Wednesday, July 10, 2013

2 blasts rock Lanao del Norte

From ABS-CBN (Jul 11): 2 blasts rock Lanao del Norte

Two explosions rocked a residential area in Barangay Poblacion, Baroy, Lanao del Norte early Wednesday.

Authorities said the first blast occurred at around 2:30 a.m. at a bridge in Dimaporo Road, Santo Niño village.

Another explosion followed in Cabili St., Purok 2.

No casualties were reported in both blasts.

Authorities have yet to determine what type of explosive device was used.

Investigations are still ongoing.

Air Force moves closer to getting Korea-made fighter jets

From ABS-CBN (Jul 11): Air Force moves closer to getting Korea-made fighter jets

The government is moving closer to acquiring 12 fighter trainer jets for the Air Force after the defense department’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) Wednesday approved the terms of reference for the project.

Defense Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez said the terms of reference, which contain key details of the acquisition, would soon be forwarded to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for final approval.

Once the terms of reference are approved with finality, the defense department could begin negotiations with the aircraft supplier, state-run Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI).

Velez told The STAR they hope to finish the negotiations by the end of August.
“We are expediting it because it is a priority project,” Velez said.

The government has allotted P18.9 billion for the acquisition of the 12 FA-50 fighter jets for the Air Force, which has suffered from a depleted inventory due to recent aircraft accidents.

Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo had said that they are awaiting the sales agreement from Malacañang, which will pave the way for the start of negotiations with KAI.

Manalo previously told The STAR that the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), a state-run firm that coordinates with other countries seeking to acquire South Korean military assets, would sign in behalf of Seoul.

He said DAPA would also guarantee the performance of the assets to be bought even if a private firm manufactured the aircraft.

President Aquino has vowed to modernize the military to enable it to secure the country’s territory and to perform internal security operations.

For the Air Force, the government aims to acquire fighter jets, radar systems, close air support aircraft, and combat utility helicopters.

The Navy will be provided with two warships, amphibious assault vehicles, naval helicopters, multi-purpose attack craft, and base support facilities.

The government would also acquire rocket launchers, hand-held radios and night fighting system for the Army.

Palace belies re-entry of PMA grads in PNP

From GMA News (Jul 11): Palace belies re-entry of PMA grads in PNP

Malacañang on Wednesday belied supposed proposals to allow graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to join the country's police force.
At a press briefing, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Constitution clearly states that the Philippine National Police (PNP) should be "civilian in character."
"Walang stand, so far, ang PNP on pagbabalik ng military sa o ang PMA graduates sa PNP because, if you notice, sa general provision ng Constitution, there will be one police unit, Philippine National Police, civilian in character. ‘Yan po ‘yung nasa Saligang Batas," Lacierda said.
The President's spokesperson was reacting to earlier statements reportedly made by PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac that the police force is considering the hiring of PMA graduates.
Lacierda, however, said that Sindac "categorically" denied making such statements.
"I had to ask the person who allegedly made that statement, and he categorically said he never advocated that position...  He was just laying down the options," Lacierda said. 
Article XVI, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution states that, "The State shall establish and maintain one police force, which shall be national in scope and civilian in character."
The PMA is the primary institution in the country tasked to "instruct, train and develop" cadets for the military.

MILF: Mindanao-based Human Rights Watchdog alarmed over abuses against Moro civilians

From the MILF Website (Jul 10): Mindanao-based Human Rights Watchdog alarmed over abuses against Moro civilians

The Mindanao Human Rights Action Centre (MinHRAC), a human rights watchdog based in Mindanao is alarmed over the increase of human rights violations allegedly committed by the security sector to some Moro civilians who were affected by the recent skirmishes between the government troops and armed group in Maguindanao town.
This was contained in a press release issued by the MinRHrac last July 29, 2013.

The MinHRAC reported that “On June 21, 2013 fighting broke out in the village of Bagumbayan (a sitio in Barangay Kulasi, General Salipada K. Pendatun [GSKP], Maguindanao), prompting the local residents to flee to safety from the relentless artillery shelling. Some 300 Moro families took refuge in evacuation centers in Barangay Tongol and Barangay Sumakubay, and Migkunding.”

The report says that the evacuees from the affected barangays of GSKP, experienced food shortage and other basic needs while at the evacuation centers so that they decided to return home despite the feeling of apprehensions and fear from being caught in the crossfire or artillery shelling.

The ‘Bagumbayan 8’ evacuees or internally displaced persons (IDPs) were among those who returned to their village but while in their community they were allegedly maltreated by the government soldiers identified by the said evacuees as members of the 33rd Infantry Battalion who at that time were conducting military operations in Barangay Kulasi.

According to MinHRAC press release, three of the alleged maltreated Moros are minors. They were forcibly hogtied and detained despite identifying themselves as non-combatants. At the time of their arrest, one was holding a bamboo pole with a sack attached to the end, a rudimentary but obvious ‘white flag’.

“Despite their plea to spare them, they were immediately detained, hogtied, brought to a nearby school where they were made to spend the night in two days and were physically abused to coerce them to admit that they are rebels. Around noon of the following day, they were brought to the detachment of the 33rd Infantry Battalion where their coercion continued. It was only upon pressure from human rights volunteers that they were finally turned over to the elements of the PNP,” MinHRAC elucidated.

According to the MinHRAC, “The ‘Bagumbayan 8’ had been illegally detained without access to legal counsel, and excessive inhuman abuses were not eased despite request from one of the detainees, who sustained a rope-burned injury on his upper arm. Another one complained of cigarette burns.”

The MinHRAC had negotiated for access to the “Bagumbayan 8”, and secured the release of the three minors.

“The remaining five detainees were handed over to the PNP of the Municipality of Quirino on 24 June. They have since been informed that they will be charged for Illegal Possession of Explosives under RA 9516, and labeled as terrorists. Before they were handed over to the PNP, soldiers attempted to manufacture fingerprint evidence by presenting the detainees with explosive devices and instructing the detainees to hold them,” MinHRAC wrote on its press release.

MinHRAC Human Rights Defender Ara Abdulsalam, also made a counter argument to the published article in an online news agency in relation to presentation of facts that misled readers.

Abdulsalam quoted in MinHRAC’s press release saying “I read an article in Rappler on 25 June in which the “Bagumbayan 8” were described as ‘renegade rebels’ who belong to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), alleging that they were arrested following a raid on their hideout on 24 June and were caught with homemade bomb components in their possessions.”

“What was reported was simply untrue, and it was evident to me that the person who wrote the article had no knowledge of the actual incident and did not spoke with the detainees. The notion that the detainees were ‘outsiders’ involved in an attack is preposterous. Their families have been living there for such a long time that their sitio is named after them. Why would they attack their own village?” Abdulsalam lamented.

MinHRAC continued that “On June 27 efforts by relatives to visit the detainees were denied, the PNP stating that visiting hours were over. Around the same time, however, the PNP allowed access to the detainees by AFP soldiers dressed in plain clothes. One of the detainees was removed from his cell, blindfolded and interrogated.”

