Friday, August 23, 2013

Modernizing the Philippine Military

From the Diplomat (Aug 22): Modernizing the Philippine Military

President Benigno Aquino has called for an upgrading of the nation’s armed forces. That's easier said than done.

During his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Benigno Aquino reiterated his desire to upgrade the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). However, he cautioned that this is not something the government can easily pursue. Aquino further suggested that building a “minimum credible defense” would face challenges due to budgetary constraints. The AFP has very limited funds; in fact, an overwhelming majority of its military budget goes to personnel salaries and allowances, rather than defense capability upgrades. In addition, the 1987 Constitution prohibits the government from allocating more funds to the military than for education. In the proposed 2014 budget, PhP255.2 billion ($5.9 billion) was earmarked for the Department of Education and another PhP31.9 billion ($742 million) for state universities and colleges; a mere PhP81.8 billion ($1.9 billion) will go to the Defense Department and the AFP combined.

Not surprisingly, then, some analysts openly question whether the country can really afford to modernize its aging military or even establish a minimum credible defense – the two main defense priorities for the government. This situation frustrates both Philippine and foreign military planners who are eager to improve the military capabilities and capacity of the country; but is a reality that any serious military planner must accept and consider. Obviously, these measures require a long-term vision, patience and significant funding. The question then becomes: has the current Administration committed the country to any of these disciplines? Until the Philippine government more clearly defines how it intends to develop this strategy, and demonstrates the political will and commitment towards this end, potential antagonists will not regard the Philippine defense posture as either credible or capable.

Military Acquisitions Insufficient

The theory of minimum credible defense is a concept that has become popular in the public debate over the modernization of the Philippine military. Unfortunately, for the Philippines this is a very vague concept that the government has articulated poorly.

Some government officials simply associate minimum credible defense with the acquisition of new military equipment and the improvement of military infrastructure. Others believe strategic military training is a crucial component of this effort. A high-ranking Department of National Defense (DND) official recently remarked that the government aims to modernize the military to deter “those who want to wage war” against the Philippines.

The DND official noted that the Philippines is planning up to 24 modernization projects  in the next three years. These projects – which the government will fund – include the acquisition of fighter jets, naval helicopters, patrol aircraft, frigates, patrol vessels and multi-purpose attack vessels. Among the most high profile acquisitions, the AFP will purchase three decommissioned Hamilton-class cutters from the U.S. Coast Guard; two are already in the possession of the Philippine Navy. The AFP is also set to buy twelve new FA-50 fighter jets from Korea Aerospace Industries, worth approximately $440 million. These additions to the AFP will undoubtedly help increase its capacity.

That said, many observers fail to recognize that the Philippine military is not that large, and was never designed or, more importantly, developed to provide for the defense of its expansive archipelagic territory. Many experts argue that billions of dollars would need to be invested to reconfigure the Philippine military into a credible defense force. However, with the closure of U.S. bases and the resultant loss of lease revenue, the AFP must now rely on congressional appropriations and AFP modernization funds to invest in new equipment. These sources are not sufficient to carry through modernization plans.

Dependence on Foreign Military Assistance

Until recently, the Philippines has been able to rest comfortably under the U.S. defense umbrella, in the face of relatively insignificant external threats. This has clearly created a degree of political complacency over the questions of defense capabilities and the modernization of the military. The AFP acquired much of its military equipment through various U.S. defense aid programs, including the Military Assistance Program, the Foreign Military Sales, and the Excess Defense Articles Program. This has earned some criticism from defense experts; a long time observer once remarked that the AFP deserves real modernization, not a “Potemkin village” built around a handful of aging aircraft and a few naval vessel acquisitions. However, even if the U.S. and other friendly nations were prepared to provide greater levels of military assistance, there will always be the question about how much the AFP, in its current state, could actually absorb.

Given the current structure of the Philippine military, and the apparent lack of political and public will to develop a truly stronger and more credible defense capability, one has to accept that the Philippine military has a very limited capacity to absorb significant foreign military assistance and materiel. Even now, with the “immediate” and “credible” threat of Chinese aggression, there appears to be little public appetite for a significantly stronger military. Many experts argue that it would take a major shift in government policy – not to mention political will – to make the required paradigm change. Until those shifts take place, and the public accepts the need to fund a stronger military – the Philippines will remain primarily dependent on diplomatic measures to defend its territory. That means forging and sustaining strategic alliances with more powerful allies such as the U.S., Australia, and Japan.

Richard Jacobson is the Director of Operations at Pacific Strategies & Assessments, which conducts socio-political, economic and business risk assessments for clients in the Asia-Pacific.

NPA owns attack on Army camp in Comval

From the Sun Star-Davao (Aug 22): NPA owns attack on Army camp in Comval

THE New People's Army (NPA) in Southern Mindanao claimed responsibility for the attack on 71st Infantry Battalion headquarters in Mabini, Compostela Valley (Comval).

It also admitted holding a government troop, which they seized on August 3 at the vicinity of the military headquarters in Barangay Mapaang, Maco town.

Daniel Ibarra, Comval Davao Gulf sub regional command spokesperson, in a statement issued Wednesday night, said Private First Class Rodello Canda Arigonan has remained under their custody.

The bomb attack on the headquarters of the 71st IB in Barangay Pangibiran, Mabini town happened at around 8 p.m. on August 5.

The explosion resulted to the killing of at least six Army soldiers, while five others were wounded.

The NPA said the operation was intended to "give justice to two victims of extrajudicial killings and to peasant victims of AFP atrocities."

