as they try to kick-start stalled efforts to ease one of Asia's biggest security flashpoints.

Beijing claims almost the entire sea as its territory based on historical records, setting it directly against U.S. allies Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to parts. Except for China and Taiwan, all the claimants are members of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Diplomats hope leaders at the two-day ASEAN summit starting on Wednesday can put aside bitter differences that emerged last year and pave the way for China to join a proposed dispute-management mechanism.

But the fishermen's accounts vividly show how China's expanding, assertive naval reach could be overtaking diplomatic efforts to ease a crisis whose stakes have risen with the U.S. military's "pivot" to refocus its forces on Asia.

In rare first-hand descriptions of the situation at the remote outcrop claimed by both China and the Philippines, the men described being chased off aggressively by large, fast-moving, white Chinese ships armed with guns and rockets. In recent months, they said the Chinese vessels had laid down thick undersea ropes to keep fishing boats out.

"I don't know the specifics of the situation," said Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when asked by Reuters to comment on the fishermen's accounts. "But as you know, the Scarborough Shoal is indisputably part of China's territory, and China will ensure that its sovereignty over this area is not being violated."

The 10-member ASEAN aims to agree a legally binding Code of Conduct to manage maritime conduct in disputed areas, but prospects for quick progress appear dim.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told Reuters in an interview that the summit would mostly be about "making sure that things do not regress".

Even if they agree, China has said it will only join talks when the time is "ripe" and that countries should first build trust by observing a weaker Declaration of Conduct (DOC) signed in 2002, which has so far failed to dampen tensions.

Natalegawa accused China of "flouting" the commitment in that agreement to exercise "maximum restraint".

"You are seeing a number of unilateral steps that China has taken that is clearly not in line with the spirit of the DOC," he said in Jakarta.

China says diplomatic efforts were set back by U.S. ally the Philippines' request in January for a United Nations tribunal to order a halt to Beijing's activities, such as those at Scarborough Shoal, that it said violated its sovereignty.

"Nothing has changed from the Chinese perspective," said Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. "The fact that the Philippines has submitted its claims to the U.N. gives China another pretext not to discuss the Code of Conduct."

Tensions in bathtub

As monsoon weather eases and China imposes a unilateral annual fishing ban that has stoked tensions with Vietnam and the Philippines, tensions are likely to grow in coming months.

China, which has said it will hold 40 naval exercises in the South China Sea this year, further antagonized Vietnam this month by saying it would allow Chinese tourists to visit the disputed Paracel islands for "sightseeing" trips. Two weeks earlier Hanoi accused Chinese ships of opening fire on a Vietnamese fishing boat, a charge that Beijing denied.

China stirred alarm in the region last month by sending four warships to land troops on its southernmost claim -- the James Shoal, just 80 km (50 miles) off the Malaysian coast and close to Brunei. The crew of the ships held a ceremony on the shoal, swearing an oath to defend and "build up" the South China Sea and protect China's sovereignty, state media reported.

The show of strength likely ruffled Malaysia, which has taken a more low-key approach than Vietnam and the Philippines over its claims.

Regional navies are no match for China, but the United States, which has said it has a national interest in maritime freedom of passage, is beefing up its forces in the region, especially after recent tensions with North Korea.

U.S. B-52 and B-2 bombers flew sorties over South Korea in recent weeks and Washington is moving the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile defense system to its Pacific base in Guam.

Last week, the United States sent the first of its Littoral Combat Ships, a new class of a coastal warship, on an eight-month deployment to Singapore.

"It's a bathtub and more and more countries are pouring ships into the bathtub," said Carl Thayer, emeritus professor at the Australian Defense Force Academy. "It's just a matter of time before they bump into one another."

Cat and mouse

Tensions over the dispute first peaked last year in the two-month stand-off between China and the Philippines at the Scarborough Shoal.

Forones, the fisherman in the coastal town of Masinloc, says he was working at the shoal when the confrontation started.

"That was the first time we saw large ships from the two countries appearing at the shoal at the same time. Then our coast guard came and told us to leave because there might be a war ... That was the last time we had a bountiful harvest."

Since then, his catch has dwindled so much that his wife has switched from selling fish at the local market to selling pork. He said he was considering selling one of his three boats and his delivery truck.

