Friday, May 3, 2013

Norway drops peace gab role

From the Manila Standard Today (May 2): Norway drops peace gab role

As facilitator of talks between govt, NDF

Norway, the third-party facilitator of the peace talks between the government and communist insurgents, has agreed that formal negotiations will be terminated, presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said Wednesday.

Deles said Norway also acknowledged that the special track initiated by the communist group had already been “killed” by the National Democratic Front.

“In our discussion with our Norwegian facilitator [Ambassador Ture Lundh] last month when he was here in Manila, we mutually established that the NDF killed the special track that they had themselves proposed and that we are not going back to the regular track [formal peace negotiations] which is going nowhere,” Deles said.

The formal peace talks have been stalled since February 2011, while the special track bogged down early this year.

Deles said the “new approach” being formulated by the government “will offer a better chance” of bringing peace.

Without giving any details, government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla said the new approach will be “time-bound and agenda-bound.”

Padilla also reiterated the need for a ceasefire agreement. “They should put an end to the senseless violence they are inflicting on our people especially on innocent civilians,” he added.

NDF chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni accused the Aquino administration of “acting irresponsibly” in issuing “bellicose statements” on the termination of the peace negotiations.

Jalandoni said that the 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees required that a written notice be given to terminate the peace negotiations.

“No written notice of termination of the Jasig and the peace negotiations has been given by the government to the NDF,” Jalandoni said.

But the government has always maintained that the agreement is no longer in effect.

Jalandoni also rejected the government’s appeal for a ceasefire agreement, which he said was being used as a precondition for “the capitulation or surrender” of the NDF and the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.

Earlier, Padilla raised the possibility of pursuing “localized peace talks” instead, citing the disconnect between the communist leaders in Utrecht, where Jalandoni and CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison both live, and the NPA leaders in the Philippines.
Earlier, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda dismissed the CPP-NDF-NPA as “a bandit group,” a description that stripped the rebels of their status as ideological fighters.

In a statement Wednesday, the CPP and NPA said they were awaiting further recommendations from the NDF negotiating panel, and that they would respect the other agreements that it had signed, including the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, the Joint Declaration of The Hague, and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

Padilla earlier said the government was fed up with the rebel demands to release all “political prisoners” and would terminate all talks with the NDF and explore the military’s approach of holding localized peace talks.

The CPP described this as a publicity stunt on the part of the Aquino administration, and that the government was obligated to free its “consultants” who were detained. It also rejected localized peace talks.

CPP/NDF: The NDFP is open to continuing peace talks

From the CPP Website (May 1): The NDFP is open to continuing peace talks

Luis Jalandoni
NDFP Negotiating Panel

The Aquino regime is acting irresponsibly by issuing bellicose statements about terminating the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. It again shows no respect for binding peace agreements. For one, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) of 1995 requires that written notice be given by one party to the other in order to terminate the JASIG and the peace negotiations. No written notice of termination of the JASIG and the peace negotiations has been given by the GPH to the NDFP.

The reported statement of GPH Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda that OPAPP Secretary Teresita Deles has informed the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) about the GPH’s termination of the peace talks with the NDFP is completely untrue. Ambassador Ture Lundh, the Royal Norwegian facilitator states that neither formally nor informally has the RNG been informed by the GPH of such termination.
The JASIG stipulates that only 30 days after receipt of the written notice, is the termination in effect. Furthermore, all immunity guarantees contained in the JASIG remain in full force even after such termination.

The NDFP has continually asserted that it is committed to peace negotiations that address the roots of the armed conflict and pave the way to a just and lasting peace.
However, GPH Negotiating Panel Chairperson Alexander Padilla falsely accuses the NDFP of putting preconditions before resuming formal peace talks. He mentions the NDFP demand for the release of detained NDFP consultants. Such NDFP demand, however, is not a precondition but an obligation of the GPH. It calls for respect for and compliance with the JASIG of 1995 and the Oslo agreement signed in February 2011. This is a matter of GPH’s word of honor.

The public should be informed that the GPH under the Aquino regime has not released a single detained NDFP consultant in compliance with JASIG. All the five NDFP consultants released since 2010 have been due to legal actions undertaken by their lawyers.

The Aquino regime has shamelessly continued the the Arroyo regime’s practice of arresting and detaining NDFP consultants on false charges of common crimes and thereby violating both the JASIG and Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The Aquino regime has also ignored NDFP demands for the serious investigation of the disappearance, torture and extrajudicial killing of NDFP consultants under the Arroyo regime.

It is the GPH that insists on the precondition of indefinite ceasefires in violation of the The Hague Joint Declaration which puts the agenda on end of hostilities and disposition of forces as the final agreement after forging agreements on social and economic, and political and constitutional reforms. Without basic economic, social and political reforms there cannot be a just and lasting peace in the country.

The GPH also violates the aforesaid declaration by preconditioning formal talks with the capitulation or surrender of the NDFP and the forces and people under the guise of demanding indefinite ceasefire. It is preposterous to expect the NDFP to agree to an indefinite ceasefire that would give ground to the GPH to ignore more than ever before the substantive agenda on social, economic and political reforms.

