Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Army to open mini-library in Brgy. 76-A next month

From the Mindanao Times (Jun 25): Army to open mini-library in Brgy. 76-A next month

The Task Force Davao intends to open a mini-library in July as it continues to rebuild the Barangay Astig Learning Center in Bucana, Brgy. 76-A. 2Lt. Chrystin Joan B. Pamplona, TF Davao Civil-Military Operations officer, in a statement said they are targeting to formally welcome the kids in the barangay next month after rehabilitating the school for the past two weekends to create a more conducive learning space for the children.

“Supposedly, it was set to open this month. However, it was moved to July because of the availability of the materials to rehabilitate the school,” she added.

According to the CMO officer, their personnel have been tasked to repair the learning center and at the same time design the school walls and cabinets through mural paintings. They will also be putting additional chairs if needed.

Pamplona said internship students from the San Pedro College have rendered their services by providing psychosocial processing to the oprhaned kids whose parents are in jail.

She added that they will also be giving be schools supplies for the teachers: lesson plans, folders, and organizers. Meanwhile, students will also be given with notebooks, pens, books, slippers and school supplies. Marco Polo Hotel has donated two large carpets for the learning center.

Pamplona said earlier that the objective for the said plan is to build a strong foundation for the kids in the area. In this manner, the youth will be encouraged to open a book and read, further driving them away to a negative direction.


Army on track in making Samar, N. Samar insurgency-free by 2016

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Jun 25): Army on track in making Samar, N. Samar insurgency-free by 2016

The Philippine Army is on track of making the provinces of Samar and Northern Samar insurgent-free by 2016, an official said.

Capt. Amado Gutierrez, spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division, is optimistic of putting the two economically-depressed provinces in the category of “manageable conflict-affected areas ready for development” in the next two years.

“We have two full years to achieve that. This is attainable since our bayanihan program has reached majority of barangays in Samar and Northern Samar,” Gutierrez told Leyte Samar Daily Express.

Bayanihan program brings the delivery services to hinterland villages, mostly infested by the New People’s Army (NPA), which cannot be accessed by national government agencies due to poor infrastructure.

Under its internal security plan, the Army believed that insurgency is largely driven by structural problems in the country, such as unequal development, non-delivery of basic services, injustice, and poor governance.

“We want to bridge these gaps in two Samar provinces through bayanihan,” he said. “By 2016, we cannot say that the insurgency problem will be completely gone but the degree of influence will be manageable.”

Of the six provinces in Region 8, four have already been declared as insurgent-free, these are Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, and Southern Leyte. The latest province to ear the recognition was Eastern Samar on March 26, this year.

The Army official could not give not give an estimate of the strength of the insurgents operating in Samar since many of them come to Samar from Bicol and move back to Bicol.

The absence of road networks in the tri-boundaries of the island and lack of education, make people vulnerable to the influence of communist-rebels.

Samar and Northern Samar registered the lowest simple literacy rates in Eastern Visayas at 85.4% and 88.3%, respectively, according to the National Statistics Office.

In its website, the communist group claimed that in series of operation in the last quarter of 2012, 15 soldiers were killed, eight government troopers were wounded and two rifles seized. Those who launched the attacks were red fighters of Efren Martires Command in Samar and Rodante Urtal Command in Northern Samar.

The latest clash between government and rebels was reported last Friday resulting to the military’s recovery of two powered firearms in Pinabacdao, Samar. No casualties were reported on either side.

Two months ago, two rebels who were extorting candidates were killed by soldiers in Catbalogan City.

Gutierrez said that even if the two areas will be declared as insurgent-free, Army strength will remain in the island to sustain the insurgent-free status.

The Army is also counting on the completion of Samar Roads for Peace and Development. Among these are the opening of Gandara-Matuguinao road, Matuguinao-Las Navas road, San Jose de Buan-Matuguinao road, Silvino Lobos-Las Navas road, Las Navas-Jipapad road, Paranas – San Jose de Buan road, and San Isidro-Lope de Vega road.


Bayan Muna calls for prohibition of US ships in Philippine ports

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 26): Bayan Muna calls for prohibition of US ships in Philippine ports

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares yesterday urged the Supreme Court to order Philippine government agencies including the Navy, coast guard and port authorities to prohibit US ships from docking in Philippine ports should the US refuse to recognize the jurisdiction of the SC in the Writ of Kalikasan case filed against the USS Guardian for the destruction of the Tubbataha reef.

Colmenares is one of the petitioners in the case.

“The US government must not be allowed to use its self-serving claim to immunity. It must obey the Supreme Court order for it to answer the Writ of Kalikasan case filed against it for the destruction of the Tubbataha reef,” said Colmenares.

“If they will not comment in the case, then the Supreme Court should hear the case ex-parte and render a decision based on the evidence so far presented, even without the US participation,” the solon added.

Pending resolution, Colmenares said a temporary environmental protection order (Tepo) may be issued against US warships prohibiting them from making ports of call in the Philippines.

“If the US loses the case, then their properties in the Philippines may be levied upon for damages. The Supreme Court may cite in contempt other respondents such as Philippine government agencies like the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) if they will not follow the prohibition of port calls issued by the court,” the solon explained.

