Saturday, July 27, 2013

Some brgy officials linked to NPA

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 27): Some brgy officials linked to NPA

With the October 28 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections fast approaching, the issue of linkages between some barangay officials and the New People’s Army has again cropped up.

Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said they have testimonies of some former rebels who used to work with barangay officials, when they are still active in the movement.

In July 2011, a member of the NPA, identified as Edgar Sagure Lopez, who turned out to be a purok president, died in an encounter with troopers of the 6th Regional Public Safety Battalion in Brgy. Paitan, Escalante City, military records show.

A video footage showing some barangay officials and local government health workers in Brgy. Malasibog, Escalante City, was also recovered by government troopers after an encounter with rebels in the place.

If they had conspired with the rebel group, or worked with them for the objectives of the CPP-NPA, especially inciting people to work towards violence or lawlessness, they (barangay officials) should be arrested and detained, Aying said.

He, however, said they are trying to balance things, as they are also victims of the situation, while at the same time, violators of the law.

“If the barangay officials have not committed any violations, then we have to go through transformation, changing and winning back their hearts and minds,” Aying said.

We want them to integrate into the mainstream society, but if they have violated the laws, justice has to be served, he said.

Negros Occidental has 601 barangays, aside from the 61 of Bacolod City.

Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, the new commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, discourages voting for barangay officials who are being supported by the NPA.

Baladad also said the Philippine Army in Negros and Panay will assist the Comelec and Philippine National Police in the maintenance of peace and order during the October 28 barangay and SK elections.

MILF, JICA sign pact for 3-year capacity dev't project

From GMA News (Jul 27): MILF, JICA sign pact for 3-year capacity dev't project

Bangsamoro folk may soon benefit from a three-year capacity development project between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The MILF said its representatives and those of the JICA signed the landmark agreement in Cotabato City earlier this week.
“This is indeed a landmark deal that the Bangsamoro can be proud of... illustrating at this early phase the real autonomy at work,” MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said.

Iqbal signed the project documents along with JICA chief representative Takahiro Sasaki, the MILF said in a news release.

MILF central committee secretariat chairman Muhammad Ameen and International Monitoring Team head Maj. Gen. Dato’ Fadzil Bin Mokhtar, as well as Marlon Deduma, Director of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), were the principal witnesses.

The project, which culminates in 2016, seeks institutional building for smooth transition, human resources development for the future Bangsamoro government officials, development planning, and improvement of service delivery.

JICA is to undertake the projects with the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) chaired by Iqbal.

“Let me therefore assure our partners in the JICA that despite our imperfections, the Bangsamoro and the BTC will see to it that, insha-Allah, we will not fail them. It is our sincerity, determination and willingness to learn that will make up for what we lack in this deal. We know that our partners in JICA, fully aware of these inadequacies, are always there to help us stand on our own feet. Besides, our people are full behind us in this endeavor,” Iqbal said.

Muhammad Ameen, the Secretary to MILF chairman Al Haj Murad, said this achievement "has been watered no less than by the holy blood of our martyrs.”

“It behooves upon us, therefore, to make every effort that we succeed not only in the peace talks but in the delivery of services to our people when the time comes. We must strive to harness our skills so that we can march together towards the realization of our vision for a developed Bangsamoro. To do this we must be strategic in our steps as well as partnerships,” Ameen said.

For his part, Sasaki said JICA is fully committed to technical cooperation with the government and MILF for the Bangsamoro.

“Japan is eagerly awaiting the conclusion of the remaining Annexes to the [Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro] and the signing of the government of the Philippines – MILF Comprehensive Peace Compact,” Sasaki said.

Indonesia wary of 'spoilers' in PHL-MNLF peace efforts

From GMA News (Jul 27): Indonesia wary of 'spoilers' in PHL-MNLF peace efforts

Saying the review process for peace efforts between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front is at a "critical" stage, Indonesia has advised Manila to ensure there is no chance for "spoilers" to disrupt the talks.

Presidential peace process adviser Teresita Deles said this was one of the points taken up during her meeting with Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa on Friday.

During Friday's meeting, Deles said they discussed the status of the Tripartite Implementation Review of the government-MNLF final peace agreement in 1996.

"Minister Natalegawa held the view that the review process had reached a critical juncture both in terms of it substance and its process. He said that, for Indonesia, there is every interest to be able to say that the process has been completed and that everyone is on board.  He said it is important to ensure that the process does not provide any opportunity for 'spoilers' to intervene," Deles said.
She said Natalegawa also advised the government to "continue to exercise patience even in the face of provocation as he reiterated Indonesia's support for the peace process in Mindanao."

However, she did not elaborate on the "spoilers."

"We thank the Indonesian Government for their sustained support in pursuit of lasting peace in Mindanao and look forward to our steadfast partnership to ensure an inclusive peace for the entire Bangsamoro," she said.

Indonesia chairs the Organization of Islamic Conference Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (OIC-PCSP), which is facilitating the implementation review of the 1996 pact.

Friday's meeting was also a follow-through of a meeting held in Jakarta last March.

During the March meeting, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told Natalegawa the Philippine government believed it was time to bring the tripartite review process to a proper completion.

Also, Deles clarified the Philippine government's proposal had been to complete the review process, not the closure of the peace process nor the abrogation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

Indonesia's backing

Deles said Natalegawa "reiterated Indonesia's firm support for the efforts being undertaken by the Philippine government to ensure a comprehensive political settlement of the armed conflict in Southern Philippines."

"He was categorical in stating that Indonesia opposes any attempt to jeopardize the territorial integrity of the Philippines, and that any such move falls outside the ambit of the agreed-upon Tripartite Review Process," she said.

She said this was in light of reported plans to hold a so-called "Independence Assembly" to discuss a draft constitution for the "Bangsamoro republic."

Natalegawa also said the Philippine government's efforts should be "propagated and understood," she added.

"He said that, if needed, Indonesia would be willing to assist the Philippine government in explaining the current situation to members of the OIC-PCSP, starting with those who are also members of ASEAN."

Sabah police: Kiram revenge letter a hoax

From GMA News (Jul 27): Sabah police: Kiram revenge letter a hoax

A letter that threatened a revenge attack by followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III on Sabah turned out to be a hoax after all, Sabah police claimed Saturday.

Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib disclosed this, according to a report by Malaysia's Bernama news agency posted on Malaysia's The Star Online.

The letter dated July 3 had warned of an attack by Kiram followers in Sabah this August, supposedly in retaliation of the deadly clashes in Sabah earlier this year.

"Please don't spread such rumors to scare the public," Hamza said.

He added Sabah residents should remain calm and stop speculating, and instead cooperate with the security forces to prevent such incidents.

Earlier this year, Kiram's followers engaged Malaysian forces in a standoff that lasted three weeks. The standoff ended in deadly clashes March 1 and 2.

In turn, Malaysian forces mounted offensive operations to flush out Kiram's followers from Lahad Datu.

Earlier this month, a letter circulated supposedly signed by a "Militant Commando" who claimed to be acting on behalf of Kiram's family.

But the police did not take the rumors lightly – Hamza said they took steps to tighten security.

Such steps included mobilizing 100 strike force personnel who can respond quickly to any contingency.

On the other hand, he urged the community to keep alert for any suspicious activity, and to inform security forces accordingly.

Bill makes wearing cop uniforms a crime

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 27): Bill makes wearing cop uniforms a crime

The unauthorized wearing of military or police uniforms could soon be a criminal act punishable by a 10-year jail term if a Cebu lawmaker’s proposed measure is enacted in the 16th Congress.

