Sunday, June 16, 2013

MILF: IMT--First Batch of Indonesians to end tour of duty, replacements coming

From the MILF Website (Jun 16): IMT: First Batch of Indonesians to end tour of duty, replacements coming

The pioneer batch of Indonesian contingent composed of 10 military and five civilian officers with the International Monitoring Team (IMT) will end its tour of duty by June 24, 2013.
This was learned from the Headquarters of the IMT here in Cotabato City during the farewell dinner tendered for two outgoing Malaysian IMT officers, Lt Col Rashidin and Mr Agus, a couple of days ago.

However, the IMT Chief of Staff the replacements for the Indonesian and Malaysian IMT will be coming soon following the commitment given by the two governments to continue deploying contingents for the IMT.

Col Khairully Head the Indonesian Contingent First Batch that started its tour of duty last June 24, 2012 and leading the IMT Team Site 5 based in Davao City.

A farewell program is already organized at Camp Darapanan by the MILF Central Committee for the outgoing Indonesian IMT officers, said Muhammad Ameen, the Chief Secretariat of the MILF Central Committee.

Ameen conveyed the endless gratitude and commendation of Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the MILF Central Committee and the Bansgamoro people for the invaluable commitment and support of the Indonesian Government to the GPH – MILF Peace Process, particularly with the IMT.

“We can never compensate the contributions of Col Khairully and his men but surely Allah will reward them and their families for their noble efforts and services to the Bangsamoro aspiration for peace and justice,” Ameen said.

“We hope the Indonesian will stay with the IMT for as long as necessary,” he stressed.
IMT monitors on the ground the implementation of the security, humanitarian - development, socio-economic, and civilian protection aspects of the GPH - MILF Peace Process.

Presently, IMT is composed of Malaysia, as Head of Mission, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, Norway and the European Union and being supported by the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP), Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC), Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC), and the Moslem Organization of Government Officials and Professionals (MOGOP).

NDF chief negotiator: Aquino govt dimmed prospects of peace

From GMA News (Jun 16): NDF chief negotiator: Aquino govt dimmed prospects of peace

The chief negotiator of the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) said prospects of peace under President Benigno Aquino III's administration have already "dimmed" because of the government's supposed refusal to hold its end up on agreements signed by both parties decades ago.

In an interview posted on his group's website, NDF chief peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni accused the Philippine government of refusing to address the root cause of the 44-year-old communist insurgency in the country. He also said the administration has not complied with past agreements it signed with the NDF.

"Unfortunately, recently, the Aquino government has embarked on a vitriolic attack on the NDFP, claiming that the NDFP is scuttling the peace talks by imposing preconditions. This, however, is false. The NDFP is insisting that the government of the Philippines respect and comply with agreements signed," Jalandoni said.

Jalandoni likewise said that communist insurgents in the Philippines will continue fighting until the end of Aquino's term if the NDF's demands are not met by the Philippine government.

"If the Aquino government continues to refuse, then the NDFP continues its revolutionary struggle throughout the country and is willing to wait out the three years left of the Aquino regime," the NDF chief negotiator said.

Last April, the Philippine government said it is ending peace negotiations with the NDF after a 44-month impasse. Alexander Padilla, chairperson of the government panel negotiating with the NDF, said his party wants to see “sincerity and political will” first from communist groups before returning to the peace table.

Lawyer Edre Olalia, NDF legal consultant, earlier blamed the Philippine government for the stalled negotiations, saying the government peace panel was "too fixated" on asking for a ceasefire while talks were ongoing.

MILF: New batch of Indonesian truce observers to arrive in Mindanao late June

From GMA News (Jun 16): MILF: New batch of Indonesian truce observers to arrive in Mindanao late June

Amid a "deadlock" in peace negotiations, a new batch of Indonesian observers is arriving late June to replace the Indonesian contingent to the International Monitoring Team keeping watch over the ceasefire between Philippine government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The MILF on Sunday cited information from the IMT that the "pioneer" Indonesian contingent, which includes 10 military and five civilian officers, will end its tour of duty June 24.

“We can never compensate the contributions of (contingent head) Col. Khairully and his men but surely Allah will reward them and their families for their noble efforts and services to the Bangsamoro aspiration for peace and justice,” said MILF central committee secretariat head Muhammad Ameen.

“We hope the Indonesian will stay with the IMT for as long as necessary,” he added.

Also, the MILF said the replacements for the Indonesian and two Malaysian IMT members will be coming soon, as the two countries' governments committed to continue sending members to the IMT.

The MILF said the Indonesian contingent under Col. Khairully started its tour of duty on June 24, 2012 and headed the IMT Team Site 5 based in Davao City.

It said its central committee is now organizing a farewell program for the outgoing Indonesian IMT officers.

The IMT monitors on the ground the implementation of the security, humanitarian, development, socio-economic, and civilian protection aspects of the government-MILF peace process.

It has members from Malaysia as head of mission, and from Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, Norway and the European Union.

Supporting it are the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP), Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC), Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC), and the Moslem Organization of Government Officials and Professionals (MOGOP).

Meanwhile, a report on the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal as saying the talks have reached "a stalemate," but their leaders are urging ground commanders  to be patient to avoid renewed hostilities in Mindanao.

Earlier reports also indicate the MILF had been frustrated with the slow pace of the negotiations.

Kiram camp claims hunt vs sultan's brod in Sabah eases

From GMA News (Jun 16): Kiram camp claims hunt vs sultan's brod in Sabah eases

Some 1,600 followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III led by the sultan's brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram are still in Sabah, months after the Malaysian government's offensives against them ended, the sultan's camp said Sunday.

Abraham Idjirani, the spokesman of the sultanate, said the pursuit operations against Kiram's followers is still on but had "eased" since Malaysia's elections last May.

"Kami naka-relax nang kaunti dahil hindi na sila masyadong tinutugis," Idjirani said in an interview on dzBB radio.

Kiram's brother had led a group of armed followers to Sabah last February, and engaged Malaysian forces in a three-week standoff that ended in violent clashes March 1 and 2, and prompted Malaysia to mount offensives to flush out Kiram's followers from Lahad Datu.

Several Filipinos and their Malaysian supporters had been charged before a Malaysian court for the incident.

But since Malaysia held elections last May, Idjirani said they have not received any report of clashes between Kiram's followers and Malaysian forces.

