Saturday, July 20, 2013

CPP: Brace for Aquino’s deluge of lies

From the CPP Website (Jul 20): Brace for Aquino’s deluge of lies

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) calls on the Filipino people to brace for Aquino’s deluge of lies that will surely be unleashed on Monday when he delivers his “state of the nation address” (SONA) during the opening of the first regular session of the 16th Philippine reactionary congress.

Anticipate the following to be among the lies that will be propagated by Aquino:

1. the lie of “rapid economic growth” versus the reality of the intensified crisis and the sharp decline of the people’s standard and quality of living as a result the Aquino regime’s insistence to pursue the neoliberal policies of liberalization, deregulation, privatization and denationalization

2. the lie of “economic progress through public-private partnership programs” versus the reality of rising costs of health, education, public utilities, housing, transportation and communication services as a result of tightened private control of vital aspects of the economy

3. the lie of “job-skills mismatch” and “widespread job opportunities” versus the reality of grave scarcity of jobs and continued efforts of the Aquino government to export Philippine labor, the absence of quality jobs due to the unindustrialized state of the economy and the prevalence of flexible labor practices which further pull down the value of labor and subject workers to worse forms of exploitation

4. the lie that “only remnants of old corruption remain” versus the reality of big-time corruption by Aquino’s sisters, relatives and cronies in the form of taking kickbacks and bribes for public-private infrastructure contracts

5. the lie that “peace in Mindanao is around the corner” versus the reality of continued armed offensives of the AFP and campaigns of suppression against the Moro people, widespread violations of human rights against the Moro peasants and people and constant efforts to dupe the MILF into surrendering the cause of Moro self-determination

6. the lie of the “success of 25 years of CARP/er” versus the reality of continued efforts to hinder and prevent the free distribution of land in Hacienda Luisita and other vast estates and the widespread cancellation of CLOAs, CLTs and EPs

7. the lie of “military and police respect for human rights” versus the reality of widespread abuses and growing cases of extrajudicial killings, torture, illegal arrests, militarization of communities, violation of the rights of children, women and elders

8. the lie of “rural peace and development” through the “conditional cash transfer program” versus the widespread reality of landlessness, land grabbing, encroachment of foreign mining companies, plantations and other agribusinesses in the countryside to plunder natural resources and engage in other environmentally destructive activities

9. the lie of “defending sovereignty against China” versus the reality of allowing the US military to entrench itself in the Philippines through the Visiting Forces Agreement and access arrangements in full contempt and violation of Philippine sovereignty

10. the lie of the “success of Oplan Bayanihan” versus the reality that the armed revolution continues to grow rapidly with the number of NPA Red fighters set to reach the 10,000 level in the next few years

The Filipino people must repudiate the lies of the Aquino regime and expose the continuing crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal system dominated by the US imperialists and the local ruling classes of big bourgeois compradors and big landlords.

They must advance the cause of national democracy and socialism to put an end to the oppressive and exploitative system and establish a people’s democratic government under proletarian class leadership in order to carry out land reform, national industrialization and socialist transformation and modernization.

CPP/NDF: Lacierda is a bare-faced liar — NDFP

From the CPP Website (Jul 19): Lacierda is a bare-faced liar — NDFP

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines today branded as bare-faced lies the Aquino government’s claims of “commitment to end internal conflicts in a peaceful manner”. The NDFP pointed out that officials of the Aquino government had already made declarations terminating the peace talks. On the other hand, the armed revolutionaries have continued to extend the hand of peace.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel holding peace talks with the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) was reacting to news reports quoting Edwin Lacierda, spokesperson of President Benigno Aquino III, that Malacañang is committed to end all internal conflicts in the country “in a peaceful manner”. The report also quoted Lacierda as saying that, “It is up to the CPP-NPA-NDF to come to the table and break bread with us.”

The NDFP Panel pointed out that, contrary to Lacierda’s claims, GPH officials had themselves declared the termination of peace talks with the NDFP. This was widely reported in the media in April 2013, quoting Teresita Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, then GPH Negotiating Panel Chair Alexander Padilla, and Lacierda himself, that they are against coming to the table and breaking bread with the armed revolutionaries.

The NDFP Panel advised the Aquino government to “walk the talk” in resolving the internal conflicts in a peaceful manner: release all political prisoners, stop political assassinations and enforced disappearances, withdraw armed security forces from civilian communities, and prosecute and punish criminals within their government.

The NDFP Panel has always maintained its openness to continue with peace talks. It is up to the Aquino government to withdraw its earlier declarations terminating the peace talks, and return to the negotiating table.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel represents all armed revolutionary organizations in the peace negotiations, including the New People’s Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines. The talks have stalled due to the refusal of the Aquino government to honor past agreements signed between the two parties.


 Roselle Valerio
Information Officer
NDFP International Information Office
Email: |
Tel: +31 30 2310431

MILF pins hope on TWG in remaining drafts

From the Daily Tribune (Jul 20): MILF pins hope on TWG in remaining drafts

While acknowledging there are still hard issues to be tackled in the negotiating table, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is banking on the technical working group (TWG) to make sure that the two remaining annexes in the peace negotiations would be settled.

The MILF, in its official website, cited the TWG role in settling some issues regarding the wealth-sharing, which were settled during the last formal talks in Malaysia but negotiators needed extended time to finally reached an agreement, and transitional arrangement and modalities at their level.

Still to be settled are power-sharing and normalization annexes of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).

“The remaining two issues are as tough as wealth-sharing,” the MILF said.
The MILF, however, expressed optimism that both the government and MILF peace panels, through TWG, can settle the matter.

“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,” the MILF said.

“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),” it added.

The MILF also expressed belief that both parties are now aware that much have been “invested” in the peace negotiations.

“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,” the MILF stressed.

The MILF regarded the last formal talks in Kuala Lumpur early this month as the “toughest of all.”

“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,” the MILF said.

The MILF got the “lion’s share” in the agreed wealth-sharing annex.

Under the deal, the government has agreed to let the rebels have a 75 percent share of earnings from natural resources and metallic minerals in a proposed autonomous region for the Muslim minority in Mindanao.

For energy resources, both sides agreed to split earnings equally following the talks hosted by neighboring Malaysia.

The government had initially bargained for a bigger share of the wealth, arguing that it wanted a deal that could withstand legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

Chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer has earlier said a final peace deal with the 12,000-MILF could be signed after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which officially ends at the end of July.

Muslim groups including the MILF have waged a guerrilla war for a separate Islamic state in Mindanao since the 1970s, a conflict that has claimed an estimated 150,000 lives.

The government and the MILF signed a preliminary deal in October outlining the broad terms for a peace treaty that is expected to be signed before he ends his six-year term in 2016.

Ferrer, however, has noted that both sides still had to agree on a formula over how to disarm the rebels as well as the extent of the powers of the autonomous region.

MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar has said the group expected a “more contentious” round of negotiations ahead.

Malaysians troop to areas which will form Bangsamoro

From the Daily Tribune (Jul 21): Malaysians troop to areas which will form Bangsamoro

Malaysians have started to explore potential benefits from the forming of the Bangsamoro substate right after the signing of the Framework Agreement on Bagsamoro (FAB), a local diplomat admitted yesterday.

Malaysia has hosted the peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as facilitator and maintains military contingents in Mindanao as peace monitors.

