Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Philippine Army to train 169 new recruits

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 4): Philippine Army to train 169 new recruits

More than 100 civilians will add on to the country’s regular force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Public Affairs Office head Ray Tiongson of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division disclosed that a total of 169 candidate soldiers have started last June 1 their training as part of their journey to become government soldiers.

The 169 candidate soldiers who will undergo the training are among the 969 applicants who intended to join the military service, he said.

He added that of the total candidates, 85 of whom came from Panay Island, 51 from Negros Island and the remaining 33 came from Luzon and Mindanao.

Tiongson said that the 169 passers of the medical, physical and mental examinations will undergo the 20-week military training that will test them physically and mentally.

“The 20-week training is composed of two phases, namely the Basic Military Training that will run for 13 weeks and phase II which will run for seven weeks will focus on Specialization Training,” he stressed.

He added that that the 3ID Training Unit, incharged of overseeing the training, will also give focus on the Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan”, Army Transformation Roadmap and indoctrination on Respect for Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and the Rule of Law.

Tiongson said that while on training, the candidate soldiers will be entitled already to a monthly pay and allowances of P14,205.00 and initial clothing allowance composed mostly of uniforms, military equipment and gears.

On the other hand, 3ID Commanding General Jose Mabanta stressed to the candidate soldiers that self-discipline and aspiration are the key factors towards personal growth and development.

“Make the best of your training. Do not waste the great opportunities and chances that are given to you. We expect you to be better persons and become members of Team Spearhead at the end of this training,” Mabanta said.

He also emphasized the importance of learning to value the importance of cooperation and collaboration in attaining peace while maintaining and respecting the rights of others while on training.


3 soldiers dead in Surigao del Sur communist clash

From Rappler (Jun 5): 3 soldiers dead in Surigao del Sur communist clash

COTABATO, Philippines - At least 3 state security forces were killed while another was wounded as they clashed Tuesday, June 4, with fighters of the New People's Army (NPA) in the restive southern Philippines, a military official said.

Soldiers under the 29th Infantry Battalion were on patrol mission in the remote village of Buhisan in the town of San Agustin in Surigao del Sur when they encountered around 30 heavily armed leftist rebels, according to 4th Division commander Brigadier General Ricardo Visaya.

A 30-minute fire fight ensued, leaving 3 dead on the government side.

"They were on patrol and they saw a lot of tents, but pet dogs alerted the NPA to the troops' approach," Visaya, told reporters by telephone.

"Our troops maneuvered toward the trees as a gunfight began but the area turned out to be mined, and 3 of them were killed instantly," Visaya claimed.

He said army reinforcements later captured the camp, which the rebels apparently used for combat training, while the guerrillas fled.

Series of clashes

It was the latest of a series of deadly clashes this year that have left dozens of combatants dead.

On May 27, 8 members of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police were killed in an ambush in Cagayan

About 30 rebels set off a landmine and fired at their truck, police authorities said.
The government has long condemned the rebels for using such explosive devices, saying they violate international agreements. The National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which represents communist rebels in peace talks with the Philippine government, denied the accusation.

“The use of command-detonated land mines by the NPA is not a violation of the Ottawa Treaty. It is a legitimate weapon of the NPA against the armed forces of the Aquino government in the revolutionary movement’s just war of national and social liberation," NDFP earlier said.

Talks between the Philippine government and Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) broke down shortly before the May 13 elections.

The NDFP is accusing the government of negotiating in bad faith. But the government peace panel said the NDFP has set tough conditions for the peace process to move.
The peace process is aimed at ending 40 years of communist insurgency that has killed at least 30,000 people, according to a government estimate.


Forum on FAB held at Parang, Maguindanao

From the MILF Website (Jun 5): Forum on FAB held at Parang, Maguindanao

A forum on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro was held last June 1, 2013 at the Jutiles International Movement Hall, Purok Masagana, Sarmiento, Parang, Maguindanao. The said forum was attended by eight (8) pastors and their wives who belong to a born again congregation.
After discussing the salient features of FAB and its benefits to the people in the proposed Bangsamoro Region by this writer, a very friendly and healthy Q and A portion of the forum that lasted two and a half hours followed.

This group of Born Again Christians who became interested to know the contents of the accord signed between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH) last October 15, 2012 at Manila was headed by Pastor Fermencito Olivo (Host Pastor JCSCCI), Pastor Fronsisco L. Morgado (CIF) and Pastor Fernando Mahinay.

Just immediately after presenting and elaborating on the FAB, this writer answered accurately all their doubts and concerns, either of their becoming a minority in the envisioned Bangsamoro as well as their religion. It was explained to them that in Islam there is no compulsion and that they will enjoy equal protection in the future Bangsamoro Government.  The same opportunity in development and economic advancement will also be enjoyed by them under the FAB.

A clear manifestation is the inclusion of 50 slots for college scholarship to Christian incoming first year students in the Sajahatra Bangsamoro, a development initiative launched by President Benigno Aquino III at BLMI Compound, Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao last February 11, 2013. The indigenous people were also awarded 50 slots without for asking it. This dividend of peace occurred under the leadership of Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the MILF which is now a partner of the GPH in peace and socio-economic development in Mindanao.

After clarifying many of their worries and concerns they realized that most of what they knew and learned was misleading and very far from the contents of the FAB. Very satisfied, they expressed support to the peace process and urged both peace panels to fast tract the completion of the remaining annexes and sign a comprehensive peace pact.   

The successful event was realized through the efforts of Mr. Tomatic of Polloc, Parang, Maguindanao who endeavored to organize and facilitate the activity that lasted until 4:05 in the afternoon on Saturday, June 1.   


8th ID trains 144 new soldier recruits

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Jun 5): 8th ID trains 144 new soldier recruits

The 8th Infantry Division (8th ID), Philippine Army on Saturday welcomed 144 new Army recruits from Samar and neighboring areas.

This batch, whose ages range from18-26, have surpassed physical and mental examinations to withstand the rigors of the physical and mental training.

“Their training will start this June until December where they will specialize in Jungle Warfare Mountain Operation Course (JWMOC),” said Lt Col Angel Madarang, Division Training Unit Commander.

As they train, the recruits transform from their civilian nature to individuals embracing the norms and practices of the military, he added.

Aside from the rigid training hours, these young men will be trained in the art and science of being riflemen, to execute squad tactics, perfect survival techniques and understand the military justice system.

All these skills and knowledge will prepare them to be tactically proficient while developing the highest professional standard of being a soldier with self confidence and a high degree of responsibility.

This prized batch, said an Army official has more college graduates led by a Nursing and Criminology graduates from Samar province.

A mother from Barangay Casandig, Paranas, Samar commented that his son really wants to become a soldier.

“Nahadlok gad ngani ako, pero pursigido man hiya, waray ko na mahihimo kundi sumuporta ngan mag ampo ha Ginoo (I fear for his life, but he is so determined, I cannot dissuade him anymore so I will just support and pray real hard), she said in the dialect.

