Friday, May 10, 2013

MILF: GPH, MILF peace panels urged to finish negotiations

From the MILF Web page (May 11): GPH, MILF peace panels urged to finish negotiations

The United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) expressed strong frustration over the results of the 37th Exploratory Talks of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in which signing of the power-sharing and wealth-sharing did not take place given the fact that annex on wealth-sharing was  already initialed by the parties last February 27.
“The results of that meeting are seen to have shaken the momentum of the entire peace process and smacked the overwhelming hope for peace of the rural people, the UNYPAD in a statement said.

The statement said that one month was given to the principals of both panels to study the document but the GPH peace panel still came back with a change of position.

“Isn’t one month not ample time for the principals to study it and come up with a decision? Why waited for after elections and what its connection? Isn’t it unprincipled and bad attitude to have initialed the document and then suddenly make major alterations? UNYPAD asked.

UNYPAD stressed that the resolution of the Bangsamoro question is the only way to rebuilding the shattered Filipino-Moro relationship, which will put into end bloodlettings in Mindanao, salvage the Philippine shrinking moral image, and get rid of its drowning economy due to the effect of the armed conflict in Mindanao and in the country in general.

It also said that the oppressed and marginalized Bangsamoro and the Filipinos who are not gaining profits out of the conflict in the country have common outcry; i.e., to settle the Bangsamoro question immediately because delaying it further is tantamount to giving space again to bloodshed to take place, and giving chance to peace spoilers, carpetbaggers and unscrupulous individuals or a ruthless clique to sabotage the whole process for their personal gains and lust to rise into power.

“It is seriously wrong to believe that if the government successfully brings the present negotiation into different way it will stall the strife in Mindanao,” it said further.

The UNYPAD called on the President of the Republic of the Philippines, Benigno Simeon Aquino III, to be more determined and stand pat in finishing the GPH-MILF peace process the soonest possible time and be not influenced by the ominous plans of unscrupulous individuals to sabotage the peace talks.

It also reiterated its all-out support to the GPH-MILF peace process and called on all sectors of the society to support it so that peace and progress will finally be achieved in the country.

MILF: Sarangani holds Forum on Responsible Voting and Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro Orientation

From the MILF Website (May 10): Sarangani holds Forum on Responsible Voting and Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro Orientation

More than 600 constituents of Maasim, Sarangani Province attended the Forum on Responsible Voting and Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro Orientation at the Municipal Gymnasium, Maasim, Sarangani Province on April 30, 2013.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Panel Members Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga and Datu Antonio Kinoc and Government of the Philippines (GPH) Peace Panel Member Prof. Yasmin Busran-Lao.

The activity, attended by Moro, IPs and Christian settlers, was conducted in a bid to promote responsible voting and educate the public on the importance of the FAB and updates on the GPH-MILF peace negotiations.

Christopher Penales from Family Planning Organization of the Philippines discussed the importance of choosing the right candidate in the upcoming May 13 national and local elections. He also hinted the voters on the good qualities of candidates to vote. Filipino citizens all over the country will elect leaders from the municipal councillors to the senate.

Lao presented and audio-video presentation on the FAB highlighting the salient points of the agreement which include 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.

She said the Transition Commission (TC) was already formed and recently held their maiden en banc session in Manila. TC is tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law and recommend amendment to the constitution.

Lao added that the Term of Reference of the third party monitoring team was already done. “The government has also launched the Sajahatra Bangsamoro at Crossing Simuay that will implement economic and social development initiatives for the Bangsamoro communities,” she disclosed.

The government panel member hoped the comprehensive peace pact agreement will be signed soon and that the Bangsamoro Government will be in place by 2016.

In his presentation, Lingga explained that the FAB is the compromise between the incompatible assertions of GPH and MILF, “while the Bangsamoro asserts for self-determination, the government asserts for sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“The conflict is between the Bangsamoro People and the Philippine Government,’ he pointed out.

Should the Bangsamoro government be established, replacing the ARMM, he elaborated that, “the relationship with the central government will be asymmetric and the state will have reserve powers while the Bangsamoro will have exclusive powers and there will also be concurrent powers.”

Lingga added that the identity of the Moro people will be Bangsamoro but they will remain Filipino citizens. He said all constituents of the Bangsamoro territory, regardless of ethnicity or belief will enjoy Basic Rights enshrined in the Philippine constitution.