They identified the victims as Eddie Canon, a civilian and municipal coordinator of a progressive party-list group in Barangay San Isidro, Mawab town last May 25, and Ramil Lintas, a motorcycle driver of Barangay Calabcab, Maco town last July 25.

Ibarra said that members of the military intelligence battalion under 1001st Brigade-10th Infantry Division were responsible of the incident.

“The military's counter-revolutionary campaign forces the evacuation and dislocation of peasants to kowtow to the interest of land-grabbers and big miners in Compostela Valley. Military units, like the children killer 71st IB, are responsible for the most despicable crimes against the people,” the statement read.

"As the NPA keeps custody of Arigonan as its Prisoner of War, it will hold accountable elements of the reactionary armed force who continue to abuse poor peasants and indigenous peoples in the countryside," Ibarra said.

Police still lack solid evidence for sedition case vs Misuari

From MindaNews (Aug 23): Police still lack solid evidence for sedition case vs Misuari

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police command still has no solid evidence to back the sedition case it plans to slap against Nur Misuari, founding chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Chief Supt. Noel delos Reyes, ARMM police director, admitted they are still gathering evidence against Misuari, who reportedly declared an independent state in Mindanao on August 12 that he called “Bangsamoro Republik.”

“Until now, we don’t have a hard evidence to link him, unless he himself will admit it,” delos Reyes said.

He added that police have yet to obtain the supposed interview showing Misuari declaring an independent state.

Delos Reyes earlier ordered the Sulu police office to gather evidences and prepare a sedition case against the former ARMM governor.

The ARMM police had sought the help of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Region 9 to help build the case against Misuari.

Once the police submit the case to the prosecutor’s office in Sulu, it is up to them to determine if there is prima facie evidence that will allow the filing of a formal case before the court, delos Reyes explained.

In a text message, MNLF secretary general Ustadz Murshi Ibrahim said that “to proclaim or assert our fundamental right or independence is not a crime if it is done peacefully.”

Delos Reyes said they are treating the reports of Misuari’s declaration of independence as all allegations “in the absence of tangible evidence.”

Balindong: “Bangsamoro Basic Law has to be finished as soon as possible”

From MindaNews (Aug 23): Balindong: “Bangsamoro Basic Law has to be finished as soon as possible”

House Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong and two other Mindanawon representatives sent here by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte to sit as observers in the GPH-MILF peace talks are hoping that the remaining annexes on power-sharing and normalization would be signed soon so that the Bangsamoro Basic Law can be “finished as soon as possible.

“We will try to do our best to craft this law. We need this. We want peace as soon as possible,” Balindong, representative of the 2nd district of Lanao del Sur told MindaNews after the opening rites at the Palace of the Golden Horses on Thursday.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said they “want the two annexes finished this month or next month” so that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) can draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law and submit to Congress by December.

“We will have to fast-track this,” Rodriguez told MindaNews on Friday morning.

He said Congress can act on the draft law from January to March, before Congress goes on break.

“We want to have peace in Mindanao. We have to hurry up,” said Rodriguez.

OBSERVERS FROM CONGRESS. House Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong (right) with Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (left) and North Cotabato Rep. Jesus Sacdalan are in Kuala Lumpur as observers in the GPH-MILF peace talks. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
OBSERVERS FROM CONGRESS. House Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong (right) with Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (left) and North Cotabato Rep. Jesus Sacdalan are in Kuala Lumpur as observers in the GPH-MILF peace talks. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

He said Speaker Belmonte sent him, Deputy Speaker Balindong and North Cotabato Rep. Jesus Sacdalan to observe the talks.

 Rodriguez said coming here is “very good” as it gave them an opportunity, among others, to see the basic text of the annexes, the positions of the parties, which issues “need more consensus” and whether the provisions conform with the Constitution.

The government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels are continuing negotiations on power-sharing and normalization, the last two annexes that would complete the comprehensive peace agreement. Two other annexes had been signed – Transitional Arrangements and Modalities on February 27 and Power-sharing on July 13.

Negotiations on power-sharing began through the panels’ technical working groups in August 2012 and in November 2012 for normalization.

Under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed on October 15 last year, the parties agreed that “the status quo is unacceptable” and that they would work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the “Bangsamoro” to replace the then 22-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The parties also agreed to complete the annexes by end of 2012.

In December last year, President Aquino created through Executive Order the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the 15-member body that would draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and named its members on February 25.

The BTC has met for preliminaries, has set up its internal rules and committees but according to MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, who also sits as BTC chair, they “cannot write the Bangsamoro Basic Law in its wholeness” unless the annexes and the comprehensive peace pact are signed.

Balindong said the Bangsamoro Basic Law “has to be finished as soon as possible, not in the latter part of the President’s term.”

He said he hopes the law is passed by 2014.

In his State of the Nation Address on July 22, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III urged Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law before the end of 2014 so “we will have ample time to prepare for the election of a new Bangsamoro government come 2016.”

According to the roadmap set by the two parties under the FAB, after the BTC submits the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress, the President will certify it as urgent. As soon as Congress passes the law, a plebiscite will be conducted in the proposed core territory. Once ratified, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is created, “ARMM is deemed abolished” and “all devolved authorities are vested in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.”

The roadmap also provides that the “Ministerial form and Cabinet system of government will commence once the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is in place.”

The BTA will be “replaced upon the election and assumption of the members of the Bangsamoro legislative assembly and the formation of the Bangsamoro government.”

Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez had earlier told MindaNews they would need six months to prepare for the plebiscite, inclusive of the period for information campaign.