The Scarborough Shoal is famed among fisherman for its rich waters, packed with turtles and squid as well as fish such as grouper and mackerel. The long monsoon season means it is only accessible by small boats from January to May, giving fish stocks plenty of time to recover each year.

Forones and other fishermen still try to fish at the shoal, face a tense cat-and-mouse game with the Chinese ships.

"It's really scary now," said Miguel Betana, a 45-year-old boat captain, who has fished at the shoal for 15 years.

"I have had worse experiences at sea, but being chased by a very fast Chinese ship I was thinking what if the ship rams our boat or if they shoot us. No one will ever find out."

When he was last there in late March, he saw five Chinese ships, four of them sitting at the shoal's mouth. After being chased off by one armed ship, he said he returned under cover of darkness to resume fishing.

Zaldy Godores, a 34-year-old from the town of Santa Cruz, said his boats could no longer fish far from shore because they had lost the protection from storms provided by the shoal.

Forones said three of his ships were chased as far as 24 km (15 miles) from the shoal in January. That was when he noticed that the Chinese had submerged an arm-thick rope stretching across the shoal's mouth to snag boat propellers.

"We are like thieves, stealing what really should be our riches," Forones said.


MILF: GPH – MILF CCCHs sign mutual understanding for May Elections; Peace Panels in full support

From the MILF Website (Mar 23): GPH – MILF CCCHs sign mutual understanding for May Elections; Peace Panels in full support

The Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCHs) of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed yesterday in Davao City a Guidelines for Mutual Understanding for ceasefire-related functions during the May 13, 2013 National and Local Elections.

The 4-page Guidelines was signed by BGen Cesar Dionisio Sedillo Jr AFP, Chairman of the GPH CCCH, Said Shiek Al Haj, Chairman of the MILF CCCH and who is also a member of the Transition Commission that would draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and MGen Dato’ Fadzil Bin Mokhtar, Head of Mission of the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Team (IMT).

Mohagher Iqbal, Chairman of the MILF Peace Negotiating Panel and Transition Commission, and Prof Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Chairwoman of the GPH Peace Negotiating Panel, attended the signing ceremony and expressed their full support to the mutual understanding for the May Elections. Also present were Atty. Abdul Dataya, Chairman of the MILF AHJAG, BGen Roland Amarille, Chairman of the GPH AHJAG.

The Guidelines were principally based on the policies of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the MILF Central Committee on the primacy of the GPH – MILF Peace Process, instructions from respective principals of the GPH – CCCH and MILF CCCH anchored on the goodwill and confidence building of the GPH – MILF Peace Process with the participation of the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Team (IMT), especially for the GPH – MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), and the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Resolution No. 9561 –A, “The ban on bearing, carrying or transporting of firearms or other deadly weapons; and employment, availment or engagement of the services security personnel or bodyguards during the election period for the May 13 2013 automated synchronized National, Local elections and ARMM Regional Elections.

However, the Guidelines pointed out that the “undertaking is purely a GPH – MILF ceasefire and peace process- related function and only incidental but not as a Philippine elections-related function. This is not to be interpreted as MILF’s inconsistency to its standing policy not to take part or meddle in whatever capacity on the government electoral processes.”

“Its purpose is to safeguard the GPH – MILF Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities (AGCH) / Ceasefire Accord, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the GPH – MILF Peace Process, in general, from adverse effects and repercussions while the government ensures the conduct of honest, orderly and peaceful elections on May 13, 2013.”
This endeavor shall be implemented during the critical period of the election from April 2013 to 20 May 2013, as agreed upon by the GPH CCCH and MILF CCCH with the concurrence of the IMT M8.

The GPH CCCH and MILF CCCH shall ensure and warrant, and the IMT shall coordinate and monitor the unhindered movements and deployment of election personnel, equipment / paraphernalia, documents, voters, AFP / PNP election security personnel, as deputized by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), to and from all the Polling Centers situated within the MILF dominated areas.

