Tuesday, August 13, 2013

PNP to buy 50,000 assault rifles

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 13): PNP to buy 50,000 assault rifles

At least 50,000 assault rifles will be added to the armory of the Philippine National Police (PNP), with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas saying the procurement of the rifles maybe done within the year.

The money will come from the P9 billion approved by President Aquino for the capability enhancement program for the police organization according to Roxas.

“We will equip all policemen assign in the field with long firearms, that is more or less 50,000 pieces,” said Roxas in an interview after the 112th Police Service Anniversary program at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

He said they are now conducting study as to what specifications would fit the policemen in the field.

In his speech as the guest of honor in the ceremony, President Aquino announced that he approved some P9 billion for the modernization of the PNP.

“Kanina po ay binanggit ng ating hepe na meron kayong sa first tranche na P2 billion. Sabi ko kay Mar (Roxas): ‘Mar, parang maliit yata yung P2 billion’ [Earlier the chief said that you have a first tranche of P2 billion. I told Mar, that amount maybe too small],” said Aquino.

“Ang tanda kong na-approve ay hindi ganun kase ang pinaalala po sa akin first tranche lang po yon dahil ang kabuuan ay P9 billion [What I remember approving is higher because that is only the fist tranche, since the total amount is P9 billion,” he added.

Roxas said the P9 billion fund is expected to be spent from third quarter of this year up to end of the second quarter next year.

Aside from the long firearms, among those that will be funded of the amount are communication equipment, more or less 2,000 patrol cars and hiring of 30,000 civilian employees who will replace policemen doing deskwork.

The P9 billion fund is on top of the annual P2 billion capability enhancement fund of the PNP, according to Roxas.

“The fund was already approved by the President, it is already with the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) and it will be released as soon as the PNP needs it,” said Roxas.

The procurement strategy that they will implement, according to Roxas, is a “one time-big time” purchase such as what they did in the purchase of 75,000 pieces of Glock pistols where the government managed to save P200 million as it bought each gun at P16,000 as compared to the market value of P41,000 each.

“We can save a lot under this scheme so we will be doing the same in the purchase of long firearms and in the patrol cars,” said Roxas.

He said the bidding process for the patrol cars could be done next month.

Aquino also praised the PNP during the 112th Police Service Anniversary program for its accomplishments, specifically citing the feat of PO2 Webster Liwag of the Malolos, Bulacan police who turned down the P3 million bribe during the arrest of the ringleaders of the Dominguez carnapping group and the police’s anti-narcotics unit for the P2 billion drug haul in Zambales.


US exploiting PH-China row - Bayan

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 13): US exploiting PH-China row - Bayan

Various Militant groups gathers at the Plaza Salamanca before advancing to the premises of the US Embassy on March 3, 2012. Leftist group Bayan on Tuesday has slammed the planned rotational presence of US Military personnel in the Philippines, and has said that the superpower is taking advantage of the ongoing PH-China row. (Linus GUardian Escandor II)

“Biggest lie.”

This is how militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Tuesday describes the Philippine government’s claim that United States will help the PH on its territorial dispute against China as the negotiation for increased U.S. military presence in the country will start this week.

While recognizing the need to stand against ‘assertive’ China, Bayan believes that U.S. will not go ‘head-to-head’ with China as it has “a lot of economic interests” in the communist country.

“The US is merely exploiting the dispute,” Bayan Sec. Renato Reyes said in a statement.

This came a day after Sec. Albert del Rosario announced it will start talks for the framework agreement between Philippines’ Department of National Defense (DND) and U.S.’ Department of Defense allowing increased U.S. rotational presence in the country, which includes pre-positioning of major U.S. equipment.

Del Rosario earlier said that the increased rotational presence will help the country defend its territorial waters amid PH-China dispute over Spratly Islands.

“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,” del Rosario said on Monday.

Moreover, the militant group also dismissed the claim that the agreement will ‘modernize’ the poorly-guarded Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

According to Reyes, the US has no intention to modernize the AFP’s equipment, as “it wants to keep the Philippines dependent on US aid.

“PH soldiers are merely being treated to previews of weapons they can never have and methods they will never use. We’ve had US bases for nearly half a century yet our armed forces still did not modernize. We have a VFA [Visiting Forces Agreement] with the US since 1999, our armed forces still did not develop,” Reyes said as Bayan together with other militant groups gathered in front of the DND’s office where the first round of negotiations will be held on Wednesday.

The militant groups are asking for the full details of the agreements with the U.S. regarding “access arrangements for US troops and ships in existing PH military bases,” Reyes said.

Bayan has been protesting the presence of U.S. military in the country for joint exercises and its military bases in Clark, Pampanga and Subic, Zambales.


Esscom Director-General Rubbishes Claims Of A Shootout In Lahad Datu

From Bernama (Aug 12): Esscom Director-General Rubbishes Claims Of A Shootout In Lahad Datu

Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) director-general Datuk Mohammad Mentek has rubbished claims that eight Malaysian soldiers were killed in a recent shootout in Lahad Datu.

Describing the recent statement by the so-called Sultanate of Sulu in Philippine newspapers as mere propaganda, he said since the intrusion of Sulu terrorists into Tanduo, Lahad Datu in February, there had not been any recent clash between Malaysian security forces and the terrorists.

"How can they make that claim when there is no war? That claim is baseless," he told Bernama when contacted Monday.

Mohammad was asked to comment on recent reports by several Philippine newspapers that Sulu gunmen had killed eight Malaysian soldiers.

He reiterated the report was intended to reflect the situation in the state as unstable, apart from an attempt to stir unrest.

The so-called Sultanate of Sulu was quoted as claiming recently, that its forces led by a veteran guerrilla from Tawi-Tawi, killed at least eight Malaysian soldiers in a shootout in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

On June 19, Mohammad had also dismissed a report in a local Philippine newspaper report of a skirmish between Malaysian security forces and about 400 armed Sulu terrorists at Kampung Dengan Tungku near Lahad Datu.

Esscom: Ambush claims baseless

From the Star Online (Aug 13): Esscom: Ambush claims baseless

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia dismissed as baseless claims in Manila that eight of its soldiers were killed in an ambush by Sulu gunmen in Lahad Datu.

Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) director-general Datuk Mohammad Mentek said the claims by the self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan’s group were without any basis.

“They have been making all sorts of claims to create disharmony and fear among the people.

“I urge the people not to believe such unfounded claims by these (Sulu) individuals who are using it as propaganda,” he said when contacted yesterday on reports in several Philippines newspapers that Sulu gunmen killed eight Malaysian soldiers.

The news reports, quoting self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s spokesman Abraham Idjirani, said that the Sultan’s soldiers, led by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram (more known as Azzimuddie here), had informed him that eight members of the Malaysian security forces were killed.

The alleged killings were the result of a supposed ambush by some 50 members of the Sultan’s Royal Security Force group, led by Utuh Ubie, in a Felda area in Lahad Datu on Friday.

Idjirani claimed that he was informed by Azzimuddie about the killings by telephone.
“There is no basis to such a claim, there were no incidents at all,” Mohammad said, adding that security had been on high alert following rumours that Sulu gunmen were planning a second wave of attacks during Hari Raya.

