Monday, August 12, 2013

Palace: No need for Senate approval for increased presence of US troops in PHL

From GMA News (Aug 12): Palace: No need for Senate approval for increased presence of US troops in PHL

The Senate does not need to approve the proposal for increased presence of American troops in the Philippines, a Palace official said Monday.
Quoting officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said congressional approval is no longer necessary since the framework for the temporary presence of the US forces in the country "will be done within the framework of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)."
"There is no need for Senate ratification. However, for purposes of transparency the panel will be briefing congressional leaders on the status of the negotiations," Lacierda said.
At a press conference earlier in the day, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin announced that negotiations between the Philippines and US governments on a larger presence of American troops in the country will start this week
The 1987 Constitution states that "foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate."
In 1991, the Philippine Senate voted to expel US military bases from the country by a historic 12-11 vote. Eight years later, the Senate ratified the VFA between the US and the Philippines.
The VFA is a bilateral agreement which specifies how the Philippines and the US will determine jurisdiction of an American soldier involved in a crime committed on Philippine soil. 
Senate President Franklin Drilon, for his part, meanwhile said that his chamber will definitely call the attention of the executive department if the framework agreement becomes a basing deal. 
"If it is a basing agreement, we will call them [executive officials] to task. They know the boundaries of the Constitution. When working on this framework agreement, they should consider these boundaries," Drilon said in a separate interview.

'Big deal out of nothing'

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, for his part, expressed fears that the "hype" being given the proposed rotational presence of US troops in the country may further sour the Philippines' ties with China.

"We are making a big deal out of nothing kasi, in my opinion, yung increased rotational presence is within the bounds of VFA," Trillanes said at a separate press briefing.

He added that the increased presence of US troops in the Philippines should be viewed as a purely "defense matter" and "not a foreign relations matter."

"Itong si [DFA] Secretary Del Rosario, he is drawing attention to himself. I don’t know why. Ang sa akin dito, lets say mag-increase ng rotational presence, yan ay dapat hindi nakakabit sa anumang national security crisis," Trillanes said.

"Dapat yan ay completely within the context of training and upgrading the military capabilities."

The senator also advised Del Rosario not to be such a "war freak" and put the increased military presence in the Philippines in the context of the country's territorial dispute with China.

The Philippines and China have locked horns over disputed parts of the South China Sea, which the former calls the West Philippine Sea

PHL wants to use more US military assets

From GMA News (Aug 12): PHL wants to use more US military assets

The Philippines said Monday it would insist on being allowed to use more US military assets to protect its sea territories, when talks on expanding a defense pact start this week.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the longtime allies had already agreed in principle to allow a bigger US military presence in the Philippines.
He said the talks would focus on the rules for the greater presence, and the Philippines wanted to ensure the deal helped build its defence capabilities.
"We stand ready to tap every resource, to call on every alliance, to do what is necessary, to defend what is ours, to secure the nation and to keep our people safe," he said.
The Philippines has been seeking greater military help from its longtime ally and former colonial ruler, amid a deepening rift with China over rival claims to parts of the South China Sea.
While the United States has insisted it does not take sides in the dispute, it has been seeking to rebuild its military footprint in the Philippines as part of President Barack Obama's strategic "pivot" to Asia.
The Philippines had hosted tens of thousands of US soldiers at two bases north of Manila, but they were forced to leave in 1992 after the Senate voted to end their lease contracts amid strong anti-American sentiment.
A new agreement that went into force in 1999 allowed US troops to return to the Philippines for joint military exercises, and thousands of American soldiers regularly flow through the country during war games.
US special forces have also been rotating through the southern Philipines since 2002 to help Filipino soldiers against al Qaeda-linked militants, with the maximum number there at any one time believed to hover at about 600.
Philippine authorities have said the new agreement will pave the way for more joint war games.
Philippine Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino told reporters on Monday the new talks would also seek to allow the "prepositioning" of US military assets back on Philippine bases.
He said, in return, the Philippines wanted to use the assets to help defend its sea territory, although he did not specifically mention the dispute with China.
"We believe that those US equipment to which we will agree to be temporarily deployed could supplement the (Filipino military's) capability to perform its functions in key mission areas of maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian response and disaster relief," Batino said.
"We will insist on that," he said, when asked whether the Philippines wanted to use the American military hardware.
The talks will begin in Manila on Wednesday. Philippine officials said they wanted to finalize the agreement this year.

Moro woman leader mulls representation of Bangsamoro in the local legislative bodies

From the MILF Website (Aug 13): Moro woman leader mulls representation of Bangsamoro in the local legislative bodies

A Moro woman leader mulls representation of the Bangsamoro in the local legislative bodies, from provincial to barangay level, to give chance for the Muslim tribes to participate in the local governance.
Shariah Lawyer Latipa Tama, President of the Muslim Women in General Santos City (MUWOGEN), lamented how difficult it is for Muslims outside the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to win for legislative positions during the local elections, “considering we are minority,” she explained.
Tama related that the last Muslim city councilor in General Santos was Teng Juanday who was appointed by then City Mayor Rosalita Nunez in 1988 to represent the labor sector.

Thereafter, few Muslim candidates joined the succeeding local elections but none was able to win.  It is estimated that Moro tribes comprise only ten per cent of the city population.

The local government code allows the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) to be represented in the local legislative bodies.

 “In Mindanao, the IPs are the Lumad and the Moro tribes. These people have been existing in the island before the Spaniards came,” Tama explained, “thus, we Moro people can use the law to push for our representation in the LGU,” she continued.

At present, some Local Government Units in other parts of Mindanao have already installed their IP Representatives in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and Sangguniang Bayan. The selection process was facilitated by the National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

R.A. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Right Act provides that the IPs have the right to participate fully at all levels of decision-making in matters which may affect their rights, lives and destinies. The State shall ensure that the IPs given mandatory representation in policy-making bodies and other local legislative councils.

Tama explained that the Lumads should understand that the mandatory IP representation is not “exclusive” for their group despite there is the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos catering the needs of the Muslims. “Either the Lumad or the Moro can have the seat to represent the IPs,” she added.

The woman leader said there is only one seat and it is very ideal that there will be two, one for the Lumads and one for the Bangsamoro so that we avoid conflict of who will sit first.

”To settle the issue, the two groups may agree to have the seat alternately, three years each for every term of office,” she suggested.

