Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ismail Omar: Tackling terrorist intrusion into Sabah big challenge

From the Borneo Post Online: Ismail Omar: Tackling terrorist intrusion into Sabah big challenge

KUALA LUMPUR: The successful tackle of the armed intrusion into Sabah by terrorists from the Southern Philippines is the sweetest present for Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar who will celebrate his 60th birthday today.

The intrusion on Feb 11 was a bloody incident in the history of the nation for the security forces after the communist offensive and the Indonesia-Malaysian confrontation in the 1960s.

The group of armed intruders aspired to take Sabah away from Malaysia unlawfully, with the deployment of 150 hired mercenaries.

Ismail, working shoulder-to-shoulder with Armed Forces (ATM) chief Gen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin through the Blue Ocean strategy, launched ‘Operasi Daulat’ from March 5, after a month-long negotiation to send the terrorists back stalemated.

The operation was also launched after eight policemen were killed in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu and in Semporna during the terrorist attacks on March 1 and 2.
During ‘Operasi Daulat’, two soldiers were killed.

The success of the offensive saw 68 terrorists shot dead and 173 detained under the Security Offences Act (Special Measures) 2012 (Sosma), and 443 others detained for numerous other offences.

‘Operasi Daulat’ was concluded after the government set up the Sabah Special Security Area (Esscom), covering 1,400km of the east coast of the state from March 29, similtaneously with the enforcement of the East Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) to ensure security and peace in the state.

Five days after the implementation, Ismail’s capability was once again tested to look after public security when the Dewan Rakyat was dissolved on April 3 for the 13th General Election.

During the campaigning period until polling day on May 5, Ismail successfully ensured the transition process in the selection of the government, despite small incidents of scuffles reported nationwide.

Maybe, this year is the busiest for this Kulim-born to ensure the security and public order in the country. Today is the day for the nation’s top cop to call it a day.

After four decades of good deeds in the ‘Harimau Biru’ team, beginning 1971 as trainee inspector, tomorrow is a day of Ismail’s retirement from the force.

During his career, he held several posts, including prosecution officer at the courts in Ipoh, Perak in 1994; Seberang Perai Tengah district police chief (1996); Bukit Aman CID principal assistant director II (2005); Selangor police chief (2006); Bukit Aman police management director (2007); deputy inspector-general of police (2007); and, inspector-general of police (2010). — Bernama

Mining firm loses P400,000 to ‘rebels’

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 15): Mining firm loses P400,000 to ‘rebels’

The Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office and the Philippine Army said they are investigating the hold-up incident at a mining firm in Tayasan Saturday, but said they believe it was not election-related.

NOPPO director, Senior Supt. Noli Romana, and 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, Col. Francisco Patrimonio, said the incident could have been perpetrated by members of the New People’s Army.

Belated reports from the police and the military showed that, at around 10:45 a.m. Saturday, around 20 armed men flagged down two Toyota Hi-Lux pickup trucks of the PDEP Mining in Sitio Bantog, Barangay Lag-it, Tayasan, and declared a hold-up.

The suspects reportedly held hostage an employee of the mining company and fled towards Sitio Trocat of the same barangay, with more than P400,000 in wages of company workers, Patrimonio said.

The status and location of the hostage was not immediately known.

Romana said he has directed the police chief of Tayasan to further investigate the incident.

Patrimonio said the company also reported a hold-up incident last year.

Maguindanao rice trader abducted

From the Philippine  Daily Inquirer (May 15): Maguindanao rice trader abducted

The son of a former barangay (village) official in the municipality of Ampatuan, where the infamous 2009 Maguindanao massacre took place, was abducted by suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the police said Wednesday.

Senior Inspector Ronald de Leon, police chief of Ampatuan town, said Kenneth Cabrera, 25, was tending to the family’s rice and corn trading shop in Barangay Kauran when he was abducted by an undetermined number of suspected BIFF rebels around 4 p.m. Tuesday.

De Leon said the armed men dragged the victim to a getaway car parked a few meters away from the store.

Cabrera is a son of former Kauran village councilor Rafael Cabrera.

De Leon said policemen who went after the abductors recovered the getaway car—a grey Toyota van—in Barangay Salman, where 32 journalists and several members of the Mangudadatu clan were murdered and buried en masse by armed men allegedly led by members of the Ampatuan family, particularly Andal Jr.