Of major interest is the Mindanao Development Authority’s initiative to transform the island into a major producer of palm oil in the next two years through joint ventures with major oil palm industry players, Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia J. Eduardo Malaya said.

After a six-day marathon negotiations, from July 8 to 13 in Kuala Lumpur, the annex on wealth-sharing agreement for the FAB was signed between the government and MILF panels.

The remaining two annexes will be tackled next in Malaysia.

Malaya said the first foreign investor to set foot in Cotabato after the signing of the FAB was a delegation of 19 Malaysian businessmen.

“They saw for themselves not only the area’s huge investment potential but also its safety and security situation. Other Malaysian delegations have since followed suit, notably from the Putrajaya Chamber of Commerce to Manila and the Tan Chong Group that visited Davao both in January, and the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers which went to Manila in May,” Malaya said.

Malaya said that the new political atmosphere in Mindanao is also paving the way
for the final peace agreement.

He said that the emerging vision for Mindanao is to increase the total area devoted to palm oil cultivation to 177,000 hectares, from the current 54,448 hectares in Bangsamoro and the Caraga regions, with more to follow in the immediate future.

“Peace dividends were evident with the several economic missions to Mindanao from other countries, including Malaysia,” Malaya said.

In several US embassy cables published by whistleblower site Wikileaks, it was stated that Malaysia has shown interest in expanding its influence in Mindanao and cashing in on the region by acting as a facilitator in the peace talks.

US Ambassador to Malaysia Ambassador Christopher J. LaFleur in one secret cable dated August 2, 2007 discussed the results of his meeting with then peace talks facilitator Othman Abdul Razak.

The cable, which was classified secret, said Othman complained about America’s development projects in impoverished communities in Mindanao.

“Othman’s expressed unease with our development assistance appears to reflect a degree of Malaysian wariness with increasing US activities and presence in a neighboring Muslim area of Southeast Asia,” the cable said. “It also whiffs of Malaysian interests [in] Mindanao, an area in which Malaysia desires influence and economic gain.”

Another secret cable, stated that the Malaysian facilitator had been showing clear bias in favor of the MILF in the peace talks.

“Othman continues to convey strong pro-Moro sympathies in our meetings and does not hide his view that, at this juncture at least, compromises should come from Manila, not from the MILF,” said the cable, which was also sent by LaFleur.

Aside from insisting that the Philippine government decide on the issue of the MILF’s ancestral domain claim, the Malaysian also wanted the Philippine government to grant a larger territory to the MILF.

“Othman said the MILF would settle for an area that would roughly double the current size of the mainland ARMM, expanding it into contiguous areas in Mindanao,” the memo said.

The Malaysian also kept on blaming the Armed Forces of the Philippines for sporadic outbreaks of violence in Mindanao, accusing the AFP of leading “landgrabbing” in the region by killing people and drive away villagers.

“Othman said he believed many elements in the AFP were opposed to a peace settlement with the MILF because of the benefits they received from a continuation of the conflict, including career advancement and personal enrichment through corruption.  He questioned whether President Arroyo had the ability to enforce discipline within the AFP,” another cable said.

“The peace process has thus far presented the region in a new perspective, including as an investment haven. Following the signing of the Framework Agreement, confidence-building mechanisms were put in place, notably the Sajahatra Bangsamoro, a socio-economic initiative launched last February in Cotabato by President Aquino and MILF Chair Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim to accelerate the delivery of health, education and other basic services to the Bangsamoro areas and to create jobs,” Malaya said.

Malaya said that the area’s largely untapped resources within the context of a robust Philippine economy (7.8 per cent gross domestic product growth for the first quarter of this year) have attracted investors.

The Philippine government’s Mindanao Strategic Development Framework envisions the region to be the country’s main agri-industrial base and tourism hub, through sustainable usage of its rich natural resources and an educated, informed and participative populace, and bolstered by information and communications technology.

Mindanao accounts for 88 per cent of the Philippines’ pineapple production, and 82 per cent of bananas. Agri-based products from the island contributed 25 per cent to the country’s total exports, with earnings reaching US$3.6 billion (RM11 billion) in 2011.
Malaya said that it has great tourism potential, given its wide array of attractions, from culture, land-based adventures to water sports.

The potential for mining are immense, given abundant mineral resources. Mindanao holds the world’s largest nickel reserves, and has gold, copper, chromite, coal, silver and even oil deposits, Malaya said.

He said the senatorial and local government elections last May 13 resulted in a stronger mandate for President Aquino and his Liberal Party and allies.

Malaya said that it also bolstered the new transformational leadership in Muslim Mindanao. Voters there poured their support to Mujiv Hataman who ran for Governor under the President’s party, winning almost 60 per cent of the 232,253 total votes. Nur Misuari, who contested the same position, came in third and got only 13 per cent of the votes.

Malaya said that the momentum towards peace continues. A Transition Commission is now crafting a Bangsamoro Basic Law bill, and this will pave the way for a Transition Authority until the full implementation of the new Bangsamoro political entity in 2016, all within President Aquino’s term of office.

Development funds such as the Mindanao Trust Fund and a fund jointly administered by the United Nations and the World Bank, are now operational.

“If there is a subject which both sides can now give their attention, it is on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration,” Malaya said.

Malaya said that this would also temper the gun culture among people in the region.
Malaya said that there will be challenges even after the peace process comes to a successful conclusion, and the patience and commitment to peace of the parties will be tested.

He said that it is thus high time for concerned parties to “turn swords into ploughshares” and foreswear a recourse to arms.

“This path is what will ensure that future contests will be confined in the political arena and no longer in the fields of battle, and the pursuit of jobs, justice and security for all Mindanaons will continue with vigour. As a senior MILF official recently admitted, “We have had enough of armed conflict in the past ... let us put an end to this,” Malaya said.

PCG getting 65 new boats

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 21): PCG getting 65 new boats

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) expects to acquire 65 new rubber and aluminum-hull boats to augment its current assets in the conduct of special and rescue operations.

PCG commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said 25 aluminum-made boats constructed by a local manufacturer in Subic, Zambales, would arrive by September this year.

In October, the PCG will get 40 Zodiac-brand rubber boats. Each boat has a maximum capacity of 15 persons.

“This would greatly help us in reaching out to people who are trapped in subdivisions, houses, along narrow streets and other hard to reach places,” he said.

The areas of operation for these boats would cover PCG districts, especially in the Bicol province, where the boats would be used for interisland, coastline, and harbor-type patrols.

Sabah probes ‘revenge’ letter

Posted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 21): Sabah probes ‘revenge’ letter

The heirs of the Sultan of Sulu: (seated from left) Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram II and (standing from left) Datu Alianapia Kiram, Datu Phugdal Kiram and Datu Baduruddin Kiram. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

KOTA KINABALU—Sabah state police have initiated investigations over a letter purportedly written by followers of the sultan of Sulu stating that they would come to the Tambunan district, in Sabah’s interior, on a revenge attack.

Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib said Saturday the police were tracing the source of the letter even though it was believed it had nothing to do with the Sulu intrusion into Lahad Datu district earlier this year.

“We have started our own investigations even though there have been no official police reports,” said Hamza when contacted by telephone.

He said the police did not believe the author of the letter had any links to the Sulu intruders, and had acted of his own accord.

The authenticity of the letter is doubted, he added.