He stressed the Bangsamoro Government will not be exclusive for the MILF and anybody can join the elections.

Kinoc said the rights of the IPs will be respected. He lamented that conflict in Mindanao remains because the government does not want to end it.

Lingga is optimistic that the FAB will realize the Bangsamoro aspiration with the presence of International monitors and the commitment of the parties to implement the agreement before the end of the present administration.

The panellists also answered questions from the audience during the open forum.

The activity was realized with the collaboration of International Monitoring Team-Conflict Prevention Program, Non-Violent Peace Force, and Kalinaw Sarangani Unit-Office of the Governor in partnership with MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), and supported by other local committees of MILF, and Municipal Government of Maasim.

The Local Monitoring Teams from Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat and CCCH members were also present.

Photo: Army 303rd Infantry Battalion commander Col. Jon Aying

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (May 11): Photo: Army 303rd Infantry Battalion commander Col. Jon Aying

Army 303rd Infantry Battalion commander Col. Jon Aying says they are ready to serve and protect the people especially during the election and to ensure peaceful May 13.* (Owen S. Bayog photo)

Sajahatra Bangsamoro gets initial budget of P600M

From MindaNews (May 10): Sajahatra Bangsamoro gets initial budget of P600M

The government has initially earmarked P600 million for the implementation of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro (Peace Bangsamoro), Secretary Rene Almendras told reporters on Thursday.

Sajahatra Bangsamoro is a socio-economic initiative for Moro communities that focuses on education, health and livelihood through scholarship grants, assistance to madaris, issuance of Philhealth cards, basic health care services, livelihood projects and cash for work.

But Almendras, who chairs the government’s Joint Coordination Committee for Sajahatra Bangsamoro, clarified that they have yet to determine the allocation of the fund for every program.

The initiative, he added, is not an exclusive program for Moro communities. “It is an inclusive program. This is not just for one sector but it’s really reaching out others.”

Almendras further explained that once the Bangsamoro government is established, it will cover not just Moro communities but settlers and indigenous peoples as well.

“Even if we haven’t fully established this to the basic law, we are already doing the right thing, which is not just for one group but acknowledging the fact that running that autonomous government includes providing services for everyone,” he said.

For his part, Ustadz Muhammad Swaib Yacub, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s JCC for Sajahatra Bangsamoro, said they are glad that they have been given a chance to participate in delivering services to their people.

“We are now working as a partner to reach out the real beneficiaries. So that critics will have nothing to say that we are manipulating the assistance from the government,” Yacub added.

Almendraz cited that one of the components being prioritized now is the allocation for the scholarship grants for incoming college students in June.

The scholarship grants are not just offered exclusively for Moro college students but to Christians and indigenous peoples as well.

“Originally we were just looking at 500 scholars from over a thousand nominees from the MILF and took the exam. But it was increased from 500 to 639,” Almendras disclosed.

He clarified that the scholarship grant is the same as the scholarship program of the Commission on Higher Education. The government has provided a list of courses under the grant, he said.

The only difference is that most of the slots are offered to Moro students, he added.
But Almendras said the MILF has recommended some courses which they think are needed in their respective areas.

“The nice part here is, while you are producing graduates, we agreed that they will be given jobs inside the communities. For example, those who will take up education, when they graduate, they will be brought back to the communities. They will become the teachers of the schools that will be built,” he explained.

Yacub added that they would be giving 50 scholarship grants for Christian settlers and another 50 for indigenous peoples.

The rest would be given to the Moro communities, said Yacub, who is also the executive director of the Bangsamoro Development Authority.

“The scholars will be enrolling in the nearest state universities and colleges,” he said.
Aside from the college scholarship grants, Almendras said they are also discussing 500 scholarship grants under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The JCCs of both panels are in the city for a two-day meeting to iron out plans for the implementation of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro.

Launched in February, Sajahatra Bangsamoro is a product of the “one-on-one” talks in Malacanang between President Aquino and Murad immediately after the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Almendras stressed that the Sajahatra Bangsamoro is not a short-term approach, saying that part of the implementation process is to conduct a needs assessment among the communities in order to identify the appropriate and sustainable livelihood program intervention.

Moreover, he disclosed that the initiative includes the construction of health centers, day care centers and enhancement of madaris.