Filed by Cebu City 1st district Rep. Raul Del Mar, House Bill 368 seeks to amend Republic Act 493, which regulates the use and production of uniform of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

On top of the decade-long prison term, violators would also be slapped with a P20,000 fine. The bill also imposes a five-year imprisonment and a fine of P10,000 for the unauthorized sale of military and police uniforms to civilian and the production of textile, which is being used for the production of the uniforms.

Likewise, the bill also imposes a five-year imprisonment and a fine of P10,000 for the unauthorized sale of military and police uniforms to civilian and the production of textile, which is being used for the production of the uniforms.

In justifying the bill, Del Mar said that the indiscriminate wearing of AFP and PNP uniform by civilian has caused damage to the reputation of the military and the police, “especially by bad elements posing as good guys.”

“Unauthorized persons have taken advantage of the proliferation of imitations of uniforms bearing close resemblance to the official military and police uniforms to falsely represent themselves as members of the AFP or the PNP,” the solon said.

Del Mar noted that the wearing of police and military uniforms became “fashionable” as the uniforms sprung up in stores near military and police camps.

Del Mar cited RA 493 which regulates the wearing, using, manufacturing and selling of insignias, decorations and medals, badges, patches and identification cards prescribed for the military and police authorities by persons not in the service.

However, he said the law has no prohibition imposing penalty against civilians who will be caught wearing the military and police uniforms.

Del Mar also cited Article 177 of the revised Penal Code, which prohibits anyone from falsely representing himself as officer, agent or representative of any department or agency of the government.

“Despite all these legal prohibitions, criminal syndicates and individuals have not been deterred in using military or police uniforms in their unlawful and illegal activities,” he said.

Malaysia readies force vs another intrusion

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 28): Malaysia readies force vs another intrusion

MALAYSIAN authorities are not discounting the possibility that followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III may stage vengeance attacks in Sabah and are preparing a quick-response police commando unit for the purpose, according to Malaysia’s official news agency.

The Bernama news agency said at least 50 people in Sabah were detained over a July 3 letter, purportedly from “militant commandos” supporting the Sulu sultanate, hinting at news attacks to be staged in Sabah in retaliation for the Lahad Datu clashes last March.

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi doubted the veracity of the July 3 letter, but Malaysian authorities are taking the matter seriously and have prepared a special police commando unit for any eventuality, Bernama said.

“Although I doubt that the letter saying that terrorists will come to unleash violence in Sabah is real, we still investigate its origin. The people of Sabah need not worry and do not listen to rumors. Security forces are always on alert and have enough officers, men, and equipment,” Bernama quoted Hamidi as saying.

Meanwhile, Sabah police commissioner Hamza Taib said the proposed special strike force will include about 100 commandos and be able to respond to any threat quickly.

“I have requested (Malaysian police headquarters) to station a strike force ready to be deployed to any part of Sabah at any time,” Hamza was quoted as saying.

Hamza said Malaysian security forces have already beefed up their presence and firepower along Sabah’s east coast even as Kuala Lumpur continues to coordinate with Philippine officials in dealing with any threat.

The Lahad Datu incident began last February 11 when 235 militants, some of whom were armed, arrived in several boats at Lahad Datu town in Sabah, Malaysia.

Coming from Simunul island in Tawi-Tawi, the militants calimed they belonged to the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo” and were sent by Kiram to assert the sultanate’s unresolved claim to North Borneo.

Malaysian security forces surrounded the village of Tanduo in Lahad Datu where the group had gathered and after several weeks of negotiations and broken deadlines for the intruders to withdraw, security forces moved in and routed the Sulu militants.

Murad: MILF’s Central Committee will help fast-track signing of annexes

From MindaNews (Jul 26): Murad: MILF’s Central Committee will help fast-track signing of annexes

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Central Committee is willing to repeat in next month’s negotiations on the remaining two annexes on power-sharing and normalization, what it did in the last round of talks that helped lead to the signing of the wealth-sharing annex on July 13: gather the Central Committee here “so there will be fast and effective consultation process” with its peace panel in Kuala Lumpur, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said.

Murad told a delegation of civil society leaders in Mindanao Thursday morning (July 25) that as far as the MILF Central Committee is concerned, “we are always ready for whatever is necessary in the peace process because … we are all fully supportive.. we are fully sold out (to) this peace process and everybody is supportive.  So we can always do the same and even more than that if necessary, as the situation dictates.”

Murad said that during the last two days of the extended talks on July 12 and 13, while the panels were negotiating in Kuala Lumpur,  “we were here gathered in this room (conference room of the MILF Peace Panel’s office within Camp Darapanan). While they were discussing there, we were also discussing here.”

He said it was the “first time we did this, that while the panel is there, we also had the Central Committee assembled here to discuss whatever problems are being met at the negotiating table.”

Murad noted that some think the wealth-sharing annex can serve as guide to the next annexes but there are some views that the next annexes can be “more bloody.”

But he is confident that with the “motivation to move forward and the sincerity and the interest to move forward, then I think we can move forward in these two other annexes.”

The Central Committee, he added, is “at this point trying to discuss all possible difficult issues” in relation to the power-sharing annex. “We are exploring all other possible means in order to hasten the process because we know that further delaying the process will have a very negative impact on the timeframe we have set for the transition mechanism and once we cannot catch up with the time frame, then it will affect the entire mechanism” that would install the Bangsamoro government by 2016.
The Central Committee “will be very cooperative in order that this process will be hastened,” he said.

In constant touch with principals

MIlF peace panel chair Mohager Iqbal earlier told MindaNews that they were in constant touch with the Central Committee and that on the second day of the extension, at 3:15 p.m. of July 13, when both parties were still in a deadlock, he received a text message from Murad that the Central Committee had decided that if there is no progress in the talks, the panel should return home and not agree to another extension.  Iqbal said that when the parties returned for the plenary, he read the text message in Maguindanaon and translated it into English.

President Aquino and the Cabinet secretaries involved in the issues on wealth-sharing, were also in constant touch with the GPH peace panel. On July 11, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles and Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda went to Kuala Lumpur, with Deles staying on until the signing.

The government (GPH) and MILF peace panels are resuming talks in Kuala Lumpur next month after the Ramadhan, to continue negotiations on the remaining two annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) that would complete the comprehensive peace pact:  power-sharing and normalization. The Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities was signed on February 27 while the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing was signed on July 13.

Under the FAB, the parties actually committed to finish the annexes before yearend 2012.

Through their technical working groups, the panels started negotiations on wealth-sharing and power-sharing in August 2012 and normalization in November 2012.

More than 90% settled in power-sharing annex

While acknowledging that he is not at liberty to divulge the sticky points in the power-sharing annex, Murad said the GPH and MILF peace panels had actually settled “more than 90%” of the issues.

He likened the status of the Power-sharing annex to the Wealth-sharing annex before the deadlock on contentious issues was broken on July 13.

“Generally the other issues were all settled already but there are still some two or three issues which are very ticklish and that is where we are focusing on – two or three, maybe four issues that are very ticklish and sensitive,” he said of the power-sharing annex.

“Even the panels have been saying that more than 90% have been settled already as far as power-sharing (is concerned but the) remaining less than 10 per cent is the heart of the issue which is very, very difficult to resolve so that is why we have to focus on these particular issues,” Murad said in his two-hour meeting with civil society leaders.