Since March 1998, after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the NDFP has given the GRP (now calling itself GPH) the NDFP Draft of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforsm (CASER). But up to now, the GPH has not submitted its own draft on CASER. In fact, it has resisted taking up genuine land reform and national industrialization as key points to address the roots of the armed conflict.

Now the GPH even declares “national industrialization” an outmoded concept. Yet no country in the world has ever achieved economic development without national industrialization. The GPH’s concept of neoliberal globalization has been roundly discredited in developing Latin American countries. At the February 2013 talks, the GPH representatives even called land reform and national industrialization “ideologically charged” concepts when these are patriotic and progressive demands.
In short, what the GPH wants is to justify the continuing plunder of our natural resources, the destruction of the environment and the exploitation of our people, especially the indigenous peoples by big foreign multinational mining, logging and agricultural companies. This plunder by foreign monopoly corporations is dubbed by the GPH as “industrialization”.

The NDFP is willing to move towards the resumption of formal peace talks, based on the previously signed binding agreements. The peace negotiations should address the roots of the armed conflict through fundamental economic, social and political reforms which will pave the way to a just and lasting peace. We are glad to know that the RNG remains committed to help in the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations.

The GPH-NDFP peace negotiations can advance only on the basis of the agreements forged since 1992. Even the special track of seeking truce and cooperation is possible only because of the continuing validity and effectivity of the aforesaid agreements. It is reckless for anyone on the GPH side to say that it can pursue alternative ways of negotiating with the NDFP by ignoring or violating these agreements.

CPP/NDF: NDFP exposes Aquino Regime's false claims on termination of peace talks

From the CPP Website (May 1): NDFP exposes Aquino Regime's false claims on termination of peace talks

Luis Jalandoni
NDFP Negotiating Panel

In view of the continuing statements of the Aquino regime, in particular GPH Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and OPAPP Secretary Teresita Deles, about terminating the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, I reiterate the NDFP position that the GPH has not given any written notice of termination of the peace talks to the NDFP, which is the proper addressee of such notice. This is stipulated in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) of 1995.

Neither has the Royal Norwegian Government, the official Third Party Facilitator of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations been informed by the GPH of any termination of peace negotiations with the NDFP. In an email letter to me in the afternoon of 30 April 2013, Ambassador Ture Lundh of the Royal Norwegian Foreign Ministry stated: “Let me be absolutely clear in stating that the GPH has neither officially nor unofficially informed me of any termination of peace negotiations with the NDFP.”

The NDFP is open to continuing peace talks with the GPH on the basis of signed bilateral agreement. This and other aspects of the NDFP position on the matter of peace negotiations with the GPH are contained in the NDFP Statement dated 1 May 2013.

CPP: Until formal termination, JASIG and other agreements must remain in effect

From the CPP Website (May 2): Until formal termination, JASIG and other agreements must remain in effect

Until there is formal termination of peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Philippine government (GPH formerly designated as GRP), the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) maintains the position that joint agreements forged in over 20 years of negotiations should remain in effect and be respected by both sides.

The CPP identified the joint agreements as the The Hague Joint Declaration of 1990, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) of 1998, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and other critical agreements “that were forged through difficult negotiations and which serve as hallmarks of the determination of the NDFP and past Philippine governments to work through differences and unite on matters of crucial importance to the Filipino people.”

“Over the past few days, the Aquino government and its peace negotiators have publicly declared that it is no longer going back to the negotiating table to face the NDFP in either the regular track of formal peace negotiations or the special track of forging a ceasefire agreement on the basis of a declaration for democracy, social justice and national sovereignty.”

“In light of the recent bellicose statements of the GPH effectively terminating the NDFP-GPH peace negotiations, the CPP and the NDFP awaits a formal notification from the GPH terminating the formal peace negotiations,” added the CPP.

“GPH peace panel member Teresita Deles is lying when she claims that the RNG has already been informed of the termination of the talks when she said that they had ‘mutually established’ in discussions with the RNG ambassador that the NDFP had supposedly ‘killed’ the special track and that the GPH is no longer willing to go back to the regular track,” said the CPP.

“If the GPH is really no longer interested in the NDFP-GPH peace negotiations, it should formally send correspondence indicating their decision to terminate the NDFPH-GPH peace negotiations,” added the CPP. “Aquino is showing great discourtesy and lack of manners when it unilaterally terminates the talks relentlessly pursued over the past 20 years through irresponsible statements issued through the media.”

“The least that the GPH should do, in cognizance and respect for the efforts of the past Philippine governments and the Royal Norweigian Government, which has served as third-party facilitator, is for it to formally inform the NDFP and the RNG, that it is now terminating the talks,” pointed out the CPP. “Peace negotiations are a two-sided interactive process. To end it, one side must formally inform the other that it is no longer interested in talks.”

“With a formal termination, both sides can make clear its stand as to the status of the previous agreements, and whether further mechanisms should be put into place for the enforcement of these agreements,” said the CPP. “This is particularly important for the CARHRIHL and the JASIG.”

“It is reprehensible that Aquino’s officials have resorted to blatant lies in their vain effort to justify their act of terminating the NDFP-GPH formal peace negotiations,” said the CPP. “The Filipino people denounces the GPH for making malicious claims that the NDFP has imposed preconditions for the resumption of formal peace negotiations.”