“It has been a very peaceful Hari Raya, so there is no reason for people to worry or panic,” he said.

Mohammad added that anyone with information or in need of clarification about so-called incidents could contact the operations room at 089-863-181 in Lahad Datu. “It is operational 24/7 and they can call anytime,” he added.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib also denied the reports while confirming that there had been no clashes between security forces and Sulu terrorists.


US, Philippines Lay Groundwork for Subic Visits

From Defense News (Aug 12): US, Philippines Lay Groundwork for Subic Visits

Greater access to Philippine facilities for the US military will be part of the upcoming negotiations between Manila and Washington on establishing a framework agreement that would be “nested” under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), Philippine and US defense officials here said.

Both indicated there would be no changes to the MDT, no permanent US military bases, and, despite media speculation, no basing of US Air Force F-22 fighters or B-2 bombers.

The Philippines is shifting from internal security requirements related to the threat from terrorism to maritime security concerns in the South China Sea, and “our treaty agreement needs [to be] updated,” a US defense source said.

What the “access agreement” will look like has yet to be established. But one thing is certain — it will be rotational, the US defense source said. Rotational is the new framework and the concept is still developmental with each treaty ally in the region, the source said.

The reality is money. Sequestration has forced the Pentagon to look at ways of cutting costs while still getting the job done. This means words like modularity, rotational, and prepositioning are becoming trendy in the Pentagon.

Philippine defense officials said access to Subic Bay and Subic International Airport would first be used to preposition humanitarian assistance and disaster relief equipment and supplies. US forces using these facilities will rotate through the same way US forces rotate in Australia and Singapore.

“The number one enemy in the region is Mother Nature,” not war, the US defense source said.

This does not mean the US will not assist in Manila’s military modernization plans. For the US military, this will begin with increased joint training and exercises, including efforts to improve the way the Philippine military develops requirements for arms procurements.

Manila has a long list of defense equipment it wants but cannot seem to make up its mind about what it really needs, said defense sources in Washington. These include 12 lead-in fighters, maritime patrol aircraft, multi-role maritime helicopters, helicopter dock ships and frigates. The Korean FA-50 Golden Eagle was mentioned several times by sources last week as a popular contender for the lead-in fighter requirement.

Philippine defense officials said they need a “minimum credible defense” that includes better C4ISR. “We want to know what is happening in our backyard and have the ability to respond to it. The US presence is welcome, but the responsibility is our own.”

The Philippines has little or no C4ISR infrastructure. The US has begun assisting the Philippines in the area of maritime surveillance with enhancements to its National Coast Watch Center by upgrading facilities that were originally designed to track transnational criminals, such as pirates and terrorists.

Last week, the US delivered the second of two former US Coast Guard high-endurance cutters to the Philippine Navy. Despite media reports, discussions on a third cutter are not underway, Philippine and US defense sources said. One source indicated the cutters were provided to the Philippines as excess defense articles and were not furbished. Several countries in the region are talking with Manila about refurbishing both vessels.

Instead of taking on the costs of transferring the third vessel, they are taking the money saved and refurbishing the first two. A third is a possibility in the future, a US defense source said.

The second cutter arrived Aug. 6 at Alava Wharf, near Subic Bay, during a public ceremony led by Philippine President Benigno Aquino. He said the new ships would help the country patrol its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which extends 200 nautical miles from shore.

Since 2011, Manila has expressed frustration with China over maritime incursions and counterclaims by Beijing over the Scarborough Shoal, which is within the Philippines’ EEZ. The issue culminated in April 2012 when eight Chinese fishing boats were challenged by the Philippine Navy. In July, Chinese vessels erected a barrier to the shoal’s entrance and stationed vessels from the China Marine Surveillance and Fisheries Law Enforcement Command nearby.

The encounter has shaken the Philippines and created unexpected enthusiasm for a return of the US military, which was expelled from Subic Bay and Clark Air Base in 1991.

The problem is that the US has yet to gather a consensus on whether China is an enemy, Nugent said. This is evident by the Pentagon’s insistence that the Air-Sea Battle concept is not aimed directly at China.

The Pentagon’s Air-Sea Battle Office told Defense News the concept is a response to anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) strategies, which is a response to the successful US campaign during the 1991 Gulf War.

“We have been a power projection force. A2/AD exists because we are a power projection force. Air-Sea Battle is a response to the creation of A2/AD. There’s the rub,” an official with the Air-Sea Battle office said.

What the Philippines has done is jump on the “China threat bandwagon” without considering the possibility the US might not pull the wagon, said a former Pentagon official who now works as a consultant on US defense strategy in Asia.

Today, the US is far more dependent on China than the Philippines. US State Department declarations of a peaceful resolution of South China disputes and taking itself out of the Scarborough fight are clear indications of sea change since the end of the Cold War.


Misuari declared independence, claims MNLF official

From ABS-CBN (Aug 13): Misuari declared independence, claims MNLF official

Despite an earlier denial, reports that Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari declared independence last month still persist.

Habib Hashim, chairman of the Islamic Command Council of the MNLF, said he received unofficial information that Misuari declared independence in Indanan, Sulu last July 29, 2013.

He said the declaration occurred during the group's gathering in one of the barangays in Indanan.

Hashim said he believes Misuari is dismayed over the ineptitude of the present administration in the full implementation of the 1996 peace accord between the MNLF and the government of the Philippines.

Misuari has reiterated in the past years that some of the provisions of the 1996 MNLF peace accord have not been fully implemented.

He is questioning the pending peace agreement that the government has been finalizing with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Hashim said Misuari should learn to accept reality that they cannot stop anymore the pending finalization of the peace accord of the MILF and the Philippine government.

He said Misuari should consider a compromise agreement with the government, without neccesarily sacrificing the unimplemented provisions of the 1996 peace accord.

He said some of the provisions of the MNLF 1996 peace accord should be integrated in the MILF-GPH peace agreement, and MNLF should be given a fair share in the issue of power, wealth and political positions in the new Bangsamoro homeland.

Hashim is also worried about the possible repercussions of the alleged declaration of independence. He said this could lead to armed conflict.

The MNLF official urged MalacaƱang to talk to Misuari and consider a compromise agreement in the pending peace accord.

Hashim's group and the MNLF executive council are not in favor of Misuari's alleged declaration of independence.

Hashim said the declaration of independence should be their last option if dialogue with government fails.


PH vows to ‘tap every resource’ to defend disputed sea

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 12): PH vows to ‘tap every resource’ to defend disputed sea

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary Albert del Rosario AP FILE PHOTO

Amid continuing territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) the Philippines said it is pushing for peace in the Southeast Asian region, but will not hesitate to “tap every resource,” and “call on every alliance” to defend its territory.

“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,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary Albert del Rosario said Monday.

Del Rosario, together with Department of National Defense (DND) secretary Voltaire Gazmin, announced in a press conference the official start of negotiations between the United States (US) and the Philippines on their increased rotational presence.

“Some time ago, we developed a policy and arrived at an understanding with the US, our treaty ally, on increased rotational presence,” he said.