A July 3 letter signed by “Militant Commandos” on behalf of the Sulu sultanate and Kiram family was sent to the Tambunan district officer, police officials and the residents of Tambunan warning that they aimed to start a war in the district in retaliation for the skirmishes in Lahad Datu district’s  Tanduo village by August.

Hamza said police and security forces took all threats seriously and investigated them.

More than 70 people were killed in fighting between followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and Malaysian security forces in March, following the intrusion by a group led by his brother Agbimuddin into Tanduo.

The intruders were driven out of the village in April, and close to 200 people have been charged over the intrusion.

Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin, who is Tambunan assemblyman and Keningau Member of Parliament, urged authorities to investigate the letter despite doubts about its authenticity.

“This is something we cannot just leave alone. We have to take it seriously,” said Pairin, adding that he hoped the police would find the writer of the letter and “take appropriate action against such people.”

On claims that Kiram’s followers were planning to return to Sabah, Hamza said that security forces were in place to head off any threats. while also checking on all reports and rumors.

He said, however, that it was part of the Sulu group’s modus operandi to spread “false propaganda” and create fear among the people. The Star/ANN

Biden: Reduce risk of error in sea row

From the Philippine Star (Jul 21): Biden: Reduce risk of error in sea row

A week after US President Barack Obama warned China against using force in its maritime disputes with its neighbors, his vice president Joe Biden told all parties involved to resolve their differences peacefully with “no intimidation, no coercion, no aggression.”

Speaking at a Center for American Progress forum here before leaving next week for economic and strategy discussions in India and Singapore, Biden said, “The Asia-Pacific was a region of remarkable promise but also genuine uncertainty and political risk. Many nations have experienced rapid economic transformation that has fundamentally created a new dynamic: rising ambitions and rising tensions.”

Referring to maritime disputes in the South China Sea, Biden said it was critical that all nations have a clear understanding of what constitutes acceptable international behavior.

“That means no intimidation, no coercion, no aggression and a commitment from all parties to reduce the risk of mistake and miscalculation,” he said in his speech on Thursday.

He said it was in everyone’s interest that there be freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce, respect for international laws and norms, and a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes.

“That’s why I encourage China and ASEAN to work even more quickly to reach an agreement on a code of conduct in the South China Sea. Setting clear rules is the first step to managing these disputes. And the US has a strong interest in seeing that happen as well,” he said.

“We want to help lead in creating the 21st century rules of the road that will benefit not only the United States, and the region, but the world as a whole,” he added.

China claims sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel island groups and other land formations within its “nine-dash line” boundary in the South China Sea, claims disputed in whole or in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

As the United States expands its engagement in the Asia-Pacific region, Biden called its long-standing alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand the cornerstones of the strategy.

“Across the board, with these alliances, we are at a high-water mark in terms of cooperation between our leaders, both military and political, and the support of our people,” he said.

He emphasized America’s Asia pivot does not mean it is losing its focus on Europe. “Europe remains the cornerstone of our engagement with the rest of the world. That is a fact. We are not going anywhere,” he said.

As a matter of fact, he continued: “We are absolutely convinced that our engagement in the Pacific is in the overwhelming self-interest of Europe. Europe, just like the United States, will benefit greatly as well from stability in the Pacific.”
Peace, cooperation sought

Meanwhile, a Chinese foreign ministry official has ignored calls to define the core issue of the dispute in the South China Sea.

In a report of the state-owned news agency Xinhua, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said on Friday in his remarks at the Second Workshop on Cooperation and Development in the South China Sea that China will continue its efforts to promote peace, cooperation, stability and development in the South China Sea region.

NPA ‘arrest warrant' propaganda – Army

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 20): NPA ‘arrest warrant' propaganda – Army

The Philippine Army yesterday dismissed as plain “propaganda” the reported issuance of arrest warrants by the New People's Army against a Negrense vice-mayor and seven others, who were linked to the death of Kabankalan Regional Trial Court Judge Henry Arles last year.

Maj. Rey Tiongson, 3 rd Infantry Division spokesman, said “It is propaganda, and their usual way of threatening people who live in a democratic society”.

“They are not the legitimate court, therefore it is illegal,” Tiongson said.

In a statement released to the media, the NPA Apolinario Gatmaitan Command said it has ordered all its units to launch operations for the arrest of Ilog Vice Mayor John Paul Alvarez, RPA-ABB members Rustom Puro, Marvin Salve, Jessie Daguia, Eddie Fortunado, Alejandro Capunong, Gerald Tabujara and Ilog municipal employee Emmanuel Medes, alleged principal suspects in the killing of Arles.

Col. Jon Aying, 303 rd Infantry Brigade commander, said “Only people who are out of their senses or realities can do such ridiculous acts”.

“Imagine these lawless individuals with several arrest warrants for multiple crimes, issuing warrants of arrest to civilians presumed innocent by law,” Aying said.

Late last year, the Department of Justice dismissed the charges filed against Alvarez and his father, former Vice-Gov. Genaro Alvarez Jr., and Cauayan Vice Mayor Jerry Tabujara for the murder of Arles, for “insufficiency of evidence”.

The DOJ, however, recommended the filing of a case against Tabujara, Salve, Puro, Capunong, Daguia, Fortunado, and Medes.

Senior Inspector Joshua Villasis, Ilog police chief, said there is no request for security from Vice Mayor Alvarez, yet. He, however, said that they are intensifying their monitoring on the activities and movement of the NPA, in coordination with the Philippine Army, in the town.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda had earlier said that the government is willing to provide protection to Vice Mayor Alvarez.

Arles was shot dead while driving home in Brgy. Manalad, Ilog on April 24 last year.

The Alvarezes and the other suspects had repeatedly denied involvement in the killing.

AFP integrates DRRM units

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 20): AFP integrates DRRM units

In pursuit of a more effective and efficient disaster response operations, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) integrated its reserved disaster risk reduction and management companies to local DRRM units all over the National Capital Region in a ceremony held at the AFP Grandstand Saturday.

The integrated AFP Reservist DRRM units shall act as reliable first responder groups that will assist DRRM components of the local government units (LGUs) during disaster and calamities.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said these outfits will also serve as pre-positioned units which will spearhead disaster preparedness and mitigation, and work closely with the LGUs and local populace.

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin said: “the paradigm shift of being proactive from a reactive stance on DRRM gives us more assurance that, together, we are better prepared to achieve our vision of having a safer, adaptive, and disaster-resilient community towards sustainable development.”

Zagala said the activity is one of the AFP, Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) and the DND's proactive measures in preparation during the typhoon season.

It is also part of the "DRRM Units Integration Program" which aims to organize and activate 137 DRRM companies in three years (2013-2015) to assist in building disaster resilient communities and ensure unhampered development.

The integration program further seeks to institutionalize partnership between the AFP and OCD in provision of manpower training, and equipment as well as sharing in funding support of proposed DRRM companies in 15 regions nationwide.

So far, 19 DRRM units have already been designated and activated nationwide; one each in Metro Cebu and Metro Davao and one in each cities and lone municipality of NCR with an additional maneuver DRRM company in the NCR.

Apart from intensifying disaster response and search and rescue operations, the programs is also aimed at strengthening and sustaining the reserve force capability through unit and individual training in collaboration with concerned stakeholders.