Present were some 40 representatives of  Mindanao-based coalitions such as the Consortium of Bangamoro Civil Society (CBCS) represented by Abdulbasit Benito of the Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace, Mindanao Coalition of Development Networks (Mincode) under former Abanse Pinay Representative Pat Sarenas, Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW) represented by Gus Miclat of the Initiatives for International Dialogue and Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) led by Mary Ann Arnado. Also present were officials of Oxfam led by Cherian Mathews, the new Regional Director of Oxfam GB, Asia Region.

“Inspiration for generations”

Oxfam, which has been providing humanitarian assistance in the conflict-affected areas in the Bangsamoro for decades now, provided assistance to the summit of Mindanao’s civil society  on the Bangsamoro peace process held in Davao City early this month and the gathering in Cotabato for Thursday’s dialogue with Murad.

“When we walk with communities who are displaced, we can only do so much to meet their immediate needs. Unless there is a peace process that will lead to enduring peace, the whole situation will not change,” Mathews said.

To Murad, he said, “You are an inspiration for the generations to come…  You will be remembered for the courage you have shown in the peace process.”

Sarenas and the other leaders asked Murad how they can help hasten the process.

Murad said he hopes they would be “more pro-active” in the next steps on the roadmap to the Bangsamoro, such as letting the public understand the agreements, submitting to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission results of  civil society’s consultations and  discussing the peace process with members of Congress.

Murad said he believes the reason why the Annex on Wealth-Sharing was finally signed on July 13, was because of “the interest of both parties to finish off the wealth-sharing agreement.”

He said they were aware that if the wealth-sharing annex had not been settled, “there can be some negative impact not only in the peace process but even on the ground.”

He explained that both parties “were not able to get exactly what they want but then that is part of the process. There has to be some compromise.  We are happy on our side, the Central Committee of the MILF and our people are happy that we have this wealth sharing annex finalized.”

The GPH and MILF peace panels signed the FAB on October 15 last year to pave the way for the creation of the “Bangsamoro,” a new autonomous political entity that would replace the 23-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by June 30, 2016.

The FAB also provides that the ARMM would be deemed abolished once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified, and will be replaced by the Bangsamoro Transition Authority that would govern the area until the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro  that will be elected on May 9, 2016 takes over on June 30 that year.

In his State of the Nation Address last Monday, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III called on Congress to pass before the end of 2014 the law creating the Bangsamoro, as he assured that whatever agreement the government will sign with the MILF will be implemented.

WHAT WENT BEFORE: Oakwood Mutiny

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 27): WHAT WENT BEFORE: Oakwood Mutiny

Early on July 27, 2003, some 300 soldiers took over the Oakwood Premiere serviced apartments in Ayala Center, Makati City, to demand the resignation of certain officials and air their grievances against the military establishment.

Calling themselves the Magdalo group, the soldiers railed against alleged anomalies in the Armed Forces of the Philippines  Retirement and Separation Benefits System, the military procurement system (including the purchase of substandard equipment for soldiers) and the construction and repair of various facilities at Marine Base, Cavite, as well as the alleged transfer of arms and ammunition to unauthorized parties.

They also called for the resignation of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, then Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, then Philippine National Police Director Gen.  Hermogenes Ebdane, and Victor Corpus, then chief of the AFP Intelligence Service.

The soldiers occupied Oakwood for at least 20 hours before emerging from negotiations with the government and ending their mutiny. They were later charged with coup d’etat.

Among those charged was Magdalo spokesperson Navy Lt. Antonio Trillanes IV. A commission chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Florentino Feliciano was later formed to investigate the mutiny.

In its report issued in October 2003, the Feliciano Commission said the mutiny was a “well-planned” power grab, and not a spontaneous protest.

Quoting facts it had gathered, the commission said the soldiers plotted to take over the government and establish a 15-member council, but that the plot was discovered, leading to an arrest order by then President Arroyo on the evening of July 26.

But the commission conceded that some of the soldiers’ grievances were legitimate, and that they were rooted in corruption in the military. The report also underscored the need for modernization in the military establishment.

The report warned that the AFP “could implode and collapse with unpredictable consequences” if the issues were not addressed.

The commission’s report identified the leaders of the Magdalo group as Trillanes, Army Capt. Gerardo Gambala, Army Capt. Milo Maestrecampo, Navy Lt. James Layug and Marine Capt. Gary Alejano.

Trillanes ran for senator in 2007 as guest candidate under the Genuine Opposition ticket (which was, incidentally, not registered with the Commission on Elections) and won while in detention. He was released in December 2010 after more than seven years in detention, following President Aquino’s issuance of Proclamation Order No. 75.  The order granted amnesty to those who joined the 2003 Oakwood mutiny, the 2006 failed coup and Marine standoff, and the 2007 Peninsula hotel siege. In January 2011, Trillanes led 94 other former junior military officers and enlisted personnel in retaking their oath of allegiance to seal the amnesty granted them.

Trillanes ran for a second term in the May 2013 elections and won, garnering more than

13.9 million votes.

In May 2008, Gambala and Maestrecampo were among the nine former Magdalo rebel officers who were pardoned by President Arroyo and freed after nearly five years in detention, following their admission of guilt. They were discharged from military service by a military tribunal after pleading guilty to violating the Articles of War.

Layug ran for congressman in the second district of Taguig City in the 2010 elections, but lost.

The party-list Magdalo Para sa Pilipino, composed of former mutineers, won in the 2013 elections with its representatives Alejano and Francisco Ashley Acedillo.

In March this year, former Army officers First Lieutenants Lawrence San Juan and Rex Bolo were sentenced to long prison terms after spurning President Aquino’s offer of pardon. They were found “guilty as participants of the coup,” and were ordered to serve a maximum of 12 years in jail by Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148 Judge Andres Soriano.

Oakwood mutiny: Wrong, right

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 27): Oakwood mutiny: Wrong, right

10 YEARS AGO Army Captains Milo Maestrecampo (center) and Gerardo Gambala (seated) hold press conference in Makati City. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Ten years after the Oakwood mutiny, the military continues to regard the caper by more than 300 junior officers and enlisted men as a “wrong” but “necessary event” that led to reforms in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“Definitely, we don’t agree with the method because that was [committing] violence against our own organization, but in a way it became an eye-opener. If our officers are doing this, it means that there is something wrong so let’s do something [about it],” said AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.

Zagala described the mutiny as “wrong,” but ironically it “became the necessary event” that led to reforms in the military.

“I would have to say that Oakwood became a catalyst for reforms. Things changed after Oakwood, for the better,” he added.

Zagala said “changes in the AFP were being implemented even before the Oakwood mutiny, but Oakwood hastened the implementation of those reforms.”

Cry vs corruption

The Oakwood mutiny was carried out on July 27, 2003, in the heart of Makati Central Business District, and was generally seen as a cry against corruption in the military leadership during the Arroyo administration.

But the Feliciano Commission, formed shortly after to investigate the mutiny, described it as a “well-planned” power grab, and not a spontaneous protest, in its October 2003 report.

The commission said the soldiers plotted to take over the government and establish a

15-member council, but that the plot was discovered, leading to an arrest order by then President Arroyo on the evening of July 26.

The commission however conceded that some of the soldiers’ grievances were legitimate, and that they were rooted in corruption in the AFP. The report also underscored the need for modernization in the military establishment.

Led by now Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, the Oakwood mutineers, who called themselves the Magdalo group,  sought amnesty from President  Aquino in 2011, and got it two weeks before the Makati Regional Trial Court was to hand down its verdict on the case.

Citing prudence, then trial court Judge Oscar Pimentel did not promulgate his decision since the amnesty order was in Congress and appeared headed to an overwhelming approval by President Aquino’s allies.

