Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Malaysian court sets trial of Kiram men

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 17): Malaysian court sets trial of Kiram men

A Malaysian court will start on Sept. 27 the trial of a nephew of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and 28 other Filipinos who are accused of terrorism for their alleged intrusion into Sabah in February to claim the territory as theirs.

Datu Amirbahar Hussin Kiram, who is said to have the rank of “general” in the Sulu Sultanate’s Royal Security Forces, faces the death sentence if convicted. He is the Sabah-based son of Kiram’s younger brother, Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram II.

Judge Ravinthran Paramaguru reset the joint trial of the 29 accused to Sept. 27 from Sept. 17, during which at least 50 prosecution witnesses would be able to testify, the Malaysian newspaper New Straits Times reported on Tuesday.

For security reasons, Malaysian Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail proposed that the court proceedings be held in a heavily secured police headquarters in Kinarut, Kota Kinabalu.

The Sabah conflict started on Feb. 9 when 235 followers of the Sultanate of Sulu sailed to the disputed territory. The so-called Sulu Royal Security Force was led by the sultan’s brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram.\

The Malaysian government gave the Sulu gunmen until March 1 to surrender despite President Benigno Aquino III’s appeal for “maximum tolerance.” The next day, the Malaysian armed forces launched a military offensive against the sultanate’s men.

And on May 15, eight Filipinos were sentenced to life imprisonment by the Malaysian court for their role in the Sabah standoff.

Amirbahar, along with the 28 other alleged followers of the Sulu Sultanate, had pleaded not guilty to the charge of waging war on the Malaysian King Yang di-Pertuan Agong and sheltering or recruiting people to become members of a terrorist group during their arraignment on June 27.

In Taguig City, Kiram’s spokesman Abraham Idjirani asked the Philippine government to extend legal assistance to the 29 Filipinos, who he said were being tried illegally by the Malaysian authorities.

“They are Filipino citizens, too, and they should be assisted by the government,” Idjirani said.

“We are appealing to the Department of Foreign Affairs to provide them with legal assistance.”

The Malaysian court has assigned lawyers to defend the 29 accused, but Idjirani said their  determination and motivation to defend the Filipinos were suspect.

“The lawyers assigned to them are Malaysians and they’re defending foreigners that they regard as terrorists,” Idjirani said.

“But we’re still hoping they will respect their rights in the spirit of Ramadan.”

According to New Straits Times, 22 of the accused Filipinos will be represented by International Criminal Court counsel Datuk Sivananthan, a Malaysian appointed by the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Amirbahar aside, the other accused are Basad Samuel, Mohamad Ali Ahmad, Pabblo Allie, Abd Hadi Mawan, Atik Hussin Abu Bakar, Dani Ismail, Saidili Jaharul, Totoh Hismullah, Basil Samiul, Rizman Gulan, Abdul Majil Jubin, Rijmal Salleh, Julham Rashid, Tani Lahad Dahi, Al Wazir Osman, Virgilio Nemar Patulada, Masir Aidin, Anwar Salib Akhmad, Ismail Yasin, and Binhar Salib Akhmad.

Those accused of lesser terrorism-related charges are Aman Radie, Timhar Hadir, Holland Kalbi and Lin Mad Salleh.

Three others are accused of harboring terrorists, and they are Norhaida Ibnahi, Kadir Uyung and Lating Tiong.

Another accused—Salib Akhmad Emali—faces  three charges and possibly a fourth for allegedly recruiting people to become members of a supposed terror group.
The last of the accused, Habil Suhaili, pleaded not guilty of being a member of a terrorist group during his arraignment on July 12 at the Tawau High Court.

CPP/NPA: AFP atrocities all time high in Paquibato

Posted to the CPP Website (Jul 16): AFP atrocities all time high in Paquibato

Tano Paragas
Southern Mindanao Sub-regional Command (Davao City-Bukidnon Sub-regional Command)

The AFP is again covering its tracks by rattling off outrageous figures and perpetuating endless lies. It recently claimed of high atrocities committed by the New People’s Army in the region when truth is, it is the 10th ID—its combat troops, spies and paramilitary forces—that are committing grave human rights abuses against hapless civilians in the peasant villages.

In fact, the AFP has defied calls by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to stop offensive operations in Paquibato district because of the ongoing negotiations for five NPA Prisoners of War in that area. Taking a rabid no-negotiation policy, the military has filled the civilian structures and village centers of AFP troops who are masquerading as peace and development teams in almost all parts of Paquibato district.

And yet, the AFP, specifically, Major Jake Obligado is all for boasting falsehoods and glossing over human rights atrocities. Obligado claims that the US-Aquino regime’s Internal Peace and Security Program (IPSP)-Bayanihan is merely an information dissemination drive for residents, and not really a vile psychological warfare operation meant to intimidate the peasants and indigenous peoples and prevent them from going to their farms.