“One of the victims said that the blindfold material smelt “strange” and made him dizzy and nauseous, and that he was coerced into confessing to being a rebel”, MinHRAC reported.

MinHRAC Executive Director Lawyer Zainudin Malang said that, “The acts of the AFP and PNP are in violation of Philippine laws, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law.”

“The detainees should be released without delay, and an investigation be conducted into the actions of the military and police. What we cannot accept is for actions like these to occur with impunity. There needs to be a clear message that the rule of law shall be implemented and respected, not only in favor of the state, but also in favor of the citizens” he added.

Moreover, the MinHRAC has reported that on June 26, three homes in the detainee’s home village of Bagumbayan were burned. The report stated that some residents in a neighboring village witnessed the burning. It further said that some homes were occupied by non-Moro armed strangers.

Last Friday, the “Bagumbayan 8” filed their respective counter-affidavits together with their fellow IDPs at the Provincial Prosecutor's Office of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat province.

Meanwhile, there were eight wounded civilians (three of whom are children ages 2yrs.old and 1yr.old) from Barangay Ganta, Shariff Saiduna, Maguindanao who were rushed to the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC), Cotabato City, on Saturday when they sustained wounds from splinters of 105 howitzer canons explosion hitting the victims community believed to be from the military.

Radio reports here in Central Mindanao said that the wounded civilian were evacuating when the incident happened. It added that some of the victims are now in critical conditions at the hospital.

The Kawagib Moro Human Rights group in its press release had also condemned the government forces who were involved in the alleged indiscriminate artillery shelling towards the civilian communities.

Army dismantles CPP-NPA rebels’ mass structure in Negros Oriental

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 10): Army dismantles CPP-NPA rebels’ mass structure in Negros Oriental

A total of 28 communist rebels have surrendered recently after an army troops of Bayanihan Team under the 79th Infantry Battalion dismantled the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) rebels’ mass structure in Barangay Mnatiquil in Siaton town. 

“After realizing the futility of supporting the armed struggle and the hostility of keeping the NPAs to their shelter, 28 Party Branch Members and Peoples Militia were awakened from the deceptive insinuations on opinionated issues that brought the Solid Mass Organization or MASSO in Brgy Mantiquil Siaton, Negros Oriental,” Ltc Marion Sison, Commander of 79th Infantry (Masaligan) Battalion said.

Lt Col. Sison said with this incident Barangay Mantiquil is now cleared from the menace of insurgency.

With the number of rebel surrenderees, nine members of Sangay sa Partido sa Localidad (SPL) led by Rosalie Nama alias POPS and nineteen members of Yunit Militia (YM) of Lubos na Asosasyong Masa (LAM)/Solid Mass Association under Diosdado Nama alias DONDI returned to the folds of the law by turning themselves in to the troops of 79th Infantry (Masaligan) Battalion under Ltc Marion R Sison.

“The surrender of 28 persons who were utilized for chores from being underground informants to sometimes, instant and untrained fill up fighters for the NPAs was brought about by the proper information delivered by the Bayanihan Troops from issues previously exploited by the terror groups," said Sison.

They admittedly decided to turn their backs after realizing they have been fed with lies by the NPA Leadership,” said Ltc Sison.

“We treated them as victims, Sison stressed. Indeed these mass surrender of the entire community previously encapsulated by the broken Communist ideologies is a gateway to a wider opportunity for its constituents, especially the youth,” Sison added.

Brigadier General Jonas Sumagaysay, Acting 3ID Commander said, the people of Negros are happy to welcome their long lost brothers and sisters who have returned to the democratic fold.

This is a welcome development in the province of Negros Oriental where people have longed for a lasting peace. Let us help each other in the spirit of Bayanihan to end the menace of insurgency and move forward towards development in the countryside, Sumagaysay added.

Sumagaysay went on that the snowball of surrenders can be also attributed to social pressure generated by the civil society organizations, the local officials and other stakeholders who have been persistent in calling for peace coupled with sustained combat operations in the region.

Meanwhile, in the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division first semester report, a total of 62 regular members of the NPA have already surrendered and live normally in the mainstream society. 

This number includes 26 rebels who are members of Komiteng Rehiyonal-Panay (KR-P), 33 from Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros (KR-N) and 3 from Komiteng Rehiyonal Sentral-Bisayas (KR-SB). The numbers does not count NPA members who have been monitored to have left the movement for the period.

This year’s first semester surrenderees is up by 18 or 40 percent compared to first semester of last year where 44 NPA rebels have laid down their arms and returned to mainstream society and chose to live peacefully.

Sumaygaysay said “We expect more rebels to surrender in the coming days because we know that they are already tired of the futile armed struggle and wanted to go down and abandon the armed violence.”

He added, the CPP-NPA is losing the support of the populace while their ranks continue to go back to the democratic folds and start a lawful and peaceful life.

The continued Bayanihan in Western Visayas is a successful effort of the people who longed for lasting peace in this part of the country, stressed Sumaygaysay.

R-XI remains top counter-insurgency priority

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 10): R-XI remains top counter-insurgency priority

Army chief Lt. General Noel Coballes affirmed that Davao Region (R-XI) remains a top priority area in the anti-insurgency campaign in the country.

He said that recent development like the continued activities of the rebels in the area remain a security concern for the government.

Coballes said the status of the region as a venue of the anti- insurgency campaign will change only depending on the assessment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly on the dwindling dissent in the area.

On the abduction of five soldiers who remain in the hands of the rebels in Paquibato District, he said that the Army will not negotiate for the freedom of the captives, stressing that the government does not negotiate with terror groups. 

However, Coballes said that a negotiation is being pursued by another group for the safe release of the soldiers.

“We remain firm in our policy not to negotiate with terrorists,” he said.

Coballes was in Davao City to listen to the regular meeting of the Philippine Army Multi-Sector Advisory Board where genuine reforms in the ranks are being pursued based on governance and strong-private-public partnership.

The meeting aimed to allow the Army to showcase significant achievements of operational and tactical units relative to the Army Transformation Roadmap and Internal Peace and Security Plan implementation.

It also showcased the disaster response and rehabilitation convergence efforts of Army units and civilian-stakeholders in the area of responsibility of the 10th Infantry Division.

Editorial: Spoilers

Editorial from the Philippine Star (Jul 10): Spoilers

The latest rampage of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement or BIFM, according to security officials, is meant to sabotage the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. This is hardly unexpected from a group that broke away from the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front reportedly due to differences over the peace initiative.

The MILF acted in a similar manner when the government was negotiating a peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front. These days the MNLF is also acting up, in what many see as an effort to be consulted on the final peace deal with its breakaway faction. The peace pact signed by the government with the MNLF in 1996 has not yet been fully implemented, and now a new deal is being finalized with another group, covering the same area.

The fate of the original peace agreement shows that such deals need follow-through and coordinated support from government agencies as well as the private sector.

Armed conflict in the Muslim south has raged for centuries, with ideological aspirations enjoying mass support due to extreme poverty, social injustice and bad governance. Law enforcement often fails to prevent the bloodbath arising from clan feuds.

