Friday, May 17, 2013

NPAs in 16 violent incidents during poll period

From the Philippine Star (May 17): NPAs in 16 violent incidents during poll period

The Philippine National Police has recorded a total of 16 incidents of violence involving the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army members during the election season this year.

Based on PNP figures, these incidents were slightly higher than the May 10 national polls, which registered a total of 13 cases involving communist rebels.

From January 13 to May 13, 2013, the PNP reported seven incidents of encounters and ambuscades initiated by the NPA rebels.

The PNP also said there were seven cases of harassment by the NPA members especially in the remote areas of the country.

There was a case of extortion by the rebels during the campaign period, the PNP said.

Trader killed for failing to pay extortion money

From the Philippine Star (Mar 17): Trader killed for failing to pay extortion money

A businessman in Agusan del Norte was shot to death by suspected communist rebels for allegedly failing to comply with their extortion demands.

Superintendent Martin Gamba, spokesman of the Caraga Police Regional Office, identified the victim as Isidro Api, a resident of Barangay Bangonay in Jabonga town.
Gamba said the victim was shot using a still unidentified firearm last Thursday in Sitio Inayawan in Barangay Bangonay at around 3 p.m.

Gamba said a local unit of the New People’s Army under a certain alias “Rosel” was behind the incident. Authorities are now running after the perpetrators.

The military estimates that the NPA extorted more than P25 million from individuals and businesses last year.

Leftist rebel killed in Surigao clash

From the Philippine Star (May 17): Leftist rebel killed in Surigao clash

A member of the leftist rebel group New People's Army (NPA) was killed following a brief firefight with soldiers in Surigao del Norte today afternoon, a military official said.

Maj. Leo Bongosia, spokesman of the Philippine Army's 4th Infantry Division, said the soldiers were conducting pursuit operations when they encountered the NPAs at Cabugo village, Claver town at around 2 p.m.

Bongosia said the military launched pursuit operations after troops from the 30th Infantry Batallion clashed with 15 NPAs also in Claver town yesterday. A soldier died following a brief encounter between the NPAs and government security forces.

Datu robbed by NPAs

From the Philippine Star (May 18): Datu robbed by NPAs

A datu in Surigao del Sur lost his firearm to suspected communist rebels who posed as Army soldiers last Thursday.

A Caraga police report issued Friday said the victim, identified as Datu Eusebio Grol Meniano, was in his house when four armed men in Army uniform approached him at about 5:20 a.m.

Meniano, however, sensed that the armed men were not soldiers since they were wearing black rubber boots, not the prescribed Army leather boots.

The victim went to the bathroom and ran out of his house to evade the armed men.

When he returned home, he found that his personal belongings were scattered on the floor and discovered that his CQA cal 5.56 Norinco high-powered rifle inside his vault was gone.

The Caraga police believes the suspects were members of a local New People’s Army unit under a certain alias “Rodel.”

2 hurt as MNLF, MILF clash anew

From the Sun Star-Davao (May 18): 2 hurt as MNLF, MILF clash anew

Two members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were wounded after they engaged anew in a running gun battle with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in a remote village in Matalam, North Cotabato at around 6:20 a.m., Thursday, a military official said.

Captain Antonio Bulao, spokesman for the Army's 602nd Brigade based in Carmen, North Cotabato, said the wounded MILF rebels were immediately rushed for treatment at the Cotabato Provincial Hospital at Amas Complex, this city.

It was the soldiers that helped the victims get immediate medical attention after they sought help from the Army, according to Bulao.

 The fresh encounters occurred, three days after the warring Moro rebel groups agreed to a ceasefire.

The dialogue held last Sunday at Barangay Marbel in Matalam town was spearheaded by members of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) of the GPH-MILF, according to Senior Inspector Elias Dandan, chief of the Matalam Police Station.

Dandan said during the meeting, Commander Datu Dima Ambil of the MNLF Sebangan Kutawato State Revolutionary Committee has assured both the IMT and the CCCH they would actively take part in Monday’s elections, which they actually did.
"In fact, majority of the 200 displaced families were able to cast votes on Monday," said Brig. Gen. Ademar Tomaro, commander of the Army’s 602nd Brigade.

Three days later, the warring groups were locked again in armed fighting, which resulted to the wounding of two MILF members and renewed wave of displacement, according to Capt. Bulao.

On Thursday, Tomaro ordered deployment of additional forces in areas where vital installations, including power, are located to secure them from any of the armed Moro rebel groups.