The military operations are tied to big mining interests in Paquibato; soldiers disguised as non-combatants are goons to large-scale mining capitalists and big business.

Thus, it is not surprising that hunger is stalking peasants of Paquibato district and elsewhere in Calinan, Marilog and Baguio districts in Davao City. This as the military heightens its operations, taking cover as rescue operations for the 5 POWs,scouring villages and threatening civilians,including families of Red fighters and officers.

The safety of the five POWs are not only imperiled with the military’s intensified combat and intelligence surveillance activities. The lives of peasant villagers are, likewise, at stake.

Thus, when the military announces unsubstantiated, empty claims about supposed NPA atrocities in the region, it attempts but fails miserably to erase the legitimacy of NPA attacks. The Red fighters have stepped up its campaign against big landlords, capitalists, fascist troops, and civilian functionaries who have abused the rights and welfare of the masses. These exploiters rightly deserved to receive the harshest blows from the people’s army.

MILF: Editorial--Two more to go in annexes

Editorial posted  to the MILF Website (Jul 18): Two more to go in annexes

Two annexes (Transitional Arrangement and Modalities and Wealth-sharing) for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been signed. 
Two more annexes to go (power-sharing and normalization) still stand on the way of the negotiators from government and MILF --- and this early nobody can ever tell whether they can settle these unscathed. The remaining two issues are as tough as wealth-sharing.

MILF negotiators have confessed that the recent peace talk, which lasted for six days and six hours, is the toughest of all. The negotiation for the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) lasted only for five days. They attributed this difficulty to many factors, which they did not disclose, except by saying that the subject is tough. Wealth and power are the two most difficult commodities to share by rulers and states. They will hold on to them like a leech to ensure the grip of the status quo that benefits only few in society especially the elites.

However, there is no hurdle that a willing and dedicated peace partners cannot find a way out. There is always that formula of compromise. The government and MILF peace negotiators have proved this during the last peace encounter in Kuala Lumpur. Not until the dying minutes of the negotiation, already way past 10:00 into the night of the sixth day, that the breaker was found. This was followed by yelling and clapping of hands (mostly from the government side), signaling that the deal was already clinched.

We are sure that the presence of two cabinet members from the Aquino administration made things easier for the government negotiators. Otherwise, if the game plan is not really to close the deal on wealth-sharing, then there is no wisdom of sending them to Kuala Lumpur.

To make sure that the two remaining issues will also be sealed, the government and MILF should now discriminate those harder issues from those already settled. To date, only three issues on power-sharing are unsettled. On normalization, there are still many areas for the parties to work on, but the latest meeting in Kuala Lumpur, more and more issues are settled on the level of the technical working group (TWG).

By now, the two parties have surely realized that they have invested already for the peace talks. To go back to zero is harsher than to move and finish the peace process. They know the consequences of both happenings.

MILF: Halul Akkal Group clarified misconceptions on Tawi-Tawi and Sama people

From the MILF Website (Jul 18): Halul Akkal Group clarified misconceptions on Tawi-Tawi and Sama people

The Halul Akkal Group (HAG) clarified misconceptions concerning Tawi-Tawi and Sama for clearer understanding. In a book written by late Professor Muhammad Quraiz III entitled ‘Tawi-Tawi History and People’, revealed that Tawi-Tawi derived its name from a Malay Language (Bahasa Malayo) as Jau-Jau, meaning Far Far Away. Tawi-tawi is widely known as the site of the first-ever built Masjid (Mosque) by Makdumins (Arab Missionaries) in Tubig Indangan, Simunul in 1380.
Tubig Indangan, Simunul is also recorded as the Birth Place of Islam in the country long before the coming of Ferdinand Magellan to the Philippine Islands in March 1521.

Tawi-Tawi was once an integral part of Sulu Province. It only became a separate province as an off-shoot of the Moro struggle waged by the natives in 1973. Then President Ferdinand Marcos created Tawi-Tawi as the homeland for the Sama for them to live a peaceful life.

In the past, the people of Sulu called the Tawi-Tawi people as Ta-u Sadlupan, meaning, ‘People of the South’ in high regards. In like manner, the Tawi-Tawi People called their brothers in Sulu as A A Shuq, meaning, ‘People of the Market’ in high esteem. The Ta-u Sadlupan and A A Shuq speak different dialects, both cannot understand each other. The dialect spoken by the Tau Sadlupan or Sama is Bahasa Sinama, the AA Shuq spoke Bahasa Sinuq. The People of Sulu is referred as Orang Shuluq by the Malaysians. The Sama called the Badjao as Pala-u, identified with their Je-Ngeng or Lepa or people living at sea.