Local ceasefire mechanisms such as the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Post (JCMPs) in Midsayap, Cotabato; Datu Saudie Ampatuan, Maguindanao; Pikit, Cotabato; Butig, Lanao del Sur; Maasim, Sarangani; Poona Piagapo, Lanao del Norte; and Tipo-Tipo Basilan Province composed of personnel from the GPH CCCH, the MILF CCCH and the Bantay Ceasefire of the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC) with the IMT’s assistance and the Local Monitoring Teams in Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani Province, and South Cotabato shall be designated as the monitoring and quick response team (QRT) of the JCCCH and IMT for this endeavor. Additional JCMPs could be set up in other areas, when necessary.

The Guidelines states “the main routes, water and land usually used by the MILF troops during movements and activities shall be left opened, the MILF shall refrain from consolidating its forces for any purpose/s including peace gatherings from the time the PCOS Machines are deployed until the Election has been completed except at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Camp Bushra in Lanao del Sur, and in the urban centers, when necessary, and in coordination with the GPH CCCH, the MILF armed elements should not go near polling centers and precincts, avoid display of firearms and uniforms along routes leading to the areas where electoral activities are ongoing.”

“Upon completion of all election functions within the MILF dominated areas, the deputized AFP/PNP election security personnel deployed thereat shall pull out immediately,” it stated.

Prof Miriam Ferrer, in her message of support, commended the initiative of the GPH – MILF CCCH and the Malaysia-led IMT, stressing the undertaking shall promote the integrity of the peace process and the heightened cooperation and collaboration between the government and MILF and the many peace partners and stakeholders.

For his part, Chairman Iqbal, without endorsing any candidate had appeal to the electorate to vote for those who really support the peace process and the GPH – MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro which was signed at Malacanang Palace last October 12, 2012.

“The MILF leadership will transmit to the commanders, leaders and troops on the ground the Guidelines for Mutual Understanding for adherence through Brother Sammy Al Mansur, Chief of Staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF),” Iqbal said.


MILF: ‘Don’t ever think of a quick fix in negotiation,’ Iqbal said to members of Information Committee

From the MILF Website (Apr 22): ‘Don’t ever think of a quick fix in negotiation,’ Iqbal said to members of Information Committee

“Don’t ever think of quick fix in the negotiation,” Mohagher Iqbal said to the participants of the 20th General Assembly of the Committee on Information of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) held at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on April 19-22.

Iqbal, the Chairman of the said committee and the MILF peace panel, and now heads the Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC), briefed some 400 members of the Committee on Information coming from the 19 provincial committees of the MILF all over Mindanao which are mostly covered by the would-be Bangsamoro government, on the stride of the ongoing peace talk with the Government of the Philippines (GPH).

He underscored the refusal of the GPH panel members to sign the annex on wealth sharing, one of the contentious annexes for the creation of the Bangsamoro, on the recently concluded 37th Exploratory Talks of the GPH and the MILF held at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

However, Iqbal still seemingly unfazed with the recent development for he has expressed thrust to President Aquino for being sincere in the peace truce as show when he visited Camp Darapanan during the launching of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro a couple of months ago. More so, when Aquino issued the Executive Order creating the BTC, thereby supported by the Congress of the Philippines thru a resolution, is a gesture of sincerity, he said.

Amidst the problems confronting the realization of the Bangsamoro government such as the negotiation is not yet complete especially with the recent upset due to the aborted signing on the side of the GPH panel on the annex on wealth sharing and surfacing of spoilers of the peace process, Iqbal, rather, advised the participants to strengthen their faith in Islam, different Bangsamoro ethnic groups must unite as one people and nation, keep on struggling for the success of the struggle, and build a strong leadership among their groups.

Meanwhile, Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo, a member of the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the MILF panel, discussed a topic on ministerial form of government. He had addressed several questions thrown by the participants pertaining to intricacies of the incoming new political entity for the Bangsamoro.

The theme of the General Assembly is “Information in the light of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.” 

The assembly is a regular annual activity of the Committee on Information.


Army condemns the death of a soldier through a landmine

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 23): Army condemns the death of a soldier through a landmine

The army based in Samar condemns the recent killing of a soldier by NPA landmines while the government troops were on their way to Barangay Tigbawon, Gandara, Samar on April 18.

The army reported that aside from one soldier, two paramilitary men were injured in the incident.