For their part, he said Kiram's brother and the 1,600 followers are following the sultan's "declaration of unilateral ceasefire."

Govt to propose new formulation of wealth-sharing with MILF

From GMA News (Jun 16): Govt to propose new formulation of wealth-sharing with MILF

Government peace negotiators will propose a new formulation of wealth-sharing with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, even as they continue to work on a separate annex on power-sharing.

Presidential peace process adviser Teresita Deles on Sunday said President Benigno Aquino okayed their draft annex on wealth-sharing, which will be presented to the MILF soon.

“Tapos na ang trabaho sa wealth-sharing. Kailangan siyempre pag-usapan, may bagong formulation na pino-propose ang gobyerno," Deles said in an interview on dzBB radio.

When asked if President Aquino had seen and approved the draft, she said yes.

Deles also said they are confident they can defend the draft annex in Congress.

In Malacañang, meanwhile, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte defended the government’s “slow” stance in the peace talks, saying it does not want to make mistakes like the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in 2008.

The MOA-AD in 2008 was thumbed down by the Supreme Court. The high court’s action prompted rogue MILF commanders to launch attacks in several areas in Mindanao.

“Given that the last remaining annexes contain some heavy issues so to speak, government is taking a close look,” Valte said on government-run dzRB radio.

She said the government wants to make sure there will be no repeat of the experience of the MOA-AD.

“Gusto natin siguraduhin ang annexes the contents of the annexes will pass muster. Naintindihan natin ang nagiging agam-agam sa pagtagal but rest assured, I know both panels are working with each other on these issues," she said.

2 explosives found in Lanao del Norte town

From ABS-CBN (Jun 16): 2 explosives found in Lanao del Norte town

Two improvised explosive devices (IED) were found in the town of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte at past 6 a.m. Sunday.

One of the IEDs was left outside the gate of Kauswagan Mayor Casan Maquiling's house, while the other one was left under a culvert near the residence of a certain Professor Joseph Sanguila.

Police said the IEDs were made of ammonium nitrate and they believe the bombs were only left there to sow fear since no shrapnel was found.

Authorities believe this incident is in connection with the political tension that’s been ongoing in the town since Maquiling assumed office last June 13.

Maquiling sat as mayor after the Supreme Court disqualified the candidacy of Rommel Arnado in the 2010 elections.

Maquiling is currently holding office at a health center, while Arnado still insists that he has the right over the Mayor’s Office of Kauswagan.

Arnado also accused Maquiling of planting the bombs himself.

Gov't working to break impasse with MILF - Palace

From ABS-CBN (Jun 16): Gov't working to break impasse with MILF - Palace

Malacanang assured on Sunday that all is well in the talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and any impasse will be settled.

In an interview with radio dzRB, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government understands the misgivings of the MILF but “rest assured that the two panels are working with each other on these issues.”

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on Sunday that peace talks between the secessionist group and the government is at a stalemate. Quoting MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, the newspaper reported that the group is already “frustrated” with the slow pace of the negotiations.

But Valte said this is understandable since the two groups are working on the annexes of the agreement, which is the “heaviest” portion of the talks. The economic debate is usually included here.

“We don’t want a repeat of the [Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain or MOA-AD]. They are now studying the annexes, and I’m sure the content will pass muster,” she said.

Under the mothballed MOA-AD, the Moro homeland will be called the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity and will include the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Marawi City); six municipalities in Lanao del Norte; hundreds of villages in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato, and parts of Palawan.

The proposal was met with protests until it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

CPP/NDF/NPA: NPA’s victory is the victory of peasantry

Just posted to the PRWC Blog (Jun 1): NPA’s victory is the victory of peasantry

Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid (PKM-ST)
Southern Tagalog Region
June 1, 2013

The Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (PKM-TK), member organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), salutes the victory of the Apolonio Mendoza Command of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) against the offensive of the 74th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (74th IBPA) in Catanauan, Quezon.

Fourteen 14 soldiers were reportedly killed in a 15 minute firefight on May 31. The Red commanders and guerillas of the NPA ensured that the reactionary armed forces of the Aquino regime will not “walk in the park” while they are in the province.

Since last year, the people of Quezon experienced the brutality of Oplan Bayanihan when the Aquino regime deployed 8 battalions of regular and paramilitary forces of AFP/PNP and CAFGU. These forces are concentrated in Catanauan and in 21 other municipalities in the 3rd and 4th districts of Quezon.

Psy-war agents of the regime boast of “winning over the hearts and minds” of the people of the province.

This prolonged and expansive military and police deployment is not solely intended to thwart the NPA’s advance but primarily, targets civilians who steadfastly fight for their economic and political rights.

The 74th IBPA is the main perpetrator of human rights violations in the province. These include torture, illegal arrests, and using schools as camps.

Recently, elements from the same unit threatened and harassed the workers of Filcoco, a coconut coir and fiber factory in Catanauan, who are on strike.

Amidst these fascist attacks, the revolutionary peasant movement in Quezon strives to overcome the reactionary fascist terror and trickery.

Staunch resistance ensures that thousands of masses in the province continue to reap the fruits of waging agrarian revolution since the past decades.

The revolutionary peasant movement draws inspiration from the victories of the NPA. They are evermore confident on the will and capability of the NPA to defeat the AFP, the primary instrumentality of the pro-landlord state in depriving the toiling masses of their land.

Long live the New Peoples’ Army!
Fight and defeat Oplan Bayanihan of the US-Aquino II Regime!
Further advance the Agrarian Revolution towards victory!

Freed Aussie hostage moving on

From Rappler (Jun 16): Freed Aussie hostage moving on                                
BETTER. Warren Rodwell says he “pulled up pretty well” since he was released by Abu Sayaff earlier this year. Screenshot from Warren Rodwell says he “pulled up pretty well” since he was released by Abu Sayaff earlier this year. Screenshot from

MANILA, Philippines - Freed Australian hostage Warren Rodwell has been recovering well after being released by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) earlier this year.

In an interview with, Rodwell disclosed that he “pulled up pretty well” since he was shot in the hand and abducted by the terrorist group in Zamboanga 18 months ago.

"At the moment I’m still alive and, all things considered, I’m quite functional," Rodwell said.

Rodwell was abducted by the Abu Sayaff on December 5, 2011 in his house in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Read: TIMELINE: Rodwell's ordeal

The ASG released Rodwell on March 23, 2012, 15 months after he was kidnapped. It was reported that the militants were paid US$97,750 in ransom, a negotiator said.