Meanwhile, BGen Virgilio Espenelli welcomed the recruits and inspired them to do their best. “ Just follow orders, manood, makinig at makiramdam, (watch, listen and feel) the seasoned army official said.

“We will guide and help you. We expect a lot from you good and disciplined soldiers.”

Some parents witnessed the reception of their sons, their pride of their sons’ choice to serve masked their feelings of worry as they watched the 144 young men march to their new career of soldiery.


Army won’t disclose how much NPA gained from ‘permit to campaign’ fees

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Jun 5): Army won’t disclose how much NPA gained from ‘permit to campaign’ fees

TACLOBAN CITY- An Army official said that they would not disclose the amount reportedly collected by the members of the New People’s Army out of their so-called permit to campaign or win fees.

Captain Amado Gutierrez, spokesperson of the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City, said that doing so would only embolden the rebel group to carry out their illegal act in suceeding elections.

“What we can say is that they were able to generate huge amount out of their permit to campaign or permit to win fees. But we cannot disclose publicly as to how much they collected as this will only embolden them to do this again in the next elections,” Gutierrez said.

“If we announce in public how much they have collected, this could be interpreted by them that we are encouraging them to do it again. In fact, we are discouraging our politicians or candidates in giving in to this demand of the communist rebel group,” he added.
Earlier, the Army has disclosed that the rebel group has collected P25 million out of the permit to campaign and win fees during the election period.

However, the amount mentioned by the military did not include those reportedly collected by the NPA in Eastern Visayas and Cordillera Region.

The amount was said to have been raised by the NPA out of their extortion activities in Metro Manila, Catanduanes, Camarines Sur and Negros Occidental.

The military has claimed that NPA resort to these schemes as part of their campaign to generate funds.

The range allegedly demanded by the rebel group depend on the position being sought by the candidates ranging from P50,000 if one is seeking for a council seat and as high as P5 million if one is running for governor.

By giving the fees, a candidate either can enter to areas still considered to be under the “influence” of the rebel group or can be assured of their support at the polls.

Gutierrez said that they have gathered reports that there were candidates who ran during the recently held May 13 elections who received demand letters from the rebel group and eventually acceded by giving in the amount asked at them.

Colonel Noel Vestuir, commanding officer of the 20th Infantry Battalion based in Lope de Vega town, Northern Samar, said that they have monitored some candidates who have give in to the demands of the rebels.

“They received (demand) letters from the NPA and some have actually gave in to this demand,” he said.

He, however, could not say as to how many candidates paid the fees and how much have been collected by the rebels operating in his area.

Vestuir’s jurisdiction covers the province of Northern Samar and part of Samar, to inlcude Calbayog City.

The military has called on the candidates not to give in to the demand of the rebel as they urged them instead to report to them the extortion activity of the rebel group.
The NPA here in the region has strongly denied this allegation that they collect permit to campaign or win fees.


3 soldiers dead, 1 hurt in clash with NPA rebels in Surigao Sur

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 5): 3 soldiers dead, 1 hurt in clash with NPA rebels in Surigao Sur

Three government troops were killed while another one was wounded during a clash with communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Surigao del Sur province yesterday.

Brig. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, general officer-in-charge of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (ID), said that elements of the 29th Infantry Battalion (IB) were on patrol operations along Sitio Buhisan in San Agustin at around 9:50 a.m. when the firefight erupted.

Visaya said that the operating troops noticed the presence of more or less 30 NPA rebels in the encampment, sparking an intense firefight.

However, at the height of the firefight, the troops, while maneuvering, hit a landmine, killing three of them while another one was wounded.

“The troops hit a training camp,” Visaya said.

Visaya added that additional troops were inserted in the encounter site to conduct scouring operations in the area.


China trying to establish foothold in Ayungin — security official

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 5): China trying to establish foothold in Ayungin — security official

Just like what it did in Mischief Reef when it “illegally” occupied the Philippine territory in 1995, the Chinese government is bent on doing the same in Ayungin Shoal as indicated by the continued presence of its vessels in the area and recent pro-nouncement by Beijing.

A security official, who requested anonymity, yesterday noted recent pronouncements made by Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo, deputy chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, justifying Chinese presence in Ayungin Shoal where the Philippine Navy is maintaining troops and using grounded BRP Sierra Madre as barracks.

At press time, there were three Chinese maritime surveillance ships monitored along the vicinities of Ayungin Shoal which is located approximately 120 nautical miles from Rizal town, Palawan province.

“They (Chinese) intend to pursue these activities which the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) says are illegal and provocative…there are indicators,
the way it looks it will continue and it will be the line of China,” the security official added.

Asked what is China’s objective in maintaining its presence in Ayungin Shoal, the source replied: “To establish foothold, the way they did in Mischief Reef… it can be gleaned from their action in protesting against and demanding the removal of our Navy vessel.”

The official was referring to the grounded BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal which presence in the area is now being protested by China. The Navy ship has been grounded there since 1999.

The official went on to describe China as “recalcitrant.”

In 1995, China occupied Mischief Reef, located about 130 nautical miles from Palawan, initially by putting structures supposedly as shelters for fishermen.

Eventually, China established military garrison in the area, prompting protest from the Philippines.

Only last year, the Chinese engaged Philippine authorities in a two-month long standoff in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in Zambales. Allegedly, both parties agreed to a pullout but the Chinese have not left the area until now.

Last month, a Chinese flotilla, escorted by a frigate, was monitored in Ayungin Shoal and has stayed in the area up to now.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has stressed the Philippines will not pull out from Ayungin Shoal and that the military is ready to fight for “what is ours” until the last soldier standing.

During his speech at the Shangri-La Dialog in Singapore last June 2, Qi justified Chinese patrols over South China Sea, which the Philippines calls West Philippine Sea, and East China Sea, where there are ongoing disputes.

The Chinese military general said Beijing will continue with its patrols over East China Sea and South China Sea which he stressed as “totally legitimate and uncontroversial.”

The West Philippine Sea, including the Kalayaan Islands Group (KIGs) or the Spratlys and the Panatag (Scarboroug) Shoal, is being disputed by the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Over at the East China Sea, China is disputing territories with Japan.

Relatedly, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos said Manila and Beijing should mutually agree to step back and cool the situation arising from conflicting territorial claims over South China Sea.

“I propose that instead of making that conflict the main feature of our relationship, let us make it a minor part and pursue further contacts, exchanges and cooperation in other sectors,” Marcos, in a statement, added.

The lawmaker aired the proposal in his speech during the June 3-4 “China-Southeast Asia People’s High-Level Dialogue” in the city of Nanning in Guangxi, China.

Marcos said the two countries could further strengthen their relationship in the areas of trade, tourism, linkages between educational institutions, health and social protection issues, agricultural cooperation and mutual assistance when natural disasters occur.

He added tourism holds a great promise for cooperation between the two countries as it would promote individual and social contact and lessen tensions “as we put a face to each other at a more human level.”