It added that some civilians informed the 52nd Infantry Battalion, 8th Infantry Division (8th ID) in Samar that some armed men were removing posters of local candidates and replacing them with party-list candidates.

One Sgt Ronald Dalumpines responded with some government troops, nearing the site, three landmines suddenly exploded followed by a burst of fire from automatic weapons, as reported by Col Dante Barotilla, Commanding Officer of the 52nd IB

It added that the soldiers engaged the NPAs in an exchange of fire for 30 minutes.

Although grieving with the loss, Barotilla vowed that the incident will not stop them from pursuing the enemies of the state.

“We will go after the perpetrators not only to honor our fallen comrades but to keep our commitment in keeping our communities secure and away from harm,” the officer said.

Captain Amado Gutierrez, Chief, Public Affairs Officer of 8th ID condemns the act.

“This act is a clear violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIL) which prohibits the use of landmine,” said Gutierrez.

Meanwhile, the 8th ID Commanding General Gerardo Layug praised the heroism of government troops.

“We salute our troops who unfortunately paid the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of the lasting peace so that sustainable development will be attained,” Layug in a statement said.

He vowed to all the more ‘steel their resolve to win the peace in Eastern Visayas’.

“This incident will not deter us to pursue the mandate entristed to us but rather steel our resolve to “Win the Peace’ in Eastern Visayas for the benefit of our people we have swornto serve and secure,” said Layug.


Peace council says Ilocos Sur is rebel-free

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 23): Peace council says Ilocos Sur is rebel-free

Ilocos Sur is on its way to achieving its full development following the adoption of a measure declaring the province as insurgency-free.

The resolution – stating that no village remained under the influence of the communist rebels New Peoples’ Army - was adopted by the members of the Provincial Peace and Order Council and recommended by the Philippine Army.

Lt. Colonel Desiderio Alaba, commander of the Army’s 81st Infantry Battalion based in Narvacan town, however, said the provincial board still has to concur with the PPOC measure by adopting a formal resolution that will officially declare the province as insurgency-free.

He said the resolution has been forwarded to the office of the provincial board for further review and approval.

“Although the resolution had been approved by the PPOC, the provincial board has the fullest authority to concur with the formal declaration of Ilocos Sur as insurgency – free,” he noted.

Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson, PPOC chair, welcomed the declaration of the province as insurgency –free noting that more investors are inclined to open shop when an area is known to be peaceful and safe to tourists.

Alaba said the NPA had already ceased to exist in the province as shown by the recent surrender of its key leaders and dwindling strength and membership.

He said the passage of PPOC Resolution No. 1, series 2013 declaring Ilocos Sur as peaceful and investment – friendly province was very significant for economic development.

Alaba assured the PPOC that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the police and the Local Government Units (LGU) will sustain its anti-insurgency campaign despite the declaration.

“The local government will now be in the frontline in protecting communities from insurgency. Our armed forces will only provide support,” he said.


BJMP seeks relief from transfer of Abu Sayyaf detainees to Zamboanga

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): BJMP seeks relief from transfer of Abu Sayyaf detainees to Zamboanga

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) will seek for a relief from the transfer of some 50 high-risk detainees, mostly suspected Abu Sayyaf fighters, from the Basilan Provincial Jail to the Zamboanga City Jail in this city.

BJMP city jail warden Inspector Julius Arro was notified that the BJMP in Isabela City would be escorting 50 of their detainees to the jail in this city anytime this week. The transfer is said to be covered by a court order.

He warned these detainees from Basilan could pose risks to the jail itself and the adjoining community since the city jail is within the proper, less than a kilometer from city hall, adjacent to a big elementary school and big commercial establishments.

The city jail was also paralyzed with inaction last February 20 after a noise barrage led by leaders against a drug crackdown in the cells. The noise barrage was contained after six leaders of the barrage were transferred to the provincial jail in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay that same day.

The Basilan Provincial Jail has been the subject of attacks by Abu Sayyaf terrorists or other rebel groups who barge into the jail to free their cohorts.

Arro said these detainees from Basilan, scheduled to be transferred to Zamboanga ,should instead be sent to Bicutan national penitentiary, rather than to Zamboanga City since its jail is already crowded with 1,120 detainees all waiting for their court hearings or decision from the regional trial court.