"The AFP for its part enjoins the people to support the program for it believes that security is a shared responsibility. The leadership therefore encourages the citizens to fuel the flame to continue burning through ‘Bayanihan,’ the synergy of collaboration and co-optation to build disaster resilient communities," Zagala concluded.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz crew fighting boredom with 'videoke system'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 20): BRP Ramon Alcaraz crew fighting boredom with 'videoke system'

Aside from having tasty authentic Filipino food, the officers and crewmen of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) is using "videoke system" to fight boredom in the long voyage home.

Cmdr. Gilbert Pacio, one of the public affairs officers covering the vessel's journey home, said the crew would use the videoke whenever they are off-duty.

"On the Alcaraz, the videoke is one of the best ways to spend free time. Crew would use it during their free time. And since the vessel cruises 24 hours a day, the videoke is open 24 hours," he wrote on the BRP Ramon Alcaraz's facebook account.

He said it does not matter if the crewmembers singing are out of tune, so long as they are entertained.

"It is an effective way to keep us entertained, and to counter seasickness," he said.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz is due to arrive in the Philippines on August 3.

SOLCOM chief renews appeal to new local executives

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 20): SOLCOM chief renews appeal to new local executives

Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) commander Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie F. Ordoyo has renewed his appeal recently to local government units (LGUs) under the command’s area of responsibility to extend assistance to rebel-returnees.

Ordoyo said the government, through the Armed Forces of the Philippines has implemented projects and programs that extend short and long term assistance to rebel-returnees who have since laid down their arms and started their lives anew.

The SOLCOM chief did the rounds of dialogues and meetings lately with the Southern Tagalog and Bicol Region officials to support military efforts at extending help to rebels who have abandoned their armed struggle.

With old and new faces in the local political front following the May mid-term elections in the Southern Luzon regions, the SOLCOM commanding general expressed optimism for a fruitful dialogue with LGU partners on the rebel-returnee program.

Ordoyo said any form of support that will be extended by local chief executives would be a big boost for the government’s peace efforts as former rebels upon their surrender would be extended financial help and may qualify for housing, livelihood and scholarship program for their children.

Ordoyo mentioned the Gun for Peace Program where the rebel returnee is provided with cash equivalent like the “cash for swap” on the firearm he has surrendered to the military.

Ordoyo remained optimistic that the local government executives will respond to his appeal as the national government has already earmarked funds for the former rebels who are back into the mainstream.

The SOLCOM commanding general hoped the LGUs will be the military’s strong partners in maintaining peace and order in their respective areas of responsibilities to spur social order, growth and development.

Meanwhile, Quezon Governor David “Jayjay” Suarez also assured SOLCOM officials here that he has already embarked local projects that would strengthen the 1,242 barangays in the province and benefit from his Galing Pook award-winning “Serbisyong Suarez” program.

Governor Suarez believed that the strength of the barangays would boost the strength of the province as they are integral parts and therefore each barangay should have its rightful share of the fruits of development.

He said that whatever is reaped by the province must also trickle down to the grassroots in the more than a thousand barangays in Quezon.

Suarez also pushed for the development projects in the barangays where the AFP-SOLCOM could greatly help in implementing the projects.

Ordoyo thanked Quezon’s mobilization program and praised Governor Suarez for his pro-poor projects and for Quezon as the first among the 15 provinces under the SOLCOM jurisdiction where they conducted their round of visits and dialogues.

The SOLCOM commander also lauded the Quezon chief executive for the briefing-presentation on the province’s holistic development plan to the SOLCOM officials as these would strengthen coordinative efforts in the Provincial Peace and Order Council.

PHL Army to clear Bulacan of insurgents by yearend

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 20): PHL Army to clear Bulacan of insurgents by yearend

Brig. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, newly installed commander of the Philippine Army's 7th Infantry, took the challenge of clearing Bulacan from insurgency before the year ends.

This, after Maj. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang who relinquished the 7ID post, having been named new commander of Northern Luzon Command, reiterated Friday his goal to make military operations shifted to territorial defense at the end of 2013.

Wishing Iriberri “all the luck”, Catapang said he wanted all Nolcom areas clear of insurgency before yearend as he reiterated shifting military thrust to territorial defense.

“Here in the 7th division, only the province of Bulacan we need to clear against insurgents," he said.

Iriberri said that Dona Remedios Trinidad town in Bulacan has been strategic location for rebels because of its location which is adjacent to Rizal province.

"Because it is boundary of Rizal, armed groups crisscross to that area," the new 7ID chief said.

He expected Bulacan to be declared “peaceful and ready for further development soon.”

Iriberri said he will conduct “focused military operation to dismantle armed groups in the area and we will continue our peace and development in the whole area of 7ID “ with full support of his staff, officers and men.

Ireberri, a native of Surigao Sur, found his area of responsibility (AOR) vital as it includes, he said, the gateway to our country’s seat of government from the north.

“(It) holds immense strategic importance in fueling our nation’s development and in sustaining our economy’s dynamism,” he said, adding that, this characteristics adds “weight and complexity to our mission.”

To address the insurgency in Bulacan, he said, “we will have the right mix of military operations and establishing good relationship with all the stakeholders of peace.”

Army, PNP hunting down NPAs for killing 2 tribesmen

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 20): Army, PNP hunting down NPAs for killing 2 tribesmen 

Joint elements of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army in North Cotabato and Davao del Sur have launched coordinated operations in hunting down suspected members of the New Peoples Army who shot dead two tribal members in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur Saturday.

Sr. Supt. Ronaldo Llanera, Davao del Sur police provincial director, and Sr. Supt. Danilo Peralta, North Cotabato police provincial director, have alerted their subordinates in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur and Tulunan, North Cotabato.

The policemen were backed by the Army Special Forces and 57th Infantry Battalion based in nearby Makilala, a town in North Cotabato bordering Davao del Sur.

Reports reaching the police provincial office in Digos City showed that Santiago Masrikit and Usman Labires, both B’laan tribal members and residents of Sitio Banog, Barangay Kimalawis, Kiblawan, were shot point blank by about 10 armed men at about 7 a.m.

One of the suspects severed the left arm of Labires and took it away as they fled toward the border of Davao del Sur and North Cotabato.

The hinterlands of Kiblawan and Tulunan were known bailiwick of the NPA Front 72 Command which the Army blamed for atrocities against indigenous peoples, mining firms and multi-national companies operating in the area.

1st Lt. Nasrullah Sema, speaking for the 57th IB which has jurisdictions over Makilala and Tulunan in North Cotabato, said the communist rebels have increased their tactical offensives lately.

“We are ready, we remained on alert,” Sema said.

“Their atrocities were meant to avenge the losses they have experienced the past week when the Army captured their training camp in North Cotabato.”

Operating in small units, the NPA’s Far South Command, have been extorting money from rural and community businesses and staging piecemeal attacks against Army and militia detachments.

The communist guerrillas have been waging a 44-year Maoist armed campaign which the Army considered a repeated futile attempt against the might of Philippine Armed Forces.

President Aquino has opened a peace process with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing, the NPA, but the talks collapsed in April due to the rebels’ lack of sincerity.

Soldiers' morale too high, officials say

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 20): Soldiers' morale too high, officials say

Saying the Aquino administration has brought high morale among soldiers, defense and military officials said they will listen the chief executive's State of the Nation Address on Monday without asking for anything.