Colmenares said the United States “has long flouted the jurisdiction of our courts and even had the gall to forcibly take from the Makati city jail a US serviceman charged with rape in Subic.”

“It is about time we start asserting ourselves and our justice system over the Americans. Prohibiting US ships from docking in our ports is a strong statement that the US should learn to follow the rules in other countries by being accountable for violation of laws of other countries like the Philippines,” said Colmenares.

“This is of course without prejudice to the eventual abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement which was the reason why US warships are allowed easy access over Philippine territory,” he stressed.


Retired Marine colonel hopes for release soon

From the Business Mirror (Jun 25): Retired Marine colonel hopes for release soon

RETIRED Marine Col. Generoso Mariano hopes he would be released from detention soon after the General Court Martial that has been trying his case for the past two years had found him guilty.
“I’m just waiting for my release order, because they already issued their verdict against me on May 27,” Mariano said in a telephone interview.
He was charged of alleged violation of at least three Articles of War.
He was issued a retirement order early this year.
“I already have my retiree identification card,” Mariano said.
Mariano was the commander of Marine Battalion Landing Team 9 (MBLT9) in 2006 and 2009, when the unit bagged the “Best Marine Battalion” award.
Mariano’s lawyer, Ana Luz Cristal, said there is no longer a reason for her client to stay longer at the Navy’s holding facility in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, because a verdict has been issued.
“Colonel Mariano, a retired officer almost two years ago, had already served more than the one- year imprisonment imposed by the court martial,” Cristal said.
She hopes that Vice Adm. Jose Luis Alano, Navy flag officer in command, will fast-track the issuance of Mariano’s release order.
“We’re now drafting a formal letter to be sent to Vice Admiral Alano, requesting him to issue a release order for my client,” Cristal said.
Mariano was charged with violating AWs 96 (Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer and Gentleman), 91 (Provoking Speeches) and 63 (Disrespect Towards the President).
Mariano was restricted to camp on orders by the then-Navy chief, Vice Adm. Alexander Pama, a day before his mandatory retirement age of 56 on July 17, 2011. He was then the outgoing deputy commander of the Naval Forces Reserve Command.
He was charged after a video containing his tirades against President Aquino was uploaded in YouTube on July 15, 2011, allegedly by a member of the Solidarity for Sovereignty, a group identified with Linda Montayre.
The video was dated July 3, 2011, but Mariano himself said the video was taken by a group that invited him as speaker in an “academic forum” on June 24, 2011, at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan City.
“We soldiers also feel the hardships caused by the skyrocketing prices of commodities, such as medicines and food. This administration has no capability to take measures against hunger and death, and we soldiers feel the same with the people. We soldiers have a sworn duty, we’re duty-bound to defend the Filipino people,” Mariano said in the video.
“If the present administration has no intention or will do nothing to save the lives of the majority, it is the duty, it is the right of every Filipino, including soldiers, to replace the government; I repeat replace the government. We should not allow ourselves to be fooled by liars,” he added.
On August 12, 2011, Pama approved the recommendation of the pretrial investigation to charge Mariano before a General Court Martial.

Army units help in securing bombed NCotabato towns

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Army units help in securing bombed NCotabato towns

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division deployed on Monday two groups of intelligence operatives in North Cotabato’s adjoining Kabacan and Mlang towns to help the police guard against a repeat of the recent bombings there.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of 6th ID, said agents of the 602nd Brigade and the Army Special Forces contingent in North Cotabato are also helping the police gather information on the identities of the bombers and the  motives for the attacks.

Hermoso however said their efforts are meant to support the  police actions on the bombings in Kabacan and Mlang.

Unidentified bombers blasted fragmentation grenades at the home yard of Mlang’s municipal agriculturist, Federico Porras on Sunday night, just hours after suspected extortionists set off an improvised explosive device (IED) at a commercial district in Kabacan, scene of some 10 bombing incidents in the past six months.

No one was hurt in the bombing of the house of Porras, chief of the municipal agricultural office of the local government of Mlang, but the incident forced his family and neighbors to leave and return only after responding policemen declared the area cleared of any unexploded ordnance.

The grenade incident in Mlang came after an  explosion ripped through a commercial district in Kabacan. No one was reported killed or injured in the incident, but the explosion triggered panic in the area.

Hermoso said commanders of Army units in Mlang and Kabacan have enlisted the help of local religious leaders in identifying the people behind the bombings.


BIFF attacks Midsayap; farmer hurt

From the Philippine Star (Jun 25): BIFF attacks Midsayap; farmer hurt

A villager was wounded as members of the brigand Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters attacked military positions in Midsayap town and set off improvised explosives Monday  following the military’s takeover of the group’s enclave at the border of the neighboring Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao provinces.