“What has long sustained our relations thus far has generally been in the area of cultural and arts exchanges.  This plays no small part in deepening the understanding between our two peoples.  It is an area rich with possibilities and something we can expand immediately and surely will bring us closer to each other,” Marcos said.

Noting that problems related to the conflicting territorial claims have become of immediate concern recently, with incidents of standoffs and heated exchanges, Marcos said the two countries “must find a way to at least resolve the situation.”

Aside from a mutual agreement to cool the situation, the senator said both countries “must agree on a framework method that is agreeable to both our countries to move the discussions forward to arrive at a true and permanent resolution of the problem.”

“This is with the quite reasonable understanding that it is the duty of the Philippine leadership to explore, discuss and pursue any other possible avenues that are available that have the potential to normalize the situation,” he stressed.

Navy deploys fast-craft against illegal loggers

From the Business Mirror (Jun 4): Navy deploys fast-craft against illegal loggers

Navy personnel intercept narra flitches onboard a pump boat during an interdiction operation against illegal logging in Quezon. (NAVFOR-SOLCOM)

THE Naval Forces-Southern Luzon Command (Navfor-Solcom) has deployed a fleet of fast-craft to regularly patrol rivers, tributaries and sea lanes used by illegal loggers as alternative way to transport logs from the mountains of Quezon and other parts of the region.

“The command deployed Diesel Fast-Craft such as the DF 321 on the waters of Infanta, Quezon, to conduct deterrent patrols, naval blockade and show of force to curb illegal activities in the area including illegal logging operations,” Ens. Ere Mon John Duruin, assistant director of the Navfor-Solcom Public Affairs Office, said.
Duruin said in the past months, the Navy together with its civilian counterparts had conducted successful joint operations that yielded millions of pesos worth of flitches and timber in Quezon.
One of the confiscations occurred on June 1 in Barangay Anawan, Bordeos town, where 706 board feet of narra flitches with a market value of P105,900 were seized during interdiction operations.
Duruin said several suspects were arrested during the operation.
Lt.( JG) Merald Nodado, officer in charge of the Naval Detachment-Infanta, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has deputized the unit as a local force to prevent illegal logging, confiscate illegally cut forest products and arrest persons involved in illegal logging.
“We are mandated to safeguard the safety and security of our constituents and support all national programs including environmental protection,” Nodado said.
The deputization of Navfor-Solcom as forest rangers and protectors was confirmed by the command’s head, Commo. Manuel Natalio Abinuman.
“In behalf of the officers and men of the command, I would like to extend my commendation and congratulations to our personnel for their endless dedication to duty and their active support to environmental protection advocacies in line with Executive Order [EO] 23. With this, I urge everyone to actively continue with your duties and commitment to safeguard the safety and security of our natural environment,” Abinuman said.
President Aquino issued EO 23 in February 2011. It declared a total log ban in the country.
Recently, all Army units in the Visayas and Mindanao were deputized by the DENR to implement E0 23.

NPA rebel surrenders to military in Compostela checkpoint

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 4): NPA rebel surrenders to military in Compostela checkpoint

A communist rebel who escaped a clash with government troops in southern Philippines have surrendered to the military after his bus stopped at a checkpoint in Compostela Valley province, officials said Tuesday.

Officials said Jonathan Bustamante, a member of the New People’s Army, was all bruised when he surrendered to the soldiers who were inspecting the bus in the village of Amor Cruz in Laak town.

Bustamente told soldiers that he was part of an NPA band that clashed recently with troops in the town. He also led soldiers to the site where he buried his AK-47 rifle to evade pursuing military forces, according to Col. Buenaventura Pascual, commander of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade.

The NPA has been fighting the government for decades in an effort to establish a separate state in the country.


ANAD: Photo -- IED Awareness Poster

From the Facebook page of  the anti-communist Alliance for Nationalism and  Democracy--ANAD (May 31):  Photo: IED Awareness Poster


Clash mars school opening in ComVal

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 3): Clash mars school opening in ComVal

SOLDIERS unload from an Army truck the body of a suspected rebel slain in a clash between government troops and the New People’s Army in Tubo-tubo, Monkayo, Compostela Valley, on Monday. FRINSTON LIM/INQUIRER MINDANAO

MONKAYO, Compostela Valley—What was supposed to be an exciting first day of school for pupils and parents in Tubo-tubo village here turned into a nightmarish scene as a deadly clash between government troops and suspected communist rebels erupted early on Monday, authorities said.

Distraught parents rushed to the premises of Tubo-tubo Elementary School in Tubo-tubo village and grabbed their terrified children, as soldiers and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels exchanged fire on a hill some 2 kilometers away, according to Sozonte Puedan, principal of the 700-student elementary school.

A young male rebel, aged between 16 to 20, was the lone fatality while two government troops, Pfc. Junrey Pioch and militiaman Sergio Ybañez, suffered nonlife-threatening wounds as the two sides fought for over an hour, Senior Superintendent Camilo Cascolan, Compostela Valley police chief, said.

“Parents came to the school looking for their children, who had come as early as 6 a.m., as the fighting raged and loud explosions from rockets fired by Army helicopters could be heard from here,” said Puedan. “Most of the parents had become very terrified, so we had to let them fetch the children.”

Pacita Baluis, a Grade 4 teacher, said the village became on edge as the military launched air strikes, with two MG-520 helicopter gunships firing rockets at the suspected position of the rebels in Purok 9, Tubo-tubo.

The firefight was a result of a four-day operation by troops from the Army’s 25th Infantry Battalion (IB) and the 1001st Division Recon Company against a group of rebels numbering about 30 from the NPA’s Front 25 and led by a certain Commander Ade, said Lt. Col. Cesar Molina, 25th IB commander.

Molina said the fighting was centered in the middle of an oil palm plantation on a hill some 2 km from the village proper.

“We had received reports about a group of armed men and women holing up there, possibly preparing for their extortion activities, so we conducted an operation and this is now the result,” Lt. Ernest Carolina, 25th IB civil military operations chief, said.

Carolina said he suspected the said NPA group was behind the spate of harassment and extortion activities against civilians and small businesses in Monkayo and the nearby town of Compostela, after communist insurgents were also tagged as behind the kidnapping of a lumber trader and five others in Monkayo.

Military and police officials have linked the abduction to the victims’ alleged refusal to pay up to the NPA’s so-called revolutionary tax.

Betty Dionisio, a resident of Purok 8, returned to the school minutes after she had accompanied her two grandchildren, who are in Grade 1 and kindergarten, respectively, as the firing over the distant hill persisted.

“I had trouble locating the children and was very worried because my husband was still in our hut guarding our farm animals and there were already loud explosions from the hill,” the 52-year-old farmer told the Inquirer. She eventually found her two grandchildren and took them to the village center.

At least three families near the site of the incident descended to the village proper for safety.

Molina said pursuit operations were launched at the fleeing rebels.