Brig. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, newly installed commander of the 7th Infantry Division, said President Benigno Aquino III has surpassed in three years what his predecessors have accomplished in the modernization of the armed forces.

“We have instituted a lot of changes and more are coming. We have the new military trucks, helicopters being used in rescue operations, the forthcoming delivery of 44,000 news arms, including M-4 and force protection like vests and helmets,” Iriberri said.

The M-4, he said, is the latest and smaller version of the M-16 Armalite rifles currently used by soldiers.

“We cannot ask for anything, we will just listen,” he said.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who attended the change of command ceremonies here, Friday said he expects the chief executive to tell tale on gains in security operations as well as his plans to accomplish to the end of his term.

But government security agents, he said, have that high morale to ask more for themselves.

The President, he said, may also detail in his SONA equipment that will further uplift the soldiers’ plight.

Bansil kidnap: P50M ransom demanded

From Rappler (Jul 17): Bansil kidnap: P50M ransom demanded

The breakdown of law and order on the island of Jolo in the southern Philippines spirals into chaos in the kidnapping of Filipino-Muslim filmmaker sisters nearly a month ago.

A Rappler investigation unveils an exorbitant ransom demand, shows how difficult it is to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and identifies at least one of the kidnappers.

One of the men who kidnapped broadcast journalist Ces Drilon and her crew in 2008 is not only free but is back at it.

According to surveillance photographs seen by Rappler, the man using the alias "Damz,' one of Drilon's kidnappers, is part of the group that abducted the Bansil sisters from Jolo on June 22, 2013.

They are unlikely victims for a group ostensibly fighting for Muslims. 39-year-old Nadjoua Bansil and her 37-year-old sister, Linda, worked together to produce low-budget, independent films showcasing Filipino Muslim life and culture. Linda also wrote for Amnesty International in the Philippines.

Their father, Abdulbassit Bansil, is a Muslim cleric — a close associate of the founding leaders of the Philippines' two largest armed Muslim movements — the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. He married an Algerian-Moroccan, to whom the ransom demand was allegedly made.

P50-M ransom

Classified documents obtained and verified by Rappler show the kidnappers are demanding P50 million (or nearly US$1.2 million) in ransom, two-and-a-half times the demand for Drilon and her crew in 2008.

Drilon's kidnappers were led by the most senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf, Radullan Sahiron. As documented in my book, "From bin Laden to Facebook," the kidnappers said they left the Abu Sayyaf soon after the ransom was paid because they believed their share of the money was too small.

The group, once a part of the Abu Sayyaf, is locally known as "Anak-ilu" —Tausug for "orphans." The Philippine military calls them the "Lucky 9" and says it is headed by Ninok Sappari.

"Anak-ilu" was allegedly kicked out of the Abu Sayyaf for violating its own internal rules soon after the Drilon kidnapping. In 2004, the Abu Sayyaf created a special council that cleared every kidnapping, its own attempt to create internal order while operating in an area where kidnapping-for-ransom is a cottage industry.

The classified documents say this group was behind "the abduction and beheading of Gabriel Canizares, school principal of Kanague Elementary School." Canizares was kidnapped on Oct 19, 2009.

His family failed to raise a ransom of P2 million. About a month after he was kidnapped, the group beheaded him. The document says: "His head was placed inside a sack and was left at a gas station in Jolo town."

Intelligence sources as well as those involved in the negotiations verify what the classified documents state — that the kidnappers are demanding "P50 million ransom money in exchange for the release of the victims," Nadjoua and Linda Bansil.

On June 27, five days after they were abducted, the kidnappers told the sisters' uncle "to contact the Algerian embassy," according to the documents obtained by Rappler. It goes on: "One of the Bansil sisters was able to talk with the family but refused to answer when the uncle asked whether the abductors are mostly young members of the ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group]."

Abu Sayyaf protects sisters

This is where the breakdown of law and order in Jolo gets more chaotic and shows how difficult it is to tell friend from foe. While a young, more volatile breakaway faction of the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped the Bansil sisters, the Abu Sayyaf itself actually protected them.

Documents obtained by Rappler and verified in interviews with sources familiar with the case show a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf, "highly respected by the residents of Patikul including armed elements such as the MNLF and the ASG," actually "extended protection" and guaranteed their safety on Friday, June 21, their first night in Abu Sayyaf territory.

The documents say the sisters were working with "relatives of Sultan Jamalul Kiram," part of the family that sent hundreds of armed men on a ship to claim Sabah and sparked conflict between the Philippines and Malaysia early this year.

Kiram's relative, Sultan Bantilan Muizzudin, has a separate claim to Sabah. He hosted the sisters the night before they were kidnapped, and according to intelligence documents, requested a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf "to extend security for the two sisters and their companions."

On Friday, June 21, Nadjoua and Linda were safe in Sinumaan, a place the military and police call a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf. Members of the group said the sisters wanted to shoot video of the sunrise. They left Sinumaan safely "onboard a PUJ [private utility jeep] bound for Jolo town" — leaving the protection of the Abu Sayyaf.
The document adds "at about 9:00 am, their vehicle was stopped by eight armed men believed to be led by Ninok Sappari" and his breakaway group.

Kidnapping foreigners

This kidnapping happens nearly 4 months to the day after the release of Australian Warren Rodwell, who was held hostage for a little more than 15 months. Sources say P7 million was paid in ransom with only P4 million or about US$100,000 reaching the kidnappers, the rest apparently taken by conduits and middlemen.

At the time of his release, there were 6 foreigners held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf. Today, at least 3 other prominent hostages remain: two European birdwatchers and a Jordanian journalist.

A Dutch, 53-year-old Ewold Horn, and a 48-year-old Swiss, Lorenzo Vinciguerra were bird-watching for 4 days on Tawi-Tawi when they were kidnapped by armed men on Feb 1, 2012, 17 months ago. They were ultimately brought to the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo, Sulu. Another classified document obtained by Rappler says they were held captive by Radullan Sahiron, the same leader behind Drilon's kidnapping.

Jordanian Baker Atyani is a well-known journalist who interviewed Osama bin Laden. He was kidnapped on June 12, 2012 and has been held captive for more than a year.

While these 3 cases are linked in some way to Sahiron, the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping of the Bansil sisters show a further splintering of what one military source called Jolo's "natural order" and may herald more difficult days ahead.


The host for the sisters' visit is a breakaway group from the Kiram claim on Sabah, and they were kidnapped by a breakaway group of the Abu Sayyaf — despite being protected by the Abu Sayyaf the first night.

Two factors are key to unravelling and understanding events in Jolo: first, the names of groups don't matter as much as social networks — families and friends. The reason why the senior Abu Sayyaf leader agreed to protect the sisters, according to another classified document seen by Rappler, was because he is a distant relative of their host, Sultan Bantilan Muizzudin.

Second, kidnapping-for-ransom fuels Jolo's underground economy. This is not ideology, but a matter of money, and it has been going on unchecked for decades. It's an established modus operandi: the kidnappers approach a larger armed group which helps protect them in exchange for a cut of the ransom.

The lines are also blurred between the good guys and the bad guys — with go-betweens, negotiators and even local government officials skimming part of past ransoms. Why is there a relationship of trust? Because often, the officials are related to the kidnappers, or at the very least, are part of their social networks.
This is the world that swallowed Nadjoua and Linda Bansil.