Seven years’ detention

Trillanes and the other Oakwood mutineers were finally free after seven years in detention under the Arroyo administration. In a twist of fate, it was now former President Arroyo who remains on house arrest on allegations of corruption.

The Pampanga representative has been unable to attend sessions at the House of Representatives, while Trillanes is now serving his second term in the Senate.

Two other Magdalo officers, Gary Alejano and Francisco Ashley Acedillo, have been elected as Magdalo party-list representatives.

Whatever motive was behind the Oakwood mutiny, the defense establishment responded by issuing policy reforms meant to solve the corruption issue.

Zagala said he believed the reforms began after then defense secretary, the late Angelo Reyes, was relieved from his post, with President Arroyo taking over his post temporarily before the appointment of top lawyer Avelino Cruz.

Cruz carried on changes outlined in the Philippine Defense Reform (PDR).

The PDR, Defense System of Management and the Security Sector Reform (SSR) have become buzzwords in the defense and military establishments.

In a nutshell, the policies emphasized planning and strategy, resource management, capability upgrade, human security and financial accountability.

Under the SSR, whose cornerstone includes justice and human rights, stakeholders are consulted by the AFP on ways that it can improve itself as an institution.

Zagala said that starting in 2006, funds were farmed out to individual AFP units instead of being centrally managed.  Under this new system, officers are taught fiscal management and accountability, and are compelled to be strategic as well in planning their operations.

The military also established a grievance system that allows officers and their men to raise complaints against their superiors or contemporaries.

This resulted in the Inspector General actually wielding enough power to investigate [anomalies] and make recommendations to the AFP chief of staff,  Zagala said.

“We want to know what else we can do to make the changes possible. It’s very hard to accept that you need to look into the organization, find something wrong and change. [But] in the AFP, it is our way to improve,” he added.

Zagala said the military’s Internal Peace and Security Plan  Bayanihan aimed to change the values of soldiers and not just improve their fighting capabilities.

Moral standpoint

“[The plan] includes a moral standpoint, such as avoiding human rights violations. We are saying to the soldiers, this is the new armed forces, this is how you should act,” the AFP spokesperson added.

Zagala said there was no guarantee that “there would be no complaints or grievances” against the military by its own soldiers in this new era in the AFP.

“By nature, we are not a perfect organization.  There will be problems that would spring up and need to be addressed … We cannot say [that] after Oakwood, no one would complain anymore,” Zagala said.

Army tank near Misuari's home raises tension

From ABS-CBN (Jul 27): Army tank near Misuari's home raises tension

The military on Friday deployed an armored personnel carrier (APC) tank to Barangay San Roque, Zamboanga City where members of the Moro National Liberation Front have been convening since Thursday.

The presence of the military tank and several soldiers and policemen raised tension in the village and the whole of Zamboanga City.

Several text messages have been circulating for a week now regarding an alleged plan of the MNLF to create a rally or disturbance.

MNLF founder Nur Misuari in his press conference on Thursday, however, denied that they have plans of disturbing the peace in Zamboanga City.

Task Force Zamboanga Commanding Officer Col. Andrelino Colina also denied that they consider Misuari and his men as threats to the security of the city.

The deployment of the soldiers and putting up of checkpoints are part of a military routine, he said.

He also said the tank has long been on standby in their camp and needs to be brought out once in a while.

On Friday, top military and police officials gathered in a closed-door meeting at the Western Mindanao Command, as they received information that together with Misuari is a certain Daniel Xavier, who allegedly introduced himself as a representative of the United Nations.

However, no individual from the United Nations was introduced to the media during the press conference.

Security was tight during the almost 3-hour press conference held in Misuari's home. Members of the media entering the compound were frisked and were made to turn off their cellular phones and remove the battery of their cameras.

They were also told to position the camera fronting Misuari and were prohibited from taking other shots inside the compound.

Reporters estimated that around 50 MNLF members were inside the compound, apart from those who waited outside.

Meanwhile, Zamboanga District 2 Representative Celso Lobregat called on the MNLF not to hold any of their activities in Zamboanga City as the city is not part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Lobregat said the presence of Misuari and his men only revived the memory of the Cabatangan Siege, wherein MNLF rebels held hostage over a hundred residents of Fairview Drive in Sta. Maria and Cabatangan Villages.

In a statement read by her staff, Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco-Salazar called on her constituents not to believe the rumors being circulated through text messages.

She asked the people to be cautious in forwarding such messages as these only create more confusion and tension among the people.

She denied that a curfew has been imposed and maintained that classes in all levels in the city remain normal.

The lady mayor also assured the public that the police and the military are exerting all efforts to keep the security in the city intact.

Sources told ABS-CBN that the MNLF members will be leaving for Jolo, Sulu, Friday night.

China turns Panganiban Reef into naval station

From ABS-CBN (Jul 27): China turns Panganiban Reef into naval station

The Chinese have transformed the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef in Palawan into a forward naval station with at least one ship docked in the area, a senior security official disclosed Friday.

The official, who asked not to be identified, pointed out that since China’s illegal occupation of Panganiban Reef in 1994, Beijing had slowly transformed the area into its forward naval facility in the West Philippine Sea.

“At one given time there’s a Chinese frigate out there,” he said of the area located around 130 nautical miles from Hulugan Bay in Palawan and 97 nautical miles from Pag-Asa, an island municipality in the disputed Spratlys archipelago.

Aside from the presence of Chinese naval ships at Panganiban Reef, the source said the place is now considered as the most advanced naval fortification in the disputed region, servicing the needs of Chinese fishermen and their fishing boats.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced the other day that it is verifying reports that Chinese gunboats have been monitored at Panganiban Reef, which is part of Philippine territory.

“They have long been there, they already established a forward naval station,” the source said, saying that Panganiban Reef or Meijie Reef to the Chinese, rightfully belongs to the Philippines as it is well within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

In 1994, China occupied the reef by building structures on stilts and then slowly transformed the area into a heavily fortified eight-story naval facility complete with radar domes, helipad and piers.

Windmills installed in the structure have been supplying electricity to the facility.

At present, the source said all Chinese gunboats and paramilitary vessels being deployed in the area by the China’s Southern Fleet are using the naval facility in Panganiban Reef.

This explains why China was able to immediately deploy its Navy ships and other vessels to pull out its frigate that got stuck at Half Moon Shoal down south in Palawan in July last year.

“Those frigates that were seen securing their grounded Chinese missile-firing gunboat came from their forward naval station at Panganiban Reef,” the source said.

Aside from Panganiban Reef, the Chinese have already put several naval facilities in its occupied reefs in the Spratlys, including Subi Reef, where it has put up a three-story facility with gun emplacements, a helicopter landing pad, a radar dome, and lighthouse.

China, citing historical facts, is claiming almost the entire South China Sea as an integral part of its maritime domain, a claim that is now being challenged by the Philippines before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

Soldier killed, 2 hurt in Sulu blast

From ABS-CBN (Jul 27): Soldier killed, 2 hurt in Sulu blast

A soldier was killed and two others injured when an improvised explosive device accidentally exploded in Barangay Tiptipon, Panglima Estino, Sulu on Saturday.

Initial reports said Explosive Ordnance Division (EOD) team responded to the scene after receiving a call that a bomb was planted in the vicinity of a village chief's home identified as Alawi Jaijali.

The bomb exploded when the team was inspecting it, resulting to the death of a soldier.

The injured soldiers, meanwhile, were immediately airlifted to the nearest hospital.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz docks at Guam naval base

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): BRP Ramon Alcaraz docks at Guam naval base
BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the second Hamilton-class cutter in the Philippine Navy, has safely docked at Guam's naval base around 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

This was disclosed by PN spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic.

