Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Intermittant Coverage of Philippine Events

Construction is finished on our new home and we will be in the process of moving for the next couple of days. Posts to this blog will probably be limited.

Images of Cotabato blast suspects out; BIFF charged for separate attack

From MindaNews (Aug 15): Images of Cotabato blast suspects out; BIFF charged for separate attack

Sr. Supt. Rolen Balquin, Cotabato City police chief, shows the computer-generated image of the suspects in the August 5 blast along Sinsuat Avenue that killed eight persons and wounded 30 others. MindaNews photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera

Police authorities here released Wednesday the computer-generated photographs of three suspects in the August 5 bombing that killed eight persons and wounded 30 others.

Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, city police director, asked the public to help the police track down and arrest the still unidentified suspects now that their images are out.

Balquin said the police created Task Force Sayadi to investigate and crack the case.
The car bomb had exploded just as the convoy of city administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, sister of Mayor Japal Guiani Jr., passed by the busy Sinsuat Avenue. Sayadi, who was on board a bullet-proof vehicle, was unhurt in the incident.

Citing the account of one of the witnesses, Balquin said that the three suspects were seen at the scene before and after the blast, with one of them allegedly triggering the explosion using a cellular phone.

An undisclosed bounty will be given to those that can provide information leading to the arrest of the suspects.

The release of the suspects’ photographs came even as authorities are still reviewing the footages caught by a closed-circuit television camera.

In a press conference after the City Peace and Order Council meeting Wednesday, Mayor Guiani reiterated that “powerful individuals were behind the bomb attack.

Meanwhile, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has filed multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges against members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Records obtained by MindaNews showed the cases were slapped against BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama and 20 other group members for the attack on a convoy of the 12th Mechanized Company in Barangay Nabundas Road in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao last August 7.

Seven soldiers were wounded in the roadside explosion.

The charges were filed before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office last August 12.
Mama had admitted in media interviews that they were behind the attack on the military convoy. However, he clarified that “they did not use improvised bombs but rocket propelled grenades and mortars.”

Palace to Nur: Give peace process a chance

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): Palace to Nur: Give peace process a chance

Malacanang has called on Moro National Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari to set aside personal interests and let the ongoing peace process take its course.

"The people of Mindanao would know where to look at and that’s the same thing that we ask from Nur Misuari not to look at his own personal interests," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told a media briefing.

Lacierda also reiterated the Palace's call for Misuari and other Moro groups to give the peace process a chance.

“We’re very committed to the peace process... We are for peace in Muslim Mindanao. That’s the thrust of this administration, to ensure that there will be peace in Mindanao so that the peace dividends can flow to the people in Mindanao,” he said.

He noted that Misuari, who allegedly declared independence in Mindanao but denied it, along with other MNLF commanders, had expressed support for the peace process.

"For a Mindanaoan who has seen decades of conflict, if you are a person from Muslim Mindanao, you’re looking at the prospects of peace versus war, you’d rather go to the prospect of peace," he said.

Several groups, including the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, have been trying to derail the ongoing peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The negotiating panels are in the homestretch of signing a Bangsamoro Framework Agreement that would create a Bangsamoro entity replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Misplaced reef in DNC caused USS Guardian grounding

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): Misplaced reef in DNC caused USS Guardian grounding

Now it can be told.

The Jan. 17 grounding of the USS Guardian, a minesweeper of the US Navy, can be attributed to the incorrect placement of a reef in the Philippine Islands by eight miles on its digital nautical charts.

US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency director Letitia Long admitted this to a letter to US Navy Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert.

She added that the DNC display of the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea was wrong due to erroneous commercial satellite imagery.

Long, in her letter to Greenert, said NGA discovered that the charts related to the Tubbataha Reef prior to 2008 included a number of “phantom islands.”

To correct this problem, she said the NGA used commercial satellite imagery to update the charts.

“One of these images included incorrect information about the location of the section of ocean that includes the Tubbataha Reef. As a result, the reef was incorrectly placed in the [digital nautical chart],” Long said.

In 2011, NGA obtained survey data that corrected this positioning, but due to a failure to follow established procedure, this correction was made in one portion of the DNC, but not in another, Long said, a mistake she attributed to human error.

Long stressed that error was compounded by “exclusive reliance” of the USS Guardian crew on GPS as a “single source of navigation.”

The crew did not pay heed to lighthouses on the reef, according to a 160-page post-wreck investigation report by Admiral Cecil D. Haney, commander of US Pacific Fleet.

The US Navy report said the grounding and destruction of the minesweeper also highlighted “potential systemic issues” on ships that use the Navy’s computer based vessel management system and its electronic chart and display system.

The vessel management system is supposed to issue audible alerts of potential dangers, but as the USS Guardian neared the Tubbataha Reef before grounding, the Navy report said watchstanders on the bridge and in the combat information center did not report any alarms.

