Tuesday, May 7, 2013

DA, DND partner to transform camps into farms

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 8): DA, DND partner to transform camps into farms

The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of National Defense (DND) have launched a joint project to transform idle or reserved areas in military camps into farms, and enable military personnel to produce their own rice, corn, root crops, vegetables, fruits, fish, and other food requirements.

Secretary of Agriculture Proceso J. Alcala and Secretary of National Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin launched the project—dubbed “DA-DND agricultural livelihood development program in selected military reservation areas”—on May 2 at Fort Magsaysay, in Nueva Ecija.

DA has allotted an initial P5.78 million in the form of farm machinery, irrigation system, inputs, and technical assistance for the joint project while DND will provide personnel to develop appropriate idle military areas into farmlands, and oversee the food production ventures.

Initially, the DA Region 3 (Central Luzon) office, led by Dir. Andrew Villacorta, has identified 25 hectares of land in Fort Magsaysay, of which ten hectares will be planted to cassava, five hectares each to rice and corn, and the remaining five hectares for future expansion.

The DA through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will provide tilapia fingerlings and other freshwater species to be stocked in Pahingahan Dam, within Fort Magsaysay, as source of fresh fish. The DA through its livestock agencies will also provide military personnel with Anglo-Nubian and Boer bucks for goat production, and 50 head of chicken for broiler and layer production.

Secretary Alcala said seedlings of fruit-bearing trees such as mangoes, tamarind, and coffee will also be planted around the camp as added sources of income and serve as perimeter barriers to prevent informal settlers to encroach into the camp’s reserved area.

He said the DA will also help Fort Magsaysay personnel sell their excess farm produce during harvest season.

He and Secretary Gazmin have also agreed to expand the DA-DND program in other military camps where there are idle areas that could be transformed into productive farms as source of food and additional income.

The DA chief even suggested that retired military personnel should be given priority to oversee and manage the food production ventures.

Secretary Gazmin expressed his gratitude to Secretary Alcala and the DA family for the joint venture and strong support, and said he looks forward to expanding the project in other military camps and reservations in Visayas and Mindanao.


MILF: Moro FAB Advocates intensifies information drive in Zamboanga City

From the MILF Website (May ): Moro FAB Advocates intensifies information drive in Zamboanga City

Last May 5, 2013 FAB organizers held another information campaign on FAB at Recodo, a west coast Barangay in Zambaonga City. The attendees were local residents, women sector, professionals, representative from the academe and barangay officials.

Members of the Moro Front were visibly present and provided support to the activity. Members of the local Philippine National Police provided security at the venue and Recodo Barangay officials provided conducive venue for the activity adjacent to barangay hall.

The Provincial Chairman of the MILF- Zamboanga City, Bhab Jumadil welcomed the participants. He stressed the importance of participation and involvement in promoting peace, understanding and openness in knowing the very essence of FAB that is fair, just and without prejudice to other stakeholders in the region.

A local official who represented the Barangay Captain of Recodo expressed his warmest gratitude to the organizers, MILF officials and members in Zamboanga City for sharing essential information that paved the way for clear understanding about FAB that erased misconceptions towards the Moro Front.

Atty. Adrin Caluang, one of the Bangsamoro lawyers who translated the FAB into Tau Sug dialect took the opportunity in explaining the importance of FAB as a solution to the four decades of armed conflict in the Bangsamoro Homeland.

Engr. Arasid Daranda, Information Committee Director- Zamboanga City, on his part also explained the salient points of the FAB, while this writer, a member of the BLMI Steering Committee categorically stressed the 9- General outline sections of the FAB and its comparison with the ARMM-amended Organic Act. 9054.

Hon. Hji. Salim Sahaji, MILF Regional Consultant on Committee of Information for Western Mindanao spoke on the overview and updates of the Peace Process between GPH- MILF and other valuable information related to FAB which clearly enlightened the attendees.

The half- day advocacy activity on FAB had obviously served its purpose to inform the public and have their views freely expressed and their doubts and confusions answered candidly by the speakers during the open forum. The organizers have been exerting efforts to conduct series of information drive and advocacy on FAB until all Bangsamoro in their respective localities are thoroughly informed. In shaa ALLAH! (If ALLAH wills)

Local leaders of Zamboanga City are widely known for their being anti-Moro self-rule so that Moro advocates of the FAB are moving heaven and earth to enlighten local residents on the essence of the Peace accord to their lives and the next generation to come.


2 brothers hurt in grenade blast in North Cotabato town

From the Philippine News Agency (May 8): 2 brothers hurt in grenade blast in North Cotabato town

Two minor brothers were wounded when a projectile from an M79 grenade launcher exploded in front of them along the highway in Barangay Marbel in Matalam, North Cotabato, around 10:30 a.m., Tuesday.