The CPP said the GPH head negotiator Alex Padilla is “lying through his teeth when he claims that the revolutionary forces demand an end to the GPH’s so-called ‘poverty alleviation’ programs as precondition for the resumption of formal peace negotiations.”
“Never did the NDFP assert that peace negotiations should be preconditioned on putting an end to the CCT or the GPH’s Pamana programs, which are, of course, nothing but worn-out counter-insurgency schemes designed by the US military and funded by the World Bank,” added the CPP.

“Neither has the NDFP demanded an end to the GPH’s Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression as preconditions for the resumption of formal negotiations,” said the CPP. “However, the Filipino people have relentlessly denounced the GPH’s attacks against civilians and unarmed supporters and sympathizers of the revolutionary cause as well as other violations against human rights and international humanitarian law committed under Oplan Bayanihan.”

“The demand for the NDFP to release all NDFP peace consultants is not a matter of precondition, but a matter of obligation of the GPH under the JASIG,” pointed out the CPP.

“On the contrary, it is the GPH that has insisted that it will only resume formal talks if the revolutionary movement agree to surrendering its armed resistance through an indefinite ceasefire,” said the CPP. “Over twenty years of peace negotiations have proven that critical agreements can be forged even if there is a raging civil war.”

NPA couple surrenders to military in Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 3): NPA couple surrenders to military in Mindanao

A photo released by the military to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner shows the Maoist couple reunited with their family after surrendering to the Philippine Army in Compostela Valley province

A communist couple have surrendered to the military after accusing the New People’s Army of duping them into joining the Maoist group in the southern Philippine province of Compostela Valley, security officials said.

The rebels - Henry Longkayas and Analiza Longkayas - also handed their weapons to the 72nd Infantry Battalion in the town of Nabuntaran town when they surrendered to village officials.

“Hindi namin nakita sa loob ng kilusan ang mga sinasabi nila noong mga panahon na nirerecruit pa lamang nila kami. Ginamit lamang nila kami para sa kanilang sariling interes at para magkapera ang mga lider, hirap na hirap kami habang ang mga lider ay ginagamit pampersonal ang mga kinokolekta sa mga tao.”

“Sabi nila ay ipinaglalaban nila ang karapatan ng mahihirap, pero nakita namin na tinatakot lang nila ang mga tao na sumapi sa kanilang kilusan at magbigay ng suporta sa kanila. Sila mismo ang violator ng karapatan ng mga tao.” the couple said in an army statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

They said the NPA deceived them into joining the rebel group with false propaganda and claims of fighting for the poor. The military also presented the rebels to Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy. They were also reunited with their families.

The NPA has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate communist state in the country.

Gunmen seize Muslim man in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 3): Gunmen seize Muslim man in Southern Philippines

Gunmen have seized Friday a Muslim man working for a private construction firm in the southern Filipino province of Sulu, authorities said.

The victim, Awan Usman, was driving a concrete mixer truck when he was flagged down by armed men in the town of Patikul.

The motive of the abduction is still unknown and no group claimed responsibility for this.

It was not immediately whether the abduction was connected to a family feud or clan war, or for ransom.

Philippine Army troops clash with NPA rebels

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 3): Philippine Army troops clash with NPA rebels

Government troops clashed Friday with communist insurgents in Zamboanga del Norte’s Leon Postigo town, army officials said.

Officials said the fighting erupted on a hinterland village where soldiers tracked down the New People’s Army insurgents following a tip off from residents about the presence of the gunmen. The fighting lasted over 30 minutes.

It was not immediately known if there were rebel casualties.

“The rebels were camping in the forested area and believed to have come fresh from extortion activities in the nearby communities of Leon Postigo,” said Lt. Col. Leonel Nicolas, commander of the 10th Infantry Battalion.

Nicolas said they also recovered a handgun, three sacks of provision believed taken from locals and five bags containing personal belongings, subversive documents, medical equipment and rifle ammunition left behind by rebels.

He said troops were sent to track down the rebels. He praised villagers for their cooperation with the military authorities.

“The successful operation is the result of active participation and cooperation of the community to our government programs. The poor communities are now exhausted to the extortion demands of the rebels,” Nicolas said.

The rebels have been fighting for decades now trying to overthrow the democratic government and install a communist state in the country.

News Analysis: Peace talks between gov't and leftist rebels in limbo

From the Philippine Star (May 3): News Analysis: Peace talks between gov't and leftist rebels in limbo

While the peace process between the Philippine government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has shown some tangible results, the negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People's Army (NPA) are now on its death throes.
The Philippine government and the Mindanao-based MILF have already signed a framework agreement that would serve as the guidepost in the formulation of a final peace accord that would end the decades-old fighting in the southern Philippines.
In the case of the leftist rebellion, both sides are blaming each other for the collapse of the talks.

Last week, Malacanang, the seat of the Philippine government, rejected the demands and conditions set by leftist rebels before going back to the negotiating table, saying the "special track" they are proposing should be dropped for now until they make up their minds.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the ball is now in the hands of the leftist insurgents on whether the talks would move forward. "They kept changing the conditions for the special track and that was not acceptable to us," Valte said.

