Thursday, August 1, 2013

AFP says ransom paid for Mindanao professor

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 31): AFP says ransom paid for Mindanao professor

Western Mindanao State University instructor Alrashid Rojas, who was kidnapped here on June 22, was freed in Jolo, Sulu province, on Wednesday.

Colonel Andrelino Colina, head of Task Force Zamboanga, said the victim’s family allegedly paid ransom.

Colina said they were still trying to determine how Rojas was released in Sulu.

“But we have identified some suspects in his abduction. It’s a kidnap for ransom group with links in Talipao town,” Colina said.

He said Rojas’ captors belonged to the same group that kidnapped Flordeliza Ongchua and Eddie Fabella in the west coast of this city.

On Nov. 13, 2012, armed men stormed the house of school teacher Ongchua in Labuan village in this city. She was freed more than a month later in Barangay (village) Sto Nino in Jolo.

Fabella, a businessman, was kidnapped in Maasin village here on Jan. 11. He was freed at the Jolo port on Feb. 22.

Sulu militants behind rumours of unrest in Sabah - Hamza Taib

From the New Straits Times (Aug 1): Sulu militants behind rumours of unrest in Sabah - Hamza Taib
KOTA KINABALU: Sulu terrorists could be responsible for spreading rumours of potential threats and unrest in Sabah in their bid to taunt the Malaysian security forces.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said this was how the bandits engage others in their psychological warfare.
"Look at Agbimuddin (Kiram) who led the intrusion into Lahad Datu on Feb 12. He has yet to surface anywhere but we believe he is hiding in the Philippines although there are so many rumours of his whereabouts.
"I believe he is in hiding because he fears there might be people who are not happy with him, even in his own country," Hamza said after the State Security Council meeting, the first this year, chaired by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.
Hamza said the police was investigating a leak involving a letter distributed by the General Operations Force on the information they received about 80 people entering Sabah via Sandakan from southern Philippines, which was distributed via the social media.
 "This was an information we received and distributed so that others in the police force could verify whether the information was true. "
"So far there have been no such intrusions but this is our responsibility. Whatever information we get, we verify to make sure Sabah is safe from such threats."

Persistent rumours of second Sulu ‘invasion’

From the  Free Malaysia Times (Aug 2): Persistent rumours of second Sulu ‘invasion’

KOTA KINABALU: The security forces are placed on the alert following rumours of a second wave of intrusion by Sulu armed terrorists in Sabah, said Chief Minister Musa Aman.

He said the security forces were closely monitoring the rumours and would not treat such misinformation lightly.

“The police and the armed forces are investigating the sources of the rumours, who have evil intent on their minds, to ensure that Sabah’s security is rest assured,” he told reporters after chairing the state security committee meting here yesterday.

Musa said the security situation in Sabah was under control with the crime index recorded a significant drop due to ongoing efforts by the security forces and the cooperation the people.

“There were no untoward incidents that could affect Sabah’s security despite information and rumours of a second wave of Sulu armed terrorists intrusion,” he said.

Rumours were rife Sulu armed terrorists were planning to launch a second intrusion during Aidilfitri (Aug 8) or on the eve of the independence (Aug 30) to avenge their failed mission in Lahad Datu and Semporna that started in February.

Calling on the people and tourists not to be hoodwinked by the rumours, Musa said they should place their trust on the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), which was set up on April 1, to safeguard the security situation.

He urged public to continue to be the ‘ears and eyes’ for the security forces and provide any information on suspicious activities or characters in their areas.

Sabah police chief Hamza Taib, who was present at the meeting, dismissed the rumours as a psychological warfare by Sulu terrorists out to create fear among the people.

He said although there was no truth in the rumours, the General Operations Force and security posts were put on alert as “we are not taking the matter lightly.”

Also present were State Secretary Sukarti Wakiman, Sabah Federal Secretary Abu Bakar Hassan and Esscom director-general Mohamad Mantek.

AFP: 94 rebels surrendered, killed and arrested last month

From the Philippine Star (Aug 1): AFP: 94 rebels surrendered, killed and arrested last month

A total of 94 communist rebels surrendered, were killed or arrested last month, the military claimed Thursday.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), however, also suffered with 29 soldiers killed and wounded in the same period.

AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said 29 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed in combat operations while 12 others were captured in July.

He added that 56 rebels abandoned the armed struggle in the same period.

“However, the AFP also incurred losses in the month of July, with six soldiers killed and 23 wounded in armed engagements with the NPA,” Zagala said.

Among those who were killed and apprehended last month were rebel leaders in Davao del Sur, Sorsogon and Tarlac.

They include Loida Magpatoc, an NPA regional committee secretary, who was nabbed by security forces in Digos City in Davao del Sur last week. The military said
Magpatoc was arrested by virtue of a warrant issued by a regional court for robbery with double homicide and damage to properties.

Also included in the NPA fatalities last month were the eight rebels slain in a clash with Army troops in Juban, Sorsogon. Among those killed in the Sorsogon encounter was Greg Banares, the spokesman of the NPA in Bicol region.

Six rebels were also killed in a clash with the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion in Camiling, Tarlac last Tuesday.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. claimed the operations against the NPA "were undertaken with a keen respect for human rights.”

Military data for the first half showed that the strength of the communist movement has not been reduced significantly over the last three years.

The AFP said the insurgents’ strength stood at 4,070 as of end-June. A check at previous military reports revealed that the rebellion’s strength is about 4,000 since 2010.

Security officials claimed the rebels had taken advantage of the impact of typhoon “Pablo” to bolster their recruitment efforts.

The military has vowed to curb insurgency by 2016 so it could focus on defending the country’s territory.

Philippines’ army base transfer plan sparks China ire

From the Oman Tribune (Aug 2): Philippines’ army base transfer plan sparks China ire

MANILA/BEIJING China has assailed the plan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to transfer its air and naval bases to a former American military installation in Zambales province in Central Luzon, warning the move would allow the entry of outside forces and thus, worsen regional tension.

“If all related parties resort to military means as Manila has for a resolution, the region will surely become a powder keg,” said deputy director of the Centre for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Li Guojiang in a statement published by the state-owned China Daily. Li was reacting to the AFP plan to transfer its air and naval bases to Subic Bay in Zambales, a former US naval installation which has been converted into a freeport by the government.