The policy would be institutionalized once negotiations, which are set to being this week, are complete and a framework agreement has been signed by both countries.

Del Rosario said that the presence of US troops in the country would boost the maritime capabilities of the Philippines even without the need to acquire new military hardware.

“Maritime security and maritime domain awareness will be given a boost even before we have ships and aircraft that we need,” he said, enumerating the benefits of the rotational presence of US troops.

“Modernization can begin even before we are able to purchase the necessary defense systems,” del Rosario added. “Even before we have the advanced hardware we wish for, we will know how to operate and maintain them.”

The Philippines’ latest acquisitions of military hardware include the Navy ships BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Both are Hamilton class high endurance cutters that served the US Coast Guard since mid-1960s.

Both ships were acquired through the Excess Defense Articles and the Foreign Assistance Act of the US. The negotiations for the increased rotational presence of US troops highlights the country’s commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries, del Rosario said.

“For Philippine diplomacy, this raises our already deep and historic strategic relations with a key partner to even greater heights,” he said.

“By highlighting our treaty commitments under our Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, we serve to keep our region stable and secure,” del Rosario said.

He further said that the negotiations will be made as transparent as possible and that the interests of the Philippines will be protected.

“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,” del Rosario said.


US looking forward to successful base access talks with PH

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 13): US looking forward to successful base access talks with PH
The United States is confident about the positive conclusion of its base access talks with the Philippines, reiterating its support for the country’s defense buildup and preparedness for disaster response.

In a statement on Tuesday, US Embassy officials expressed hopes that negotiations, set to begin on Tuesday, in Manila, would reinforce the long-standing partnership between the two allies as both keenly pursued a common bid for a more stable Asia-Pacific region.

“We support the Philippine Government in its desire to build a credible defense and respond rapidly during times of humanitarian crisis and natural disasters,” said US Embassy officials in a statement sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“We are optimistic that the first round of negotiations will result in positive outcomes that will further strengthen our 62-year alliance,” officials said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Monday announced the formal start of negotiations between the Philippines and the US on the latter’s expanded access to Philippine military bases, a move that has invited criticism from those long opposed to US military presence here.

Del Rosario earlier said the talks would include discussions on “modalities and parameters” within which US troops would be allowed greater rotational presence in the Philippines under existing bilateral agreements and in compliance with Philippine law, particularly the Constitution.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reiterated this on Tuesday and said the bounds of the agreement had already been defined in deference to Philippine law.
“The parameters have already been set and both secretaries (Del Rosario and Gazmin) have already stated this yesterday (Monday). These are very clear parameters — respect for Philippine Constitution, the laws and jurisprudence, the preservation of Philippine sovereignty, the non-permanence of US troops and non-exclusivity of use of facilities by US side and the mutuality of benefits,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesman, said.

He also addressed criticism thrown at Del Rosario for leading the effort, particularly remarks of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, saying the official was “drawing attention to himself” in making announcements on the Philippine-US negotiations.

Del Rosario and Trillanes were at opposite ends in 2012, when the top diplomat said the senator’s backchannel effort to settle the territorial dispute with Beijing was “doing more harm than good.”

Trillanes, who has long showed displeasure over Del Rosario’s stay at the DFA, meanwhile accused the official of using the territorial dispute as a leverage to pursue business interests.

“Defending what is ours, securing our nation and keeping our people safe is a combined effort of diplomacy and defense. The close partnership of the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and the DND (Department of National Defense) is of paramount importance. So we need to be transparent to the public. We need to let our people know how we intend to safeguard their welfare at all times,” said Hernandez.

The Philippines looks to the US, its strongest defense ally, in building a “minimum credible defense posture” as it fortifies territorial security amid disputes with military giant China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Most recently, the Philippine Navy acquired a former US Coast Guard cutter as the country’s latest warship, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Both countries also continue joint military exercises — activities set to increase once the new agreement is firmed up.

While neutral on the dispute, the United States has been keenly watching over security in the waters, a critical international trade route, as it pursued a strategic pivot to the Asia Pacific amid its gradual troop withdrawal from the Middle East.

The move is viewed in China as an effort to “contain” its rise as an economic and military power in the region.

The Philippines has meanwhile been vocal in criticizing China for incursions in the West Philippine Sea, including sea patrols and fishing trips to the country’s exclusive economic zone. Government believes Chinese ships come and go in at least two of shoals within the country’s maritime boundaries, including the Ayungin Shoal off Palawan and the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales.

Asserting “indisputable sovereignty” over almost all of the waters, China has lashed back at the Philippines for “internationalizing” the regional dispute, an apparent reference to the country’s defense alliance with the US.

In January, the Philippines haled China before the United Nations arbitral tribunal, the only standing legal action in the six-way dispute that also involves Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The legal action aims to nullify China’s nine-dash line claim, which encompasses almost all of the West Philippine Sea, and to halt its incursions into the country’s maritime borders. China has refused to take part in the arbitration but proceedings continue before the five-member ad hoc panel holding court in The Hague.


BIFF attacks farm in Midsayap town

From the Philippine Star (Aug 13): BIFF attacks farm in Midsayap town

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters pounded with 60mm mortars a farming enclave in Midsayap town Monday night before fleeing deep into the vast Liguasan Marsh to elude  soldiers chasing them since Saturday.

Senior Supt. Danny Peralta, director of the North Cotabato police, said the bandits apparently targeted a detachment of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit in Barangay Baliki in Midsayap, but the mortar rounds fell short of range and landed in surrounding farms.

No one was reported killed or injured in the bombardment, but the incident sent villagers fleeing for their lives.

The BIFF bandits had only ceased from shelling Barangay Baliki when soldiers returned fire with 105 Howitzer Cannons, forcing the former to scamper to different directions.

Villagers have confirmed seeing BIFF bandits fleeing in groups to swampy areas at the border of Maguindanao and North Cotabato since noontime Monday, flushed out by a counter-offensive by combined members of the Army’s 40th and 7th Infantry Battalions.

The military’s counterattack was launched after BIFF bandits showed force last Saturday dawn in farming enclaves in the boundary of Barangays Pagangan and Nalapaan, in North Cotabato’s Aleosan and Pikit towns, respectively, and tried to breach through a portion of the Cotabato-Davao Highway.

The local government of Aloesan, the town’s former mayor and now provincial board member Loreto Cabaya, and representatives from the office of Gov. Lala TaliƱo-Mendoza have  been distributing relief supplies to thousands of  Moro and Christian villagers displaced by the BIFF attacks over the weekend.

Mendoza has appealed to the joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to help local officials to prevent bandits from attacking farming enclaves in Pikit, Aleosan and Midsayap.

Mendoza said while the BIFF is not covered by the 1997 government-MILF Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, members of the joint ceasefire committee can cooperate in protecting non-combatants from criminal gangs and terrorists.

Mendoza has been initiating since Saturday backchannel dialogues with influential Moro religious and traditional leaders in the province as part of her efforts to defuse tension in areas vulnerable to bandit attacks.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said they will station uniformed combatants in the affected barangays to prevent the bandits from coming back.