In pointing to the BIFF as responsible for the Cabrera abduction, De Leon said the police had long received intelligence information that the man was being targeted for abduction.

But de Leon said the reason for that remained unclear to this day and the police were uncertain if the abduction was for ransom as no demand had been relayed to the family.

Suspected BIFF members abduct trader

From the Philippine Star (May 15): Suspected BIFF members abduct trader

Suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) kidnapped a grains trader in Maguindanao’s Ampatuan town Tuesday afternoon, police said.

Senior Supt. Rudelio Jocson, director of the Maguindanao police, said 26-year-old Kenneth Cabrera was snatched by gunmen near his rice and corn trading outlet in Barangay Kauran, a roadside business hub in Ampatuan town.

Cabrera was reportedly shot by his abductors when he tried to fight them off.

The gunmen, disguised as farmers inquiring buying prices for corn grains, forced the wounded Cabrera into a waiting getaway vehicle parked near his establishment.

Investigators said the kidnappers’ Toyota Corona car carrying Cabrera, bearing license plates PCH 748 was seen speeding toward the site of the infamous Nov. 23, 2009 “Maguindanao Massacre,” in Barangay Salman, about a kilometer north of Barangay Kauran.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said soldiers are now helping policemen run after the kidnappers.

Balintang sea shooting captured in video — PH

From the Manila Standard Today (May 15): Balintang sea shooting captured in video — PH

The government said on Tuesday that it would release the video of the Philippine Coast Guard on the maritime incident in Balintang Channel last week that resulted in the death of a 65-year old Taiwanese fisherman.

“I think that (release of the video) should not be a problem. It will be part of the investigation,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

Other than the release of the video, however, Lacierda said the government will not engage in a media war with Taiwan over the incident amid reported threats of economic sanctions against the Philippines.

Lacierda made the statement even as Taiwan had announced that it would conduct naval drills near the country’s territorial waters “if Manila does not officially apologize to the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman.”

The Taiwanese Navy added it would conduct the drills at the Bashi Channel, where the fisherman, later identified a Hung Shih-cheng, was killed.

But following Malacanang’s directive, military and defense officials deferred from making any reaction on Taipei’s apparent “show of force.”

“We have to defer [from] issuing any statement because the issue, which is about international relations, is already the domain of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Malacanang,” Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gregory Gerald Fabic said.

Fabic added, however, that the Navy was ready to patrol and guard Philippine waters from foreign intrusions.

“We have naval stations and assets in the part of the region. They will be monitoring the naval exercises they [Taiwan] will be conducting,” he said.

Defense spokesman Paul Reuben Galvez likewise refused to comment on the issue.
“To avoid any misunderstanding, we defer [our] comments regarding that matter with the Foreign Affairs.”

Lacierda, meanwhile, said the government’s response will be  handed through “proper channels.”

“There will be a response and it will be handed through the proper channels and not through media,” Lacierda said.

He said that it would be Antonio Basilio, managing director and resident representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, who would deliver the government’s response to his counterpart.

A week ago, Basilio travelled to the Liouchiou Island in the southern region over the weekend to personally apologize and offer his condolences to the family of Hung.

Taipei rejects apology

From the Manila Standard Today (May 16): Taipei rejects apology

Taiwan on Wednesday rejected an apology from President Benigno Aquino III for the shooting death last week of a Taiwanese fisherman, refusing to meet his personal envoy in Taipei and announcing new sanctions against Manila.

Taiwan’s Central News Agency said Foreign Minister David Lin refused to receive Mr. Aquino’s envoy, Manila Economic and Cultural Office Chairman Amadeo Perez Jr., Wednesday night because he was “not sufficiently authorized.”

As a new deadline for an apology lapsed, Premier Jiang Yi-huah announced that Taipei was imposing a red alert on travel to the Philippines, removing the country from its visa-waiver program, and suspending exchanges and cooperation in several domains, including fishing, science and technology, and aviation negotiations.

High-level meetings between officials of both countries would also stop, Jiang said.
The new sanctions also included a round of joint Navy, Coast Guard Administration and Air Force maneuvers scheduled for Thursday.

“The statements by the Philippines changed back and forth from start to finish and lacked sincerity,” Jiang said Wednesday evening.