As the ship neared the reef, personnel on the bridge reported flashes from a lighthouse, but those were ignored as the crew continued to rely on the electronic charts and GPS.

Investigators blamed the grounding primarily on the crew’s failure to reconcile the differences between digital nautical charts of the area and more refined coastal charts.

The crew also failed to verify the position of the reef using a list of lighthouses.

The grounding broke the ship’s keel when rocks on the reef punched holes in its hull. The crew abandoned ship, with no loss of life.

“USS Guardian leadership and watch teams failed to adhere to prudent, safe, and sound navigation principles, which would have alerted them to approaching dangers with sufficient time to take mitigating action,” Haney said.

NPAs torch 6 trucks of banana firm in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): NPAs torch 6 trucks of banana firm in North Cotabato

Six trucks of a banana firm in North Cotabato were torched by suspected New People's Army (NPA) on Wednesday dawn in a remote village in Matalam, North Cotabato, authorities here said.

The burning came after the owners of two companies, hauling company and the Sumifru banana plantation, ignored mulcting activities of the communist rebels.

According to Army Captain Antonio Bulao, Army's 602nd Infantry Brigade spokesperson based in Carmen, North Cotabato, the NPA attacks occurred at about 2:15 a.m. at the firm’s hub facility compound in Barangay Bangbang, Matalam town.

The Matalam police said about 20 heavily armed NPA stormed the compound, disarmed its security guards and poured gasoline to the six parked heavy equipment then set on fire.

The gunmen then fled with the four security guards’ 12 gauge shot guns and communication facilities.

Three of the torched trucks were owned by GY Company, a hauling firm for Sumifru banana plantation in Matalam-President Roxas municipalities, while the three hauler trucks, locally known as “Iraqi trucks” by Sumifru.

The banana firm had been receiving extortion demand from NPA’s Front 72 operating in North Cotabato.

Various multi-national firms operating in the province had been subjected to mulcting activities by the NPAs, including Dole-Stanfilco, Sumifru Philippines, bus companies plying the Cotabato-Davao highway and several businesses.

Sema said companies that ignore NPA extortion activities have been subjected to harassment.

Sumifru Philippines Corporation is a joint venture with Japanese corporate giant Sumitoro Corporation with banana plantations in the towns of Antipas, Magpet and Makilala in North Cotabato.

PNP foil bombing attempt in North Cotabato's restive town

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): PNP foil bombing attempt in North Cotabato's restive town

KABACAN, North Cotabato -– Alert civilians prevented what could have been another bloody Wednesday in a remote village here when they discovered a live hand grenade abandoned at roadside.

Chief Inspector Jordine Maribojo, Kabacan police chief, said a man found the grenade at roadside in Barangay Kislam, near the town’s Poblacion at 6:20 a.m.

The man quickly alerted the village officials who in turn alerted the police.

Army and police bomb experts quickly responded and properly disposed the MK-2 hand grenade. No one has claimed ownership of the explosive.

Maribojo lauded the civilians for being vigilant in the face of bombing incidents in the region.

The discovery of the grenade came following two separate rifle grenade attacks that hurt four persons on Friday night and Monday dawn.

Kabacan Mayor Herlo Guzman said he could be the target of twin rifle grenade attacks that wounded militiaman Eddie Antolin, his son and parents in law.

The second rifle grenade attack landed at the roof of the Comelec beside the town hall where Guzman slept Monday dawn.

It destroyed portion of the Comelec office, police said.

Police investigators believed politics was behind the twin attacks since the first rifle grenade explosion landed beside the town’s tennis court where local officials were playing tennis at about 7 p.m. last Friday.

The region is reeling from the series of bomb attacks starting August 5 when a powerful car bomb killed eight person and wounded about 40 others.

Authorities blamed an emerging terror group called Khilafa Islamic Movement with links to the regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah for the rash of bombings in Mindanao.

PMA encourages Filipino youths to take entrance tests on August 25

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): PMA encourages Filipino youths to take entrance tests on August 25
The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) is hopeful to recruit the “cream of the crop” of the Filipino youths in its forthcoming Class 2018 who will take their written entrance tests nationwide on August 25, according to Captain Agnes Flores, public information officer of the academy.

PMA records show that last year, more than 22,000 took the examinations and more than 300 passed the rigid qualitative tests which included mental and physical tests.

”From that number, we now have just more than 200 who will compose the PMA Class 2017,” Flores said.

The academy is known as the “Premier Military School of Asia” which graduates yearly the officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The rich history of the academy shows that their graduates became the AFP highest ranking officers and who later became also the country's national leaders and statesmen like former President Fidel V. Ramos, former Senator Rodolfo Biazon, and incumbent Senators Gregorio Honasan and Panfilo Lacson.

According to Flores, the PMA has sustained its encouragement for the youths to enter the academy where for four years, they are scholars of the government and earn their allowances as they pursue their Bachelor of Science course.