The Filipino frigate entered Guam waters around 2:00 a.m.

Upon docking, the officers and crew were given a warm welcome by the Filipino-American community in the area.

Posts on the vessel's Facebook page showed Philippine officials led by Consul General Bayani Mangibin welcoming the vessel's crew.

One of the photos showed the vessel's men and women standing in formation upon arrival at Pier Mike Naval Base in Guam.

Capt. Ernesto Baldovino and the officers and crew members of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz were commended in a certificate signed by Speaker Judith Won Pat, committee on rules acting chairperson Thomas Ada, legislative secretary Tina Rose Barnes, and sponsor Dennis Rodriguez Jr.

Baldovino also presented a token of appreciation to Mangibin for the warm welcome.

AFP inaugurates world's longest peace mural

From the  Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): AFP inaugurates world's longest peace mural
The Armed Forces of the Philippines Saturday formally inaugurated what could be the world’s longest peace mural along EDSA Saturday morning.

The activity kicked off with the "Bayanihan" Peace Mural Tour composed of bikers, runners, and a motorcade parade around the 3.7 kilometer stretch of the walls of Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

This was followed by a ceremonial painting ceremony of the word Kapayapaan by representatives of the different stakeholders for peace along the camp’s wall on White Plains Avenue symbolizing the completion of the mural.

Soon after, the mural was officially inaugurated by the unveiling of a marker where the painting of the walls began last May 26.

Dubbed “Lakbay Para sa Kapayapaan sa EDSA,” the mural project spans 3,770 meters along EDSA, White Plains Avenue, and Col. Bonny Serrano Avenue in Quezon City.

It is a joint project between the AFP, Metro Manila Development Authority, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Asia America Initiative and Dolphins Love Freedom Network.

AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista was joined by Assistant Secretary Jennifer Oreta of OPAPP, AG Sano of DLF, and Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman of AAI, among others.

Speaking on the four decade long insurgency and the increasing clamor for internal peace and security, Bautista said that the solution on the armed conflict lies in the Filipino practice of :Bayanihan".

“This project is about breaking barriers that prevent us from moving forward. I was convinced of this when I saw soldiers painting alongside children of rebels,” AG Sano said during the inauguration.

“We saw art as a good venue to create better understanding and mainstreaming of the promotion of peace. This is a portrait of the Filipino’s aspiration for peace,” Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman added.

32nd Infantry Battalion starts reorganizational training

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): 32nd Infantry Battalion starts reorganizational training
The 32nd Infantry Battalion, a field unit of the Zamboanga Del Sur-based 1st Infantry Division, formally started its reorganizational training Friday.

This took place at 1st Infantry Division headquarters in Kuta Cesar Sang-an in Labangan, Zamboanga Del Sur.

According to Lt. Col. Alex R. Rillera, the Assistant Chief of Staff for Education and Training, the 32nd Infantry Battalion will undergo retraining as part of the Implementation Plan Pagsasanay Alpha of the Philippine Army which runs up to Sept. 27.

The training aims to develop the combat fighting skills and knowledge of the soldiers.

"We will also refurbish their mobility equipment and at the same time strengthen their operational readiness towards excellent mission accomplishment," he added.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Felicito Virgilio M. Trinidad Jr., the Acting Commander of 1st Infantry Division, welcomed and commended the accomplishments of 32nd Infantry Battalion in its long years of deployment.

“Our core competencies, as soldiers, is fighting wars and battles, because that is what we are trained for. And we need to hone that competency so that we are always on the upper hand to protect our people and defend the integrity and sovereignty of our country against threats,” he added.

Trinidad also emphasized the objectives of the organizational training which he summed at under the acronym “TRAIN”: Total Unit Readiness, Responsiveness or Responsibility as a unit and as individual soldier, Acquisition of knowledge and skills, Imbibe the culture of professionalism, discipline and excellence, and Nurture the spirit of service and people oriented individual soldier and unit.

The 32nd Infantry Battalion had its last retraining sometime in 1998 and since then, the unit became one of the fightingest units in the Army.

The unit successful internal peace and security initiatives significantly contributed to the improved socio-economic development in the island of Basilan for the past four years.

DSWD to improve Kalahi-CIDSS program in Zambo Peninsula

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): DSWD to improve Kalahi-CIDSS program in Zambo Peninsula
The Dept. of Social Welfare and Development will strengthen its projects under its Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan–Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) here in Zamboanga Peninsula.

DSWD Regional Director Zenaida Arevalo said the Kalahi-CIDSS, funded by the World Bank, was recently chosen from among over 40 international candidates for the Development Impact Honors Awards by the United States Treasury Department.

The DSWD will be transforming the program into what will be called the “National Community Driven Development Program,” according to Arevalo.

“This award re-echoes how the communities have succeeded in realizing their most pressing needs. We are very optimistic that the continuous implementation of Kalahi-CIDSS, now the NCDPP, will reap more development, especially for the poor families,” Arevalo said.

Melanie Sison, National Social Marketing Officer of the project, said that the Development Impact Awards “recognizes the different projects supported by multilateral development banks all over the world.”

Sision said the entries from the different countries all over the world were based on criteria such as the quality of the results, focus on the primary sectors, innovations used, and risk mitigation strategies utilized.

Kalahi-CIDSS Regional Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Rodolfo Nillosguin, Jr. reported that the program is being implemented in 33 towns here in Zamboanga Peninsula.

PHL, Japan agree to strengthen maritime cooperation

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): PHL, Japan agree to strengthen maritime cooperation

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on Saturday to strengthen bilateral maritime cooperation, describing it as "a pillar of their strategic partnership."

In a statement released after the bilateral meeting in Malacanang, the presidential palace, Aquino said that he and Abe reviewed the security challenges that confront both nations.

Aquino thanked the Japanese government for helping enhance the capacity of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) by building multi- role vessels and by providing communications systems for their use.

Aquino also expressed gratitude for Japan's continuous support to the peace process between his government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim rebel group in the country, and for extending assistance in critical areas, such as infrastructure development, transportation, connectivity, and disaster preparedness and response.

Aquino said he looked forward to the Commemorative Summit in Tokyo in December for the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan Friendship Cooperation.

Abe, in a separate statement, announced four initiatives for the Philippines, including joint development of the economy, promote maritime cooperation, strengthening assistance to southern Philippines, and strong promotion of people to people exchanges.

He confirmed Japan's assistance to the PCG by providing loan for the acquisition of 10 coast guard vessels.

He also presented to Aquino a very accurate topographical map of Mindanao which he said could be beneficial in developing the area.

Abe arrived in Manila Friday night for a two-day official visit, the final stop of his three-nation southeast Asian tour which also took him to Malaysia and Singapore.

MNLF accuses MILF of attacking civilians in North Cotabato triggering more evacuation

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): MNLF accuses MILF of attacking civilians in North Cotabato triggering more evacuation
Marauding Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerillas on Saturday fired at a group of farmers attempting to return to their sub-villages in Barangay Manubuan here triggering more evacuation of Moro people, officials here said.

The municipal disaster risk reduction management council of Matalam reported that close to 100 families from at least six villages have been affected by the conflict between MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members which the Army said was triggered by a long standing land dispute.

North Cotabato Governor Emmylo Talinio-Mendoza have repeatedly appealed to leaders of both the MILF and MNLF to settle their differences peacefully as recent events were counter productive and resulted in the displacement of Muslims in North Cotabato.