During the Maguindanaon Leaders Forum Last July 7, 2013, the Moro leaders asked General Santos Vice Mayor Shirlyn Nograles to help facilitate having IP Representative in the Sangguniang Panlunsod.

Nograles said such proposal is on top of their agenda and they will find budget for it. The Vice Mayor also promised LGU’s continued support to Madaris education and provide livelihood opportunities for the jobless.

Tama called on the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to include in the proposal to amend the constitution having two seats for the mandatory IP representation, one each for the Lumad and Bangsamoro. She further suggested for the BTC to propose Bangsamoro and Lumad representatives in the Senate.

PNoy now poster boy for the Bangsamoro

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 12): PNoy now poster boy for the Bangsamoro

After encouraging the Congress during his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 22 to support the Bangsamoro, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is now the poster boy in the campaign for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, this time rallying Mindanao’s business sector to support the the Bangsamoro Basic Law by 2014,” MindaNews reported on August 9.
During his SONA he asked Congress “to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before the end of 2014 so that we will have ample time to prepare the election of a new Bangsamoro Government come 2016”, President Aquino said.

At the opening of the 22nd Mindanao Business Conference on Thursday morning in Davao City, the President said that three years after he “told the whole world that the Philippines is open for business,” the country has become “one of the best performing economies in Asia” and that recently, Standard & Poor’s also projected that the Philippines will be outperforming its ASEAN neighbors in terms of economic growth.

Mindanao’s performance “was a large part of these achievements and distinctions,” and addressing the “most prominent business leaders in Mindanao,” he said, “I ask you today: continue working with us,” President Aquino further said as quoted by MindaNews.

“You can do so much to help: whether it is by lending your voices to encourage Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law by 2014, or by sharing a calm, logical voice as we pursue the long-term solution to the power situation; whether it is by helping medium and small enterprises to succeed or by increasing your engagement in corporate social responsibility, particularly in education, health, and other social services,” he stressed.


“He is committed, that’s why. My President is serious that the peace process be completed. This is why he is personally leading the campaign,” Mujiv Hataman, Regional Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) told MindaNews in a text message.

Hataman knew when he filed his certificate of candidacy for ARMM Governor in November that he and the rest of the elected officials of the region will have to cut short their three-year term because the ARMM will be deemed abolished once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority takes over by 2015.

On October 15, 2012, the Government peace panel then headed by Atty. Marvic Leonen, now Justice of the Supreme Court and Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro to pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity dubbed the “Bangsamoro,” by June 30, 2016.

On his part when asked to comment on President’s Aquino’s remarks, Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chair, said the President “should be appreciated for stressing the need to pass the Basic Law.” Iqbal chairs the 15-member Transition Commission (BTC), the body tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law. As of today, the BTC has held four sessions since it was created by President Aquino by virtue of Executive Order # 120.

“For us peace advocates, it is a thoughtful Hariraya Puasa gesture on the part of PNoy,” said lawyer Ishak Mastura, chair of the ARMM’s Board of Investments.

Good business, good for business

Samira Gutoc, former ARMM Assemblywoman said it is “about time that a head of state exercises political will in facilitating a settlement that has backtracked development for so long. And we need economic stewardship much more in ARMM now and the incoming Bangsamoro. We need trade – jobs, companies, banks setting up branches now in a place of some three million or so people.”

Att. Zainudin “Zen” Malang, chair of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinRHac) , said powerful business groups in Mindanao “must learn to accept that the peace process is good business, is good for business and that they need not fear genuine Bangsamoro empowerment.”

“No one needs to fear it; it is the contrary that is fearful. It is the contrary that is not good business. Preventing self-governance will prevent the economic potential of the conflict-affected region from being unleashed,” MindaNews quoted him saying.

Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development Networks (Mincode) said the President has become a “rah-rah boy for the the Bangsamoro” and that she is “able to sleep better at night knowing that despite the terroristic attacks, I can see that with PNoy really committed to the Bangsamoro which shall usher in a just and lasting peace in Mindanao, my children and grandchildren will see brighter and peaceful days ahead in their land of birth.

Sarenas said Mincode “commits to helping PNoy in ways, big and small, to make Bangsamoro happen.” “Help build the Bangsamoro now”.

Irene Santiago, chair emeritus of the Mindanao Commission on Women said there is nothing more important for the country’s development than peace “and that peace is within our reach.”

“To ensure that Congress will pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law as drafted by the Transition Commission, women will watch Congress closely by forming Women’s Peace Tables in every congressional district in the entire country,” she said.

Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus wants the President to “sign the peace agreement once and for all so that the transition period can finally set in.”

“Business should perhaps lend their voices in asking PNoy to sign the peace agreement before the anniversary of the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, also in asking PNoy to break the impunity of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings by holding the violators accountable and putting them behind bars. What about known warlords and their private armies?”

Gus Miclat, executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) said “not only should the business sector encourage Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, they should help build the Bangsamoro now by providing input to the Bangsamoro Basic Law process, incorporating business perspectives that are aligned with the Bangsamoro aspirations and vision. Business should also lend its voice in condemning the spate of violence that is obviously meant to derail the inevitable march to peace,” MindaNews quoted Director Miclat.

Thousands of Moro civilians flee due to fighting in North Cotabato

From the MILF Website (Aug 12): Thousands of Moro civilians flee due to fighting in North Cotabato

(The) day after the Holy Month of Ramadan skirmishes broke out on August 10 between members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and government troops in Sitio Maliga Lupa Bualan and Sitio Quary, Nalapaan Pikit, North Cotabato.
The encounter begun at 9:13 a.m. until around 2:00 p.m. though the AFP artillery shelling continued until later. The firefight started when BIFF members assaulted army outposts in Pikit and Aleosan, both in North Cotabato which according to reports killed two BIFF members and wounded two soldiers.

At least 885 families were displaced to an 8 clustered evacuation centers from the area and neighboring towns such as;  SitioTubeg and Habitat Pagangan, Aleosan; Sitio Quary Nalpaan ,Kadingilan,Talikupan  and Lagundi, Pikit North Cotabato.

Ben Modale, Pikit Municipal councilor said, “As of now sa SitioTubeg Pagangan palang ang nabigyan namin 3 kls each family kasi walasilang nadala, naiwanan nila lahat ng gamit nila unlike dun sa ibang barangay na 1 a.m.palang umalis na sila sa lugar nila pagkakita nila sa mga armadong kalalakihan.” (As of now, we have only distributed 3 kilos of rice each family to those at Sitio Tubeg Pagangan because they brought nothing when they decided to leave after seeing armed men)
“Ginagawa naming ang lahat ng aming makakaya habang hinihintay naming ang budget ng gobyerno para sa mga evacuees,” he added.  (We are doing everything while waiting for relief goods from the government)

Unconfirmed Luwaran source said, only after the Non-Violent Peace Force Agency intervened where the AFP was able to retrieve their casualties. Actual death toll or number of wounded on both sides was not determined.