Senior Inspector Henry Narciso, chief of the Midsayap municipal police, identified the wounded villager as farmer Allan Dimatingkal, who sustained shrapnel wounds in different parts of his body when a 40 MM grenade projectile, fired from a distance by a BIFF guerrilla, landed near him.
Narciso said the BIFF bandits, armed with assault rifles and shoulder-fire grenades, first attacked a village in Barangay Tampad in Midsayap, a town of mixed Moro and Christian residents in the first district of North Cotabato.
Narciso said the bandits, after meeting  resistance from soldiers and armed villagers, repositioned and proceeded to nearby Barangay Nabalawag, also in Midsayap, where they attacked another Army detachment,  sparking a 20-minute firefight.
The gunmen withdrew and escaped toward a nearby marsh after realizing they could not breach the circumferential fence of the detachment of the Charlie Company of the 40th IB in Barangay Nabalawag.
The attacks came a day after the Army’s 6th Infantry Division announced the capture by soldiers of a BIFF enclave at the border of President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat and Gen. S.K. Pendatun town in Maguindanao.
The BIFF camp was overran after bandits, led by Ustadz Sukarno, killed  militiaman Vicente Macaraeg and farmer Roy Viola in separate attacks over the weekend in Barangay Bagumbayan in President Quirino.
Sukarno and his men also fired B-40 anti-tank rockets and assault rifles at a detachment of the 33rd IB in Barangay Bagumbayan as they fled toward the Liguasan Marsh, bringing with them a dozen water buffaloes they took from farmers at gunpoint. 

MNLF offers help to secure release of Sayyaf hostages

From the Philippine Star (Jun 25): MNLF offers help to secure release of Sayyaf hostages

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Sulu has offered help to secure the release of two Tausug independent film-maker sisters taken captive by Abu Sayyaf militants, an official said here.

The MNLF also requested the military and police to halt any operations and allow negotiations to secure the release of the  hostages.

Habib Mujahab Hashim, chairman of the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council (ICC), said the MNLF has  been exerting efforts to seek the release of Nadjoua and Linda Bansil who are believed to be in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf group.
“We are appealing to the group, whoever, they are, be they are from the Abu Sayyaf to please ly release the victims on humanitarian grounds,” Hashim said.
The Bansils, daughter of a Tausug imam (Muslim preacher) but have Morrocan blood through their mother, were abducted last Saturday morning in Barangay Liang, Patikul town while filming for a documentary in Sulu.
The Bansils were among the nominees of the 2013 Gawad Urian Arawads for the film ‘Bohe – Sons of the Waves’ (a short film about the Muslim sea gypsy) that also got a similar nomination from Cinemalaya Awards.
Hashim said they  will exhaust all peaceful means to convince the Abu Sayyaf group to free the victims unharmed.
The MNLF and Abu Sayyaf had clashed previously when the former was exerting efforts to  free Jordanian Baker Atyani.
The fighting left close to a dozen MNLF fighters and 19 Abu Sayyaf dead in a series of encounters in Patikul town. Atyani, however, remains an Abu Sayyaf captive.
Atyani  was abducted on June 13 last year along with two Filipino television crewmen, who were freed in February.
Hashim believed that not all MNLF members fought the Abu Sayyaf group.
“The situation in Sulu is different from Basilan and we are trying to find ways to convince the abductors to release the victims,” Hashim added.
Hashim also appealed to the government forces to halt any operation that would endanger the lives of the captives.
“We would like to request the military not to conduct operation," Hashim said.

Abductors of university clerk demand money for captive's medicine

From the Philippine Star (Jun 25): Abductors of university clerk demand money for captive's medicine

The gunmen that abducted a clerk of a state-run university here have demanded money for medicine of their captive, a police official confirmed Tuesday.

City Police director Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo said the abductors issued the demand following a contact that was established by the family of captive Alrashid Rojas.

Rojas, 56, clerk of the Islamic research and study center in Western Mindanao State University (WMSU), was abducted by eight gunmen from his house in Barangay Campo Islam, a coastal village of this city last Saturday night.

Police said the gunmen in fatigue uniforms and masks beat and handcuffed Rojas before taking him to the getaway motorized watercraft.

“There is no ransom demand, yet what was demanded by the kidnappers was unspecified amount of money for the medicine of the victim,” De Ocampo said.

De Ocampo said it appeared that Rojas sustained injuries while he fought back during his abduction.

During the contact to the victim’s family, the kidnappers claimed that they were in Sulu which De Ocampo described to be part of the kidnappers’ diversionary tactics.


Army feeding program benefits children, adults

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 24): Army feeding program benefits children, adults

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL - Eighty children and adults benefited from the feeding program initiated by the barangay council of Sitio Aya, Hda. Fe, Escalante City, recently, a press statement from the Army said.

The feeding program is joined by the 3rd Civil Military Operations Batallion as part of their non-traditional role in supporting the various programs of the government, one of which is to provide basic services to the less privileged people, especially the children.

Lt. Col. Patrick Cinco, commnader of 3 CMOBn, said this activity is another opportunity for them to affirm their sincere commitment not only to protect the people but to help them through the delivery of basic services.

Cinco said they are grateful to the chance given by Barangay Chairman Sabeniano Saura in inviting them to join the feeding program, as it is an opportune time to promote and uphold the culture and spirit of “bayanihan” that is for peace in Negros Island.


1 trooper killed, 6 wounded in NPA landmine attack in Northern Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): 1 trooper killed, 6 wounded in NPA landmine attack in Northern Samar

A member of the 8th Infantry Division's 20th Infantry Battalion was killed while six other troopers were wounded after New People's Army (NPA) rebels detonated a landmine in Victoria, Northern Samar Tuesday morning.