Today the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which will be part of the envisioned Bangsamoro entity under the peace deal with the MILF, remains one of the least developed areas in the country. The ARMM is awash with guns. Its people are badly in need of sustainable livelihood opportunities. A peace deal can provide the region with a period of calm and optimism. The opportunity must be seized to make the people start enjoying the dividends of peace.

Addressing the roots of public support for insurgencies is the best way to marginalize spoilers such as the BIFM. The group must be dealt with decisively even as the peace process is pursued with the MILF. The government cannot keep negotiating another peace pact with any troublemaker that comes along after a formal peace deal has been signed.

What Went Before: The Al-Barka MILF-military encounter

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 10): What Went Before: The Al-Barka MILF-military encounter

Despite a ceasefire, fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) clashed with military troops on Oct. 18, 2011, in Al-Barka town in the province of Basilan. The encounter, which lasted from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., left 19 soldiers and six Moro insurgents dead.

The two sides blamed each other for the clash. MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said it was a deliberate attack by the military and the MILF would protest it to the international monitoring team and the ceasefire committee.

The MILF charged that the Special Forces troops intruded into its “area of temporary stay.”

Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command at the time, said the troops did not intrude into the MILF area and were about 4 kilometers from it when they were fired upon by the rebels, prompting them to fight back.

The incident in Al-Barka was followed by an Oct. 21 clash between MILF forces and the military in Zamboanga Sibugay province, where seven people were killed.

On Oct. 23, suspected MILF guerrillas attacked in Basilan and Lanao del Norte provinces, killing five civilians and two soldiers.

Despite the attacks, President Aquino refused to declare an all-out war against the MILF.

Aquino said the government would not be forced into making hasty and irresponsible decisions while peace talks with the MILF were about to be resumed.

On Nov. 3, the government and the MILF peace panels held informal talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and agreed to continue the investigation of the clash in Al-Barka.

Six months after the incident, a seven-man general court-martial was appointed to arraign four senior Army officers for the deadly operation.

The officers, relieved of their posts and charged with the deaths of the 19 soldiers, were Col. Amikandra Undug, former commander of the Army Special Forces Regiment; Col. Alexander Macario, former commander of the Special Operations Task Force-Basilan; Lt. Col. Leonardo Peña, former commander of the 4th Special Forces Battalion in charge of the troops deployed to Al-Barka; and Lt. Col. Orlando Edralin, former commandant of the Special Forces Training School.

Macario and Edralin were cleared by a military court on Oct. 31, 2012, because of “insufficient evidence,” while the general court-martial late last year denied Undug’s motion to have the charges against him dropped.

Sajahatra Bangsamoro adopts Philhealth's SAGIP

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 10): Sajahatra Bangsamoro adopts Philhealth's SAGIP

The Sajahatra Bangsamoro program will adopt Philhealth’s Strenghtening and Guaranteeing Insurance for the Poor (SAGIP) Module. 

Recently, 11 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front – Project Management Team (MILF-PMT) were trained in the use of SAGIP, an information system that will be installed in the local government units.

SAGIP is an important component of the Social Protection Support Initiatives (SPSI) Program which aims to introduce interventions that will enable PhilHealth’s poor members to pay for and sustain their health insurance coverage.

It will be linked to information other information systems like Department of Health’s Watching Over Mothers and Babies (WOMB) and Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Sustaining Interventions in Poverty Alleviation and Governance (SIPAG) that will be crucial in the identification of social services interventions particularly on the technical and skills training, livelihood and employment assistance.

”We really mean to have a sustainable membership and benefit coverage particularly for the sponsored members of Bangsamoro,” Dennis Lloyd Lee of the Philhealth Information Technology and Mangement Department said.

He added the same benefits will ”eventually be expanded to individually paying members and OFW Members.”

Using information from WOMB, SIPAG and SAGIP, government agencies like DOH, Philhealth and DSWD will finance the social health insurance needs of the members. The same information will also be used to train the beneficiaries to become productive and become economically independent and become capable of paying for their contributions.

Meanwhile, LGUs, through their respective social welfare and development offices, would also use the linked information systems to undertake microfinance assistance projects , register non-NHTS (National Household Targeting System) members,implement social interventions, and monitor economic status of beneficiaries.

It is also designed to maintain or improve their membership level with Philhealth and improve services through efficient infrastructure to be provided by Philhealth.

At the training, Dr. Miriam Grace G. Pamonag, OIC Regional Vice President of Philhealth 12, told the participants, ”it is easy to enroll with Philhealth; however, the real battle is during hospitalization.”

”We honor whatever you encode in the system but it is also important to validate the entry. There is no doubt that Philhealth will be very flexible about it,” Pamonag added. ”We hope to come up wth a policy that fits to your need. Rest assured that all issues and concerns raised from this forum will be forwarded to the Central Office.”

The team was also advised to coordinate with the Local Health Insurance Office in Cotabato City headed by Sharihana G. Sali or the Philhealth Regional Office Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao under by Atty. Khaliquzzaman Macabato.

”Before the end of the year, we hope to achieve more. The National Health Insurance Program is ours. As owner of the program we have the obligation and responsibilities to take care of it. Let’s join hands to work this out for the benefit of the next generation,” Dr. Pamonag reminded the participants.

”When we see each other I hope we can altogether memorize our vision that ”Bawat Filipinop Miyembro, Bawat Miyembro Protektado, Kalusugan Natin Segurado. Let us nurture the partnership,” she added.

Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program is a socio- economic initiative of the Aquino administration that aims to uplift the health, livelihood and education conditions of Bangsamoro communities.

President Benigno Aquino III launched the program when he visited the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute in Barangay Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on February 11, 2012.

During the program launching, Philhealth distributed 11,000 Philhealth cards to members of the Bangsamoro communities.

US won’t re-establish permanent bases in PH, says US embassy

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 10): US won’t re-establish permanent bases in PH, says US embassy
Amid plans to expand its access to the country’s bases, the United States does not intend to reestablish permanent military presence in the Philippines, according to the American Embassy in Manila.

The US Embassy said in a statement given to the Philippine Daily Inquirer that ongoing negotiations seeking to open up Philippine military bases to greater US access would like to expand cooperation between the two countries in the areas of military training and disaster preparedness.

“The United States is not seeking to create or reopen any military bases here. Working with the Philippines, we seek to promote security and stability for our nations and in the region,” Embassy officials said in a statement.

Echoing earlier statements of Philippine diplomatic officials, the Embassy said an agreement on the “temporary access by US forces” would be within the framework of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, which have been governing the parameters of Philippine-US defense ties.

“The United States and the Philippines, as friends and allies, engage in mutually agreed, mutually beneficial military cooperation to enhance the training and capabilities of our forces, strengthen inter-operability for defense as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster response, counter-terrorism, and non-proliferation,” said the Embassy.