“All of our security efforts are being coordinated closely with the joint ceasefire committee, the LGUs and the office of the provincial governor of North Cotabato,” Hermoso said.


Militants protest in front of Camp Aguinaldo over US troops access

From the Philippine Star (Aug 13): Militants protest in front of Camp Aguinaldo over US troops access

Militant groups on Tuesday staged a protest in front of the military’s main headquarters to decry the plan to grant the United States (US) wider access to Philippine bases.

About 20 to 30 activists gathered in front of Camp Aguinaldo to stage the protest, which was held a day before the start of the negotiations on the increased rotational presence of US troops.

“We are definitely opposed to any negotiations for greater access for the US troops. We view that the negotiations and eventual granting of access to US forces and ships will be detrimental to national interest,” said Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

"We’ve had almost a century of US bases yet the armed forces did not develop. We have more than a decade of Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) yet our armed forces remain backward,” he added.

Members of the labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno and Bayan Muna were also present during the protest.

The protesters waved placards that read “US troops out now!” and “No to return of US bases! Stop US intervention” as members of the military police looked on.

Wearing helmets and holding shields, the military police personnel  ignored the protesters, who ended their program peacefully after about an hour.

Reyes said the access agreement would reduce the Philippines into “a giant weapons depot for the US forces.”

“The country would be used as a staging ground for US intervention such as drone strikes in other parts of the world,” he said.

Reyes believes the US would  be unable to help the Philippines in its territorial row with China.

“The US will not go head to head with China nor is it under any obligation to take side in any territorial dispute. The US has a lot of economic interests in China. The US is merely exploiting the dispute,” he said.

Reyes said plans to craft an executive agreement allowing the increased rotational presence of US forces would be tantamount to bypassing the Senate.

He said the government is resorting to legal shortcuts to hasten the implementation of the agreement.

Under the law, a treaty should be ratified by the Senate before it takes effect. An executive agreement, however does not need a Senate concurrence.

“The US has no intention of modernizing the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) because it wants to keep the Philippines dependent on US aid,” Reyes said.

The Philippines and the US will start Wednesday the talks for an agreement that will increase the rotational presence of American forces in the country.

The agreement is expected to set parameters for activities that can be undertaken by the two countries. Security officials have clarified that the deal would not involve the establishment of new US bases, which is prohibited by the constitution.

The Philippine negotiating panel consists of Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos Sorreta, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop.

The US panel, meanwhile, will be led by Eric John, senior negotiator for military agreements of the State Department.

Officials said the Philippine negotiating panel would be guided by the following principles: strict compliance with the Philippine Constitution, laws, and jurisprudence, Philippine sovereignty, non-permanence of US troops in Philippine territory, non-exclusivity of use of facilities by the US side, and mutuality of benefits.

Last year, the US bared plans to deploy majority of its naval fleet to the Pacific by 2020. Then US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the move was part of Washington’s efforts to boost its presence in the Asia Pacific.

The US naval assets would be realigned from a roughly 50-50 split between the Pacific and the Atlantic to about 60-40 split between those oceans.


Trader’s son still in BIFF hands

From the Philippine Star (Aug 13): Trader’s son still in BIFF hands

A businessman’s 19-year-old son, snatched by suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) bandits in Midsayap town Saturday night, has not been rescued, contrary to reports, authorities said yesterday.

The family of Mark Anthony Baya, whose father is a retired soldier, has not received any message or ransom demand yet from the kidnappers, an indication that his kidnappers are still on the run, according to Midsayap police chief Superintendent Reynante delos Santos.

“There is no truth to reports by certain media entities that the victim had been rescued. What we have recovered was the getaway vehicle of the kidnappers, not the victim,” Delos Santos told reporters.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, which has jurisdiction over Midsayap and surrounding towns, denied that Baya had been rescued as reported earlier.

Local officials expressed belief that Baya’s kidnap was a diversionary tactic by the BIFF to help its members, who have been pursued since Saturday morning by soldiers in North Cotabato’s adjoining Aleosan and Pikit towns.

Soldiers have killed four bandits, initially identified as Sanday, Dimasangkay, Kused and Zainal, and wounded seven others in an encounter with BIFF forces that tried to get near the Cotabato-Davao Highway that connects Aleosan and Pikit.

Four gunmen barged into the store owned by Baya’s parents, dragged him to a gray Mitsubishi Lancer car, and took him to a river in another village where a motorized watercraft was waiting.

Responding policemen and soldiers found the abandoned getaway car of the kidnappers, which barangay officials immediately turned over to the municipal police office.

Witnesses said they overheard the kidnappers talking about turning Baya over to another group of BIFF bandits who were waiting at the border of Midsayap and Datu Piang in Maguindanao.

Army and police sources have identified the group of BIFF commander Eskak as behind Baya’s kidnap.

Police investigators, on the other hand, said the group that snatched Baya was composed of eight BIFF bandits, six of them identified as Akas, Bhuto, Dapz, Theng, Bedu and Apon, all ethnic Maguindanaoans from the towns of Northern Kabuntalan and Datu Piang.

Intelligence officials, who asked not to be identified, said Eskak, alias King Size, is allegedly a henchman of Ustadz Karialan, the interim leader of the BIFF.

Karialan was earlier reported to have assumed the leadership of the brigand group due to the deteriorating health of its founder, Saudi-trained cleric Ameril Ombra Kato, who suffered a stroke last year.


Groups behind abduction in N. Cotabato identified

From the Sun Star-Davao (Aug 13): Groups behind abduction in N. Cotabato identified

Police and anti-kidnapping task force have already identified at least three groups that could be responsible for the abduction of 19-year-old student in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Superintendent Renante delos Santos, chief of Midsayap police, identified the groups of Commanders "Super Power," Kinsay, and Toks Kalbo as behind the kidnapping last Saturday of Mark Anthony Baya, student of the Notre Dame of Midsayap College and son of a retired Army officer.

He also identified at least six possible members of these groups with their aliases as Bhutto, Dhats, Teng, Akas, Diro, and Apon.

Delos Santos said as of Monday, Baya's family has not received a ransom demand from any of these groups.

Police said pursuit operations are still underway in order to rescue Baya and arrest those responsible for the kidnapping.

Baya's kidnapping is the fifth incident in North Cotabato since 2011.

The other four kidnapping incidents, according to delos Santos, were masterminded by these commanders.

Baya was inside their store at Barangay Tumbras in Midsayap when at least five masked men alighted from a gray Mitsubishi vehicle and forcibly snatched him around 7:20 p.m. Saturday.

Pursuing cops and Army officers recovered the vehicle abandoned at nearby Barangay Malingao, also in Midsayap which is near the marsh.

Authorities hinted Baya was brought to an area in northern Kabuntalan in Maguindanao province, believed to be the hideout of these kidnap-for-ransom groups.

Another blast rocks Kabacan

From the Sun Star-Davao (Aug 13): Another blast rocks Kabacan

Another grenade explosion rocked the town of Kabacan in North Cotabato around 3:45 a.m. Monday, the second in just three days, reports said.