Matalam Police identified the victims as Apsan Salipada, 17, and his brother Baraguir, 14, both residents of Barangay Marbel.  The victims’ mother, Saguira, told authorities that her sons were on their way home after staying for two days at an evacuation center in a nearby barangay, when they saw the projectile and played with it.  She said her sons later decided to toss the grenade and left. It, however, exploded, hitting the brothers, Saguira said.  Both victims have sustained shrapnel wounds in their stomachs and were sent to the Kidapawan Medical Specialist Center in Kidapawan City for treatment.  The police hinted the grenade was left by one of the Moro rebels that traded fire with another rebel group, three days ago.  Around 6:30 p.m. Sunday, elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) exchanged fires with members of the 108th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at Sitio Liton, Barangay Marbel, Matalam.  The next morning, one of the MILF rebels died after he was hit by bullets fired at by MNLF fighters under the command of MNLF Commander Datu Dima Ambil of the Sebangan Kutawato State Revolutionary Committee.  The warring groups had ceased firing after members of the Local Monitoring Team of the Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities from the MILF intervened. A dialogue was held to resolve the conflict, according to reports from the Matalam police.  After the dialogue, the 200 families that evacuated to two evacuation centers in nearby villages decided to return home.


Soldier slain, 2 others hurt in Cotabato shooting

From the Philippine News Agency (May 8): Soldier slain, 2 others hurt in Cotabato shooting

Unidentified gunmen shot dead an Army sergeant and wounded two other civilians in a remote village in Matalam town in North Cotabato, around 7 p.m., Tuesday, a top military official said.

Lt. Nasrullah Sema, chief civil military operations of the 57th Infantry Battalion, identified the victim as Staff Sergeant Jomar Desabilla, 42, assigned at Camp Panacan of the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City.

Also wounded during the shooting incident were Rudy Cacayurin and Wilson Pagayon, both civilians and resident of Barangay Sarayan, Matalam.

Sema said the victims were having a drinking spree inside Desabilla’s residential compound when two unidentified gunmen fired shots towards them.

Desabilla was celebrating his birthday when the incident happened. He died on the spot due to multiple gunshot wounds.

The wounded civilians were brought to the Antipas Medical Specialist Hospital in Antipas, North Cotabato.

Authorities recovered from the crime site slugs from a .45 caliber pistol they believed were used in the attack.

Sema said they are investigating the motive and identities of the perpetrators.


NPA Denies Moises Padilla Threat Letters ‘Poll Bets Can Just Campaign Anywhere’

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (May 8): NPA Denies Moises Padilla Threat Letters ‘Poll Bets Can Just Campaign Anywhere’

The New People’s Army (NPA) finally denied having to do with the letters threatening some candidates and their supporters in Moises Padilla town in central Negros Occidental from campaigning.

At the same time, the NPA assured Barangay 1 (Poblacion) Kagawad Agustin Grande in the town that he and his group can campaign anytime and anywhere, assuring him that the NPA will not prevent them.

A May 1, 2013 statement from Amor Sierra of the Media Liaison Bureau of the NPA’s Apolinario "Boy" Gatmaitan Command (AGC)-Bagong Hukbong Bayan (BHB) Negros was obtained by NDB in Barangay San Agustin, Isabela, Negros Occ.

In the statement, the NPA accused "the combined forces of the AFP-PNP personnel, RPA-ABB (Kapatiran) under the wings of the incumbent town mayor (Francisco Nazareno) as part of the Special Operation."

The NPA, in the four-page statement written in the vernacular bearing the NPA-BHB logo, said the supposed NPA letters mailed individually to about 11 candidates and their supporters in Moises Padilla (Magallon) were fake.

The letters were warning recipients against campaigning unless they are willing to risk their lives.

Almost all those who were sent the fake letters belong to the camp of mayoralty candidate Ella Garcia and her vice mayoralty tandem Edwin Presquito, and their supporters that include Bayan Muna and Teddy Casiño for senator campaigner Kgd. Grande.

In correcting some details in the fake NPA letters, the Boy Gatmaitan Command said "Kagawad Grande of Brgy. 1 must not worry. We salute you in your stand to support Bayan Muna party-list and in campaigning for Teddy Casiño."

"The NPA respects your stand and your participation in the election. The NPA believes that revolution and not election is the solution," the statement added.

"Go ahead, campaign anywhere and in the hinterlands, the NPA will not bother you. If ever something will happen to you, only the AFP-PNP can do that," the statement said.

"The AGC-NPA has already released a statement that politicians and candidates can campaign in the hinterlands as long as they will not bring any unit of the AFP-PNP, etc.," it added.


Tribal head joins NPA

From the Manila Standard Today (May 8): Tribal head joins NPA

Following the aborted peace talks, Blaan chief Daguil Capion has joined the Communist Party of the Philippines’ New People’s Army in South Cotabato, the Katribu said Tuesday.

The disappearance of farmer-activist Estelita Tacalan in Cagayan de Oro last week was blamed on the government’s crackdown on activists after the collapse of the talks, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said.

Militant groups and lawmakers cited intensified attacks against the leftist activists after the Aquino government announced it had terminated the peace negotiations with the Utrecth-based National Democratic Front.