In a United Nations (UN) report, it revealed that there are 3 classifications of ethnic tribes constituting the inhabitants of Tawi-Tawi.: the Sama, Jama Mapun and the Badjao. Sama constitutes the majority, Jama Mapun are confined in Mapun Municipality, while the Badjao are scattered in the Sitangkay, Sibuto, Tong Bangkaw and in Bongao. There is no Samal tribe in Tawi-Tawi. Samal Island is situated in Davao, not as a tribe living in Tawi-Tawi.

Citing specific situations will help clear confusing issues with regards to the Sama identity and the Badjao, on the other. The Sama people are the Islamized inhabitants, the Badjao preferred to maintain professing paganism. The Sama maintain high level social status, the Badjao are non-Islamized and destitute. The Sama being Muslims observe cleanliness in body and purification of the soul, the Badjao do not observe the proper health and hygiene practices. One may observe that the Badjao smells bad and are nomadic people.

It saddens the Sama people when some individuals or groups of people in our midst named-drop Sama as Samal. It   distorts the facts and is character assassination. You know what Samal they are referring to? They are second class or dirty people! Samal comes from a word ‘Sammal’, means dirty. Oh, the Sama people are Muslims, professionals and peace-loving people. We are clean because we are Muslims; we are not criminals and kidnappers. The Sama is a Moro. Tawi-Tawi was separated from Sulu Province because of the Sama participation in the Moro Struggle in the 70’s.

To repeat, Sama is not Samal or Sammal or dirty. Sama is fearful of Allah. We are Muslims. Islam was first planted in our soil, in Tubig Indangan, Simunul. The Sama inherited the legacy left by the Makdumins, hence, the Sama are peace loving people and not troublesome.

From this time on, the people of Tawi-Tawi hope that the misconception about Sama be corrected and categorize them separately from the Jama Mapun and the Badjaos.

BRP Alcaraz crew celebrate farewell Mass with Hawaii Fil-Ams, on way to Guam

From GMA News (Jul 17): BRP Alcaraz crew celebrate farewell Mass with Hawaii Fil-Ams, on way to Guam

The crew of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, the Philippines' newest warship, took part in a despedida Mass and breakfast with the local Filipino-American community in Hawaii before continuing their journey to the Philippines.

Photos posted early Wednesday (Philippine time) on the BRP Alcaraz's Facebook page showed the crew celebrating Mass aboard the ship and having breakfast with members of the Filipino-American community.

A separate report on state-run Philippines News Agency said the vessel is now headed for Guam.

"[BRP Ramon Alcaraz] departed Hawaii around 5 a.m. (Philippine time)," Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said, according to PNA.

But he declined to say when the ship is expected to drop anchor in Guam "for operational security."

Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the vessel is expected to reach the Philippines on August 3.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz arrived in Hawaii last weekend to a warm welcome from the Filipino-American community there.

Hawaii was the frigate's second port call en route to the Philippines. Last June 28, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) docked at San Diego 28 for refueling and re-provisioning.

The ship is named after Filipino naval hero Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, who gained distinction in World War II by shooting down three Japanese Zero fighters that tried to attack his ship.

NGO coalition gears up for July 24 protest vs 'China bullying' of its South China Sea neighbors

From GMA News (Jul 17): NGO coalition gears up for July 24 protest vs 'China bullying' of its South China Sea neighbors

A non-government group that claims to have members in various global capitals revealed Wednesday its plan to mount a worldwide protest against what they see as China's violation of the international law of the sea.
The West Philippine Sea coalition set the protest from 12 noon to 2 p.m. on July 24 at various Chinese embassies and consulates in Makati City, Metro Manila, United States, London, Rome, Italy, Israel, among others, according to a report at "Balitanghali" on Wednesday.
Former interior secretary Rafael Alunan III, who is lead convenor of the coalition, said they are protesting against China's supposed violation of the  United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as well as their alleged bullying to the Philippines.
"This protest rally is only going to be the start of something that we intend to become bigger, not only in the Philippines but worldwide, in order to tell the world what is happening in our backyard - the bullying that's being done by our big neighbor," said former National Security Adviser Rolio Golez, who was also a convenor.
Alunan said the Philippine government should also ensure the safety of the Filipinos who may be affected by the worldwide protest.
He also appealed to the citizens of the countries where the protest will be held not to discriminate against Filipinos there.
At least 24 artists were also tapped to sing protest songs, according to the coalition.
The coalition's protest comes a few weeks after a ranking U.S. diplomat said he will do everything he can to “lower the temperature” in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas, and push claimants including China toward diplomacy.
A 28-year career diplomat, Danny Russel is presently the White House senior director for Asian affairs. He is a nominee to become assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
The Philippines had figured in disputes with China over parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), including the one last year at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales in the western part of Central Luzon.
Chinese vessels had also been sighted in disputed waters in the Spratlys, parts of it are being claimed by Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam; and the whole of area is being claimed by China.
Valte maintained that the Philippine government’s approach "has always been to adopt the rules-based scheme, which is very evident from the steps we’ve taken in the disputes we are currently involved in.”
She added Russel’s comments are “consistent” with the Philippines’ stand to peacefully resolve disputes through the “tamang venue, tamang paraan (right venue, right way).”