Mendoza, after presiding over the provincial peace and order council, said she was saddened by the turn of events since the conflict can be settled through dialogues and not through their firearms.

Noah Sabel, speaking for the MILF in North Cotabato, claimed that more than 150,000 hectares of agricultural land owned by members of the MILF was occupied by the MNLF after it signed a peace deal with the government in 1996.

But Dima Ambel, MNLF head for North Cotabato, stressed the area has been legally owned by members of the MNLF and has been recognized by the Philippine government after the signing of the 1996 peace agreement.

Capt. Antonio Bulao, speaking for the 602nd Infantry Army brigade, said the conflict in Barangay Manubuan which is located at the border of Matalam in North Cotabato and Kidapawan City, was an off shot of previous MILF-MNLF skirmishes in Barangay Marbel, also in this town last May.

Kida Leguaman, 43, a resident of Barangay Manubuan, said the conflict did not only displaced residents but caused the suspension of classes in Barangay Manubuan and nearby villages because the schools were used as evacuation sites.

The fighting erupted Sunday in the village of Manubuan, this town.

"It is very hard of us to be evicted because were are observing fasting," Leguaman said.

"As we were heading to our sitio to check on our valuables and soon to be harvested crops, we were fired upon by our brothers in the MILF," Leguaman said.

“MILF forces attacked the village where unarmed MNLF members were to harvest farm products,” Ambel added.

According to Melecio Openaldo, barangay chairperson of Manubuan, the displaced families refused to return home no matter how local officials would explain to them that fighting had stopped.

“They are in a difficult situation at an evacuation center in nearby Barangay Amas, Kidapawan City and refused to return home until normalcy resumes,” he said.

Portions of the highway between Matalam and Kidapawan City has been cleared with soldiers providing highway security.

Blast in Cagayan de Oro kills 8

From Rappler (Jul 27): Blast in Cagayan de Oro kills 8

CDO EXPLOSION. At least 6 were killed and 37 injured after a homemade bomb exploded in Cagayan de Oro City. Photo EPA/Bobby Lagsa

CDO EXPLOSION. At least 6 were killed and 37 injured after a homemade bomb exploded in Cagayan de Oro City. Photo EPA/Bobby Lagsa

Cagayan De Oro City was rocked by an explosion late Friday night, at around 11:10 pm, July 26. It killed at least 8 and injured 48 others, police, local officials, and a physicians' group said Saturday.

Earlier reports listed 6 casualties, but Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) vice president Dr Tony Leachon said in a text message quoting president Dr Precy Caguiao that the number of fatalities had risen to 8, "including 3 doctors."

The explosion occurred between Candy's Café and Kyla's Bistro at the Rosario Arcade, a strip of al fresco restaurants at the Limketkai Center.

Most of the victims were doctors and pharmaceutical salesmen who had just attended a national convention of lung-disease specialists at the nearby the Grand Caprice hotel, also at the Limketkai center, said the city police chief, Senior Supt Graciano Mijares.
This was confirmed by the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP), which is under the PCP, in a July 27 12 noon report.
Three of the victims died on the site, while the others died in hospitals.

Three of the casualties – Emmanuel Falafox from Davao, Anthony Canete, and Ryan Estoese – were connected with Sandoz Pharma Phil Corp.

The military's 4th Infantry Division identified Misamis Oriental Provincial Board member Roldan Lagbas as one of the casualties.

Two more victims were pronounced dead at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center and the Cagayan de Oro Medical Center, respectively.
Another casualty, a physician, died at the Capitol University Medical Center (CUMC).
Injured victims were brought to the Polymedic Velez Hospital, Polymedic Plaza Hospital, and the CUMC.

"This is one of the busiest areas of Cagayan de Oro.... Somebody left a bomb on a chair at the bistro," Mijares told reporters.
An improvised explosive device (IED) was placed on a black monoblock chair and concealed in a black bag, police investigators said.
Mijares declined to speculate on the motive for the bombing, saying an investigation was under way. No angle or motive has been determined.
Cagayan de Oro is located on the main southern island of Mindanao, which has been blighted by a decades-old rebellion by elements of the large Muslim minority.
Witnesses described horrific scenes, with the top of the head of one victim blown off and the torso of another hanging limply on a chair as police sifted through the debris for evidence.
There have been various incidents of bomb threats in the region in the past but these were rare in Cagayan de Oro.
CDO EXPLOSION. At least 8 are killed and 48 are injured after a homemade bomb explodes in Cagayan de Oro City. Photo EPA/Bobby Lagsa
CDO EXPLOSION. At least 8 are killed and 48 are injured after a homemade bomb explodes in Cagayan de Oro City. Photo EPA/Bobby Lagsa
48 wounded, investigation ongoing
Local businessman Noel Arcenas, who owns an electronics shop at the shopping complex where the restaurant is located, said at least 100 people were inside the popular establishment when the explosion occurred.
"I felt then heard the blast," said Arcenas, who added he was standing about 15 meters (49 feet) away.
"I looked around and saw this ball of white smoke. People were running away bloodied and survivors were dragging at least 7 or 8 people away from the blast site."
The powerful explosion broke glass panels, upturned tables and chairs, and damaged cars parked up to 30 meters away, reporters at the scene said.
Investigators collected metal fragments and a piece of a 9-volt battery. A sketch of a suspect has been made based on descriptions by witnesses.
The police have recovered all evidence and kept them in custody. A hot pursuit operation is being conducted, as suspects have been identified through CCTV video footage.
Local Government Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II flew to Cagayan de Oro but was irked when he saw the crime scene all cleaned up. Roxas pointed out that the crime scene where the Ozamis gang leaders were killed has not been cleaned up to this day.
'Hard to speculate'
Malacañang condemned the attack.
"We deplore this act of violence at this meeting of professionals, the Philippine College of Physicians, whose mission in life is to bring about healing," Aquino spokesman Herminio Coloma told reporters in Manila.
"We will have to look into the matter and ensure there will be no future breaches of security."
In a statement, Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon called the blast an "act of inhumanity" in "one of the most progressive and competitive cities in the country."
A volunteer for Gordon's 2013 senatorial campaign was also among the casualties.
"We strongly condemn the assault to civil society with collateral damage to PCCP (Philippine College of Chest Physicians) and strongly appeal for the Government to investigate and to set guidelines for these unfortunate events to be avoided in the future," the physicians' group said.
"The Department of Health, through Secretary Enrique Ona, and the Board of the Philippine College of Physicians are extending support and medical assistance to the victims. We call for sobriety and pray for peace for our country. Thank you," it said.
Cagayan de Oro mayor Oscar Moreno said 2 people were still in critical condition at around noon Saturday. Four blast victims were still in the hospital but in a stable condition.
"Doctors have been attending to them and we hope their situation will stabilize soon," Moreno said.
Asked who he thought was responsible for the attack, he said: "It's hard to speculate at this time."
A Special Investigation Task Group was created to handle the case. Checkpoints have been set up in nearby provinces as well.

Bomb kills 6, wounds 28 in CDO’s LimKetKai’s arcade

From MindaNews (Jul 27): Bomb kills 6, wounds 28 in CDO’s LimKetKai’s arcade

A bomb explosion ripped through a row of upscale restaurants at the LimKetKai Rosario arcade, a popular bar strip here, killing six persons and injuring 28 others on Friday night, officials said.

Among those who died was Misamis Oriental provincial board member Roldan Lagbas, 44, a first termer who won his seat under the Padayon Pilipino banner in the last May elections.

The rest of the fatalities were medical representatives and guests of pharmaceutical firm Novartis Sandoz who were here to attend the national midyear convention of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians at the Grand Caprice Restaurant at the LimKetKai compound.