Aside from the body of the slain rebel, soldiers also recovered an M-16 rifle, rounds of ammunition, a green NPA shirt, communication and tracking equipment, and a detonating cord from an improvised explosive. Frinston L. Lim, Inquirer Mindanao


MILF: Japan builds school project in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao

Posted to the MILF Website (Jun 4): Japan builds school project in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao

The proper consultation with the stakeholders was a plus factor in the smooth implementation of the construction of the six classroom school building project equipped with armchairs, blackboards and sets of tables and chairs for teachers in Lapok Elementary School, Barangay Lapok, Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.”
This was said by UNYPAD-Development Management Center Project Officer Mr. Tu Alid Alfonso, MDM on the current implementation of project awarded to the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) by the Embassy of Japan through its scheme of the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) under the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD).

The project has been welcomed by the community leaders, the barangay and the local government units, the members and supporters of Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the area of Lapok as well as the villagers who have been very happy with the additional school building being constructed in their community from the Embassy of Japan, which will serve as home of learning for the children that once became victims of war in 2008 between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

To make sure that the construction is on the right direction, the UNYPAD Office of the National President Mr. Rahib L. Kudto, accompanied by the DMC Director Mr. Anwar Z. Saluwang, MMPA, made ocular visit as part of the supervision and monitoring of the construction.

As of this writing, based on the UNYPAD Administration and Finance Officer Mrs. Fatima Sapalon-Romasanta report on the “General Calculation on the Utilization of Fund” of the GGP for the construction, it now reached to “48 percent utilized fund” and there is still remaining “62 percent unutilized or available fund.”

The project cost is US$ 108,544 nearly 4.2 million pesos.

Mr. Saluwang said that the utilized funds matched the physical output of the construction.
“The concrete walls were completed including its partition, the digging of the six toilets and then on June 1, the wooden windows and doorjamb were delivered to the construction site”, he said.

The signing of grant contract in Manila was done on March 19, 2013 between Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe and Mr. Kudto.

The ground implementation of the construction begun on May 8 after the requested Explosives and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team of the 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division and, the Government of the Philippines’ Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (GPH-CCCH) led by Major Carlos T. Sol, Jr., the Moro Islamic Liberation Fronts’ CCCH represented by Mr. Toks Upahm and Mr. Omar Bayao, representatives of International Monitoring Team (IMT) Mr.

Takayuki Nakagawa, the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) and Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) issued a clearance for the operation of the project.

2 military officials of Negros promoted

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 4): 2 military officials of Negros promoted

Two senior military officials assigned in Negros island were among the 22 recently-promoted generals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and are now holding key positions in the organization.

Promoted to the rank of brigadier general were Col. Oscar Lactao, chief of the AFP Command Center, and Col. Francisco Patrimonio, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade in Negros Oriental.

Lactao, former commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade in Negros Occidental, is a member of Philippine Military Academy Class 1984, while Patrimonio belongs to PMA Class 1982, military records show.

Major General Maximo Caro (PMA 82) retired last week from the military service. He was replaced by his mistah, Brig. Gen. Jet Joel Velarmino, as Army chief of staff.

Also promoted to brigadier general was Col. Marian Aleido, the first female Judge Advocate General Office chief, and the 7th female general coming from the AFP Technical Service.

The promotion of the 22 generals has been approved by President Benigno Aquino III.
Others promoted to lieutenant general were Major Gen. Roy Deveraturda, AFP Central Command chief; Major Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, AFP Southern Luzon Command chief; and Major Gen. Rustico Guerrero, chief of the AFP Western Command.

Promoted to major general was Maj. Gen. John Bonafos, commander of the Special Operations Command. He used to be assigned at the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in the Western Visayas.

The 22 new generals received their new ranks at a donning ceremony yesterday at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City, led by AFP chief General Emmanuel Bautista.


NPA rebel in Bukidnon surrenders

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 4): NPA rebel in Bukidnon surrenders

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City -- A member of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) on Sunday voluntarily surrendered to the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion in Maramag, Bukidnon, an army report released on Tuesday said.

Maj. Leo Bongosia, spokesperson of the army’s 4th Infantry Division here, said Lanipao Gibangon Imbolok alias Cablas, a member of Sangay ng Platoon Pampropaganda operating in the hinter barangays of San Fernando, Bukidnon surrendered Sunday evening and brought with him two M1 Garand rifles.

He said that fatigue and discrimination prompted Imbolok to surrender and lay his arms to military authorities in Bukidnon.

Bongosia said Imbolok -- who underwent a debriefing -- wants to live a peaceful life with his family, free of intimidation and without fear of government authorities.

Imbolok will receive financial assistance from the government under the “Guns for Peace” program for former rebels, Bongosia said.


Remains of deceased 1st ID commander now at 'Libingan ng Mga Bayani'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 4): Remains of deceased 1st ID commander now at 'Libingan ng Mga Bayani'

The remains of Brig. Gen. Daniel Lucero, the deceased commander of the 1st Infantry Division who died Sunday after an apparent heart attack, arrived at the "Libingan ng Mga Bayani" in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Lucero's body was ferried by a C-130 cargo aircraft from Pagadian City around 8: 30 a.m.

"Brig. Gen. Lucero's remains arrived at the 'Libingan ng Mga Bayani' around 10: 30 a.m.," Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said.

He added full military honors were given to the former 1st Infantry Division commander.

Prior to this, the body of the deceased was placed at state at the "Tabak" Chapel in Kuta Major Cesar L Sang-an, Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur.

The latter is the headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division, the unit the deceased commanded before his death.

Lucero has just finished diving off Tuluran Beach, Tukuran, Zamboanga Del Sur when he complained of dizziness and collapsed around 1:55 p.m.

He passed away at the Mendero Hospital in Pagadian City. The military official was only 53 years old.

The deceased, a member of Philippine Military Academy "Matikas" Class of 1983, was appointed to head the 1st Infantry Division only last April 22.

He headed the 1002nd Infantry Brigade before assuming command of the latter unit.

As former battalion commander based in Basilan, Lucero led the assault against the Abu Sayyaf in May 2001 for kidnapping more than 20 Filipino and foreign tourists from Dos Palmas in Palawan.


Ex-PA spokesperson calls Lucero seasoned field commander

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 4): Ex-PA spokesperson calls Lucero seasoned field commander

The remains of Brig. Gen. Daniel Lucero, 1st Infantry Division commander who died after suffering from an apparent heart attack shortly after diving Sunday, was flown to Manila from Pagadian City Tuesday morning.

"The (Lockheed) C-130 "Hercules" cargo aircraft carrying Brig. Gen. Lucero's remains left Pagadian City around 8:30 a.m. It is headed for Villamor Air Base, Pasay City," Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said.

Shortly after arrival around noon, the body will be transported to the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City for viewing.

Lucero had just finished diving off Tuluran Beach, Tukuran, Zamboanga Del Sur when he complained of dizziness and collapsed around 1:55 p.m.