Read: The inside story: Ransom and Rodwell

Read: The men Rodwell leaves behind with the Abu Sayyaf

Rodwell recalled how the “main part of his suffering was the hunger” but he said he’s back with his original weight.

"I'm back to my original weight now so I’ve put on about 30kg. In fact I’m getting a bit chubby," he said.

Rodwell said that he also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while he was in captivity and explained he started his healing by “analyzing the situations a lot.”

Rodwell said he sought help from a private psychologist and has been “pulled up pretty well.”

“Everything is good. I don’t have nightmares,” Rodwell explained adding he doesn’t need to see the psychologist for another 3 months.


Rodwell also disclosed in the interview how he survived the 15-month captivity with Abu Sayaff.

“At the beginning all I had was a pair of shorts but I acquired and stole some clothes. I’d use whatever I could. One sleeping bag was broken so I tore that and wrapped that around me,” Rodwell recalled.

Rodwell explained his biggest problem was mosquitos. “In the jungle swamps we’d be attacked quite ferociously,” he said.

But Rodwell said his captors had a “pretty good-hearted soul.” He said the reason why he was treated badly was because “they [Abu Sayaff] don’t know how to look after themselves.”

“Being Muslims they’re not restricted by the 10 commandments. They just see it as anyone who’s foreign as having a market,” he said.

Rodwell added he was able to “bond with his guards” that he’d “recognize the behaviors in them.”

“The married guy would be in tears because he’d miss his family. A couple of them went crazy,” he said.

Ready for new love

Rodwell also disclosed to that he already filed for a divorce from his Filipina wife, Miraflor Gutang in June.

Gutang earlier denied her involvement in Rodwell’s kidnapping and said she was even the one who negotiated to make the ransom lower.

Read: $97,750 paid to free Rodwell

"All the investigation is clear because I'm so innocent. I'm not guilty, never. I could not do that to anyone,'' Gutang told

Gutang said she was surprised when Rodwell called her and said he already filled for divorce.

"I'm so sad because I wanted to stay with him. Of course I love him still in my heart but our behavior is not compatible,'' Gutang said.

Gutang was Rodwell third wife. He said he is “ready for his fourth marriage.”

“I’ve got room to fit another marriage in in my life. I’m thinking Caucasian," Rodwell said.

Zambo Sur-based 1st ID starts training of 144 new recruits

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 16): Zambo Sur-based 1st ID starts training of 144 new recruits

The Zamboanga Del Sur-based 1st Infantry Division has formally started the training of its 144 new recruits Saturday morning.

The trainees will undergo eight-month long jungle warfare and mountain operations course to test their suitability and aptitude as military men.

Training will be done at 1st Infantry Division headquarters in Kuta Cesar Sang-an, Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga Del Sur, unit spokesperson Capt. Jefferson Somera said.

He added that the 144 recruits, aged 21 to 26 came from the different provinces and tribes in Western Mindanao.

Somera said these men passed the rigid and meticulous screening and processing standard set by the Philippine Army.

Gunmen kill Basilan cop; in-depth probe ongoing

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 16): Gunmen kill Basilan cop; in-depth probe ongoing

An in-depth investigation is ongoing to identify the perpetrators behind the killing of a policeman late Saturday in this city, a top police official said Sunday.

Shot and killed was Police Officer 2 (PO2) Hendry Noel Hidalgo, an intelligence operative of the Isabela City Police Office (ICPO), according to ICPO commander Supt. Albert Larubis.

Investigation showed that Hidalgo was driving his motorcycle on the way home from duty around 11:40 p.m. Saturday when waylaid by the three gunmen at Pardo Drive, Barangay Aguada this city, Larubis said.

Hidalgo, who sustained multiple gunshot wounds, was rushed to the nearby hospital but was declared dead on arrival, Larubis said.

The gunmen fled aboard a motorcycle towards the direction of Sitio Mabarakat in Barangay Aguada, he said.

The gunmen, before fleeing, took Hidalgo’s service firearm, he said.

All possible motives are being looked into in the course of the investigation in a bid to unmask the suspects, Larubis said.

Army official credits surrender of NPA couple to support of local leaders, Bayanihan teams

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 16): Army official credits surrender of NPA couple to support of local leaders, Bayanihan teams

The commanding general of the 8th Infantry Division (8ID) here underscored the support of local leaders and the efforts of the Bayanihan teams in the surrender of two members of the New People’s Army this Friday.

M/Gen Gerardo T Layug said that their efforts joined together caused the return of couple Lemuel and Nida Moreno to the fold of law. Both surrendered before the 20th Infantry Battalion (20IB) at Brgy. Santander in Bobon, Northern Samar bringing with them two caliber 45 pistols and four rounds of ammunitions.

Meantime, data from the 8ID public affairs office disclosed that the husband also known as alias Kulas was the squad leader while the wife was the medical officer of the section committee 2 of the Northern Samar Party Committee that operate in the hinterlands of Northern Samar.

With their surrender the couple will be receiving P50,000 or P25,000 each as part of the firearms remuneration package under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Guns for Peace Program and other package of assistance coming from concerned government agencies.

4 rebel returnees receive P10 T incentives

From the Philippine  News Agency (Jun 16): 4 rebel returnees receive P10 T incentives

The provincial government of Capiz under the leadership of Capiz Gov. Victor Tanco, Sr. gave incentives to four rebel returnees who returned to the fold of law last Friday at the Capiz Provincial Capitol in Roxas City.

Provincial Welfare and Development Officer Violeta Silva turned over the check amounting to P10,000 each to the four rebel returnees to start up their livelihood endeavors.

The four rebel returnees who are residents of Tapaz, Capiz, thanked the government as they decided to avail the government offer for amnesty saying they could no longer bear the hardship in going hide and seek in mountains.

The activity were also attended by Buenvenido Acevedo of Capiz Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, 301st Infantry Brigade deputy commander Col. Eric Uchida, 61st Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Christopher Sab-it and represtative from the Philippine National Police in the province of Capiz.

Malacanang says three annexes of peace pact undergoing intensive scrutiny to 'pass muster'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 16): Malacanang says three annexes of peace pact undergoing intensive scrutiny to 'pass muster'

Malacanang said on Sunday that the reason for the alleged “slow progress” of the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was due to the intensive scrutiny being done on the three remaining annexes of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement in order to “pass muster.”