They also pressed the government to make public the hit list that contained 235 “most wanted communists” with a total reward of P466.88 million.

Kakay Tolentino, Katribu secretary general, said Capion decided to take up arms against the government because he had led his tribe in declaring a pangayaw (tribal war) against the Xstrata-Sagittarius Mining Inc.

“Daguil Capion’s decision to join the NPA comes naturally–the Blaan people have been waging tribal war against Xstrata-SMI since 1995,” Tolentino said.

Capion, she said, had to take up arms to protect their “ancestral lands” since the government had ended the talks that should have included the human and economic rights of indigenous people and their fight against big mining firms.

Katribu’s call for the resumption of the peace talks came after the report that Capion, had joined the NPA.

“Capion is one of the Blaan leaders who lead a pangayaw (tribal war) against the Xstrata-Sagittarius Mining Incorporated,” Tolentino said. “His wife and children were allegedly murdered by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 27th Infantry Battalion in the mining-affected mountain ranges in Tampakan, South Cotabato.”

She said the struggle of the Cordillera people against the construction of the Chico River Dam project in the 1980s, led by Igorot martyr Macliing Dulag is not without taking up arms against an oppressive government.

Richard Colao, KMP secretary general, said Tacalan, 60, left the Makabayan headquarters in Camaman-an, Cagayan de Oro City at around 9 a.m. of April 27, following a meeting on sectoral concerns and preparations for May 1 Labor Day activities.

Colao said Tacalan was supposed to be on her way to Misamis Oriental East to meet up with her colleagues and iron out plans for the upcoming activities.

But by 6 pm, people started to worry because she could not be reached anymore. Her mobile phone was off.

Since then, her family and friends started looking for her but she disappeared without a trace, he said.

Tacalan, fondly called by many as “Nanay Neneng”, is a member progressive peasant group KMP and Anakpawis Party-list.

Being a long time member of KMP, Colao said Tacalan has been active in organizing farming communities in the rural areas and has been tireless in campaigning for genuine agrarian reform, social justice and human rights.


Joma blasts intrigues

From the Manila Standard Today (May 8): Joma blasts intrigues

Govt out to sow rift with new peace tack’

Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison has accused the government of sowing intrigue to hide the real reason why it unilaterally scuttled the 22-year-old peace talks even as he rejected the “new approach” supposedly being crafted by the Aquino administration.

In a statement emailed to the Manila Standard on Tuesday, Sison admitted that he was simply a political consultant of the National Democratic Front and the decisions involving the Communist Party and its New People’s Army were now being made by CPP chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma.

Sison accused the Aquino administration of sowing a rift with the “much-ballyhooed new approach” that involved the escalation of military suppression and psychological warfare, the ending of peace negotiations which would be replaced with “fake” localized talks and surrenders.

Little is known of Benito Tiamzon aside from being a sociology graduate of the University of the Philippines who was a member of the CPP Political Bureau, or politburo, in the late 1980s and later gained control of the CPP central committee.

On the other hand, Sison, who was supposedly CPP chairman before his arrest in 1977, fled to Utrecht in The Netherlands shortly after he was released from detention in 1987 by President Corazon Aquino, the mother of the incumbent President.

Sison said presidential peace adviser Secretary Teresita Deles and peace panel chairman Alexander Padilla were “presumptuous and ridiculous when they talked, as if they had the power and right to choose the negotiators and consultants of the National Democratic Front.”

“[Deles and Padilla] sink to the bottom of the garbage dump of intrigues when they make false claims about my relations with the Tiamzons, whom I know to be excellent and sincere revolutionaries worthy of the highest respect,” Sison said.

Padilla earlier said the Tiamzons were now in charge of the CPP-NPA, and that this was one of the reasons why the administration is studying whether the “new approach” would still involve talking to Sison in the future through another platform and framework.

“I am only the Chief Political Consultant of the panel. Since my arrest by the Marcos dictatorship in 1977, I have never claimed to be an official of the CPP Central Committee and the NDFP National Council,” Sison said.

“The intrigues that Deles, Padilla and [presidential spokesman Edwin] Lacierda are generating in the mass media are a desperate and futile attempt to obscure the real reasons why the regime is ending the peace negotiations,” he said.

Sison said “the Aquino regime wants to scrap The Hague Joint Declaration and all subsequent agreements and to demonstrate that it does not have to negotiate with the NDFP because it depends totally on the violent and deceptive means under the US-designed Oplan Bayanihan.”

The Hague Declaration was signed by the government and the NDF on Sept. 01, 1992 and provided for negotiations to resolve the 44-year-old communist insurgency while Oplan Bayanihan is the Aquino administration’s counter-insurgency plan for the military.

“Second, the Aquino regime is willing to talk to the NDFP only for the purpose of seeking the surrender and pacification of the revolutionary forces and people through an indefinite ceasefire that permanently evades the necessity of addressing the roots of the civil war through comprehensive agreements on basic social, economic and political reforms,” Sision said.