But Yacub said the initiative does not include salaries for the ustadz who are teaching in the madaris.

“The form of assistance will depend on what they want. Could be infrastructure or anything that need in running the madrasah,” he told MindaNews in a separate interview.

Elders step in to patch up Muslim rebels’ rift

From the Manila Standard Today (May 10): Elders step in to patch up Muslim rebels’ rift

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front have opened communication lines in a bid to prevent the tensions in Bgy. Marbel, Matalam, North Cotabato from degenerating into a rido or clan war.

“There is now discussions on the ground among our elders. There is also high-level talks between the leadership of the MILF and MNLF,” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said on Thursday.

“While the situation is now pacified, we have to prevent a rido because an MILF member died in the clash,” Iqbal added.

A dialogue will be held among police and military officials, executives from the Commission on elections, tribal leaders,  elders, representatives from the MILF and MNLF to thresh out the prevailing situation relative to the conduct of Monday’s elections.

North Cotabato Police Senior Supt. Sergio Dimandal, Deputy Regional Director for Operations, confirmed the meeting.

“We will be having an emergency meeting with Comelec officials to thresh out the prevailing problem affecting the holding of elections on Monday,” Dimandal said.

The military said it was also closely monitoring the “precarious” situation in Brgy. Marbel to prevent the MILF from retaliating.

“The situation is now under control and relatively stable, but we want to make sure it does not graduate into a rido,” said Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Fighting erupted between the two Muslim rebel groups on Sunday after some MILF commanders pushed through with their peace caravan in the MNLF-dominated area.
But Hermoso said the MILF commanders have already left the area, except for Ali Mashur and his troops who live in Brgy. Marbel.

“There was a directive from the MILF leadership for the other units to pull out and they complied,” he said.

Government chief negotiator Miriam Ferrer confirmed the pullout, adding that the clash will not impact on the ongoing peace talks with the MILF.

“As of Monday afternoon, the hostilities have already been contained.

The peace process will not be derailed because of this,” Ferrer said in a separate phone interview.

Iqbal also denied the claim of the MNLF that MILF forces were extorting from pineapple farmers in Brgy. Marbel.

“Our members only wanted to do a peace caravan. Hindi lang siguro nagkaintindihan,” Iqbal said.

An MILF commander who asked not to be named accused MNLF commander Dima Ambel of being trigger-happy.

“He is the same MNLF commander who was responsible for past clashes in Carmen and in other neighboring towns in North Cotabato,” the source said.

Hermoso admitted that residents of Brgy. Marbel have yet to return to their houses.

“There are no more clashes, but from time to time there are gun shots being fired,” Hermoso said.

Meanwhile, an MNLF commander warned the MILF to desist from taking provocative actions that may complicate the tense situation in the area.

The MNLF leader said they had taken “defensive positions” but vowed to repulse violently any MILF attacks.

“We will defend ourselves in any worst eventuality,” the commander said.

Another MNLF commander, a certain Bensali, said they have strengthened their positions for any MILF attacks.

“We are ready for any MILF incursions.”

Bensali blamed the MILF for attacking the MNLF community “for no apparent reason”  prompting MNLF forces to retaliate that forced residents to evacuate.

“As of now the fighting had subsided but we are monitoring the situation,” Bensali said.

Dumandal, meanwhile, said they were trying their best to secure the civilians trapped in the standoff.

Bgy. Marbel is bounded by different sitios whose residents are either members of the MILF or the MNLF and their supporters.

The residents depend mostly in sugarcane farming.

CPP/NDF: Oppose the US-Aquino Regime’s Localization Scheme to Sabotage the Peace Talks with the NDFP

Posted to the CPP Website (May 10): Oppose the US-Aquino Regime’s Localization Scheme to Sabotage the Peace Talks with the NDFP

Simon Naogsan (Ka Filiw)
Cordillera People's Democratic Front

Half-way through its term, the US-Aquino regime has bared its true colors and abandoned altogether the national peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to end the four-decade old armed conflict through a negotiated political settlement. While the peace panel of the NDFP has bent backwards several times so that the peace talks can move forward to the next substantive agenda on social and economic reforms towards the remaining two issues, the reactionary Government of the Philippines (GPH) can not even simply honor and implement previously signed agreements such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).The GPH’s only desired outcome for the peace negotiation with the NDFP is not the resolution of the armed conflict but rather the capitulation of the revolutionary armed units.