General in ‘Morong 43’ case to NPA rebels: Try our peace package

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 17): General in ‘Morong 43’ case to NPA rebels: Try our peace package

Brigadier General Aurelio B Baladad (left) receiving the command symbol of 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army from Lt. Gen. Noel A Coballes (right), Army Commanding General, in turnover rites on Tuesday in Camp Gen Macario Peralta in Capiz. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Brigadier General Aurelio Baladad, one of the officers charged with alleged torture and illegal arrest of supposed health workers popularly known as the “Morong 43,” vowed to use “pressure” on communist rebels to end their decades-long armed struggle.

“We will apply pressure on them so that they will renounce violence [and] will be forced to go back to the mainstream of society,” the newly installed commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division told in a phone interview Wednesday.

Baladad assumed his new post at Camp Peralta in Capiz on Tuesday, replacing Major General Jose Mabanta who retired last month. As commander of 3ID, he will be in charge of internal security operations in Western Visayas. He was previously the deputy chief of staff for Operations at Camp Aguinaldo (J3).

Brigadier General Rodelio Santos, former chief of Joint Peace Security Coordinating Councils, replaced Baladad as deputy chief of staff for Operations.

Baladad said that there are more rebels returning to the government fold to avail themselves of the peace package.

“Why not renounce the armed violence… there are other ways to solve problems and it’s not through violence,” he said.

The Army general, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1982, was then a colonel when he headed the Army’s 202nd Brigade which captured suspected communist rebels in Morong town in Rizal. The captured persons, who claimed they were health workers, were later known as Morong 43.

Government security forces said they recovered subversive documents and firearms and accused the supposed health workers of assembling explosive devices during the raid on a residential compound in Morong.

Five of the health workers later admitted they were NPA members. They were convinced to obtain the government’s amnesty program. Last year, six of the Morong 43 reportedly rejoined their armed comrades. The rest were released after the government withdrew the charges against them.

“Five of them said there was no torture. Bakit konti lang sa kanila ang nagreklamo. Nasaan yung iba, nasa bundok na ulit sila (Why only a few were complaining. Where are the rest, back in the mountains?)” he said.

Baladad also said he is aiming to transform Western Visayas into “more peaceful and development-ready [region],” especially in Negros Oriental.

“Tama na ang barilan (enough of fighting). Let’s talk so we can have a more peaceful society,” he urged the rebels, emphasizing that achieving peace is not purely a military solution.

“Mga kapatid din natin yan, at ang sagot ay hindi armed struggle (They (rebels) are also our brothers, and the answer is not armed struggle),” he added.

“The key here is there should be a peaceful atmosphere for development to foster. [In the absence of a secure environment], there is not much development…,” he said.

With still about 418 communist rebels entrenched in Western Visayas, Baladad said they are looking to make them insignificant by 2016, the same timeframe that the military is targeting to defeat communist rebels.

At present, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is facing the challenge of making about 4,000 rebels irrelevant by 2016 through its anti-insurgency strategy Internal Peace Security Plan Bayanihan.

China hits back: Phl 'broke commitment', 'aggravated' dispute

From the Philippine Star (Jul 17): China hits back: Phl 'broke commitment', 'aggravated' dispute

The territorial dispute in the South China Sea has been "aggravated" by the Philippines, a Chinese foreign ministry official said late Tuesday.

"It is regrettable that over recent years, the Philippines has changed its attitude and approach in handling the issue, went back on its consensus with China, broke its commitment in the DOC (Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea), cast aside the framework of dialogue upheld by a majority of countries, aggravated the situation," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement.

Hua's statement was in response to the statement of Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez where the Philippines stated facts that prove it had exhausted all political and diplomatic means to resolve the territorial dispute peacefully.

She said that talks and cooperation between the two countries on the rival territorial claims have been "sound" and they nearly reached a consensus. She also said both even agreed to a joint marine seismic operation on certain areas of the disputed sea.

But the Philippines gave up on the positive developments in the negotiations and harassed Chinese fishermen off Scarborough Shoal through a military threat in 2012, Hua said.

"(The Philippines) set off the incident of the Huangyan Island by harassing Chinese civilians with warships, casting a shadow over China-Philippine relations and peace and stability of the South China Sea," the spokesperson claimed.