Inside story: The deal breaker in GPH-MILF talks

From Rappler (Jul 20): Inside story: The deal breaker in GPH-MILF talks

After 6 "tense" and "rigorous" days on the negotiating table, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) arrived at the final hours of negotiations in Kuala Lumpur.

Talks had already reached a deadlock twice in this particular round of negotiations. The panels had no plans of extending it one more time. They were anxious and tired.

Back in Manila, President Benigno Aquino III monitored developments through “concerned secretaries.”

He only had one question for the panels: “What’s the deal breaker?”


It's Thursday, July 11, the supposed last day of the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Kuala Lumpur, and the 2nd day of Ramadan.
There's tension in the air. It's been there since Day One of this round of talks. On the table are the most contentious issues that have stalled negotiations for about 5 months — wealth-sharing arrangements between the envisioned Bangsamoro political entity and the central government, particularly on 3 items: taxation, annual automatic appropriations, and natural resources.

By the time members of the government peace panel arrive, members of the MILF are already inside, arriving early as they always do. They are billeted just nearby, while the government team embarks on a daily 30-minute travel to the venue from the city center.

Only those directly involved in the talks are allowed inside the main venue. Even some members of the secretariat from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process are prohibited from entering the room. They set up an office in the lobby instead, complete with printers, scanners and computers.
No one can sneak in — there are at least two security guards in the hallway at any given time to ensure that no unwanted person can come in.
Once panel members are inside, much of the proceedings become largely confidential. It is up to the chairs and the members of both sides to disclose developments in the talks but all documents completed and signed are released to the public.

An hour after session starts, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, along with Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles, arrive at the venue.

Palace emissary

In 3 years of talks with the MILF under the Aquino administration, it’s the first time a Palace official is being sent to Kuala Lumpur for the negotiations.

Deles’ presence is understandable. Her department, after all, oversees the talks. But what is Lacierda doing here?

A government source in touch with both peace panels says Lacierda has been on board from Day 1 of the peace process under the MILF, even when Associate Justice Marvic Leonen was still the government peace panel chair.

Lacierda is not only familiar with the details of talks — he is said to know how to relay crucial messages to the President.

There’s no denying the talks had reached such a crucial stage. (In a later press conference in Malacañang, Deles tells members of the press not to be surprised anymore if she and Lacierda once again attend the next round of talks.)

They aren’t the only government officials scheduled to fly to Kuala Lumpur. Some senators, led by incoming Senate President Franklin Drilon, were also set to grace the signing of the annex. (Days after, Deles tells reporters the senators ended up cancelling their trip after the talks were extended twice.)

In a separate room from the main venue of the talks, Deles and Lacierda hold a caucus with the government team, led by peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

Two members of the MILF — chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal and panel member Maulanto Alonto — along with Malaysian facilitator Tengku Datuk Abdul Ghafar Tengku Mohamed follow afterwards. The meeting lasts for about 10 minutes.

Closed doors

All formal talks between the government and the MILF are held behind closed doors — a decision both sides agreed on at the start of the talks — for a reason.

Steven Rood, The Asia Foundation's country representative to the Philippines, explains why.

"Peace talks around the world are very often totally confidential because inside, people need to be searching for common ground, whereas outside, we need to be representing particular institutions or constituencies," Rood says. "If you are bound to that representation functions, sometimes it hinders the search for common ground."

The Asia Foundation is a member of the International Contact Group but is now transitioning towards the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) after Rood's appointment to the TPMT.

He adds: "It's a very delicate balancing act, looking for confidentiality and common ground, and at the same time you need to have publicity and represent your constituency."

It used to be that panel members from both sides could only interact through the Malaysian facilitator, based on the protocols. Since the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the atmosphere has changed.

In between breaks, members of the technical working group on the normalization annex, which discusses decommissioning and policing, talk to each other freely in the common area outside the rooms.

Both sides had initially agreed on a half-day schedule for the talks as soon as Ramadhan started on Wednesday. This never happened.

On Thursday afternoon, despite the presence of Deles and Lacierda, the day ends without any signed agreement. Tired and preparing to break their fast, the MILF team leaves the venue of the talks in a huff. Contrary to reports back in the Philippines, there is no walk-out (members of the panel themselves later on deny this as well).

The MILF pins the blame on the government. MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal says the government peace panel is "too rigid as if their mandate is cast in stone," warning that there is "limited chance" they are returning to the negotiating table. Ferrer admits they are still trying to convince the MILF to extend the talks until Friday.

'No other option'

Without a resolution, the government team reassembles in their hotel in the city. After dinner, they discuss what to do next. Late Friday night, sources say the government decides to reach out to the MILF through the Malaysian facilitator. In a bid to convince the MILF to come back, Deles meets Tengku at the Palace of the Golden Horses.
A government source says the MILF is “too invested in the process” that they have to make sure it succeeds.

After the talks end on Wednesday, Iqbal also says this much: “There is no other option. The only option is through the peace talks.”

Thus, the MILF agrees to return to the negotiating table. By midnight, the MILF notifies the government of their decision.

Rescheduled flights

On Friday, the holiest day for Muslims, the government team, for the first time in this round of talks, arrives earlier than the MILF. Session starts at about half past 9 in the morning.

The government team of about 15 is scheduled to fly back to Manila at 5 pm. Meanwhile, members of the governent's technical working group on normalization has flown back a day earlier.

At about 3 pm, it becomes apparent the annex would not be completed before 5 pm. OPAPP makes the decision to send their staff home, along with peace panel members Chito Gascon and Mehol Sadain. Lacierda flies back with them due to a prior commitment.

Meanwhile, Ferrer and the rest of the panel, as well as two other team members book tickets for Saturday, 1 am. Ferrer says they could not rebook their 5 pm. ticket any more since they had already checked in online the night before the start of Friday's session, anticipating a last-minute rush to the airport.

With the MILF team still intact, only Ferrer, Deles, panel members Yasmin Busran-Lao and Senen Bacani, lawyer Armi Bayot and some staff members, are left behind on the government side.

Still, no annex is signed. This time around, however, both sides agree amicably to return to the negotiating table for another day. After all, the MILF flies back to Manila on Sunday. The government, meanwhile, books another flight for Saturday.

A similar situation faced the panels when the Framework Agreement was completed in October 2012. They even had to extend the talks thrice just to arrive at an agreement.

The last few minutes

Tired and exhausted from the weeks' talks, coming back for another day is not an option for the parties any more. It's make or break. No more extensions — Saturday would be the absolute last day.

For the whole day, everyone back home is glued to updates, waiting whether the panels would achieve a breakthrough. Little did anyone know Saturday would shape up to be one of the longest sessions the panels would have in a long time.

Aware of the apparent deadlock in the negotiations for the 3 crucial days, Moro groups and people outside the government panel have been doing their own backchannelling with the MILF for the government panel.

As the sun comes down on Saturday, there is still no news about the annex.
At about 7:30 pm, the panels start accepting calls from the media. They are on a short break to allow Muslim members of the panels to break their fast.

In a phone interview, Iqbal says the most contentious issue facing the panels at that point of the talks has to do with the Regalian Doctrine, a concept embodied in the Constitution. It says that all lands and natural resources in the public domain belong to the State. The MILF does not want to include this provision. (The government later on agreed to remove references to this in the annex.)