11 buses torched by armed men in Pagsanjan terminal

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 12): 11 buses torched by armed men in Pagsanjan terminal
Authorities here theorized armed men believed to be a rift among dismissed transport workers or disgruntled bus workers who are also members of the transport labor union were responsible for the torching of 11 buses of the HM Transport Company early dawn Monday in the bus compound in Pagsanjan.

In an interview with the PNA here, Pagsanjan chief of police Senior Insp. Henry Villagonzalo said some 15 unidentified armed men barged into the bus garage and motorpool around past midnight or early dawn on Monday.

Villagonzalo disclosed that Laguna and local police and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) personnel rushed to the HM Transport bus compound where around 100 buses were parked at that time and 11 of these were totally damaged by suspected arsonists.

Police are tracking down the arsonists who fled aboard the van and another "escape" vehicle.

BFP Pagsanjan Fire Marshall Senior Insp. Bernardo Teczon led fire personnel in responding to put out the blaze starting 1:20 a.m.

Fire investigators also discounted any explosion occurred that may have caused the fire to spread and damaged the closely parked buses.

According to Fire Officer 2 Larry Calingasan, firemen declared the fire out by 3 a.m. on Monday.

The BFP initial investigations by fire fighters and volunteers placed the property damage at P55 million as each bus costs P5 million.

No injuries or casualties were reported.

Villagonzalo said that the cops, police scene of the crime (SOCO) operatives, explosives and ordnance (EOD) division and BFP arson investigators continue their probe into the incident as of press time.

Investigators discarded terroristic acts by dissident or insurgent group as behind the crime.

Engr. Homer Mercado, president of the HM and Greenstar Transport disclosed possibility of an internal wrangling within the transport workers' union leadership which exacted a collateral damage to the bus burning.

Sources said the bus company is putting up a reward money of some P300,000 to any informant or witness who could unmask the suspects.

Laguna provincial disaster risk reduction and management council (PDRRMC) head Valentin Guidote told PNA that the provincial DRRMC and some emergency responders from Santa Cruz fire station and the Filipino-Chinese Young Men's Association (FCMA) fire volunteers responded to the fire site.

Valentin said there was no casualty or eminent disaster arising out of the burning incident as the bus transport company assured them the incident was already under control, contained and is within bus firm's purview as the incident occurred in the private property.

Kalahi-CIDSS of DSWD-6 receives awards for implementation of AusAID projects

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 12): Kalahi-CIDSS of DSWD-6 receives awards for implementation of AusAID projects

The Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region 6 received a national recognition for its implementation of Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) projects in Western Visayas.

Kalahi-CIDSS of DSWD 6 received a trophy for topping the category on safety and health practice during the Project Review and Implementation of AusAID funded projects held recently at the La Breza Hotel in Quezon City.

The best practice on safety and health practice was depicted through an audio-visual presentation (AVP) entitled “Babaye.”

The AVP was filmed in Velasco Elementary School in Barangay Velasco, Lemery town. The voice-over was delivered by Bombo Radyo Iloilo’s assistant station manager Mary Divine Grace Cuello.

Barangay Velasco is one of the seven villages in Lemery. It has availed the AusAID grant for the construction of a three-classroom building for Velasco Elementary School.

Aside from the trophy, Kalahi-CIDSS also received a certificate of recognition for giving emphasis on its advocacy of mainstreaming gender and development in the implementation of the AusAID funded project.

In Kalahi-CIDSS, women participation in paid labor is strongly encouraged.

The documentation strongly demonstrated the capacity of women to work in the project construction while advancing safety and health practice at the construction site. Construction workers, including women, are obliged to wear hard hat, hand gloves and safety boots.

Signages are properly installed to protect and caution workers, students and passers-by of the possible risk from falling objects such as stones and iron bars while the construction of the P1.9-million school building is ongoing.

Strict enforcement of the safety and health practice was inculcated by the town’s Municipal Engineer Noel Sobremisana to the people during the municipal orientation, which resulted in zero accident at the project site.

The documentation of the region’s practices is part of the implementers’ assessment to document the process employed in each region in terms of preparation and implementation of AusAID-funded projects.

Kalahi-CIDSS also earned a recognition for the success story dubbed “Edukasyon - In the Eyes of the Indigenous People” of Barangay Agbun-od, Jamindan town in Capiz.

AusAID provided a grant of P75.3 million to fund the construction of 20 daycare centers and 54 school buildings in the provinces of Iloilo, Capiz, and Negros Occidental.

The construction of classrooms, school buildings and day care centers are considered the supply side of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) for non-prioritized communities during the implementation of the Makamasang Tugon and other modes of Kalahi-CIDSS implementation.

AFP hands over P19.25-M reward to 10 informers

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 12): AFP hands over P19.25-M reward to 10 informers

AFP Chief General Emmanuel Bautista hands over reward money to informants that led to the arrest and death of some of the most wanted terrorists and rebel leaders in the country / CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Ten informants received the reward money on Monday at Camp Aguinaldo for their information that led to the capture or death of key terrorist personalities and communist leaders.

The reward money shelled out by the military to the 10 informers amounted to P19.25 million.

Seven New People’s Army leaders and three Abu Sayyaf Group members were captured or killed during focused-security operations because of the cooperation of the informants.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista personally handed the reward money to the informants.

Among the NPA leaders arrested due to the leads given by informants was Danilo Benjamin Mendoza alias ‘Rolly Panesa,’ the NPA’s Secretary of Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee and member of the CPP-NPA-NDF Central Committee. He has a P5.6-million reward money on his head and was captured by joint police and military troops in Quezon City last October.

Also captured were Felimon Mendrez alias “Tatay” with a P5.25-million bounty on his head, Jesus Abetria alias “Puti” (P2.5 million), Allie Tafalla alias “Maco” (P750,000), and Alvin Orpiada alias “Bong” (P550,000), while Teofila Buralo alias “TimTim” (P1.2 million) was killed, and Lawina Salibulan alias “Wendy” (P1.2 million) surrendered.