He added that the government had set up a special task force to supervise the implementation of the sanctions, but also called on citizens not to take their anger over the incident out on innocent Filipino residents in the country.

The new measures came in addition to the immediate suspension of the processing of applications by Filipinos to work in Taiwan, the recall of representative Raymond Wang from Manila and the demand for Manila’s representative in Taipei Antonio Basilio to return to the Philippines.

The three sanctions were announced in the morning after President Ma Ying-jeou was reportedly furious about the lack of progress made during a meeting between Lin and Basilio Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Palace announced that President Aquino was sending Perez with his apologies over last week’s shooting death.

Mr. Aquino’s apology came less than a day after Taiwan rejected an expression of regret by the Philippines envoy to the island, Basilio, over the incident. Taiwan announced it was instituting a hiring freeze on Philippine workers, recalling its envoy to Manila and discouraging travel to the Southeast Asian nation.

Hours later, Philippine presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino was sending his personal representative to Taipei with a letter expressing his “deep regret and apology” as the President of the Republic of the Philippines and the Filipino people.

Perez would convey the President and the Filipino people’s “deep regret and apology to the family of Mr. Hung Shih-chen as well as to the people of Taiwan over the unfortunate and unintended loss of life, Lacierda said in a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, his second for the day on the topic.

Towards noon, Lacierda told the press the Palace would not be responding to media queries over the incident “with the objective of preventing further escalation while deliberations are ongoing.”

At 3:30 p.m Lacierda announced the President’s letter of apology.

The President’s apology Wednesday was in stark contrast to the Palace’s initial refusal to apologize over the weekend, and its insistence that the Taiwanese fishing vessel had tried to ram a Coast Guard vessel in Philippine waters in an “aggressive act.”

But on Wednesday, Lacierda said the latest apology was the result of deliberations conducted by the President and various government officials.

“We understand the grief and hurt of the family and of the people of Taiwan over this unfortunate loss and we empathize with them,” Lacierda added.

On Saturday, Basilio went to Hung’s hometown to personally apologize on behalf of the Filipino people to family of the deceased.

Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported that Basilio told Hung’s family that the incident “resulted from a misunderstanding.”

Deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte, who had earlier talked tough, also apologized for Hung’s death, and assured the Taiwanese people that the investigation into the incident “will be conducted in an impartial, transparent and expeditious manner.”

On Monday, Taipei issued a 72-hour ultimatum for the Philippines to issue a formal and official apology as well as to compensate Hung’s family.

The President responded by calling for “calm” and sobriety, adding that the “process” by which the Coast Guard apprehended the Taiwanese fishing vessels will be reviewed.

On Tuesday, Taiwan suspended the processing of visa applications for Filipino workers bound for Taipei.

Hours before the Mr. Aquino’s apology was announced, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou pulled out Raymond Wang, the resident representative of the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office to Manila.

Lacierda said Mr. Aquino has also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the maritime incident that involved personnel of the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

“Upon orders from the President, the National Bureau of Investigation has already started the investigation and is committed to a thorough, exhaustive, impartial and expeditious investigation of the incident,” Lacierda said.

“The NBI has given this case the highest priority,” he added.

Lacierda, however, could not give a categorical answer yet on whether the government will compensate Hung’s family.

Aside from a formal apology, Taiwan has demanded that Hung’s family be compensated, the perpetrator be apprehended, and fishing talks between the two countries be scheduled soon.

Lacierda said Filipino citizens have already given private donations to Hung’s family.
Perez was also expected to meet with Hung’s family today (Thursday), Lacierda said.
“As far as the Philippine government is concerned, our statement has been very emphatic with respect to our deep regret over the incident and this also an apology to the family of Mr. Hung Shih-Chen,” he said.

Lacierda also expressed hope that Taiwan would “revisit” its decision to freeze the processing of work permit applications of overseas Filipino workers.

“But, nonetheless, the Philippine government is preparing for the contingencies,” he said.

About 80,000 overseas Filipino workers live and work in Taiwan, mostly as factory workers or caregivers.

The Labor and Employment Department on Wednesday said it is looking at South Korea and Middle Eastern countries to take up the slack if Filipino workers are turned away by Taiwan.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said Taiwan had stopped issuing working visas to Filipinos, but this should not affect Filipinos already working there.

