Tuesday, August 27, 2013

AFP’s civil military operations deputy chief retires Wednesday

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 27): AFP’s civil military operations deputy chief retires Wednesday

Rear Adm. Miguel Jose Rodriguez. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The deputy chief of staff for civil military operations at Camp Aguinaldo will step down from his post Wednesday, a month earlier than his scheduled retirement.

Rear Admiral Miguel Jose Rodriguez will retire early for personal reasons, so he can take care of his family and also to give way to a smooth transition to the new leadership,” military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala told reporters.

Rodriguez’ retirement was originally scheduled for September 28.

He will be replaced by Brigadier General Lysander Suerte, the deputy commander of Armed Forces Central Command based in Cebu.

A simple turnover ceremony will be held at Camp Aguinaldo instead of the usual testimonial parade given to retiring officers.

“Rodriguez opted to give whatever budget for the parade to his successor,” Zagala said, but could not immediately determine how much would be actually saved.

The retiring general was once embroiled in a corruption case, after an Army major allegedly falsified his signature and pocketed P1.4 million worth of military funds.

Rodriguez, who was then the concurrent military spokesman, took a leave during the investigation.

The general was later cleared of the charges, while the Army major remained at large and had gone absent without leave up to present.

Next chief of Presidential Security Group

Meanwhile, three senior officers are being considered to replace Brigadier Ramon General Mateo Dizon, the chief of Presidential Security Group who is retiring on August 31.

A military source identified the three officers as Navy Captain Raul Ubando, Col. David Diciano, Col. Jose Caparas Jr. All are assigned with the PSG.

Ubando and Diciano are members of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985 and Caparas is from PMA 1987.

President Benigno Aquino III has yet to name the successor of Dizon in the coming days.


PSG top post: Senior deputy has inside track

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 28): PSG top post: Senior deputy has inside track

Presidential Security Group Commander Ramon Mateo U. Dizon: Retiring

One of the two most senior deputies of Presidential Security Group (PSG) Commander Ramon Mateo U. Dizon will soon be stepping into his shoes.

Barring any last-minute change of mind, President Aquino will name Col. Raul Ubando to replace Dizon, who will reach mandatory retirement age on Aug. 31, according to two Palace officials who were privy to the President’s decision.

Dizon had recommended as his replacement two of his most senior deputies, Ubando and Col. David Diciano, who are both members of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class of 1985.

Another contender for the post is Col. Jose Caparas Jr., who is from the PMA batch of 1987.

Dizon, his wife, Jo Ann, and some members of his family had a “farewell” dinner with the President on Tuesday.

The incoming PSG commander will formally take his oath during turnover ceremonies in MalacaƱang on Friday, said the two sources who were interviewed separately.

Although Ubando and Diciano both have the backing of Dizon, the President’s decision “has to be based on seniority and performance,” said one of the sources.

“It’s Ubando who has the upper hand, but we have a saying in the military: Do not assume until you assume,” one source quipped.

“It’s the President’s decision, so he should be the one to announce it or his spokesperson,” the source said.

The two officials described Ubando as very “professional.”

In an ambush interview last Thursday, Aquino kept the public guessing on the identity of Dizon’s successor.

Dizon was publicly praised by the President during his fourth state of the nation address last July 22.

“For Gen. Ramon Mateo Dizon, soon-to-retire head of the PSG, who stood alongside me even in facing coups d’etat during my mother’s term: Up until my presidency, you have protected me,” Mr. Aquino said.

Dizon worked for the military for over 30 years, mostly behind the scenes.

He served three presidents—Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos and now President Aquino.

After graduating from the PMA in 1983, Dizon joined the Philippine Constabulary and became a founding member of its Special Action Force (SAF).

He was stationed in Mindanao for a year before the fall of the Marcos dictatorship.

His date with destiny came less than a month after Cory Aquino, the President’s mother, assumed office.

On March 13, 1986, he was assigned by the PC to the Office of the Group Commander of the PSG, the most junior officer handpicked by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, the then PSG chief, during the first Aquino presidency.

Dizon stayed with the PSG until 1988, when he returned to his mother unit. From 1990 to 1991, he briefly served as a military assistant to Ramos, who was then defense secretary.

Although he was not with the PSG at the time, he found himself protecting the Aquinos during the 1989 coup—the bloodiest power grab against Cory Aquino staged by the Reform the Armed Forces Movement.

Dizon was then company commander of the SAF’s 3rd Light Reaction Company, assigned to protect Camp Aguinaldo.