Senior Supt. Graciano Mijares, city police chief, identified the fatalities as Emmanuel Falafox, the company district manager and a resident of Zamboanga City; Antony Cañete, a resident of Iligan City; Ryan Estose, a resident of Mega Heights in Barangay Gusa, this city; and Antonio Paredes, also a resident of this city.

Mijares said a guest of the medical representatives, Dr. Erwin Malanay, also died.
Police said the bomb believed to be an improvised explosive device or (IED) exploded around 11:10 p.m., sending shrapnel ripping through the two adjoining restaurants, Candy’s and Big Flat Bread.

Mijares said the explosive was placed on the table of medical representatives who were partying at Kyla’s restobar after sessions of the PCCP convention for the day ended.

(The PCCP decided to abruptly end the convention, supposed to end this evening, sources say.) The explosion killed three of the medical representatives on the spot.

He said 28 persons were wounded and rushed to various hospitals in Cagayan de Oro.
Mijares said Lagbas, who was sitting at a table at Candy’s only five meters away, was hit by shrapnel.

Misamis Oriental Vice Governor Jose Marie “Joey” Pelaez said Lagbas was hit at the back of his head and died an hour later at the Cagayan de Oro Medical Center.

The police’s Scene-of-the-Crime (SOCO) investigators found shrapnel as far as 50 meters away. A shrapnel was found lodged at the Pancake House, more than 36 meters away across the street from the blast site.

Leoncio Co, a senior manager of the LimKetKai group of companies, said he was entertaining a guest at the Big Flat Bread when the bomb exploded.

Co said the three restaurants – Kyla’s, Candy’s and Big Flat Bread – were full of people partying because it was a Friday night. He estimated there were at least 300 people sitting in the open spaces outside the restaurants.

“It sounded like an explosion of an electric transformer but I can feel the shockwave passing through my ears. My back was turned towards Kyla’s at that time,” Co narrated.

Co said he knew immediately that a bomb exploded behind him as he and his guest were drinking beer.

“I remembered asking my guest if he was hit and I stood up, touching my body with my hands to see if I was hit,” Co said.

When he looked around, Co said there was already pandemonium as guests, many of them bloodied, ran to get away from the blast site.

Co said he immediately called the security guards of the shopping mall and organized them to bring the wounded to the hospital.

Mijares said they could not yet determine the motive of the bombing nor the type of explosive device.

Japan says ties with PH important, confirms plan to provide loan-funded 10 patrol vessels

From InterAksyon (Jul 27): Japan says ties with PH important, confirms plan to provide loan-funded 10 patrol vessels

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Benigno Aquino III shake hands as they hold bilateral talks Saturday morning in Malacanang. Among others, Tokyo confirmed its readiness to provide Manila with yen loan-funded 10 coast guard ships to boost its maritime capacity, as the two allies discussed a common concern: China's muscle-flexing in Asian waters. MALACANANG PHOTO BUREAU

Visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unveiled a plan at a meeting Saturday with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to provide Manila with 10 coast guard patrol ships through a yen loan to help it counter an increasingly assertive China.

In a bid to help achieve peace on Mindanao, where the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group is in conflict with the government, Abe also spelled out a new package of official development assistance aimed at building schools and clinics, and developing personnel for an autonomous political entity to be established.

"Relations between Japan and the Philippines are rooted in their long-term friendly history and exchanges," Abe told a joint news conference with Aquino after their summit in Manila, pledging to further strengthen bilateral ties through new Japanese assistance.

The Japanese government is placing more importance on its relationship with the Philippines, and is committed to boost its maritime security and capabilities, Mr. Abe stressed.
As both countries share the common problem of dealing with China’s muscle-flexing in the South and East China Seas, Tokyo now has a very strong interest in its relationship with Manila, the Japanese Prime Minister said on Saturday. 
Abe met with President Aquino on Saturday morning at Malacanang Palace to discuss four areas of cooperation including the plan to boost maritime cooperation.
After a closed-door bilateral meeting which took less than an hour, Mr. Aquino said in his statement that both countries have “pledged to cooperate in advancing a common advocacy for responsible action from international players” by “upholding the rule of law”.
Common advocacy: responsible action amid sea rows
Aquino added, "The Prime Minister and I agreed to strengthen maritime cooperation, which is a pillar of our strategic relationship."
The President added: “We reviewed the security challenges that confront our nations, and pledged to cooperate in advancing our common advocacy for responsible action from international players. We believe that can be done by upholding the rule of law in international affairs, and by finding just and peaceful solutions to our territorial disputes and maritime concerns—so that we may create a secure and stable environment that leads to our collective progress.” 
For his part, Abe conveyed Tokyo's commitment to continue to assist the Philippines in capacity building.
Abe’s two-day visit came as tensions rose between China and Japan after Chinese vessels were for the first time seen intruding into Japanese waters in the disputed area of the East China Sea, where they are both claiming a chain of islands that Japan calls Senkakus and China, Diaoyus. The report from Japan came just two days after Beijing unveiled its integrated coast guard that combines the assets and functions of four services, resulting in more ships being armed, and ready to conduct more maritime patrols. 
The Philippines also has an ongoing territorial dispute with China which it says continues to intrude in its waters, even harvesting natural resources. 
However, the Philippines has very little capability to protect its maritime territory.
10 patrol vessels from Japan
“The Philippine Coast Guard and I have announced that we will provide ten patrol vessels by Yen loan,” Abe confirmed, although he did not specify when the 10 multirole response vessels will be turned over to Manila.
On Friday, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said that the loan request of the Philippines is still “under consideration”.
No intimidation
Japan also vowed there will be no intimidation in resolving the territorial dispute with China.
From the conversation he had with US Vice President Joe Biden, Abe said both of them agreed that the right tack is to continue to “contribute peace in the region”.
Resolving the matter is not through “intimidation but by rule of law,” Abe said. 
Aside from strengthening maritime cooperation, Japan and the Philippines agreed to develop both their economies’ vitality, strengthen assistance for the Mindanao peace process, and strongly promote people-to-people exchange.
“I continue to place high expectations on the President to arrive at a decision to adopt the Japanese system for Digital Terrestrial Television, and we agreed to promote cooperation in terms of transportation infrastructure in Metro Manila,” he said.
Aquino said he welcomed the technical assistance provided by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in developing a Transport Roadmap Study for Metro Manila and its Surrounding Areas.
On the Mindanao peace process, Abe said both Japan and the Philippines have created a very accurate and leading-edge topographical mapping of Mindanao.
Both countries have agreed to promote tourism in addition to the relaxation of visa requirements starting July, by, among others, expanding the Civil Aviation relationship between Japan and the Philippines by increasing the number of scheduled flights.
Meanwhile, Aquino said he looks forward to the commemorative summit in Tokyo this December, the 40th year of friendship between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Japan.
"The relationship between Japan and ASEAN serves as a cornerstone of harmony and dialogue in our part of the world," he said.
Abe visited Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines to boost cooperation with its neighbours and monitor China’s actions beyond the East China Sea, whose territories are both being claimed by Beijing and Tokyo.
“With my visit to Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, I intend to receive the strategic diplomacy not only to Japan’s national interest but also regional and global peace and prosperity,” Abe said in his opening statement during a press conference on Saturday.
He sees that the Association of the Southeast Asian Nation is an important “partner for stability and prosperity of Asia Pacific region to which attached priority from vast perspective of economic growth and security”.
“All three leaders that I met during my visit indicated stronger expectation for the Japanese economy to revitalize, embracing the vitality of Asia and for Japan to play a more active role within this region,” he said.
“We agreed to strengthen wide ranging cooperation with the countries with whom we share fundamental values such as the rule of law and human rights,” he added.