David Don Saure, head of the Kabacan municipal disaster risk reduction and management office, said the explosive was fired at from an M79 grenade launcher positioned from a distance.

Saure said the grenade landed and went off in front of the office of the Commission on Elections located inside the compound of the local government unit of Kabacan.

No one was hurt during the blast, he said.

Kabacan Mayor Herlo Guzman hinted the explosive was meant for him.

"My perceived enemies knew I was sleeping inside the town hall. I know the group behind these blasts is out to destroy me," said Guzman, who admitted having received several death threats since he became the chairman of Poblacion of Kabacan.

Guzman said the grenade blasts took place after he intensified his campaign against illegal drugs and the "No License, No Plate" travel policy.

"I have started this campaign against illegal drugs since I was the chairman of Poblacion of Kabacan. I won't stop in this fight. I want to rid this town of illegal drugs," the mayor said.

Reports reaching Kabacan police said big-time drug syndicates are operating within the Poblacion area.

Kabacan has also become the transshipment of illegal drugs coming from different areas in Cotabato City and Maguindanao, reports said.

The blast was the second since last week.

On Friday night, a 40mm grenade exploded in front of the house of a para-military trooper identified as Eddie Antolin wounding him and three other members of his family.

79th IB turning 7, holding inter-high school contests

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 13): 79th IB turning 7, holding inter-high school contests

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

It will be highlighted by province-wide, inter-high school oratorical and poster-making competitions, participated in by 16 students from the three districts of the province, at the Robinsons Place mall in Dumaguete tomorrow.

The project aims to promote peace and development through education and the youth, a press release from the Army said.

Lt. Col. Marion Sison, commanding officer of the Battalion, said it 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.


Army reaffirms respect for human rights

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 13): Army reaffirms respect for human rights

The Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade yesterday re-affirmed their commitment to respect to human rights and International Humanitarian Law at the flag-raising ceremony at Camp Major Nelson Gerona in Brgy. Minoyan, attended by military officials and enlisted personnel.

Colonels Jon Aying and Rey Banares led the activity where the soldiers pledged to defend, protect and promote human rights,

But the military is still being hit by allegations of human rights violations, and extra-judicial killings, especially from left-leaning groups.

Records of the Commission on Human Rights, however, show a marked improvement in the adherence of Army soldiers to the rule of law and promotion of human rights in Negros Occidental.

In the past six months of 2013, not a single complaint of human rights abuses had been lodged against Army soldiers in Negros Occidental, and only one last year, CHR records show.

CHR provincial chief Romeo Baldevarona has attributed this to human rights awareness programs incorporated in the training of soldiers.

The 303rd Infantry Brigade, a member of the Provincial Peace Integration and Development Unit, has been actively involved in non-traditional military activities, focusing on the six hinterland barangays of Escalante, Toboso and Calatrava.

In support to the 303rd IB effort, Lt. Col. Efren Morados, 62nd Infantry Battalion commander, yesterday said he has presented the Pro-PIDU accomplishments to the Municipal Peace and Order Councils of Toboso and Calatrava.

Morados said Toboso Mayor Richard Jaojoco and Calatrava Mayor Araceli Somosa pledged support to the creation of local PIDU in their towns.


Malaysia belies Kiram claim of attack in Sabah

From GMA News (Aug 13): Malaysia belies Kiram claim of attack in Sabah

Malaysian officials on Monday belied claims by the camp of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III that the sultan's followers killed eight soldiers in a recent ambush in Sabah.

Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) director general Datuk Mohammad Mentek branded such claims as baseless, according to a report on Malaysia's The Star Online news site.

The Malaysian official claimed that the Sultan's camp was making "all sorts of claims to create disharmony and fear among the people."

He urged the public "not to believe such unfounded claims by these individuals who are using it as propaganda."

Mentek was referring to reports in some newspapers on Monday quoting Kiram's camp as claiming the clashes occurred in Lahad Datu.

On Monday, news reports quoted Kiram camp spokesman Abraham Idjirani as saying Kiram's followers ambushed eight Malaysian soldiers in Lahad Datu last Friday.

The Star Online report added that Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib also denied the reports, adding that there had been no recent clashes.

Kiram's followers had engaged Malaysian security forces in a standoff last February. The standoff ended in deadly clashes on March 1 and 2.

Following the clashes, Malaysian forces conducted offensive operations to flush out Kiram's followers from the area.


BIFF rebels shell North Cotabato village while fleeing govt forces

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): BIFF rebels shell North Cotabato village while fleeing govt forces

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) fired 6 mm mortars toward a farming village here Monday night as they flee pursuing government forces toward the Liguasan marshland.

Nobody was hurt in when fleeing BIFF fired mortars towards a militia detachment in Barangay Baliki, Midsayap, North Cotabato, according to Senior Supt. Danny Peralta.

Peralta said the BIFF was apparently targeting a detachment of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit in Barangay Baliki but the mortar fell short and landed on a farming village.

Residents of Barangay Baliki, except for the men, have fled their homes since Saturday when BIFF forces attacked an Army base in Sitio Tuka, Barangay Pagangan, Aleosan, sending some 2,000 families fleeing.

An ensuing military offensive that included artillery fire left five BIFF guerillas killed and two soldiers wounded, according to Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz, 6th Infantry Division chief.

As the military intensified mortar shelling, the guerillas left toward Datu Piang, Maguindanao by crossing the Rio Grande de Mindanao. They however, fired mortars, toward nearby CAFGU detachment in Barangay Baliki.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council reported that about 2,275 families or about 9,000 individuals have been affected by the skirmishes.

About 10 percent of them have returned home but majority opted to remain in evacuation centers despite green light signal from military and local officials.

According to Tahira Kalatongan, Pikit Municipal Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council chief, despite repeated assurance that the lawless elements have left their villages, most of the evacuees remained in evacuation centers.

“We have been convincing them that it is now safe to return home, our calls fell on deaf ears," Kalatongan said.

The NDRRMC in its report said the Aleosan-Pikit conflict displaced a total of 9,770 persons or 2,275 families.

About 670 families or 3,350 individuals were affected in Aleosan while 1,605 families or 6,420 individuals sought refuge in Pikit town, both in North Cotabato.

“As if they fear for something, they know the situation in their localities, they may have valid reasons why they opt to remain in evacuation sites," Kalatongan said, adding that the local government could not force them to go back home.

Kalatongan said while the residents remained in various evacuation centers, the local government of Pikit and Aleosan are attending to their needs like food and water.

Many of the evacuees fled empty handed as they run for their lives when BIFF forces started closing in to their communities.

To ensure security of civilians, Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the Army will maintain visibility in affected villages to prevent lawless elements from coming back.


MNLF offers to help probe the Cotabato car bomb attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): MNLF offers to help probe the Cotabato car bomb attack
A bigger faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has offered to help the government in determining those behind in the August 5 car bomb attack here that left eight persons killed and at least 40 others wounded.

Former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, chair of a bigger faction of the MNLF, said their group is conducting its own separate and independent investigation in the deadly blast that claimed the lives of eight Bangsamoro.

Sema also warned of too much speculations on the incident since it will only create chaos and loss of confidence to police and military authorities.