His proximity to Greenmeadows Subdivision in Quezon City had allowed him to extend a protective blanket over some members of the Aquino clan who were living there at the time of the coup.

After a stint with the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), he rejoined the PSG in July 1992, when Ramos became President.

Dizon rose from the ranks, from commanding officer, chief of the training branch, deputy operations officer, commander, executive officer to commanding officer of the PSG.

He again left the PSG in March 1999, eight months after Joseph Estrada became President, only to return a decade after.

This time around—his third tour with the PSG—he came back as its commander.


Army develops own MLX4 sound system

From the Manila Standard Today (Aug 28): Army develops own MLX4 sound system

Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., Army Civil-Military Operations Group head on Monday said the service is making 100 units of MLX4 loudspeaker for field testing in search and rescue operations, relief aqnd other emergencies.

“Impressed by the capability of MLX4, Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes has instructed me to manufacture more prototypes of the portable man-pack public address system to be distributed down to Army battalions,” he said.

Burgos said the MLX4 is powered by 220 wattage of dual sourced batteries that  could last up to 14 hours of continuous usage.  It has a USB/SD port; two microphone inputs with tone control; a DVD player; an AM/FM radio; an MP3 port; and a siren that fit into a backpack aluminum carriage with harness.

“The two units of 150 watts horn-type speaker could reach approximately one kilometer in an open terrain and up to more or less 500 meters in built up areas,” Burgos said.

The prototype was developed in 1997 by Army’s CMO School based in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, at the time led by commandant Col. Ferozaldo Paul Regencia, now CMO Battalion commander.

The first model saw action in Barangay Lucapon South, Sta. Cruz, Zambales then under the area of responsibility of 68th Infantry Battalion.

An upgraded version in 1999 became standard equipment for CMO-Psychological Operations classroom instructions, practical exercises, and Civic Action Program conducted in Nueva Ecija.

“The MLX4 will greatly enhance the present CMO unit’s capability as the portable loudspeaker would be essential equipment by Army troopers in conducting disaster relief, humanitarian operations, civic actions, community activities and other peace and development activities,” Burgos said.


NPA landmine kills militia

From Malaya (Aug 28): NPA landmine kills militia

A MEMBER of the Civilian Volunteers Organization was killed Monday while his colleague was hurt in an ambush staged by New People’s Army rebels in Davao City.

Reports reaching Senior Supt. Ronald dela Rosa, the city police chief, identified the fatality as Onded Ambuas. Wounded was Julian Mandacawan.

Reports said the CVO members were about to return to their base after a routine patrol when the NPA rebels detonated a landmine in Sitio Butay, Barangay Tapak, Paquibato District at around 9 a.m. Ambuas was hit with shrapnel in the back.

The rebels have staged a number of attacks in Paquibato District. Last June 17 recently, the NPA abducted five Army soldiers they intercepted at a rebel roadblock.

The five were released by the NPA last June 31, through Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.


AFP civil military command changes

From Malaya (Aug 28): AFP civil military command changes

AN Army general has been designated as new AFP deputy chief of staff for civil military operations, a post that plays a key part in the implementation of the military’s campaign plan “Bayanihan.”

Brig. Gen. Lysander Suerte, commander of the AFP’s Central Command, will assume his new post today, replacing Rear Adm. Jose Miguel Rodriguez who is opting for early retirement.

Rodriguez is reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56 on September 28 but he is bowing out of the service today “to take care of his family and his health,” said AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.

Rodriguez figured in a corruption case about two years ago. He went on leave when the military leadership ordered a probe. He returned after he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

The investigation followed reports that his budget officer, Maj. Christopher Lee Patindol, borrowed at least P1.5 million from a supplier, Sabrina David, supposedly for the operating expenses of Rodriguez’ office.

Rodriguez denied authorizing Patindol to borrow the money from David. Patindol went into hiding when David sought payment from the office of Rodriguez.

Zagala described Suerte, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1982, as a “veteran of numerous engagements in Mindanao and he is very suited for the job.”

Zagala said Suerte is not new to civil military operations works. “He is very aware of how we do civil military operations work, how it should be undertaken,” he said of Suerte.

Zagala said the post of AFP deputy chief of staff for civil military operations is very crucial because the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan is CMO-centered.

The IPSP Bayanihan is the military’s blueprint in winning peace. It aims to end communist insurgency and other internal security threats before the end of President Aquino’s term in 2016.

Zagala said Rodriguez, a member of PMA Class 1980, has decided to waive a parade in his honor, and opted for a simple turnover ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo.