Flores said that PMA brochures have been widely distributed in the country through various schools in order to draw more attention and interest of those who could qualify.

PMA by its long cherised tradition also welcome foreign or exchange students. The foreign cadets here proved to be capable as their Filipino classmates. This was proven in the 1970's when a cadet from Singapore topped the graduating class here.

Army to support forest protection efforts in Davao region

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): Army to support forest protection efforts in Davao region
The military has pledged its support to the campaign to eliminate illegal logging activities in Davao Region.

Lt. General Ricardo Rainier Cruz, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, issued the statement after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) XI requested the assistance of the police and military in the full implementation of the Executive Order No. 23 or the moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests and creating the anti-illegal logging task force.

“Our troops are not only peacekeepers but also guardians of nature and we will ensure to support the DENR in apprehending those who destroy the forests and face the full force of the law,” he said.

Security forces and the DENR have identified 16 illegal logging hot spots in Davao Region.

Joselin Marcus Fragada, director of the DENR XI said the number of hot spots had been reduced from 66 barangays as identified in 2012.

The DENR tapped the assistance of the police and military to strengthen the campaign against illegal logging activities in Davao Region in line with the implementation of the Executive Order No. 23 issued by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III on February 11, 2011.

The target areas are believed to be dangerous due to the presence of armed groups.

“The operations in these areas need careful planning because of the risk involved. We cannot afford to lose people during the operations in the same way we cannot allow illegal loggers to continue raping our forests,” Fragada said.

In July 9, representatives from the DENR, the Philippine Army and the Philippine Air Force conducted an aerial survey to determine the remaining forest cover and the status of logs brought down by typhoon Pablo. Based on the latest assessment made by the authorities, the hotspots comprise of six areas in Davao Oriental, eight in Compostela Valley and four areas in Davao del Norte.

Police place forces in Zambo Sur on ‘highest level alert’

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): Police place forces in Zambo Sur on ‘highest level alert’
The police have placed its forces on “highest level alert” in a bid to pre-empt atrocities by lawless elements in this province, an official disclosed Wednesday.

Senior Supt. Thomas Abellar, provincial police director, disclosed they have adopted all the necessary security measures to ensure the safety of the residents in this province.

This province comprises of one city and 26 municipalities with a population of 959,685 as of 2010 making it the 16 most populous province.

Abellar’s move came after series of bombings that hit several parts of Mindanao the past days that killed 16 people and injured 83 others.

The military forces have also recovered last week more than 20 improvised bombs when they raided an Abu Sayyaf lair in Basilan province.

The military have received intelligence report that the improvised bombs are to be used by the Abu Sayyaf bandits in bomb attacks in the cities of Isabela and Lamitan, Basilan; Zamboanga City; Pagadian City; and Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Abellar said they have intensified the conduct of checkpoints and police visibility, although with limited personnel, aimed to deter lawless elements including terrorists from carrying out atrocities.

Abellar also urged the public to remain calm but “vigilant at all times” and to immediately report presence of people acting suspiciously in their respective communities.

NPAs abduct Army corporal

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): NPAs abduct Army corporal

An army corporal was the latest victim of New People’s Army here in Caraga region, according to military sources.

Col. Gregory Cayetano, commanding officer of the 401st Brigade, Philippine Army confirmed the report in a local radio interview Wednesday morning that Corporal Salman Abbas, a member of the 26th Infantry Battalion, 4ID PA; and an assistant patrol base commander of a Patrol Base based in a remote barangay in San Luis, Agusan del Sur, 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Corporal Abbas according to Cayetano sought permission from his base to go to the central part of the town on board his motorcycle when he was stopped at an NPA checkpoint upon reaching Km. 21, Don Alejandro at San Luis town. Cayetano added that this was the same area where four CAFGUs were also abducted by the NPAs last April.

Cayetano said Abbas was brought by his abductors towards the northwest direction, but believed they were still near the area.

Cayetano said that combat and hot pursuit operations were now being conducted by the military as well as the intensification of military intelligence in the area.

The army official also said that the military had already coordinated with the local government unit so that the municipal crisis committee will be activated to deal with the situation.

Cotabato car bomb suspects’ photos released

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): Cotabato car bomb suspects’ photos released

Police authorities made public Wednesday the computer-generated facial photos of three suspects who carried out the deadly Aug. 5 car bomb attack here that killed eight victims and wounded 30 others.

Sr. Supt. Rolen Balquin, city police director, though did not name the suspects as not to jeopardize their ongoing manhunt operation.

“Rest assured we know their identities,” said Mayor Japal Guiani Jr., who was with Balquin and Col. Custodio Parcon Jr. of the Philippine Marine Battalion Landing Team 1 during the city peace and order council meeting held Wednesday at the city hall.

Guiani said the unspecified amount of bounty he is offering for the suspects’ capture stays.