Like many countries, the Philippines sticks to a One-China policy, but retains unofficial diplomatic relations with Taiwan through economic and cultural cooperation offices.

Earlier, Premier Jiang Yi-huah said Taiwan was displeased with an apology delivered by the Philippine representative office in Taipei, saying its phrasing reflected a desire by the Philippines government to distance itself from the affair.

Jiang also professed unhappiness with the source of compensation money the family of the fisherman will receive— the Filipino people rather than the Philippines government itself.

“The shooting was conducted by one of its civil servants, and its government could not evade the responsibility,” Jiang said, adding that Taiwan wants to be informed about whether the guilty party or parties will be charged, jailed or dismissed.

China has tried to make common cause with Taiwan on the fisherman’s death, part of its efforts to emphasize its claims of sovereignty over the island of 23 million people. Taiwan has so far resisted those attempts. The two split amid civil war in 1949.

On Wednesday the spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council in Beijing repeated the mainland’s condemnation of the Philippines’ handling of the incident.

Malaysian court metes life on 18 ‘intruders’

From the Manila Standard Today (May 16): Malaysian court metes life on 18 ‘intruders’

Eight Filipino supporters of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who were arrested and charged for intrusion into Sabah were sentenced to life imprisonment by a Malaysian court, the Sulu Sultanate said on Wednesday.

Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said the Malaysian court convicted the Filipinos even without proper legal representation.

We have received information from the relatives of the eight Filipinos that they have already been sentenced and transferred from Sabah to Kuala Lumpur to serve their sentences,” Idjirani said.

The convicted Filipino detainees were identified as Rijmal Salleh, Saidili Jaharul, Dani Ismail, Pabblo Alie, Mohamad Ali Ahmad, Basil Samiul,  Abdul Majil Jubin and Rizman Gulan.

They were earlier charged of waging a war against Malaysian king, Yang di-Pertuan Agong and for engaging in terrorism-related for their part in the Sabah intrusion on February and the subsequent clashes with Malaysian security forces.

Idjirani said the sultanate condemns the swift conviction of the eight Filipinos, who he said were denied due process.

“The trial and conviction of the Filipinos did not undergo due process because they were not given legal counsels during the hearings, if there were any,” he said, adding that relatives could not even visit them in prison.

The Malaysian government has repeatedly denied the Philippine government’s request to provide consular assistance to the detained Filipinos believed to be followers of  Kiram,  citing “security reasons.”

The Malaysian government also charged a local woman identified as Norhaida Ibnahi for allegedly harboring the Kiram followers at a house in Kampung Sri Melor and  Bugaya in Semporna between February 9 and March 22.

Also charged was Kiram’s nephew, Datu Amirbahar Hushin Kiram, the son of Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram II, the sultan’s younger brother.

79th IB Troopers Clash Anew

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (May 16): 79th IB Troopers Clash Anew

Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental - Troops from 79th Infantry Battalion led by 1Lt. Ronnie Sarmiento while conducting combat operations encountered more or less 30 heavily armed NPAs in the hinterlands of Sitio Naupao, Barangay San Pedro, Sta Catalina town at around 04:40pm yesterday. Another soldier was reportedly wounded during the firefight.

As the NPAs withdrew in disarray after a few minutes of firefights, they were again engaged by the nearby troops from 79th IB led by 2Lt. John Tumamao and 2Lt. Christopher Eslava. Firefight was still ongoing as of 06:00 P.M. yesterday.

These NPAs were believed to be the same group of NPAs that was encountered by the troops of 79th IB in So Bungabong, Brgy Milagrosa yesterday, estimated four kilometers from the latest encounter site.

Colonel Francisco Patrimonio, the Commanding Officer of the Army’s 302nd Brigade, has directed the troops to conduct pursuit operations following the blood traces left behind by the NPAs. "We will run after them. We will not allow them (bandits) to carry out violent activities to the peace loving residents of the locality," Patrimonio said.

The military has already coordinated with PNP counterparts for complementary checkpoint operations in the nearby barangays to prevent the NPAs from nearing the civilian populace and using them as human shields.