Zagala said Rodriquez wants that the budget to be spent for the parade be diverted to CMO projects instead. Zagala could not say how much was to be spent for the parade.


Three in contention for PSG chief

From Malaya (Aug 28): Three in contention for PSG chief

AT least three senior military officers are reportedly being considered to succeed Brig. Gen. Ramon Mateo Dizon, chief of the Presidential Security Group who is retiring on August 31.

Dizon, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985, is President Aquino’s first PSG commander.

A military source said two of the contenders are Navy Capt. Raul Ubando, senior military assistant to President Aquino, and PSG deputy commander Col. David Diciano.

Ubando and Diciano are members of PMA Class of 1985.

Considered a “dark horse” is PSG chief of staff Col. Jose Domingo Caparaz, a member of PMA Class 1987.

Caparaz previously headed the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion based in Tarlac City, home of the President’s family. He joined the PSG when Aquino became president in July 2010.

The source Ubando and Diciano served in the PSG in previous administrations. The source said Diciano has also served with the Intelligence Service of the AFP.


'Constructive' approach to reporting PHL-China dispute sought

From GMA News (Aug 27): 'Constructive' approach to reporting PHL-China dispute sought

Philippine media should be "constructive" in writing stories about the country's months-long territorial dispute with China over portions of the South China Sea, a security analyst said Tuesday.

For one, local journalists should avoid describing China as a “bully,” said Prof. Rommel Banlaoi, vice president of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies.

“For me, the term 'bully' will not contribute. You have to deal with China in a constructive manner," Banlaoi addressed journalists who attended the Red Cross Award for Humanitarian Reporting.

He said the South China Sea issue has aroused in countries involved in overlapping territorial claims a sense of nationalism that "exacerbates the increasing anxiety in the South China Sea."

"The South China sea dispute, in my opinion, cannot be resolved peacefully if claimants are driven by nationalistic and ethnocentric sovereign agenda," Banlaoi said.

The media's mistake, he said, is to "reinforce this brand of popular nationalism that is counter-productive in the peaceful resolution of the maritime dispute."

"Media bytes, pieces, and quotes that reinforce this brand of popular nationalism do not contribute in the creation of a public environment conducive to the promotion of peace and security," Banlaoi pointed out.

He even warned that the media, through its reports, could unintentionally encourage "racial hatred, prejudices and contempt," Banlaoi said.

Banlaoi cited the Chinese newspaper "People's Daily," which he said described the Philippines a "loud, noisy crying baby that deserved to be fed." He said the Chinese media has depicted the Philippines as an "enemy" in the dispute.

"Many Chinese media report the Philippines as the attacker, provocateur, troublemaker, in the South China Sea. The Philippines is also being criticized by China for inviting the world's worst troublemaker - the United States," Banlaoi said.

In the end, he urged both countries should work together in correcting the media reportage on the dispute.

"Both countries had to view the South China sea as a water that unites rather than divides the countries," he said.

War, conflict reporting

More than reportage on territorial dispute, the media's role in covering conflict and war was also discussed in the event.

Ed Lingao, multimedia director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, noted the distinction between war reporting and conflict reporting. He said the first deals simply with covering the war while the latter talks about the conflict that caused the war and its solutions.

A veteran war reporter who has gone to Afghanistan and Iraq, Lingao said among the problems of journalists in covering war are lack of background knowledge, being insensitive to the victims, and the "macho" bully nature of war journalists.

"You must listen, learn and analyze. A lot of reporters think they're just here because they're here to represent the network. But in the end, you have to (ask), 'Why are you really here?' You're here to listen, learn, think and then you report," Lingao said.

Lingao also said war reporters should primarily write for the victims "who need the writing the most."

"Who are we really writing for? Combatants? Military victims? Policy makers? Public readers? In the end, we're writing for all of them. But I think you need an order of priorities. Who needs writing the most? I would think those who need your writing are those who are most in need, the victims," Lingao said.

Meanwhile, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chairperson Rowena Paraan said reporters should also report "the solutions to the war, not just the war."

According to Paraan, reporters should avoid exaggerating the emotions in a story, oversimplifying reports, being one-sided and selective, and creating confusion.

Reporters should also do more verifying on reports, at the same time not rely on press releases and media briefings and find more sources to complete a story, Paraan added.

"(A war reporter) should look at the political situation under which he is performing his duty and address the situation," Paraan said.