 For the nth time and immediately after its official declaration of shutting the door for peace negotiations, the GPH has again shifted its psy-war machinations to calling for localized peace negotiations. Failing in its sinister scheme to achieve the capitulation of the NDFP and its allied organizations, and realizing that it cannot achieve a semblance of stability through a bilateral ceasefire before the May 13 elections, or even before the annual State of the Nation Address, the Aquino regime has sought desperately to project political stability by presenting a facade of local peace talks.

MalacaƱang and the Department of Interior and Local Government trumpets the same failed formula undertaken over two decades ago that seeks to sabotage national peace negotiations by attempting to split the ranks of the revolutionaries, spread innuendos and deceive the general public and the broad masses. Then and now, Teresita Deles of the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process relegated the stalled national level peace talks to the freezer and attempted to initiate “dialogue” with non-existent or fake local revolutionaries by introducing the murky concept of “peace zones”.

MalacaƱang, like before, will eventually find itself talking only to itself, as its withdrawal from the national level peace negotiations only exposes its duplicity and reactionary character.

 The Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF), acting as NDF-Cordillera, asserts the following:

 1. That it is one with the CPP-NPA-NDFP in supporting the national level peace talks and reject any local peace talks with any of its allied revolutionary organization;

 2. That the national level peace talks must address the root causes of the armed conflict in order to achieve genuine and lasting peace;

 3. That it condemns the divisive tactics of the GPH and the resulting abandonment of the national level peace process for a political settlement of the armed conflict.

 The CPDF reiterates its call for all the national minorities throughout the land to persevere and accelerate the mass struggle to defend ancestral land, livelihood, rights and resources, and all-roundedly mobilize its ranks to advance the people’s war towards a higher stage of struggle until final victory where genuine and lasting peace, freedom, democracy and justice prevail.

 Rebolusyon kayet!#

CPP/NPA: 17th IB suffers early punishment in Kalinga; 5ID spokesperson and 17th IB lied to save face

Posted to the CPP Website (May 10): 17th IB suffers early punishment in Kalinga; 5ID spokesperson and 17th IB lied to save face

Tipon Gil-ayab
NPA Kalinga Provincial Operations Command (Lejo Cawilan Command)

The newly-transferred 17th IB was ambushed by a unit of NPA-Kalinga on the evening of May 8, 2013. Initial field reports received by the Lejo Cawilan Command indicate that the incident took place at the roadside of Sitio Patiking, Bagumbayan, Tabuk, when Red Fighters fired upon a lone army vehicle. Two (2) soldiers were killed, six (6) were wounded, and the NPA unit carted away 1 M16 rifle, along with other logistics. The Philippine Army unit included an Intelligence Officer of the 5ID, who were among those killed.

Philippine Army units in Kalinga were dispatched in areas believed to be strongholds of the NPA, as part of the Aquino Government’s campaign to malign and defeat legal and progressive party lists, in clear violation of COMELEC guidelines. These Philippine Army units have been destroying campaign paraphernalia of these partylists, and are posting materials against the same. As always, the AFP makes a mockery of supposed democratic processes. Since May 4, Philippine Army units were deployed in Lubuagan; and since May 8 in barangays Balantoy, Poblacion, and Mabaca of Balbalan; Asibanglan, Pinukpuk; Guinaang and Bagtayan, Pasil, among others.

5ID Spokesperson Col. Magundayao is a big liar, claiming that the ambush took place on the morning of May 9, 2013, and that the army unit was part of a convoy of PNP and COMELEC delegation, dispatched to deliver PCOS machines in Lubuagan. The AFP is covering-up a tactical error, and is using the May 13 elections to villify the NPA, depicting the real people’s army as “enemies of democracy”. Malacanang was quick to believe it’s running dogs in the AFP, and condemned the NPA declaring, as always, that they “will pursue and punish the perpetrators.” The 17th IB is also spreading lies in Kalinga that the ambush was planned by progressive partylists, and a vice-gubernatorial candidate.