Sema also urged the Muslim and Christian communities in the city to provide authorities with the necessary information that would lead to the identification of the suspects and the mastermind.

He was saddened by the incident since it created cracks in the national government's efforts to achieve genuine peace in southern Philippines.

"The name of the city has been heavily tainted with these nonsense violence," Sema said.

The MNLF signed a peace deal with the national government on September 1996 hope to achieve development in southern Philippines but were repeatedly disturbed by lawless elements who do not want peace in Bangsamoro homeland.

Sema said the vital information of Muslim and Christian residents can provide to authorities will surely unmask the men behind the deadly and barbaric act.

Mayor Japal Guiani Jr and his sister, city administrator Cynthia Guiani Sayadi both claimed they were the target of car bomb attack.

Police and military authorities blamed an emerging terror group called Kailahaf Islamiah Mindanao which is composed of rogue BIFF and MILF members, as behind the rash of bombings.

The MILF which is talking peace with Manila has also offered to help in the manhunt against the bombers.


900 families remain in Pikit evacuation centers

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): 900 families remain in Pikit evacuation centers

Over 900 families who fled from the towns of Pikit and Aleosan in North Cotabato after fighting between government forces and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) broke out over the weekend still remain at the evacuation centers here.

Tahira Kalantongan, Pikit municipal disaster risk reduction and management officer (MDRRMO), said these families came from Barangays Pagangen and Tubac in Aleosan town, and sitios Habitat at Kadingilan in Barangay Lagundi in Pikit.

Kalantongan said despite the authorities’ signal for the evacuees to return to their homes, still, they chose to stay at the evacuation centers.

The municipal social welfare and office has conducted relief operations to the affected families.

Kalantongan, however, admitted if tension as a result of the armed fighting continues, the Pikit local government unit could no longer afford to provide assistance to the evacuees.

Only last week, the Sangguniang Bayan here had declared the town under state of calamity due to recent flash floods.


Zamboanga Del Sur mayor intercepted by NPAs

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Zamboanga Del Sur mayor intercepted by NPAs

The mayor of Pitogo town, Zamboanga Del Sur and his companions were intercepted and disarmed by New People's Army (NPA) rebels while passing through Barangay Mati, San Miguel Tuesday morning

Capt. Jefferson Somera, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said that the incident took place around 6:40 a.m.

He identified the official as Richard Garban, incumbent Pitogo town mayor.

Somera said that Garban has one police escort and three other civilian companions when their vehicle was stopped by 20 heavily-armed members of the NPAs clad in "PNP-Special Action Force uniforms".

He added that the rebels took the two M-16 automatic rifles and two .45 caliber pistols carried by Garban's party.

Somera said that the rebels did not harm Garban and his companions and freed them a short time later.

Pursuit operations are now being conducted by the 53rd Infantry Battalion, a field unit of the 1st Infantry Division.


Misuari/MNLF: Video -- Few of the Weapons seen at the Independence Declaration (almost)

Posted to the Facebook page of Nur P. Misuari (Jul 29): Video: Few of the Weapons seen at the Independence Declaration (almost)

Di' kaw muga? Ilan lang yan sa nakita namin kanina — at Lampaki, Indanan, Sulu.


Misuari/MNLF: Video -- MNLF forces troops fully-armed to the MNLF Gathering Jul 25-29

Posted to the Facebook page of Nur P. Misuari (Jul 29): Video: MNLF forces troops fully-armed to the MNLF Gathering Jul 25-29
MNLF arrives at Lampaki July 29, including Gagandilan Maas Gafur who was purportedly "killed" in Sabah. Kasabay ng troups ni Gagandilan Maas Gafur ang Chief of Staff Khabir Malik. Subalit dahil sa konteng aberya sa Bilaan, naantala ang grupo ni Khabir Malik ng dalawang oras. More or less 3000 ang mga de-armas na nagsidalo sa "almost" Independence Day ng MNLF sa Lampaki, Indanan, Sulu kahapon. — at Lampaki, Indanan, Sulu.

Misuari did not declare independence--Roxas

From the  Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Misuari did not declare independence--Roxas
Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II on Tuesday denied reports that Moro National Liberation Front Chairman Nur Misuari has declared independence during recent MNLF gatherings in Mindanao.

Roxas said that the government is monitoring the recent activities of Misuari and MNLF and there was not a time when the MNLF leader declared independence.

”I don’t think he did that...he did not say that he’s declaring (independence)...we have recording, he did not say that,” said Roxas.

Misuari during the past weeks held separate meetings with MNLF leaders and supporters in Zamboanga and Sulu, triggering talks that his group is severing ties with the national government.

Roxas, however, said that Misuari criticized the ongoing negotiations between the administration of President Benigno Simeo Aquino III and the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF) but did not declare independence.

”We followed the announcement...and there was no time that he mentioned declaration of independence or separation. He criticized the peace talks, he cited the difference of the Bangsamoro process with the MILF and the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) of the MNLF. But there was no declaration of independence,” said Roxas.

The MNLF, then led by Misuari as chairman, signed a final peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996 then under the administration of President Fidel Ramos. Misuari also served as the first governor of ARMM as a result of the peace pact.

Presently, the Aquino administration is talking peace with the MILF under the leadership of Al Haj Murad Ebrahim. In fact, the negotiations are now on the final stages following the signing last year of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) in Malacanang.


PHL-US negotiations on increased US troops not yet a done deal

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): PHL-US negotiations on increased US troops not yet a done deal

The negotiations between the Philippines and United States for an increased U.S. military presence in the country is not yet a done deal, a Palace official said on Tuesday.

"This is not [a done deal]. That's why they have to sit and discuss. Kung mapapansin ninyo, yung modality lagi ang nababanggit ni Defense Secretary [Voltaire Gazmin] kasi 'yun talaga ang dapat pag-usapan. We're after a high impact and high value exercises that will benefit both sides," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

A negotiating panel had been formed to draft a framework agreement for an "increased rotational presence" of U.S. troops amid the increasing territorial dispute with China which claims in its entirety the resource-rich West Philippine Sea and in the wake of the U.S. strategic "pivot to Asia".

The panel would begin discussions on Wednesday, Aug. 14.

The Palace earlier pointed out that the U.S. troops would not only help in "minimum credible defense" to guard Philippine territories but also in humanitarian disaster response operations.

The Palace official said 'national interest' was considered in the plan to open access for more U.S. troops in the country.

Valte also reiterated that the agreement would be within the framework of the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement and Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries.

Under the VFA, American presence in the country is allowed to temporary stay for joint trainings with the Philippine military.

She also assured that concerned officials would disclose the full details of the negotiations with the US regarding access arrangements.

Several lawmakers have expressed fear the plan would violate the country's Constitution but the Palace assured that the agreement would be done within the parameters of the law.


Duterte says no to US drones

From Rappler (Aug 13): Duterte says no to US drones

TOUGH MAYOR. In this file photo, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is with soldiers released by the NPA in the hinterlands of Davao City. Photo by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler

TOUGH MAYOR. In this file photo, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is with soldiers released by the NPA in the hinterlands of Davao City. Photo by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte disclosed that the US government had asked him and his daughter, former mayor Sara Duterte, to use the city as an operating base for its unmanned aerial vehicles in its campaign against terrorism.