In a statement last Monday, Hernandez laid down the eight facts that would prove the country exhaused all means to peacefully settle the dispute. There were:
  1. As we had previously stated on numerous occasions, the Philippines and China have been exchanging views on these disputes in attempts to achieve negotiated solutions since the first “Philippines-China Bilateral Consultations on the South China Sea Issue” were held in August 1995. However, despite more than seventeen (17) years of consultations, no progress has been made. 
  2. Since intrusions in the Bajo de Masinloc started in April 2012 alone, we have had nearly fifty (50) consultations with China.
  3. On maritime talks indicated by China in the ASEAN meetings in Brunei, we clarify that, in fact, the Philippines invited China to hold informal talks. This was held early last year, including a two-day session in Manila. Subsequent plans to meet further were overtaken by continuing intrusions by China, especially in Bajo de Masinloc since April last year.
  4. We had all along been indicating publicly our three-track approach of diplomatic, political, and legal tracks, including arbitration.
  5. Prior to our filing of the arbitration case, in contradiction with China’s declaration in the ASEAN meetings in Brunei that we did not signal a possible Philippine arbitration track, we did invite China to join us in bringing the issue to a dispute settlement mechanism to resolve the issue on a long-term basis. This was officially communicated through a note verbale dated 26 April 2012. In its official response to our note verbale, China stated that our proposal was a “none ground” issue and it urged the Philippines “to refrain from any infringement on China’s territorial sovereignty.”
  6. Prior to this, on various occasions, we had verbally invited China to join us in ITLOS. In fact, during the very first official visit of Secretary Albert F. del Rosario to China in July 2011, he proposed to Chinese top leaders to jointly bring this issue to ITLOS for adjudication. During the visit, Secretary Del Rosario met at length with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi who subsequently brought the Secretary to meet with then Vice President Xi Jinping.
  7. Secretary Albert F. del Rosario visited Beijing three times with an invitation for the Chinese Foreign Minister to visit Manila for consultations. Up to now, we are awaiting a favorable response to our renewed invitations.
  8. In all of these dialogues, China has consistently maintained its hard line position of “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, based on historical facts. The Chinese unequivocal message: Tanggapin ninyo na amin ang buong South China Sea bago tayo mag-usap.  It has, therefore, become impossible to continue bilateral discussions on disputes in the West Philippine Sea with China on the basis of this rigid position. This led us to finally resort to arbitration under Annex VII of the UNCLOS.
China an enemy?

Hua also expressed regret that Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario portrayed China as an enemy in the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Brunei.

Related story: Chinese foreign ministry hits Del Rosario

"It is difficult for China to understand how could the Philippines continue to play up the issue of the South China Sea, distort the facts and smear China," she said.

While Beijing maintains its view that the Philippines have encroached on the coastal areas which China claims as its own, Hua said that the administration of Chinese President Xi Jingping wants to retain the bilateral track to solve the territorial dispute instead of resorting to arbitration through the United Nations.

"China stays committed to solving disputes concerning territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation through bilateral negotiations in accordance with relevant regulations of international law and the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea," the Sino official said.

Related story: Bilateral talks with China on sea row impossible -DFA

"China urges the Philippines to correct its erroneous actions, make positive response to China's suggestions in March, 2010 and January, 2012 respectively of establishing the Sino-Philippine regular consultation mechanism on maritime issues and resuming the Sino-Philippine mechanism on trust-building measures, and come back to the correct track of resolving disputes through bilateral negotiations," she added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs announced Tuesday that the United Nations has started the proceedings on the arbitral protest filed by the Philippines against China over the South China Sea dispute.

Military general in Morong 43 arrests assumes new role in Visayas

From the Philippine Star (Jul 17): Military general in Morong 43 arrests assumes new role in Visayas

The former operations chief of the military has assumed as the new commander of the Army’s 3rd division, the unit securing areas in the Visayas that are considered hotbeds of communist rebels.

Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad assumed last Tuesday as chief of the Capiz-based division, succeeding Jose Mabanta, Jr., who retired from the service last month.

The 3rd Infantry Division’s area of responsibility covers Panay and Negros, where the New People’s Army (NPA) has a strong presence.

Baladad was among the military officers who were accused of torture and robbery by the so-called Morong 43, a group of suspected communist rebels who claimed to be rural health workers.

Morong 43 members claim that Baladad’s promotion proved that the Aquino administration rewards human rights violators.

Alex Montes, spokesman of the Morong 43 alliance, said Baladad should not have been promoted because of the pending cases slapped against him.

Baladad has denied the allegations and has expressed readiness to face the charges against him.  

He urged the communist rebels to abandon the armed struggle, noting that a peaceful atmosphere could pave way to development.

“If there is no security, there is not much development. Our approach will be to bring our troops in the area so it can be peaceful and for now, our concentration is Negros Oriental,” Baladad said.