He passed away at the Mendero Hospital in Pagadian City. The military official, 54, was a member of Philippine Military Academy "Matikas" Class of 1983.

Lucero, appointed to head the 1st Infantry Division only last April 22, headed the 1002nd Infantry Brigade before assuming command of the latter unit.

As former battalion commander based in Basilan, Lucero led the assault against the Abu Sayyaf bandits in May 2001 for kidnapping more than 20 Filipino and foreign tourists from Dos Palmas in Palawan.
Meanwhile, former Army spokesperson, Maj. Harold Cabunoc, paid tribute to Lucero, calling the latter one of the most respected and seasoned field commanders in the Philippine Army.
Cabunoc, now the commanding officer of 7th Civil Relations Group based in Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, served as PA spokesperson from 2009 until early 2013.

"The Army has lost a respected and seasoned field commander in the (passing) of Brig. Gen. Daniel Lucero," he added.

Cabunoc also said Lucero, whom he fondly called "Sir Dan", is a hands-on leader.

"A soft-spoken officer who had been to countless battles against terrorists and bandits in Southern Mindanao since his younger days, he was among the best officers the Army has ever produced," he added.

Cabunoc added Lucero was the first member of the Philippine Military Academy "Matikas" Class of 1983 to be appointed as a division commander.

"A well-rounded officer, he holds a Masters Degrees from the University of the Philippines.

He obtained a degree in International Relations from the Australian National University," he pointed out.


Hostilities prevent school opening in NCotabato village

From the Philippine Star (Jun 4): Hostilities prevent school opening in NCotabato village

Schools within the enclave of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Matalam, North Cotabato and recalcitrant forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) hit by hostilities last month remained closed due to threats of more harassment, local officials said Tuesday.

The troubled farming communities in Barangay Marbel in Matalam are supposedly covered by the Sept. 2, 1996 final peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.

Local officials have accused the MILF of reneging on a low level truce with the MNLF last May 23, which the provincial government of North Cotabato helped broker to restore normalcy in the area.

The hostilities in Barangay Marbel began just before the May 13 elections when local villagers prevented MILF guerillas from attending a local peace forum with their guns.

The MNLF’s most senior leader in the area, Datu Dima Ambil, said the rule was imposed in compliance with the election gun ban and to prevent causing panic among villagers.

“We did not oppose their participation to that forum. We just wanted them to attend that activity without guns,” said Ambil, chairman of the MNLF’s North Cotabato state revolutionary committee.

Local officials said 5,634 villagers were forced to abandon their homes when defiant MILF forces engaged MNLF members in firefights that prompted the provincial police and the Army’s 602nd Brigade to deploy peacekeeping contingents in the area.

Probe urged

Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema, chairman of an MNLF faction, on Tuesday called on the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to investigate on the security problem hounding Barangay Marbel, a government-recognized “peace zone.”

Sema said MNLF members in the area are so vulnerable since many of them have either sold their firearms to generate additional capital for farming or traded the weapons with farm animals to boost their agricultural ventures.

Evacuees have confirmed that so heavy was the presence of MILF forces from nearby towns that massed around Barangay Marbel last month that members of the local MNLF group were forced to use their World War II vintage 60MM mortars to prevent their rivals from closing in.

The beleaguered MNLF members also pounded with mortars strategic spots around Barangay Marbel after MILF rebels looted abandoned houses and established checkpoints to prevent the return of displaced residents.

“The truth must be unraveled. The MNLF community there is covered by the September 2, 1996 final peace agreement between the government and the MNLF,” Sema said.

Sema said they are for the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Marbel, with the intervention of OPAPP, to enable villagers to return and for education officials to re-open all schools in the area.

Local community leaders told reporters that marauding MILF gunmen from outside keep coming back, in total disregard of the interim truce initiated by the office of  North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza.

The MILF’s website, www.luwaran.com, has been attacking the Army’s 602nd Brigade for deploying a peacekeeping contingent in the area, not knowing that there were resolutions, that sought military and police intervention, from local communities, barangay leaders and local officials.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the military gave local authorities enough time to peacefully resolve the conflict before the 602nd Brigade responded to the clamor by evacuees for the deployment of a peacekeeping contingent in Barangay Marbel.

Sema and Ambil both said the MNLF is “not closing its doors” to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

“Our main concern, for now, is how to restore normalcy in the area for children of MNLF members there to return to their schools. Classes failed to resume last Monday and there is no guarantee the schools there can re-open soon,” Sema said.


'Phl growth vulnerable to cyber attacks'

From the Philippine Star (Jun 4): 'Phl growth vulnerable to cyber attacks'

Cyber attacks can wipe out the gains of economic growth and can drive away foreign investors, the chief of the country’s premiere institution on defense education said Tuesday.

Fermin de Leon Jr., president of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), said while the Philippines achieved a robust growth in the first quarter, cyber threats could affect efforts to sustain it.

“For example, if the banking and financing system is paralyzed by a cyber attack, you can imagine the cost in terms of millions of pesos and dollars per minute or per hour,” De Leon said in an interview.

“This (threat) can really affect our economy and even the defense and security. You can just extend your imagination on the magnitude of what a cyber attack can do,” he added.

The Philippine economy grew by 7.8 percent in the first quarter, buoyed by what officials described as improved business confidence and consumer optimism.

The country’s growth rate exceeded market forecasts and outpaced those of major East and Southeast Asian economies including China.

De Leon said cyber security threats could turn off private investors, one of the key sources of employment.

“When foreign investors and businessmen do not have the peace of mind to invest because of the prevalence of cyber attacks, they will not bring their investments here,” he said.

De Leon said all sectors should work together to find ways to address the risks posed by cyber threat, which he described as “a new emerging non-traditional security concern.”

Cyber security forum

Meanwhile, about 300 security practitioners worldwide will discuss key cyber security issues during the SecureAsia@Manila forum to be held in Makati Shangri-La Hotel from Aug. 7 to 8.

The even is being organized by (ISC)2, the largest membership body of certified information security professionals worldwide. The conference is also one of the highlights of the upcoming 50th anniversary celebration of the NDCP.

“We hope that the local information security practitioners and government officials can benefit from this regional event by exchanging experience with the luminaries that the conference draws from all over the world,” De Leon said.

“An increasingly sophisticated threat landscape, coupled with the advancement of technology, requires security professionals to keep abreast constantly of the latest strategies to ensure that their organizations’ infrastructure are secured,” said Clayton Jones, managing director for (ISC)2 Asia Pacific.

President Aquino has been invited to serve as the event’s keynote speaker. Also invited were Vice President Jejomar Binay and security experts from various countries.

Key conference topics include organized crime and cyber espionage forensics, malware analysis, understanding against uder-targeted attacks, and social media forensics.

Interested parties may visit http://www.informationsecurityasia.com/ for more information.