The Army official said that based on their monitoring, armed men were sighted near the main headquarters of the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco) in Barangay Manubuan, Matalam, just few kilometers away from the encounter site.

MILF commander to file protest vs. AFP, MNLF for attack in North Cotabato

From GMA News (May 18): MILF commander to file protest vs. AFP, MNLF for attack in North Cotabato

A commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Saturday accused the Moro National Liberation Front and the military of attacking its forces and burning its members' houses in Cotabato last Thursday.

In a post on the MILF website, MILF 108th base command head Hadji Mansur said followers of the MNLF's Datu Dimam Ambil burned many houses owned by MILF members during the attack at Barangay Marbel in Matalam town.

Although the MILF said it repelled the MNLF attack, another attack occurred in the afternoon, with the Army's 602nd Infantry Brigade backing up the MNLF forces.

“We will file our protest on this military-backed MNLF attack and the necessary charges for the burning of our houses,” Mansur said.

The MILF said Ambil's forces appeared to assault their relatives with the MILF forces under Mansur.

Mansur described the afternoon attack as a "blatant ceasefire violation” by the military.

“The Army troops were supposed to be a neutral buffer force and should have halted the assault and the burning of houses by forces of Datu Dima,” he said.

According to the MILF, the 602nd Infantry Brigade had been put up as buffer force "on their insistence," following the first encounter between the MNLF and MILF forces in same area last May 5.

Intervention by the government and MILF ceasefire committees and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) stopped the fighting last May 5.

Both sides agreed to resolve their misunderstanding through peaceful means after the May 13 elections.

"The military insisted to put up their buffer force in between the feuding parties to ensure that no untoward incident would happen while works for peaceful resolutions are underway," the MILF said.


Meanwhile, the MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities said it is "working out on the report" but expressed dismay on the alleged participation by Army forces in the attack.

It emphasized the firefight is not organizational involving MILF and MNLF but a mere misunderstanding between the local forces.

MILF: Houses burned in assault of military-backed MNLF troops in Cotabato

From the MILF Website (May 18): Houses burned in assault of military-backed MNLF troops in Cotabato

 Scores of houses owned by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were burned down by still unidentified troops of Datu Dimam Ambil of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) following the latters’s assault at Barangay Marbel in Matalam, Cotabato two days ago.
Forces of Datu Dima Ambil assaulted their relatives with the MILF forces under Hadji Mansur of the 108th Base Command – BIAF at attack early morning of May 16, 2013.

Hadji Mansur’s troops on defensive position stood their ground and had repelled the attacking forces the whole morning. But surprisingly the troops of the Philippine Army under the 602nd Infantry Brigade backed up the forces of Datu Dima in the afternoon attack against the group of Hadji Mansur.

“The military attacked us from the back which we did not expect,” Mansur said, even as he lambasted the Philippine Army troops for blatant ceasefire violations.”

 “The army troops were supposed to be a neutral buffer force and should have halted the assault and the burning of houses by forces of Datu Dima,” Mansur said.

Forces of the 602nd Infantry Brigade were put up as buffer force on their insistence following the first encounter between the MNLF and MILF forces in same area last May 5, 2013.

Unfortunately, the army buffer forces did not live up to their mandate by joining the attacking forces and failing to stop the burning of the houses to the extent of committing violations to the ceasefire accord between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF, he said

“We will file our protest on this military-backed MNLF attack and the necessary charges for the burning of our houses,” Hadji Mansur said.

The immediate intervention of the GPH and MILF Ceasefire Committees and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) had stopped the fighting between the forces of Datu Dima and Hadji Mansur in last May 5. Both sides agreed to resolve their misunderstanding through peaceful means after the May 13, 2013 Elections.

The military insisted to put up their buffer force in between the feuding parties to ensure that no untoward incident would happen while works for peaceful resolutions are underway. Unfortunately, however, while some of these forces were acting as buffer force, at one hand, some supported the attack of the group of Dima Ambil.

The leadership of the MILF immediately composed a high-level group tasked to work on the peaceful resolution in support of what was agreed after the May 5, 2013 encounter. However, before the initiatives could take off after the May 13 Elections, the group of Datu Dima launched another offensive.

The MILF CCCH when sought for comment said it is working out on the report but expressed its dismay on the participation of the forces of the 602nd Infantry Brigade. However, it emphasized that the firefight is not organizational involving MILF and MNLF but a mere misunderstanding between the local forces.