What Valte has said practically scrapped the negotiations since the Netherlands-based National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the CCP-NPA, has categorically said that there will be no talks unless the government agrees to release detained communist leaders who are facing criminal charges.

Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the NDF negotiating panel, said that the freeing of the rebels with immunity guarantees is an obligation of the government.

Government chief peace negotiator Alexander Padilla said that aside from their demand for the release of their detained consultants, the NDF also demanded that the Philippine government abolish its peace and development programs, including the conditional cash transfer (CCT) or cash dole-outs for the poor and the military's Oplan Bayanihan.

At the start of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, the Armed Forces of the Philippines adopted a new strategy in dealing with the NPA called the Internal Peace and Security Plan or Oplan Bayanihan.

Oplan Bayanihan discarded the old military approach of confronting the rebels but instead encourage them to return to the fold of the law by giving them financial assistance to start a new life.

In a statement released Thursday, Padilla unveiled a new approach in negotiating with the CPP-NPA-NDF which, he said is " time-bound and agenda-bound."

Padilla cited the negotiations with the MILF and other peace talks abroad such as the current Colombian talks "where results are there after a given period of time."

Under the new approach, the government would get inputs from the people in the NPA-infested areas throughout the country before the peace talks with the communist rebels resume.

Padilla said hostilities must cease since thousands of civilians have suffered the brunt of the armed violence in 46 years of the leftist insurgency.

"They should put an end to the senseless violence they are inflicting on our people, especially on innocent civilians," he said.

Elaborating on the new approach, Presidential Adviser to the Peace Process Teresita Deles said that the government would soon start undertaking discussions and consultations with civil society groups and other sectors.

Deles said that the government remains committed to end all internal conflict in the country through a "multi-track approach."

But Jose Maria Sison, CCP founding chairman and now consultant to the NDF, has shot down the "localized approach" adopted by the government.

In a statement from Utrecht, the Netherlands, where he and Jalandoni live in exile, Sison said the CPP-NPA-NDF do not allow such localized peace talks because "this would fragment the highly-unified revolutionary movement."

Sison charged that what the Aquino government is now trying to do is to conduct "fake localized" peace talks by using its military assets.

He squarely blamed the Aquino administration as responsible for the impasse in the peace negotiations with the NDF, but insisted that the peace process is not officially dead.

Sison and Jalandoni said that the government has not officially notified the NDF of the termination of the talks, a process that is stipulated in the joint agreement on safety and immunity guarantees (JASIG) signed by sides in l995.

Lightning strikes military outpost, 1 soldier killed

From the Philippine News Agency (May 3): Lightning strikes military outpost, 1 soldier killed

A soldier died while another suffered burns when a military outpost in Zamboanga Sibugay was struck by lighting, a police official disclosed Friday.

Killed was Private First Class Jaymar Tumarong and wounded was PFC Jemar Destrajo, both members of the Army’s 6th Special Forces Battalion, according to Police Regional Office-9 spokesman Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca.

Huesca said the victims were on duty at Post 2 in Barangay Libertad, Tungawan town when lightning suddenly struck the outpost around 7:10 a.m. Thursday.

Huesca said the victims, who suffered burns, were rushed to Ipil Provincial Hospital for medical treatment but Tumarong was declared dead on arrival.

Meanwhile, a fisherman fell overboard and is feared dead after a lightning hit a fishing boat in the high seas of Basilan province.

He was identified only as certain Edgar.

He was one of the nine crew of a fishing boat (F/B Wingston) owned by Glicerio Gonzaga of Tabina municipality, Zamboanga del Sur.

Huesca said the fishing boat skippered by Reynaldo Torres was traveling from Basilan province to Tabina town amidst the heavy downpour when lightning struck throwing Edgar overboard around 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Edgar, at the time of the incident was outside and taking a bath, Huesca said.

Only one explosion in southern Palawan, WESCOM clarifies

From the Philippine News Agency (May 3): Only one explosion in southern Palawan, WESCOM clarifies

Contrary to earlier reports, the Western Command (WESCOM) clarified Friday that only one explosion was recorded to have transpired in the northern Palawan mining town of Bataraza early this week.

Lt. Cheryl Tindog, spokesperson of the WESCOM, said the information they received from Lt. Col. Efren Rellores, commanding officer of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 12 (MBLT 12), disclosed that only one home-made bomb exploded according to the joint investigation by intelligence operatives of the military and police.

She said two explosions were initially reported to authorities following the incident. Upon verification by the joint investigation team, only one explosion happened near the Rio Tuba Nickel (RTN) Ice Plant at Bongkol-bongkol Junction, Sitio Tagpisa in Barangay Ocayan, Bataraza.

No evidence of blast, she clarified, was found at the Intake Dam of the RTN mine site. Tindog said what was heard was probably just the echo of the explosion in Sitio Tagpisa.

A home-made improvised explosive device made of ammonium nitrate submerged in gas and placed in a canister was used by unknown suspects in the blast.

Tindog said the identities and motives of the perpetrators have not yet been established.