The captured ASG members were Abdurasad Musad alias “Mokeh” (P1 million), Jaid Jawalon alias “Jaid” with (P600,000), and bomber Daud M. Rahim alias “Rahim Omar” (P600,000).

The reward system for wanted ASG leaders and members was activated on June 12, 2001, while the reward system for wanted insurgents was activated on June 30, 2006. Cohorts and other terrorist personalities were then included in the reward system in October 2007.

As many as 227 ASG personalities and 276 NPA members have been included in the Department of National Defense-Department of the Interior and Local Government Joint Orders on Reward or rewards list. A total of P140.20 million cash reward had been granted to informants for the neutralization of 115 ASG personalities from 2001 to present, and P65.73 million for the capture of 50 NPAs from 2006 to present.

2 wanted NPA rebels captured in Quezon

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 12): 2 wanted NPA rebels captured in Quezon

Two ranking New People’s Army members operating in the Bondoc Peninsula in Quezon were arrested consecutively in joint police and military operations recently.

Southern Luzon Command commander Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo named the NPA member in the San Francisco insurgency group as Juanito dela Peña alias “Jacko” who was captured in Barangay F. Nañadiego, Mulanay Quezon.

Dela Peña’s arrest was ordered by virtue of the warrant of arrest for attempted murder issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 62 in Gumaca, Quezon.

In 2011, dela Peña eluded arrest despite what the military reported he was wounded in the right leg during a clash with the Philippine Army troops at Brgy. Pagsangahan, San Francisco.

Also, the 74th IB and San Andres, Quezon police arrested a certain Joel Peros alias “Reyman” in Sitio Arumahan, Barangay Talisay, San Andres, Quezon.

Peros is allegedly a member of the NPA unit operating in San Andres,Quezon and is facing criminal raps for attempted murder with the RTC in Gumaca Quezon.

The dissident was tagged as one of the suspects in the ambush of San Andres police officers in Barangay Talisay in San Andres, Quezon in 2010.

Lt. Gen. Ordoyo congratulated the combined security forces and directed them to further intensify the military campaign to neutralize NPA members who are sowing terroristic activities at the SOLCOM’s area of responsibility.

“We cannot allow these criminals to terrorize our communities, sabotage our growing economy and hamper our daily lives. We must put a stop to the criminal activities of the NPA,” the SOLCOM commanding general said.

He also called on the NPA and other insurgents to abandon their armed struggle and return to the fold of law and embrace the peaceful settlement offered by the government.

79th IB to mark 7 years of service

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 12): 79th IB to mark 7 years of service

The 79th Infantry “Masaligan” Battalion of the Philippine Army in Siaton, Negros Oriental will celebrate its 7th year anniversary on Friday with activities lined up to mark its milestone in the province.

The celebration is anchored on the theme “Kapayapaan Bigyang daan, Kaunlaran Makakamtan”, said 1st Lt. Erick Calulot, spokesperson of the 79th IB.

The highlight for the celebration is the conduct of a province-wide, inter-high school oratorical and poster making competitions in Dumaguete City Wednesday at the Robinson’s Place shopping mall.

Sixteen finalist participants from the five Department of Education city division and the three congressional districts of the province will be competing in the said contests.

The project, the first of its kind of the unit’s many advocacy projects, is aimed at “promoting peace and development on the perspective of education especially focusing on the youth sector”, said 1st Lt. Calulot on Monday in a media release.

Conceptualized by the unit, it is supported by many able partners that include the DepEd, several local chief executives and some volunteers.

Aside from serving as a venue for the young’s talent exposure, the essence of the project lies on the impact it could potentially contribute to the development of peace as it would heighten the awareness of people in concerns involving human security enhancement.

Lt. Col. Marion Sison, battalion commanding officer, was quoted as saying that this year’s celebration is focused on “the involvement of the stakeholders to promote and enhance awareness of the Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its goal of winning the peace”.

Sison added that by doing this kind of non-traditional approach of winning the peace here in Negros Oriental, the stakeholders would feel that they are always part in the promotion of peace, security and development.

President Aquino gives go signal for Philippines to start negotiations with United States on policy of increased rotational presence through framework agreement

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 12): President Aquino gives go signal for Philippines to start negotiations with United States on policy of increased rotational presence through framework agreement

  President Benigno S. Aquino III has already given his go-signal for the Philippines to start this week the negotiations with the United States to institutionalize the policy of increased rotational presence through a framework agreement, a Palace official said on Monday.

"They have secured the permission from the President to start the negotiations, so obviously, they informed the President about these things," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Monday.

Lacierda also announced the creation of a panel comprising of representatives from the Department of Justice, Department of National Defense and the Department of Foreign Affairs to handle the communications for increased rotational presence of American forces in the country.

"They have already formed a panel which is comprised of the DOJ, the DND and the DFA; and they will be handling the communications with respect to the negotiations," Lacierda said.

"We’re not going to be involved with respect to the negotiations. Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta has been designated as the spokesperson for the Philippine panel on the framework agreement for the increased rotational presence," Lacierda.

Lacierda noted the need to come out with a framework agreement with the US to ensure that the increased rotational presence of American troops is within the parameters of the Constitution and Philippine laws.

The negotiations will enable the Philippines and US to conduct activities such as bilateral exercises, including the prepositioning of equipment for disaster response and development of Philippine facilities, among others.

"The focus of the increased rotational presence also will involve not only our credible defense position – minimum credible defense position – but also a shift to humanitarian and disaster response," he said.

More bomb incidents in Cotabato

From Rappler (Aug 12): More bomb incidents in Cotabato

At least two separate explosions while another powerful bomb was defused in the latest spate of bomb attacks in Central Mindanao, authorities said Monday, August 12.

A blast hit the Kabacan, North Cotabato office of Commission on Election (Comelec) dawn Monday, just hours after security forces defused a powerful homemade bomb outside the Cotabato City Hall.

The Comelec office inside the municipal hall of Kabacan was partially destroyed after an M-79 grenade fired by unknown men exploded around 2 am.

There were no reported casualties in the latest attacks in the area, said town police Chief Insp. Jordine Maribojo.

Four people were wounded in a similar attack on August 9 and no one group claimed responsibility.

On Sunday night, August 11, around 11:30 pm, police and military bomb experts defused a powerful improvised bomb planted by unknown men at the back of the Cotabato City Hall, 6 days after a deadly car bomb explosion that left 8 people dead and dozens wounded.