Army general to be buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani

From the Philippine Star (Jun 4): Army general to be buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani

The remains of Brig. Gen. Daniel Lucero, who died in a scuba diving accident last Sunday, will be laid to rest at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on Saturday, the Army said Tuesday.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said the interment would be held at 12 noon at the heroes’ cemetery in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.

A necrological service will be held at the cemetery’s mortuary on Friday. Lucero’s body will remain in the chapel until the burial.

The 117-hectare Libingan ng mga Bayani is the burial place of deceased presidents, dignitaries, war veterans, national artists, scientists, boy scouts, and military officials.

Brig. Gen. Felicito Trinidad, who was named officer-in-charge of the Army’s 1st division, led his troops in rendering honors to their late commander.

The body was brought to the division’s headquarters in Zamboanga del Sur last Monday for the rendering of military honors.

Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo, security officials, academicians, members of civil society groups and political leaders led by Gov. Antonio Cerilles paid their respects to Lucero, who was active in peacekeeping activities.

A provincial board resolution praising Lucero for his peace advocacies was read by Vice Gov. Juan Regala.

The body was then airlifted to the Villamor Airbase in Pasay before it was transported to Fort Bonifacio.

Lucero collapsed at about 1:55 p.m. last Sunday after diving at the Tabak beach in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur. He was then rushed to the Mendero Hospital in Pagadian City, where he died at 3:55 p.m.

Irene Lacson, Lucero’s attending physician, said the general died of heart attack.


DND finalizing TOR for acquisition of 12 fighter jets

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 4): DND finalizing TOR for acquisition of 12 fighter jets

To beef up the security capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Department of National Defense (DND) is finalizing the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the acquisition of 12 fighter jets from South Korea. 

DND Undersecretary Fernando said that the acquisition of fighter jets remains a priority. He also said that the TOR for the acquisition of 12 FA-50 fighter jets may be completed in a month.

The TOR provides the details of acquisition to include the fighter jets technical features, price, payment scheme, and the time frame for the delivery of said equipment.

Security officials are currently going through the details of acquisition, and likewise the government is hoping that negotiations with South Korea will begin soon.

The government has allocated P18 billion for the acquisition of said fighter jets to beef up the capability of the Philippine Air Force.

Meanwhile, DND chief Voltaire Gazmin also ordered to fast track the acquisition of 21 UH-I Huey helicopters which costs P1.26 billion. 

Gazmin hoped that the procurement of the 21 helicopters will be completed in July.


Tawi-Tawi court lowers bail for 38 ‘Royal Army’ members

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 4): Tawi-Tawi court lowers bail for 38 ‘Royal Army’ members
The Tawi-Tawi Regional Trial Court has reduced by 50 percent the bail for the 38 suspected members of the Sulu’s Royal Security Forces.

In its ruling made public Tuesday, the court reduced the bail from P164,000 to P82,000 that each of the 38 accused has to pay.

The 38 are facing charges for violation of Article 118 of the Revised Penal Code for inciting to war and giving motives for reprisals, illegal possession of firearms and violation of the election gun ban.

Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said their motion for reconsideration was dismissed by the court.

“They were not able to post bail [because] they still cannot afford it,” Acosta said.

Initially, PAO asked the court to reduce the bail to just P3,000 saying they were all jobless while one was an elderly woman.

The 38 were the first batch of alleged supporters of the Sultanate of Sulu in connection with their alleged intrusion in Sabah.

They were intercepted in three separate incidents off the seas of Tawi-Tawi by the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard. A number of firearms were allegedly confiscated after fleeing Sabah where clashes had erupted since March 1 due to Sultanate of Sulu’s followers attempt to reclaim the disputed territory.

The 38 accused were transferred from the naval facility in Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi to Bongao, Tawi-Tawi detention center.


NPA vows stronger armed resistance vs Glencore Xstrata’s Tampakan project

From MindaNews (Jun 4): NPA vows stronger armed resistance vs Glencore Xstrata’s Tampakan project

The New People’s Army (NPA) will launch stronger armed resistance against the Tampakan copper-gold project of the merged Glencore Xstrata plc., a rebel leader said Tuesday.

In an e-mailed statement, “Ka Efren,” spokesperson of the National Democratic Front-Far South Mindanao Region, also appealed “to the people’s greater vigilance and fervent stand for the protection of our environment, our subsistence, and our national patrimony against the catastrophic attack of foreign large-scale mining.”

“The most recent intrusion of the multinational Glencore will bring about a wider anti-mining resistance in Far South Mindanao.  The revolutionary forces are unremittingly preparing for the extensive battle to defy the multinational’s invasive assault,” he said.

Glencore International plc announced on May 2 that it has completed the takeover of Xstrata plc to form GlenCore Xstrata, making it the world’s fourth biggest mining company and the world’s biggest commodities trader.

Xstrata, through its wholly owned Xstrata Copper, owns 62.5 percent of the 40 percent controlling equity at Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), developer of the Tampakan project.

Australian firm Indophil Resources NL owns the rest or 37.5 percent of the controlling equity. It is Indophil’s flagship asset in its portfolio.

The Tampakan project straddles the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato,
Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, Kiblawan in Davao del Sur and Malungon in Sarangani.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued an environmental compliance certificate to the Tampakan project last February, after rejecting it twice last year because of the open-pit ban imposed by the South Cotabato provincial government.

In December last year, SMI announced that it was moving the start of commercial operation from 2016 to 2019. Among the major challenges the company cited is the open-pit ban in South Cotabato.

On New Year’s Day 2008, communist guerillas stormed the base camp of Sagittarius Mines in Barangay Tablu in Tampakan town, burning facilities and equipment worth at least P12 million.

On January 29, 2009, NPA rebels also attacked the municipal police station in Tampakan. Four people, including three policemen, were injured in the daring attack that left the police station partially destroyed

SMI has repeatedly acknowledged in their annual sustainability reports that security threats are among the risks facing the project.

“A stronger armed and legal resistance shall continue to arise,” Tuesday’s statement from the NDF-FSMR warned.

Besides the security threat posed by the NPA, the Tampakan project is also facing opposition from B’laan tribesmen who took up guns in resistance.

The local government units of Kiblawan, Tampakan and Columbio earlier agreed to form the Task Force Kitaco to take charge of security arrangements in the mountains that include the tenement of SMI.

The mining company has been providing support to the military-led task force through its annual financial assistance to the LGUs straddled by the mining project.

The Tampakan Forum, a coalition of international and local non-government organizations and the local Catholic church opposing the Tampakan copper-gold project, said that before Glencore acquired Xstrata, the former wrote them that it does “not believe in military presence in the mine site and will demilitarize when it takes over.”

“The Tampakan Forum is taking with a grain of salt the Glencore pronouncement. But if it is able to sincerely demilitarize the project site immediately and unilaterally, this will be extremely welcomed,” it said.


Navyman drowns in Zamboanga

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 4): Navyman drowns in Zamboanga

A navyman drowned, 20 days before Brig. Gen. Daniel Lucero succumbed to heart failure while scuba diving in Zamboanga del Sur.