In his statement, Li also said the move violated the spirit of the code of conduct on the South China Sea adopted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and warned it would increase the risk of conflict in the region. On Saturday, Peter Paul Galvez, the spokesman of the Department of National Defence, confirmed the transfer plan, saying it was already being discussed by senior defence and military officials.

Galvez explained the transfer aimed to strengthen the country’s defences against territorial incursions by China as exemplified by the unresolved dispute between the two countries on the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

Galvez pointed out that Subic is located only about 124 nautical miles from Scarborough Shoal known as Panatag to the Filipinos and Huangyan island to the Chinese. But more than that, the transfer to Subic would be much cheaper because of its existing resources like deep water ports, an airport, runways and similar facilities instead of building a new military base like the Sangley Point naval station in Cavite province in Southern Luzon, Galvez pointed out. Earlier, Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin confirmed the transfer plan which militant groups claimed would skirt the constitutional ban on the establishment of foreign military bases and allow the entry of foreign forces like those from the US.

But under a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries, American soldiers are allowed “rotational entry” into the Philippines like the conduct of military exercises or war games with their Filipino counterparts.

The same agreement also allows the visit of US warships and warplanes to  Subic for refueling and maintenance and whose increase has significantly increased since the Philippine-China dispute in the South China Sea.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, told his politburo on Wednesday the country wanted to resolve its maritime territorial disputes peacefully and through talks, but would not compromise on sovereignty and had to step up its defensive capabilities. 

Territorial claims by Japan and China over the uninhabited islets and resource-rich waters in the East China Sea, as well as China’s claims over the South China Sea, rank as some of Asia’s biggest security risks. 

At a meeting with members of the ruling Communist Party’s inner elite, Xi said China would adhere to the path of peaceful development, but “in no way will the country abandon its legitimate rights and interests, nor will it give up its core national interests”, state media reported. 

China will “use peaceful means and negotiations to settle disputes and strive to safeguard peace and stability”, Xi was quoted as saying, without naming any countries. His comments were the most high-level remarks on the subject in weeks.

DFA: PHL accepts nomination of new US Ambassador to PHL

From GMA News (Aug 1): DFA: PHL accepts nomination of new US Ambassador to PHL

The Philippines has accepted the nomination of Philip S. Goldberg as the new US ambassador to the country despite his 2008 expulsion from Bolivia for allegedly fomenting civil unrest.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Manila has already granted Goldberg an agrément, or a letter of approval of a diplomatic representative by a state to which he is to be accredited.

In 2008, Goldberg, a seasoned career diplomat, was declared persona non grata for "conspiring against democracy and seeking the division of Bolivia" where he was serving as an envoy.
He was ordered home by Bolivian President Morales after he accused the American of "fomenting the civil unrest that threatens not only the country's first indigenous Indian president, Evo Morales, but the unity of the nation itself," the Daily Telegraph said in a report. The US denied Bolivia's claims, calling them "baseless."
Asked to comment on Goldberg’s background, Del Rosario said: “I don’t want to comment on that. I don’t know the circumstances.”
Despite the Goldberg’s record in Bolivia, Del Rosario said the Philippine government believes “he will be a good ambassador.”
Once his nomination is confirmed by the US Senate, Goldberg will replace Harry Thomas Jr. who ends his three-year tour of duty this year.

Warm relationship

Meanwhile, in Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the government expects to retain its "warm" relationship with the US with Goldberg's appointment.

"We have a very good and warm relationship with the US under Ambassador Harry Thomas. We would also expect a warm relationship with the US under the Ambassador designate Goldberg," Lacierda said at a press briefing Thursday.

Lacierda, however, refused to comment on Goldberg's expulsion from Bolivia for allegedly causing unrest there.

Asked if the country should treat Goldberg's deployment here negatively, he said they have yet to discuss it.

"It will be subject to confirmation before the US Senate, so we don’t know yet how soon he will come here," Lacierda said.

MILF: BDA-Central Mindanao hosts Ramadhan Forum for the Moro youth

From the MILF Website (Aug 1): BDA-Central Mindanao hosts Ramadhan Forum for the Moro youth

The Bangsamoro Development Agency-Central Mindanao (BDA-CenMin) Regional Management Office hosted a Ramadhan Forum on July 27, 2013 held at the Conference Hall of DepEd City Division Office, Cotabato City which was attended by close to one hundred Moro youth.
The forum participants, high school and college students from the towns of Central Mindanao are beneficiaries of the Youth Development Program (YDP), a component program of the BDA.

Led by their respective regional managers, the regional staff of BDA from other regional offices joined in the activity.

Grand Mufti Abdurahman Udasan delivered a lecture on “Why we need religion.”

BDA-CenMin Regional Manager (RM) Ustadz Hashim Manticayan, said the activity was aimed to impart knowledge to the Moro youth the significance of fasting during this holy month. The participants further learned the physical and spiritual benefits of fasting.

Five BDA Regional Managers also imparted knowledge to the participants.

Tony Sakalahol, RM of Zamboanga City-Basilan RMO, stressed there is a need to strengthen unity and cooperation among the Moro youth and other sectors in Muslim communities to help realize the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.

“How can we attain our goal for a progressive and peaceful homeland if our values or attitudes are dis-aligned,” he asked. Sakalahol said the Moro youth should also do their role towards the achievement of peace and prosperity of the Bangsamoro people.

RM Mohamaddun Taug of Zamboanga Peninsula outlined the “don’ts” while fasting which are the following: anger, lying, backbiting, teasing, boasting, being suspicious, watching haram (forbidden), listening to Haram, insulting, backbiting, cheating, and oppressing or being a traitor.

Mohalikin D. Piang, RM of Southern Mindanao, urged the Moro youth to develop oneself first before helping develop his community.

He cited the message from the Holy Qur’an which states that “the Almighty will not change the condition of the people unless they change what is in themselves.”

Piang said that the reason why mankind and Jinn (unseen beings) were created by Allahu ta Ala but to worship Him as stated in the Holy Qur’an.

RM Mohamad Aragasi from Lanao Region told the participants to love his fellow Muslims and devote more time to pray and make du’a during Ramadhan. “Paradise is open during Ramadhan and this month is better than a thousand months,” he added.

The Regional Manager of Davao Region, Aleem Lucman Tandalong, warned the Moro youth not to be tied up much with social media like facebook, but must also give time on reading and understanding the Holy Qur’an which was sent as guidance to mankind.