Sr Supt Rolen Balquin, police commander of Cotabato, said the bombs were fashioned from two 60mm and 81 mmm mortar shells attached to a mobile Phone as detonator.

City Administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, who survived the August 5 car bomb explosion along the busy Sinsuat Avenue, said alert police and members of Philippine Marines discovered the explosive at the back of People’s Palace.

“This is a call for all people in Cotabato to join hands and be very vigilant. Let us help our authorities by reporting immediately suspicious belongings,” Sayadi said.

Earlier on same day, a homemade bomb also exploded along the highway in the village of Baliki in Midsayap, North Cotabato, but there were no casualties.

Von Al Haq, spokesman for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said by phone the series of bomb attacks in the region were meant to sabotage the peace process.

“As we observe, this kind of terror attacks were perpetrated by people against in the peace process,” he said.

He said a young jihadist group inspired by the al-Qaeda, Khilafa Islamiya, could be part also of a dummy of people who does not want peace in Mindanao.

“With request from our counterparts in the government, we have checked Khilafa Islamiya group with our forces based in Lanao del Sur and it turn out negative,” he said.

Khilafah is a probable suspect in a spate of bombings in Mindanao. Khilafah in Islam means caliphate which refers to an Islamic state representing political unity for the entire Muslim community.

At least 79 groups want Senate probe on release of Abu Sayyaf bombers

From MindaNews (Aug 12): At least 79 groups want Senate probe on release of Abu Sayyaf bombers

At least 79 civil society organizations have issued a statement asking the Senate for an “immediate and impartial investigation” on the alleged “suspicious release from detention of four high-valued Abu Sayyaf inmates” from the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) of Bicutan Jail allegedly through the facilitation of a “very powerful politician from Sulu.”

The CSOs appealed to the Senate to immediately conduct an inquiry so that the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), Department of Justice (DOJ) and Sulu Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan “will be able to answer for all these issues” as they expressed fear that the release of the four Abu Sayyaf members “has ostensibly exposed the civilian population into such extreme level of risks from these terrorists who are now freely roaming around public places and could now be plotting the next bomb to detonate and kill our own people.”

Tan told MindaNews he is “open to inquiry by any body.”

The CSOs’ statement, dated August 12 and written “on behalf of the bereaved families and victims of bombings and kidnappings in Mindanao” and “in the interest of truth and justice,” asked why four confessed Abu Sayyaf members were allegedly “inserted” into the list of 18 detainees ordered freed by the Department of Justice in February.

The 18 were ordered freed on the grounds that there appeared to be “no proof of their participation in the kidnapping much less evidence of their purported membership in the Abu Sayyaf Group.”

It said it is “highly repulsive and mind-boggling” that national agencies of government like the NCMF and the DOJ’s Task Force on Anti-Terrorism “allowed the release of highly dangerous terrorists who made no qualms that they are involved in bombings and kidnappings.”

National print and online media outfits reported on February 7 the order of the DOJ to release18 suspected Abu Sayyaf members who were allegedly wrongfully accused of kidnapping and beheading of Jehovah’s Witness/Almeda Group members in 2002. Because of the dropping of their criminal charges by the DOJ,  the 18 “walked to freedom on February 15, 2013.”


“What is shocking,” the statement noted, is that barely a month from their release from prison, four of the 18 — Muhammad Sali Said, Robin Sahiyal, Julhamad Ahad and Mujibar Amon – “were presented before the Regional Trial Court of Manila-Branch 19 as witnesses of Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan” in criminal cases he filed “against a known human rights defender from Sulu.”

The statement did not name the “human rights defender from Sulu” but was apparently referring to Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie  who was arrested in Davao City and detained since mid-January 2012.

Tulawie was implicated in the May 13, 2009 bombing in Patikul, Sulu that injured 12 persons including then Governor Tan (Tan is now Vice Governor of Sulu while his son, Abdusakur II, is the governor).

Tulawie, a member of  the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society and Baugbog where he documented cases of human rights violations in the province of Sulu, has repeatedly denied the allegations.

He is also a member of the Council of Elders of the Concerned Citizens of Sulu and was vocal against the declaration of a state of emergency in Sulu following the September 20, 2009 bombing on Eid’l Fitr. He also opposed Governor Tan’s creation of  a Civilian Emergency Force which he said was a “private army.”

The statement noted that the four freed Abu Sayyaf members admitted in open court that “they are bombers, kidnappers and proud active members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.”

It added that  Sali Said, “the star witness produced by the Governor, admitted that he was released from prison through the help of the lawyer of the governor who offered to help him ‘process (his) papers for release’ on the condition that his group will agree to stand as false witnesses for the governor.”

“Wolf in sheep’s hide”

Tan, however, laughed off the allegations. He told MindaNews Monday morning that he is “open to inquiry by any body so that everybody would know the group/groups behind this and deceiving other groups/CSOs into believing them which is after all to help Cocoy who they want to project as human rights advocate.”

“They should show the other groups the revelations of the witness in the case against Cocoy,” he said, adding they “want to present a wolf in a sheep’s hide, ano ba naman yan. Shame on them,” Tan said.

The statement acknowledged that there are hundreds of innocent detainees now languishing in jail and condemned what they said was an act of “inserting” into the list of innocent Muslims wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity, the names of the four whom Tan allegedly used as witnesses against Tulawie.

“While our young soldiers are risking their lives and limbs running after the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, it is simply sickening to the senses and a complete mockery of justice to find our own national agencies like the NCMF and DOJ providing free legal assistance to high-valued terrorists, bombers and kidnappers?  How can we ever reconcile the use of taxpayers’ money to set free the Abu Sayyaf Group?  How can NCMF and DOJ ever miss the sea of difference between an innocent Muslim wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity and the solid intelligence dossier of these hard core terrorists?” the open letter asked.

“In the name of the victims of  bombings and other terroristic acts in Mindanao,” the CSOs also urged President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to “demonstrate the full force of the law by holding his very own agencies of government and political allies accountable to the ‘matuwid na daan’ policy.”


Among the CSOs that signed the letter are the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (Mincode), Mindanao Congress of Development NGOs and NGIs (Mincon), Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, Mindanao Peoples Caucus, Anak Mindanao, One People Mindanao, Balay Rehabilitation Center, Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace, Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (Minhrac), Organization of Teduray and Lambangian Conference, Bawgbug, Inc., Maranao Peoples Development Center, Medical Action Group, Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya, Bangsamoro Women Solidarity ForumMindanao Solidarity Network Mindanao Peoples Peace Movement, Initiatives for International Dialogue, International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao and Suara Kalilintad.