These detainees in Basilan are facing court cases in that province and sending them to Zamboanga will just complicated security matters at the local jail, he said.

Detainees or those waiting for their trials are supposed to be confined to jails near the courts that are handling their cases.

Arro said the city jail already houses some 30 “high-risks-detainees” facing heinous crime cases like kidnapping, murder and some of them are also Abu Sayyaf suspects.

The other high-risk detainees also include drug pushers including those involved in the manufacture of shabu in the hinterlands of this city and who were all arrested some two years ago.

Once these suspects are convicted they are usually remanded to the San Ramon National Penitentiary at Talisayan Barangay some 25 kilometers west of the city proper.

Since these detainees from Basilan are still facing charges for various crimes, they cannot be accommodated at the San Ramon facility that is exclusive for convicts from this city and other parts of the country.


Army camp holds youth leadership summit

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Army camp holds youth leadership summit

CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, GAMU, Isabela -- At least 40 youth leaders who are sons and daughters of army soldiers from 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army (5ID-PA) participated in a three-day youth leader's summit held in this camp over the weekend.

The youth leadership summit is a program of the army division aimed at preparing them to be God-fearing leaders in the country and move away from societal problems like drug addiction, criminality and influence from the rebel groups.

Colonel Loreto Magundayao Jr, the camp’s civil military operations battalion commander, said this activity of the division is a regular program that will enable the youth in its area of operations absorb the value of patriotism, discipline and bayanihan activities as well as a step become towards becoming good leaders someday.

There were also spiritual enrichment on the youth leaders to become God-fearing in many aspects as they go through their lives.

Meanwhile, Magundayao Jr, also said they have scheduled another batch of youth leader summit on April 28 to 30, 2013 to be held inside the camp.

Youth leaders from the provinces of Cagayan, Benguet, Ilocos Norte and Sur, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino which are its area of operation will be participating in the next scheduled youth leadership summit.


Peace advocates, Comelec laud GPH-MILF joint security MOU

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Peace advocates, Comelec laud GPH-MILF joint security MOU

Local peace advocates and election officials were elated with the signing an interim agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for a joint security measures during nex month's elections.

Lawyer Ray Sumalipao, Commission on Elections regional director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the interim agreement will help boost the poll body's campaign for a peaceful election in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The interim accord will be applicable from April 22 to May 20, 2013 and to be effective in areas covered by the 1997 general agreement on the cessation of hostilities.

The special security “memorandum of understanding,” or MOU, was signed at the Waterfront Hotel in Davao City by Brig. Gen Cesar Sedillo, Jr., GPH-ceasefe panel chair and his counterpart in the MILF Hadji Said Sheik.

Malaysian Army Gen. Mokhtar Fadzil, head of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), also signed the document which restrained armed MILF foreces from coming closer to any voting precinct.

While the MILF forces were allowed to vote if they are qualified voter, they are barred from carrying firearms, the interim accord said.

Chief government negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF chief negotiator Mohaqher Iqbal, also signed the document as witnesses.

Abdulla Sanggula, a member of Justice and Peace Movement in Maguindanao, lauded the MOU by saying it will help ensure a free and peaceful elections in Maguindanao.

Arlyn Sudaria of Mindanao Peace Advocacy consortium said the MOU would provide a semblance of security for voters in far-flung areas to come to voting precinct and exercise their rights of suffrage.

The MILF has earlier vowed to help secure voting areas from other armed group and private armed groups who may disrupt the peaceful balloting.

The signing of MOU formalized the MILF's stance of allowing their members and sympathizers to participate in the election and help secure voting places.

Earlier, the MILF said if there's the so called Catholic vote, there's also "Bangsamoro Vote."

Ghadzali Jaafar, vice chair for political affairs of the MILF, said the MILF will vote as one for those candidates who are supportive of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro.

The MOU also enjoined the GPH-MILF ceasefire panel to cooperate in ensuring the safe, unhampered and free movement of Comelec personnel and government security escorts before, during and after the balloting.

The MOU also stated that: “The MILF shall refrain from consolidating its forces for any purpose, including peace gatherings, from the time the PCOS machines (Precinct Count Optical Scanners) are deployed, until the election has been completed, except at Camp Darapanan in  Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Camp Bushra in Lanao del Sur, and in the urban centers when necessary, and in coordination wht the GPH CCCH."