Former Ambassador Akmad Sakkam, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission who also sat as observer, told MindaNews their coming here as observers gave them the opportunity to “feel the process” and appreciate the intrinsic value of negotiation and the sincerity of both parties.

“It’s nice to understand the efforts and determination of the negotiators, both of the MILF and GPH,” Sakkam said, adding there is ”a lot of stake at hand and shared responsibilities.”

Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao People’s Caucus and one of three representatives from the Mindanao civil society attending the talks as observers said the presence of the legislators “demonstrates the interest and commitment of Congress to cooperate with the parties and the Transition Commission for the passage of the BBL.”

“Indeed, everyone shares the sense of urgency and we are all waiting with much anticipation and eagerness to support the signing of the annexes and comprehensive compact,” Arnado said.

MILF: Editorial -- Need for Public Engagement

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Aug 23): Need for Public Engagement

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) has always wanted the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to commence as soon as it was constituted last March, but the main hindrance has been the inability of the government and MILF to finish the four annexes so that they would finally sign the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA).

We are not pointing to the government as the main source of the delay, because finger-pointing or the blame game sometimes does not help. It only invites remorse from the other party. Besides, it does not change the situation at all. It is better for both parties to engage in soul-searching, as a form of discernment, to better their acts together next time.

Clearly, a very important activity related to the writing of the BBL, in fact, an indispensable part, is engaging the people in a dialogue. They must be engaged in the writing of the BBL for at least three important reasons: 1) Members of the BTC never assume that they have the monopoly of good ideas; sometimes, the best ideas come from the ranks of the people; 2) Engaging the people is a formula to let them feel their importance and participation, hence, their ownership of the BBL is the desired consequence; and 3) This is an effective mechanism to manage hopes and expectations, as well as fears and anxieties of people especially those least informed.

A dialogue is an effective form of communication. When there is communication, bridges of understanding are created between and amongst people that lead to cooperation. When there is cooperation, even the difficult undertaking becomes easy.

But a well-meaning engagement cannot start unless all the four annexes or the CPA is signed. A piecemeal approach, as what is being currently done, has many loose ends. Much as it likes, without the entire agreement, the BTC can do only very little. The danger with this approach lies in its tentativeness. This creates false impression that the peace process is moving.

This is the reason that the MILF wanted to sign at least one of the two remaining annexes, say, power-sharing, during the 39th GPH-MILF Exploratory Talks that started yesterday (August 22) in Kuala Lumpur.  To the MILF, this annex has lesser contentious portions, in contrast to wealth-sharing, that can be overcome by the parties without exceptional exertions. But negotiation is one human undertaking that one or the other has veto power over the other party. Decision can only happen if the two parties agree. This we fully understand and accept as given in a negotiation.

MILF: MILF to bring three non-organic observers to KL meeting

From the MILF Website (Aug 23): MILF to bring three non-organic observers to KL meeting

Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF peace panel secretariat, told Luwaran that three non-MILF organic members are given the go-signal to attend the opening session of the 39th GPH-MILF Exploratory Talks at the Palace of the Golden Horses in Selangor, Malaysia tomorrow.
The meeting will end on August 25.

However, he did not identify the observers except by saying that two are women, high-profile civil society workers and one Moro male, who figured prominently in pro-peace activities in the Philippines.

They are friends of the peace process,” Mantawil said.

The permission was granted first by the MILF central committee through its peace panel and then the Malaysian facilitator, when officially asked to comment, posed no objection provided the GPH side will concur. Through it secretariat, the GPH was not opposed to the idea.

In previous peace talks in Kuala Lumpur, the government had been used to bring high government and legislative officials to observe the talks, which the MILF willingly concurred with.

When asked to give his views, Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel, described the attendance of these high government officials as something good for the peace process.

During the last session of the parties in Kuala Lumpur last July 8-15, no less than Secretary Teresita “Ging” Deles and Secretary Edwin Lacierda graced the occasion. Observers believed that their presence bolstered the chances for the signing of the Annex on Wealth-sharing, which so has been admitted as the most difficult most issue to resolve.

Procedurally, observers are granted attendance only during the opening session and closing ceremony. But there were instances that they were also invited even during the plenary session.

Secretary Deles was present during the dying minutes of the last meeting, which proved very helpful to the GPH side that led to the signing of the Annex on Wealth-sharing.

Meanwhile Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, a regular member of the MILF peace panel, and currently heads the team on power-sharing, will not join the MILF delegation. He is in the hospital for severe shoulder aches. Jun Mantawil was designated to head the team, which counts lawyers Cocoy Mastura and Roslayne Maniri as members.

CPP/NDF: NDFP demands release of NDFP Consultant Magpatoc

Posted to the CPP Website (Aug 23): NDFP demands release of NDFP Consultant Magpatoc

Luis Jalandoni
NDFP Negotiating Panel

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel strongly condemns the illegal arrest and detention of NDFP Consultant Ma. Loida Tuzo Magpatoc by the Aquino regime. She is a holder of NDFP Document of Identification No. ND978254 using the assumed name Puri Feleo.

Her arrest on 28 July 2013 and continuing detention at the regime’s Camp Bagong Diwa (female dorm) is a gross violation of the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

As the attached Letter of Acknowledgment signed by then GRP Negotiating Panel Chairman, Silvestre H. Bello III, stipulates, she is an NDFP Consultant for Mindanao (VII) and “is entitled to the safety and immunity guarantees as provided under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) for the duration of the peace negotiations.”

“You are hereby required to facilitate the safe conduct and free passage of the above named person.

Thank you for your courtesy and assistance.”