"The US government wanted to use the old airport. I refused. I will not allow them to use our airport for them to launch their drones," Duterte said.

Duterte said the US requested to utilize the city’s old airport, which is beside the tactical base of the Philippine Air Force, as its base in Mindanao.

"I do not want it. I do not want trouble and killings," Duterte told Moro men and women in a meeting on Monday, August 12. The last request was made when his daughter Sara was still mayor, Duterte said. Duterte reclaimed his mayoral seat in 2013, succeeding his daughter.

“They will only use it and this would only bring trouble,” Duterte said.

Some sectors have criticized the Philippine government for allowing the US to operate drones in Mindanao against terrorists.

Drone zone?

In a July 6, 2012 New York Times article by Mark Mazzetti, "The Drone Zone," it was alleged that the Philippines is among the countries in the world where the US conducted lethal drone operations – a charge denied by US military officers, Filipino intelligence officials and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

But this was denied by the former US commander of the Joint-Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), Army Col David Maxwell. “In all my time in the Philippines in between 2001 and 2007, there has never been a Predator or Reaper deployed, and there have been no Hellfire missiles, let alone ‘a barrage of Hellfire missiles,’” Maxwell told Rappler.

READ: What drones? PH not Afghanistan

In the Philippines, drones are used only for surveillance, according to Philippine and US officials.

President Benigno Aquino III himself said last year that a drone strike handled by the Americans may violate the Philippine Constitution. US troops, Mr Aquino said, “are here as advisers. They are here as trainers. They cannot participate in combat operations.”

On Wednesday, August 14, both countries begin formal talks on a new agreement that will allow increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines and boost maritime security.

In Davao, officials and residents have been wary of US presence in the region.

On May 16, 2002, an American believed to be special operations agent of the US identified as Michael Meiring suffered from injuries after a bomb exploded in his hotel room in Davao City.

Investigation said the bomb belonged to Meiring who defended himself by saying that he is a treasure hunter.

While being guarded by local police forces in a hospital, Meiring was whisked off by agents from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and transported him back to the US.

In an article published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last 2011, Duterte said he believes that the US is conducting covert operations against Moros in Davao City and Mindanao.

Duterte said he suspected that Meiring and the explosion were connected to the covert operations of the US on the island.

Duterte said the last time the US attempted to convince him about the drones was after the Meiring incident and that the most recent attempt was during Sara’s term. “I will still talk to them but I will still refuse to grant their request,” Duterte said.

Sheena Duazo, spokesperson of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Mindanao, praised Duterte for his stand. "We commend and firmly support the decision of the mayor not to allow drone operations in the city. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles/drone is a clear violation of our national sovereignty," Duazo said.


Lumads caught in AFP-NPA conflict, says international group

From MindaNews (Aug 13): Lumads caught in AFP-NPA conflict, says international group

Indigenous people in the Philippines are caught in the middle of the conflict between the military and the New People’s Army and could hardly “cope with their repeated dislocations and the accumulated effects of property loss or damage and income decline,” according to a recently published report by the Swiss-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC).

“Caught between the two warring parties, the Lumads are exposed to high levels of violence and are at risk of abuses by both sides,” the IDMC said in its 42-page report titled “Living in the Shadows: Displaced Lumads locked in a Cycle of Poverty” released this month in time for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People on August 9.

Frederik Kok, IDMC senior country analyst, said in an email to MindaNews that in this year’s occasion, his organization gave special attention to the plights of the Lumads in Mindanao.

The report is the highlight in the IDMC’s website (internal-displacement.org) as of this writing, occupying the topmost spot.

The group noted that many of the NPA fighters are Lumads recruited in their communities in the mountains. “As a result the military tend to perceive and suspect Lumads of predominantly being NPA insurgents or supporters. As part of its counterinsurgency strategy the Army is also encouraging Lumad communities to form or join civil defence militias or paramilitary groups to help fight the NPA,” the report added.

“There are reports of violations of a number of human rights and of international humanitarian law (IHL). These include indiscriminate bombardments, the use of schools as barracks and command centres, harassment, threats, forced labour, restricted freedom of movement and extra-judicial killings that are contributing to a climate of fear and insecurity and leading to displacements,” the report’s executive summary noted.

The IDMC noted that when the Lumads are displaced, their fields become neglected, leading to crop losses and failures. “Their homes are looted or destroyed during the fighting or immediate aftermath, and on returning, they are forced to rebuild from scratch. This cycle of violence and displacement is eroding their asset base and driving them deeper into poverty,” it added.

The group noted that while government agencies attend to displaced Lumads, “assistance tends to be short-term and often inadequate.”

Among the IDMC’s recommendations is for the government and the communist rebels to resume formal peace talks and thus spare the Lumads from the effects of war.

It likewise advised the military to regulate its entry to Lumad communities, and refrain from setting up camps within the communities or using schools as barracks or command centers.


10 share AFP's P19.25-M reward for capture of 10 most wanted NPA, ASG members

From InterAksyon (Aug 13): 10 share AFP's P19.25-M reward for capture of 10 most wanted NPA, ASG members

AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista hands over the reward money to one of the 10 tipsters, who shared a total amount of P19.25 million for giving the military vital information that led to the arrest of NPA personalities and Abu Sayyaf terrorists, in simple rites at Camp Aquinaldo in Quezon City on August 12, 2013. (Jaime Sinapit/InterAksyon.com)

Ten informants shared a total amount of P19.5 million as reward from the military for their contribution in the neutralization of some personalities of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista gave the reward to the informants in simple rites at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Monday.

Bautista said the tipsters were responsible for giving “vital information” that led to the arrest of ten most wanted terrorists and rebel leaders recently.

On top of the arrested personalities was Danilo Benjamin Mendoza alias Rolly Panesa, an alleged NPA leader who has a P5.6-million bounty on his head.

The military said Mendoza was Secretary of Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee and a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National democratic Front Central Committee. He was arrested last year in Quezon City.

The other rebels who were arrested were Felimon Mendrez alias “Tatay” (P5.25 million); Jesus Abetria alias “Puti” (P2.5 million); Allie Tafalla alias “Maco” (P750,000), and Alvin Orpiada alias “Bong” (P550,000).

Unfortunately, Teofila Buralo alias “TimTim” (P1.2 million) was killed during an encounter while Lawina Salibulan alias “Wendy” (P1.2 million) surrendered.

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

Currently, a total of 227 ASG personalities and 276 NPA members have been included in the DND-DILG Joint Orders on Reward or rewards list.

“A total of P140.20 million had been given to informants for the neutralization of 115 ASG personalities from 2001 up to the present, and P65.73 million for the capture of 50 NPAs from 2006 up to the present,” the military said.


Speaker: US troops' 'rotational presence' constitutional

From InterAksyon (Aug 13): Speaker: US troops' 'rotational presence' constitutional


Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. (photo by Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon.com)

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Tuesday plans for the increased "rotational presence" of American troops in the country are constitutional even as he directed House leaders to coordinate with the Department of Foreign Affairs for a briefing on the details of the deal being negotiated with the US.