Capt. Amado Gutierrez, 8th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the soldiers were on their way to provide manpower support to peace and development programs in the locality when the rebels detonated a landmine around 4:30 a.m. in Barangay Lungib, Victoria town.

The explosion killed a soldier and wounded six others.

However, the military managed to engage their attackers who retreated after a 30-minute firefight.

“It is unfortunate that while our troops are implementing the peace and development programs to help the people in the interior barangays, the NPAs continue perpetrating terroristic activities detrimental to our people and the peace and development programs intended to uplift their welfare," Gutierrez said.

"We call on peace-loving people to add their voices to condemn this barbaric act of the NPAs. We also call among the members of the NPAs to return the mainstream, avail of the government programs for former rebels and contribute to nation-building,” he added.


5 soldiers wounded in NPA encounter in Zamboanga del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): 5 soldiers wounded in NPA encounter in Zamboanga del Sur

Five soldiers belonging to the 1st Infantry Division's 53rd Infantry Battalion sustained minor injuries following a clash with 50 heavily-armed New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur Tuesday morning.

The troopers were wounded by metal fragments after the rebels detonated a landmine in Sitio Ludiaw, Barangay Dagum, Lakewood town.

Capt. Jefferson Somera, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said the encounter took place around 8:00 a.m. as three platoons of the 53rd Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Victor S. Tangawohn were conducting security operations in the locality.

The rebel presence was reported to the military by concerned civilians.

Somera said that the firefight lasted for two hours before the rebels retreated taking with them an undetermined number of casualty or wounded.

Pursuit operation is ongoing.


Gov’t troops clash anew with NPA rebels in Leon hinterlands

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 24): Gov’t troops clash anew with NPA rebels in Leon hinterlands

A chance encounter between government troops and members of the New People’s Army (NPA) took place in Sitio Mangkopa, Brgy. Manampunay, Leon, Iloilo early Monday morning.

Major Rey Tiongson, spokesman of 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division (3ID), Philippine Army (PA), said the encounter happened about 5:00 a.m.

Soldiers from the 82nd Infantry Battalion (82IB) responded to verify intelligence information on the presence of insurgents in the hinterlands of the said barangay when they encountered seven rebels.

Tiongson said the firefight lasted for almost 15 minutes and the rebels later fled towards the forested area in the hinterland barangay.

The 3ID spokesman said there were no reported casualties from both sides during the recent armed clash, though soldiers of the 82IB believed several cadre members have been injured as traces of bloodstains were found in the scene of the encounter.

It was learned that Sitio Mangkopa in Barangay Manampunay, Leon is situated near the boundary of Tubungan, also in Iloilo.

Citing report from soldiers of 82IB in the field, the rebel group was believed to be members of the Napoleon Tumagtang Command of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army operating in the hinterlands of Leon and adjoining towns of Tubungan and Calinog, Iloilo.


Philippine troops arrest war refugees on suspicion they were rebels

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 25): Philippine troops arrest war refugees on suspicion they were rebels

Photos released by the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center show the teenagers shortly after their release in Sultan Kudarat province in southern Philippines. One of the teenagers, left, demonstrate how he was holding the bamboo pole with a white flag when soldiers arrested him. They were among 8 war refugees arrested by the military on suspicion they were rebels. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine authorities have freed three teenagers who were arrested along with 5 men, mostly war refugees, on suspicion they were rebels.

The Mindanao Human Rights Action Center or MinHRAC reported on Tuesday that the teenagers had been released by the police late Monday in Sultan Kudarat province.

They were seized by army soldiers on June 23 while trying to get their belongings in the village of Kulasi where rebels and soldiers had clashed.

It said those arrested were villagers who fled the fighting, but the military said the group was carrying explosives, an accusation strongly denied by the victims.

Zainudin Malang, MinHRAC executive director, said those arrested were innocent civilians displaced by the fighting in the village and that they were taken by soldiers while on their way to briefly go to their homes to salvage their belongings.

“The men were asked by their families to take advantage of a lull in the shelling and get direly needed basic living supplies from their homes which they earlier evacuated to escape the shelling. The men carried with them a white flag to indicate they are not combatants,” he said.

Malang said the freed minors were reunited with their parents and guardians. He said they held off the announcement of the release of the minors on Monday hoping they can secure the freedom of the 5 others.

“The release of the 5 did not push through and they were brought to the fiscal's office this morning. The team accompanied them throughout the trip from the PNP Precinct in (President) Quirino (town) until they reached the Provincial Prosecutor's office in Isulan (town), Sultan Kudarat,” he said.

He said the arrest of the villagers is a serious human rights violation.

“We ask civil society groups to express their condemnation at yet again another violation of human rights in the Bangsamoro. Displacement is already a violation of one's rights. When displacement is followed by arbitrary arrest, then that is simply cruelty,” he said, adding, it was not the first time this has happened in the displaced communities of Mindanao and it would not be the last unless and until the people learn to express their disgust.