Homemade bombs, cellphones found in Cotabato garbage dump a week after explosion kills 8

From InterAksyon (Aug 12): Homemade bombs, cellphones found in Cotabato garbage dump a week after explosion kills 8

Three mortars meant to be used as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and three Nokia cellphones were found by scavengers in a garbage dump near City Hall on Sunday night.

The explosive package was in a box that was placed inside in a cellophane bag, authorities said, citing a scavenger whose identity was withheld owing to security reasons.

The scavengers were waiting for a truck to dump garbage when a whitebag caught their attention, prompting them to open it immediately, Police Bomb Technician PO2 Reynaldo Bayal said.

"May nakabalot ng scotch tape sa loob ng cellophane sa bag," one of the scavengers said. "Parang box na maliit…may matulis…may mga wire...may mga cellphone na 3310…tatlo." (A box inside the cellophane was wrapped in scotch tape. The box contained wire, objects with pointed edges, and three Nokia 3310 cellphones.)

Meanwhile, the mortar shells were connected to a blasting cap but the wires was not yet attached to the cellphone, Bayal said.

The Explosive Ordnace Disposal Team from the police and army immediately went to the area where the bombs were found but it took them hours to proceed due to security reasons.

"May inserted na blasting cap na puwede makapagpasabog sa kanilang tatlo," Bayal said. "Pero yung blasting cap kahit na masunog lang puwede siya mag-initiate kasi sensitive yung blasting cap, our assessment hindi pa siya fully assembled." (One blasting cap that was inserted into the whole assembly could have ignited all three mortars. Since the blasting cap is sensitive, if it gets ignited, all three mortars could explode. Our assessment is that the package was not fully assembled.)

Authorities are not discounting that the explosives found were meant for pick-up by some who are experts in assembling IEDs except that the arrival of the garbage truck unintentionally collected the mortars somewhere else, Bayal said.

"We are also investigating deeper on these new wave of bombing attempts," he said.
In a statement, Cotabato City Administrator Atty. Cynthia Guiani Sayadi called for residents to be vigilant.

For his part, City police director Senior Superintedent Rolen Balquin immediately called a command conference on Monday to further discuss strengthening security in the metro.

"Let's help our authorities to report any untoward movement behind thesebombings," Balquin said.

Cotabato has declared a month-long mourning to show sympathy to thefamilies of those who perished in the August 5 car bomb attack that claimedeight lives and wounded about 30 others.

The bomb went off in the busy district of Sinsuat Avenue and allegedly was planned for the convoy of city administrator Atty. Cynthia Sayadi-Guaini, sister of City Mayor Japal Guiani.

Both of the former and latter admitted they have received death threatsfrom kidnapping and drug syndicates.

In 2007, a garbage collector died and a fellow was wounded when theyaccidentally collected an unexploded IED.

Under MDT, VFA legal cover, PH and US set talks on new pact for rotational presence

From InterAksyon (Aug 12): Under MDT, VFA legal cover, PH and US set talks on new pact for rotational presence

DFA Secretary del Rosario and Defense Secretary Gazmin preside at a joint briefing on the planned framework agreement covering increased US rotational presence in the country. KRISKEN JONES, INTERAKSYON.COM

Philippine and United States officials open negotiations on August 14   for a new defense agreement to cover the “increased rotational presence” of American troops in the country as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) tries to establish what it calls a minimum credible defense as tensions heighten over China’s aggression in pursuing its maritime territorial claims.

Members of the negotiating panel led by Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Soreta briefed reporters Monday on the upcoming negotiation with the US side, to be led by senior diplomat Eric John, the State Department's senior negotiator for Military Agreements.  John was former ambassador to Thailand and held senior positions in the State Department, Soreta said.

On the Philippine panel are Defense Undersecretary Pio Batino, Defense Assistant Secretary Raymond Jose, and Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan.

Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario assured the public of complete transparency in the negotiations, which has raised questions among some lawmakers and nationalist groups.

The Philippine negotiators elaborated on the framework agreement sought to be reached with the US defense officials, stressing that the legal cover for US presence is already provided by the existing Mutual Defense Treaty between Manila and Washington, now over 60 years old, and the more recent Visiting Forces Agreement. The VFA was ratified by the Philippine Senate several years after the treaty extending the US bases' lease was rejected, paving the way for the dismantling of America's large facilities at Clark and Subic, among others smaller bases. The difference between the two treaties was that the VFA would only allow temporary presence, such as for joint training and operability drills between the forces of the two allies.

New pact guides 'increased rotational presence'

Soreta said Monday the goal is to have a framework agreement setting general parameters and principles to guide the “increased rotational presence” of American troops in the country. “It (framework agreement) will not provide details with respect to the size and shape of each activity mutually approved by the Philippines and the United States,” Sorreta explained.

The framework includes a mechanism mandating annual or regular consultative meetings between officials of the AFP) and the US Pacific Command (USPACOM), to study and asses the deployment of troops.

Soreta explained that as things stand, “it is the Mutual Defense Board and the Security Engagement Board…" that does these. "I must emphasize that this mechanism is an annual mechanism and it is through this mechanism that the AFP will be able to discern and assess if the proposed activities would be mutually beneficial to both. That is a very important principle that we will insist on in the negotiations for the framework agreement which is the concept of mutuality of benefits. Your negotiating panel will only recommend the execution of a framework agreement if it is convinced that it will serve national interest and it will strengthen the defense posture of the Philippines.”

Soreta said the agreement will be between the Philippine Department of National Defense and the US Department of Defense of the United States, "and therefore the signatories will be representatives of those departments.”

He stressed that the Philippine panel’s authority is just to negotiate. “There will be a separate authority required from the Office of the President if we recommend that we enter into this agreement. The agreement will be bilateral in nature. There is no language in it right now that contemplates a situation where a third party would accede to the agreement. We have not even thought about it, it’s not likely to happen though,” he said.

The planned agreement has already stirred concern among nationalist groups, who said it could be "worse" than the RP-US bases treaty that expired in 1991.

Lawmakers from both chambers are also wary of the nature, intent and extent of the planned agreement, with Senate President Franklin Drilon and foreign affairs panel acting chairman Ferdinand Marcos Jr. reminding the Executive no basing agreement will be allowed except under a treaty ratified by the Senate.