In a press briefing aired over government-run radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government did not want a repeat of the earlier memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain that also detailed the Bangsamoro homeland but was met with strong public opposition.

“Given that the last three remaining annexes contain some heavy issues so to speak, the government is really taking a close look at…given the experience sa mga nakaraan tulad ng MOA-AD, ayaw po natin maulit yoon at gusto po natin siguraduhin na yung mga nilalaman ng mga annexes, that the contents of the annexes will pass muster,” Valte said.

“…naiintindihan naman po natin yung nagiging agam-agam doon sa pagtagal but rest assured that both panels are working with each other on these issues,” she added.

Once passed into law, the Framework of Agreement on the Bangsamoro will pave the way for the establishment of the new autonomous political entity, the Bangsamoro, to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The agreement was signed on the afternoon of October 15, 2012, in ceremonies held at Malacañan Palace, witnessed by President Benigno S. Aquino III, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, and other dignitaries.

Deles says GPH channels open to resolve contentious issues in MILF talks

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 16): Deles says GPH channels open to resolve contentious issues in MILF talks

Amidst claim by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that peace negotiations with the government have reached a deadlock, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles on Sunday declared that channels of communications are open to discuss and settle the contentious issues, particularly wealth-sharing and power sharing.

Deles made the response in a text message to this writer who asked her reaction on the statement made by Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, who claimed that “a stalemate” has cropped up in the ongoing talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF which was the banner headline of a Manila newspaper in its June 16, 2013 issue.

“Channels are open in order for us to discuss and settle the contentious issues,” Deles told the Philippines News Agency.

The newspaper quoted Iqbal as saying that the peace talks have reached “a stalemate” but the MILF leadership has urged MILF ground commanders to be patient to avoid the resumption of fighting in southern Philippines.

It may be recalled that in the summer of 2000, an all-out war erupted in Central Mindanao between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the MILF wherein the military captured all 49 MILF camps, including Camp Abubakar.

Again in 2007, heavy fighting broke out following the aborted signing of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Ancestral Domain which was declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

However, backdoor negotiations continued and formal peace talks resumed in the latter part of 2010 and continued to gain headway over the past three years.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, was also quoted as saying on the slow progress of the negotiations.

However, Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the GPH peace panel negotiating with the MILF, in a text message to this writer, pointed out that indeed the “talks are at the last stages; left for resolution are the hard issues” - referring to the wealth-sharing and power sharing.“Had these been easy, they would have been settled months ago,” adding that “in any case, both parties remain committed to the primacy of the peace process and the public is behind this pursuit.” “I am certain both of us will try our best to arrive at workable compromises,” Ferrer said.

Earlier, Ferrer said that the next round of talks will tackle the annexes on wealth-sharing and power-sharing which are the most contentious issues in the ongoing negotiations.

“During the last round of formal talks, the Parties agreed to meet again after the elections and in the interim to process the remaining issues in the annexes through an exchange of notes with the help of the facilitator,” Ferrer said.

“This exchange of notes has already commenced and through this process, we hope to come as close as possible to agreed language and return to Kuala Lumpur to be able to finalize the Annexes on Power and Wealth-sharing very soon,” she added.

Malaysia is the third party facilitator in the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF.

Ferrer admitted that “because the Annexes will further detail what is provided in the Framework Agreement, it is to be expected that finding agreement on these details has been more difficult and complex.”

With respect to wealth-sharing, Ferrer said a draft had been completed by the technical working groups of both the panels of the GPH and the MILF.

“However, prudence on the part of Government requires that it undergoes a final review before the President (Benigno S. Aquino III) gives his final stamp of approval,” she pointed out.

Ferrer reiterated that “the President is committed to delivering an agreement that will allow the Bansamoro to enjoy effective and meaningful fiscal autonomy but also take into account the legal, political, and administrative constraints of the Central Government,” adding that “these are the considerations as to why Government wishes to introduce some changes to the draft annex, particularly with regard some aspects of taxation, fund transfer mechanisms, and revenue sharing.”

She also said the framework provides for three classes of sharing of powers between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro regional government. These are:

--“Reserved” powers or matters over which competencies are fully retained by the central government;

--“Concurrent” powers or aspects of jurisdiction subject to the shared or joint authorities of the central and regional governments; and

--“Exclusive” powers or competencies that are to be devolved to the Bangsamoro.

The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) has already identified some of the reserved powers. These are:a)Defense and external securityb)Foreign policyc)Common market and global trade, provided that the power to enter into economic agreements already allowed under Republic Act No. 9054 shall be transferred to the Bangsamorod)Coinage and monetary policye)Citizenship and naturalization, andf)Postal service

Ferrer said that “this leaves the other aspects of governance, which runs along a wide gamut of governance functions, for negotiation.”

"Finding the language for this that will not only give life to the intention of the parties, but also be legally defensible and “doable,” i.e. politically and administratively feasible, is not a simple task,” she added.

Learning from the experience of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), government deems it important that these criteria are met, Ferrer stressed.

“This is why Government is currently undertaking technical consultations with the departments and line agencies to make sure that the details contained in the drafts are feasible, not only in legal but also in practical terms,” she said.

For instance, one of the remaining issues in the power-sharing annex has to do with jurisdiction over transportation and communication, she added.

“Given the need to comply with prevailing international standards and our obligations under international law, any sharing of jurisdiction in this regard will have both legal and international implications that need to be carefully studied,” Ferrer said.

As to when the annexes are to be finished, Ferrer said: “The President and his entire cabinet are giving the peace negotiations the attention it needs and deserves to ensure that a comprehensive agreement, one that will give us the best shot for a just and enduring peace in Mindanao, is reached at the soonest possible time. The Government Panel is just as anxious to find workable solutions to these contentious issues and is working diligently and with urgency towards this end. Government is fully aware that time is of the essence and does not wish to “pass the buck” to the next administration to implement the agreement.”

On the implications that there are no formal negotiations yet, Ferrer said that “even without the conduct of formal meetings, the peace process continues to move forward.”

Ferrer said that “the exchange of notes is currently ongoing and Government hopes that this process will allow the Parties to gain more clarity with respect to the current language of the Annexes and lead them to an agreement on the unresolved issues.”