YDP is a comprehensive educational program geared to develop the Moro youth which has activities that include Values Transformation Training, Islamic symposium, and capacity-building trainings.
The participants expressed gratitude to the managers for the knowledge and inspiration imparted to them.

Fasting during Ramadhan is one of the pillars Islam. A fasting Muslim is forbidden to eat, drink or engage in carnal act from dawn till sunset. Muslims are encouraged to devote more time to pray, repent, reflect and give charity during Ramadhan.

BDA was institutionalized in 2002 as an agency that has a mandate to determine, lead and manage relief, rehabilitation and development of conflict affected areas of Mindanao as agreed upon by the Government of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front during its peace talks.

The agency has been engaged with various development partners in the delivery of basic services and development projects towards the socio-economic empowerment of target communities.

Army soldiers promotes “bayanihan” to remote villages

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 30): Army soldiers promotes “bayanihan” to remote villages

CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, UPI, Gamu, Isabela -- Soldiers of the 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army through the civil military operations battalion is promoting bayanihan in the remote places in its area of operations to win peace.

86th Infantry Battalion- civil military operations officer Captain Roderick Pani-agua said his team is closely coordinating with the 5th Infantry Division’s civil military operations (CMOs) battalion in rendering services to remote places and in bringing social and infrastructure services to the people.

Pani-agua said the spirit of bayanihan especially in rendering services and in building schools and other infrastructure projects in the remote villages aim to bring development so that the people which are underserved due to its distance to government centers will benefit from the programs, projects and services from the government.

He said the CMOs are encouraging the people to help in the construction of schools and concreting of roads and other infrastructure projects that are brought in their places.

Pani-agua said the people are receptive to the development programs and projects that are brought in their respective places and very much willing to cooperate in such development undertakings.

The “Bayanihan” is a project initiative of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Emmanuel Bautista aimed at encouraging the people to join in the development efforts of the government especially in far flung areas and as a measure to end insurgency problems in the country.

It was Bautista who crafted Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan, the military’s blueprint in winning the peace in the countryside, when he was deputy chief of staff for operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The IPSP Bayanihan was unveiled by President Benigno Aquino III during the celebration of the military’s foundation anniversary in December 2010. The campaign plan was implemented by government troops on Jan. 1, 2011.

Army reservists hold outreach mission for Toledo residents

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 31): Army reservists hold outreach mission for Toledo residents

A TOTAL of 820 residents were able to avail of the free services offered during the medical and civic action mission spearheaded by army reservists from the 1901st Ready Reserve Infantry Brigade and 5th Technical and Administrative Service Brigade (Reserve) led by Lt. Col. Guy Gabison III and Capt. Margarita Yu last Sunday at the Ibo Elementary School in barangay Ibo, Toledo City, Cebu.

The residents, composed of adults and children, benefited from a wide range of services offered during the activity from medical check-ups and free medicines to tooth extraction, storybook reading and games, legal and notarial services, alternative livelihood seminar including massage training feeding and haircut.

Major sponsor Vicsal Development Corp. provided the logistical support, medicines and meals for the feeding program.

The activity is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Internal Peace and Security Plan call "Bayanihan."

BIFF attacks also hurt children's education in Maguindanao towns

From the Philippine Star (Jul 31): BIFF attacks also hurt children's education in Maguindanao towns 

The recurring attacks of the  Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters  have affected the education  of Moro children in areas they harass.

Officials said Wednesday that 1,698 grade school pupils and high school students were forced to stay home owing  Tuesday’s hostilities between the bandits and government forces in Guindulungan town alone.

Seven schools in Datu Piang, also in the second district of Maguindanao, have also been shut down as a consequence of Tuesday’s harassments by bandits of a roadside Army detachment in the area, while another group ambushed a fuel tanker and a hauler truck along the Cotabato-Gen. Santos Highway in Bagan District in Guindulungan.

Due to attacks by the BIFF, the school year 2012 in  these Maguindanao towns has fallen short of 49 days, prompting education authorities to look for measures to remedy the situation.

Classes in Guindulungan and the strife-torn barangays in Datu Saudi, Datu Unsay and Datu Piang are still suspended until Wednesday and education officials are reluctant to reopen the schools without any clearance from local government units and the military.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu has condemned the BIFF’s continuing attacks, perpetrated amid the  observance of the Ramadan, which will to culminate either on August 9 or 10.

Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during the Ramadan, which lasts for about 28 to 29 days, as a religious obligation and a  way to strengthen spiritual perfection through discipline and self-restraint.

The BIFF perpetrated 32 attacks in Maguindanao during the Ramadan in 2012, causing the dislocation of more than 30,000 ethnic Maguindanaon villagers.

“These children are supposed to study in their schools in a peaceful atmosphere, Education is very essential to our efforts of making the province become progressive and peaceful,” Mangudadatu said in an emailed statement.

A member of the provincial board, Bobby Katambak, said they are now deliberating on the need to declare Maguindanao under state of calamity, as requested by the governor.

Katambak said the governor and the presiding chairman of the provincial board, Vice-Gov. Lester Sinsuat,  are also planning to initiate measures to prevent an escalation of hostilities in the conflict-stricken Maguindanao towns.

NPA rebel surrenders in Cagayan

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): NPA rebel surrenders in Cagayan
A member of the New People's Army (NPA) in Cagayan, tired of the incessant fighting and fleeing, surrendered to authorities Wednesday morning.

Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Senior Supt.Reuben Theodore Sindac identified the surrenderee as Oliver Duerme, 18 a resident of Sitio Balatubat, Barangay Camiguin Island in Calayan, Cagayan

The former surrendered to Vice Mayor Rommel Almeda of Aparri, Cagayan Wednesday morning.

He also gave up a 9-mm firearm without any bolt and magazine.

Sindac said Duerme is the second NPA member who surrendered in Cagayan this year.

Duerme, who joined the underground movement sometime in 2008, was operating at the 2nd district of Cagayan.

The former is now under the custody of the Aparri Police.

DND earmarks P814M to buy 2 light lift fixed wing aircraft

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): DND earmarks P814M to buy 2 light lift fixed wing aircraft
In line with its efforts to upgrade the defensive capabilities of the Philippine military, the Department of National Defense (DND) announced that it is allocating P814 million to acquire two light lift fixed wing aircraft.