A military source identified the victim as Daves Terrano, a diver on training inside the Naval Force of the Western Mindanao Command.

The source, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to make an official statement, said Terrano’s drowning is being investigated.

Meanwhile, Lucero’s remains lie in state at the 1st Infantry Division Tabak chapel in Lulucan, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur.

His body is expected to be brought to the Army Headquarters in Taguig City with final rites to be announced shortly.


1,000 CAFGUs in Central Mindanao relieved

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 4): 1,000 CAFGUs in Central Mindanao relieved

COTABATO CITY – At least 1,000 members of the Citizens’ Armed Forces Geographical Units in Central Mindanao have been relieved by their administering military command, a move meant to professionalize CAFGU elements as auxiliary troops for peace and community building.

Lt. Col. Bernie Langub, chief of the 38th Infantry Battalion, a unit of the Army’s 6th Infantry (Kampilan) Division and overall supervising command of CAFGU elements in Central Mindanao, said they are currently administering 7,000 “professionalized” CAFGU elements in Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

The cleansing process began two years ago. The CAFGUs were relieved for varied lapses ranging from operational laxity to political partisanship.

“Unlike in the past where elected officials treated them like war dogs, CAFGU elements now under our command are professionalized and enjoying public respect,” Langub told journalists in mixed dialects.


Indian Navy flotilla to visit PH in June

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 4): Indian Navy flotilla to visit PH in June

An Indian naval flotilla, composed of four ships from the Eastern Fleet, is scheduled to undertake a goodwill visit to the Philippines from June 12 to 16, the Indian Embassy in Manila announced on Tuesday.

The Indian naval ships include the indigenously-built guided missile stealth frigate Satpura, guided missile destroyer Ranvijay, guided missile corvette Kirch and the fleet tanker Shakti. The ships are under the command of Rear Admiral Ajit Kumar.

There would be around 800 officers and men of Indian Navy on board the vessels.

According to the Indian embassy, the two-month deployment to South-East Asia is far from India's usual area of operations.

It said in a statement that during the deployment, the men onboard the battle group will interact with a wide cross-section of people from the different countries they would visit which would contribute to goodwill and understanding.

The embassy added that the flotilla will participate in "Passage Exercises" with the navies of the countries visited that would be focused on maritime security cooperation comprising humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) operations and "Visit, Board, Search and Seizure" (VBSS) drills for anti-piracy operations.

"These exercises are aimed at increasing naval inter-operability, enabling the two navies to function together smoothly during possible HADR operations," it said.

In addition, during the port visits, the Fleet Commander along with the Commanding Officers of the ships will meet high-ranking officials of the Armed Forces, Department of National Defense, state administration, port management, coastal security organization, police, and other stakeholders of maritime security to share professional experiences and exchange best practices in areas of mutual interest.


NPA leader slain in Ifugao encounter

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 4): NPA leader slain in Ifugao encounter

NARVACAN, Ilocos Sur -- A top ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) was confirmed killed during an encounter with the army troopers in the oustkirts of Barangay Butac, Aguinaldo, Ifugao province last Sunday.

First Lieutenant Rowena G. Abayon, spokesperson of the army’s 5th Infantry Division, said Tuesday that the slain NPA rebel was identified as Artos Talastas, the political officer and leader the Kilusang Larangang Guerilla (KLG) Marco operating in the the provinces in Mountain Province, Ifugao and Kalinga.

“Artos Talastas’ cadaver was positively identified by his uncle namely: Eleseo Talastas. The rebel’s cadaver was brought to the house of his aunt: Mercedes Tamangen Amottong in Barangay Alunogan, Natonin, Mountain Province,” she said.

“The slain NPA leader was recovered by a joint team of police and soldiers belonging under army’s 54th Infantry Battalion together with three (3) M16 rifles, two (2) M14 rifles and one (1) M203 grenade launcher at the encounter site,” she added.

Colonel Roger Salvador, commander of the army’s 501st Infantry Brigade,
narrated Tuesday that  about 3 o’clock PM last Monday a team of policemen led by SPO4 Eusebio Benmaho, Natonin town’s deputy chief of police, received an information that a cadaver was recovered at Sitio Pakkel, Barangay Butac, Aguinaldo, Ifugao province.

“The lawmen immediately proceeded at Sitio Bunag of the said barangay to verify the information; and while the said team was in the area, they met the residents carrying Talastas cadaver,” Salvador said.

“The team of lawmen and soldiers escorted the cadaver to Natonin District Hospital for dressing and cleaning its wound,” he added.

He said that Talastas sustained a single fatal gunshot wound at the right portion of his back as entry and exited on the right portion of his breast.

“The sudden death of Talastas is a big blow to the underground movement operating in Mountain Province,” he noted.


Flags at half staff for Lucero

From Malaya (Jun 4): Flags at half staff for Lucero

CAMP Aguinaldo, the Armed Forces’ general headquarters in Quezon City, and all Army camps throughout the country are flying flags in half staff, mourning for Brig. Gen. Daniel Lucero who died Sunday after going scuba diving in Zamboanga del Sur.

The flags will remain on half staff until Lucero, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division based in Zamboanga del Sur and once AFP spokesman, is interred, said Maj. Ramon Zagala, chief of the AFP public affairs office.

The body of Lucero, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983, is in a chapel inside the 1st ID headquarters in Labangan town. It is scheduled to be brought to the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig today.

 Lucero collapsed after scuba diving at Tabak beach in Tukuran town, also in Zamboanga del Sur around 1:55 p.m. Sunday, during the reception of second lieutenants who are newly assigned with the Army division.

Lucero, 54, is survived by wife Maria Consuelo and daughter Paula Divina.


Ligot family in 2nd forfeiture case

From Malaya (Jun 4): Ligot family in 2nd forfeiture case

A SECOND forfeiture case was filed yesterday by government against retired Lt. Gen. Jacinto C. Ligot and members of his family, seeking recovery of P55.6 million worth of cash investments and bank accounts that allegedly form part of their ill-gotten wealth.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales approved the 15-page petition last May 28 based on the recommendation of graft investigation and prosecution officer  Anna Francesca M. Limbo.

Ligot’s co-respondents are his wife Erlinda; children Paulo, Riza and Miguel; brother-in-law Edgardo T. Yambao; and Gilda Y. Alfonso-Velasquez, cousin of Mrs. Ligot.
A previous ill-gotten wealth case filed in 2005 sought forfeiture of real estate assets worth P135.28 million. Named respondents were the Ligot family, Yambao and the former military general’s sister, Miguela L. Paragas. It is still pending.

In the latest case, the government sought confiscation of proceeds of seven investment accounts in the Armed Forces and Police Savings and Loan Association Inc. (AFPSLAI) in the names of Ligot, his wife and their children with a combined value of P1.2 million.