“An access agreement will increase opportunities for joint military training and exercises and allow the pre-positioning of equipment and supplies enabling us to respond quickly to disasters,” the Embassy said of the plan, which has invited criticism from those rejecting US involvement in the country’s sovereign affairs.
Philippine Ambassador to Washington D.C. Jose Cuisia Jr. said Monday in Manila that negotiations continued on the base access plan, first bared by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in June. The prospect cropped up in the course of periodic bilateral consultations between the two countries, the envoy had said.
Cuisia also guaranteed the public that a base access agreement would only be sealed if deemed beneficial for both countries and would be drafted in compliance with provisions of the Philippine Constitution.
The US is the Philippines’ closest defense ally, providing financial and technical aid in bolstering the Philippine military and law enforcement agencies.
The US’ permanent military bases in the country were booted out through a Senate vote in 1992, but Washington has maintained constant defense ties with Manila, punctuated of late by its strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific.
The Philippines is meanwhile beefing up its external defense capabilities amid regional security concerns, particularly the tense disputes over the West Philippine Sea.

Relatives, friends pay tribute to 2 Ateneans

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 10): Relatives, friends pay tribute to 2 Ateneans

Relatives and close friends of the two alumni of Ateneo de Naga University (AdeNU), who were among the eight communist rebels killed in an encounter with Army soldiers in Sorsogon on July 4, offered a Mass for them at the Jesuit-run school in Naga City on Monday.

Even former acquaintances in the underground movement in the 1990s showed up to pay their respects to Frankie Joe Soriano, alias Ka Greg Bañares, spokesperson of the communist-led National Democratic Front-Bicol, and Ted Palacio, alias Ka Gary.

After his graduation in college, Soriano joined the guerrillas to organize farmers. He was assigned to the town centers of Camarines Norte until 1995. He was a member of the Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines until his death.

Palacio graduated in 1994 with a BS Computer Science degree. He was an instructor in computer science at AdeNU when he went underground in 1995 and joined the armed struggle in 1999.

Friends and classmates grieved in silence as they shook hands before the 30-minute Mass started at 9:30 a.m. Fr. Rex Alarkon, a classmate of Palacio in high school, celebrated the Mass.

“There is an end in our struggle on earth,” Alarkon said, but “there is somebody greater than our aspirations—God.”

“All of us are equal before God. We pray to the Lord to grant them eternal peace,” he said.

Siblings of Bañares and Palacio thanked those present for remembering and respecting the memories of their loved ones.

Jasper Soriano, second to Frankie, who was eldest among three siblings, said the family respected his brother’s decision to join the rebels even if it hurt them.

“Maybe they (NPA members) also have their cause which other people cannot accept. For his loved ones and family, he left behind, we remain neutral,” Jasper said. Their brother, he said, possessed more good qualities than bad.

Doris Palacio, a younger sister of Ted, described the “unbearable pain” of losing him, especially that another elder brother had just died. She called Ted “Manoy Boboy,” a term of endearment for an elder brother.

“I will say that Manoy Boboy is now in peace,” she said. His body lies in their home in Naga.

NPA leader in Sorsogon has abandoned followers, says Army commander

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 10): NPA leader in Sorsogon has abandoned followers, says Army commander
The top leader of the communist insurgents in Sorsogon abandoned his men after last week’s encounter with the military that left his top lieutenants dead, the military said on Wednesday.

Andres Hubilla alias Ka Magno, secretary of the Komite ng Probinsya Sorsogon of the New People’s Army (NPA), has slipped out of the province, said Colonel Joselito Kakilala, commander of the Army’s 903rd Brigade, which carried out the assault against the communist insurgents late last week.

Kakilala said Hubilla has been living it up in Sorsogon while leading peasants in the revolutionary movement.

Hubilla has a P10 million mansion in Sta. Cruz village in Casiguran, Sorsogon, according to the military.

The July 4 clash took place right inside an NPA camp in the hinterlands in Upper Calmayon in Juban town, killing top NPA leaders in Sorsogon.

The NPAs in Sorsogon are practically leaderless, crippled, and scattered, according to Kakilala.

“They lost the brains in the movement in that area,” he said.

Among those killed was Greg Banares, the spokesperson of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Bicol and Ramil Anonuevo, a member of the NPA’s national special operations group who was implicated in the assassinations of former communist party top leaders Filemon “Popoy” Lagman and Romulo Kintanar.

“We hit not only the command and control of Sorsogon but also the entire Bicol region,” Kakilala said.

Banares’ partner, Christine Puche, who handled the propaganda efforts of the communist insurgency in the region was also killed.

“It would take some time for the NPA to find a replacement for Banares of his caliber,” Kakilala said.

The military’s recent victory in Sorsogon was a “big blow to the NPAs because soldiers were able to penetrate the security of the top cadres right inside their headquarters,” highlighting the communist insurgents’ “vulnerability” to government forces.

Kakilala said the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has begun its propaganda against the military, such as calling the Upper Calmayon encounter a massacre.

It was the CPP’s only way to discredit the government, Kakilala said, describing the NPA in Sorsogon as “vicious,” for killing civilians and extorting money from them.

Kakilala said that he has ordered his men to prevent any regrouping by the NPA.

“We should not give the NPA the space and time to organize, train, and conduct tactical offensives against government forces including the PNP (Philippine National Police),” he said.

In Mindanao, the CPP’s secretary of its guerilla front in the Southern Mindanao regional committee surrendered to the Army’s 10th Infantry Division on Wednesday.

Top NPA leader Narciso Ruben alias Jason left the movement because of “hardship, disillusionment with the NPA, and military pressure,” said Major General Ricardo Rainier Cruz, commander of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command.

“More from the NPA would likely surrender. It’s very rare that a front secretary would surrender. He was carrying a Smith & Wesson revolver. He was alone when he surrendered,” Cruz said.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista will preside over a command conference on Wednesday on the internal security operations of the military.

Muslim Army soldiers troop to mosques

From the Philippine Star (Jul 10): Muslim Army soldiers troop to mosques

About a thousand Muslim Army soldiers, including officers and enlisted personnel, assigned in Western Mindanao set aside their boots, guns and ammunitions as they joined their fellow Islam faithful across the nation on the first day of the observance of the month-long Ramadan on Wednesday.

Instead of charging to the battle zones, the soldiers took to the mosques inside the various Philippine Army (PA) camps under the 1st Army Division in Western Mindanao and parts of Lanao provinces, said Aarmy division spokesperson Capt. Jefferson Somera.

The soldiers wearing their kupya (caps), brought sujarah (carpet) as they gathered to pray. Their prayers reverberated from the minarets of the different mosques in the Army camps at noon time.

“All our soldiers and officers in Islam faith officially started the observance of Ramadan today,” Somera said.

He said that the Army soldiers practicing the Islam faith are exempted from performing strenuous duty during the month-long fasting.

Maj. Jaran Abdula, the civil-military operation (CMO) chief of Task Force Zamboanga (TFZ), said the soldiers will pray for fice times during the day and the Jumaah tarawi (group prayer) in the mosque.

Major Adzramien Sahisa CHS, the command Imam (preacher), led the month-long fasting and devotion as part of the Ramadan celebration at the 1st Army Division mosque.