The Morong 43 members were arrested on Feb. 6, 2010 in Morong, Rizal for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Baladad was commander of the Army’s 202nd Brigade when the arrest took place.

The military had alleged that the Morong 43 members were holding a seminar on bomb-making.

The suspects, however, claim they were merely attending a medical symposium when the raid happened. Five of the Morong 43 members have admitted that they are NPA members and have availed of the government’s amnesty program.

In December 2010, President Aquino ordered the dropping of charges against the suspects after the Justice Department had declared that the procedures conducted by military in their arrest were questionable.

Last year, some “Morong 43” members filed robbery and torture cases against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Baladad and 17 others in connection with their arrest and detention in 2010.

Baladad assumes command of 3rd Infantry Division

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17): Baladad assumes command of 3rd Infantry Division
Brig. Gen. Aurelio B. Baladad on Tuesday was formally appointed to command the 3rd Infantry Division which is tasked to protect and bring development to the Western Visayas.

Born in San Fernando, La Union, Baladad is the 49th commander of the 3rd Infantry Division.

He replaces Brig. Gen. Jonas C. Sumagaysay who was appointed as acting commander following the retirement of former 3rd Infantry Division head Major Gen. Jose Mabanta, Jr., last month.

Philippine Army chief Lt.Gen. Noel A. Coballes presided the change of command ceremony.

Baladad aims to further increase the operational tempo to accomplish 3rd Infantry Division's goal and objectives for this year and the years to come.

He also seeks to make the province of Negros more peaceful and more conducive for development by sustaining the pressure on the NPA in the area in order to reduce their armed capability.

Prior to his assignment as the 3rd Infantry Division commander, Baladad also served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, J-3, the lead office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in implementing the Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan”.

“We will apply physical pressure to the NPA through focused military operations coupled with enhanced Bayanihan team activities,” he stressed.

Baladad was exposed to various operational areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Among his command field duties include being 202nd Infantry Brigade commander in Southern Luzon; 14th Infantry Battalion, 8th Infantry Division in Eastern Samar; Bravo Company, 42nd Infantry Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division; and platoon leader in the 8th Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Division in Mindanao.

As he goes up the AFP’s chain of command, Baladad introduced several innovations in the campaign against insurgency especially in civil-military operations.

He authored and co-authored several military manuals such as the Civil- Military Operations manual and the Doctrine for Civil-Military Operations manual among others.

Baladad also held various important positions in the Philippine Army such as Commander of the Civil-Military Operations Group (CMOG); Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations, G7 where he was instrumental in equipping and training the CMO units and staffs of the Army; and Assistant Division Commander and Acting Commander of the 9th Infantry Division in Bicol region.

Baladad graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1982 where he is a consistent Dean’s lister, an award conferred for those who excel in academics. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of the Philippines (1990) and possesses a Master in Development Management (1998) from the prestigious institution, the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).

He received a Superior Performance Award in the Project Management Course taken from the same institution. He finished his Command and General Staff Course in 2002 with honors and awarded as the Best Researcher and the Best in General Area of Study.

His awards in the military include four Distinguished Service Stars, two Bronze Cross Medals for bravery, two Outstanding Achievement Medals, numerous Military Merit Medals, Commendation Medals and various Campaign Medals and Ribbons.

Significantly, he also received recognition from various groups, non-government organizations, the media and local chief executives for his contribution in promoting peace and security in areas where he was assigned.

Baladad is married to the former Rhodora Parado.

Rebel surrenders to Army troopers in Surigao Del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 18): Rebel surrenders to Army troopers in Surigao Del Sur

Tired of the incessant fighting, a New People's Army (NPA) fighter voluntarily surrendered including his weapon, a M-4A1 automatic rifle, to troopers of the 36th Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Division stationed in Barangay Dayo-an, Tago, Surigao Del Sur Wednesday noon.

Lt. Col. Leo Bongasio, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, declined to identify the surrendered NPA fighter for security reasons.

He added that the latter is now undergoing custodial debriefing.

Bongosia said the surrender was facilitated by tribal chieftains in the locality.

Aside from his rifle, the NPA fighter also surrendered a magazine containing 19 rounds of 5.56-mm ammunition.

Army extends assistance to civilian victims of BIFF atrocities in Maguidnanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17): Army extends assistance to civilian victims of BIFF atrocities in Maguidnanao

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao –- The Army’s 6th Infantry Division, as promised by 6th ID chief Maj. General Romeo Gapuz, has extended moral and financial assistance to civilians wounded by atrocities committed by a renegade Moro rebel group in Maguindanao last week.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division, said at least seven civilians were wounded when renegade Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) launched simultaneous atrocities against government forces and civilian communities in Barangay Ganta, Shariff Saydona Mustapha and Datu Piang municipalities in Maguindanao.