Undersecretary Fernando Manalo, of the DND special bids and awards committee, said that the aircraft must be able to operate in any environment and capable of providing "organic general support for territorial defense, internal peace and security plan, internal security operations, disaster response and national development."

The funds that will be use to acquire these planes will be sourced from General Appropriations Act and the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund.

Manalo said the planes also require integrated logistics supports.

Interested bidders must have completed a similar project within the last five years.

Winner suppliers are required to deliver the aircraft within 548 calendar days from the opening of the letter of credit.

Pre-bid conference will be held at 10 a.m. on August 9 at the DND bidding and awards committee conference room which is located at the basement of the DND building in Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Bidding documents can be acquired for P75,000 with bid opening slated for August 23.

Soldiers repel NPA in Eastern Samar, 1 automatic rifle seized

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): Soldiers repel NPA in Eastern Samar, 1 automatic rifle seized
Troops from the 8th Infantry Division's 14th Infantry Battalion have driven off a New People's Army band in Barangay Tangbo, Arteche town, Eastern Samar Wednesday, military sources in Manila said Thursday.

Aside from this, the military also seized an M-16 automatic rifle and documents and personal items owned by the rebels.

Capt. Amado Gutierrez, 8th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the encounter took place around 1:45 p.m.

The exchange of fire between government forces and the rebels lasted for 10 minutes.

No losses were sustained by the military while the NPAs fled, taking with them an undetermined number of casualties.

Military sources did not say whether the soldiers pursued the rebels who had with them fellow rebels who might have been killed or wounded.

Earlier, the NPAs also suffered losses when troops from the 34th Infantry Battalion engaged the rebels in a 45-minute firefight last July 27.

The incident took place in Barangay Rombang, Laoang, Northern Samar.

During the encounter, a rebel fighter was killed and two M-16 automatic rifles were seized.

“The successive encounters in the past few days were results of reports coming from the people themselves who are tired of NPA intrusion in their communities, where they conduct extortion as well as threaten and harm those who do not yield to their whims and caprices," Gutierrez stressed.

AFP says rebel movement suffers huge losses in July

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): AFP says rebel movement suffers huge losses in July
The Armed Forces said Thursday the New People's Army sustained big losses in the field last July.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said last month 94 NPA rebels were neutralized, 29 of whom were killed in legitimate combat operations; 12 captured while 53 surrendered.

Among those neutralized were the high-ranking NPA leaders in separate joint AFP and Philippine National Police operations in Sorsogon, Davao del Sur, and Samar.

On top of the list is the arrested NPA leader in Davao City.

Loida Magpatoc is known as an NPA “regional committee secretary” and among the PNP’s most wanted.

Zagala added the encounter in Juban, Sorsogon early in July also left eight NPAs dead, including Frankie Soriano, also known as Greg Banares and rebel spokesman in the Bicol.

The NPAs also suffered losses in firearms, where they lost 51 in July alone.

The recent encounter in Camiling, Tarlac not only left six communist rebels dead and one captured, they were also set back by nine seized high-powered firearms.

“Notable also was the fact that these focused military operations were undertaken with a keen respect for human rights and observance of the principles of the International Humanitarian Law and rule of law,” AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo J. Tutaan said.

“During the encounter with the armed group in Camiling, Tarlac, a member of the NPA armed group was wounded in the firefight and was immediately evacuated to Camp Aquino Station Hospital for medical treatment,” he added.

However, the AFP also incurred losses in the month of July, with six soldiers killed and 23 wounded in armed engagements with the NPA.

Despite these developments in its tactical operations, the AFP maintains the focus of IPSP "Bayanihan" is on the normalization of insurgency-influenced areas.

The AFP is not just into statistics, but more so for the improvement of peace and security situation in the provinces.

Furthermore, the numbers do not represent the complete picture and miss out on some intangibles like demoralization in their ranks, unaccounted death of wounded rebels, and those who have gone absence without leave from the organization.

The frequent tip-offs received by the intelligence community from residents also manifest the collective will of the people to put a stop on the violence perpetrated by the NPAs and the further degradation of their mass base support.

With local communities rejecting the presence of communist rebels in their area, the AFP is expected to continue its intensified internal peace and security operations against the rebel group in the last half of 2013.

PHL, Vietnam want early negotiations on Code of Conduct

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): PHL, Vietnam want early negotiations on Code of Conduct

The Philippines and Vietnam want their Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) group to take a “giant step” by pushing China to agree on early negotiations for a Code of Conduct in the disputed South China Sea than just having consultations this year, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Thursday.

Del Rosario said he and his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh agreed in their meeting in Manila Thursday to convince the 10-member bloc in a scheduled meeting in Hua Hin, Thailand Aug 13 -14 that efforts to craft the Code of Conduct, which aims to stop aggressive actions and prevent clashes in the disputed sea, should be expedited.

“We want them to take a giant step on China,” Del Rosario told reporters.

“It’s supposed to be a consultation meeting but we want to be able to bring it to a negotiations stage.”

ASEAN and several governments, including the United States and Japan, have called for immediate drafting of a code of conduct which many hoped can prevent skirmishes among rival claimant countries from becoming violent in the South China Sea.

Many governments fear that the territorial rifts can trigger a major armed conflict and disrupt the freedom of navigation in thr busy shipping lanes.

“Consultation probably is not enough. We need to talk about negotiations,” Del Rosario said.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia,and Brunei and Taiwan have competing claims over the South China Sea, now called West Philippine Sea by Manila.

“We want to convince the others that it would be more fruitful if we tried to seek a negotiating meeting very quickly after the consultations,” he added.

ASEAN groups Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.

In 2002, ASEAN and China signed a non-bonding code of conduct that calls on all claimants to exercise restraint and stop new occupation in the South China Sea.

However, its non-binding nature and lack of provision to sanction misbehaving claimants, renders the accord useless against aggression.

China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over the entire waters, where undersea gas deposits have been discovered in several areas, even as it overlaps with the territories of its Asian neighbors.

Manila has sought international arbitration to try to declare as illegal China’s massive claim.

3 soldiers hurt in clash with suspected NPA rebels in Agusan del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): 3 soldiers hurt in clash with suspected NPA rebels in Agusan del Sur
Three soldiers were wounded when they clashed with some 15 suspected New People's Army (NPA) members in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur, Wednesday dawn.