Up to the last minute of the talks, Deles says it's unclear whether an annex will be signed that day.

At 10 pm, some 12 hours after talks started, the MILF calls for a caucus.

"At that time," Ferrer tells reporters in a dinner press conference days later, "I was doing this (tapping her fingers alternately against each other), while asking 'May annex ba o wala?"(Will there be an annex or not?)

When the MILF emerges from their caucus, they present a proposal. The government agrees to it. But the MILF has another last-minute insertion. "Good thing it wasn't difficult to grant," Ferrer says.

What were the last few items they discussed?

The very last item, the last-minute "bonus," concerns a "number," Deles says.

Ferrer explains further: "It contains formulations they wanted cleared."

Both Deles and Ferrer, however, refuse to elaborate further.

Deles says there are many “heartstopping moments” during the last few hours, making the government wonder whether the issue at hand could well just be the deal-breaker.

Concessions from both sides

Before this round of talks, the MILF has been adamant it will stick with the wealth-sharing annex initialed in February, Sources say the document contains a 75-25 sharing arrangement across the board – for natural resources.

But a government source says Aquino was “very firm” about the MILF not having a 75-25 wealth-sharing ratio across the board.

After the February annex was drafted, the government panel conducted a series of consultations with Cabinet secretaries and other officials to assess the constitutionality and practicality of the annex. They refused to sign and discuss the annex twice — in March and April.

The government, instead, presented a brand-new proposal just a month before the talks during the negotiators' forum in Oslo, Norway.

As in any negotiations, any document signed represents compromises from both sides.
"Everything moved," Ferrer says. "Otherwise there will be no deal."

At 10:30 pm, OPAPP announces the parties have completed the wealth-sharing annex. The final document grants automatic annual appropriations to the Bangsamoro political entity with the following wealth-sharing arrangements:
  • 75-25 in favor of the Bangsamoro for taxes and charges "other than tariff and custom duties" collected within its jurisdiction
  • 75-25 in favor of the Bangsamoro for profits from metallic minerals
  • 100% of revenues form non-metallic minerals (sand, gravel and quarry resources) will go to Bangsamoro
  • "Equal share" between the Bangsamoro government and the central government for income from energy sources, such as petroleum, natural gas and uranium
READ: Bangsamoro gets 75% of taxes, resources

Ferrer admits the 50-50 sharing arrangement for energy sources was one ítem that the government could not let go.

In the end, the MILF agreed to a 50-50 sharing ratio for energy sources while sharing for metallic minerals remained at 75-25 with government income from non-metallic minerals all going to the Bangsamoro.

In terms of compromises, the situation was "more or less a give-and-take."
"We tried to count what we have given up, what they have given up — patas naman (It's fair)," Ferrer says.
The President's role

He jumpstarted the talks with the MILF when he met MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Japan back in 2011. Just how involved was the President in the last round of talks?

Ferrer says that aside from sending his spokesperson to the talks, "concerned secretaries" are constantly in touch with the President on "very specific issues and specific language for approval" up until the last few hours of the 38th round of talks.

With Deles in Kuala Lumpur and Lacierda back in Manila, the panels have a direct line to the President from both sides of the fence.

In the last few hours, Ferrer says Aquino had only one question for them: What's the deal breaker?

"So we asked the MILF, what's the deal breaker?" Ferrer says. "Buti na lang hindi pareho yung deal breaker namin at saka deal breaker nila so pwedeng i-swak. Kasi kung hindi, e di walang deal. Kasi kung hindi na-settle 'yun, we would have gone home without an annex kasi pagod na pagod na."

(Good thing their deal breaker and our deal breaker were not the same so we could complement each other. Otherwise, there wouldn't have been a deal. If it wasn't settled, we would have gone home without an annex because we were too tired.)

Ferrer says there are some "key concessions" that the panel could not give to the MILF without the President's consent.

As the staff prepares the final document to be signed, Aquino sends a text message to Deles: "Congratulations and thank you." Sent at 10:46 pm, Deles says.

After the document is signed, Iqbal tells Rappler the breakthrough is a collective succes: "I am looking at the next challenges."

Ferrer describes in one word how she feels: Relief.

Both sides expect the next round of talks to be just as hard, filled with ups and downs.

Army-NPA clash in Agusan del Sur leaves 7 dead

From Rappler (Jul 20): Army-NPA clash in Agusan del Sur leaves 7 dead

Seven people were killed when communist insurgents attacked a rural army outpost in Agusan del Sur, the military said on Saturday, July 20.

Six rebels and a pro-government militiaman were killed while another militiaman was wounded during the five-hour gunbattle on Friday, July 19, said the military, adding the attack only ended after they deployed helicopter gunships.

Around 60 fighters of the New People's Army (NPA) attacked the outpost on the southern island of Mindanao in an effort to capture the base, said military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala. The attack happened in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur, Inquirer reports.

"Their objective was to overrun the detachment and get the firearms and ammunition for themselves," he told AFP.

Two MG-520 attack helicopters were sent to drive back the guerrillas, he said.
This is part of an insurgent strategy of using large-scale attacks to capture remote and vulnerable outposts, Zagala said.

"They have increased their tactical offensives and we were expecting that. These violent acts are to show they are still a force to be reckoned with," he added.

The rebels have usually operated in small units, extorting money from rural businesses and staging piecemeal attacks on government targets.

The NPA has been waging a 44-year Maoist armed campaign that has claimed at least 30,000 lives. The military estimates the guerrillas' ranks at about 4,000 fighters, down from a peak of roughly 26,000 in the 1980s.

The government of President Benigno Aquino had opened peace talks aimed at ending the communist insurgency before his term expires in 2016.

But negotiations collapsed in April and last month the chief government negotiator resigned, citing his frustration with the stalled talks.

Navy holds scenario-driven exercise in Basilan and Sulu Straits

From InterAksyon (Jul 20): Navy holds scenario-driven exercise in Basilan and Sulu Straits

Day One of the At Sea Events of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao’s Exercise “Pagsasama” 2013 reeled off Saturday in the Basilan and Sulu Straits.

The first day of the At Sea Events consist of the Maritime Interdiction Operation Exercise, Search and Rescue Exercise, and Gunnery Exercise.
Exercise Director Navy Capt. Albert Mogol said seven Philippine Navy vessels, Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat from the Naval Special Operation Group, and vessels from PN Affiliated Reserved Units are participating in the scenario-driven exercises, which will be participated in by PN’s active and reserve forces.
The culmination of the At Sea Events is scheduled Sunday with the Amphibious Operations and Civil Military Operation activities, according to Mogol.
He said the residents can avail themselves of free dental and medical services at the NFWM booths near the Philippine Coconut Authority (compound Beach Area), in San Ramon, Barangay Talisayan, this city.
He is optimistic this year’s maritime exercises and capacity-building activities will further strengthen the Navy.
“We are keeping our hopes high for a productive and successful training ahead,” he said.

PEOPLE'S LAWYER | Honoring Romy Capulong's legacy

From InterAksyon (Jul 20): PEOPLE'S LAWYER | Honoring Romy Capulong's legacy

The late human rights lawyer Romeo Capulong shown in a video of one of his last interviews shown during the 1st Romeo T. Capulong Lecture Series in Quezon City Friday. (photo for InterAksyon by Rupert Francis D. Mangilit)

This, said Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez, was how they would call Romeo Capulong because not only would he offer free legal service to victims of human rights violations, he would often also spend his own money to help them.