“We want to get them (suspects) alive as possible for they would be instrumental in pointing to their masterminds and strengthen our case against them,” he stressed.

The mayor also maintained that he has managed to obtain all the documents containing the exchange of text messages between the bombers and masterminds that led to the bomb attack.

City Administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, the mayor’s sister and alleged target of the attack, said she would like all those involved be imprisoned soon to give justice to those who died and hurt in the incident.

She said the city government is trying its best to bolster its intelligence capabilities in cooperation with the village leaders to avoid a repetition of the Aug. 5 attack.

Sayadi’s bulletproof vehicle was passing along Sinsuat Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfare, when the car bomb went off with its impact ripping through a busy section of the highway, instantaneously killing five of the victims.

Sayadi was not hurt in the incident.

“We need every help we can from the communities despite our meager intelligence budget of some P207,000 monthly,” Sayadi said as she clarified that the big chunk of the city’s regular budget always go to basic public services.

MILF,MNLF traded bullets in North Cotabato after house burning

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): MILF,MNLF traded bullets in North Cotabato after house burning

Fighting erupted anew between members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MINLF) in a remote village here that forced some 50 families fleeing, the military here said.

Capt. Antonio Bulao, speaking for the military’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, said the renewed conflict started when members of the MILF, led by Commander Alimansur Imbong, torched the house of Macapagal Mangadta, brother of MNLF commander Dragon at about 9:30 a.m.

“The attackers also butchered the carabao of Mangadta which angered more the MNLF in the area,” Bulao said.

“Since noon, both sides have been trading bullets sporadically,” Bulao said, adding that the military stayed at the sideline and never interfere to avoid misencounter.

He said the military believed the recent conflict is not sanctioned by the leadership of two Moro fronts.

“We appeal to the leaders of the MILF and MNLF to discipline their field commanders to avoid unnecessary loss of lives and properties,” Bulao said.

Both sides have been observing a localized truce facilitated by the military, the International Monitoring Team and the local governments after a long standing land dispute brought both sides into on and off shooting war since May.

Bulao said the affected families have fled to safer grounds. He also assured the MILF-MNLF conflict is far from portions of the Cotabato-Davao national highway.

PH, US begin talks on bases access

From Rappler (Aug 14): PH, US begin talks on bases access

TALKS BEGIN: Philippines and US panel members start first round of negotiations on increasing presence of US troops. DND photo

TALKS BEGIN: Philippines and US panel members start first round of negotiations on increasing presence of US troops. DND photo

Rival factions of the Philippine Left echo each other in opposing a plan to increase the rotational presence of US troops in the country and allow them to deploy aircraft and ships for disaster and maritime security operations.

But a popular government has thrown its full support behind this in the wake of China's aggressive behavior over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The Philippines and US panels hold the first round of closed-door talks on Wednesday, August 14, at Camp Aguinaldo to thresh out the details of the new executive agreement. It means Senate approval is not required. They aim to finish the framework within the year.

"We begin our negotiation... with the end in view of coming out with a framework that will further enhance our existing robust defense relations, so I exhort both panels to remain candid and frank so that the outcome of this undertaking will redound to the best interest of our two countries," said defense undersecretary for defense affairs Honorio Azcueta in his opening statement.

Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr have been supportive of the talks as long as the plan will not violate the Constitution and the Visiting Forces Agreement, the treaty that the Senate ratified to govern the presence of foreign troops in the Philippines.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta, head of the Philippine panel, reiterated this. “We would like to assure the Filipino people that your government is committed to defending and protecting the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said in a statement.

Political activists said the Aquino government is wrong to think that the US will fight with the Philippines against China in case of armed conflict. While the Philippines is quick to surrender its sovereignty, the sole preoccupation of the US is to advance its own agenda, they said.

READ: [Asia Pacific Bulletin] PH's security cooperation with US, Japan

STOP US INTERVENTION: Militant groups troop to the Armed Forces headquarters to protest increased presence of US troops. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/

STOP US INTERVENTION: Militant groups troop to the Armed Forces headquarters to protest increased presence of US troops. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/

"Bayan is opposed to any Chinese incursion or occupation of our islands in the West Philippine Sea but bringing in the US as part of the conflict will not be in the service of our national interest. It would further complicate the dispute. It is an invitation for further escalation of confrontation in the West Philippine Sea," Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes told reporters on Tuesday, August 13.

"The US has huge debts to the Chinese government. How can we expect the US to defend us when their economy is closely tied up to the economy of China," he added.

Reyes led a group of about 30 militants who staged a protest at Camp Aguinaldo, headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to show their opposition to the talks.

In the House of Representatives, Akbayan Rep Walden Bello issued a statement sharing Bayan's position and calling the talks a "pact with the devil."

“It is the height of irony that in our collective campaign to secure our sovereignty against China and other foreign aggressors, the very same sovereignty that we try to protect would be the first casualty,” Bello said.