Explosion rocks Masbate town

From the Philippine News Agency (May 3): Explosion rocks Masbate town

CAMP BONNY SERRANO, Masbate City  -– An explosion awakened the residents of Sitio Bliss, Barangay Burgos, San Jacinto, an island municipality northwest of Masbate City, at about 2 a.m., May 2.

No casualties were reported in the village, which is about two hours from the pier of the municipality via a motorcycle ride, locally known as "habal-habal." The island is about one and one-half hours' boat ride from Masbate City.

Senior Supt. Heriberto O. Olitoquit, Masbate Provincial Police Office director, said that according to a report from Senior Inspector Wilfredo Espineli, San Jacinto Municipal Police Office (SJMPO) chief, who led the team that responded to the place of incident, they recovered shattered aluminum metal, 23 pieces of 1 to 2 inches 8-mm steel bar and electric wire more or less 1,000 meters long and brown in color.

The explosion created a crater more or less one foot and two inches deep and two feet and four-and-a-half inches wide, Olitoquit quoted the report as saying.

At about 8:30 a.m. of the same date, Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel of the Regional Special Operations Task Group-Masbate led by SPO3 Zacarias Barcela, Jr. and PO2 Antonio Tabo III, Provincial Investigation and Detection Management Branch investigator, were dispatched to conduct post-blast investigation.

The pieces of evidence found in the explosion incident area are now under the custody of the SJMPO for proper disposition.

Soldier wounded as heavily armed men fire on Army, police patrol group

From the Philippine News Agency (May 3): Soldier wounded as heavily armed men fire on Army, police patrol group

CAMP BONNY SERRANO, Masbate City – An Army soldier was wounded when an undetermined number of heavily armed men fired on a group of Philippine Army (PA) and Philippine National Police (PNP) operatives that were on a security patrol operation in connection with the fast approaching May 13 mid-term elections at about 4 p.m., May 2, in Barangay Rizal, Dimasalang, Masbate.

Senior Supt. Heribero O. Olitoquit, Masbate Provincial Police Office director, said combined elements of the PA's 9th Infantry Battalion, the PNP and the Regional Special Operations Task Group-Masbate (RSOTG-Masbate) under 2nd Lt. Francis Tuazon of the Philippine Army were on board a KM vehicle that was traversing a road in Barangay Rizal when they were fired upon by the unknown heavily armed group.

This, Olitoquit said, resulted in the wounding in the left limb of Pfc. Chito Andaya.

A firefight ensued, lasting only less than a minute as the armed men hurriedly withdrew toward a forested area of the village.

A reinforcement from the RSOTG-Masbate and Army soldiers from the Charlie Company of the 9IB under Supt. Rogelio A. Beraquit and 1Lt. Ronnie DV. Garchitorena immediately conducted a hot pursuit operation.

The wounded Andaya was brought to the Masbate Provincial Hospital here for treatment and is now recuperating.

'Hired goons' eyed in gun-slay of military intelligence operative; not election-related

From the Philippine News Agency (May 3): 'Hired goons' eyed in gun-slay of military intelligence operative; not election-related

Law enforcers have tagged suspected guns-for-hire as the alleged assailants who killed an intelligence operative of the Philippine Army in an ambush in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental on Thursday.

This early, police and military authorities are saying the shooting incident is not election-related.

The victim, identified as Corporal Arnold M. Engada of the 11th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, was declared dead on arrival at the Canlaon City District Hospital.

Initial investigation showed that Cpl. Engada was with another soldier to verify reports on the presence of armed men at Hacienda Perez in Barangay Linuthangan, Canlaon City around 9 a.m. Thursday, according to Col. Patrimonio, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade, the mother unit of the 11th IB, based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

Engada and his colleague were reported to be in the company of a member of the Belleza family when they were ambushed by at least three unidentified armed men who opened fire at them.

Spent shells fired from a shotgun were recovered from the crime scene, Patrimonio disclosed.

The purported target in the attack was Belleza, a report reaching police provincial director Sr. Supt. Noli Romana had said.

Further investigation revealed that a land dispute between the Perez and Belleza families in Linuthangan was the motive for the attack, Col. Patrimonio said.

According to Col. Patrimonio, the Belleza family was “protecting” the matriarch of the Perez hacienda, known as a certain Nene Perez, 80 years old, in the family feud involving the latter’s grandson, Michael Perez, who allegedly wants to take control of the estate.

The Army commander also disclosed that the suspects are not members of the New People’s Army in the area.

Intelligence reports confirmed that the assailants are members of a private armed group operating in Canlaon City and other nearby areas in northern Negros.

However, authorities are not saying whether they belong to one of the three suspected private armed groups earlier identified as operating in Negros Oriental.

These are the Dumas-ug Group, headed by a certain Sunny Bacolod, believed to be operating in Canlaon City, the Desperado Group, whose leader is a certain Rolando Mallari, in the central part of the province and the Tanasan-Libron Group in Bayawan City.

No arrests have been made following the ambush-slay of the military intelligence operative but Col. Patrimonio said some names have surfaced but he did not elaborate.