7 dead, 41 hurt in Cagayan de Oro blast

From InterAksyon (Jul 27): 7 dead, 41 hurt in Cagayan de Oro blast

Seven persons, including a provincial board member of Misamis Oriental and a doctor, were killed and 41 others wounded in an explosion outside a bar in Cagayan de Oro City late Friday night.

The blast, which happened around 11:30 p.m., ripped through the crowd outside Kyla's Bistro at Rosario Arcade, within the compound of Limketkai mall, killing Provincial Board member Rolden Lagbas, Dr. Erwin Malanay, a product manager of Boehringer Ingelheim Philippines, Anthony Cañete, 35, Ryan Palapac, 34, Emmanuel Palapac,34, and Antonio Paredez, 44, all representatives of drug firms.

Late Saturday morning, another medical company representative, Reynaldo Daupan of UAP Unilab, became the seventh fatality.

Many of the wounded were also representatives of pharmaceutical companies.

The Philippine Medical Association condemned the “dastardly act of violence against our people,” which it said happened as more than a thousand members of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians and the Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, gathered in Cagayan de Oro for their conventions.

The bar where the blast happened was the venue for a fellowship night to kick of the conventions.

Following is a list of the injured provided by various sources.

Polymedic Medical Plaza
  1. Marciano Agustine
  2. Camile Manuta, 23
  3. Jasmine Faith Lagora,17
  4. Tristan Jay Ambe, 31
  5. Fredelyn Plurog, 23
  6. Jandre Aguilar
  7. Ritchie Fernandez
  8. Lemuel William Lee
  9. MaryLyn Maglicayan
  10. Michelle Mangaline
  11. Dr. Bautista, Rainvel
Cagayan de Oro Medical Center
  1. Coz Julito, outpatient
  2. Raymond Escover
  3. Cherry Escover, outpatient
  4. Jesse Evangelio, outpatient 
  5. Anna Lucio 
  6. Albana, Ailka 
  7. Karen Francis Mazon 
  8. Maria Cresilda Tan
  9. Noel Villegas
  10. Melgasar Balasi
  11. Gina Remson
  12. Felipe Micayabas
  13. Alma Agdo
  14. Rodelio Robles
Capitol University Medical Center
  1. Serafin Kho
  2. Guilbert Espiritu
  3. Juvine Dinggal
  4. Seragan Jaboc
  5. Jenifer Cuizon
  6. Joey Guita
  7. Rowelyn Bacsarza
  8. Pheny Egango
 Northern Mindanao Medical Center
  1. Lilibeth Paredez 43
  2. G.J. Kahoy, 23
  3. Marne Tamayo, 24
  4. Security guard Dante Aguinaldo, 35
  5. Security guard Regie Butok, 20
  6. Clint Dacer, 30
  7. Maria Alcordo, 43
  8. Maricel Acosta, 43
The SunStar network said Lagbas, 44, comes from a prominent political family and had just begun serving his first term of office. One brother is also a provincial board member while another is mayor of Kinoguitan town.

Chief Superintendent Catalino Rodriguez, Northern Mindanao regional police director, said witnesses saw a man enter the bar with a backpack, which he left on a chair by the entrance when he left a few minutes later.

The explosion happened two minutes later.

Local businessman Noel Arcenas, who owns an electronics shop at the shopping complex where the restaurant is located, said at least 100 people were inside the bar when the explosion occurred.

"I felt then heard the blast," said Arcenas, who added he was standing about 15 meters away.

"I looked around and saw this ball of white smoke. People were running away bloodied and survivors were dragging at least seven or eight people away from the blast site."

The powerful explosion broke glass panels, upturned tables and chairs, and damaged cars parked up to 30 meters away, reporters at the scene said.

Investigators have still to determine the type of explosive used in the attack.

Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno told ABS-CBN television network that at least two of the wounded were in critical condition.

"Doctors have been attending to them and we hope their situation will stabilise soon," Moreno told the station.

Asked who he thought was responsible for the attack, he said: "It's hard to speculate at this time."

Police have been placed on full alert and the region sealed off to prevent the suspects from fleeing.

PMA president Dr. Leo Olarte, in a statement, said many members of the Philippine Dental Association were also in the city for another activity.

He urged authorities, particularly Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, to “decisively act” on the incident and warned that the World Medical Association is now having second thoughts on holding its convention in the country, scheduled before the end of the year.

“Our colleagues from the World Medical Association are asking us if it is still safe to send their members to the Philippines,” Olarte said.

Peace advisers warn public vs false text messages creating tension with Moro rebels

From InterAksyon (Jul 27): Peace advisers warn public vs false text messages creating tension with Moro rebels

Government peace advisers Saturday warned the public against malicious text messages peddling lies about a supposed plan by Moro rebels to declare independence to protest government’s supposed move to completely scuttle the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front.

Undersecretary Jose Lorena of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said such false messages are apparently meant to sow fear and derail the peace situation in Mindanao, where the government this month finished a sticky annex on wealth sharing and revenue generation with the bigger rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Lorena appealed to people not to impulsively forward text messages. “We urge the public to be critical against false information. We also call for sobriety as our government, both national and local, are carefully handling the peace and security in Mindanao."

He added, "It is best to seek out information from reliable sources and understand the context before making conclusions. We rely on the public to guard the process."

According to the text messages, certain factions of the MNLF are convening shortly to declare independence and to protest the perceived move by the government to close its doors to the1996 Final Peace Agreement as it forges a new comprehensive agreement with the MILF.

Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco, in a text advisory through the Philippine Information Agency’s Region IX office, advised her constituents “to be careful in forwarding text messages from unverified sources as some unscrupulous individuals are circulating false information to cause undue alarm to the general public.”

Climaco said the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the local government are exerting all efforts to maintain normalcy, peace, and security in the city. “No curfew has been imposed. Classes remain normal in all levels in the City.”

In a statement on Friday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles clarified the status of the Tripartite Implementation Review of the GPH-MNLF 1996 Final Peace Agreement. While the government’s position is that “it was time to bring the tripartite review process to a proper completion,” the “government will continue to engage relevant parties of the MNLF, through the existing mechanism, to find a just and comprehensive political solution for the issue of the Southern Philippines,” explained Deles.

The tripartite review, a joint review process, has been going on for six years, and “had already established consensus points and some joint mechanisms and actions particularly between MNLF representatives and the ARMM regional government,” she said.

Deles stressed that “from the start, what the GPH proposed to complete was the review process, not the closure of the peace process nor the abrogation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement,” she emphasized.

The Philippines government had been talking to the MNLF since 2007 on the review of the implementation of the 1996 FPA forged between the MNLF and the Ramos government. The tripartite review was deemed necessary in order to address concern that the government’s subsequent negotiations with the MILF, after the MNLF rebels were reintegrated into the mainstream, might have the effect of nullifying some of the key agreements with the MNLF.

The review is not a peace negotiation, and is being facilitated by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, specifically its Peace Committee for the Southern Philippines (OIC-PCSP headed by Indonesia, which helped the Ramos government forge the FPA in 1996.  The current negotiations with the MILF are mainly brokered by Malaysia.

As facilitator to the 1996 FPA review process, Indonesia through Minister for Foreign Affairs Marty Natalegawa had advised the GPH to exercise patience despite occasional provocation, as he reiterated Indonesia's continuing support for the Mindanao peace process.