AFP labels NPA ambush of 4MBLT convoy in northern Palawan as 'retaliation'

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 27): AFP labels NPA ambush of 4MBLT convoy in northern Palawan as 'retaliation'

The ambush Monday morning on the commanding officer and his two-vehicle convoy in northern Palawan might be “a retaliation” of the insurgent group New People's Army (NPA), a high ranking officer of the Palawan-based Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

"We expected retaliation since the recovery of their large arms cache and the eventual surrendering of four NPA rebels last July," Lt. Gen. Rustico O. Guerrero, chief of the Western Command (Wescom), told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Guerrero, who was in a separate travel mission in southern Palawan when the ambush was staged, said that the AFP units have been very active in the surrender effort "because that is the non-violent way and a better and peaceful option for the rebels who have to live and engage in violent activities."

Suspected members of the NPA in northern Palawan ambushed by detonating a mine bomb as Col. Vince Blanco, commanding officer of the 4th Marine Battalion Landing Team (4MBLT), and his two-vehicle convoy, an M35 6x6 military truck and an elf truck were passing by Sitio Ibangley, Barangay Alimanguan in Taytay around 10 a.m. Monday.

Blanco was unhurt but a Marine soldier who was with him was slightly injured. A gun fight ensued, and pursuit operations by reinforcement troops from nearby MBLT4 headquarters arrived.

Guerrero said he immediately ordered a pursuit operation against the perpetrators.

"The group was coming from the MBLT4 headquarters going to the marine detachment in Ibangley, when they were ambushed. As we are speaking, our troops are engaged in gunfight and are pursuing the perpetrators," Guerrero told PNA.

Ibangley over the years has gained the reputation as an ambush area along the northern national highway.


Army, MILF verification teams start trek to Mt. Cararao to check JIs presence

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 27): Army, MILF verification teams start trek to Mt. Cararao to check JIs presence

Representatives of the government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the International Monitoring commenced Tuesday a joint, on-site verification of the alleged presence of foreign terrorists in Mt. Cararao, in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

Government forces and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in full battle gears, started their trek to a three-day and two nights toward Mt. Cararao, a thickly forested area in the borders of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

They began the journey “kanduli,” (thanksgiving rite) and a traditional military "boodle fights" inside Camp Iranun in Barangay Tugaig, Barira, Maguindanao.

The camp now houses the 603rd Infantry Brigade of the Army's 6th Infantry Division. It used to be the main headquarters of the MILF and known as Camp Abubkre Assidique, which fell to government hands following then President Joseph Estrada's all our war in 2000.

Col. Noli Orense, 603rd brigade chief, said the team is composed of about 60 soldiers and policemen and 60 MILF guerillas, all belonging to the Adhoc Joint Action Group of the GPH-MILF peace process.

"Its heartening to see that soldiers and MILF rebels used to shot at each other, now they walk together to a common mission for peace," Orense said.

Army and MILF leaders joining the verification team hope to reach the peak of Mt. Cararao by Thursday afternoon or Friday morning.

The team will determine whether Jemaah Islamiya members set foot in the mountain and provided training to bombers in Mindanao.

“The mission will also provide Army and MILF officials what the area look like, and to clear the issue that has affected the people of Maguindanao after having been identified as hosts to JIs," Col. Dickson Hermoso, 6th ID spokesman.

"The area is difficult to reach, no water, no fruits, no food and we have to face with mosquitoes and other wild animals," Colonel Adjamudin Ali, a leader of the MILF team, told reporters.

"That is why each of us carry at least four to five gallons of water for our individual consumption," he added.

Mt. Cararao served as exit point for MILF from the then Camp Abubakre before it fell to government hands.

IN 2003, the issue of alleged presence of JI also led to an ocular inspection by Bantay Ceasefire, a civilian-led ceasefire monitoring team. The team found no foreign terrorists or any foreigner in the mountain.


AFP supports DOH advocacy

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 27): AFP supports DOH advocacy
The traditional task of the Armed Forces -- to fight insurgency -- is now widened as it now includes advocating leadership trainings, basic education literacy and many others, associating with the other government and non-government agencies.

Just recently, the army collaborated with the Dept. of Health (DOH) in the three-day Adolescent Reproductive Health training in Jaro, Leyte, an area previously known of insurgency problem.

As the commander of 802nd Brigade Col. Rafael Valencia said, “Our three major activities in the Eastern Visayas are Peace Advocacy; Community-based Security and Development; and Focused Military Operations”.