The framework agreement is separate from the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), according to Soreta. “We are not renegotiating the VFA on this process. We are having consultations on a separate pact.

Incidentally, with the same person in Eric John because he is in charge, we will try to come up with guidelines that will clarify some of the issues particularly those raised by the Supreme Court. So we are not reinventing anything,” he said.

Negotiations for the framework agreement “will not take less than four rounds of negotiations at the minimum,” Soreta added.

Negotiations are counted in terms of rounds. "We can’t really say how many months, how long will it take. The first round will be here on Wednesday morning and it will be at the DND (Department of National Defense) building. We are likely to finish the first round towards the evening,” Soreta said.

Separate agreement better

Batino, Defense undersecretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs and Strategic Concerns (OUSLLASC), said that a separate agreement would be a “greater momentum to strengthening” the relationship between the Philippines and the US.

"In this case, both countries would want to strengthen our alliance through the execution of this agreement. Executing defense and military agreements strengthen alliances. It is the position of the department that a stronger alliance with the US creates a stronger defense posture for the Philippines,” Batino said.

Soreta said the increased rotational presence of the American troops will be institutionalized through the framework agreement. “The contemplated framework agreement will indicate what activities under this increased rotational presence. When you talk about increased rotational presence, it seems a good policy but still abstract.

We’re going to put down on paper what can be done, what can’t be done, where it will be done, where it should not be done. You are going to see eventually modalities like we said parameters and types of activities that will be subject to approval.”

By itself, the framework agreement "does not authorize any activity. It sets the parameters, it’s up to the Philippines to approve each activity and if it feels it is to our benefit and it is not detrimental to our interest or to our constitutional laws then there is that mechanism for approving it,” he added.

The MDT and the VFA, Batino explained, “have already provided the legal framework covering the temporary presence of US forces” in the country as well as the corresponding access to facilities.

The framework agreement is also seen as an opportunity for the AFP to step up its modernization program for, at the very least, a minimum credible defense. In short, buy time for that credible defense to be built up.

 “All the activities of the DND and AFP including the modernization program and the forthcoming talks with the US for a possible framework agreement for the implementation of increased rotational presence is to address that concern, to enable the AFP to be able to protect the territory and sovereignty of the country,” Batino said.

If a new defense pact is signed between the two countries, Batino said US naval and air assets would be again be stationed in some parts of military facilities such as in Subic, Zambales, a former US military bases.

“One of the possible benefits for the Philippine government is the possibility of these temporarily deployed equipment to be used by our government for key mission areas such as maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. We must emphasize though that the DND and AFP is in the process of procuring modern defense equipment.

However, we believe that those US equipment to which we agreed to be temporarily deployed could supplement the AFP’s capability to perform its functions maritime security and maritime domain awareness,” Batino said.

'WORSE' | New PH-US military pact will expand presence beyond Subic, Clark - Bayan

From InterAksyon (Aug 12): 'WORSE' | New PH-US military pact will expand presence beyond Subic, Clark - Bayan

The proposed agreement increasing United States military presence in the Philippines could be “worse” than the former military bases treaty as it will allow US troops beyond the former US military bases in Subic and Clark, the militant organization Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said Monday.

The new agreement, which is being negotiated starting Monday, “will allow US troops to be present all over the country.  Every Philippine military facility, not just Subic and Clark, can now be accessed by US troops,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. in a news release.

More than the current “frequent port calls for refuelling, resupply and recreation, US forces will now be allowed to preposition their weapons and equipment in these Philippine facilities,” Reyes said.

This means turning the entire country into a huge US military base, he said.

“The prepositioning of weapons, nuclear warships and even armed drones, along with the continued rotational presence of troops, is tantamount to having de facto bases,” Reyes said.

Worse, he said, the Philippine government will have no control over these equipment and vehicles, citing the current Visiting Forces Agreement, which does not give the Philippines the the right to inspect these materiel.

“How prepositioning US equipment will help upgrade our military capability is a big mystery,” he said.

The agreement will turn the Philippines into “one big weapons depot for US forces,” Reyes said.

“The Philippines will be hosting equipment and war machine used in US intervention in other parts of the world. This makes the Philippine government complicit and supportive of US intervention,” he said.

'Learn from history'

Bayan listed at least two disadvantages of increasing US military presence in the country:

* It will violate national sovereignty. “Upholding national sovereignty means not only opposing China’s incursions but also rejecting continuing US intervention in our country. It is high time we realize that US interests are not identical with Philippine national interests,” it said.

* It will cause social and environmental damage in terms of prostitution and toxic waste dumping, as experienced when US had military bases before the Philippine Senate rejected the treaty.

* It will not develop the Philippine armed forces. “We had US bases for nearly half a century yet our armed forces still did not modernize. We have a VFA with the US since 1999, as well as several annual military exercises with the US and yet during that period, our armed forces still did not develop,” Bayan said.

History has shown that every time the US wants to justify its presence in the country, it would invoke certain threats to the Philippines.

“In the past, the Cold War and so-called communist threat was used to justify the presence of US bases. [George W.] Bush’s ‘war on terror’ was used to justify the permanent stationing of US troops in Mindanao from 2002 up to the present,” Bayan said.

The US is also unlikely to engage China head-on in behalf of the Philippines, Reyes said.

“In fact, there is nothing in the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty that says the US will automatically retaliate against any country that may attack the Philippines,” he said.

“What the US wants is to take advantage of the dispute with China to justify US presence in the Philippines, strengthen the US hand in Asia, further contain China and keep other countries in line,” he added.

Reyes reminded Filipinos of similar “imperialist ploy” used by the US when it adopted the policy of "benevolent assimilation" of the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century when the US sought to "liberate" the Philippines from Spain only to end up colonizing us.

Bayan called on all who stood up to reject the US bases in 1991 and who have opposed the VFA since 1999 to come together to oppose this new arrangement. It also called on the Philippine government “to disclose the full details of the negotiations.”

The negotiations form part of the US strategic pivot to Asia where it aims to move 60 percent of its warships to the region as a means to advance its own agenda in the Asia-Pacific region, Bayan said.

DFA chief vows transparency in negotiations for increased US presence in PH

From InterAksyon (Aug 12): DFA chief vows transparency in negotiations for increased US presence in PH

Amid protests over the planned increased presence of United States military in the Philippines, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Monday vowed to keep the negotiations for the US use of its former military bases in the country transparent.