NPAs bar campaigners of North Cotabato congressional bet

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): NPAs bar campaigners of North Cotabato congressional bet

Suspected New People's Army on Monday flagged down a team of campaigners of a congressional candidate in North Cotabato and prevented them from entering a remote village, police said.

Senior Inspector Rudy Cordero, chief of police of Tulunan, North Cotabato, said about 10 heavily armed men who covered their faces with t-shirts, flagged down a multi-cab carrying campaign posters of candidate Dr. Rod Escudero who is running for the newly created 3rd district of North Cotabato.

The armed men put up a road block in a dirt road in Barangay Bituan, Tulunan, North Cotabato and took Escudero's campaign materials and public address system but did not harm his campaigners, said Cordero.

Barangay Bituan is among the areas closely watched by police due to the presence of New People's Army rebels.

Escudero said he was surprised with the incident since campaginers of other candidates were allowed entry in the village.

"My men were barred from campaign there while campaigners of my opponents were allowed entry," Escudero said even as he appealed to police to ensure the safety of all those actively involved in any political campaign.

Escudero said he was not paying any campaign fee that the rebels have been spreading around.

In other areas in North Cotabato, the NPA has been asking "campaign to win" fee from candidates who wish to visit in their influenced areas.

The military had earlier confirmed the rebels are asking fee for candidates who wish to campaign in their areas.

For those who would not pay, they were not allowed entry and their campaign materials will be removed.

Earlier, officials of the Army's 6th Infantry Division and the PNP in Central Mindanao region have separately appealed to all candidates not to give in to NPA demands.


Emano suggests localized peace talks with NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Emano suggests localized peace talks with NPA

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -– City Mayor Vicente Emano on Tuesday urged the national government to authorize local government officials to initiate a localized peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front=New Peoples Army (CPP-NDF-NPA) rebels.

Emano issued the proposal in reaction to the ambush of Gingoog City Mayor Ruthie Guingona and her convoy in the outskirts of Gingoog City Saturday evening.

Guingona survived the ambush but her driver and a close-in security were killed.

“Ruthie is not a threat to anyone. I am personally saddened by the events,” Emano said.

Emano also narrated the attacks waged by the NPAs in the municipal towns of Misamis Oriental. He said the NPAs attacked the towns of Medina, Kinoguitan, Claveria, Sugbongcogon, all of Misamis Oriental and the latest was the attack on Mayor Guingona and her convoy in Gingoog, a component city east of Misamis Oriental.

“These NPA attacks mean that ‘insurgency’ is now the main concern of the government,” Emano added.

He said that these incidents would not have taken place if the local government units initiated localized peace talks with the NPAs.

Emano said the local peace talks with NPA rebels is an ideal approach since the local government units will have the initiative to convey a peace deal with rebel leaders in their areas of concern.

The Cagayan de Oro executive made the proposal in response to the “inaction” of the provincial government leadership toward the various attacks waged by the NPA rebels in Misamis Oriental.

Emano, then provincial governor of Misamis Oriental, was the first government official authorized by former President Corazon Aquino to forge a local peace talk with NPA rebels in Misamis Oriental in 1986.

The successful peace talk was hosted by the municipal town of Tagolo-an with Emano representing the province of Misamis Oriental and Alfredo Mapano a.k.a. “Paris,” Secretary of the Northern Mindanao Revolutionary Party Committee.

The successful peace talk ended NPA assault and ambuscades in Misamis Oriental until the NPA attacks resumed lately, almost three decades after.


AFP Central Command chief visits troops in Negros Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): AFP Central Command chief visits troops in Negros Oriental

Maj. Gen. Roy O. Deveraturda, the newly installed commander of the Central Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which covers the entire Visayas, conducted field visit and inspection of Philippine Army troopers in Negros Oriental during the weekend.

It was his first visit at the 302nd Brigade headquarters at Camp Leon Kilat in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, which was attended by staff officers of the brigade headed by Col. Francisco M. Patrimonio, the brigade commander and 11th IB Commander, Lt. Col. Wilfredo V. Isaac.