Philippine Army units have long been conducting special operations team-type (SOT) internal security operations (ISO), now called “Peace and Development Team” (PDT) operations, under Oplan Bayanihan. The AFP claims that troops involved in these operations are non-combatants, claiming that they only implement projects; but in fact, these PDTs are deodorized SOT units, implementing triad operations that include combat, intelligence and civil-military components, and as such, are regular targets of all NPA units. These PDTs have long been violating the International Humanitarian Laws (IHL), Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (CAHRIHL), and certain provisions of the Indigenous People’s Rights Law. PDTs are based in barangay halls, day care centers, or in houses at the center of the barrio. They use civilian vehicles and force civilians to procure and/or deliver supplies, logistics, and communications.

The NPA will continue to launch tactical offensives against the AFP and PNP, the primary instruments of the Aquino Regime in mocking so-called democratic processes such as elections, the main culprits in perpetrating human rights violations, and the security forces of big business interests in the province such as corporate mining, and geothermal and hydro-electric projects. We will intensify attacks because of the Aquino Regime’s junking of the peace talks between the NDFP and the GPH. And surely, the NPA, along with the entire revolutionary movement and the broad Filipino masses, will deafeat Oplan Bayanihan, and carry forward the national democratic revolution to strategic stalemate until final victory!

Coast Guard admits killing Taiwanese fisherman, claims self-defense

From InterAksyon (May 10): Coast Guard admits killing Taiwanese fisherman, claims self-defense

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources chief Atty. Asis Perez points to the exact location where the Coast Guard intercepted 4 Taiwanese fishing vessels at 43 NM East of Balintang Island, Luzon Strait. A Taiwanese fisherman was killed as the PCG fired warning shots when one of the boats moved to ram the BFAR boat. PHOTO BY PAULO VECINA

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Friday admitted to shooting at a Taiwanese vessel off Batanes, which led to the death of a 65-year old fishermen. But it stressed its personnel did so in self-defense as the foreign vessel tried to ram the PCG ship.

Nevertheless, PCG Commandant Admiral Rodolfo Isorena vowed a thorough investigation into the incident and has already relieved 11 PCG personnel. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) also relieved two of its personnel.

The PCG reported that the BFAR MCS 3001 fired at the Taiwanese fishing vessel Guang Ta Hsin 28 at 164 nautical miles off Balintang Channel 10 a.m. Thursday.

It said the PCG ship was attempting to accost the Guang Ta Hsin 28 and two other Taiwanese vessels. However, the Guang Ta Hsin 28 reportedly headed for the PCG vessel to ram it, prompting its crew to open fire.

The incident led to the death of 65-year old Hung Shih Cheng.

Isorena explained that Coast Guard personnel had just tried to board the fishing vessel but it "maneuvered," evading the Coast Guard ship. This prompted PCG personnel to fire a warning shot, and then fired at the fishing vessel's machinery. The foreign vessel then withdrew from the area.

"We now have information that one of the fishermen died. This incident is very unfortunate,” he added, and said efforts will be exerted to prevent similar occurrences.

Isorena vowed that the Coast Guard will strengthen its presence in the area to prevent intrusion of foreign vessels in Philippine territory.

Earlier, Chinese media reported the incident involved the Philippine Navy.

The Navy denied any involvement and said all vessels of Naval Forces Northern Luzon were in port at Subic or in Sual, Pangasinan.

"The Philippine Navy denies any involvement in, much as we were saddened by, the news about an incident where a Taiwanese fisherman was reportedly shot and the wound led to his death," Navy spokesman on the West Philippine Sea, Colonel Edgard Arevalo, said.

A report run by the Chinese news agency Xinhua, quoted Tsay Tzu-yaw, deputy head of Taiwan's fishery administration, as saying a Philippine military ship opened fire on the fishing boat some 180 nautical miles off Erluanbi, the southernmost tip of Taiwan.

The Xinhua report also said the Filipino ship continued to chase and fire at the fleeing Taiwanese vessel, which sustained heavy damage.

“We strongly protest and condemn that a Philippine government boat attacked our fishing boat and demand the Philippines formally apologize, apprehend the murderer and compensate,” a statement from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

China also condemned the incident and called it "barbaric."

Asked about the report, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said: "We cannot confirm it. We will check that."

The Philippines and Taiwan, along with Brunei, China and Malaysia, have conflicting claims to parts of the South China Sea.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949, although Beijing claims the island. The Philippines has no diplomatic ties with Taiwan but maintains economic and cultural links.