2 rebels surrender during clash in Sorsogon

From the Philippine News Agency (May 3): 2 rebels surrender during clash in Sorsogon

Two members of the communist New People's Army surrendered to Philippine Army soldiers in the middle of a firefight in Barangay Siuton, Magallanes, Sorsogon on Thursday.

Army Col. Teody T. Toribio, commanding officer of the Army’s 31st Infantry Battalion, said in a report on Friday that a team of soldiers under Army Captain Christopher Santander encountered ten rebels while on a combat patrol in the forested area of Barangay Siuton.

“The firefight, which lasted for ten minutes, yielded three M-16 rifles, a landmine, anti-government documents and campaign paraphernalia. No one was hurt among the soldiers,” Toribio said.

He identified the rebels who surrendered as Judy Torres alias Ka Roy, 33, a resident of Barangay Dolos, Bulan, Sorsogon, and Jomar Gracilla alias Ka Marvin, 19, of Barangay Pili, Magallanes, Sorsogon.

Both rebels were unhurt during the encounter and are treated well at the headquarters of the 31IB in Barangay Rangas, Juban, Sorsogon.

It took place after concerned citizens tipped off the military about the presence of rebels demanding permits to campaign from politicians, Toribio said.

The rebels belong to the NPA’s Larangan 1, the former Front Committee 80 in Sorsogon, he added.

Col. Joselito Kakilala, commander of the 903rd Infantry Brigade, lauded the quick response of the soldiers to the reports of the civilians.

He also praised the soldiers involved in the operation for their professional conduct in the observance of the rules of engagement and human rights.

The encounter was the second in three days in Bicol.

On April 29, soldiers of the 83rd IB in Catanduanes encountered ten NPA rebels in San Andres town who yielded an M-16 rifle.

A soldier, Pfc. Christopher Briguela, was wounded during the encounter.

2 soldiers wounded in roadside blast in North Cotabato town

From the Philippine News Agency (May 3): 2 soldiers wounded in roadside blast in North Cotabato town

Two soldiers were wounded when a bomb exploded along the highway in Magpet, North Cotabato, around 1:15 p.m. Friday, an hour before a big rally of a town mayoral candidate was supposed to take place, police said.

SPO4 Menardo Cui, deputy chief of Magpet police, said the bomb was planted a few feet away from the highway, along the boundary of Barangays Binay and Doles – two areas considered ‘highly influenced’ by communist guerrillas.

Cui said the victims, on board a military truck, were on their way to Barangay Binay to conduct their routine patrol operations when the explosion took place.

Lieutenant Nasrullah Sema, chief of the civil military operations of the 57th IB, identified the victims as Cpl. Rogelio de Vera and Pfc. Michael Abrazaldo, both members of the Bravo Company of the 57th IB.

Both sustained multiple shrapnel wounds in different parts of their bodies but are declared ‘out of danger’ by hospital doctors, Sema said.

Sema was certain that the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) was behind the recent roadside blast.

The explosion on Friday was the seventh since January which took place in the area of operations of the 57th IB, military records showed.

Due to shaky situation, Mayor Efren Pinol decided to cancel his rally in Barangay Binay.

He said he could not sacrifice the safety of his supporters since the situation is too risky.

“Besides, the military and the police are still conducting manhunt operations. It’s not acceptable that we put the safety and security of our men in jeopardy,” said Pinol.

This wasn’t the first time there was bomb blast in Barangay Binay where he was supposed to hold a rally.

In May 2010, when he was seeking re-election, a bomb went off along the highway, also on the same spot, which also led him to cancel the rally.

Pinol was hoping the shaky situation in Barangay Binay will not continue until election day.

“We will make sure the people in Barangay Binay could cast their vote without fear on May 13. It would be a lot difficult if the same incident will happen on that day… God forbid,” he said.

NPA releases mayoralty bet abducted in Davao Oriental town

From the Philippine News Agency (May 3): NPA releases mayoralty bet abducted in Davao Oriental town

The New People’s Army (NPA) rebels released Thursday evening the mayoralty candidate in Baganga town abducted Wednesday afternoon in Barangay Campawan while campaigning in the area.

Sr. Supt. Jose Carumba, director of the Davao Oriental Provincial Police Office (DOPPO), said Ronie Sango Osnan, a businessman and among the leading mayoral candidates in the town, is now undergoing police debriefing in the provincial office.

He said the rebels released Osnan around 8 p.m. when they were able to establish contact with the abductors while looking for the candidate's whereabouts.

Carumba said he was told by a certain Ka Puro of the NPA rebels that Osnan was taken into custody for his alleged failure to pay permit to campaign to the revolutionary group.

Carumba said he was assured that Osnan is okay and treated well even as he negotiated for the unconditional release of the mayoral aspirant.

Carumba said Osnan was with a group of supporters in Barangay Campawan and were supposed to head back to the town proper when “invited” by a former classmate for a dialogue. He was then led to an undisclosed place in the area.

Osnan left his supporters behind and did not return. Hours later, an unidentified man approached Osnan’s supporters and told them to just head back to their respective homes because Osnan is being held by the NPAs for “non-observance of the permit to campaign policy.”

He is running for the first time against four other candidates that include incumbent Vice Mayor Arturo Monday and his brother Cecilio Monday; Roy Nazareno, son of outgoing Mayor Remegio Nazareno; and Belino Morales.