The NDFP Negotiating Panel demands that the Aquino government respect and comply with the JASIG and release Ma. Loida Tuzo Magpatoc and 12 other JASIG-protected NDFP personnel.

We likewise demand the release of all the 430 political prisoners in compliance with the GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). A government that does not respect agreements and contracts it has entered into does not deserve trust and respect.
Herein listed are the other 12 JASIG-protected NDFP personnel who remain in detention:
  • Alan Jazmines
  • Leopoldo Caloza
  • Emeterio Antalan
  • Eduardo Serrano
  • Tirso Alcantara
  • Ramon Patriarca
  • Edgardo Friginal
  • Jaime Soledad
  • Eduardo Sarmiento
  • Alfredo Mapano
  • Pedro Codaste
  • Renante Gamara

GRP Letter of Acknowledgment signed by the GRP Panel Chairman Silvestre Bello III (The same letter at the PRWC.)

NDFP International Information Office:
mailing address:
Amsterdamsestraatweg 50
3513 AG Utrecht
The Netherlands
telephone: +31 30 2310431
email: |

ANAD: Killed NPA was a Morong 43

Posted to the anti-communist ANAD Facebook page (Aug 23): Killed NPA was a Morong 43

One of the NPAs that were killed in an encounter with joint Army and PNP elements last August 9 in Brgy Kabayunan, Dona Remedios Trinidad (DRT), Bulacan was one of the members of the famous “Morong 43” who were claiming that they were legitimate Health Workers when they were arrested in February 6, 2010 in Morong, Rizal.

The dead NPA was identified as Ramon Dela Cruz @ Mandy of the Morong 43 who was claimed by his parents Ramon Santos Dela Cruz and mother Rosita of Namayan, Malolos, Bulacan. The other dead NPA members were identified only in their aliases as alias ELDY and alias ROBIN who were initially brought to Saint Monique Funeral Homes in Angat Bulacan for funeral service before they were turned over to the PNP DRT, Bulacan for proper disposition.

Accordingly, about 12 NPAS of SYP Bulacan fired at first at the operating elements of 48th IB of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division and DRT PNP who were then verifying a report of the community on the presence of the NPAs. Other fatalities on the NPA side were dragged from the encounter site by their withdrawing companions while one Army trooper was wounded in the firefight.

The arresting officers of the Morong 43 felt sorry for the fate of the dead NPAs, particularly the Morong 43 member Ramon Dela Cruz. Accordingly, @ Mandy were among those who were about to jump fence during their stay in Tanay, Rizal and avail of the Social Integration Program (SIP) of the government but was prevailed by the hardcore members of the group. They were arrested in a rest house in Maybangcal, Morong Rizal on February 6, 2010 and charged with several counts of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. They were released by the government as among the confidence building measures in the advent of the peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Delay in peace pact causing impatience

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 23): Delay in peace pact causing impatience

Some members of the Kapatiran para sa Progresong Panlipunan, which used to be the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa–Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (Tabara- Paduano wing), are becoming impatient with the delay in the signing of the closure peace agreement.

The president of the group, Gilbert Arsenal, yesterday said the signing of the closure peace agreement between the government and the KPP had been awaited by the members of the former rebel armed group since last year.

While stating their unwavering commitment to the peace process, Arsenal said they continue to get in touch with their members, and explain to them the delay in the signing.

The RPM-RPA-ABB, which has 716 members as profiled by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, entered into a peace agreement with the government in year 2000. They possess more than 400 firearms and 300 explosives, OPPAP records show.

“The ball is now in the hands of the government on how to fast-track the peace agreement ,” Arsenal said.

Earlier, OPPA issued a statement that the draft of the closure peace agreement is still under due diligence review.

“We hope to be able to finish the process soon and move towards the signing,” OPPAP, told the DAILY STAR.

The changing of RPA-ABB armed group name to KPP, or Brotherhood for Social Progress, is in line with the goal of the government to transform the group into a legitimate socio-economic and political organization.

Arsenal said he estimates a 50 percent compliance with the provisions of the signed peace agreement, and that the government has yet to drop the criminal cases against their colleagues, and issue special gun permits to KPP leaders, among others.

Other advocacy areas of the KPP are women, children, and the environment. The group maintains that safeguarding these areas is an “inseparable component” for upholding the rights and welfare of the working masses.

Philippine Army scores in Panay

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 22): Philippine Army scores in Panay

The Philippine Army overran two communist rebel camps in Panay Island over the weekend.

This was disclosed by Brigadier General Arnold Quiapo, commander of the Philippine Army’s 301st Infantry Brigade (301 IB).

A security operation conducted by the 61st Infantry Battalion (62 IB) drove members of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) armed group, New People’s Army (NPA) to abandon their camp in Tapaz, Capiz last August 17.

The following day, the 82nd Infantry Battalion (82 IB) also overran an NPA camp in Igbaras, Iloilo. Quiapo said the NPA’s Capiz camp was a bigger one with entrenchments.

The PA’s operation against the NPA in Iloilo was not as smooth. NPA rebels fired on members of the 82nd IB’s Charlie Company.

While no one was hurt in the firefight, Quiapo said it was a diversionary tactic on the NPA rebels’ part.

US, PH to conduct bilateral activities on August 26

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 23): US, PH to conduct bilateral activities on August 26

United States and Philippine troops will kick off August 26 another bilateral activity called "Operation Pacific Unity 2013" (PU 13) to be held in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

This, as U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is also scheduled to make a visit to Manila country August 29. A statement from the Pentagon said Hagel is coming to the Philippines as part of his four-nation trip to Southeast Asia.