MILF: Bangsamoro Transition Commission opens 3rd session

From the MILF Website (May 17): Bangsamoro Transition Commission opens 3rd session

Honorable Mohagher Iqbal, Chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, opened the "Consensus Building Workshop" of the Commission on 16 May 2013 in Tagaytay City. The workshop, the third gathering of this Commission formed through EO 120 and tasked to draft a Basic Law to replace the existing organic act of the ARMM, was convened by Chairman with the facilitation of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HDC) and with the support of the European Union.
The workshop provided space for the 14 Commissioners and Chair Iqbal to get to know each other better, form a solid team and reach a consensus on many principles underlying its work as a Commission.

The workshop, which runs for 3 days, started on 16 May with various consensus reached on the functions of the Transition Commission as the drafter of the Bangsamoro Basic law, a body that can propose Constitutional amendments to Congress, and as a clearing house for development in Muslim Mindanao.

They also discussed the need to engage a broad range of stakeholders including Congress to ensure inclusiveness and consultations. Fr. Albert Alejo of Ateneo de Zamboanga talked about public consultations while Prof. Edmund Tayao, Professor of Political Science at the University of Sto. Tomas and the Executive Director of the Local Government Development Foundation spoke of the need to engage political institutions and individuals. The workshop is being facilitated by HD Centre Autonomy Consultant Benedicto Bacani and HD Project Manager Michael Alar with advisory support from Autonomy experts Prof. Yash Pal Ghai and Dr. Jill Cottrell. Ali Saleem, Country Representative of the HD Centre Philippines, expressed optimism in the crucial work ahead of the Commission in laying the foundations for political and structural reform in Muslim Mindanao.

This is the second time in a row that session of the BTC has been supported logistically by the HDC. The first was when the BTC met in Cotabato City from April 29-May 1.

China slams Philippines for Taiwan fisher killing

From the Daily Tribune (May 18): China slams Philippines for Taiwan fisher killing

PROC calls killing by Coast Guard ‘barbaric’

President Aquino, using the excuse of a One-China policy for the Aquino government to sidestep the Taiwan fisherman’s death issue and the shooting involvement of the Philippine government Coast Guard as well as the all-out resistance of Aquino to have a joint investigation into the killing of the Taiwanese fisherman, only gave China an opening to get into the picture.

Aquino’s One-China policy excuse merely gave China the opportunity to side with Taiwan as the People’s Republic of China (PROC) has always considered Taiwan as one of its provinces.

In imploring the One-China Policy following the shooting incident by Philippine Coast Guard causing the death of a Taiwanese fisherman in Balintang Channel on May 9, Aquino inadvertently raised the ante, as Beijing authorities have joined the clamor of the Taipei government to press justice and compensation, and ultimately punish the personnel of Coast Guard involved in the untoward incident.

Taiwan has been opposed for decades to the “One China Policy” of Beijing, claiming that the Taipei government is belligerent toward mainland China, and opted to be an ally of the United States of America.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Jua Chunying has called the incident “barbaric’’ and even insisted on holding the Philippines accountable.

“We strongly condemn the barbaric shooting and killing of the Taiwanese fisherman, demanding that the Philippines should investigate the case and furnish the details as soon as possible. We are deeply grieved about the death of the Taiwanese compatriot and have sent condolences to his family,’’ Chunying said.

China appears to have a common cause with Taiwan against Manila, deploring the shooting in harsh rhetoric that threatens to spark another diplomatic tussle between Beijing and Manila.

On May 13, Aquino opted not to comment further on the shooting incident so as not to escalate the issue at hand.

“I think it is in the interest of both parties to proceed on a calm basis. So we are proceeding in that manner.

Aquino claimed that coordination has been going on between the Taipei Economic Cultural Office and the Manila Economic Cultural Office to settle the incident.

Just yesterday, however, Taiwan showed its displeasure at the “insincere” apology issued by Aquino, using the Filipino people in his apology by issuing a red travel ban.
“And I, of course, course it through the DFA. I asked the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to monitor but the lead person has to be MECO because of the One China Policy,” Aquino said.

On Thursday, Taiwan announced the initiation of three sanctions and eight new sanction measures against the Philippines.

China’s Global Times reported that public opinion in Taiwan has forced the Ma Ying-jeou administration to transform its attitude from hesitant to hard-line.