Also eyed by government prosecutors are bank deposits with Equitable PCI Bank, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Land Bank of the Philippines, United Overseas Bank-Philippines, Metrobank, and Citicorp Financial Services and Insurance Brokerage Phil. Inc. (CFSI).

Based on figures obtained by investigators, the CFSI account is under the name of Velasquez and holds P52.525 million.

“With regard to CFSI account No. 5274901001 in the name of Velasquez, evidence indicates that she is not the original owner of this account,” the Ombudsman said.

Based on CFSI’s explanation in a letter to the Court of Appeals dated July 27, 2005, the account was originally in the name of Mrs. Ligot and two of her children, Paulo and Riza Ligot. It was transferred in the name of Velasquez with the submission of “Change of Account Title,” the Ombudsman said.

“That most of the accounts are in the names of Mrs. Ligot, the Ligot children, Yambao and Velasquez is of no moment. They had no sufficient means to open bank deposits or make investment placements in significant sums when the accounts were constituted,” the Ombudsman said.

Ligot retired as comptroller of the Armed Forces in 2004 but the year before he left the military service, he declared a net worth of  P3,248,003.

To preserve the investment placements and bank assets, the Ombudsman asked the Sandiganbayan to immediately issue writs of preliminary attachment over the AFPSLAI, CFSI and bank accounts and to keep them in effect until the case is fully resolved.


As China flexes muscle, U.S. wants South China Sea, East China Sea 'free from control'

From InterAksyon (Jun 4): As China flexes muscle, U.S. wants South China Sea, East China Sea 'free from control'

Amid China’s insistence that it has full sovereignty over South China Sea and East China Sea, the United States said it would guarantee that the territories would be “free from interference and control.”

“The United States wants to ensure that the South China Sea is free for freedom of navigation, free from interference, free from control,” U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. said on Monday during his visit to the U.S. Navy destroyer, USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), which is in Manila for a regular port visit.

Thomas told News5 that Washington believes there should be no impediment in the freedom of navigation and economic activity in the disputed areas.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of Defense both articulated Washington’s view that while the country considers China as a potential partner, Beijing should not implement any policy or carry out any action that would undermine stability in the Asia–Pacific region.

On Sunday, Chinese Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo, deputy chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s general staff,  said Beijing had the right to send naval patrols in the East China Sea and South China Sea as these were under “Chinese sovereignty.”

“So the Chinese warships and the patrolling activities are totally legitimate and uncontroversial,” Qi added.

Thomas believes, however, that such posture will have an impact on economic activity and trade.

“We oppose economic coercion,” Thomas said, adding that the United States still believes territorial disputes can be resolved at the negotiating table.

“There are cross cutting claims… we have repeatedly called on all claimant-states to sit down on the negotiating table, “ Thomas said, quickly adding that the U.S. would not mediate or intervene in the diputes. “The United States does not take any position on the territorial claims.”

Brunei, China, Malaysia, The Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam have competing claims on several islands and shoals in the South China Sea, most notably, the Spratlys, a major fishing area, which is believed to have large deposits of oil and gas. China claims all territories in the South China Sea including Spratlys, a group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays, and islands.

Meanwhile, China and Japan have competing claims over a group of uninhibited islands called Senkakus in the East China Sea.

China had repeatedly opposed moves to resolve the disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea through international bodies, insisting on a bilateral or country-to-country approach.

Commitment to regional security

U.S. Navy Capt. Luke Frost, commanding officer of the USS Paul Hamilton, told News5 that although their Philippine stop is considered a regular port visit, “it is also to show our commitment to regional security and to show our close ties with the Philippines and the region.”

The USS Paul Hamilton is scheduled to leave Tuesday after a four-day port visit.
Frost added that the ongoing sequestration or budget cuts in the U.S. did not affect navy operations in Asia. [Watch video below]

“Our leadership has done a very good job of prioritizing and forward deployed ships that are the tip of the spear,” Frost said. “We continue to prioritize resources so there is no interruption in our capability and operations.”

The U.S. has been forced to reduce military deployments and operations worldwide following budget cuts.

USS Paul Hamilton’s capabilities

 Frost briefed Thomas and select guests, including News5, on the capabilities of the USS Paul Hamilton, which is an Arleigh Burke class destroyer. Frost said the USS Paul Hamilton could carry out several missions such as anti–air and anti-submarine operations as well as surface warfare.

The ship is armed with a vertical launch system, containing a combination of cruise, surface to air, Harpoon surface to surface missiles, a five-inch deck gun as well as close in weapons systems such as 20-millimeter Phalanx gun system and 25-mm chain guns.

Frost gave a tour of the key areas of the ship such as the bridge, the Combat Information Center (CIc) and the Engineering spaces.

According to Frost, the CIC (which was “sanitized” for the tour) is the area where the ship carries out “its fight.” Surrounded by radars, sensors and monitors, Frost said “they get all the information from the onboard equipment as well as from other ships so we know what action to take.”

The ship is equipped with the AN/SPY1D3d radar, which enables it to track and engage multiple air and surface targets. Frost pointed out that the Arleigh Burke class destroyer was designed not to have any right angles on the outside of its hull and superstructure – doing so reduces its cross section or making it harder to detect on radar.

The USS Paul Hamilton has seen combat operations in the Persian Gulf and in anti – piracy operations off Somalia.

The ship is equipped with gas turbines engines, which give it a top speed of 30 knots or 56 kilometers per hour. Frost explained that the ship’s engines are actually based on aircraft engines.

The ship has a crew of 281 including 24 Filipino-Americans, according to Frost.

“Our ship’s home port is Hawaii, we have very close ties with the Philippines,” Frost said.        

Commissioned in 1995, the USS Paul Hamilton is the 10th ship built in the Arleigh Burke class and was named in honor of the third US Secretary of the Navy.


NBI submits report on Sabah standoff to DOJ

From InterAksyon (Jun 4): NBI submits report on Sabah standoff to DOJ

The National Bureau of Investigation has submitted to the Department of Justice the report on the investigation it conducted on the Sabah standoff.

However, NBI Deputy Director for Regional Operations Virgilio Mendez on Tuesday refused to disclose the contents of the report submitted to Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima.

De Lima earlier said once the NBI report is submitted to her, she will study it and personally submit it to President Benigno S. Aquino III, who will decide whether to make the contents public or not.

It was earlier reported that those who may be exonerated of any liability for the Sabah standoff are former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Council for Philippine Affairs secretary general Pastor “Boy Saycon” and former Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari.

Of the three individuals mentioned, only Saycon was summoned by the NBI during the investigation.

The NBI also summoned members of the Kiram family headed by Sultan Jamalul Kiram II.

However, only sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani appeared before the NBI investigation.

The standoff was instigated when more than 200 followers of the sultanate, led by Kiram’s brother and crown prince, Agbimuddin, went to Sabah in February to stake their historical claim to the territory.

Fighting broke out between the sultanate’s followers and Malaysian security forces on March 1 and the series of skirmishes that followed left more than 60 dead by mid-March.