But the CPP founder lamented that the NDF had already been tested and proven on a “special track” that the Aquino regime was not willing to cooperate or have a truce with the NDF, even if it were based on a general declaration of common intent for the benefit of the people.

“Third, the Aquino regime is allowing its corrupt bureaucrats and military officers to carry out fake localized talks and fake surrenders and to pocket privately lots of money from the Conditional Cash Transfer and PAMANA funds, which amount to more than P45 billion. The Commission on Audit has already exposed the misappropriation of such funds,” Sison said.

“If the Aquino regime continues to be intransigent, its three remaining years is not too long to let pass. The puppet, exploitative, corrupt, brutal and mendacious character of the regime will further weaken the ruling system of big comprador and landlords,” Sison said.

He said the Aquino administration “pays no serious attention to the basic problems of the Filipino people but is overdependent on mere publicity stunts, rigged poll surveys and pre-programmed elections by Smartmatic.”

Sison reiterated that Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the NDF negotiating panel, and the other members and consultants of the NDF panel enjoyed the confidence of all the members of the CPP Central Committee and the NDF National Council.

“His panel continues to carry the authorization of the CPP and NDFP and is ever ready to resume the formal talks in the peace negotiations,” Sison said.


3 NPAs fall after clash

From the Manila Bulletin (May 7): 3 NPAs fall after clash

The Army’s Special Forces Company engaged in a gun battle in Barangay Ilayang Palsabangon, here, last Saturday that ended in the arrest of three suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, a regional military commander reported yesterday.

Major General Ceasar Ronnie Ordoyo, Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) chief, identified the three captured as Rommel Torres, alias “Ka Jersey;” Elmer Brinas, alias “Ka Dapi;” and Rosalie Castillanes, alias “Ka Misty.”

Ordoyo said the three, who were undergoing debriefing as of press time, were captured as their comrades retreated in the middle of the exchange of gunfire around 2:30 p.m.
They yielded two M-14 rifles, an M653 with M203 grenade launcher; and documents with high intelligence value.

The encounter broke out after residents in Barangay Ilayang Palsabangon informed them of the presence in the area of eight armed individuals led by one alias “Daniel,” whom intelligence officers believe is former NPA-Sangay sa Platun-Hagibis leader, Alexander Mendoza.

Ordoyo said the purpose of the rebels’ presence in the area is to plan attacks on government forces and push for their permits to campaign for local candidates in the said town.


MILF warns members on elections

From the Manila Bulletin (May 8): MILF warns members on elections

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim has warned all MILF members against endorsing candidates or joining political sorties for the May 13 elections, stressing that erring followers will be punished.

In an interview with selected journalists at the MILF’s Camp Darapanan here, Murad affirmed that their front as a revolutionary organization that upholds its usual “hands-off” policy in political exercises.

But in deference to the MILF’s glowing peace process with the government, he said, individual members are now allowed to exercise limited rights of suffrages to vote only, not to endorse or join the campaign rallies of candidates of their choice.

“Our policy is no participation in elections. However, there is a little variation now. Since we know that the result of the elections (will have bearing on) the implementation of the peace agreement, we allow our members, those who want to vote or enjoy their right of suffrage,” Murad said.

He said the MILF central committee has advised individual members to vote for candidates for local and senatorial posts who appeared “supportive” to the implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), which the state and rebel peace panels signed in Malacañang on October 15, 2012.

Some MILF members have existing voters’ registrations to vote in the coming polls, but majority of the front’s active membership (government records put at 13,000) has yet to list up, Murad said.

The FAB prescribes for the MILF to form a political party and field candidates to a Transition Commission that will be established in 2015 in replacement of the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governance.

During the interview here, Murad acknowledged the forging of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last April 22 in Davao City between the ceasefire committees of the government and MILF peace panels in connections with this month’s elections.

He explained that the MOU mandates both government and MILF forces to work jointly for the peaceful and orderly conduct of the country’s first synchronized local, ARMM and national elections.

He said MILF registered voter-members will be allowed to go to election precincts to cast vote without firearms.

The MILF chieftain warned of punitive sanctions against members resorting to endorsing candidates or joining political rallies and field sorties in the current of election campaign.

Former MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu had been expelled from the front’s roster for endorsing candidates in the 2010 elections.

Our advice to them is to vote for candidates who can support the implementation of the peace process. Officially, we have no candidates. But individually, they have their choices.

Murad described the upcoming elections as “very important” because its results would have bearing on the implementation of the FAB.


No red hit list — Palace

From the Manila Bulletin (May 7): No red hit list — Palace

The government does not have any hit list of suspected communist rebels to be hunted down and executed, Malacañang made clear yesterday.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda explained they only have a list of persons who face arrest warrants issued by the courts.

“There is no hit list. What we have is the list of those who have been issued warrants of arrest,” Lacierda said in a Palace press briefing.

Lacierda also brushed aside concerns that the government is hiding the list of persons wanted by authorities. “They are public. These are all public documents. A warrant of arrest is a public document issued by the courts,” he said.