Maritime frictions in East Asia involve maritime disputes, which touch the core interests of the neighboring Asean countries.

“Whether we have the ability to keep maritime disputes under control and whether the resolution of these disputes is in line with our comprehensive expectation on the strategic situation in East Asia will be our next tests.”

“China should protect every inch of its territory. However, there are still other strategic goals which China urgently needs to meet. Simultaneously achieving all this goals is in our best interests.

“The more powerful we are, the more likely we can better arrange our time and our road map.

“Taiwan and the mainland should pursue a “complete victory” over the Philippines this time. After this, both sides may have a new understanding of each other on aspects such as common interests and mutual trust.”

But Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council responsible for relations with China Thursday urged Beijing to stay out of the row the island has with Manila.

The council thanked Beijing for condemning Manila’s behavior, which the council described as “belligerent, irrational and violates international law.”

However, the council said Taiwan finds it unacceptable that the Philippines negotiated the matter through China and believes China will understand and respect Taiwan’s wishes that it should not interfere in a dispute between Taiwan and a third party.

It urged all parties involved not to confuse the People’s Republic of China with the Republic of China — Taiwan’s official name.

In Taiwan’s view, “One China” refers to the Republic of China. However, China defines “One China” as the People’s Republic of China, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province.

Mainland China and Taiwan have been governed separately since they split amid a civil war in 1949.

The council issued the statement after a legislative committee passed a motion proposed by legislators of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party earlier Thursday requesting the council make clear Taiwan’s position and urge China to stay out of the dispute between the island and the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Taiwan Premier Jiang Yi-huah on Thursday called on the Taiwanese public to avoid hostility toward Philippine workers on the island.

Jiang said that although the Taiwan government is tough on the Philippine government, it will do its best to ensure the safety of the Filipinos.

Presidential Deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said that the arrival of Taiwanese officials who would want to join in the conduct of investigation on the death of the fisherman should be observant of the government procedures imposed by the Secretary of Justice.

“I understand that the Secretary of Justice has already made a statement about this to the effect that there has to be a certain protocol that has to be followed relative to notices; and that the Secretary of Justice has already foreclosed any joint investigation on the matter,” Valte said.

On the alleged maltreatment of Filipino workers who have been working in Taiwan, Valte said the government has not received any report of maltreatment incidents committed by Taiwanese employers to the Filipinos.

“We’ve checked with the Department of Labor and Employment and they say that they have not received any of these reports. However, we are aware of some reports that are coming out in media outlets of certain OFWs who are speaking on the condition of anonymity. We’d like to see also these accounts.

“But, again, we reiterate that we hope that our citizens will not bear the brunt of the incident. They are there to work and they are not there to make trouble. We appeal for calm also, and the appeal still goes out that our citizens will not be harmed,” Valte said.

Valte stressed that the Aquino administration is now preparing a contingency plan for the labor sector just in case a repatriation of Filipino workers occur in Taiwan.

“The Department of Labor has been looking into alternative markets.

If you recall, this is not the first time that we’ve dealt with this sort of sanction and the Labor department has been looking into alternative markets because if you look at the figures, 72 percent of our OFWs in Taiwan are employed in the manufacturing sector,” Valte said.

Valte said, “the way that the Labor department looks at it, by looking for other alternative markets, would be to see which other markets also have a high number or a high openings for manufacturing sector”.

“I think this has been previously mentioned. That would be South Korea, another alternative would be the Middle East, and also to some extent Malaysia,” Valte stressed.

Valte added that “in light of what has happened, the Labor department has deemed if fit to look into other alternative markets that are capable of absorbing the number of OFWs who may wish to come back or who may have to leave their places of employment”.

Valte said, on the matter of fears of maltreatment that could harm the Filipinos while still in Taiwan, “no, we’re not going to wait (to happen). The Labor Secretary is already aware of these reports. I believe she has made certain statements on this already; and, of course, we will be asking for verification as well”.

Valte said the primary concern of the Aquino administration is the welfare and safety of the Filipinos as a policy.

“At this point, what we are doing in light of the sanctions that have been made, our primary concern would be to, first, for the welfare of our citizens who are there; and second, the possible effect of the sanctions that may have on our OFWs who are there,” Valte said.

Valte said the administration is mindful that one of the sanctions would be to freeze hiring which would directly affects the labor sector.

“I understand that in a year, almost 30,000 Filipino workers are going to work in Taiwan that doesn’t include those who are already there,” Valte said.