The conduct of PU 13 and upcoming visit of the US Defense chief comes amid negotiations on expanded American military presence in the country.

Participating in the conduct of PU 13, which will run until September 20, are troops from the US Air Force (USAF), the US Navy, (USN), and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through the Western Command ( Wescom).

Capt. Robert J. Howard of the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Public Affairs said in an email to Manila Bulletin, stressed that while USN personnel are taking part in the activity, no USN ships are scheduled to join in this bilateral humanitarian and civic assistance program effort.

Operation Pacific Unity is a bilateral Engineering Civic Action Program (ENCAP) conducted in the Asia-Pacific region in collaboration with host nation civil authorities and military personnel.

According to the AFP, the activity particularly aims to to enhance the response capability of both Armed Forces and stakeholders during time of disasters and calamities.

Approximately 28 U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy construction craftsmen and support personnel will participate alongside host province officials and construction tradesmen.

From the Philippines side, also joining the humanitarian mission aside from the Wescom are elements from the Philippine National Police (PNP), local government units (LGUs) and local government agencies (LGAs), and non-government organizations (NGOs).

"The extent of the participation of the AFP shall be on personnel requirement, along with minimal mission-essential equipment," according to the said the AFP Public Affairs Office (PAO).

Howard, on the other hand, said: "This year marks the fourth iteration of the operation which began in 2010. . . Previous operations took place in Vietnam."

The PACAF public affairs officer likewise said the direct beneficiary PU 13 will be the Virgilo R. Magbanua Elementary School in Barangay San Pedro, Puerto Princesa City and the local community.

During the activity, troops from both countries will jointly construct a new two-room classroom facility to replace an existing temporary fabric tent, aside from doing renovations to three existing facilities in the same school compound.

Last year, seven classrooms were renovated and one building was constructed from the ground up in Malabacat, Pampanga which was the venue of PU 2012.

"The relationships built and sustained with our multinational partners in the Asia-Pacific region through exercises, civil-military operations and military exchanges help tremendously in humanitarian efforts and in preserving peace and stability in the region," said Howard.

Operation Pacific Unity is just one of several bilateral exercises and activities being conducted by US and Philippine soldiers that also benefit the local communities.

Other activities include the prominent annual Balikatan Exercises, PHIBLEX, CARAT, Balance Piston, Pacific Angel, and the Haribon Tempest that started this year.

Joint activities between Philippines and US militaries are reviewed and agreed upon by the RP-US Mutual Defense Board (MDB)- Security Engagement Board (SEB).

The MDB- SEB activities are formulated based on the guidance of bilateral strategic dialogue and general policy of forwarding cooperation between the two countries, which hinges on the following: convergence of PH-US interest, Principles of Reciprocity and Mutual Benefit, which it is within the framework of the constitution, MDT and VFA and other bilateral agreements.,_PH_to_conduct_bilateral_activities_on_August_26#.UhdpUZfD_Sc

Troops kill 2 ‘bandits’ in Davao Sur clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 23): Troops kill 2 ‘bandits’ in Davao Sur clash
Government forces on Friday killed two members of a notorious bandit group – believed to be associated with armed anti-mining B’laan warriors – during a clash in a remote village of Kiblawan town, Davao del Sur, the authorities said.

Captain Raul Villegas, public affairs officer of the 10th Infantry Division based in Compostela Valley, which also has jurisdiction over Davao del Sur, said the armed men could be part of a larger group, allegedly led by anti-mining B’laan leader Daguil Capion, that harassed a paramilitary detachment in the same village earlier this week, killing militia.

Villegas said that on Friday, armed bandits fired at patrolling soldiers, who immediately fired back and engaged the assailants in a running gun battle.

“Those killed on the enemy side were an Anting Peayay, and an alias Victor. The troops also recovered a .22 Magnum rifle and a 12-gauge Winchester shotgun alongside their bodies,” Villegas said.

Public warned on groups using name of DND chief on bogus solicitation activities

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 23): Public warned on groups using name of DND chief on bogus solicitation activities

The Dept. of National Defense (DND) on Friday has warned the public against individuals or groups using the name of Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in fake fund or solicitation activities.

"May we warn the public that there are persons or individuals claiming to be or using the name of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin soliciting financial assistance or donations for various fund raising activities from private and government institutions and officials," the DND said in a statement.

According to reports, such solicitations are done through telephone calls.

"Secretary Gazmin, or any member of his staff, DOES NOT solicit donations for calamity victims or for any fund raising activity. We would like to caution the public to be vigilant and not fall to this new modus operandi by unscrupulous individuals using Secretary Gazmin’s name or any member of his staff," the DND stressed.

"If you have been contacted by any individual or group claiming to be or using the name of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, or any member of his staff, please report this to the Office of the Secretary, Department of National Defense at telephone number 911-17-46," it concluded.

Army to warring Moro rebels: Think of your family and relatives

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 23): Army to warring Moro rebels: Think of your family and relatives
An Army spokesperson here appealed Friday to warring Moro rebels to think of their own families and relatives who were forced to evacuate every time their fire their guns over minor misunderstanding.

The appeal was aired by Captain Antonio Bulao, chief of the information unit of the military's 602nd Infantry Brigade based in Carmen, North Cotabato after leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) agreed to a ceasefire.

Huge Moro clans belonging to MILF and MNLF traded shots over a long standing land dispute that forced about 200 families from Sitio Leonard, Barangay Manubuan, Matalam, North Cotabato.

"Think of your family and relatives who will be displaced every time you quarrel," Bulao told Moro rebel leaders.