Belated report from the Agusan del Sur Police Provincial Office stated that a platoon of the Charlie Company of the 75th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army were conducting patrol at Kilometer 38, Barangay Bunawan Brook, in Bunawan town when they encountered 15 heavily armed men believed to be NPA guerillas around 4:20 a.m. Wednesday.

The ensuing firefight lasted for 10 minutes resulting to the wounding of the three army soldiers. The names of the wounded army personnel were still being withheld as of press time.

Bunawan police and the other adjacent police stations were instructed by the provincial police office to conduct checkpoints and monitor the clinics and hospitals in their respective areas of responsibility for any patients with gunshot wounds.

Meanwhile, the military belied reports that they are conducting combat military operations in the hinter municipalities of Agusan del Sur province which caused the evacuation of some residents, particularly in Barangay Kauswagan, Loreto town.

Major Leo Bongosia, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division in a radio interview, said that what is going on in the area is a "Bayanihan" activity spearheaded by the Philippine Army. The activity, according to Bongosia, was a consultative dialogue with the residents for the possible delivery of government services, projects and interventions to the impoverished sectors in the place.

The activity was an aftermath of a shooting to death of a village chief in Barangay Kauswagan by an armed group wherein the residents of the locality and the local government unit of the municipality requested for military presence in the area.

Bongosia said they are also verifying reports that the alleged evacuation in the area was initiated by a certain militant organization.

Army brigade has new commander

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): Army brigade has new commander

Colonel Benjamin Madrigal assumed the duties and responsibilities as commanding officer of the 701st Infantry (Kagitingan) Brigade from its outgoing commander Brigadier General Rey Leonardo Guerrero during the change of command at its headquarters in Sitio Magay, Barangay Don Martin Marundan here on Wednesday.

The ceremony was presided over by Brigadier General Hernando Iriberri, who himself was recently installed as new chief of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division.

Iriberri spoke highly of the job Guerrero has done over the past year as an accomplished military officer during his stint as commander and for the impact of his outstanding services.

Included in the long roster of Guerrero’s accomplishments is the massive clearing operation through the conduct of the Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) activities, which led to the dismantling and surrender of more than 3,000 members of an underground organization and surrender of almost 200 members of the rebels groups.

Guerrero also led the efficient response to typhoon Pablo through disaster rescue and relief operations, provided support to the local government programs, engaged in protection of environment, among many others.

“I leave contented with the thought that I had contributed my modest share to the improvement of peace and security condition in the area of my responsibility and thankful for partners who helped in the accomplishment of my mission,” said Guerrero who came to the province more than a year ago as a Colonel and now leaves as a General.

Guerrero made special mention of Gov. Corazon N. Malanyaon and other well-meaning individuals and organizations who have given generous support to the Army’s vision.

During his stay, Guerrero was able to clear 192 affected barangays in his area of responsibility. This resulted to the handing over of the Internal Security Efforts to the provincial government last April 10.

Guerrero said he is confident that his successor who he described as a capable and competent officer would do even better.

Meanwhile, as Madrigal willingly accepted the responsibility of leading the brigade and to continue to be a partner for peace and development, he admits that though he is faced with high expectations and challenges, he said he is confident knowing that the army has a cooperative environment, with stakeholders sharing common purpose and desire to lead good governance and service to people.

“Having seen the overwhelming support of the provincial government and other stakeholders, I don’t see any reason why we can’t do any miracles in this part of the country,” he said, adding that “with General Guerrero as my predecessor, I can say that I am very lucky because I know that I am taking over an efficient and very well motivated work force.”

While Madrigal vowed that he will pursue the ongoing programs of the command in the implementation of the IPSP Bayanihan and the Army Transportation Road Map, he also asked for the continued support and cooperation of the inter-agency partners and counterparts of the local government units and other concerned stakeholders to create a climate conducive for development, livelihood opportunities, healthcare, formal education, and other essential to steer positive growth.

“We shall continue to further build in the numerous gains that the Brigade has achieved together with the other stakeholders especially in this province through the able leadership of Governor Malanyaon and local executives,” he added.

NPA wounded in E. Samar clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): NPA wounded in E. Samar clash
Government troops clashed with a small group of New People’s Army (NPA) in an outskirt of Arteche, Eastern Samar Wednesday afternoon, injuring unknown number of armed rebels and recovery of rifle and documents.

Captain Amado C. Gutierrez, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division said local residents reported the presence of armed rebels in the upland village of Tangbo in Arteche, which led to a 10-minute firefight.

“The NPA retreated leaving an armalite rifle, documents and personal belongings. We are sure that some of them were injured due to traces of blood,” Guttierez said.

Nobody was hurt among soldiers of 14th Infantry Battalion based in Giporlos, Eastern Samar, who was pursuing them after an encounter in outskirts of San Pascual village in Dolores, Eastern Samar.

“The group of about 10 armed rebels has been weary from five days of fleeing,” Gutierrez added.

The official said that despite encounters last week and on Wednesday, NPA threat in Eastern Samar has been reduced.

The Philippine Army and local government unit jointly declared the province as manageable conflict-affected areas ready for development last March 26.

On Saturday, NPAs also suffered great losses when troops under 34th Infantry Battalion engaged them in a 45-minute encounter in Brgy. Rombang, Laoang, Northern Samar.

A communist rebel was killed and two soldiers were wounded. Government troops recovered two M16 armalite rifles.

“The successive encounters in the past few days were results of reports coming from the people themselves who are tired of NPA intrusion in their communities, where they conduct extortion as well as threaten and harm those who do not yield to their whims and caprices,” Gutierrez said.

Major General Gerardo T. Layug, commander of the 8th Infantry Division lauded the contribution Samarnons to the success of government drive against the NPAs. The official vowed to to strengthen its counter-insurgency program by helping the national government deliver basic services to vulnerable communities.

Maguindanao Army conducts info drive on IED determination

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): Maguindanao Army conducts info drive on IED determination

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: Due to unnecessary loss of lives of civilians and government forces in Maguindanao, the Army here has conducted an information drive aimed at helping civilians as well as soldiers in determining improvised explosive devices which had been regularly used by lawless elements in Maguindanao, the Army here said Thursday.

Lawless elements like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have been using cell-phone detonated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in their attacks against government forces and even civilians in Maguindanao and other parts of the region.