According to Ferrer, the Transition Commission TC) has met several times and was able to approve its internal rules of procedure as well as set-up working committees to draft the Basic Law.

She said the “government hopes that even without the Annexes, the TC can soon start discussion on the substantive provisions of the Framework Agreement that will need to find language in the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” adding that “an example of items that the TC will need to further develop is the provision on the Bangsamoro Government being ministerial in form.”

At the same time, Ferrer said that confidence-building measures between the GPH and MILF continue.

She cited as example the ongoing planning for the provincial launches of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro, President Aquino's concrete, socio-economic initiative aimed at uplifing the health, education, and livelihood conditions of MILF communities.

The program was launched jointly by the government and the MILF in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao recently following the signing ofr the historic signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).

With respect to the agreements on cessation of hostilities, the ceasefire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the MILF continues to hold, Ferrer said.

“In fact, no armed skirmishes were recorded for the year 2012,” Ferrer said as a “testament to the good working relationship between the government and MILF through the coordinative mechanisms overseeing the implementation of the ceasefire.”

Ferrer also said that both peace panels are “taking the time to continue consultations with stakeholders and their respective constituencies.”

On the part of the GPH peace panel, “these include engagements with government agencies not only for legal and technical concerns relating to the drafts but also to consolidate support for the implementation of the comprehensive agreement and the prospective Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Ferrer concluded.

Gov’t mulls purchase of missiles for defense

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 16): Gov’t mulls purchase of missiles for defense

The Department of National Defense (DND) plans to  acquire anti-aircraft guided missiles, which will be positioned in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as part of the country’s first-ever missile defense system.

Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang disclosed late Saturday that this proposal had reached Malacañang and had been the subject of many discussions among Cabinet members.

“It’s (the missile acquisition) been talked about but I don’t know if we’ve made a decision (yet),” said Carandang, who regularly attends meetings of the Cabinet cluster on national security.

Amid fresh Chinese incursions into Philippine waters, Carandang said that what the Navy needed was “sea vessels.” He did not elaborate.

A Palace spokesperson, Undersecretary Abigail Valte, neither confirmed nor denied when asked in a radio interview on Saturday if the defense establishment was about to purchase missiles to bolster its firepower amid tensions in the Scarborough Shoal.

“I will defer comment on the particular system that is being mentioned and I will coordinate with the DND,” said Valte, who also declined to confirm if Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was set to fly to Israel next week to look for missile suppliers.

Valte, however, mentioned the DND’s plan to upgrade the military’s hardware as part of the long-delayed modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“But as far as procuring equipment is concerned, we all know that we are in the process of getting—of upgrading—or at least leveling up on the hardware that we currently have in order to meet the needs of our soldiers,” said Valte.

She promised to look into the military’s “wish list for procurement before commenting” on the reported missile defense plan of the AFP.

Since last month, Palace spokespersons have been talking about the military achieving a “minimum credible defense” to defend the country’s territory, especially in the West Philippine Sea where China has staked a claim on disputed islands and waters.

In his speech on Independence Day, President Aquino vowed to defend the country’s sovereignty in a veiled message to China whose military firepower—whether conventional or nonconventional weapons—could easily smash the antiquated hardware of the AFP.

During the 115th anniversary of the Philippine Navy in May, the President announced that the P75-billion modernization budget for the AFP—approved last year—was being pursued by his administration.

He said the military upgrade would help defend the country’s maritime territory against “bullies."

‘Creativity’ key to breaking deadlocks between PH gov’t and MILF, says negotiator

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 16): ‘Creativity’ key to breaking deadlocks between PH gov’t and MILF, says negotiator
Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said both the Philippine government and the MILF peace negotiators would have to  be creative in keeping the talks going and ensuring that the talks lead to a comprehensive peace pact.

“Both parties need to find creative solutions to the issues to expedite the negotiations,” Coronel-Ferrer told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

Already, peace activists have expressed concern that the more the talks are delayed, the more doubtful the Bangsamoro transition becomes.

“It is worrisome to note that up to now, there is still no schedule for the next round of peace talks,” said a statement from the nongovernment Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC).

“Given the very limited (time for the) transition roadmap between now and 2016, any delay in the signing of the Annexes will cause irreversible consequences on the viability of the transition period itself,” the MPC pointed out.

But Ferrer expressed confidence that concluding a comprehensive peace pact with the MILF “is still possible” in the next five weeks.

Earlier, a bullish Ferrer predicted a signed peace pact before President Aquino’s State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) on July 22.

Coming up with a comprehensive peace deal has been delayed by six months already. Such document ideally guides the crafting of a Basic Law that would serve as charter of the future Bangsamoro autonomous entity which would replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

After signing the preliminary Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) last Oct. 15, 2012, the parties were expected to have concluded a comprehensive agreement two months later.

That would have happened if the four annexes to the FAB dealing on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization, and transitional arrangements and modalities (TAM) were completed.

So far, only TAM was done. The one for wealth-sharing was initialed last February although government has sought some more changes to it; and consensus on two power-sharing items still eludes the parties.

“Normalization is still a long way to go,” admitted Ferrer.

Under the TAM, transition from ARMM to Bangsamoro should take place by 2015, culminating with the assumption into office of a full set of elected officials by July 1, 2016.

A Bangsamoro Basic Law, which Congress has to enact and to be ratified by the affected population, will be the principal instrument to carry out the transition.

Malaysian facilitator Dato Tengku Ab’ Ghafar Bin Tengku Mohamed traveled to the country early this month to do separate backroom talks with the parties to keep the talks going.

Within the slack period since April, the peace panels agreed to exchange notes to move the consensus-building exercise.

Ferrer explained that the exchange of notes will “allow the parties to gain more clarity with respect to the current language of the Annexes and lead them to an agreement on the unresolved issues.”

A schedule for the resumption of the talks in Kuala Lumpur can be set once the parties “come as close as possible to [an] agreed language” on the annexes on power-sharing and wealth-sharing, she said.

“The government panel is just as anxious to find workable solutions to these contentious issues and is working diligently and with urgency towards this end,” she added.

Pass crucial test

Last March, the government requested a reset of the talks to allow it to do due diligence review of its political, economic, social and financial commitments arising from the negotiations. By April, the parties agreed to meet after the May 13 midterm polls.

Substantive progress of the talks has stalled since then.

“It is taking more time but we are confident that the FAB and all its Annexes, as carefully crafted as they are, will be able to pass the crucial tests of implementation,” said presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Quintos-Deles.