Belmonte said he talked with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario Monday after receiving the latter's letter about the negotiations.

"I think there's nothing unconstitutional about it, that's for sure, and Secretary Del Rosario said that is covered by the Mutual Defense Pact with the US as well as other agreements under international law," Belmonte said.

The House leader said the letter did not ask for any action on the part of Congress, adding that "the idea is more coordination at the level of forces and is countenances by existing treaties with the US and international laws."

"I said I will convene the chair and vice chair of the committee on national defense and foreign affairs and he (Del Rosario) or one of his associates can discuss it with us," he said.

Belmonte said the United States has maintained its traditional presence in the country, and that there was nothing wrong if the two governments forge closer coordination.
What will be unconstitutional, he said, would be the establishment of permanent American bases in the country.

"I think that a country should take maximum advantage of whatever may be afforded by its treaties with other countries. I personally believe that doing this doesn't necessarily mean that we are antagonizing anybody or provoking anybody," he said, apparently referring to China, whose increasing aggression in maritime disputes, including in the West Philippine Sea, has been used as a justification by the government to seek increased US military presence in the country.

Critics of increased American military presence said granting foreign troops increased access to Philippine military facilities would constitute a de facto basing agreement.


'ORGANIZED RACKET'? | Karapatan says AFP handing out rewards for 'fake rebel leaders'

From InterAksyon (Aug 13): 'ORGANIZED RACKET'? | Karapatan says AFP handing out rewards for 'fake rebel leaders'

The human rights group Karapatan on Tuesday called P19.25 million in rewards handed out by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to informers part of an "organized racket", claiming that one of the payoffs was for the capture of a man falsely accused of being a communist rebel leader.

Karapatan has long insisted that the man the military claims is "Communist Party of the Philippines official Benjamin Mendoza" is really Rolly Panesa, a security guard who was seized in Cubao, Quezon City, and has been in jail for 10 months now.

Among the rewards handed out by AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Monday was the P5.6-million bounty for the arrest of Mendoza.

"It's simply a rip-off, an organized racket," Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

Palabay said Panesa is not the first bogus rebel leader presented by the AFP. She cited the arrest of Oligario Sebas , a resident of Manjuyod, Negros Oriental who the military claimed was alleged Negros rebel leader “Felimon Mendrez.”

"The AFP said Sebas had a P5.2 million on his head and was on the list of the Department of National Defense-Department of Interior and Local Government Joint Orders on Reward or Joint Order 14.2012," Palabay said. Sebas was eventually released through a writ of habeas corpus.

Earlier, Karapatan called the joint order "no different from the secret hit list of Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya which resulted to thousands of cases of human rights violations ranging from illegal arrest and detention, enforced disappearances and political killings."

The group said the joint order was “used to legitimize the enforced disappearance, illegal arrest and detention of Estelita T. Tacalan, a 60-year old peasant organizer and rural health worker in Misamis Oriental” who was reported missing on April 27 and was found on May 7 at the Dipolog City Jail, where she remains detained.

“The DND-DILG’s secret hit list should be scrapped as it has become the basis to arrest, detain, and torture people on false charges; or worse, (have them) disappeared or killed,” Palabay said.

“The AFP should also be held accountable for squandering the people’s money to violate people’s rights,” she added.


AFP-BIFF clashes displace close to 10,000 in North Cotabato

From InterAksyon (Aug 13): AFP-BIFF clashes displace close to 10,000 in North Cotabato

Residents from the hinterlands of Aleosan, North Cotabato flee to the national highway to escape clashes between the military and BIFF. (photo by Ferdz Ballentes, InterAksyon.com)

The series of clashes between the military and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters over the past few days have displaced 9,770 persons, or 2,275 families, in two North Cotabato towns.

The evacuations began August 10 amid battles that saw exchanges of artillery and mortar fire.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and management Council said 670 families, or 3,350 individuals, fled their homes in Aleosan town and another 1,605 families, or 6,420 individuals, in Pikit.

The BIFF is a guerrilla faction that broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front after it disagreed with the direction peace talks between government and the main rebel organization were taking.

The government and MILF expected to sign a final peace agreement before the year ends.

Since last month, the BIFF has carried out sporadic attacks in North Cotabato and Maguindanao, some of which have involved bomb attacks on bridges and Army convoys.

However, the group has denied responsibility for the August 5 car bomb attack in Cotabato City that killed eight persons and wounded more than 30 others. Cotabato Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. has said he believes he and his sister, city administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, were the targets of the attack, which be blamed on criminal gangs linked to political enemies.

The bomb exploded just after Guiani-Sayadi had passed by.

The Cotabato blast happened 10 days after another bombing in Cagayan de Oro City that killed eight people and wounded 46 others.

Authorities have tagged the little known Khilafa Islamiah Mindanao to the Cagayan de Oro attack.

Murder charges have been filed against Usman Hapdis, who police claim is the group’s leader.


CPP/NPA: 7 gov’t soldiers killed in 4 NPA offensives in Claveria, MisOr

Posted  to the CPP Website (Aug 12): 7 gov’t soldiers killed in 4 NPA offensives in Claveria, MisOr

Lorena Mangahas
NPA Eastern Misamis Oriental - North Eastern Bukidnon Sub-regional Operations Command

For four consecutive days, the New People’s Army under the Eastern Misamis Oriental-North Eastern Bukidnon Subregional command has launched four harassment actions against operating troops of the 58th IB-PA in the town of Claveria. Seven of the reactionary troops were killed in these attacks.

August 9 – an NPA squad encountered 58th IB troops in Brgy. Aposkahoy, Claveria, Misamis Oriental. The Red fighters positioned themselves atop a hill being traversed by the mercenary troops. Two of the soldiers were killed when the NPA unit used a command-detonated explosive against them. According to reports from the locals, the enemy soldiers transported their casualties on a 6×6 military truck. On the other hand, the comrades safely withdrew after the harassment.

August 10 – at around 9:30 AM, an NPA reconnaissance team encountered returning 58th IB troops in Brgy. Aposkahoy. Another 58th IB column met up with these withdrawing troops. There is yet no information whether or not the enemy soldiers had any casualties. The NPA suffered none.

Yesterday, August 11 – yet another attack was successfully launched by an NPA team in Brgy. Bulahan, Claveria. Around 6:00 AM, the NPA team, positioned beside a trail, attacked the passing 58th IB troops. Only about three meters separated the two troops’ positions. Four were killed and three were wounded among the enemy troops. The NPA team safely withdrew.

August 12 – around 2:00 PM, in Brgy. Farmbugas, Claveria. An NPA team harassed 58th IB troops. According to the partial report from the field unit, one enemy soldier was killed while the NPA team safely withdrew without casualties.

At present, military operations in Claveria are still going on. The enemy has spared no effort at hunting down the revolutionary movement in the province since April. The revolutionary forces have, however, become more steadfast at foiling the attempts of the fascist troops through close coordination with the widening and deepening mass base in the area.