Valte said that, “it is the concern that our government is considering. What assistance can be extended to those who may wish to return? Second, are there alternative markets that we can offer to them once they come home?,” Valte said.

Valte reiterated that extra efforts have been done by the Philippine government to ease up what could be perceived as an impending serious diplomatic tensions that could affect the relationships between Taiwan and Philippines.

“Well, at this point, one, what we witnessed really is to avoid action to escalate tensions,” Valte said.

In the previous statements, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda underscored that, “we have done enough. We’ve gone the extra mile to not let the exchanges that we have deteriorate”.

Valte said that on the part of the Aquino administration, “we’ve repeatedly expressed regret at the unfortunate incident. At this point, we are preparing for the contingencies for the possible impact of the sanctions”.

“But, I would not foreclose on any other actions that can be done in the future. Again, I repeat, I would not foreclose on any possible act or any possible steps that may be taken,” Valte said.

DOJ to Taiwan: ‘You just can’t come here'

From Rappler (May 17): DOJ to Taiwan: ‘You just can’t come here'

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday, May 16, said the Taiwanese government could not just send investigators to the Philippines for the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman last week.

De Lima said that Taiwan has to go through “proper channels” and make an “official request” to the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) before conducting any investigation in the Philippines.

“They just can’t come over here,” De Lima said.

Secretary De Lima explained that without any request from Taiwan, it would be the government’s “obligation” to investigate the killing through an independent body such as the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). She added that the NBI has been conducting its own investigation, which should not be subject to any interference.

De Lima also added that it would be “impossible” to conduct a joint investigation with Taiwan as the Philippines “is a sovereign country” which has its own process and justice system.

Taiwanese arrival

De Lima’s statements came after a team of investigators from Taiwan arrived in Manila on Thursday morning to conduct an investigation over the killing of a 65-year-old fisherman.

The Philippine Coast Guard admitted last week that they shot dead a Taiwanese fisherman after his vessel illegally sailed into Philippine waters.

The Philippine government, through the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), has already conveyed its sincere apologies over the tragic incident but the Taiwanese government still sanctioned and ban the hiring of new workers from the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda confirmed that MECO chairperson Amadeo Perez already met Taiwan‘s Director-General Benjamin Ho of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convey President Aquino’s apology for the “unfortunate” incident.

Lacierda also explained that reports of Filipino workers being harassed in Taiwan were "isolated" incidents, which do not necessarily reflect how the Taiwanese regard Filipinos. Lacierda appealed to the Taiwanese people “to refrain from hurting and making Filipino compatriots an instrument of their anger.”

“As the host for our Filipinos there, we would expect that they will be treated decently as we do treat their Taiwanese nationals here decently,” Lacierda said.

OIC no more, Hataman wins as ARMM governor

From Rappler (May 17): OIC no more, Hataman wins as ARMM governor

Regional board of canvassers chief Atty. Ray Sumalipao and ARMM COMELEC regional election director and state prosecutor Ramy Guiling proclaim Mujiv Hataman(2-L) and  Haroun Al Rashid Lucman (2-R) as governor and vice governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Photo by Ritchie Tono

Regional board of canvassers chief Atty. Ray Sumalipao and ARMM COMELEC regional election director and state prosecutor Ramy Guiling proclaim Mujiv Hataman(2-L) and Haroun Al Rashid Lucman (2-R) as governor and vice governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Photo by Ritchie Tono

Mujiv Hataman stays as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The ARMM Regional Board of Canvassers (RBOC) on Friday, May 17, proclaimed Hataman as the winner of the 2013 gubernatorial race in the region's first synchronized elections with the rest of the country.

Garnering a total of 446,227 votes, Hataman beat his closest rival independent candidate Pakung "Pax" Mangudadatu by over 200,000 votes. Mangudadatu received 231,721 votes.

The RBOC decided to proclaim Hataman's victory even as election returns from Basilan have yet to be transmitted. The island province only has 136,833 voters. Basilan is a known bailwick of Hataman, who hails from the province.

A report by ABS-CBN shows Hataman won big in Sulu, where he received 108,229 votes as opposed to Mangudadatu's 14,493 votes, or a gap of over 90,000.

Hataman's running mate also mustered an overwhelming victory. Haroun Al Rashid Lucman received 472, 417 votes, over 300,000 more than his closest rival Mustaqbal Manalao, who only garnered 102,804 votes.