“The whole of government has been working to ensure clarity in how some of the new fiscal and power-sharing arrangements will be implemented, especially those which will have to be enacted into law,” Deles added.

Minus a comprehensive agreement, Deles said the Transition Commission (TransCom) can “begin their substantive work on the issues which need no further elaboration in any annex, such as on the specifics of the ministerial form of government.”

The TransCom was created by President Aquino, pursuant to the FAB, to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Ferrer told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone that the TransCom can also begin to design representation in the future Bangsamoro Assembly.

“Will this (Assembly) be composed of representatives from districts only? Or will there be proportional and sectoral representation? These issues can already be taken up by the TransCom,” Ferrer explained.

Recently, the MILF decried what it perceived as the “backtracking” by the Aquino administration on the wealth-sharing consensus saying this “is a serious drawback to the peace process.”

In a statement, the MILF said the changes were on the items of natural resources and block grants from the national government.

Principally, wealth-sharing deals with taxation, block grants, and share of the Bangsamoro government in the income from use of natural resources.

Asked to comment, Ferrer said her panel “recommended refinements” to the wealth-sharing item on block grants “after consultations with experts and members of the Cabinet.”

Ferrer said the refinements the government was seeking were not meant to water down wealth sharing but to define how to operationalize wealth sharing.

Based on existing fiscal management practice, the budget containing an appropriation for such block grants must also define its funding source, she said.

“What the MILF laid down are principles. We worked on the question of how to do it,” she added.

Government’s formula for providing block grants would be like the internal revenue allotments (IRA) that local government units have been getting from the national government, Ferrer said.

Taken as a whole, she added, the wealth-sharing refinements would still bring about enhanced fiscal autonomy for the Bangsamoro.

In power-sharing, Ferrer said the negotiations have been stuck on “jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro over matters pertaining to transportation and communication, and the notion of regional waters that may extend a few kilometers more beyond the current municipal waters.”

Last December, there were still five issues, meaning the parties have already hurdled three.

In the MILF’s original proposal, the regional waters aim to physically connect the Bangsamoro territory, which consist of the island localities in the Sulu archipelago and those in mainland Mindanao.

The Philippine Fisheries Code only defines municipal waters which is 15 kilometers from the shoreline.

On normalization, Ferrer said consensus-building could catch-up with the other annexes with the adoption of a new approach.

She said the major challenge has been on “agreeing on the sequencing and timetable for the decommissioning” of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) and the corresponding handover of law and order work from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to the Bangsamoro police force.

Under the FAB, the MILF agreed to “undertake a graduated programme for decommissioning of its forces so that they are put beyond use.” The BIAF is the MILF’s armed wing.

In turn, government agreed to “a phased and gradual” transfer of law enforcement functions from the AFP to the Bangsamoro police that would have a structure now being worked out by an International Commission on Policing (ICP).

Based on the FAB, normalization refers to the wide-scale process whereby “communities can return to conditions where they can achieve their desired quality of life… within a peaceful deliberative society.”

The annex on normalization must contain “some decision points on what to do, prescribe a process, and provides for a general timeframe while the details can be worked out during the implementation stage,” said Ferrer.

Such details can be based on the recommendations of the ICP and the study group on transitional justice, Ferrer added.

NDFP: No peace while Aquino is in power

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 16): NDFP: No peace while Aquino is in power
The head negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has said they would rather wait for the next Philippine president to take power before returning to the negotiating table for peace.

“If the Aquino government continues to refuse, then the NDFP continues with revolutionary struggles throughout the country and is willing to wait out the three years left of the Aquino regime,” Luis Jalandoni, NDFP chief peace negotiator, said in a video interview done by ‘Liberation International’, the NDFP official news organ.

He added: “The possibility of any change (in the government leadership) is there and with any change, the NDFP is open to the peace negotiations going on.”

The NDFP is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), has been waging war against the government for the past 44 years, considered as the world’s longest-running communist rebellion.

A copy of the interview was sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday, June 12. The video is also posted on the NDFP website.

Jalandoni, who is currently based in Utrecht, The Netherlands, said the prospects for peace negotiations under the Aquino administration have dimmed “because of the rhetoric of the Philippine government stating that they are ending the peace negotiations and putting the blame on the NDFP.”

Early last month, the government peace panel announced the termination of the peace negotiation and put the blame on the NDFP with its preconditions and demands.

Teresita Deles, the presidential peace adviser, had said the government would use a new approach in pursuing discussions and many took that to mean that the government would seek peace talks with local chapters of the communist rebellion through “localized peace talks.”

The NDFP denied government claims that the negotiations had reached a dead end and claimed they were not properly notified of the termination as stipulated in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) signed by the two sides in 1995.

The communist leaders also assailed the resurrection of the “localized peace talks,” stressing the NDFP has remained the only authority to conduct peace negotiation in behalf of the insurgents.

Malacañang insisted the NDFP has been informed and notified of the termination of the talks.

In the video interview, Jaladoni said the NDFP was “open to meaningful peace negotiations that address the roots of the armed conflict and respect bilateral agreements that have been signed.”

“Unfortunately, recently, the Aquino [administration] has embarked on a vitriolic attack on the NDFP claiming that the NDFP is scuttling the peace talks by imposing preconditions,” Jalandoni said.

During the 18-minute interview, Jalandoni spoke about the root causes of the armed conflict. He also enumerated how the two parties signed 10 bilateral agreements since the start of the peace talks in 1987.

Asked by the interviewer on when would the armed conflict end, Jalandoni said the Hague Joint Declaration signed by both parties in 1992 provided that the cessation of hostilities and the disposition of the forces could only be pursued if agreements on social and economic reforms and political and constitutional reforms were formulated.

“We believed this is important and wise agreement signed by both sides so as to make sure that the basic reforms which are addressing the roots of the armed conflict like problems of land reform and national industrialization would first be negotiated and implemented before coming to ending the hostilities,” the NDFP leader asserted.

Jalandoni accused the Aquino administration of using “Oplan Bayanihan” to quell the insurgency. He described the military plan as a “US designated counter-insurgency program that is a militarist approach and denies addressing the roots of the armed conflict”.

Peace negotiations between the communist rebels and the government have been stalled since 2004, giving rise to continued human rights violations committed by the NPA rebels and state security forces.