READ: PH, US start talks on bases access Wednesday

The Philippine and the US have agreed to conduct "high-value and high impact exercises as modality for increased rotational presence." This means more bilateral exercises, "prepositioning of equipment, and development of Philippine facilities, Gazmin added.

For Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, this means military modernization can begin before the the Armed Forces acquires its own modern equipment.

"Maritime security and maritime domain awareness will be given a boost even before we have ships and aircraft we need. And even before we have the advanced and sophisticated hardware we wish for we will know how to operate and maintain them," Del Rosario said on Monday's press conference.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is finalizing plans to purchase 12 fighter aircraft from Korea. On top of the two Hamilton-class cutters from the U.S. and the naval helicopters that will arrive in December, the Philippine Navy is also planning to acquire 2 new frigates and possibly a third Hamilton-class cutter.

Aside from Sorreta, the Philippine panel members are Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop.

The US panel members are US Department of State Ambassador and Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements of Political-Military Affairs Eric John, US Department of State Attorney Advisor Elizabeth Jones, US Department of Defense Brigadier General Joaquin Malavet, and Deputy Legal Counsel of the Office of the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Captain Greg Bart.

How about drones?

Long before these talks, US troops have been in and out of the country, specifically in Mindanao. A US military task force holds office at the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City, while the US military has a little-known office right inside Camp Aguinaldo.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte divulged that the US government previously talked to him about plans to use his city as a launching pad for unmanned aerial vehicles or drones to pursue 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.

READ: Duterte says no to drones

A New York Times article, "The Drone Zone," alleged that the US conducted lethal drone operations in the Philippines. It was immediately denied by US military officers, Filipino intelligence officials and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

They said drones are used in the Philippines only for surveillance.

In an exclusive report citing intelligence sources worldwide, Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa detailed in a 2012 report how a team of US and Filipino soldiers used drones to spy on an Abu Sayyaf camp in Sulu.


Reyes warned that the new agreement would allow the US to turn the Philippines as its launching pad for drones and weapons for mass destruction by the US.

"Our country is transformed into one big military facility or depot for foreign troops and weapons. It is no longer consistent with our constitution and it is no longer consistent with national interest," said Reyes.

Reyes and Bello pushed for diplomatic means to resolve the dispute with China.

"The only option left for the Philippines is to aggressively pursue our claims through all diplomatic means and to be self-reliant in building its own credible defense posture and not to rely on the US and not to be dragged in the US agenda in the Asia Pacific."

Bello enumerated 3 alternative approaches.

One, "promotion of the demilitarization of the Western Pacific". Two, "pushing states to prioritize diplomatic solutions and multilateral fora to solve territorial disputes instead of resorting to force, in the same manner that the Philippine government brought up its dispute with China for adjudication with the United Nations' International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas." And three, "forceful citizen diplomacy for peace."

9 firms to bid for P4-B Navy transports

From InterAksyon (Aug 14): 9 firms to bid for P4-B Navy transports

Nine firms from different countries have expressed interest to join the initial bidding this month for two brand new Navy transports worth P2 billion each.

Astartez Defense (Philippines), Rescue Solutions JV with Coastal Industries Ptd Ltd (Singapore/Vietnam), PROPMECH Corporation, Daewoo International Corp. (Daesun-Republic of Korea), Larsena and Toubro (India), Stone of David, PT PAL Indonesia (Indonesia), STX Off-Shore Shipbuilding Co. (ROK), Keppel Philippines Marine, Inc. (Philippines), and PT Citra Shipyard (Indonesia) have all purchased documents to participate in the August 29 bidding by the Department of National Defense.

The ships to be bid out are non-combat Strategic Sealift Vessels with Integrated Logistics Support capability to be used for sea- and land-based civil-military operations.

The SSVs are capable of transporting large numbers of military personnel and logistics like trucks, tanks and other supplies, and are equipped with a mini-hospital, a helipad and watercraft that would bolster response capabilities in times of maritime disaster.

The bidding was originally scheduled for August 15 but the schedule was moved amid persistent suggestions that the budget to acquire the SSVs be used instead to purchase modern weapons systems for the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, the two US Hamilton-class coast guard cutters acquired recently for around P1 billion and which currently form the backbone of the Navy.

However, the terms of the ships’ purchase prohibit the installation of sophisticated weapons systems without the approval of the US Congress. Even then, only systems purchased from the US can be used.

Defense Undersecretary for Finance, Munitions, Installations and Materiel Fernando Manalo earlier admitted that the Navy’s technical working group badly needs an expert or consultant to help them choose the appropriate ships to acquire, including two brand new frigates, worth P9 billion each.

“The Navy needs to hire a consultant because the (ships) that we want to buy are too sophisticated, that’s part of diligence. Hindi tayo puwedeng magkamali dahil ang involved dito ay malaking pera ni Juan dela Cruz (We can’t make a mistake because a lot of Juan dela Cruz’s money is involved),” he said.