The health advocacy training supported by the military was the first of its kind in the region wherein 115 out-of-school youth aged 16 to 19 from Leyte province who are considered having the potentials of promoting the healthy practices including drug awareness, teenage pregnancy prevention and environmental sanitation in their respective areas were chosen, said Dra. Milagros Salvacion-Bolito, the DOH Medical Specialist, Region 8.

Dra. Bolito was overwhelmed with the support the DOH attained from the other government agencies and she was hopeful it was the start of a continued endeavor with the AFP, PDEA, DepEd, PNP, DENR and POPCom. Similar trainings are scheduled in the other provinces of the region with the assistance of the same partners.

Leyte Board Member Anli Apostol who represented Leyte Governor Dominic Petilla pledged to bring the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to Jaro, Leyte and facilitate the same OSY for skills training to equip them towards leading a brighter future and in “believing in yourself na kaya n’yo,” she said.

She likewise thanked the full support of the military through the presence of the 19th Infantry Batallion commander Col. Nedy Espulgar, based in Aguiting, Kananga Leyte and Col. Valencia that offered their vehicles in conveying the OSYs.

The DOH funded the program aimed of creating health awareness in rural neighborhood.


North Cotabato displaced families return home after MILF, MNLF ceased firing

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 27): North Cotabato displaced families return home after MILF, MNLF ceased firing

Despite uncertainty in the communities, hundreds of Moro villagers, who fled their homes due to Moro rebels armed conflict in Matalam, North Cotabato, have started to return home Monday, officials here said.

Barangay Manubuan chairperson Melecio Opinaldo said the Muslim evacuees voluntarily agreed to return home, about a week after local officials urged them to return home as peace is now reigning in their communities.

At first, the villagers express reluctance to return for fear fighting between warring clans, who happened to have relatives in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), could erupt again.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza, in an earlier, statement, assured the displaced families that peacekeepers have been deployed in Sitio Leonard, Barangay Manubuan wherefierce fighting erupted last month between followers of Dima Ambel of the MNLF and Noah Sabel of the MILF.

Through the efforts of Mendoza, Muslim provincial board members Kellie Antao and Dulia Sultan and the military, Sabel and Ambel came to terms.

Among the major points of the localized truce were the non-carrying of firearms by both sides in Sitio Leonard, that both sides would not resort to armed confrontation should misunderstanding over land issue occur.

Both sides also agreed to allow concerned government agencies like the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to determine real owners of a large parch of agricultural lands in Sitio Leonard.

Opinaldo earlier said that the Manubuan barangay council has passed a resolution asking the military's 602nd Infantry Brigade for the deployment of a permanent Army peacekeeper unit in Sitio Leonard.

However, Capt. Antonio Bulao, speaking for the 602nd Army brigade, said an Army contingent had been deployed in Sitio Leonard following the armed conflict.

The displaced families numbering about 200 have been staying at Manubuan Elementary School, disrupting classes for about four weeks.

Mayor Oscar Valdevieso said the local government unit is hoping the warring families and their relatives in the MILF and MNLF would religiously abide by the agreement.


220 young men and women take PMA entrance test in Tacurong City

From InterAksyon (Jun 27): 220 young men and women take PMA entrance test in Tacurong City

Two hundred and twenty aspiring cadets took the entrance examination of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) hosted by the local government unit of Tacurong City on Sunday.

While the examination was set at 1 p.m., the applicants trooped to the city as early as seven o’clock in the morning for the registration, checking of requirements, and height measurement, among others.

Army Major Raul Verceles, head of the team of examiners from PMA, said he did not expect a huge number of applicants would show up.

Tacurong City Councilor Rodrigo Jamorabon, who helped PMA in the dissemination of information about the entrance exam, said some applicants came from as far as the towns of President Roxas in Cotabato Province.

Most of the examinees were from the province of Sultan Kudarat.

The miitary's 601st Infantry Brigade based in Kalandagan, Tacurong City also helped in the recruitment process. Verceles and other military personnel visited various colleges in the province to encourage young men and women to take the entrance examination.

Jamorabon was expecting high passing rate among the examinees. Sadly, he said, last year's examination in Tacurong City yielded low passing rate. This is the third year that LGU Tacurong has hosted the PMA entrance exam.

The team of examiners who arrived from Baguio included Major Verceles, T/Sgt. Alberto Fagcayang, Sgt. Dennis Liagao, and Cpl. Joan Ortiz.

Qualified to take the PMA entrance exam are those who are: natural born Filipino citizens, physically fit and of good moral character, single and have never been married, not charged with administrative or criminal case, at least high school graduate, standing not less than five feet, and at least 17 years old but not a day older than 22 years old on April 1, 2014.