About 60 BIFF forces attacked soldiers of the 68th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Ganta on July 6 triggering sporadic firefight between them and government forces.

Hermoso said three of the victims confined at the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center were given assistance. They are Omar Dalimbang, 33, and a village councilman, Alimundo Alon, 34, and Dunna Alon, 30, all residents of Barangay Ganta.

Lieutenant Colonel Nilo Vinluan, chief of the 5th ID Civil Military Operations (CMO) went to the CRMC on July 8 to check on the victim’s health conditions and to boost their morale.

Aside from lending aid, comfort and moral support, Vinluan promised financial support from 6th Infantry Division.

On Saturday, July 13, Vinluan sent Major Jimmy Matalam to CRMC purposely to check on the condition of the victims and to address their needs.

Before leaving, Major Matalam gave them fruits and other food items to the civilian victims’ delight.

Each of the three victims also received P10,000 each as financial assistance.

Alimudin Alon, an ethnic Maguindanaon, said he never expected the Army would provide assistance to them.

“I am just an ordinary person, this assistance will show government’s sincerity in helping the needy,” he told Maj. Matalam, also an ethnic Maguindanao,

He said once fully recovered, he will use the money to start a living in his home barangay even as he prayed peace will reign in his community.

GPH, MILF to resume talks after Ramadhan; Pinol supports deal on wealth sharing

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17): GPH, MILF to resume talks after Ramadhan; Pinol supports deal on wealth sharing

Government and Moro peace negotiators will meet again in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia after the fasting month of Ramadhan, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said.

OPAPP chief Secretary Teresita Deles in a statement said both chief government negotiator Professor Miriam Ferrer-Coronel and her counterpart, Mohaqher Iqbal of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), had agreed to meet after the fasting month.

Ramadhan is expected to end on August 9 with the traditional three-day festivities celebrating Eud'l Fitr.

Deles said no specific date as of yet on the next meeting where both sides are expected to work and complete the annexes on power sharing and normalization.

Deles said the deal on revenue generation and wealth sharing annexes was fair enough for both sides. It involves the sharing of revenues generated within the proposed new political entity in Mindanao between the central government and the Bangsamoro government.

While many have expressed apprehension over the Constitutionality of the deal on annexes, Deles assured the Filipino people that nothing in the deal will violate the Philippine Constitution.

As part of its responsibility, Deles said the government peace panel will conduct information dissemination campaign in Mindanao and be ready to answer all inquiries about the deal.

Deles said the basic aim of the national government in all these deals is for the achievement of peace and progress in Mindanao.

“It (arrangements) will facilitate political and fiscal autonomy which is important for the Bangsamoro to operate and deliver to its constituents, thereby contributing to the achievement of peace and progress in the south,” she said.

Reacting to the deal, former North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Pinol said the deal was clearly not for the MILF but for the Bangsamoro people who have been deprived of the government's basic services.

"Erase the thought that the beneficiary of the Wealth Sharing Formula is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a rebel group which for so many years waged a bloody revolt for the dream of establishing a Muslim State in the Southern Philippines," Pinol, who opposed the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008, said.

"Throw away the fear that the huge money to be earned from gold and other metallic minerals extracted from the region and a 50-50 share from oil and gas, and possibly uranium, could boost the finances of this rebel group and allow them to acquire war materiel to later on continue the aim to secede from the Philippines," he added.

"Study the wealth sharing formula sans jaundiced eyes and you will realize that what the MILF got as concessions from the national government in the matter of natural wealth and resources found in the Bangsamoro Territory are what every local government unit in the country should get," he said.

According to Pinol, under the present set up, local government units have virtually no say in the exploitation of gold and other minerals within their areas.

He cited the case of North Cotabato which suffers from brownouts when, ironically, it has the Mt. Apo Geothermal Power Plant in Kidapawan City which is producing power more than enough to supply the 42 megawatt requirement of the province.

He said at first he had reservations on how the national government would be able to handle the Wealth Sharing Provision in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and whether it would pass the Constitutional gauntlet.

"But after reading the provisions, I had to concede that the government peace panel head, Professor Miriam Coronel, was right when she said that the provisions and conditions in the Wealth and Revenue Sharing Agreement could stand legal scrutiny," he added.

Pinol led local government officials in 2008 in opposing before the Supreme Court the signing of the MOA-AD saying it was not for Bangsamoro but for the extension of office of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Naval Forces Western Mindanao holds Exercise ‘Pagsasama’

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17): Naval Forces Western Mindanao holds Exercise ‘Pagsasama’

The Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) in coordination with the Naval Reserve Command (NRC) and Fleet Marine Ready Force (FMRF) is conducting a six-day Philippine Navy (PN) Reservists and PN Affiliated Reserve Units (PNARUs) contingency training exercise.