Concerned human rights activists, including a lawmaker, have expressed concern over the existence of an alleged kill list containing 235 names of communist rebels.

The groups sought the scrapping of the list, which supposedly authorizes the security forces to eliminate the communists and other activists. They are worried that some members of legitimate party list groups and other organizations might have been included in the government’s order of battle.

Malacañang, meantime, denounced anew the latest attack launched by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in a mining site compound in Negros Occidental, saying it highlighted their insincerity to pursue peace talks.

“They said they want to talk peace. But it seems that they never stopped attacking their own kababayans, our own citizens. They showed their insincerity when it comes to talking peace and wanting to come to the negotiating table,” Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.

She also assured that the government security forces will continue to protect the citizenry from the NPA-led violence.


New commander of naval forces in Eastern Mindanao sworn in

From the Manila Bulletin (May 8): New commander of naval forces in Eastern Mindanao sworn in

Navy captain Antonio Habulan, Jr. took over the highest position of the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao (NFEM) on Tuesday, May 7, replacing Commodore Isabelo Gador who will assume as commander of the naval forces in Western Mindanao in Zamboanga.

The turn-over ceremony held at the NFEM headquarters here was spearheaded by Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano, the flag officer-in-command of the Philippine Navy.

In his acceptance speech, Habulan said he will support the peace and order activities of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the AFP. He added that his command will also serve actively to ensure the peaceful and orderly conduct of elections in their area of responsibility.

The new navy commander also urged his command, including the Philippine Marines to remain loyal and supportive to the government in performing their tasks and responsibilities in the upcoming polls.

Habulan also stressed that he will continue the programs that was started by the previous command of NFEM and will further push for the reforms and ideals of the Philippine Navy.

“I know there might be some refinements but we’ll look at it and see where we are right now and push it forward for all these activities were geared to the betterment of the organization, at our level all the way to the Navy,” Habulan said.

Vice Admiral Alano challenged Habulan to have logical reasoning in carrying out his responsibilities. Giving out orders is not enough, Alano added, but a leader must lead in front by example, he emphasized.

Habulan, prior to his new assignment, was the deputy commander of the Naval Education and Training Command in Zambales.


Defense officials meet Chinese counterparts

From Malaya (May 7): Defense officials meet Chinese counterparts

RANKING defense officials of the Philippines and China met recently to improve bilateral relations and exchange views on the regional maritime and security situation, including the dragging territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

In a statement, the defense department said the Philippine delegation to the 4th Defense and Security Talks in China last April 27 was led by undersecretary for defense affairs Honorio Azcueta.

“The dialogue also served as a platform for the Philippines and China to share perspective on the regional security architecture, to include regional multilateral institutions and relations between regional powers such as that between US and China,” the statement read.

It said the dialogue also served as an opportunity for both sides “to review their bilateral defense relations and explore mechanisms to further promote defense and military cooperation, to include exchange of personnel as well as collaboration in addressing effects of natural disasters and climate change.”

The Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei are locked in a territorial dispute involving the Spratly Islands, a chain of islands and islets in the South China Sea.

China and the Philippines are also disputing ownership of Scarborough or Panatag Shoal off Zambales. Three Chinese ships are in virtual control of the shoal since a standoff in April last year.

The DND said the talks with Chinese defense officials are in keeping with the declaration of President Aquino and former Chinese President Hu Jintao to have friendly exchanges.

The statement said the DND delegation manifested that while the West Philippine Sea is a key issue between the Philippines and China, it is “not the totality of the PH-China relations, hence engagement with China should be maintained.”

It said the Chinese delegation, led by People’s Liberation Army deputy chief of staff Gen. Qi Jianguo, “acknowledged the significance of the talks in promoting relations between the two countries.”

It said the Chinese defense minister Chang Wanquan met with the DND delegation on April 28 and “acknowledged the importance of sustaining dialogue between Philippine and Chinese defense and military establishments.”

The delegation also visited China’s National Defense University where they had a “candid exchange of views” with the university’s faculty. Two Filipino officers are studying at the Chinese university.

Undersecretary for legal and legislative affairs and strategic concerns Pio Lorenzo Batino, a member of the delegation, said the meeting seeks to “further our defense cooperation in terms of exchange of students and exchange of high-level meetings.”


MNLF, MILF aid troops in foiling Abu Sayyaf ambush

From Malaya (May 8): MNLF, MILF aid troops in foiling Abu Sayyaf ambush

TWO soldiers, including a major, and two Abu Sayyaf members were killed Monday while seven others were injured when the terrorists attacked the troops who were on a civic mission program with US forces and peace process personnel in Basilan.

Col. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Army’s 104th Brigade, named the slain soldiers as Maj. Alin Kannung, executive officer of the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion, and T/Sgt. Ferdinand Costan, also of the battalion.

Kannung is a former commander of the Moro National Liberation Front. He was among hundreds of MNLF rebels who were integrated into the Armed Forces as part of a 1996 peace agreement with government.