Commentary: MIND DA News: Complicating Implications Ahead

Commentary from MindaNews (Jun 16): MIND DA News: Complicating Implications Ahead by Patricio P. Diaz

Contentious issues in the negotiation of the three remaining annexes to the Framework of Agreement on Bangsamoro have delayed progress in the roadmap to establish the Bangsamoro. GPH chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer explained the delay in the “Q&A” (Question and Answer) posted last Thursday, June 13, in the OPAPP Website. Her explanations, however, suggested more delays are to be expected.

This question nags: Will Bangsamoro be entrenched before President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III steps down on June 30, 2016 as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has envisioned – not just mere entrenchment?

Sad to note, the Bangsamoro that MILF has envisioned is also imperiled by challenges from the Moro National Liberation Front and to the MNLF by one provision in the FAB and collateral documents. Their complicating implications cannot just be brushed aside.

MNLF has long challenged the propriety, validity and legality of the Government-MILF negotiation on the ground that the same Moro problem involving the same people and covering the same territory has already been resolved in the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement or Jakarta Accord. Since November 2007, the 1996 FPA has been undergoing a tripartite [OIC-GRP (GPH)-MNLF] review on questions of implementation.

What is the imponderable fact? The Philippine Government will give to MILF what it has already given to MNLF.

According to the MNLF-Misuari faction (The Philippine Star, June 13, 2013: Gov’t, MNLF resume talks), the MNLF and the government panels will meet in Malacanang on June 17 to 19 in preparation for the tripartite talks to resume in Saudi Arabia in August. The government’s commitment to the MNLF is as much alive as to the MILF.
Curiously, though, there is no mention of this in the OPAPP website.

The MNLF appears conciliatory, seeing “no conflict with the framework agreement (with the MILF) because it aims to address the Bangsamoro problem in Mindanao.” In a resolution, MNLF reported, the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) “called on the government to synchronize the framework agreement forged by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the accord with the MNLF”.

Stated simply, MNLF is challenging MILF and Government to merge their agreement with the GRP-MNLF 1996 FPA according to the OIC resolution. But the MNLF position and the OIC resolution will complicate rather and simplify the MNLF-MILF conflict and cast Bangsamoro into limbo.

First, there are no agreements to merge yet. The FAB is still an agreement in progress; the 1996 FPA is under review. Government and MILF may sign their comprehensive agreement his year. But the conclusion of the tripartite review is indefinite; the OIC has yet to settle the representation imbroglio among the MNLF factions without end in sight.

Second, should Government and MILF agree with MNLF and OIC, MILF has to hold a new negotiation with the MNLF. The FAB roadmap will have to be abandoned at Step 5 (Transcom drafts Bangsamoro Basic Law bill) and a new one drawn. When will this happen especially considering the MNLF representation imbroglio? Who and how will the MILF-MNLF negotiation be conducted?

Third, will the MILF and MNLF be able to merge their visions of Bangsamoro? And what visions? The MILF has clearly shown its vision in its negotiation with the government. The 1996 FPA does not show clearly what the MNLF vision is.
That the Aquino government is keeping alive the tripartite review of the 1996 FPA has implications that can complicate the MILF response to the MNLF challenge – if MILF takes seriously that challenge.

What is the challenge of the FAB to MNLF?

The FAB provides that “Upon promulgation and ratification of the Basic [Bangsamoro] Law …the ARMM [Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao] is deemed abolished (FAB.VII.8).

The Annex on Transitional Arrangement and Modalities (I.E. Paragraph 2) is specific: The BBL “shall provide for the repeal of Republic Act 9054 and the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority” that will supplant the ARMM.

The Philippine Government is not abrogating the 1996 GRP-MNLF FPA. In enacting the BBL, the Congress will only repeal RA 9054 that it enacted in 2001. But RA 9054 is the implementation the 1996 GRP-MNLF FPA which is the “full implementation” of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. The implications are dizzying. That will render irrelevant the tripartite review of the full implementation of the FPA.

That is challenging the MNLF to question before the Supreme Court, first, the Government-MILF Comprehensive Agreement if Government and MILF would ignore or reject the OIC bid to have the Agreement merged with the 1996 GRP-MNLF FPA; or, second, the BBL once promulgated and ratified.

GPH Panel Chair Ferrer said in her “Q&A”, as well as in earlier statements, that the Aquino Government wants any agreement with MILF “legally defensible”. Is it also anticipating any eventuality of the MNLF taking the Government and MILF to court?

Call Misuari and the MNLF spoilers. However, understand them. By 2005, ten years after the signing of the FPA, they completely lost political power in the ARMM. MNLF splintered and Misuari, in particular, was pulled down from the pinnacle of fame and dashed onto the dust of ignominy – for seven years from 2001 to 2008 in detention for rebellion. Only the OIC had sustained Misuari and MNLF.

The tripartite review is their best chance to recover their lost power and glory. While the FAB is spoiling this chance, through the auspices of the OIC, MNLF will compromise to have a part of the Bangsamoro. If further spurned, can they be stopped from going to the Supreme Court to avail of their last resort even if it would mean irreparable spoilage of the Bangsamoro?

Palace defends Deles on scuttled peace talks

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 16): Palace defends Deles on scuttled peace talks

It”s not the fault of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles that the peace talks with the National Democratic Front has been placed on the backburner because the communist rebels have not shown good faith and sincerity on the negotiating table.

“I doubt that anybody would believe that Secretary Deles is the one who was sabotaging the talks between the government and the (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army),” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview on government radio.

Valte said the government has shown good faith and sincerity in negotiating with the NDF since Benigno Aquino assumed office in 2010.

“Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for them,” Valte said, noting that the Reds have even attacked civilians while they were negotiating with the government.

“[Secretary Deles] has been working to make sure to have resolution on the talks,” she said. “The government is not the one who is lacking in sincerity.”

Valte made the remark after NDF spokesman Fidel Agcaoili accused Deles on Friday of scuttling the peace talks with the government through her statement that the revolutionary movement “has designed the peace talks to be unending.”

“In fact, what Deles wants is a permanent end to the peace negotiations,” Agcaoili said. “Deles has had one singular aim in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the NDF – the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary movement,” Agcaoili said.

Deles had been the government peace adviser since the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The government unilaterally withdrew from the peace talks and publicly announced its intentions for localized peace agreements, a longtime military strategy that the rebels had always rejected.