Friday evening, human rights lawyers and advocates from the Philippines and other countries gathered in Quezon City for the 1st Romeo T. Capulong Lecture Series in honor of the quintessential “people’s lawyer,” who died September last year at the age of 77.

When Capulong returned to the Philippines in 1986 after spending seven years in exile in the United States, what he really wanted to do was advance consumer rights, recalled Dr. Edelina dela Paz, who heads the Health Alliance for Democracy, who sought his legal advise as she did the groundwork for what would become the Council for Primary Health Care.

Rising to the challenge of the times

But the period after the country peacefully booted out the dictator Ferdinand Marcos also saw an alarming escalation in human rights violations, among these the brazen killing of known political activists like labor leader Rolando Olalia.

As his attention shifted to this growing concern, Dela Paz said Capulong was apologetic: "Pasensiya ka na, hindi na kita maaasikaso (I am sorry, I can’t attend to you anymore)."

Dela Paz, who would herself lead Karapatan, understood perfectly.

From then on, Capulong provided free legal assistance in case after case of human rights violations, telling his colleagues this was his passion.

He went on to found the Public Interest Law Center in 1989 and the National Union of People’s Lawyers in 2007, in effect helping birth a new generation of lawyers who, like him, found their calling in defending victims of injustice.

He also became legal consultant of the National Democratic Front peace negotiating panel.


In a clip from one of Capulong's last interviews, which was shown during the lecture series, he explained why he was so committed to what he did: "Naniniwala ako sa pinaglalaban namin ng kliyente ko (I believe in what I and my clients fight for)."

One time, he said, "nag-away kami nu’ng judge. Binato ako ng folder. Kasi ‘yung moral outrage mo, ‘yung righteous indignation, lilitaw ‘yun. Minsan, ‘di mo ma-control (I and the judge fought. He hurled a folder at me. Because your moral outrage, your righteous indignation, will surface. Sometimes, you just can’t control it)."

"Gusto mong labanan ang masama (You want to fight evil). Just to keep you going," he added.

Belgian Jan Fermon, a lawyer of Jose Ma. Sison, said Capulong was instrumental in blocking Communist Party of the Philippines founder from being forcibly returned to the country after he was arrested by Dutch police on a murder charge.

He said Capulong was responsible for exposing the fact that "witnesses put forward against (Sison) turned out to be professional assets of the AFP, and were used as witnesses in other similar cases."


Fermon said years before he met Capulong, the Philippine lawyer had already built a reputation for his human rights work and established ties with European colleagues involved in similar causes.

Capulong, he said, had inspired young Dutch lawyers who were helping Sison in his bid to seek political asylum in the Netherlands to organize themselves into a public interest firm.

Fermon said given the Netherlands’ system, it was an uphill task.

"In the side in which we live, it's a struggle for public interest lawyering to thrive. But we shared the view that a world without exploitation is possible and a necessity at this time," he said.

 The Switzerland-based Jean Paul Garbade, who helped efforts to recover the wealth stashed by the Marcos family in Swiss banks, said Capulong taught him the importance of building awareness about public lawyering.

Together, he said, they worked to bring media attention to the exploitation of Filipino domestic workers by European diplomats.

"Thanks to the pressure of campaigning," Garbade said, complaints were filed and domestic workers realized they needed to speak up against unjust conditions such as dismally low wages.

Although "there was less success in the courts," Garbade said the awareness their campaign raised has helped prevent the further abuse of Filipino workers in Europe.

Karapatan’s Enriquez, who also chairs SELDA, an organization of former political detainees instrumental in filing a class suit against the late Ferdinand Marcos for the atrocities committed during his dictatorship, said it was Capulong who taught her the importance of engaging media in exposing human rights violations.

"I will never forget our meetings at 6 in the morning," Enriquez recalled, the memory bringing tears to her eyes. "He would discuss with me how to talk to the media about our case, what Marcos did to us. And although he was already sick, he would join me ... in explaining (to the other Marcos victims] what is happening in the case.”


But for those he mentored, Capulong's true legacy is how he encouraged and led them by example to become public interest lawyers.

PILC managing counsel Rachel Pastores recalled how Capulong liked to pose challenges on how to use the law to bring about social change, particularly how to get more lawyers interested in public interest work when the poverty incidence is high and human rights violations are rampant.

She quoted from one of Capulong’s last speeches, in which he explained what set “people’s lawyers” apart: "People's lawyers ... involve themselves in causes, cases and issues that fundamentally affect the lives of a large number of people, usually a sector of society or even the whole society itself."

Another challenge was dealing with the vilification of lawyers engaged in human rights work, who not only ended up being branded “rebel sympathizers” and “enemies of the state” but also found themselves targeted for actual repression or worse.

NUPL secretary general Edre Olalia pointed to the recent branding of their organization and Karapatan as “enemies” by Philippine Army chief Lieutenant General Noel Coballes after they had criticized the promotion of Brigadier General Aurelio Balalad, one of the officers charged for allegedly torturing and illegal detaining 43 health workers accused of being communist rebels.

"But we actually do not mind," Olalia said of the label, if it means they are enemies of those who violate human rights.

Biden to address maritime disputes 'head on' in Asia

From InterAksyon (Jul 20): Biden to address maritime disputes 'head on' in Asia

US Vice President Joe Biden on Monday begins a week-long visit to India and Singapore where officials say he will tackle tensions over the disputed South China Sea "head on."

The trip allows the White House to reassert its commitment to a strategic pivot to Asia, with Biden to discuss growing economic cooperation with the region as well as geo-political hot topics such as Afghanistan.

Notably, it provides President Barack Obama's number two a chance to confer with regional leaders on how to manage overlapping maritime claims in the South China Sea -- a flashpoint for the past decade.

China claims virtually all of the body of water, drawing accusations from rival claimants the Philippines and Vietnam, among others, that it is mounting a creeping takeover of disputed islets.

Biden and the Obama administration are "concerned about certain patterns of activity that have unfolded in these areas, and so I think you can expect that he will address this issue head-on while he is there," a senior administration official said Friday.

While in Singapore, Biden will talk with leaders about Washington's "very deep stake in making sure that these disputes are managed in a way that promotes freedom of navigation, promotes stability, promotes conflict resolution, avoids intimidation and coercion and aggression."

Biden first travels to New Delhi, where he is scheduled to meet top leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee.

On Wednesday, Biden gives a policy speech at the Bombay Stock Exchange and holds a roundtable with business leaders, where he will press for stronger intellectual property protection and highlight growing trade between the world's two largest democracies.

Bilateral trade has surged to nearly $100 billion per year, "but there is no reason it can't be five times that much," the administration official said.

Immigration reform currently under debate in the US Congress is of interest in India, where skilled graduates could stand to be the biggest beneficiaries of a planned overhaul that would triple the number of visas allotted to highly-skilled workers.

Biden's trip follows Obama's nomination of Nisha Desai Biswal as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, the first time an Indian American would head the bureau which oversees US foreign policy with Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

India is not party to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal being negotiated by 12 nations and which Biden says he hopes will be completed this year.

But Singapore is a TPP participant, and Biden travels there Thursday. He is due to meet the city-state's leadership as well as its founder Lee Kuan Yew.