The sporadic fighting erupted last May in Barangay Marbel, also in Matalam and escalated to other interior Muslim villages.

"No matter how many soldiers and military hardware we deploy in their village if they continue the culture of resolving conflict through the barrel of guns, these communities will never be peaceful," Bulao told DXND Radyo Bida, a Church-run Radio based in Kidapawan City.

"Every single bullet you fire against your fellow Moro, will result to evacuation of civilians who happened to be your relatives and family members," Bulao added. "Can't you feel the hardship these affected families are into?" he asked.

MNLF and MILF leaders both stressed the armed conflict in Matalam was not an organization misunderstanding but of huge Muslim clans who own large parch of land and happened to be members of either Moro front.

"The peace or un-peace in your communities largely depends on your leaders," Bulao told the displaced families who refused to return home and prefer to stay in evacuation sites.

Leaders of MNLF and MILF have agreed to a ceasefire and allow concerned government agencies to do land ownership validation.

Despite words from Moro leaders and the military that the community is now safe for their return, the refugees prefer to stay put in evacuation centers.

Manubuan village Chair Melecio Opinaldo said the village council had passed a resolution urging the Army to put up an Army base in Sitio (sub-village) Leonard so the affected families can return home and sleep soundly.

Without saying anything about the village council's request, Bulao said a contingent of Army Special Forces had been deployed in the village to serve as peacekeepers.

However, he said the unit may be pulled out soon when the situation calls for it.

As to the request of villagers, Bulao said the Army's 602nd Brigade is still assessing it.

NPA men set on fire 4 dump trucks, 1 cement mixer in Albay town

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 23): NPA men set on fire 4 dump trucks, 1 cement mixer in Albay town

Eight New People's Army (NPA) rebels set on fire four dump trucks and a cement mixer at a road construction site in an upland village of Pio Duran town in Albay at about 2:40 p.m. Thursday, a police official said Friday.

Sr. Inspector Larry Prepotente, Pio Duran police chief, said the NPA dissidents swooped down on an ongoing government road construction project in Barangay Salvacion, an upland village some 15 kilometers from Pio Duran town proper.

Prepotente said the village is a hotbed of communist guerrillas operating in Pio Duran town, which is 66 kilometers away from this city.

The NPA attack surprised some 53 construction workers who were unloading construction materials from the trucks while some workers were operating a cement mixer, the police official said in a phone interview.

He said the rebels gathered all the workers in one place and asked them to turn off their cell phones, then later set on fire the trucks and the cement mixer with a total worth of P1.2 million.

Propetente said the trucks and cement mixer were owned by Geronimo David, a project contractor.

Albay Rep. Fernando Gonzales (LP, 3rd District) said in a phone interview that the upland road cementing project is a P3-million farm-to-market road being implemented jointly by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in Albay.

Gonzales said the farm-to-market road project was implemented on his request but not included in his Priority Development Assistance Fund.

The project will benefit hundreds of farmers living in Barangay Salvacion and neighboring upland villages of Pio Duran, he said.

SOLCOM welcomes CPP-NPA’s ceasefire offer during calamity relief operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 23): SOLCOM welcomes CPP-NPA’s ceasefire offer during calamity relief operations

The Southern Luzon Command said Friday it welcomed the demand of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) for a temporary ceasefire to allow unhampered delivery of relief goods to the victims of the massive flooding in some areas in the country.

Lieutenant General Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, SOLCOM Commander expressed that the command is grateful and appreciates the gestures of the CPP-NPA to extend their assistance to the flood victims.

“Sa panahong ito kailangan nating magtulungan para sa kapakanan ng ating mga kababayang nasalanta ng walang tigil na pag-ulan at pagbaha (In times like this, we need to help each other for the welfare of our fellowmen who are victims of the torrential rains and floods),” Lt. Gen. Ordoyo remarked.

He disclosed the command has been at the forefront of conducting disaster relief and rescue operations as it continues to augment and deploy troops and transportation since Monday.

SOLCOM and Office of Civil Defense units along with other government agencies have since conducted aerial survey to assess the damage and current flood situation particularly in the provinces of Laguna and Cavite.

Ordoyo said that the SOLCOM Operations center units such as the Philippine Army engineers and Philippine Air Force personnel from 740th Combat Group have already embarked and fast tracked the relief operations and clean-up drive with the local government units and non-government organizations in the flood affected areas.

SOLCOM has also activated its relief operations dubbed as “BAYANIHAN para sa mga Nasalanta ng Bagyong Maring.”

In connection with the ceasefire offer, Ordoyo said his command has endorsed the appropriate recommendation on the CPP-NPA’s demand and awaits for further directive and guidance from the higher headquarters.

In the meantime, Ordoyo encouraged all community members, civil society and the CPP-NPA to continue and to exert efforts in providing assistance to all typhoon and flood-affected residents.

Guns silent now in North Cotabato restive Muslim town

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 23): Guns silent now in North Cotabato restive Muslim town
Guns are silent now in a remote village of Mlang, North Cotabato after a localized truce took effect Friday between warring Moro rebels who traded shots in the past.

Mayor Joselito Pinol of Mlang said the infighting among commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had displaced about 50 families who are also Moro residents.

Pinol said the town's Council of Muslim Elders which was formed to address problems besetting Moro communities had already laid down conditions to prevent followers of Commander Buisan and Commander Kamsa, both of the MILF's 108th command.

"Displaced families can now return to their communities," Pinol said.

He said the conflict stemmed from long standing land dispute involving Muslim leaders who happened to belong to the MILF.

"The infighting is not helping solve the problem," Pinol said even as he warned community leaders to address their problem peacefully.