The training exercise called Exercise “Pagsasama” 2013 kicked off Wednesday which is being held in the NFWM area of responsibility, particularly in the Basilan Strait and Sulu Sea.

The contingency training exercise is set to end on Monday, July 22.

NFWM commander Commodore Isabelo Gador said Wednesday that the scenario-driven exercise is designed to test the readiness and interoperability of Western Mindanao PN Reservists and PNARUs with the PN regular force in case of national emergencies.

Gador said the strategic objective is to test the Active Archipelagic Defense Strategy of the PN in terms of developing Credible Deterrence Force/Maritime Domain Awareness and Maritime cooperation among PN regulars, reservists and pother stakeholders.

Subsequently, Gador said the operational objective is to train the reserve force in naval operations, maritime security, inter-agency cooperation and mission planning.

He said the six days exercise will include Subject Matter Expertise Exchanges (SMEEs), Refresher Training and Mission Planning, At Sea Events and Civil Military Operations (CMO) activities.

He said the At Sea Events, in particular will consist of the Maritime Interdiction Operation Exercise (MIOEX) and Gunnery Exercise (GUNNEX) to be steered in the Basilan and Sulu straits, respectively.

Moreover, he said that Amphibious Operations will be simultaneously conducted with CMO activities in the vicinity of the Philippine Coconut Authority (compound Beach Area), in Sitio San Ramon, Barangay Talisayan, 26 kilometers west of this city.

He said the annual Exercise Pagsasama highlights the commitment of the PN to protect the country from lawless maritime elements and pave the way towards peace and development.

In previous years, similar exercise were conducted in Visayas (2010), Northern Luzon (2011), and Eastern Mindanao (2012).

Two former rebels finally fall for heinous crimes in Aklan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17): Two former rebels finally fall for heinous crimes in Aklan

After long years of hiding, two former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) finally fell into the hands of the authorities in two separate operations two days ago in the province of Aklan.

Police report reaching here has identified the fugitive rebels as Jerilyn Balidio, 50, and Blas Janova, 48, both residents of Barangay Buenafortuna, Nabas, Aklan.

The two former rebels who went into hiding for the past 23 years, have been facing criminal charges of multiple murder with robbery and double murder pending before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Kalibo, Aklan.

In a long distance interview, APPO’s Public Information Officer PO3 Nida Gregas said Balidio was arrested last Monday at a house in Capitol Site, Kalibo, Aklan, by the combined operatives of Aklan Police Provincial Office’s Regional Special Operation Group and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group along with elements of Kalibo Police Station while Janova was collared by a separate team at his hometown Nabas, Aklan.

Gregas said the two fugitives were arrested through the strength of an arrest warrant issued in 1990 yet by Hon. Judge Mario Guarino III of the RTC Branch 9 in Kalibo.

The court recommended no bail bond for their temporary liberties.

After their fall, the two former rebels were presented to the court which issued the warrant of arrest before they were ordered detained at the provincial prison facility of Aklan Rehabilitation Center in Nalook, Kalibo awaiting the scheduled arraignment of the heinous crimes they committed more than a couple of decades ago in the province of Aklan.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz now enroute to Guam

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17): BRP Ramon Alcaraz now enroute to Guam

The Philippine Navy announced Wednesday the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), its second Hamilton-class cutter in service, has left Hawaii Tuesday (Wednesday a.m. PHL time) for its Guam port call.

"(Alcaraz) departed Hawaii around 5 a.m.," PN spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said.

The spokesman would not disclose when the ship is expected to drop anchor in Guam "for operational security."

Neither would he disclose when the ship will reach Manila.

He added the ship's crew members successfully completed refueling and provisioning needed for its Guam voyage.

Hawaii to Guam is around 3,828 miles or around 6,160 kms.

The Filipino frigate arrived in Hawaii last July 13 (Philippine time) and was given a warm welcome by the Filipino community there.

During its stay in Hawaii, the crew headed by Capt. Ernesto Baldovino toured the USS Arizona Memorial.

Also, five enlisted personnel of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz took their oath of re-enlistment.

These included EN2 Regidor Labrador, EN3 Tomas Ciruelos Jr., EN3 Ernesto Cabahug, S2YN Erica Celemin and EN3 Marlon Martonito.

The Filipino frigate docked at Hawaii last July 13.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz left San Diego, California for its Hawaii port call last July 6 (Philippine time).

The Filipino frigate docked at San Diego, California for re-fueling and re-provisioning last June 28 (US time).

BRP Ramon Alcaraz successfully concluded its Panama Canal crossing last June 18 (US time).

With this achievement, Alcaraz becomes the first Filipino warship to cross the historic waterway under her own power.

The Philippine frigate departed Charleston, South Carolina last June 10

The 82-km Panama Canal connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean.

It cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade.

The ship's top speed is placed between 29 to 31 knots.