Aquino's bet

Appointed by President Benigno Aquino III as caretaker for ARMM in 2011, the President pushed hard for Hataman's candidacy in the recently-concluded polls.

Before being appointed as ARMM OIC governor, Hataman served 3 terms as representative of the Anak Mindanao party list, sharing two terms with Aquino.
He is one of the youngest to bag ARMM's top post and is the first to hail from the Basilan region.

Kalayaan mayor harassed by suspected Chinese vessels near Ayungin Shoal

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): Kalayaan mayor harassed by suspected Chinese vessels near Ayungin Shoal

While on his way back to mainland Palawan early Wednesday morning, Kalayaan Mayor Joel Bito-onon said they were harassed by two foreign vessels in the disputed West Philippines Sea near Ayungin Shoal.

In an interview Friday, Bito-onon told the Philippines News Agency (PNA) that about 1 a.m. on May 15, while on board M/V Queen Seagull, the vessel owned by the municipal government of Kalayaan, two foreign vessels which he believes are owned by the Chinese harassed them near Ayungin while they were sailing back to mainland Palawan through the municipality of Balabac.

He disclosed that while they were sailing near Ayungin, the two vessels followed them with strong search lights on. One of the vessels, whose bow mark he failed to see, was only 30 meters away from them.

Bito-onon furthered claimed that while near Ayungin, they also saw a large boat that appears to be a navy ship of the Chinese anchored on the reefs.

Over a week ago, fishermen reported that two Chinese military surveillance vessels were seen off Ayungin Shoal in the disputed chain of islands. Apparently, the Sino surveillance vessels were seen some six nautical miles west of Ayungin since May 7.

3ID celebrates 39th year with stakeholders

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): 3ID celebrates 39th year with stakeholders

Another milestone was set in the history of the 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division (3ID) when it celebrated the 39th founding anniversary on Thursday.

The event was participated in by men and women of 3ID at its headquarters in Camp Macario Peralta Jamindan, Capiz with the division's stakeholders.

This year’s anniversary theme of “Spearhead Troopers and the People working together for a peaceful Nation” was at the core of the event, giving recognition to soldiers, civilian employees as well partner individuals and organizations in winning the peace in Western Visayas through the Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan”.

The occasion was attended by the Commanding General of the Philippine Army, Lt. Gen Noel A. Coballes and 3ID Commander, Maj. Gen Jose Z Mabanta Jr.

It started with an early morning thanksgiving mass at the 3ID Chapel, wreath laying ceremonies for the fallen comrades of 3ID, blessing of renovated facilities, the awarding ceremony and a cultural dance presentation.

During the celebration, the 3ID also awarded partner individuals and organizations such as Best Battalion and Brigade of the Year, Best Company and Field Grade Officer of the Year, Best Enlisted Personnel for Administration and Operations of the Year, Best Civilian Employee, Best Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit Active Auxiliary of the Year and Distinguished Civilian Partner Individuals and Organizations.

The civilian awardees are: Soriano-Celo Foundation of Calinog, Iloilo; Friends of the Sick Foundation of Janiuay, Iloilo; Jesus A. Canete, Jr. of the Commission on Human Rights, Negros Oriental and Mrs. Conception T. Tababa, District Coordinator of the Alternative Learning System of the Dept. of Education.

Mabanta congratulated the awardees for their commitment and enthusiasm in helping the 3ID accomplish its mission.

Mabanta also acknowledged the dedication and exemplary performance of the Spearhead troopers during the May 13, 2013 election which greatly contributed in making the elections secure and free.

“The 39th Founding Anniversary of our Division marks another way of looking back to what we have already achieved and what we are going to accomplish in the future. Giving emphasis on our theme “Spearhead Troopers and the People working together for a peaceful Nation” it is indispensable that we continue to reaffirm our commitment and service to the people”, said Mabanta.

Mabanta also acknowledged the sacrifices and determined efforts of the men and women of 3ID together with their loved ones (who most often felt left out), and the civilian society, the Philippine National Police, the religious sector and other organizations who may not have the chance to join the occasion for their invaluable support for the attainment of peace and development in Western Visayas.

In his message, Coballes lauded all the Spearhead troopers under the leadership of the Commanders.

Guests included local government officials, Philippine National Police Officers, representative from LGUs and government agencies, representative from the religious sector, Non-Governmental Organizations, and friends of 3ID.