Led by Army Staff Sergeant Albert Mojica of the 3rd Explosive and Ordnance Company, the Army's First Mechanized Infantry Battalion of the Mechanized Army Division and the 31st Explosive and Ordnance Disposal Team (EODT) had educated the public and infantrymen assigned in Maguindanao the IED recognition and awareness and recovery program in the towns of Shariff Aguak and Datu Hofer, Maguindanao.

The use of IED by lawless elements is one of the problems encountered by the government not only by the AFP and the PNP but civilians anywhere in the country.

It is one of the weapons of mass destruction of the Moro rebels in Mindanao, specifically the lawless Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The same were also used by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which is currently talking peace with Manila.

In previous statements, the MILF said it ceased using IEDs in compliance with the Geneva Convention.

"The IED has become a threat to the primacy of peace and security as well as economic growth and development in an area," according to Lt. Gen. Romeo Gapuz, 6th Infantry Division commander.

According to the Reward and Recovery Program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, IED is usually a military ordnance which failed to explode upon impact during military operations. It is then called "UXO" or unexploded ordnance.

In a statement, the 6th ID said a military explosive becomes a "UXO" due to the malfunction of military ordnance and led to the failure of munitions to detonate in the arming process or it may be in the error or mishandling of the operators during combat operation.

These UXOs were left in the battle field which, unfortunately, landed in the hands of lawless elements.

Shariff Aguak and Datu Hoffer have been subjected to many terror attacks by lawless elements using power improvised bombs, especially before, during and shortly after the May 13 elections.

The BIFF used IED in destroying bridges, attacking military personnel through roadside bombings.

With ordinary foot soldiers having vital knowledge on how to determine IEDs, violence were preempted in may areas in the province, the Army said.

The Information Drive regarding Reward and Recovery Program (RRP) was a Public Affairs support in the unit area of operation in participation of the stakeholders for the implementation of this program.

Its primary aim is to solicit public support in collaboration with the stakeholders and military to prevent the proliferation of IEDs. It also aims to help state forces locate IED makers, trainers and financiers in exchange for monetary compensation.

Under the RRP program, citizens who provide information leading to the recovery of the IED will be given appropriate compensation.

Rewards are also given to anyone who surrenders or submit an IED to the nearest Army unit.

The Army statement also said vital in preserving the gains of the government's peace and development efforts in Maguindanao.

Civilians, and even soldiers, were told not to "touch" any suspected IED anywhere in their area of jurisdiction. The public is advised to report immediately to the nearest police or Army units any discovery of suspected IEDs.

Tinkering or playing with an IED is extremely discouraged for it may trigger premature explosion.

Militiamen foils BIFF harassment in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): Militiamen foils BIFF harassment in North Cotabato

Renegade Moro rebels are at it again.

Alert militiamen and village defenders in a village bordering North Cotabato and Maguindanao thwarted on Wednesday evening another attempt by renegade Moro rebel groups turned bandits to take over Barangay Baliki, Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Superintendent Reynante Delos Reyes, chief of police of Midsayap, North Cotabato said about 50 heavily armed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) fired rocket propelled grenades and assault rifles on a militia detachment in Barangay Baliki, the last barangay of Midsayap before Datu Piang in Maguindanao.

Although outnumbered, the militiamen engaged the attackers on an hour-long firefight until reinforcements arrived at past 9:00 p.m.

Datu Piang and Midsayap are separated by Rio Grande de Mindanao which the bandits used in attacking farmers of Barangay Baliki.

As members of the Midsayap Philippine National Police (PNP) and elements of the 40th Infantry Battalion arrived in Barangay Baliki, the BIFF fled using motorboats and crossed toward Datu Piang.

It was the second harassment by BIFF in Barangay Baliki since Monday where they strafed militiamen and farmers in Barangay Baliki and quickly fled when government forces arrived.

In last Monday's attacks, as the bandits fled Barangay Baliki, they stormed Barangay Polomoguin, also in Midsayap, killing one farmer and took away eight carabaos and two motorbikes from farmers.

The rebels also left one improvised explosive device.

Delos Reyes urged residents in the borders of Midsayap and Datu Piang to remain on alert and vigilant. He urged them to quickly alert the police about the presence of armed men roaming in the boundary to prevent a repeat of Monday's and Wednesday's attacks.

Report: BIFF 'most likely' behind CDO bombing

From Rappler (Aug 1): Report: BIFF 'most likely' behind CDO bombing

SERIOUS THREAT? A file photo of members of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

SERIOUS THREAT? A file photo of members of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

A risk control organization hired to investigate the deadly July 26 Cagayan de Oro (CDO) bombing believes the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) "could be most likely behind the bombing incident in Cagayan de Oro City."

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is holding peace talks with the government.

In a report prepared by the organization for its client, a foreign company doing business in Mindanao, the agency labeled the blast as a "terror bombing attack" and said the BIFF "is the only armed group with the capability and the motive to conduct such a terrorist activity."

It also asked its clients to avoid non-essential travel to Mindanao until the culprits have been identified and apprehended.

Its assessment is separate from the ongoing probe being conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP). Police have yet to identify suspects or determine a motive.

On Friday night, July 26, Cagayan De Oro City was rocked by an explosion after a still-unidentified person left an improvised explosive device concealed in a black bag on a black monoblock chair outside Kyla's Bistro. The attack left 8 dead and 46 wounded, all civilians.

'Secessionist force'

The report, released to Rappler on the condition we do not identify the risk control organization, looked at 5 armed groups that have been responsible for past bombings targeting civilians, including the MILF, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the Al-Khobar Gang and BIFF.

It discounted the MILF as the likely culprit, citing the ongoing peace talks with the government and its open cooperation with the administration in running after rogue groups.

The report also concluded that while MNLF chairman Nur Misuari has been outspoken in his criticism of the government's current talks with the MILF, his troops are based in Western Mindanao and do not have the capability to mount attacks outside their bailiwicks.

The ASG was also excluded because of the neutralization of ASG's key leaders and its focus of past attacks in areas surrounding Zamboanga and Sulu. The group also ruled out the criminal extortion syndicate Al-Khobar Gang, which has not been very active lately and is known to target bus companies in Region 12.

The report concluded the BIFF is behind the blast, citing the group's strong opposition to the peace process. It also pointed to BIFF's recent attacks in North Cotabato and Maguindanao — the latest of which was the July 30 attack on army detachments in Guindulungan, Maguindanao.