Galvez said Kannung, 18th IB commander Lt. Col. Paolo Perez, and their men were on their way to Bohe Piang village in Al Barka town to distribute livestock and inspect projects when the fighting erupted around 3 p.m. in Sitio Pagtawanan in Magcawa village.

Galvez said MNLF and MILF rebels helped the soldiers.

“The MNLF and the MILF were with us in defending our position,” he said.

He said the attackers were led by one Basir Kasaran alias Commander Basir, and a Musana Jamiri. He said two enemy bodies were recovered at the scene but they have intelligence information that four more Abu Sayyaf men died.

He said the fighting also left four soldiers and three terrorists wounded.

Galvez said the soldiers were with US civil affairs troops and two personnel of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process at that time. He said the US troops were donors of 20 goats that were among those that were to be dispersed.

“Also, they wanted to inspect possible projects in the area…The Americans were not involved in the fighting, they withdrew when they heard the gunshots,” he said.

Galvez said the Americans, along with the two OPAPP personnel, were escorted by soldiers to a secured area. “They (Americans) withdrew because they are not allowed (to take part in combat),” he said.

“That is part of the military SOP (standard operating procedure). If there are engagements such as this, we should immediately extricate the Americans…They (Americans) are civil affairs personnel but they have no involvement (in the fighting),” he said.

He said the distribution of livestock proceeded yesterday.

Galvez said the Abu Sayyaf bandits were aided by members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, a faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. He said the bandits numbered around 30 to 40.

He said the perpetrators positioned themselves about 200 to 300 meters away from the soldiers. “Government forces were subjected to mortar and sniper fires for three hours,” he said.

Maj. Harold Cabunoc, commander of the 7th Civil Relations Group, said he spoke with Perez and narrated some of the details of the attack.

He said the soldiers’ V150 commando armored personnel carrier got stuck in mud, prompting the troops to “dismount” and secure the area.

“We have a standing operating procedure that if a vehicle is stuck, they should dismount and provide security,” said Cabunoc.

He said Kannung, who is a long-time resident of Al Barka, called his relatives from the MNLF and MILF to help them in route security. The area is a known bailiwick of the Abu Sayyaf.

“The MNLF helped, including commander Cobra and Commander Small Boy… While securing, the MNLF called him (Kannung) informing him that the Abu Sayyaf were coming to their (soldiers’) direction,” he said.

“Major Kannung was supervising the troops and was hit in the first volley of fire,” said Cabunoc.

He said the MNLF men also helped in extricating the wounded soldiers at the height of the fighting.

He said MILF commander Haji Tan also deployed MILF fighters to help Kannung, a cousin of his, to reinforce the soldiers.

“This means that the MNLF and the MNLF were on our side during that particular incident,” said Cabunoc.

“It was an ambush that was foiled by the MNLF,” said Cabunoc, stressing that the soldiers were informed of imminent attack.


New AFP spokesman, fascist coverup expert--CPP

From the CPP Website (May 7): New AFP spokesman, fascist coverup expert--CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today chided the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for appointing as its new spokesman a fascist henchman and expert at covering up AFP human rights violation.

Outgoing head of the AFP Human Rights Office (HRO), Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan is being appointed as new AFP spokesman “to lend his expertise at lies and coverups to boost the AFP psywar campaign of obscuring the worsening violations of human rights and humanitarian law being committed by the fascist soldiers in the course of the Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression.”

“As AFP HRO head, Tutaan served only to window-dress the AFP with his rhetoric and publicity gimmicks without any substantial change in the AFP’s conduct of its war against the people,” added the CPP. “Over the past three years under the Aquino regime, not a single officer of the AFP responsible for numerous crimes and violations of human rights has been prosecuted or punished.”

The CPP pointed out Gen. Jovito Palparan, who was charged for the kidnapping, illegal detention and torture of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan and peasant activist Manuel Merino remain at large. Palparan is believed to be under the protection of the AFP.

Before being appointed by Aquino as chief of the AFP Human Rights Office, Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan headed the 1003rd brigade under the brutal 10th ID and left a trail of blood in its operations in North Cotabato, Davao del Sur and Davao City.

The 1003rd brigade is responsible for the forcible recruitment and arming of Lumad under the so-called Alamara and Alsa Lumad to foment divisions and employ these to attack both Lumads and non-Lumad who are active in the democratic mass movement. These paramilitary groups were patterned after the notorious Alsa Masa group organized by the AFP in the late 1980s. “Gen. Tutaan served only to cover up their numerous crimes against the peasant masses.”

“Tutaan served as the psywar expert leading the AFP’s publicity gimmicks portraying the military as providing social services, thus supplanting local civilian agencies in an effort to cover up the AFP’s brutalities and sordid human rights record,” pointed out the CPP.