“As we have seen in the past, silence merely encourages impunity, only encourages perpetrators to continue violating our rights,” he said.

Malang said authorities have filed criminal charges against the 5 men for illegal possession of explosives. “The irony is this - per interview by my colleagues, they had in their hands not bombs, rifles, or grenades. What they had were bamboo poles at the end of which is a piece of white cloth to indicate they are not combatants.”

“They even approached the soldiers, under the mistaken impression that nothing would happen to them - "sibilyan po kami." The soldiers then assured them "Ganoon ba? Walang problema. Halika kayo, sama kayo sa amin para maalagaan kayo." or similarly comforting words. They went with the soldiers and it was only when they reached the battalion camp (of the 33rd Infantry Battalion) that they learned to their shock that they were being detained,” Malang said.


8 suspected BIFF guerrillas in Sultan Kudarat nabbed

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): 8 suspected BIFF guerrillas in Sultan Kudarat nabbed

The military on Monday night arrested eight persons believed to be members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who figured in a clash with government forces in President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat province, police said Tuesday.

The suspects were turned over by the Army to President Quirino Philippine National Police for filing of appropriate charges.

Acting police provincial director Supt. Jomar Yap of Sultan Kudarat said soldiers belonging to the 33rd Infantry Battalion arrested the suspects following the harassment by suspected BIFF in Barangay Bagumbayan that left two persons killed over the weekend - a militiaman and a farmer.

Yap identified the arrested suspects as Haris, Og, Otay, Tonton, Tanguapo, Datu Naot and Kenanong, all surnamed Bagumbayan and a certain Sadam Abdul.

The arresting soldiers said they recovered several materials in making improvised explosive devices.

However, the arrested persons denied they belonged to BIFF or any armed group. Some say they were forced to admit they were BIFF members.

In a statement, the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) vowed to provide legal assistance to the suspects, all under police custody.

On Saturday and Sunday, government forces clashed with BIFF members, led by Ustadz Sukarno, alleged right hand man of BIFF founder Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato.

The group, according to 601st Brigade chief Colonel Edmund Pangilinan, attacked the village of Bagumbayan, killed militiaman Vincent Macaraeg and farmer Roi Viola, then harassed the 33rd IB detachment.

Pursuing government forces figured in a running gunbattle with the armed men until they fled toward Barangay Kulasi, Gen.SK Pendatun town in Maguindanao.

An ensuing military operations led to the capture of a BIFF camp which houses about 200 armed men.


Ex-CPLA leader hurt in grenade blast in Isabela

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Ex-CPLA leader hurt in grenade blast in Isabela

A former high ranking leader of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) was injured on Monday in a grenade explosion under a van at the vicinity of headquarters of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division in Camp Melchor F dela Cruz, Upi, Gamu, Isabela province.

A report relayed here by First Lieutenant Rowena Abayon, spokesperson of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division, identified the injured as Felipe Cariño, vice chairman of Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development Inc. (CFPDI). Abayon said that the grenade blast occurred at 9:45 a.m.

It was reported that the grenade exploded under a Mitsubishi van bearing plate number RDF 411 driven by one Crusaldo Velasco with seven passengers including Cariño on board.

“The van was on its way out from the vicinity of the Philippine Army Assistance for Rural Advancement on Literacy (PAARAL) building of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division, CMFDC, Upi, Gamu, Isabela province when the explosion happened,” she said.

“The van’s occupants and the victim had just brought their children, who were qualified to undergo a candidate soldier course which will start on June 26", she added.

She said the policemen were conducting investigation of the incident to identify the perpetrators.

“The victim sustained injury on his lower extremities while the Mitsubishi van’s front windshield was shattered and its front tires blown out.

"Carino is now under stable condition after he was immediately brought to 5ID Station Hospital for medical treatment,” she said.

Lt. Abayon described the grenade explosion as an isolated incident.

“Despite this isolated incident, the 5ID leadership will still push through with the scheduled opening of Candidate Soldier Course Class 346-13 on Wednesday, June 26, 2013,” she assured.


Soldiers, Bayanihan Team facilitate activities for farmers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Soldiers, Bayanihan Team facilitate activities for farmers

Troops from the 11th Infantry (Lapu-Lapu) Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental have facilitated activities in recent months to benefit farmers under the government’s land reform program.

These include the awarding of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards to 2,066 farmers, the giving of certificate of stewardship contract to 712 farmers, application of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title to 201 farmers, release of emancipation patent to 288, conduct of resurvey/documentation to 1, 201 farmers, the petition for inclusion and exclusion to 180 CLOA holders and legalized crop sharing to132 farmers.

The farmers and their families have been waiting practically all their lives to be able to proudly till their own piece of land, a media release from the battalion said.

Lt. Col. Wilfredo Isaac, the 11th IB Commander, stressed that his unit seriously tackled Agrarian Reform issues that foment insurgency in the countryside.

He believes that if the root causes of insurgency such as land reform and poverty will be addressed effectively and efficiently through the convergence of concerned stakeholders, peace and security can easily be achieved, the news release said.

More than 2,000 farmer beneficiaries in central Negros Island received their CLOAs.