The budget for the naval acquisitions will be sourced from the P75-billion Armd Forces modernization package President Benigno Aquino III wants implemented by the end of his term in 2016.

Reds torch 6 trucks in North Cotabato

From InterAksyon (Aug 14): Reds torch 6 trucks in North Cotabato

Alleged New People’s Army guerillas attacked the compound of a banana plantation, torching six trucks before early Wednesday morning in Matalam town, North Cotabato.

1st Lieutenant Nasturallah Sema of the 57th Infantry Battalion said the guerrillas, belonged to belong to the NPA’s Front 72, burned three trucks owned by the GY Company and three others owned by the Sumifru Corporation.

The military linked the attack to the NPA’s failure to collect a so-called “revolutionary tax” from the company.

Senior Inspector Elias Colonia, Matalam police chief, said the 20 guerrillas raided the compound around 2:30 a.m., seizing the shotguns and communications equipment of the four security guards before burning the trucks.

PHOTO | Sketch of one of three suspects in Cotabato bombing that killed 8, hurt 30

From InterAksyon (Aug 14): PHOTO | Sketch of one of three suspects in Cotabato bombing that killed 8, hurt 30

Shown is a facial sketch of one of three suspects who may have been involved in a bombing that killed eight and wounded 30 others in Cotabato City early this month.

View image on Twitter

Cayetano: Will US commit to defend Philippines against China?

From InterAksyon (Aug 14): Cayetano: Will US commit to defend Philippines against China?

The stronger presence of US military troops might suggest that the US government is serious in helping the Philippines under a mutual defense treaty, but Senator Alan Cayetano says it will only be assured if the US makes a decisive statement to commit to defending Philippine territory.

Cayetano told Senate reporters in an ambush interview on Tuesday that since the treaty was after all mutual, would it also mean the US is ready to defend Philippine territory against China?

“Let’s not talk about their increased presence until they can answer the questions: Will they defend us? Will they participate? Will they help us if we have problems with our dispute with China?” Cayetano said.

The majority leader explained that he had no problems with the US pursuing its own interests as long as the Philippines, in turn, benefited from them as well.

“Our interest right now is that military hardware and modernization is expensive, they (the US) should share expenses for this so we can concentrate on economic development,” he added.

“China boats keep coming in and out of the country. I have not heard a straight answer from the US that they would be there and repel any encroachment in territory. I might be wrong, but I think I am speaking for majority of the Filipinos,” Cayetano said.

He added the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should also set their own agenda regarding the matter.

“Any country would pursue its own interests,” Cayetano said. “We have to make sure that the so-called Big Brother will really be there [for us].”

CPP/NDF: Rise against the corrupt, anti-people and pro-imperialist Aquino regime!

Posted to the CPP Website (Aug 13): Rise against the corrupt, anti-people and pro-imperialist Aquino regime!

Ma. Laya Guerrero
Kabataang Makabayan

Recently the disclosures about the pork barrel mired with corruption had generated the ire of the people. There’s widespread anger against the pork barrel system and rampant corruption of bureaucrat-capitalists who lead pompous lifestyles at the height of poverty of majority of the people.

Despite the rising clamor for abolition and rechanneling of pork barrel to social services, the allotted 2014 budget for pork barrel is programmed to get P 25.2 billion. UP budget expert Prof. Briones revealed that Aquino’s multi-billion unprogrammed fund is only the tip of the iceberg, that Aquino’s Presidential Pork is a bloated P1 Trillion composed of gigantic lump-sum of P 139 billion of Aquino’s unprogrammed funds which are unliquidated funds, and discretionary funds slipped into different departments which can only be released via Aquino’s orders.

Aquino’s farcical ‘crusade against corruption’ is good only in as far as it does not hurt its own interests. Aquino’s dictum of “Kung walang korap, walang mahirap” should be relegated to the dustbin. It is deceitful, hollow slogan presenting its regime as a crusader against corruption when in fact it is sheer window-dressing to subdue the mounting people’s discontent against its regime of corruption and the exploitative rotten system.

Despite these cacophony of lies and deception in the media, news of the Ballsy Aquino-Cruz’s involvement in the $30 MRT 3 extortion scam from the Czech railway company Inekon, inclusion of Aquino’s Liberal Party politicos in the grand P10 billion pork scam are revealed. Among other hosts of scams by relatives and cronies unearthed earlier are the grand smuggling of Danding Cojuangco of sugar and oil products to evade taxes, landgrabbing of families of Paquito Ochoa from farmers in San Jose Del Monte to make way for relocation housing projects, DSWD’s Soliman and aides mishandling of P18 billion ($442 million) worth of calamity funds and international aid pouring in for victims of typhoon Pablo, Aquino’s hand in P2.8-billion road scam in Davao del Sur and so on.

Aquino’s top propagandists are all the more carefully hewing lies, distortions in order to patch up the already shattering image of the Very Righteous President.