2 soldiers, 6 bandits killed in clash

From the Business Mirror (May 7): 2 soldiers, 6 bandits killed in clash

TWO soldiers, one of them an Army major, and at least six Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed while two other soldiers were wounded after a group of more than 30 bandits ambushed on Monday afternoon a convoy of 180 soldiers and civilians in Basilan.
Col. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Army’s 104th Infantry Brigade, said the incident happened at Pagtawanan, Magcawa, Al-Barka, Basilan.
The gun battle involving soldiers of the 18th Infantry Battalion happened at around 3 p.m. and resulted in the death of Maj. Alin Kannung, 53, executive officer of the 32nd IB, and TSgt. Ferdinand Costan of the 18th IB.
Galvez said some US troops were in the convoy but were not wounded.
“Sila [US troops] ang donors ng 20 goats for dispersal under the USAid [US Agency for International Development] project. They wanted to inspect the minimal cost project. But when the gun battle broke out they immediately withdrew from the scene of the firefight,” he said.
Galvez said six bandits were also killed in the firefight that lasted for about four hours.
He said the soldiers were in a six- truck convoy when attacked by the bandits.
“Our troops were supposed to bring 20 goats to a pilot project of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process [Opapp] in Barangay Bohe Piyang when fired upon by the bandits. The convoy stopped and engaged them,” Galvez said.
He said the bandits were led by Basir Kasaran and Musana Jamiri.
During the gun battle, Kannung ang Kosan led the assault but snipers’ bullets hit them and they died on the spot.
The bandits withdrew leaving their dead upon sensing the arrival of reinforcements.
After clearing operations, the military learned that some of the armed men were allegedly members of another bandit group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) of renegade Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander Ameril Umbra Kato.
“The ASG and BIFF are both bandit groups,” Galvez said.
Kato formed his BIFF after the MILF expelled him from the rebel organization for not supporting the peace process with the government. In October 2012 President Aquino and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad signed in Malacañang the Framework Agreement (FRAG) that serves as a starting point of the peace panels to work out for final signing of a peace pact.
In October 2011 19 Army Special Forces troops were killed and 14 others were seriously wounded when more than 300 MILF and Abu Sayyaf members attacked more than 80 soldiers, leading to a daylong gun battle in barangay Cambug.
The soldiers were supposed to serve the arrest warrants of wanted criminals when attacked by the rebels and bandits.

White House, US Army urged to recognize 24,000 Filipino World War II veterans

From the Business Mirror (May 7): White House, US Army urged to recognize 24,000 Filipino World War II veterans

THE Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Monday urged the White House and the US Army to heed the appeal of more than 24,000 ageing Filipino veterans who have been denied recognition of their service during World War II. 
Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. made the appeal on behalf of the 24,385 Filipino veterans in a statement on Monday, the 71st anniversary of the Fall of Corregidor—the island-fortress guarding Manila Bay where Filipino and American troops made a final stand against invading Japanese forces.
“More than anything else, let us not forget those Filipino soldiers who fought under the US flag, side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder with their American comrades and who, up to this day, continue to fight for the recognition and benefits due them for their service to America,” Cuisia said.
During the Second World War, the Philippines was a US commonwealth. The US government promised full veterans benefits to Filipinos who volunteered to fight. More than 250,000 joined.
Then, in 1946, President Harry Truman signed the Rescission Act, taking that promise away.
“The record of the Philippine soldiers for bravery and loyalty is second to none,” Truman wrote to the leaders of the House and Senate in 1946. “Their assignment was as bloody and difficult as any in which our American soldiers engaged. Under desperate circumstances they acquitted themselves nobly.”
Though Truman said the Rescission Act resulted in “discrimination,” he signed it.
According to Cuisia, those denied of recognition comprise 56 percent of the 43,083 surviving veterans who filed claims under the Filipino Veterans Compensation Fund approved by US President Barack Obama in 2009.
The fund, which was part of the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act, grants a one-time lump sum of $15,000 for veterans who have become US citizens and $9,000 for those who retained their Philippine citizenship.
“Today I call upon the US Army and the White House to honor our World War II veterans by according them due recognition by revisiting the certification process with the end in view of including other sources of records,” Cuisia said.
Retired Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, head of the Philippine Embassy’s Office of Veterans Affairs, said the recognition issue stemmed from the implementing guidelines issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2011 requiring veterans to present certification from the National Personnel Records Center that their names appear in both the Roster of Troops and the Discharge List prepared by the US Army at the end of the war.
“The claims of many of our veterans were disapproved because their names appear only in one list or the other but not both,” Lorenzana explained. “What the Embassy would like the US government to do is to allow the submission of other official documents and not decide the fate of our veterans based solely on the two lists.”
Lorenzana lamented that an interagency working group created by the White House last year to review the certification process still has not been able to resolve the issue. He said the US government has so far released a total of $223.7 million to 18,698 Filipino veterans from the $265-million compensation fund.

4 killed in Sayyaf clash in Basilan province

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 7): 4 killed in Sayyaf clash in Basilan province

Two government soldiers and two Abu Sayyaf rebels were killed in a clash in the restive province of Basilan in southern Philippines, officials said on Tuesday.