TMO says Chinese fishing vessel caused greater damage on Tubbataha Reef

From the Philippine News Agency (May 3): TMO says Chinese fishing vessel caused greater damage on Tubbataha Reef

The Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) on Friday announced that the Chinese fishing vessel, F/V Ming Long Yu which ran aground at the maritime sanctuary last April 8, caused much bigger damage than the USS Guardian.

This was the assessment of the team of scientists sent to inspect the damage, the TMO stated.

It added that Chinese vessel destroyed 3,902 square meters of corals - including some massive corals 500 years old - 66 percent larger than the 2,345.67 square meters damaged by the USS Guardian when it ran aground last Jan. 17.

"The damage the Chinese vessel caused to the reef is heart-breaking. Some of the massive corals that were pulverized are estimated to be about 500 years old," TMO head Angelique Songco said.

The USS Guardian measured 224 feet by 39 feet while the Chinese fishing vessel measured 48 meters long and eight meters wide.

Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan of De La Salle University (DLSU) led the team that conducted the assessment from April 23 to 30.

Joining him were marine biologists Miledel Christine Quibilan, Eznairah Jeung Narida and Renmar Martinez from the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute and Norievel EspaƱa of DLSU.

Also with the team were the Automated Rapid Reef Assessment System team (Philippine Department of Science and Technology) team, World Wildlife Fund-Philippines, Tubbataha Management Office and marine park rangers.

The TMO said the damage extended from the original location of the F/V Min Long Yu when it ran aground on April 8, since big waves caused the vessel to move from its original position before it was pulled off the reef last April 19.

"It bulldozed through vibrant coral reefs leaving a highway of destruction in its wake," the TMO said.

The team measured the grounding site using two methods – aerial photography and boundary mapping using Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS).

For aerial photography, the team used a GoPro camera attached to a kite.

Images taken over the area were georectified to determine the size of the damaged area.

In DGPS, marine ecologist divers and a snorkeler were deployed and placed tags to establish the perimeter of the damaged area.

Army: Two NPA insurgents killed in Samar clash

From GMA News (May 3): Army: Two NPA insurgents killed in Samar clash

Two New People’s Army guerrillas allegedly involved in extortion activities were killed in a clash with government troops in Samar on Thursday, an army official said Friday.

After the 15-minute firefight, "residents in Catbalogan City's Barangay Alabate confirmed the two fatalities were among a group of rebels who extort money from local candidates and believed to be on their way to Catbalogan City," said Capt. Amado Gutierrez, spokesman for the Army’s 8th Infantry Division.

Citing initial information, Gutierrez said the clash occurred in Alabate at about 1:35 p.m. on May 2, when troops belonging to the 87th Infantry Battalion chanced upon five armed rebels.

Government troops recovered from the scene the bodies of the two still unidentified rebels, an M16 rifle, an M653 rifle, a fragmentation grenade, and a backpack with personal belongings, Gutierrez said.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Gerardo Layug, 8th ID commander, said the troops “spoiled the plan of the rebels to extort money from local candidates in Catbalogan.

MILF: Advocacy on Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro held in South Cotabato

From the MILF Website (May 1): Advocacy on Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro held in South Cotabato

Almost two thousand stakeholders coming from different towns of South Cotabato Province gathered in a daylong Advocacy on Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) geared to inform the masses on the initial peace truce signed by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and be updated on the recent development on the GPH-MILF Peace Process.The event was held on April 29, 2013 at the gymnasium of Barangay Lapu, Polomolok, South Cotabato with the theme “Peace Advocacy on FAB towards the establishment of just and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

It was organized by Coalition of Peoples Organizations headed by Lapu Islamic Foundation with the support of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS).

The delegates were comprised of Moro people from Polomolok, Tupi, Koronadal City, Banga, Surallah, Norallah, Tboli, and Sto. Nino all in South Cotabato including Indigenous People (Blaan and Tboli) and Christian Settlers. Law enforcers and local officials from the province and municipalities also attended.

The key speaker, MILF Peace Panel Member Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, oriented the audience on the salient points of the FAB. He explained the Bangsamoro Basic Law, Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, Territory, Basic Rights, Transition and Normalization and the important roles of the third party monitors coming from the international communities.

He reiterated that the rights of the Indigenous peoples will be respected as well as those Christian settlers living in the core territory.

The resource person disclosed that the two panels are still dwelling on the power sharing, wealth sharing and normalization annexes that will form part of the FAB.
He added that the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (TransCom) who are tasked to draft the basic law were already appointed by the President.
Lingga said that the Moro communities outside the core territory can opt to file for petition for inclusion, however they will still undergo plebiscite as required in the democratic process being adopted by the country.

He further explained that the Bangsamoro will be the identity but the citizenship will be Filipino and that the Bangsamoro territory will remain integral part of the Philippines.

Lingga hoped there will be signed a comprehensive peace agreement soon and that there will be elections of officials that will govern the Bangsamoro territory by 2016.
He pointed out the crucial role of the Third Party Monitor who will check if the peace agreement were complied before an exit agreement will be signed by the two parties.
An open forum was also held that gave opportunity to the audience to clarify some issues and queries in their minds.