Kabataang Makabayan sees that we can actively expose these by revealing the true state of the nation, the massive poverty amidst the unbridled corruption and enrichment of the few ruling classes, the wholesale robbery of the country’s wealth and resources and offering this in silver platter to private and giant foreign corporations, the worsening exploitation of the toiling masses by this US-Aquino regime.

But US-Aquino’s spin-masters in the media and reactionary propaganda army can not forever bury the truth from the people who daily experience the economic hardship under this regime.

All these corruption issues come atop the daily struggles of the majority of the people living under 50 pesos a day, spiraling prices of basic commodities and utilities, oil price hikes, hikes in prices of means of transportation and communication, privatization and commercialization of basic social services such as hospitals, demolition of urban poor communities for PPP projects, stagnant and low wages and contractualization, joblessness, widespread landgrabbing, force displacement of peasants and rural poverty.

The US-Aquino regime, his cronies and corporate media conspire in order to realize the hundreds of billions worth of projects with projected superprofits thru housing, real estate and infrastructure ventures. The 2014 budget itself is a demolition budget, with P10 billion relocation budget inked by New San Jose Builders, Ayala Land and Aquino cronies.

US-Aquino regime pathetically resorts to its corporate media to “manufacture consensus” against its force displacement of thousands of families of urban poor communities along the esteros and waterways in Metro Manila. The US-Aquino regime funds and scripts with its patrons in corporate media a spectacular drama of a community in San Juan, purportedly a model of ‘voluntary demolition’ and which with beaming cameras of giant TV outfits, air nationwide how thankful this community that they are demolished, and relocated to fine small houses in locations faraway from their work and livelihood. This on top of lies by US-Aquino regime that the estero dwellers are the cause of flooding in the capital and use of brazen threats such as pronouncements by Aquino himself that demolished urban poor dwellers will be jailed should they return to their areas.

However it cannot erase in the consciousness of the people the militant struggle of the people of Silverio Compound, San Roque in West Triangle, Corazon de Jesus in San Juan and the recent struggle of the urban poor in West Kamias that blocked the armed demolition teams.

US-Aquino regime’s use of the reactionary propaganda army, showbiz glitz, hand in hand with its machinery of repression to discredit the rising tide of protests, quell dissent and intensifying armed struggle further lay bare the insecurity of this regime. The US-Aquino regime can not forever resort to Goebbelsian Lies without exposing its own deceptions which are used to build and support its bankrupt and anti-people rule.

US-Aquino is a de facto patron of corruption. The US-Aquino regime failed to prosecute Arroyo for grand plunder and has allowed GMA’s open-ended “hospital arrest” to evade prosecution. The US-Aquino regime is exposed in string of scams like padrino system in the organized syndicates of smuggling, gambling and drugs. The Kamag-anak, Kaklase, Kabarilan Inc composed of its Conjuangco-Aquino clan and comprador cronies are awarded with the priority and biggest Private Public Partnership projects funded and subsidized by public money and public loans, gifted with tax exemptions and holidays, and enjoying sovereign guarantees.

Even at the height of these corruption issues, the US-Aquino regime is ironing out the anti-people, corruption-laden and pro-imperialist 2014 budget which is but a systematic government appropriation of peoples money to giant foreign and local crony companies, to dole-outs and counter-insurgency projects.

In the proposed 2014 anti-people and pro-imperialist Aquino budget, PPP and infrastructure projects subsidized by the government get a whopping 429 billion pesos. Thru the lump-sum alloted budget for CCT, Aquino’s social-democratic friends led by DSWD’s Dinky Soliman wallow in corrupt-ridden dole-out monies which get a P62.6 billion budget in 2014, from its P32 billion budget in 2012. US-Aquino’s regime brandishes the brutal Oplan Bayanihan together with its PAMANA projects in its hopeless bid to weaken the armed revolution.

We call on the Filipino youth and people to junk this 2014 budget which is but a tool of institutionalized corruption and expose and oppose this corrupt, pro-imperialist and anti-people US-Aquino regime. We must tirelessly arouse, organize and mobilize to isolate and weaken the US-Aquino regime and rotten reactionary system.

Kabataang Makabayan calls on the Filipino youth and people to rally against corruption and strike the prevailing rotten system of semi-feudal and semi-colonial Philippine society dominated by imperialism, bureaucrat-capitalism and feudalism as the root cause of widespread scams and institutionalized corruption.

The chronic and worsening economic crisis of the semi-feudal and semicolonial is pushing the ruling classes in scrambling for their shrinking “share of pie”, hell-bent in clutching state positions to raid public coffers and stash them in various local and foreign banks. Bureaucrat-capitalists and the ruling classes consistently manufacture projects and money-making ventures at the expense of the people.