Four soldiers and three other Abu Sayyaf gunmen were also wounded in the fighting that killed Major Alin Kannung, a former Muslim rebel who joined the military after the signing of the peace accord between Manila and the Moro National Liberation Front in 1996.

Troops recovered the bodies of two slain rebels who were identified as Mingkong and Mardan Sapilin.

Kannung’s group was sent Monday afternoon to distribute livestock to a Muslim community in the town of Al-Barka when they encountered the rebels under Abu Sayya leaders Basher and Musana Jamiriat.

“Troops went to the area to distribute livestock as livelihood assistance for the residents of Al-Barka when they encountered the Abu Sayyaf and a firefight ensued,” Brig. Gen. Daniel Lucero, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Lucero said troops in Basilan were pursuing the Abu Sayyaf, a small but the most notorious rebel group blamed for the spate of bombings, killings and kidnappings in the southern region.

The Western Mindanao Command said Kannung was active in the military campaign against the Abu Sayyaf, blamed by authorities for the spate of killings and kidnappings in the southern region.


1 officer killed in Al-Barka ambush

From Rappler (May 6): 1 officer killed in Al-Barka ambush

Around 30 gunmen ambushed government troops in Al-Barka, Basilan, on Monday, May 6, killing one army major and injuring another officer, initial reports from the military said.

The reports said suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Force, a breakaway of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, ambushed members of the 18th and 32nd infrantry battalions at Pagtawanan, Barangay Magcawa, Al-Barka, Basilan at around 3pm Monday.

The injured army officer was brought to the Camp Navarro General Hospital for treatment.

The military claims the ambush was a result of the Abu Sayyaf's "hatred" because of former MNLF member Major Kanong's participation in the AFP.
New to the area and lacking in reinforcement, 19 soldiers were killed. Click here for the inside story.

Early this year, Army Col Aminkadra Undug, one of 4 military officials connected to the killings, was found guilty of violating Article of War 97 or conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline.
Undug remained in the military but faced penalties, the most senior military officer at that time to be punished in connection with a military operation.
Two other officers involved in the fiasco -- Col Alex Macario and Lt Col Orlando Edralin -- were acquitted in 2012.

Improvised bomb hits Cotabato transmission tower

From  Rappler (May 7): Improvised bomb hits Cotabato transmission tower

Suspected armed groups used an improvised explosive device (IED) in bombing a transmission tower of the National Grid Corp of the Philippines (NGCP) Monday night, May 6, in Sitio Liton, Barangay Kayaga, Kabacan, North Cotabato, according to town police chief Supt. Leo Ajero. It caused slight damage.

Ajero said a cellphone was used to trigger the explosion of the IED at 10pm Monday. “The bomb used may have failed to detonate, [it's] a low order explosive that causes only slight damage," Ajero said. No one was hurt in the incident.

The Philippine Army's 7th Infantry Battalion sent troops to check if other bombs were planted in the area.

Probers are looking into the possibility that the incident was meant to sabotage the May 13 elections. The attempt to take down power supply in the area coincided with the power crisis in Kabacan and the entire province of North Cotabato.


China sends 'one of largest' fishing fleets to Spratlys

From InterAksyon (May 7): China sends 'one of largest' fishing fleets to Spratlys

China has sent one of its largest recorded fishing fleets to disputed islands in the South China Sea, state-run media said on Tuesday, amid tensions over Beijing's assertion of its claims in the region.

A flotilla including 30 fishing vessels set sail on Monday for the Spratly Islands, an archipelago disputed between China and other countries including Vietnam and the Philippines, the China Daily reported.

The fleet left China's southern province of Hainan for a 40-day trip to the region, the report said, and includes two large transport and supply ships.

Chinese fishing boats regularly travel to the Spratlys, parts of which are also claimed by Taiwan and Brunei, but the fleet dispatched Monday was as large as one described as the biggest ever launched from the province when it set off last year.

China will make "every effort to guarantee the fleet's safety," the report quoted an official from the department of ocean and fisheries as saying.

China and neighboring countries have long used fishing fleets and maritime patrols to assert their territorial claims, and have upgraded their naval forces in recent years as tensions over claims in the South China Sea have risen.

The Philippines and Vietnam have complained that China is becoming increasingly aggressive in its actions in the area -- such as harassing fishermen -- and also through bullying diplomatic tactics.

The waters around the Spratlys are rich in fishing resources and it is believed they could hold large oil and gas reserves.


Explosion rocks North Cotabato, no one hurt

From InterAksyon (May 7): Explosion rocks North Cotabato, no one hurt


A loud explosion rocked the town of Kabacan in North Cotabato shortly before midnight Monday. No one was injured.

Kabacan police chief Superintendent Leo Ajero said the explosion, which occurred in Sitio Liton, Barangay Kayaga, was meant to bring down towers of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines in the area to try and extort money from the company.

Fortunately, none of these towers were destroyed, Ajero added.

It is not yet known what type of improvised explosive device exploded.

The attempt to blow up the electric towers in Kabacan comes in the wake of a Mindanao-wide blackout.