"Otherwise we will be forced to launch offensives against armed men in Barangay Dungguan," he added.

Noah Sabel, MILF 108th base command, said the MILF leadership had already deployed peacekeeping forces in Dungguan to prevent a repeat of skirmishes.

Sabel said the conflict between Kamsa and Buisan had been settled few months back but their children and other relatives continue the armed conflict to determine who really owned a large parch of land in Barangay Dungguan.

GPH, MILF resume exploratory talks in KL

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 23): GPH, MILF resume exploratory talks in KL

Despite the recent spate of violence by armed groups to derail the peace process in Mindanao, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) opened their 39th formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur Thursday, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said.

In her opening statement, Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the GPH panel, vowed that no amount of violence by the breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) meant to derail the peace process would prevent the GPH and the MILF from reaching a final peace agreement before the year ends.

“In this round, we will prove that we have not been waylaid by these groups’ destructive, desperate ways,” Ferrer said.

Last July 13 BIFF elements attacked government forces and set-off improvised explosive devices in several parts of Mindanao, and followed by two bomb explosions in Cagayan de Oro City on July 26 that killed six innocent civilians and wounded 40, and a car bomb in Cotabato on Aug. 5 that killed eight and injured scores of people, including children, all aimed at derailing the peace talks.

“But through their grievous deeds, these entrepreneurs of violence and mayhem have only succeeded in isolating themselves from the rest of the people,” Ferrer pointed out.

“Bombings, snipings, and various forms of indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations and objects such as bridges have no place in the moral order that we are instituting in our country and our communities,” she said.

Amid these atrocities, Ferrer was confident that both parties would resolve to reach “the goal of completing the last two remaining annexes.”

She said the GPH and the MILF panels have already signed two out of the four annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).

These are the Annex on Transitional Arrangements on Modalities signed in February, and the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, Ferrer said.

“The signing of the Annex on Wealth Sharing on July 13 was generally positively received. There were questions and commentaries, to be sure, but none so serious as to throw out or render unviable any single part of the Annex,” she added.

“The signing, moreover, dispelled the doubts that a comprehensive agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF in our lifetime, under this administration, in 2013, can be done,” Ferrer stressed.

“It showed that, with trust and confidence, both parties do persevere in order to find a common ground on the difficult issues,” she said.

“Most important, the signing of the second Annex proved that at the end of the day, the same goal of instituting strong, inclusive and responsive institutions imbued with meaningful autonomy drives the process,” Ferrer said.

“But we know that the path we have painstakingly taken to get us to the second, third and then the final Annex is strewn with various types of landmines,” she said.

Ferrer also said that soon to be completed and signed are the Annexes on Power Sharing and Normalization. These four annexes, together with the FAB, will comprise the comprehensive agreement which the parties aim to sign within the year.

Ferrer pointed out that “violence is not strength. It reflects a weakness in ideas, a lack of strength in the moral persuasiveness of one’s beliefs and causes. Its sheer force betrays a lack of legitimacy and popular support. As Hannah Arendt, one of my favorite philosophers, wisely wrote: ‘Impotence breeds violence.’”

According to Ferrer, the ceasefire committees, the Ad Hoc Joint Action Groups (AHJAG) and the International Monitoring Team (IMT), together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), and a good number of national and local government officials are working hard to address the continuing threats to our people’s collective security.

Ferrer said that President Benigno S. Aquino III has reiterated at the State of the Nation Address on July 22, during the anniversary of the Philippine National Police on August 13, and the celebration of Eid’l Fitr -- “his commitment to see through our road map during his term.”

“On our end, we do our share of reaching the goal of completing the last two remaining annexes. Let us show that we are ready to put to sleep the infamous devil in the details and awaken the angel of creativity and compromise,” she said.

“I say this without underestimating the complexity of the issues, the multiplicity of legitimate interests and needs that have to be addressed in a plural society such as ours,” she said.

0n the other hand, Malaysian third-party facilitator Tengku Datu Abdul Ghafar Tengku bin Mohamed called on both sides to look seriously at spoilers, especially the “militant groups” who don’t want to see peace.

TC members and observers

Present at the opening of 39th round of formal talks were members of the Transition Commission (TC), which Iqbal also chairs. By virtue of Executive Order 120, the TC is mandated to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will pave the way for the entrenchment of the new Bangsamoro region.

Observers from Congress and civil society from the Philippines also attended the opening ceremony. They were Deputy Speaker and Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong, North Cotabato Rep. Jesus Sacdalan, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Atty. Mary Ann Arnado of Mindanao Peaceweavers, Patricia Sarenas of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs Networks and Caucus of Development NGOs, and Salic Ibrahim of the Reform ARMM Now.

Other attendees at the opening ceremony were the deputy head of mission of the Embassy of Turkey in Malaysia Hamat Dougan, Tom Phipps of the United Kingdom, Ono-san of Japan, Kristian Herbolzeimer and Emma Leslie, Dr. Markus of Muhammadiyah.

Slain 'Morong 43' member on a recruiting drive in Bulacan when killed

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 23): Slain 'Morong 43' member on a recruiting drive in Bulacan when killed

The military said Friday that "Morong 43" member Ramon Dela Cruz was on a recruitment drive when killed during an encounter with government security forces in Dona Remedios, Bulacan last Aug. 9.

This was disclosed by AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.

Investigations revealed that Dela Cruz and his fellow NPAs were recruiting new members for "Samahang Yunit Propaganda" when chanced upon by soldiers.

The rebel unit's goal is to agitate, organize and mobilize the public against the government, Zagala added.