During the start of Ramadan, acting First Army Division chief Brig. Gen. Felicito Virgilio Trinidad called on Muslim soldiers to include in their prayers and devotion the realization of peace in Mindanao and the country.

Muslims, who are in the Marines unit in Sulu, have also joined the start of the observance of Ramadan while the rest of the troops remained on alert on the possible retaliatory and diversionary attacks of the Abu Sayyaf group.

The police forces in the region have been alerted also to secure the places of worship of the Muslims to preempt any sabotage, according to Chief Superintendent Juanito Vaño, police director for Western Mindanao.

Del Rosario at EU: 'Peaceful' efforts to end sea row 'unsuccessful'

From the Philippine Star (Jul 10): Del Rosario at EU: 'Peaceful' efforts to end sea row 'unsuccessful'

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario in a meeting with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in Brussels last Monday, July 8, 2013. EU COUNCIL SCREENCAP

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Tuesday reported to officials of the European Union in Brussels, Belgium that the Philippines' "peaceful" approach to settle disputes with China have failed.

"The Philippines undertook many efforts to peacefully engage China and settle these disputes. However, these were unsuccessful," Del Rosario said, explaining the overlapping disputes at sea with China as the major claimant.

Del Rosario said in a roundtable discussion that the country has "exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues" in peacefully negotiating a settlement with China, which he said has "projected an overwhelming naval and maritime presence far beyond its mainland shores."

"Our last resort, therefore, when confronted with increasing incursions into our territory, was to utilize the legal track which also covered the management of disputes," Del Rosario said.

He emphasized that the country seeks a "rules-based" resolution on the conflict through third-party arbitration and the crafting of the Code of Conduct with its Southeast Asian neighbors.

"The five-member panel of the arbitration tribunal has already been completed ... I have no doubt that they will look at the merits of the case on the basis of law," Del Rosario said.

The diplomatic official also took time in convincing the European dignitaries of the importance of the South China Sea in European trade, saying that the shipping lanes must remain free of military perils.

"Ensuring the unfettered access of ships and maritime commerce through the region is ... of interest not only to Asia and Europe, but to the international community as well," Del Rosario said.

According to a statement by the Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, European Parliament members have expressed their support for the country's approaches to the sea row, particularly its respect for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS in the meeting with Del Rosario.

Del Rosario is in Belgium and Luxembourg for a three-day diplomatic visit when he also met Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Asselborn seeking to renew the two countries' bilateral ties.

Military orders all-out offensive vs NPA in Sorsogon

From the Philippine Star (Jul 10): Military orders all-out offensive vs NPA in Sorsogon

The most senior military commander in Sorsogon province on Wednesday said that he has ordered an all-out, but deliberate military operations against the New People's Army (NPA).

“Even without them (NPAs) issuing that warning, we know it already and I have directed a sustained but deliberate operations be continuously launched against these rebels. The best defense is relentless swarming offensive operations” said Col. Joselito Kakilala, commander of the Army’s 903rd Brigade based in the province.

Kakilala was referring to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) national leadership's order to its fighters to launch attacks against the government to avenge the deaths of their comrades.

Last week, the military killed eight key provincial and regional leaders in a 35-minute fighting in Barangay Calamayon, Juban.

Kakikala said that the ongoing military operations are specifically directed towards the NPA’s Celso Dominguez Command headed by Andres Hubilla alias Ka Magno.

He said that the rebel group, composed of 45 more or less regular fighters, is currently disorganized because their commander (Ka Magno) left them on their own to escape the continuing Army dragnet.

Ka Magno was among the 12 NPAs who were able to escape in last week’s fighting that left eight other key provincial and regional leaders dead, among them the National Democratic Spokesman in Bicol Region Frankie Joe Soriano alias Ka Greg Banares, Banares’ wife Christine Puche, alias Ka Nel and Romero Anonuevo, alias Ka Nene, one of the gunmen who assassinated former left-wing labor leader Felimon "Popoy" Lagman, and former NPA chieftain Romulo Kintanar.

“The CPP and all revolutionary forces vow to exact justice and punish the perpetrators of this massacre. It calls on all units of the NPA to carry out more tactical offensives to defend the people,  particularly the peasant masses in Sorsogon and the Bicol region, who are being subjected to more severe violations of human rights as the AFP intensifies its Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression,” the CPP-NPA declared.

Video shows new Phl warship crossing Panama Canal

From the Philippine Star (Jul 10): Video shows new Phl warship crossing Panama Canal

In this May 20, 2012 file photo, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF16) of the Philippine Navy leaves the pier at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Ever wondered how the Philippines' new warship crossed the Panama Canal?
A day after the government announced that the journey of the BRP Ramon Alacaraz will be documented, a short video of the new warship crossing the waterway was posted on its official Facebook page.

The video, which lasts for two minutes and 34 seconds, is a compilation of clips and images of the vessel as it traverses parts of the Panama Canal, which connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean.

The Philippine Navy earlier reported that the Alcaraz successfully crossed the 82-kilometer waterway last June 18 (US time).

Malacañang said on Tuesday that the new warship will arrive in the Philippines on August 3. It is reportedly en rout to Hawaii, according to a post on its official Facebook page.

Articles will also be uploaded through a live blog on the Navy's official website and on the blog and Twitter account of dela Cruz.

The Official Gazette’s Twitter and Facebook accounts will likewise share onboard updates on Alcaraz.

"We encourage everyone to follow the updates on the BRP Alcaraz—the first of the Navy’s ships to be named in honor of a Philippine Naval officer—and learn about the life and experiences of the members of the Philippine Navy," Valte said.

The Palace official said the new warship will be a "good addition" to the Navy, amid the ongoing territorial disputes over the West Philippine Sea.

"It is a step in the right direction in terms of upgrading our hardware, our capabilities," Valte said at a press briefing. "This will certainly be a boost to our patrol abilities."

The BRP Alcaraz, with its 14 officers and 74 crewmembers, is now on her way to the Philippines and is set to arrive on August 3. Over the weekend, a post on its official Facebook page said the new warship is now en route to Hawaii.

The newest acquisition of the Navy is a 378-foot Hamilton-class weather high endurance cutter decommissioned by the US Coast Guard that had undergone retrofitting and refurbishment worth P620 million.

The vessel was named after Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, a Philippine Navy officer who distinguished himself in the Second World War. The ship is capable of conducting patrols for long periods of time and can withstand heavy weather and rough sea conditions.

CHR warns against alleged CAFGU abuses

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 10): CHR warns against alleged CAFGU abuses

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales has condemned the killing of another B’laan tribal leader in Barangay Kiblawan as she asked the military, police, the local government and other government agencies to work harder to stop the killings in Davao del Sur.

Eking Dayanton Freay, 28, and Sony Planda, 18, both native B’laans, were ambushed while riding a motorcycle on their way to Sitio Bong Mal in the morning of June 28. Five CAFGU members allegedly shot them with Garand rifles killing Planda instantly, according to the police report.

Freay managed to bring himself to the Gregorio Matas District Hospital and survived attack.