Successful applicants who passed the entrance and medical examinations will have the privilege of serving the country, free college education, monthly salary and allowances, guaranteed job after graduation, and a progressive career as an officer in the Philippine Army, Navy, or Air Force.

Similar entrance examinations were also held in other areas in Mindanao like the cities of Cotabato, Kidapawan, Gen. Santos, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Koronadal.


At least 28 allies of Sulu Sultan to face trial in Malaysia in September, DFA source says

From InterAksyon (Aug 27): At least 28 allies of Sulu Sultan to face trial in Malaysia in September, DFA source says

At least 28 allies of the Sultan of Sulu "who returned to their homeland" early this year--a move that spawned violence and irritated Philippine-Malaysia relations--will start this September, a source at Manila's foreign affairs department said.

And a conviction, especially a death sentence, is likely to derail the Mindanao peace process, said the head of Washington-based non-government organization working in Mindanao.

"Once [the] trial takes place, maybe something will happen, maybe nothing. (But) at some point it’s going to blow, especially if the Malaysians start killing a lot of people. The Philippines (might have given up the claim) but the local people will not. Right now it's like a break period," said Albert Santoli, president and founder of the Asia America Initiative, which has been helping in the upkeep of the public school system in Mindanao, particularly in Sulu and Lanao del Norte.

Those arrested after the February incursion into Lahad Datu were charged with violating Malaysia’s Penal Code, particularly Section 122 for waging war against the King and Section 130 KA for terrorism. The first offense carries the death penalty, while the second offense a jail term of up to 30 years.

Most of those on trial are alleged members of the Sultanate of Sulu's Royal Security Force, said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official who refused to be identified because he is not authorized to speak on the matter.

Among those facing trial is Datu Amir Bahar, nephew of Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III, who, according to the same source, was captured not in Lahad Datu, where the sultan’s allies holed themselves up after landing in Sabah, but in Sandakan.

The source said the Malaysian government seems very serious in its plan to prosecute those who occupied parts of Sabah.

“No less than their attorney general is leading the prosecution. Imagine (Justice Secretary Leila) de Lima being the one leading the prosecution, that is how serious it is,” the source said.

The Kirams were also charged as conspirators.

The source said the DFA has hired a Malaysian lawyer, one of the few Asian legal practitioners accredited by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, to represent RSF members who were arrested.


Evacuees return home as clashing Moro factions bury hatchet

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 27): Evacuees return home as clashing Moro factions bury hatchet
MATALAM, North Cotabato — At least a thousand villagers have returned to their homes in Barangay Manubuan here after a month of living as evacuees due to hostilities between rival Moro armed groups.

On Monday, the evacuees clambered onto dump trucks owned by the municipal government as they bade good-bye and thanked Mayor Oscar Valdevieso.

Valdevieso and other government officials had earlier interceded between the warring factions led by Dima Ambel of the Moro National Liberation Front and Noah Sabel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Several combatants on both sides were reported to have been killed or wounded when they first clashed on June 26 over land disputes.

Valdevieso said after weeks of negotiation, Ambel and Sabel came to terms and decided to bury the hatchet for the sake of the civilians affected by their fight.

“Both groups sealed an agreement not to resort to armed conflict in resolving their decades-long land problems in Barangay Manubuan. The signing of the agreement was done in Pagalungan, Maguindanao on August 23,” Valdevieso said.

He said local officials were wary that conflict would escalate and affect more people, creating bigger problems in the future.

“Not that we won’t assist them but this thing should not prolong. They needed to be home because their livelihood is there. How can they support their families if they stayed in evacuation centers?” he said.

An evacuee, who identified himself only as Ismael, said they were grateful for the efforts exerted by government officials, including North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza.

He said by agreeing to go back to their homes, the evacuees showed they had no plans of relying forever on the assistance given by the municipal government.

“We can now tend our farms without fear that the warring groups might fire on  us,” Ismael said.

Segunda Torres, principal of the Manubuan Elementary School, said their students would miss the sight of the evacuees but that their return to their homes would normalize the situation at the school.

She said the school grounds would always be open to refugees from conflict.

“We would not think twice about accommodating people in distress even if it meant additional expenses for the use of water and electricity,” Torres said.

But she said that the government should put up evacuation centers.

“While it is true that schools, gymnasiums and barangay halls are being used in times of evacuation, these facilities could not guarantee their safety. They should also have a place where they can stay undisturbed and sleep soundly,” Torres said.