The local police chief and IP leaders present also expressed their support and hoped for the success of the FAB.

Langcap Quraysh from the CBCS discussed the essence of unity among the Moro National Liberation Front, MILF, Moro political leaders, Kadatuan (traditional leaders), Moro professionals, and Ulama (Muslim scholars) towards the realization of the Bangsamoro dream for real peace and development in Mindanao.

The CBCS is currently implementing the Mindanao Solidarity Project with the primary goal to establish a strong foundation for greater unity, solidarity and cooperation among leaders of the Bangsamoro in preparation for the transition process.

More dialogues are being undertaken by CBCS among the ranks of the Bangsamoro leaders. Quraysh said different Moro leaders have different views on the problems in Mindanao. He said it is important to have a common goal and more prayers for the realization of real peace.

The Political Committees of Koronadal and Ala Provinces with the strong support of the local Social Welfare Committee, Moro youth volunteers and benevolent individuals contributed to the success of the activity.

The GPH-MILF International Monitoring Team and Local Monitoring Team also graced the affair.

MILF: BIAF 109th Base Command 4th commencement exercises held

From the MILF Website  (May 2): BIAF 109th Base Command 4th commencement exercises held

The BIAF 109th Base Command of Eastern Mindanao Front held its 4th Commencement Exercises on Basic Military Retraining Course (BMRC) at Camp Bunawan Damakling Province, Bangsamoro. About 4,000 local residents witnessed the said activity. So far, it is the largest number of BMRC graduates for the current year 2013.

The ceremony was graced by Commander Jack Abbas Al Hadj of the BIAF Eastern Mindanao Front, and representative from BIAF-General Staff, headed by Sheik Mohammad Yacob, J3 of BIAF General Staff; Com. Alhambra Bandaw; TED Deputy Chief for Administration; BIAF GS Commander Moctar Daud, J1 of BIAF GS; and CCCH Representative Omar Bayao. Prof. Esmael A. Abdula, member of BLMI Steering Committee and KDFI Senior Training Adviser was also present.

The program started with the reading of few verses of the Holy Qur’an by Ustadz Nasrudin Musa,

In a ceremonial parade of the BMTC, Commander Alhambra Bandaw led the presentation of graduates, Class 04-13 and proudly said that the 109th Base Command is rated as outstanding with the most number of retraining conducted for the members of MILF-BIAF. A minute later, gun shot was heard signaling the start of cadet march with the Arrival of Honor as a sign of expressing their gratitude for having survived the arduous physical and spiritual training.

The opening remark was delivered by Mr. Mahdi K. Salendab. He congratulated and appreciated the graduates for their efforts and patience that made them to survive the strenuous training. He said that the retraining was a routinary part of a military program of the MILF.

The welcome address was given by Vice Chairman Manunggal of the Damakling Provincial Political Committee.

BIAF 109th Base Command Badrudin Duka delivered the message on behalf of Com. Hadji Abas Bukol of 109th Base Command. He expressed his thanks for the sacrifices and untiring efforts of the graduates that made them survived the course. “As members of BIAF, we can also strengthen our support on the advocacy programs for the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro, he further said.

Front Commander Jack Abbas said that, “The military retraining course is a normal part of our program, saying that while the MILF is faithfully observing the ceasefire, the need to maintain the preparedness of our forces remains our concern.

He stressed that jihad in Bangsamoro Homeland is obligatory for every able Bangsamoro individual.

He also said that from this point in time every individual Bangsamoro, especially members of BIAF must act together in support of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).

Com. Moctar Daud, J1 of BIAF GS, said that everybody wishes to see the dawning of Bangsamoro Government in the future.

“From our previous strategy of winning the war through the use of arms, we now shifted to political engagement that resulted to the signing of the FAB”, he further said.

“We encourage every graduate to help advocate the FAB and observe discipline, adhere to the chain of command and build camaraderie with one another.” he highlighted.

On his part, Sheik Mohammad Yacob J3 of BIAF GS said, “The MILF four standing programs must be observed by every MILF members especially on the aspect of Islamization, strengthening of faith “Takwah”, self-discipline and believe that Islam is our ideology and the only way to overcome oppressions, injustices , colonization and win our struggle for right to self-determination”.

Com. Baguindali Mustapha, Chief of Administration, TED 109th Base Command presented the graduates to GS Com. Alhambra Bandaw TED Deputy for Administration who in turn congratulated the BMTC Graduates.

Prof. Esmael A. Abdula, member of BLMI Steering Committee and KDFI Senior Training Adviser also congratulated the Cadets for their steadfastness and sacrifices for having successfully completed the training course.

He cited the late Sheik Salamat Hashim (Allaho yarhamo) message which said, “I had already implanted the seeds of Jihad to the heart of the Bangsamoro People and it will continue to grow from generation to generations”. “The current efforts of our new leader Chairman Al Hadji Murad Ebrahim are a clear manifestation that the seeds mentioned by the late chairman are continuously growing.

Prof. Abdula also reminded the graduates that the MILF had gained world recognition for their struggle and so it requires maximum observance of discipline for every member of the BIAF.