"The BIFF is apparently bracing itself to become the next major Muslim secessionist force in Mindanao after the MILF succeeded in concluding a Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the government last year that could eventually lead to a final peace accord soon," the report said.

It compared its actions with the MILF in [1996], when the MNLF signed a peace accord with the Ramos government, adding "the same vicious cycle of violence and terror is again being initiated by the BIFF to show that it has evolved as a serious threat to be reckoned with."

History of violence

According to the military, at least 31 Muslim rebels and 5 soldiers were killed in clashes ahead of the resumption of peace talks.

The BIFF ambushed an army truck and attacked an army camp on July 6, just two days before the MILF and the government were to resume talks in Kuala Lumpur.

Back then, Ghazali Jaafar, vice chairman for political affairs of the MILF, told television network ABS-CBN his group was closely monitoring military operations against the BIFF.

"This operation might escalate into wider areas. We are very much concerned because we don't want that to happen," he said.

The BIFF is led by Ameril Umra Kato, a Saudi Arabia-trained cleric who had commanded an elite MILF unit.

He and his unit were blamed for a series of raids across Mindanao in 2008 that left nearly 400 people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands.

The MILF expelled Umra Kato in 2011 for his hardline stance against the peace talks.

Navy's 2nd warship arrives in PAR

From Rappler (Aug 1): Navy's 2nd warship arrives in PAR

NOW IN PH: BRP Ramon Alcaraz

The Philippine Navy's newly acquired warship, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF16), arrived in the Philipine Area of Responsibility (PAR) 1 am Thursday, August 1, according to Navy spokesman Lt Commander Gregory Fabic.

PAR specifically refers to the area where the government weather bureau is tasked to monitor cyclones. The ship will arrive in Philippine waters on Friday, August 2.

Screenshot of DOST illustration of the Philippine Area of ResponsibilityScreenshot of DOST illustration of the Philippine Area of Responsibility

"Festive" ceremonies are lined up to celebrate the arrival of the country's second Hamilton class cutter, according to the military. Bought from the US for P600 million, it will eventually be deployed in the country's exclusive economic zone for maritime patrols.

President Benigno Aquino III will personally welcome Alcaraz in a ceremony in Subic, Zambales on Tuesday, August 6, based on a schedule released to the media.

Before Tuesday, two smaller ceremonies will be held in Aurora and Pangasinan involving the country's first Hamilton class cutter BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, yacht owners, and local fishermen.

Alcaraz will arrive on Friday in Casiguran, Aurora. Local fishing boats there will conduct a "Sail Past" to welcome it.

On Saturday, August 3, ceremonies will be staged for Del Pilar to welcome Alcaraz.
Alcaraz and Del Pilar are capable of conducting patrols for long periods of time. They can also withstand heavy weather and rough sea conditions.

Change of command for 'Tabak' Division cancelled but Army mum on reasons

From InterAksyon (Aug 1): Change of command for 'Tabak' Division cancelled but Army mum on reasons

The scheduled change of command for the Army’s 1st Infantry “Tabak” Division on Thursday was abruptly cancelled for still unknown reasons.

Brigadier General Jet Velarmino, was supposed to take over the unit from the acting division commander, his classmate in Philippine Military Academy “Sandigan” Class 1982, Brigaderi General Felecito Virgilio Trinidad Jr.

The source that first broke the news of the cancellation said: “We don’t know why it was hastily cancelled.”

Sought for comment, Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang confirmed the cancellation but could not give an immediate answer why.

No regular commander has been named to the division since the death of Brigadier General Daniel Lucero (PMA “Matikas” Class 1983) while diving on June 2.

The source, who sought anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the matter, said the selection process for a new 1st ID commander had reportedly become “too hot to handle” for the Board of Generals, led by Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista.

The Board had reportedly endorsed Trinidad for the position but Velarmino is supposedly backed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

There is talk that Trinidad has been advised to wait for 8th Infantry Division commander, Major General Gerardo Layug, to retire next month and then take over the Eastern Visayas-based unit.

Bayan to P-Noy: Reject appointment of new US envoy to PH Goldberg

From InterAksyon (Aug 1): Bayan to P-Noy: Reject appointment of new US envoy to PH Goldberg

The leftist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Thursday said President Benigno Aquino III should reject the appointment of new United States ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, noting that the latter was expelled from Bolivia in 2008 on charges of conspiring to foment unrest against its democratically elected President Evo Morales.

In a statement, Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said, “The Aquino government should raise questions and reject the appointment of Goldberg. Failure to do so would show anew Aquino’s approval of US meddling in domestic affairs. It will again show Aquino's puppetry to US dictates.”

“Goldberg’s appointment to the post in Manila may signal intensified US intervention in Philippine affairs as the US moves (to send more) troops and ships in Asia under its strategic pivot,” Reyes said.

To accusations that he encouraged unrest in Bolivia, Goldberg said his expulsion from Bolivia was the culmination of a long-term campaign to use the US as a distraction over internal strife in the country and certain administrative policies of the Morales administration.

According to the US embassy here in Manila, Goldberg is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and is currently Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research at the Department of State, a position he has held since 2010. He began his career as a Liaison Officer for the City of New York for the United Nations. He received a B.A. from Boston University.

“Goldberg’s track record in the intelligence community along with allegations of intervention will be crucial now that the US is trying to expand its presence in Asia and in the Philippines in particular. He is Washington’s point man here and he will exert all efforts to ensure that the US will gain greater access to their former bases as well as various other facilities throughout the country,” Reyes said.

“His appointment again confirms that the US embassy in Manila, just like anywhere in the world, is one big spy outpost. His appointment aims to maximize that function amid the US drive to expand militarily in Asia,” he added.

Goldberg’s career history shows that he served as Ambassador to Bolivia (2006 to 2008), Chief of Mission in Pristina, Kosovo (2005 to 2006), Charge d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Santiago, Chile (2001 to 2004).

In 2001, he served as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs. From 1996 to 2000, he served as Special Assistant and then Executive Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State. He served as the Department's Bosnia Desk Officer from 1994 to 1996. Previous overseas assignments include: Consular and Political Officer at the US embassy in Bogota, Colombia and Political-Economic Officer in Pretoria, South Africa.

Goldberg’s appointment comes at a time when the Philippines is embroiled in a territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.

The appointment of Goldberg, who replaces Harry K. Thomas Jr., boosts the Aquino administration’s plan to militarize the region.