Three soldiers wounded in Kalinga ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15): Three soldiers wounded in Kalinga ambush

A group of armed men believed to be members of the New People's Army (NPA) fired upon army soldiers in security detail in Baay, Pinukpuk, Kalinga Province at 3:00 a.m. Wednesday, wounding three of the government troopers.

Police Senior Superintendent Dave Limmong, public information officer of the Cordillera Regional Office Cordillera (PROCOR) said the ambushed soldiers belong to the Second Bravo Company of the 17th Infantry Brigade.

The wounded soldiers were identified in the flash radio report from their commander Colonel Roger Salvador as Sgt. Calilid, Pfc. Landa and Pfc Viray. More details from the site cannot be made available as of press time.

Records showed this is the second ambush in the same province since May 11, 2013 when suspected NPA communist guerillas fired upon soldiers securing the recent mid-term elections. Three of the soldiers died and five survived with severe injuries in that attack.

Salvador informed the PROCOR that pursuit operations are underway, while the wounded soldiers were evacuated for treatment at a hospital in Caoayan, Isabela.

The province which was formerly part of the Cagayan Valley region is known to be infested by remnants of the NPA.

3 rebels surrender to Philippine Navy

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15): 3 rebels surrender to Philippine Navy

Three members of the New People’s Army (NPA) affiliated with the Front Committee-Leyte, Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee (EVRPC) surrendered to the Philippine Navy (PN) this week.

Subsequently, surenderees identified only as Alias Toto, Ben and Sitoy received monetary remunerations for their surrendered firearms in accordance with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “Guns for Peace Program.”

Each received P75,000 that they can utilize as they try to mainstream in their respective communities.

Sub-machine gun and a caliber 45 pistol were voluntarily handed over by the surrenderees to PN commanding officer Lt/JG Kimo I. Uayan on May 12.

The surrendered firearms will greatly contribute to the reduction of manpower and firearms in the Eastern Visayas of the rebel group.

“The success of this undertaking will become part of the overall efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in creating and maintaining peace and sustaining development in this part of the Visayas,” said Uayan.

“This is the result of the Naval Forces Central efforts and initiatives in support to the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan. As a vanguard of peace and security of this maritime nation, one of our missions is to help the AFP stop the four-decade long insurgency in our country,” he added.

The Navy officer also thanked other government agencies that helped them in their strategic effort in pursuits toward eradicating the internal security problems of the country for development to gain grounds in this part of the country.

The “Guns for Peace Program” program serves as venue to facilitate NPA rebels and other armed groups that intend to lay down their arms and return to the mainstream society.

Army official injured in Camp Delgado fire

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15): Army official injured in Camp Delgado fire  

The commanding officer of the Explosives and Ordnance Division of Philippine Army suffered first degree burns in an early morning blaze that hit Camp Martin Delgado regional headquarters housing the Police Regional Office 6 at Fort San Pedro here.

The early morning blaze totally burned the EOD office and also damaged other adjoining offices that include the Arms and Communications Office of the Philippine Army as well as portions of the Regional Logistics Division Office of PRO6 and the office of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

With the billowing fire, loud explosions echoed which they believed was triggered by a cache of explosive inside the EOD.

The powerful explosion which rocked the entire PNP regional headquarters and clustered barangays surrounding the camp, shattered the jalousy windows and riddled the wall of other nearby offices inside Camp Delgado.

It was unfortunate that Capt. Noel Frias, the chief of the Philippine Army’s EOD was inside his office when the fateful incident happened that resulted to his injuries.

He is presently confined in a city hospital from injuries and first degree burn he suffered in the different parts of his body as an aftermath of the strong explosion.

The powerful blast also awakened and alarmed barangay residents in the waterfront areas wee hours in the morning thinking the PNP camp might be under attack from hostile forces.

They later realized that an early morning fire hit the camp after they heard sirens of firetrucks from the nearby Bureau of Fire Protection along Aduana area rumbled toward the camp to put out the blaze.

In its initial finding, the team of arson probers said the fire started from the power transformer adjoining the PA’s EOD office though they are presently conducting a thorough investigation on the incident.

Meanwhile, Camp Delgado has yet to determine the estimated damage brought by the early morning blaze.