Dela Cruz's body was claimed by his parents Ramon Santos Dela Cruz and mother Rosita.

The SYP, in which Dela Cruz is a member, usually targets minors and students for their potential recruits.

Zagala said recruitment normally begins at the start of classes particularly during freshmen orientations.

They will initially befriend their target and eventually expose them to public demonstrations, mass protests and rallies, and advance studies on communism.

After undergoing six months to two years of Basic Mass Integration, candidate members are now ready to join the higher ranks of the NPAs.

Prior to the arrest of the "Morong 43" in 2010, Dela Cruz was a medic of the Sangay Partido para sa Platoon, an organized armed unit of the NPA operating in Bulacan since 2006 per revelations of rebel returnees, and as confirmed by Dela Cruz himself in a custodial debriefing report which was submitted as evidence in court.

He was shielded by well-meaning advocates who were led to believe that they were health workers.

Thus making it appear that they were “victims.”

All the while, Dela Cruz was still a part of the larger scheme of the NPA which seeks to sabotage peace and economic growth of the country.

"In return, such cloaking led to his freedom and subsequently led to his return to the NPA. These are deceitful tactics of the NPA which our people must be made aware of," Zagala added.

GPH panel chair belittles BIFF's threat to block peace talks

From InterAksyon (Aug 23): GPH panel chair belittles BIFF's threat to block peace talks

File photo of GPH panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer from

Negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not be hampered by violence staged by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in some parts of Central Mindanao, GPH panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said at the opening of the 39th GPH-MILF Formal Exploratory Talks held in Malaysia Thursday.

“In this round, we will prove that we have not been waylaid by these groups’ destructive, desperate ways,” Ferrer said.

In an emailed statement, Ferrer specifically cited that both panels proceeded with a meeting last July, even when the BIFF were on a rampage, like attacking soldiers and setting off grenades and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in some parts of Central Mindanao that killed civilians and injured others.

She described such acts of violence to have all the more isolated the perpetrators from the rest of the people.

“Violence is not strength. It reflects a weakness in ideas, a lack of strength in the moral persuasiveness of one’s beliefs and causes. Its sheer force betrays a lack of legitimacy and popular support. As Hannah Arendt, one of my favorite philosophers, wisely wrote: “Impotence breeds violence,” Ferrer said.

She expressed confidence on the ceasefire committees, the Ad Hoc Joint Action Groups (AHJAG) and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, and a good number of national and local government officials that are working hard to address the continuing threats.

Ferrer thanked the bodies’ courageous performance of their duties specifically the soldiers who died while in the line of duty to ensure the safety and security of the people.

She also recognized President Benigno Aquino III’s commitment to see through the negotiation’s road map during his term.

For the GPH and the MILF panels’ end, Ferrer assured they will do their share of securing the people by reaching the goal of completing the last two remaining annexes.

“Let us show that we are ready to put to sleep the infamous devil in the details and awaken the angel of creativity and compromise,” she said.

Both panels signed the Annex on Wealth Sharing on July 13. They are now talking on the second Annex and will continue talking for the third and the final Annexes.

The MILF panel present at the talks was led by chairman Mohager Iqbal.

Ferrer also recognized all those present at the talks including some members of the Philippine Congress like Representative Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro, who sits as one of the council of observers to the peace process in the Lower House; Rep. Pangalian Balindong from Lanao del Sur, Deputy Speaker of the House, and a member of the current House Committee on Peace and Reconciliation currently chaired by Rep. Jim Hataman, and Rep. Jesus Sacdalan from North Cotabato – former provincial governor, and immediately preceding former chair of the House Committee on Peace and Reconciliation.

One of ‘Morong 43’ killed in clash with soldiers

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 22): One of ‘Morong 43’ killed in clash with soldiers

One of 43 health workers who were captured and accused by the Philippine military as communist rebels, had been killed in a clash with security forces in Bulacan province in Luzon Island.

The 10th Infantry Division in Davao City said Ramon dela Cruz was slain along with two other gunmen while fighting on the side of the New People’s Army rebels in the village of Kabayunan in Dona Remedios Trinidad town.

It said the 43-year old Dela Cruz was among those captured in February 6, 2010 in Morong town in Rizal province. His parents have confirmed the identity of the slain rebel.

Called the “Morong 43,” the military said members of the group were captured by soldiers while manufacturing improvised explosives. The Morong 43 denied the accusations and said they were only conducting health training and seminar in the village when security forces arrested them.

President Benigno Aquino ordered the release of the Morong 43 after rebels demanded the government to free the health workers before it can resume stalled peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Many soldiers and military officers opposed the release of the Morong 43. Following the release of the Morong 43, communist rebels abandoned the peace talks.

In December 2010, photos of the Morong 43 have surfaced on the Internet. The pictures posted by a military official who uses the alias “Peace Builder” on the social networking site Facebook showed some of them conducting first aid training with NPA rebels.

Along with the photos was a statement saying that five of the Morong 43 admitted to be members of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines which is waging a bloody secessionist war for decades now.

It also linked Filipino-American Melissa Roxas who was allegedly abducted and tortured by government soldiers into admitting she is a communist rebel. Roxas, who denied all accusations against her, was eventually freed. The military denied abducting her and security officials accused the NPA as behind the abduction.

Peace talks collapsed in 2004 after rebels accused then President Gloria Arroyo of reneging on several agreements, among them the release of all political prisoners in the country, and Aquino tried to revive the negotiations, but failed.

Photos of some members of the Morong 43 that surfaced on the Internet. (Mindanao Examiner)