Pre-anniversary activities started as early as April 9 such as the sports fest and fun games and in early May such as mass weeding, mass baptism, soccer friendship exhibition game, and tree planting and blood letting activity.

Army, PNP send peacekeeping forces in NorCot after MILF,MNLF clash

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): Army, PNP send peacekeeping forces in NorCot after MILF,MNLF clash

Police and military peacekeeping forces have been deployed in two villages of Matalam, North Cotabato after rival Moro rebel groups figured in a clash Thursday, police said on Friday.

Senior Inspector Elias Dandan, Matalam police chief, said the followers of Commander Dima Ambel of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)and a certain Commander Majurie of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) traded bullets early Thursday.

"This is now a case of family feud involving MNLF and MILF who have relatives from either side," Dandan said.

Joint Army Special Forces and PNP have been deployed in the villages of Elian and Marbel following Thursday's clash that left two MILF fighters wounded.

Dandan identified the wounded MILF fighters as Dong Ambalatan, 33 and Naga Bimbo, 26, both of Barangay Marbel.

According to Dandan, the fighting erupted anew after one group suspected another of violating a localized truce agreed by both sides before elections.

"It has nothing to do with the election but more of a rido," Dandan said.

Capt. Antonio Bulao, speaking for the 603rd brigade, said soldiers have been deployed between MILF and MNLF forces to prevent them from coming close to each other.

The conflict started last week when the MILF violated a localized agreement that they will not carry firearms or wear military uniform when they enter Marbel to conduct information drive on the Bangsamoro Framwork Agreement, according to Ambel.

The information drive was supposed to take place on May 5 but was cancelled after both sides traded bullets that left one MILF killed and two others hurt.

The International Monitoring Team (IMT) came into the picture and came up with a truce that will prevent clashes in the future on May 8.

However, the MNLF claimed that the MILF violated the truce again by trying to put up sattelite camp in Barangay Marbel.

Barangay Marbel is a known bailiwick of the Kuwatato State Revolutionary Committee chaired by Commander Ambel.

The area has been known as MNLF territory following the 1996 peace agreement between MNLF and the government.

Ambel was opposed to planned establishment of an MILF satellite camp in Barangay Marbel.

Dandan said about a hundred families have fled to safer grounds. He said most of the evacuees were relatives of both the MNLF and MILF.

Dandan said the area is not quiet but very volatile as both sides are heavily armed.

Capt. Bulao also appealed to both the MNLF and MILF toi respect the IMT-initiated localized truce.

Explosion rocks Salug, Zamboanga del Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): Explosion rocks Salug, Zamboanga del Norte

An improvised bomb explosion has rocked the municipality of Salug in the province of Zamboanga del Norte on Thursday dawn, a police official disclosed Friday.

Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca said no one was killed or wounded that took place around 1:20 a.m. Thursday at the Salug National High School located in Barangay Poblacion.

Huesca said the explosion slightly damaged one of the school’s classrooms.

Huesca said the explosive ordnance demolition (EOD) personnel have sifted the explosion site of debris to establish what type of bomb was used.

Investigation continues to establish the motive as well as the suspect/s, he said.

CPP: On the outcome of the 2013 elections

From the CPP Website (May 17): On the outcome of the 2013 elections

1. The just concluded 2013 election is clearly no different from previous elections under more than half a century of neo-colonial reactionary rule. From the national to the local levels, the elections were dominated by political parties funded by and representing the interests of big compradors and landlords and subservient to foreign big business.

Initial results of the elections show that 75% of the incoming members of the House of Representatives belong to so-called traditional political families or dynasties. All the top-running contenders of the Senate will either extend their own or their parent’s or family’s political careers. Not a single one of them come from the ranks of the toiling masses.

The Filipino people have no fundamental gains from the 2013 elections. In general, the elections only served to strengthen the control of the reactionary ruling classes over the government and its bureacracy. Despite all the hype about “democracy”, the 2013 elections have proved to be a pseudo-democratic exercise where the “power” of the people is limited to selecting from among the ruling reactionaries and casting their votes for those who will make or implement the laws that will oppress and exploit them.

2. The results of the automated elections of 2013 are widely discredited because of the complete lack of transparency. The automated counting and canvassing system of the 2013 elections have become ever more untransparent and undemocratic. The absence of transparency is at all levels, from the lack of a public review of the source code, to the built-in secrecy of the counting of votes by the automated counting machines and the national canvassing of votes.