Cops arrest 2 Abu Sayyaf members on bombing mission in Marawi

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15): Cops arrest 2 Abu Sayyaf members on bombing mission in Marawi

CAMP SK PENDATUN, Maguindanao, May 15 (PNA) -- Alert policemen in Marawi City on Tuesday arrested two suspected members of the extremist Abu Sayyaf who were planning to launch bombings in the city and its environs.

Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes, police regional director in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao where Marawi City was a component city, said the two were cornered at Barangay Fort, Marawi City.

They were identified as Termije Ahmad alias "Emran Napeh" and Reneer Lou Dongon, aka "Roly Unting."

Citing intelligence reports, delos Reyes said the police have received information about the coming of suspected Abu Sayyaf members in Marawi City for bombing operations during election day.

There was a bombing incident on election day but was attributed to partisan political groups, not Abu Sayyaf.

Delos Reyes said the two were implicated in the bombing of the Maxandrea Hotel in Cagayan de Oro in 2012.

Policemen backed by soldiers also seized from Ahmad and Dongon several ammunition, blasting caps, batteries, a .45 caliber pistol and bomb-making materials for improvised explosive devices.

Delos Reyes lauded the civilians for alerting the police about the presence of suspicious-looking men.

Police in Marawi remained on heightened alert two days after the election as threats from terrorist groups and defeated political candidates remain high.

Resort bombing foiled

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (May 15): Resort bombing foiled

THE prompt recovery of an improvised explosive device (IED) has foiled a bombing attempt of a resort in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, a police spokesman said Wednesday.

Zamboanga Peninsula police spokesman Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca said the IED was discovered near the gate of Inland Resort around 9:30 a.m., Tuesday in Poblacion village, Buug municipality.

Huesca said the security guard, who discovered the IED, transferred the bomb to the garbage area of the resort and notified everyone to stay away.

The security guard reported his finding to village councilman Roberto Danios, who in turn informed the police.

Responding policemen cordoned the place, paving the way for the combined police and military explosive ordnance demolition (EOD) personnel to conduct disruption procedure, Huesca said.

He added that investigation continues to establish the motive and unmask the suspect.
The police, in coordination with the military, also strengthened security measures in the municipality of Buug, he said.

U.S. urges PHL, Taiwan to 'refrain from escalation'

From GMA News (May 16): U.S. urges PHL, Taiwan to 'refrain from escalation'

PHL envoy to visit family of slain Taiwanese fisherman

Antonio Basilio (left), the Philippines' representative to Taiwan, and Taiwan Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin talk before a joint news conference in Taipei on Wednesday. Amadeo Perez, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) will arrive in Taiwan on May 15 to visit the family of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, who was shot dead by Filipino coast guards in the disputed waters in the South China Sea last week. Reuters/Pichi Chuang

The United States said on Wednesday it is concerned with the increase in tensions between Taiwan and the Philippines over the killing of a fisherman from Taiwan last week and urged them to work their through their differences as quickly as possible.
"We urged the Philippines and Taiwan to take all appropriate measures to clarify disagreements and prevent recurrence of such tragic events," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.
"We continue to urge both parties to ensure maritime safety and refrain from actions that could further escalate tensions in the region and undermine prospects for a rapid and effective resolution of differences," he added.
Taiwan imposed sanctions against the Philippines on Wednesday rejecting as unacceptable a Philippine apology for the killing of the fisherman last week.

MILF: Editorial--All candidates are losers

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (May 16): All candidates are losers

The sad of part of confrontational politics especially after elections is that all candidates whether winners or losers are losers. After elections, those who lost suffered a shattered image, revolting heart, and punctured pockets.
The winners, of course, will rejoice but at the back of their minds, they are figuring out how they can get back their money --- with tripled, quadrupled, or perhaps more profits.

Confrontational politics is contrary to what all experts on conflict management that the best way is to look for win-win solutions. Except those who run as a way of business, meaning those who withdraw after getting paid by whose turfs are affected, imagine everybody engages in mudslinging, vote-buying, intimidation, and other forms of cheating. This breeds only animosities, hatred, and even violence in society.

Perhaps with few exceptions or none at all, candidates’ only motive in running for office is power and money. Those using the people as reason for running is nothing but rhetoric.  The people are merely used as rubber stamp.