Among the new CLOA holders, Valentino Paunal, 72, from Barangay Macagahay, Moises Padilla in Negros Occidental surfaced as the longest waiting CLOA aspirant.

For 50 years, his family still lived on a borrowed piece of land not knowing when the landowner would expel them from the plantation.

In a few months since Bayanihan Team arrived in the barangay, the old couple among others, finally received their CLOAs from the DAR. The land they titled for decades was finally theirs.

The Bayanihan Team (BT) activities in the 11th IB started early in 2011 in Guihulngan City following the implementation of the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan”.

Initially tagged as “Peace and Development Teams”, the BTs are deployed to immerse in different barangays in order to help in the identification and resolution of primary issues affecting the people, such as but not limited to agrarian reform.

It also aims to bridge the perceived gap between the farmers and the stakeholders and eventually facilitate the implementation of government programs and services especially in far- flung areas.


262 families flee due to encounter in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): 262 families flee due to encounter in Compostela Valley
At least 262 families with 700 individuals left their homes following skirmishes between government troops and communist rebels in Mawab, Compostela Valley since Monday morning.

Reports reaching the Mawab police station showed that a landmine explosion also occurred and wounded three members of the 66th Infantry Battalion.

The government troops were conducting combat operations in San Isidro, Mawab, Compostela Valley when they encountered members of the New People’s Army.

Residents claimed that after a loud explosion, they heard several gunshots which alerted them.

A certain Rosito narrated that in the early Monday morning, they were having their breakfast when they heard the explosion and series of gunfire.

He said they were forced to flee to avoid being hit with stray bullets.

Evacuees were sheltered at the Barangay Hall and at the elementary school in Nuevo Iloco.

Governor Arturo Uy immediately ordered the provincial social welfare office to attend to the needs of the evacuees.


North Cotabato guv creates Task Force Barko-Barko amid heightened conflict

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): North Cotabato guv creates Task Force Barko-Barko amid heightened conflict

To bring back peace in a conflict-stricken town in North Cotabato, Gov. Talino-Mendoza spearheaded the creation of Task Force Barko-Barko.

Task Force Barko-Barko is a joint task force composed of the members of the Regional Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Committee in Region 12.

Specifically composed of two platoons from the 57th IB and 27th IB of the Philippine Army, the task force is created primarily to ease tensions and maintain normalcy in the villages of Maybula specifically Sitio Barko-Barko and Sitio Mahayahay, and two nearby barangays of Tulunan, North Cotabato.

Mendoza led the send-off ceremony in Barangay Maybula together with Tulunan Mayor Lanie Candolada and the town’s local officials and Congressman-elect Jose Tejada of North Cotabato 3rd district last Monday.

In an interview here, she said conflict between the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team and armed group believed to be members of MILF started on May 24 in said villages.

This was followed by skirmishes and encounters which resulted to the death of few individuals and wounded many others. It also resulted to the evacuation of nearly 300 families since the first day of encounter.

Close to 200 families are still currently staying at the Barangay Hall of Maybula after being displaced in the recent fighting.

Mendoza said the fighting must now stop and peace initiatives must now take place.

She believes that the creation of Task Force Barko-barko will end the tension between the warring groups that have already greatly affected the lives of civilians.

The send-off activity was also graced by Brigadier General Cesar Sedillo, Jr., the Chairperson of GPH-CCCH, and his counterpart Abas Rashid of the MILF, Col. Marcos Flores of the 1002nd Brigade of the Army’s 10th ID and North Cotabato Police Director Sr. Supt. Danny Peralta.

Also present were Major General Datu Fadzil Bin Mukhtar, Head of Mission of the International Monitoring Team or IMT and another MILF representative Abas Salung.

It is imperative that government agencies such as the Dept. of Agrarian Reform and Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources must conduct a resurvey of the disputed land, particularly that of Sitio Barko-Barko and Sitio Mahayahay in Maybula, Mendoza said.

She said the national government through the PAMANA program of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Peace Process has allotted a budget for the resurvey and other matters related to land titles verification.

Mendoza ordered the local government of Tulunan to ensure the safety of the evacuees as she assured them that with the joint task force placed in Sitio Barko-Barko, the situation will be normal the soonest time.

She also appealed to the government troops and MILF to respect the peace process and initiatives despite the heightened emotions brought about by the conflict.


Padilla stays as chief negotiator to ensure smooth transition -- OPAPP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Padilla stays as chief negotiator to ensure smooth transition -- OPAPP

The Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on Tuesday said that newly-appointed Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) president and CEO Alex Padilla, who signified his intention to resign as government chief negotiator to focus "full-time" on his new role, will stay on to ensure a smooth transition.

OPAPP Chief Teresita "Ging" Deles, in a statement sent thru SMS to the Philippines News Agency, said that Padilla's appointment to PhilHealth does not come as a surprise.

"We have agreed that he (Padilla) will stay on to ensure a smooth transition. The rest of the panel remain in place and the work continues to proceed," she said.

Padilla Padilla earlier said he has notified the OPAPP chief of his intention to resign as government chief negotiator negotiating with the communist rebels to focus full-time on his new role.

He, however, stressed that his resignation will only be formalized once the government peace panel negotiating with the communist rebels completes its transition plan.