“While it is true that the killings under the Aquino administration have reduced, the local government and the police have to take an extra mile to put a definitive stop to extra-judicial killings,” she reiterated.

While the CAFGU is a legal formation by law, many abuses are attributed to this group’s behavior because of its ignorance and lack of training on human rights and rule of law. This makes the CAFGUs a liability in the protection of the rights of the B’laans in the area.

To make matters worse, Saguittarius Mining Incorporated (SMI), in a dialogue on the Human Rights Impact Assessment, has admitted to give “subsistence allowance” to CAGFUs to support peace and order in the area amid tensions brought about by mining operations.

“This subsistence allowance can easily result in making the CAFGUs beholden to the mining companies, thereby straining their objectivity in enforcing their mandate as provided by law,” Rosales pointed out.

Further, the CHR underscored that there is a possibility that SMI is putting itself at risk of criminal prosecution whenever it gives benefits particularly money to government employees. Likewise, public officials who solicit and accept gifts can be prosecuted in violation of RA 6713 otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

6th ID vows intensified security for Ramadan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 10): 6th ID vows intensified security for Ramadan

With devout Muslims now commemorating the month-long observance of Ramadan, the Army's 6th Infantry Division, based in Maguindanao, announced it will do everything to ensure the religious event will be safe and secure for all devotees.

In line with this festivity, the Division is joining all devout Muslims in this year’s Ramadan celebration with the theme “Kapayaan ang Diwa ng Ramadan.”

This is a manifestation of the unit's sincere and honest offer of peace and harmony, not only with Christians and Muslims, but also with Lumads and other minority groups.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, Division spokesperson, pledged to boost security patrols in Cotabato City and the whole of Central Mindanao where people may possibly be disturbed throughout the observance of Ramadan.

"The command will deploy security personnel in various convergence areas and strategic places to ensure the safety of everybody during the celebration," he added.

Last year’s celebration was spoiled by armed lawless elements that simultaneously harassed civilian communities, military camps and government installations in North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces.

6th ID commander Maj. Gen. Romeo L Gapuz extended his greetings of solidarity and best wishes to all Muslims in Central Mindanao as they celebrate Ramadan.

“Your soldiers will exert every possible effort to protect you and ensure your safety during the celebration,” he added.

Military seizes 1,200 pieces of Lawaan lumber

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 10): Military seizes 1,200 pieces of Lawaan lumber

Authorities seized 1,200 pieces of Lawaan lumber during an operation in Barangay Libertad, Kolambugan, Lanao Del Norte recently.

Belated reports from Capt. Jefferson Somera, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said the mission was carried out on July 7 with the assistance of the local police and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The operation was conducted after local residents reported the presence of loggers illegally cutting Lawaan trees in the nearby forest.

According to Col. Romulo Manuel, 35th Infantry Battalion commander, the confiscated Lawaan lumbers were on board a green "Amarak," a local cargo vehicle.

He said the driver abandoned the vehicle upon the arrival of government forces.

Brig. Gen. Felicito Virgilio Trinidad, Jr., 1st Infantry Division acting commander, lauded their field unit for the successful operation.

“This accomplishment manifests the growing concern and vigilance of the residents in Lanao Del Norte against illegal logging," he said.

Ranking NPA leader in Eastern Mindanao surrenders

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 10): Ranking NPA leader in Eastern Mindanao surrenders

The 10th Infantry Division, which is based in Mawab, Compostela Valley Province, a ranking New People's Army (NPA) leader in Eastern Mindanao surrendered to their field units Wednesday.

Capt. Raul Villegas, 10th Infantry Division deputy spokesperson, identified the surrenderer as Narciso Pulbos Ruben, 34, a resident of Km 7, Sitio Liwanag, Barangya Banlag, Monkayo, Compostella Valley.He is the NPA's Front Secretary in Compostella Valley Province.

Villegas said Ruben surrendered his Magnum .357 Smith and Wesson revolver.

During his interview with the 25th Infantry Battalion, Ruben revealed that he joined the NPA in 1997 and held various positions such as member of Samahang Yunit Pampropaganda, Team Leader of Medical Staff, Political Instructor of Pulang Bagani Command 5 until he was elevated as Front Secretary in February 2012.

He revealed that he decided to join the NPA in a bid to avoid poverty and correct the wrongs in society.

Ruben got married to Charjelyn Casquijo, also a Front Secretary, in 2002.

Villegas said that the rebel leader's surrender was made possible through the efforts of the peace and development team.

Data revealed a total of 123 members and leaders of the NPAs have surrendered to the 10th Infantry Division from January to date.

Meanwhile, Major Gen. Ariel B. Bernardo, 10th Infantry Division commander, said that Ruben's surrender only proved the effectiveness of the Peace and Development Outreach Program,

“The Army is deploying community peace and development teams which are encouraging community based initiatives defined by the local communities, with local government units coordinating efforts against insurgency, geared towards presenting long-term solutions while at the same time addressing the immediate needs of the local community,” he added.

“More than forty years of armed struggle have not solved any of our problems. It has caused more problems for our society. Senseless deaths and miseries to hundreds of thousands of Filipinos and destroyed the future of many Filipino youth. Let us actively support the program of government to peacefully resolve all armed conflicts in the country," Bernardo concluded.

PA conducts 3rd MSAB in Davao City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 10): PA conducts 3rd MSAB in Davao City

The Philippine Army (PA) on Wednesday conducted its third Multi-Sectoral Advisory Board (MSAB) meeting for this year at Royal Mandaya Hotel in Davao City.

In 2011, the Army launched the MSAB composed of representatives from key sectors of society who are willing to partner with and help the PA pursue its transformation initiatives.

After its formation, MSAB holds its regular meetings quarterly to ensure that all efforts pertaining the Army transformation are on track and progressing.

For this quarter, the assembly hopes to tackle updates on the implementation of the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR) including PA chief Lt. Gen. Noel A. Coballes’ quick-wins on his advocacy of empowering the non-commissioned officers, improving the Army General Hospital and expediting benefits for the personnel.

As well, Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan” implementation updates are of main concern.

The MSAB regular meetings also help each member to look ahead and be constantly fired up in achieving a shared vision of “a world-class Army that is a source of national pride”.

The PA MSAB is headed by its chairman Dr. Jesus Estanislao of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia.

Its members include Victoria Gartichorena of Ayala Corporation; Dr. Carolina Hernandez of UP-Diliman; Atty. Alexander Lacson of Kabayanihan Foundation; Prof. Solita Collas-Monsod of the UP School of Economics; Hon. Oscar Rodriguez of Pampanga; Hon. Mel Senen Sarmiento of Samar; Hon. Samira Gutoc-Tomawis of ARMM; Dr. Jennifer Santiago-Oreta of the Ateneo de Manila University; and Director Alberto Lim of the Development Bank of the Philippines.

Major Gen. Ariel Bernardo, 10th Infantry Division commander, expressed his desire to replicate MSAB and further engage with governors, mayors, regional directors and other representatives of various sectors in Davao.