The US-Aquino regime is drumbeating as imposed by the World Bank its anti-corruption rhetorics of ‘Matuwid na Daan’ which will give more leverage to the crisis-ridden bureaucracy a green light for foreign loans from the imperialists. This is further burying the people into the quagmire of indebtedness while fattening the pockets and bellies of corrupt bureaucrat- capitalists, big compradors, landlords at a greater magnitude. This has been the modus of the reactionary state since the hated fascist and pro-imperialist Marcos dictatorship.

The US-Aquino regime is the prime sponsor of institutionalized loot, plunder of peoples money, wealth and resources by the ruling classes and imperialism against the Filipino people. The worsening crisis of world capitalist system and neoliberal policies imposed by imperialists to the US-Aquino puppet regime thru the policies of liberalization, privatization, denationalization, and deregulation sap dry the blood of the toiling people, crushing their livelihood and plundering the natural wealth for cut-throat profits.

KM calls on the students and youth, the toiling people and other exploited classes to intensify protests and unite in a broad alliance against systemic corruption and make the ruling US-Aquino regime accountable for presiding over corruption amidst grave poverty of the majority of the people.

Ultimately, while the people legitimately aspire to end corruption, it should also be exposed that corruption is endemic to the semi-feudal and semi-colonial Philippine society which is ruled by the brutal dictatorship of landlords, big compradors and bureaucrat-capitalists. Thus, the wealth and resources of the people and nation is concentrated on these handful few while the majority of our people are exploited, robbed of their rights and basic subsistence. The people can never expect genuine land reform and social change, national industrialization and development to occur under the exploitative ruling classes since it is contrary to their constant drive for super-profits, an anathema to the existence of their class rule.

Only thru intensifying the armed revolution and smashing this rotten system can we end corruption and put in power a government that genuinely represents the democratic interests and welfare of the people.

CPP: Negotiations over granting US military access are nothing but a masquerade—CPP

From the CPP Website (Aug 14): Negotiations over granting US military access are nothing but a masquerade—CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said negotiations scheduled to start today between the Aquino regime and US military officials over granting the US military access to local facilities are nothing but a masquerade to formalize what has been US practice of making use of the Philippines as a military base long acceded to and supported by the Aquino regime.

The CPP issued this statement in reaction to claims made yesterday by Aquino’s spokesperson that the access agreement is “not a done deal” and that the Aquino government wants to make sure that the constitutional prohibition against foreign military bases are not violated.

“Aquino is a puppet pretending he is not,” said the CPP. “Under the Aquino regime, the US military has gained unprecedented access to Philippine sea and air ports to dock its ships and land and launch its jet fighters and surveillance drones,” said the CPP. “The entire Philippines has long been serving as a big military base of the US.”

The Philippine government announced yesterday that “negotiations” with the US government are set to start today. The Aquino regime is set to be represented by “two of the staunchest defenders and apologists of US military presence and basing in the Philippines”, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario.

“The plan to grant the US greater military access to local ports and infrastructure and extending rights to set up its own facilities has long been agreed upon by the Aquino government and the US military.” This arrangement was clinched in the Strategic Defense Dialogue held in Washington way back in January 2012 right after US President Obama declared his government’s strategy to pivot towards Asia where it plans to deploy more than half of its naval overseas troops.

“Even Aquino’s spokesperson declared yesterday that negotiations will simply focus on the details of allowing the US access,” said the CPP. “Considering that the US has long been granted access by the Aquino regime, the current round of ‘negotiations’ will likely result in allowing the US to have exclusive access to certain facilities, which is a step further in formally allowing the return of the US military bases.”

“Granting the US military access to local facilities has long been agreed between the US and the Philippine government. The so-called US and Philippine negotiations are nothing but a masquerade to make it appear that the puppet Aquino regime is concerned with defending Philippine sovereignty.”

“Considering the Aquino regime’s display of all-out subservience to the US, current negotiations between his officials and the US military will undoubtedly be geared towards strengthening US foothold in the Philippines and its use of the Philippines as a US military outpost in the Asia-Pacific,” added the CPP.

The US has been maintaining permanent presence in the Philippines with the basing since 2002 of the 700-strong US Pacific Command’s Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) in its exclusive base within the AFP Western Command’s Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City. This is further augmented by the permanent presence of US naval ships which dock at Subic and other ports in regular intervals. US warships docked in Philippine ports close to 100 times last year.

“The CPP maintains the position that further strengthening and expanding US military presence in the Philippines violate Philippine sovereignty as it allows the US to use the country as a staging point of its interventionist wars and hegemonist operations in the Asia-Pacific region. American combat troops further interfere in local combat operations in order to establish its military might, target local anti-imperialist forces in the guise of ‘fighting terrorism’ and help strengthen the exploitative and oppressive social system.”

“The Filipino people must firmly unite to oppose and put an end to the permanent presence of interventionist US troops in the Philippines and the rotational docking of US warships,” added the CPP. “They must oppose the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty which has been used by the US and the Aquino governments as justification for the permanent and growing presence of US military troops in the country.”