During his talk with the officers and men of the Brigade, Maj. Gen. Deveraturda expressed his appreciation for the successful Internal Peace and Security Operations (IPSO) and the zero human rights violation of the brigade in its area of responsibility.

“For me, the life of every soldier is very important. Let us not forget our combat SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), the tactics, techniques and procedures to prevent unnecessary loss of lives. We will continue to perform our mandate in protecting the Filipino people with utmost respect to Human Rights and strict adherence to the rule of Law,” Maj. Gen. Deveraturda was quoted in a news release as saying.

Meanwhile, Col. Francisco M. Patrimonio said the unit will perform its best to maintain what the brigade has achieved and will maintain the tradition of excellence and discipline as a habit of the Achiever troopers.

Maj. Gen. Deveraturda is the 14th Commander of the AFP’s Central Command based in Camp Lapu-lapu, Lahug, Cebu City who assumed command last April 08.

He replaced Vice Admiral Edgar L. Abogado who is now the Superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy. Maj. Gen. Deveraturda earned his commission in 1980 and a rated Military Pilot after graduating from the Aviation Cadet Program of the Philippine Air Force Flying School.

A native of Magallanes, Cavite, Maj. Gen. Deveraturda is married to Divina A Deveraturda and blessed with two kids.


Palace optimistic on adoption of binding Code of Conduct in South China Sea

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Palace optimistic on adoption of binding Code of Conduct in South China Sea

Malacanang is optimistic the attendance of President Benigno S. Aquino III at the 22nd Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) would pave the way for the crafting of a Code of Conduct in the West Philippine Sea.

"We are optimistic that we will see progress because of the 22nd Summit," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said when asked how confident the Philippines is in moving the negotiations forward for the particular Code of Conduct.

However, Valte said that since the ASEAN has Brunei Darussalam as the new chairman, it is expected that the regional group would have new priorities and agenda in the summit which will be held this week.

“As you know last year, nagkaroon na ng consensus that it’s time to talk about this particular subject matter. And we will see what will happen in Brunei, how the talks on the Code [of Conduct] will push forward,” she said.

The Philippine government said it is the right time for the ASEAN and China to have a legally binding code of conduct to prevent occupation of disputed and non-disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea and Panatag Shoal.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the ASEAN and China have to implement the Declaration on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea because some of the provisions that were laid out in said agreement have notbeen fully implemented.

In 2002, ASEAN and China agreed on the Declaration on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in Cambodia.

The President will join his counterparts in the 22nd ASEAN leaders’ summit that will be held in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam on April 24 and 25.

This year’s summit theme is “Our People, Our Future Together,” emphasizing the importance of ASEAN citizens in realizing the vision of an ASEAN community by 2015.


Palace: Local candidates must assist gov't in stopping NPA extort activities

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Palace: Local candidates must assist gov't in stopping NPA extort activities

Malacanang appealed to local candidates to help the government gather information to halt the illegal operations of the New People’s Army (NPA), particularly its extortion activities.

On Monday, President Benigno S. Aquino III instructed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to dismantle the road blocks being set up by the NPA particularly in areas they control.

In a press briefing in Malacanang on Tuesday, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said that while the government’s intention is to stop those illegal activities, the AFP has limitations and doesn’t have the resources to guard all the hot spots in the country.

“Given the limitations of the forces that we have hindi natin pwedeng bantayan lahat ng lugar sa lahat ng oras, kaya tayo po’y humihingi rin ng kooperasyon ng mga kandidatong lokal, para bigyan naman tayo ng impormasyon na makakatulong doon sa ating mga operations,” Valte said.

Despite the limitations, Valte noted that the country’s security forces will continue to conduct operations to ensure peace and order in those areas.

The Palace official also appealed to candidates campaigning for the May 13 elections to reject the demand of the NPA for them to pay “permit-to-campaign” fees.

“We have consistently asked local candidates not to succumb to these demands and to report any of these—for lack of a better word—'requests for payments' to the DILG so the proper response can be made in those particular areas,” she said.

Reports said the NPA has been demanding from candidates substantial fees for permission to campaign in the areas where the rebel group operates.

The government ordered the deputation of law enforcement agencies as well as the AFP to ensure free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible conduct of the May 13 automated national and local elections.