After China’s incursion into Scarborough Shoal off Masinloc, Zambales and its “close guarding” of the Ayungin Reef in Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin opened the possibility of giving the US and Japan greater access to former US military facilities in Subic and Clark.

Recently, Gazmin announced the plan to transfer the Navy and Air Force to Subic for better territorial defense.

WikiLeaks entry

According to Reyes, leaked cables from WikiLeaks revealed that the US embassy in Bolivia, under Goldberg, was “in touch with the opposition groups that led violent actions against the Morales government.”

The Bayan official said the US acted against the Bolivian president because he sought “to assert its independence from the US, nationalize certain industries, (and) redistribute land and petroleum royalties from the country’s economic elite toward the country’s indigenous majority.”

Bolivia’s Morales, in declaring Goldberg persona non grata in the afternoon of September 10, 2008, called the ambassador “an expert in fomenting separatist conflicts.” He cited Goldberg’s participation in the separatist war of the Balkans between 1994 and 1996 when he headed the office of the Department of State for Bosnia.

“Later in 2004 and 2006, (Goldberg) returned as Chief of Mission in Pristina, Kosovo, and there he consolidated the separation or independence of that region, leaving thousands of dead,” Morales said.

Part of the transcript posted by WikiLeaks quoted Morales as saying: "There is a foreign authority here that heads the division of Bolivia and conspires against democracy…And without fear of anyone, without fear of the empire, today, in front of you all, in front of the Bolivian people, I declare Mr. Goldberg, Ambassador of the United States, persona non grata.

“We do not want separatist, divisionist people, nor that they conspire against unity. We do not want people who make attempts against democracy. This decision that we make is homage to the historic fight of our peoples, since 500 years, since 200 years, just like since 20 years. A permanent fight against an economic model imposed from outside and afar."

Explosives components seized in Sulu raid

From InterAksyon (Aug 1): Explosives components seized in Sulu raid

Authorities seized 500 blasting caps and 44 kilos of ammonium nitrate, which is a component in making explosives, during a raid in Jolo, Sulu Thursday.

The raid, carried out by a composite team from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, the Sulu provincial police and Special Action Force, also led to the arrest of Hadjie Naren Akmad and the recovery of a .45 caliber pistol from the suspect.

CPP: Ka Parago releases 5 POWs in Paquibato

Posted  to the CPP Website (Jul 31): Ka Parago releases 5 POWs in Paquibato

Rubi Del Mundo
NDFP Southern Mindanao Chapter

Upon the orders of the National Democratic Front Southern Mindanao, Ka Parago, spokesperson of the 1st Pulang Bagani Battalion of the New People’s Army released its five prisoners of war today, July 31, 2013 at around 4pm in a village in Paquibato district, Davao city.

Released after 44 days in detention were Cpl. Emmanuel Quezon (serial no. 827510), Pfc. Vernie Padilla (SN 898234), Pvt. Marteniano Pasigas (SN 901766), Pfc. Ronald Gura (SN 898248), and Pfc. Donato Estandian (SN 893670).

The five POWs belong to the 60th Infantry Battalion who were tried by the people’s revolutionary court for cases of harassment, intimidation and other violations against the peasant and Lumad masses by the 10thID-Philippine Army in Paquibato district.

In its Order of Release, Rubi del Mundo, NDF spokesperson said the release was in compliance with the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949 and its Protocols and pursuant to the decision taken by the organs of the People’s Democratic Government.
Del Mundo cited the following considerations for the release order for each of the five POWs:

“After the capture of the prisoner, he has been investigated by responsible organs of the Detaining Power and no sufficient evidence has been established to warrant his prosecution for serious crimes committed against the Filipino people and the revolutionary movement.”

“The prisoner’s release is being ordered in compliance with the NDFP’s long-standing policy of lenient treatment of prisoners of war and its Declaration of Undertaking to Apply the Provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and Protocol I Thereto dated July 5, 1996 which was deposited with the Swiss Federal Council as official depositary of said instrument and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.”

The NDF also said the Release Order was “an act in the exercise of the political power and authority of the People’s Democratic Government and is done on humanitarian grounds.”

It added that the NDFP’s act of goodwill was also a “favorable response to the appeals of the families of the POWs and the request of well-meaning parties and personages that have expressed support for a negotiated settlement on the issue of Prisoners of War within the purview of the CARHRIHL and the Geneva Conventions and its Protocols.”

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was on hand to receive the five POWs.

CPP: Condemn Aquino regime for US drone flying in Philippines—CPP

From the CPP Website (Aug 1): Condemn Aquino regime for US drone flying in Philippines—CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today condemned the Aquino government for “treacherously allowing the US government and its military to fly and operate its military drones over the Philippines” and urged the Filipino people “to exert all-out effort to make the Aquino regime pay for its treachery and sell-out of Philippine sovereignty.”

The CPP issued this statement after the Department of Foreign Affairs of the reactionary Philippine government admitted that US military forces have been conducting routine surveillance operations in Philippine territorial waters in the South China Sea.

“In an apparent bid to obscure US military interventionism, Benigno Aquino III himself revealed that his government has specifically asked the US military to deploy P3C Orion spy planes. Aquino’s disclosures are a futile attempt to justify US deployment of surveillance and other military equipment in the area.” The Orion is an anti-submarine surveillance aircraft that is used to intercept communications.

The Aquino government has been forced to admit the presence of US warships and surveillance drones after US military forces boasted that their ships have been conducting surveillance operations in the South China Sea. The official blog of the US Navy states that the USS Bonhomme Richard has been patrolling the Philippine seas since July 1. The US warship is capable of carrying more than 100 vehicles, 300 pieces of combat equipment and 1,100 armed soldiers.

“Aquino, however, has succeeded only in revealing his outright puppetry to the US imperialists,” pointed out the CPP. “He is now set to throw himself into history’s dustbin where he will keep company with other traitors who conspired with the foreign imperialist powers in their campaign to establish their hegemony in the Philippines and in the Asia-Pacific region.”

“The operations of US military drones over Philippine territories are an outright violation of Philippine sovereignty and an all-out display of contempt for the freedom-loving Filipinos,” said the CPP.

“For the past several years, the US government has been working closely with the Aquino government to foment conflict in the South China Sea areas by issuing bellicose statements and carrying out large-scale power-projection activities in the area in order to provoke China to carry out aggressive or defensive military action,” pointed out the CPP.