“But because she (Deles) could not get her way, she has been sabotaging the peace talks, even proclaiming the so-called sovereign right of the US to intervene in Philippine affairs in the ‘terrorist’ listing of the CPP, NPA and Prof. Jose Maria Sison, the Chief Political Consultant of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, after coming from a round of negotiations where it was agreed that the two Parties would call on the international community ¨to refrain from any action that may impede or impair the peace process,” Agcaoili said.

Taipei, Manila agree to avoid force in fishing disputes

From InterAksyon (Jun 16): Taipei, Manila agree to avoid force in fishing disputes

Taiwan and the Philippines have pledged not to use force in fishing disputes, officials said, as they tackle a row over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by Filipino coast guards.

The agreement was reached during their first preparatory meeting on fishery cooperation held in Manila on Friday, Taiwan's foreign ministry said in a statement released late Saturday.

It said the agreement was aimed at avoiding a recurrence of incidents such as the death of 65-year-old Hung Shih-cheng, who died after his boat was fired upon by Filipino coast guards while operating in waters near a Philippine island that Taiwan also claims as part of its economic zone.

"Both sides have guaranteed to avoid the use of armed force or violence in the implementation of fisheries laws," it said.

The two sides agreed to share their maritime law enforcement procedures and establish means for notifying each other without delay whenever actions are taken against vessels and crews of the other party, it said.

They also agreed to develop a mechanism for the prompt release of detained fishing vessels and their crews, in line with international practice.

Further meetings would be held on fisheries cooperation including management and conservation schemes, it said.

Philippine investigators on Thursday said they had recommended that criminal charges be filed against coast guards involved in the fatal shooting after coast guard chiefs in Manila initially insisted the fishing vessel had tried to ram the coast guard boat and their personnel had fired in self-defense.

The killing caused outrage in Taiwan, with President Ma Ying-jeou describing it as "cold-blooded murder."

His government ordered a freeze on the hiring of Filipinos to work in Taiwan, issued a "red-alert" warning tourists against travelling to the Philippines and staged naval drills near Philippine waters.

Philippine President Begnino Aquino repeatedly apologized and sent an envoy to Taiwan, but these actions were rejected as insincere.

Following pressure from Taiwan, the Philippines agreed to joint investigations into the incident.

Taiwanese authorities were allowed to visit the Philippines, inspect the ship, and interview the coast guard personnel involved.

The Taiwan investigators concluded that two guns were used in the attack, including a M14 rifle that fired the fatal shot.

Adding to the anger in Taiwan, authorities said the fishing boat had 50 bullet holes and there were no marks consistent with it ramming the coast guard vessel.

BETWEEN THE LINES | Sulu Sultanate reads PNoy June 12 speech as signal of modus vivendi on Sabah

From InterAksyon (Jun 16): BETWEEN THE LINES | Sulu Sultanate reads PNoy June 12 speech as signal of modus vivendi on Sabah

While President Benigno Aquino III had fighting words directed at China on the raging dispute in the West Philippine Sea, his June 12 speech apparently hinted at a compromise with Malaysia over Sabah, where hundreds of Sulunaons are being hunted for the February 12 standoff that killed over 60 people, mostly Filipinos.

In short, according to the spokesman of the Sulu Sultanate, Abraham Idjirani, Mr. Aquino has effectively abandoned the national obligation over Sabah in, of all things, his speech marking the 115th Independence Day.

In his speech at Liwasang Bonifacio, the President said the country “will not back down from any challenge to its sovereignty amid territorial dispute with China.”

But it was clear also, said Idjirani, that Mr. Aquino glossed over the country’s long-standing historical and legal rights over Sabah, the resource-rich territory that the Sultan of Brunei gave the Sulu sultan in the 17th century to thank him for helping quell a revolt. Despite that, Britain gave the territory to Malaysia when the latter’s federation was born.

The Sulu sultanate ceded to the Philippine government in the sixties its right to reclaim Sabah, but lamented that administration after administration had failed to assert the rights to Sabah.

Things came to a head last February 12, when over 200 Suluanons landed at Lahad Datu in Sabah to “reclaim our homeland,” sparking weeks of skirmishes with Malaysian security forces. Over 60 people were killed and dozens of Filipinos arrested and facing charges.

Reacting to the June 12 speech of the President, Idjirani said Sunday in an interview with DZBB: “With the action manifested by the (Aquino) government, it seems there was no action from our government. Based on his speech (saying) that we will defend our territorial rights, and we will not allow na buwagin ang ating teritoryo, saka kukunin natin ang atin, the statement na ‘yon is implying indirectly na wala nang pakialam ang ating gobyerno sa Sabah, ang pinakikialaman nila ang contemporary reality, wala na ang historical and legal basis.”

Aquino had also said in his speech the country had never claimed territory that clearly belonged to another nation, but only asked that “our territory, rights and dignity be respected”.

The President had added: “Aggression does not run in our veins, but neither will we back down from any challenge.” With this statement, Idjiirani said the Sultanate is looking at the possibility that the Aquino government has entered into an agreement with the Malaysian government not to touch Sabah. “With due apology, nagkaroon ng suspicions ang Sultanate of Sulu against our government na talagang nagkaroon ng compromise agreement between the present administration (of President Aquino) and the administration of Prime Minister Najib Razak, like the other legacy of Aquino na hindi gagalawin ang Sabah hangga’t sila ang mga Aquino ang namumuno sa Pilipinas.”

1963 Manila Accord neglected

Idjirani also reminded the Aquino administration that the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia had signed the 1963 Manila Accord, including the United Nations, to peacefully resolve the Sabah claim, and questioned the failure of the Philippine government to seek its enforcement.

“The government has failed to conduct dialogue in order to reach out and attain the mechanism for peaceful resolution, that’s not being done by our government,” he said.
Idjiirani also lambasted Mr. Aquino for saying, “we have no other desire than to take care of what is rightfully ours. We have never trampled upon the rights of others. We have not claimed or demanded territory that clearly belongs to another. We have neither condescended upon nor oppressed others. Harming others or sowing discord with other countries is not in our history.”

Speaking mostly in Filipino, Idjirani lamented that, “Instead of reaching out to attain a peaceful resolution of the Sabah claim, it [administration] is still sending a statement to the Malaysian government that ‘we will not touch what is not ours’—this is giving strength to the Malaysia position over Sabah.”