The automated system is owned, controlled and administered by foreign companies that are driven by commercial profits not by any patriotic duty. That there exists no system to check the digital signatures or integriy of the software that runs from the compact-flash cards means the machines could be run with malicious software to manipulate the vote count and carry out wholesale tampering of election results away from public scrutiny. There is a complete absence of means for the public or the political parties to independently verify the software and review the numbers being fed to the central computer servers of the Comelec and its private company partner Smartmatic Inc.

Advocates of electoral democracy are united in the rejection of the system of automated elections in the Philippines. These are condemned as a step away from democracy. The so-called automated counting alienates the voters from the votes they have cast. They insist that automation should be done in the transmission of votes after these have been democratically, openly and manually counted. In the history of Philippine elections, precint-level counting was never the bottleneck, rather the canvassing at the municipal, provincial and national levels where tampering of election returns are at its worse.

The prevalent news about corrupted compact flash cards, failed electronic transmissions, malfunctioning counting machines and the delays in the canvassing of votes underscore the widespread doubts concerning the results of the elections.

3. The Aquino regime will take advantage of the results of the 2013 election to help further consolidate its oppressive and repressive rule. Majority of the incoming new senators are Aquino allies and are expected to support the IMF and World Bank programs being implemented by Aquino.

Under the direction of his US advisers and pressure from the American and European chambers of commerce, the Aquino regime is set on further liberalizing investment and trade policies in the Philippine. They are pushing for the removal of constitutional restrictions against 100% foreign ownership of land and key public services and enterprises through an amendment of the 1987 constitution either by convening a chacha (charter change) commission or convention or passing new laws overriding such provisions.

In accordance with US dictates, there is also an increasing push from Aquino to ensure the legal justification for the increasing presence and basing of US military forces in the Philippines to skirt the prohibitions against foreign military facilities in the 1987 constitution. Foreign big business groups have also been vocal in pushing for the removal of constitutional restrictions against the re-election of the president beyond one six-year term.

With a firm hold over the Philippine congress, Aquino seeks to further liberalize the Mining Act of 1995 in order to attract bigger investments in the mining sector. He completely disregards the Filipino people’s opposition to foreign plunder of the country’s patrimony and environmental destruction resulting from large-scale commercial mining, plantation and logging operations.

Having majority control of congress, Aquino hopes to pursue his budgetary program to carry out austerity measures by further reducing social spending and carrying out the privatization of public utilities and services. Anticipate the Aquino regime to go full-throttle with the privatization of public hospitals and schools over the next few years. Relatedly, Aquino is set to push for more tax measures to further raise the government’s revenues in the face of the continuing economic crisis.

Without a strong opposition block within congress, the Aquino clique hopes it can go ahead in signing government contracts with private contractors without fear of public rebuke and blue-ribbon investigations. The Aquino regime is slated to carry out the public bidding of the extension of the LRT project, the fare increase and privatization of the Metro Rail Transit system and the rebidding of the Laguna Lake dredging projects. The big bureaucrat capitalists and big comprador partners of Aquino are likely to bag these contracts in the same way that the Daang-Hari construction project under the Public-Private Partnership Program was anomalously granted to Aquino’s cronies despite lower bids by contending parties.

With a firm electoral victory, Aquino is emboldened to further intensify his regime’s all-out war of suppression under Oplan Bayanihan. Aquino seeks the collaboration of the Philippine congress to increase funding for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) and put into place the deceptive counter-insurgency programs as the Pamana and Kalahi projects which have been used by military commanders and local bureaucrat capitalists to line up their pockets.

4. The recently concluded elections did not address the most pressing problems and concerns of the Filipino people. Save for the efforts of progressive parties which participated in the political campaigns, election discussions and debates failed to center on the people’s most urgent demands including land reform and national industrialization, higher wages, lower prices, local employment and affordable housing.

The Filipino people have no other recourse but to heighten their struggles against the pro-imperialist and anti-people Aquino regime. They must vigorously advance their demands and mount intense and widescale mass struggles. The Filipino people and their democratic mass movement can take advantage of schisms among the reactionaries by employing united front tactics to forge alliances with the anti-Aquino sections, especially in light of the political maneuvers related to the approaching 2016 presidential elections.

In the face of their worsening socio-economic conditions, the Filipino people are compelled to more resolutely advance their struggle for national and social liberation through democratic mass struggles and armed resistance.