With the PA MSAB, the Army has been able to demonstrate its earnest commitment to pursue genuine reforms founded on good governance and strong private-public partnership.

KALAHI-CIDSS program wins international award

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 10): KALAHI-CIDSS program wins international award

The Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS), one of the poverty alleviation programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in partnership with the World Bank, was chosen as one of the awardees of the U.S. Treasury’s second annual Development Impact Honors Awards recently.

The country’s award, beating over 40 other candidates, will be given on July 25, 2013 at the Main Treasury Building in North Washington, USA.

Aside from the awardees, attendants of the event include members of the U.S. Congress and other U.S. government agencies, as well as representatives from the developmental sector.

The Development Impact Awards recognizes the different projects supported by multilateral development banks all over the world. The awards are meant to distinguish development-oriented programs, such as those that fight poverty, hunger, and disease.

The entries were judged based on criteria such as quality of results, focus on priority sectors, innovations used, and risk mitigations strategies utilized.

KALAHI-CIDSS was chosen as one as the awardees out of the other entries because it is “especially high-impact and noteworthy,” according to US Secretary of Treasury Jacob J. Lew in his letter to World Bank President Dr. Jim Kim.

It is one of the three core social protection programs of DSWD in combating poverty.

It uses the community-driven development (CDD) strategy to empower ordinary citizens to actively and directly participate in local governance by identifying their own community needs, planning, implementing and monitoring projects together to address local poverty issues.

Some of the results of KALAHI-CIDSS include improved access of communities to basic services, increased community involvement, and positive impact in household well-being.

The World Bank has been a partner of KALAHI-CIDSS since its inception in 2003. John Roome, World Bank Sustainable Development Director for East Asia Pacific is pleased with the award.

“One of my first field visits was in KALAHI-CIDSS sites. From those early visits, I could see the impact of the project on people’s lives,” he said.

He added that with the advent of the National Community-Driven Development Program (NCDDP), which will scale up the CDD strategy utilized by KALAHI-CIDSS, there will be even greater impact to communities in the country.

From the 364 municipalities covered by KALAHI-CIDSS, NCDDP will be targeting 900 of the poorest municipalities in the Philippines. It was approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Board last January 18, and is set to be launched in late 2013.

On the other hand, DSWD Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman was delighted with the recognition.

"We are honored to have Kalahi-CIDSS chosen as one of the awardees by the U.S. Treasury. We are optimistic that with NCDDP, we will be able to help even more families and communities rise from poverty,” she said.

Last year’s awardees of the Development Impact Honors Awards were the African Development Bank for the Mali-Senegal Road Project, the Asian Development Bank for the Afghanistan Telecom Development Company Project, the Inter-American Development Bank for its Basic Nutrition Program and the World Bank for their Amazon Region Protected Areas Program.

GPH-MILF talks 'still upward struggle' - Iqbal

From Rappler (Jul 10): GPH-MILF talks 'still upward struggle' - Iqbal

GETTING THERE. MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal says they remain cautious even as they are in a hurry to finish the final peace pact. File photo by Rappler

GETTING THERE. MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal says they remain cautious even as they are in a hurry to finish the final peace pact. File photo by Rappler

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Will the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front manage to arrive at a deal on wealth sharing in this round of talks?
On the 2nd to the last day of their talks here, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told Rappler both sides are still struggling to arrive at a compromise on how the national government and the envisioned Bangsamoro political entity would share wealth from the country's natural resources.
"There are settled issues, there are unsettled issues," he said Wednesday, July 10. "For most issues, there have been suggestions from both sides but overall it's still an upward struggle."
Iqbal refused to elaborate. Protocol prevents both parties from disclosing details of the talks while negotiations are going on.
Delegations from the government and the MILF flew here for this round of talks hoping to sign the annex on wealth sharing – one of the 4 annexes that will complement the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro before the final peace pact can be signed.
The closed-door discussions were described as "tense," "rigorous" and at times emotional, but still "very congenial." On Tuesday, for example, Iqbal said the panels were only able to discuss 5 out of the "many" remaining issues.
It's Day 3 of the talks and the panels only have one more day left for this round.
The race against time got even more constricted Wednesday as the panels cut the last two days of session to half because of Ramadan.
TALKS. Government peace panel members Yasmin Busran-Lao and Mehol Sadain chats with Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato' Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed. Photo by Rappler
TALKS. Government peace panel members Yasmin Busran-Lao and Mehol Sadain chats with Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato' Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed. Photo by Rappler
Despite the time constraints, Iqbal said they are not about to fall into the trap of just signing anything on the table.
"We are in a hurry but we are still cautious," he says. "We will not just agree to anything because this is about us," Iqbal said. "This is about our life."
Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer called for a meeting with the entire government team after Wednesday's talks.
Earlier, Ferrer said the government panel came prepared for the rigors required for this phase of the negotiations.
"We were very conscious that this is a problem-solving sesison. The discussion on this round of talks will be focused on issues that have long been discussed and have not found any solution," she said.

An initial wealth-sharing annex was drafted as early as February. But the parties arrived at an apparent deadlock when they failed to sign anything in the last two meetings in March and April after the government asked for more time to conduct due dilligence on the document's contents.

As both sides gear up for the last day of the 38th round of talks, is there still a chance of a breakthrough?

Before the 3rd day of the talks started Wednesday, Iqbal said there was a "realm of hope." After the session, he said: "There's always the possibility."

6 hurt in a series of blasts ahead of Ramadan

From Rappler (Jul 10): 6 hurt in a series of blasts ahead of Ramadan

A twin explosion hit Cotabato City Tuesday night, July 9, a day after another explosion hit a fastfood chain in the business district.

An explosion also hit an Army detachment in Datu Piang, Maguindanao, on Monday, wounding a soldier.

Authorities said the series of blasts, which came as the Muslim community was preparing for the start of the Ramadan, was believed to have been staged by Muslim rebels who wanted to derail the peace talks between the government of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Muslim residents condemn the series of incidents calling a big disrespect towards the observance of Ramadan, which was set to start Wednesday, July 10.

According to city police director Sr. Supt Rolen Balquin, the first explosion took place around 8:40 pm along Manara Street, and the second one took place at around 9:10 pm at Cafe Florencio, a popular KTV bar on Sinsuat Avenue, Rosary Heights 7.

EOD experts said fragments from the two explosions indicate that they came from a M-79 grenade launcher.

No one was hurt in the first explosion, but 5 were wounded in the second attack. They were Reynaldo Pascua, the manager of Café Florencion, Lolong delos Reyes, Winnete Guerra, Aileen Coquia, and James Fernando.

The victims were rushed to the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center.

On Monday night, a similar explosion rocked a Jollibee branch along Sinsuat Avenue.

“We are investigating the twin incidents as well the perpetrators behind. There were 4 people on board two motorbikes seen at the site before the blast,” Balquin said.

Balquin said they are looking into possible involvement of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The group had warned to sow terror in the region.

On Monday night, armed men blew up a bridge in the town of Datu Piang in Maguindanao and opened fire on military detachment, leaving one soldier wounded.