“Transparency is extremely important in these negotiations. Our people need to know that our laws are observed and our interests are protected at all times,” he said at the start of negotiations on the Philippines-US Framework Agreement on increased Rotational Presence at Camp Aguinaldo.

The DFA secretary also gave the assurance that the agreement will not violate the Philippine Constitution, which among other things, bans the presence of nuclear arms in the country. A number of US warships are known to carry nuclear missiles.

“Our Philippine negotiators have been given parameters that require them to ensure that our Constitution and laws are fully respected. They have been tasked to ensure that Philippine interests are preserved and promoted,” del Rosario added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is participating in the negotiations that are officially between the defense officials of the two countries.

Del Rosario said the negotiators have also been tasked to keep the media, the public, and Congress informed of the details of the talks.

“Last week, (Defense) Secretary (Voltaire) Gazmin and l formally advised Congress of these negotiations. We committed to brief them after every round of negotiations. The Philippine Panel will also brief media after every round and make themselves available for media queries,” he said.

Del Rosario said the following may be expected with increased US “rotational presence” will “vastly improve…the Philippines’ ability to provide Filipinos and the region with timely and responsive humanitarian and disaster relief.”

He said other expectations include:

· Military modernization can begin even before we are able to purchase the necessary defense systems.
· Deterrence can be enhanced even before modernization.
· Maritime security and maritime domain awareness will be given a boost even before we have ships and aircraft that the Philippines needs.
· Even before the Philippines has the advanced hardware it wishes for, it will know how to operate and maintain them.

Territorial integrity

The Philippines has declared a defense policy of allowing the increase of US military presence amid its territorial dispute with China. Without mentioning China in these negotiations, del Rosario noted that the talks for a framework agreement on this will ensure “the security of our people and the territorial integrity of our nation.”

He said the negotiations require that diplomacy and defense work hand in hand.

“For Philippine diplomacy, this raises our already deep and historic strategic relations with a key partner to even greater heights. By highlighting our treaty commitments under our Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, we serve to keep our region stable and secure,” he said.

Even as the Philippine action increases the militarization of the Asia-Pacific region, del Rosario talked about keeping the peace.

“Our region would also need to know that we are steadfastly for peace; but that we stand ready to tap every resource, to call on every alliance, to do what is necessary in order to defend what is ours, to secure our nation and to keep our people safe,” he said.

The new framework agreement also forms part of the United States' pivot to Asia.

Kidnappers of ex-soldier's son in Maguindanao named

From the Philippine Star (Aug 12): Kidnappers of ex-soldier's son in Maguindanao named

Army and police intelligence officials have tagged the group of Commander Eskak of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as behind abduction of a 19 year-old son of a retired soldier in Midsayap town, last Saturday night.

Police investigators, on the other hand, said the group that snatched Mark Anthony Baya, a college student, was comprised of eight BIFF bandits, six of them initially identified only as Akas, Bhuto, Dapz, Theng, Bedu and Apon, all ethnic Maguindanaons from the towns of Northern Kabuntalan and Datu Piang.

Senior police intelligence officials, who asked not to be identified owing to the sensitive nature of their assignments, said Commander Eskak also known as “King Size” in Maguindanao towns where he and his men operates, is a henchman of Ustadz Karialan, the interim leader of the BIFF.

Earlier reports said that Karialan has assumed the leadership of the brigand group due to the faltering health of its founder, Saudi-trained cleric Ameril Ombra Kato, who suffered a hypertensive stroke last year.

Gunmen barged into the store owned by Baya’s parents in Barangay Tumbras past 7:00 p.m. Saturday and forced him into a getaway car parked nearby and spirited him to a riverside village.

The gunmen then boarded a pumpboat at the swampy border of the neighboring North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces.

Baya’s parents’ operates two small dry goods stores in Midsayap, one located in Barangay Tumbras, and the other at the public market.

Superintendent Reynante delos Santos, chief of the Midsayap municipal police, said the victim’s family has not received any message from his captors.

Delos Santos said that this could mean that the kidnappers were still on the move to avoid the military's pursuing troops.

Suspect in ambush of Sen. Guingona's mother arrested

From GMA News (Aug 12): Suspect in ambush of Sen. Guingona's mother arrested

A suspected official of the New People's Army allegedly involved in the failed ambush of the mother of Senator Teofisto Guingona III was arrested by authorities over the weekend.
Suspect Reynaldo Agcopra, also known as Commander Tarik, was nabbed Saturday afternoon at Sitio San Roque, Barangay Aposkahoy, Claveria, Misamis Oriental, according to a press statement from Philippine National Police Region 10.
Joint police and army personnel arrested Agcopra around 12:30 p.m. by virtue of an arrest warrant issued by Judge Mirabeau A. Undalok of Branch 43, Regional Trial Court 10, Gingoog City for double murder and multiple frustrated murder. However, no details were provided on how he was nabbed.
No bail was recommended for the temporary liberty of Agcopra.
On April 20, the four-vehicle convoy of former Gingoog Mayor Ruth de Lara Guingona, also the wife of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, was attacked by NPA members at Binakalan Village while they were on their way back to the city after attending a barangay fiesta.
Guingona survived the attack but her driver Tomas Velasco and his brother, Nestor, who was an alternate driver, were killed. One of the police escorts, PO3 Rolando Benemirito was injured.
The NPA admitted it was behind the incident but insisted that it was a checkpoint operation gone awry.

They claimed they only wanted to talk to the mayor, who has been campaigning for her daughter Marie, a candidate for mayor to replace her mother.

The rebels said the Guingonas had not sought permission to campaign in areas the NPA considers under its control.

Suspected NPA rebels torch 11 buses in Laguna

From InterAksyon (Aug 12): Suspected NPA rebels torch 11 buses in Laguna

Fifteen suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) wearing police camouflage uniforms raided a compound of a bus company and torched all the 11 buses they found inside before dawn Monday in Laguna.

“We’re still investigating,” provincial police director Senior Supt. Pascual Munoz said.

But he said police are not discounting the possibility that the culprits were NPA rebels because they were armed with high-powered firearms.

Investigators said the armed men arrived at the compound at around 1:30 a.m. and introduced themselves as policemen to the caretakers of the HM Transport.

Allegedly, the raiders were there to search the place for reported illegal drugs stored inside the compound.

The bus company plies routes between Laguna province and Cubao in Quezon City.

Munoz said investigators are likewise investigating the motive but if the suspects are NPA rebels the possible motive is extortion.

Sa puntong ito iniimbestigahan pa namin ‘yan,” he said.