Power is addictive, while wealth satisfies no one. The duo are inseparable. Power bestows benefits on those who have it, and it is easy to create a system which allows a few to exploit others for personal gain. Similarly or worse, money is treated as god by many, because it can command and it can create more wealth. One MNLF commander in Cotabato once said in 1973, “Money is nothing but if you have no money you are nothing.”

Whether power is for them, or in solidarity with others, the act of redistributing power and resources is a great challenge. The more power is distributed vertically, the more those at the top prefer to see it become aggregated in them and the more they will resist its distribution, using both coercion and persuasion as necessary, usually simultaneously.

To strengthen their control over society, those in power will accept only those freedoms that are granted through them, rather than recognizing the right to self-determination by each individual. They will further legitimize their authority through claiming control of resources. Economic necessity becomes a tool of oppression, thus putting access to resources such as land or the means to making a living at the center of incessant struggle.

Contrary to popular view especially in the Western Hemisphere, election is not the only way to measure whether or not there is democracy in a certain country. In truth, the lesser confrontational politics such as in federalism where the head of state is elected or selected by the majority party or coalition the better chance for it to develop and advance faster. Surveys show that most advanced countries follow the federal or parliamentary systems, because there is less politics and rate of elections.

MILF: MILF TC members hold workshop on FASTRAC

From the MILF Website (May 16): MILF TC members hold workshop on FASTRAC

In consonance with the programs of the Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities (FASTRAC) of providing support to the peace process and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) launched last April 29, 2013 at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, the MILF TransCom members held yesterday, May 14, 2013 a workshop at the BLMI training Hall, Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The workshop facilitated by Atty. Najib Sinarimbo, member of the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the MILF Peace Panel was aimed at identifying programs that shall be undertaken with technical and logistical support from FASTRAC. The Facility is a United Nations-World Bank program based in Cotabato City with Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Chief Negotiator and TransCom Chairman as chairman of its Consultative Committee with membership from the MILF, GPH and international partners.

The workshop was attended by Iqbal; Atty. Sinarimbo; MILF TC members, Sonny Davao; Sayeed Sheik; Timuay Melencio Ulama; Alim Ibrahim Ali; Prof. Abhoud Sayeed Lingga, MILF Peace Panel member; Jun Mantawil, Chair of the MILF Peace Panel Secretariat; Ms. Juckra Usman; Ustadz Abdulsalam Alabat, member of the BLMI Steering Committee; Atty. Haron Meling and this writer who were invited to join the workshop. 

The participants have identified several programs which will be submitted to FASTRAC for consideration, namely, TC Capacity Building for members and staff; Information and Communication System (Comstrat); Strengthening of Advocacy Group; LMT Reactivation with government participation; TC Training on Parliamentary Procedures; Activities for women and youth; BLMI Training of Trainers; Activities for BM constituencies outside of the core area; Convening of Constitutional experts to study way forward on proposed amendments to the Constitution; Data Bank and Modules and Networking; Bangsamoro Statistics; Human resource Identification System; Election and Electoral Process; Bangsamoro Narrative on Human Rights/ International Human Rights Law; Post Agreement Needs Assessment; Land Issues; Informal Economic Sector Study; Environmental Study, etc.

Recognizing the importance of these proposed activities in furtherance of the mandate of TransCom and the peace process, Chairman Iqbal advised selected participants to engage in planning on how these can be facilitated and realized.

At the conclusion of the activity, Chairman Iqbal and the rest of the participants waited for the arrival of a delegation from Davao headed by Bishop Efraim M. Tendero, Prof. Windy Croaker from Mannonite, Canada and Rev. Daniel Pantoja, President of Peacebuilders Community, Inc. The delegation was composed of seven young women who wore hijab/tendung and eleven men including Abdulkadir Abubakar, a member of the Committee on Information based in Kabacan, North Cotabato. Chairman Iqbal briefed the visitors on the peace process while Bishop Tendero shared his views on the Mindanao conflict and the on-going peace negotiation between the GPH and the MILF.

Before dusk, a lengthy meeting with BLMI Steering Committee members was presided by Chairman Iqbal in his capacity as Chairman of the institution’s Oversight Committee and to iron-out nagging institutional issues. An expert on conflict resolution and management, Iqbal successfully settled major concerns of the steering committee members and the meeting ended at 8:00PM. They all went home satisfied and happy with the results of the meeting.