Army Colonel Dickson Hermoso, 6th Division spokesman, said the attacks were perpetrated by BIFF.

He said the rebels planted two homemade bombs fashioned from 81-mortar shells and detonated both around 11:30 pm on Monday. The bridge was partially destroyed and not passable for large vehicles.

The military official also said BIFF rebels shot and wounded a soldier minutes after they bombed the bridge.

Around 12 am of Tuesday, Hermoso said BIFF members harassed their two detachments in Datu Unsay town. There were no casualties.

Abu Misry, spokesman for BIFF, claimed responsibility for the attacks against military positions, but he said they group has nothing to do with the series of bombings in Cotabato and Maguindanao.

“It could be members of a third party group,” he said.

Last month, BIFF members warned of attacks in the region.

Clashes between soldiers and BIFF rebels erupted on Saturday, leaving 5 soldiers and more than 80 rebels dead.

The BIFF is the original name of the group which was founded in 2010 by Ameril Umra Kato, formerly of the MILF.

Kato has figured in several attacks on Christian communities, including in 2008 atrocities following the botched signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and MILF peace panels.

In August 2011, Kato’s men staged simultaneous attacks against government military detachments in the region, occupied a national highway for almost a week, and harassed civilian communities.

'Rescue 5' is now Air Force reserve unit

From InterAksyon (Jul 10): 'Rescue 5' is now Air Force reserve unit

From left to right: Air Force chief Lt Gen Catalino dela Cruz, TV5 President and CEO Noel C. Lorenzana and TV5 News head Luchi Cruz-Valdes signing the memorandum of agreement official designating 'Rescue 5' as the 500th Search and Rescue Group. (photo from the Twitter account of News5's DJ Sta. Ana -

TV5's multi-awarded "Rescue 5" is now a reserve unit of the Philippine Air Force.

Rescue 5 was officially designated as the PAF's 500th Search and Rescue Group through a memorandum of agreement signed by Air Force chief, Lieutenant General Lauro Catalino dela Cruz, TV5 President and CEO Noel C. Lorenzana, and TV5 News head Luchi Cruz-Valdes.

"We're very much honored to have Rescue 5 as a reserve force in the Air Force," dela Cruz said after the MOA signing.

PAF spokesman Colonel Miguel Ernesto Okol said the MOA stipulates that Rescue 5 will partner with the Air Force during disasters, especially in search and rescue operations.

Rescue 5 has its own mobile units carrying team members trained in disaster and accident situations. It also embarks on community training programs to prepare citizens for emergencies. Through TV5's various platforms - from television to radio and the Internet - Rescue 5's various initiatives and mandates are further implemented, leveraging the network's ability to educate and spread information to enhance its work and impact on the ground.

UN arbitral tribunal on PH case vs China meets in Hamburg on jurisdiction

From InterAksyon (Jul 10): UN arbitral tribunal on PH case vs China meets in Hamburg on jurisdiction

The five-member United Nations tribunal that will hear the arbitration case the Philippines sought over its territorial dispute with China is now meeting in Hamburg, where it will decide whether it has jurisdiction over the case, University of the Philippines law professor Atty. Harry Roque said.

Roque, of UP’s Institute of International Legal Studies, said the tribunal would have to “examine its own jurisdiction” over the case that the Philippines filed January this year over China’s objections.

He said the panel “would have to convince itself that number one, the case is covered by the compulsory and binding dispute settlement procedures of UNCLOS. That is, that the dispute involves only interpretation and application of UNCLOS,” he said.

UNCLOS stands for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

If the tribunal answers yes to the first question, then it would have to decide whether its jurisdiction is not covered by reservations made by China, he said. Among China’s expressed reservations are on maritime delimitation and operation of law enforcement for purposes of sovereign rights.

If the court decides that it has jurisdiction, then it “will ask the Philippines to make its submissions, including factual evidence,” Roque explained.

The meeting would be the first for the arbitral tribunal since the membership to that body was completed in April, he added.

The meeting was delayed after one of the arbitrators, Prof. Chris Pinto “voluntarily recused himself from the tribunal because he is married to a Filipina.” Pinto is Sri Lankan.

Roque said “Prof. Pinto is a very close friend of the Institute of International Legal Studies, that’s why we consider it a big loss.”

Another member from a third world country, Thomas Mensah of Ghana, was named Pinto’s replacement.

Hamburg likely seat of arbitration

Roque said Hamburg will likely be established as the seat of arbitration.

The Philippines is questioning China’s “nine-dash line” as basis for its sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

The Philippines claims parts of the South China Sea and refers to them as the West Philippine Sea.

China, which insists on a bilateral solution to the conflict, rejected the arbitration in February, saying the Philippines’ case was legally infirm.

Along with 161 other countries, both the Philippines and China are signatories to the 1982 accord allowing them to seek legal remedy on territorial disputes.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims over the resource-rich waters.

MNLF shows force, firepower in surprise Basilan march

From the Mindanao Examiner blog (Jul 9): MNLF shows force, firepower in surprise Basilan march

MNLF members march through Lamitan City in Basilan province in the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao. (Photo by Richard Falcatan)

Security forces were thrown into alert and residents panicked after hundreds of former Moro rebels, many of them armed with anti-tank rockets and automatic weapons, paraded in Lamitan City in the southern Philippine province of Basilan, army officials said Tuesday.

 Officials said members of the Moro National Liberation Front, clad in military uniform, marched through the city - some of them waving red flags - and caught local authorities by surprise.

 MNLF leaders said the march was part of their peace consultation in Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. The show of force was unprecedented in recent decades.

The unannounced parade sent soldiers and policemen scampering for cover and defensive positions as security forces hurriedly put up check points and road blocks to ensure control of the tense situation.

But despite the layers of road blocks, the former rebels insisted on marching through them and further caused tension in Lamitan. Security commanders, in an effort to avert any confrontation, allowed the MNLF members to pass through.

 Two army armoured personnel carriers were also sent to the city as back up to troops securing Lamitan. Army officials have met with the leader of the MNLF, Nurin Ismael, to convince his group to peacefully leave the city because the presence of former rebels has caused panic to the locals.

Officials said Ismael’s group has apologized to the authorities for the uncoordinated march and eventually returned to their bases.

It was not immediately known why the MNLF forces managed to march to Lamitan undetected by the authorities.

There was no immediate statement from local government officials about the incident, but the daring march by former rebels has proved that security is still a big problem in Basilan province, just several nautical miles off Zamboanga City.

 The MNLF under Nur Misuari has signed a peace accord with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody war in southern Philippines. The accord also allowed the MNLF to keep their weapons. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region, but despite the peace accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.

And in November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the Muslim autonomous region, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and jailed and released after several years. 

Under the peace agreement, Manila would have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the South and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.

But Misuari's fall had severely affected the MNLF which is now heavily divided and rift among its leaders is becoming more apparent. Misuari also ran thrice for governor in Sulu province and again in the Muslim autonomous region, but lost. However, Misuari’s popularity among many Muslims remains high and his influence over them is unquestionable.