"I have notified Secetary Deles, awaiting formality," he said in a chance interview with the media.

Peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front/Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army (NDF-CPP/NPA) is presently at a deadlock.

Last week, President Benigno Aquino III appointed Padilla to the PhilHealth Board and was also nominated to become the agency’s president and chief executive officer.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, in a press briefing, admitted that Padilla has expressed his frustration at the pace of the peace negotiations with the NDF/CPP/NPA).

"I understand that he (Padilla) described them -- that the talks were at an impasse," she said.


Ex-AFP chief's unexplained wealth forfeited

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Ex-AFP chief's unexplained wealth forfeited

The Sandiganbayan has granted the petition for forfeiture filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2005 against former Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Lisandro Abadia and his wife.

In a 35-page ruling, the Sandiganbayan ordered the forfeiture of the Abadia couple's P11.26 million in unexplained wealth in favor of the State.

In the ruling penned by Associate Justice Alex Quiroz, the Sandiganbayan found out Abadia's statements of assets, liabilities and net worth rose from P3.77 million in 1991 to P6.476 million in 1992 and to P13.61 million in 1993, which discrepancies he failed to convincingly explain before the court.

The Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman presented enough evidence to prove the former general's assets were questionable and unlawfully acquired, as defined under Republic Act No. 1379.

The ruling added the declared wealth of the Abadias in his 1993 SALN could not tone with his disposable income, making the "P11.26 million as unexplained wealth."

"[U]sing the net worth analysis employed by the Office of the Ombudsman, Gen. Abadia's collective net worth from 1986 to 1993 amounting to P2,632,170.94, minus his family expenses from 1987 to 1993 amounting to P2,769,046.95, yields a negative P136,876.01," the ruling said.

"The computed net worth of P2,348,123.99, subtracted from the net worth of Gen. Abadia [a four-star general] as declared in his SALN for 1993 (P13,611,000.00), yields P11,262,876.01 as unexplained wealth," it added.

Abadia, who started his military service in 1958 and retired in 1994, served as AFP chief of staff from 1991 to 1994.


Palace reiterates its willingness to talk peace with communist rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Palace reiterates its willingness to talk peace with communist rebels

Malacanang said it remains open to negotiating peace with the communist rebels despite the lull in the talks and continuing violence on the ground in the past several months.

In a press briefing in the Malalacang on Tuesday, Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Aquino administration will always be ready to talk peace with the communists as long as there are no preconditions set to restart the discussions.

“We’ve always manifested our intent to keep talking to them but, even from the beginning, we have said that there should be no preconditions; we all come to the table with good intentions and with good faith,” Valte told reporters.

“Down the line, we have seen incidents that would cast doubt on those intentions, at least coming from the other side. But at this point, as Alex Padilla said, the government is still open to talking to them,” she said.

Padilla, the government’s chief negotiator with the rebels, resigned as both sides have not conducted formal talks in the last two years.

As the Aquino government has not wavered on talking peace with the communists, Valte said the major issue is sincerity of both sides.

She said the communists have not shown its sincerity as manifested by recent events on the ground such as the attacks conducted by the New People’s Army (NPA) and the kidnapping of five soldiers in Davao City.

“There are several incidents that would indicate a sincerity problem when it comes to the talks, at least on their side,” Valte said.

One of the stumbling blocks for the talks include the demand of the communist insurgents to free political prisoners detained in government prisons saying some of them serve as consultants for the talks for the rebel side.


PAF identifies missing OV-10 pilots

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): PAF identifies missing OV-10 pilots

Philippine Air Force spokesperson Miguel Ernesto Okol Tuesday formally identified the two missing pilots of the OV-10 "Bronco" attack aircraft that went down after a night proficiency flight off Puerto Princesa, Palawan Sunday night.

These pilots are Maj. Jonathan A. Ybanez and 1st Lt Abner Trust Nacion, according to Okol.

"The fate of the two pilots, Major Jonathan A. Ybanez and 1st Lt. Abner Trust Nacion still remain unknown as of the moment and are listed as missing. The search will continue until the wreckage are found and the fate of the two officers known," he added.

Okol also said the PAF has contracted the use of sonar equipment from a Cebu-based firm to aid and complement other equipment used in the search.

"The efforts (to locate the two pilots and OV-10 airframe) have been supported by the Western Command based in Palawan with Philippine Navy and Coast Guard elements conducting the search even at night," the PAF spokesperson stressed.

The downed plane, with tail number 630, belongs to the 570th Composite Tactical Wing which is based in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

The aircraft and another one with tail number 139 took off around 6:37 p.m. Sunday for a night flying proficiency

However, only the aircraft with tail number 139 safely landed back after 53 minutes.

The missing OV-10 "Bronco" ( tail number 630) lost contact with the Palawan tower around 7:30 p.m. and failed to return.


Frustrated at slow pace of talks, chief govt negotiator with Reds quits

From InterAksyon (Jun 25): Frustrated at slow pace of talks, chief govt negotiator with Reds quits

The chairman of the government panel to peace talks with communist rebels has resigned, citing his frustration over the slow pace of the negotiations.

Alexander Padilla, who was recently appointed president and CEO of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. said he has already submitted his notice of resignation to presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles.

He said the government panel to talks with the National Democratic Front is now "in transition."

Deputy Malacanang spokesperson Abigail Valte said Padilla's appointment to head the PhilHealth had nothing to do with his resignation as chief government negotiator.

"He mentioned his frustration with the pace of the talks, which he described as being at an impasse," Valte said in an interview aired over state-run Radyo ng Bayan on Tuesday.

Peace talks have been stalled since February 2011.

Presidential adviser on the peace process Sec. Teresita Deles said in a message: "Chair Padilla's appointment to Philhealth does not come as a surprise. We have agreed that he will stay on to ensure a smooth transition. The rest of the panel remains in place and the work continues to proceed."

Recently, the rebels hinted they had given up on negotiating with the current administration and might wait for a new president to be elected in 2016 before agreeing to resume talks.


Search for pilots of downed PAF plane shifts to retrieval operations

From InterAksyon (Jun 25): Search for pilots of downed PAF plane shifts to retrieval operations

Divers recover debris from the OV-10 Bronco that crashed off Palawan in this photo courtesy of the Coast Guard

The search for the two pilots of an Air Force plane that went down in waters off Palawan during the weekend has shifted from rescue to retrieval operations, the military said on Tuesday. The PAF also gave the names of the two missing pilots, while expressing hope they are still alive.

First Lieutenant Cheryl Tindog, spokesperson of the Western Command said they have rented a portable sonar device from a civilian that will be mounted on a rubber boat as efforts continue to locate the pilots of the OV-10 Bronco that crashed five nautical miles off Puerto Princesa City as it was making its landing approach Sunday night.

The plane was one of two aircraft that were undertaking a “night proficiency flight.”

PAF identifies 2 missing pilots

Meanwhile, PAF has identified the two missing pilots of the OV10 Bronco (630) that fell Sunday night into the sea five nautical miles off Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol identified them as Maj. Jonathan A. Ybanez and 1Lt. Abner Trust Nacion.

He said, “The search continues for the OV-10 Bronco that went missing last Sunday. The Philippine Air Force has contracted the use of Sonar equipment from Cebu to aid and complement other equipment used in the search. The efforts have been supported by the Western Command based in Palawan with Philippine Navy and Coast Guard elements conducting the search even at night.” 

Tindog said that, so long as they are not yet found, hope remains they may be alive.

“We are hopeful that the search operation will generate positive results today and we are praying hard that our pilots are safe,” she said.

Thus far, the downed plane’s cargo bay door, nose part, inflatable life raft, fuel tank, a chair and a nose wheel, the latter recovered by a fisherman at Tagburos wharf, have been retrieved and are “in the custody of the Palawan-based Air Force 570th Composite Tactical Wing for technical procedures,” Tindog said.

The Air Force grounded all its OV-10 aircraft after the crash.


Responding to ex-NPA leader's call, supporters surrender en masse

From InterAksyon (Jun 25): Responding to ex-NPA leader's call, supporters surrender en masse

A New People's Army camp in Eastern Visayas (photo from the NDF-EV Blogspot page)

A day after a former New People’s Army commander in Northern Samar urged his former comrades to give up the armed struggle, 53 rebel supporters, including members of a local militia, surrendered en masse to the military Sunday afternoon.

The 38 “barangay organizing committee” members and the 15 rebel militia members turned themselves in to Lieutenant Colonel Noel Vestuir, commander of the 20th Infantry Battalion, in Bobon town.

The mass surrender came a day after Lemuel Moreno, former NPA squad leader, and his wife Nida, a medical officer, issued their appeal after receiving P50,000 for the two caliber .45 pistols they turned over to the military.

The couple surrendered on June 13.

At 6 p.m. Sunday, the Morenos’ son Jonathan, an NPA team leader known as Baris and Abon, also surrendered.

Vistuir said the elder Moreno headed the organizing committee that organized rebel cells and the NPA militia in Barangay Duran, Bobon.

Rebel militias are drawn from NPA mass supporters and provide support during tactical offensives and other operations.

Bobon Mayor Rene Celespara said that the rebel supporters will receive a livelihood package worth P50,000 and their former leaders will also receive P5,000 under the Local Social Integration Program.

They are also entitled to cash rewards for each firearm they surrender.


5 soldiers wounded in rebel clash in Zamboanga Sur

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 25): 5 soldiers wounded in rebel clash in Zamboanga Sur

Five government soldiers were wounded in a clash Tuesday with communist rebels in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Sur, officials said.

Captain Jefferson Somera, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, said most of the wounded soldiers were hit by shrapnel from a landmine planted by New People’s Army rebels in the village of Dagum in Lakewood town.

He said troops, from the 53rd Infantry Battalion, clashed with about 50 rebels.

“The fighting lasted for two hours,” he said, adding a still undetermined number of rebels were either killed or wounded in the clash.

Lt. Col. Victor Tangawohn, commander of the 53rd Infantry Battalion, said the soldiers were patrolling the village following reports from civilians that rebels were frequently visiting houses in the area.

There was no immediate statement from the NPA, but the rebel group has been fighting for decades now for the establishment of a separate state in the country.