Sunday, September 1, 2013

MNLF slams government's 'divide and rule' tactics

From ABS-CBN (Sep 2): MNLF slams government's 'divide and rule' tactics

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has accused the administration of engaging in “divide and rule” tactics in implementing the 1996 final peace agreement.

Senior MNLF leader Habib Mujahad Hashim, Islamic Command Council (ICC) chairman, said the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has asserted that the three contentious points in the tripartite meeting have been complied with.

“Now, what they are trying to do is to draw the support of the majority of the MNLF senior leaders into their side,” he said. “That is why I did not attend that forum.”

Last week, the OPAPP and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) sponsored a forum with senior MNLF leaders to clarify the 1996 final peace accord.

Hashim said the OPAPP wants the MNLF senior leaders to pass a resolution showing support for ending the tripartite meeting.

“The effort is clearly a part of the government’s divide and rule policy, whose focus now is appeasement instead of the 1996 MNLF-GPH final peace agreement,” he said.

“They want to put closure, put an end to the tripartite agreement. And what they really want is to abrogate the agreement in favor of the BFA (Bangsamoro Framework Agreement).”

He said a participating senior MNLF leader had informed him that they were being used to back up the government in ending the tripartite meeting, which will resume in Manila on Sept. 5 and 6 and on Sept. 12 and 13 in Jakarta, Indonesia with the representative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Hashim said Nur Misuari wants to meet President Aquino to discuss the problem with the MNLF.

“His mother met with Misuari, why can’t he?,” he said. “He even received a fugitive like (Janet) Napoles.”

3 cells compose shadowy group blamed for CDO blast

From MindaNews (Aug 14): 3 cells compose shadowy group blamed for CDO blast

The shadowy Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao has three terrorist cells, including the alleged bomber at Kyla’s Bistro in LimketKai Rosario Arcade here, “on the loose” in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur provinces, a top defense official said.

The military also unmasked the alleged leader of the group as Reneer Lou Dongon, alias Rolly Unting, who has been arrested months earlier but later released.

Brig. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, disclosed the development following a security briefing Wednesday afternoon attended by the country’s top defense and security officials and local government executives.

Those in attendance were Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa, who chairs the Anti-terror Council, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior and Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista and Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Alan Purisima.

Mayor Oscar Moreno and Lanao del Norte Gov. Mohammad Khalid Dimaporo were also present in the meeting.

Reporters were barred from covering the security briefing conducted by Visaya, but he later spoke with the mediamen.

Visaya said that each of Khilafah Islamiyah’s three terror cells has seven to 10 members with allegedly close links to the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf Group.

“They are all young. Most of them are in their 20s or teenagers. They live in communities close to the two groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF),” Visaya said.

The government had already signed a final peace deal with the MNLF in 1996 while the peace process with the MILF has yet to be fully completed.

Earlier, the AFP and the PNP blamed the Khilafah Islamiyah for the explosion at the Limketkai Arcade that killed eight persons and wounded 46 others last July 26.

Visaya told reporters that the threat from the shadowy group “is still evident for Cagayan de Oro and nearby provinces.”

Visaya said the group even sent a video copy of the Limketkai bombing to their al Qaeda contacts right after the incident happened last July 26.

“They wanted to raise money from their al Qaeda contacts in Afghanistan, “ Visaya claimed. “They will use that money to finance more bombings that’s why they sent the video to show they are capable.”

However, the general would not say how they came about with the information, noting he would not like to compromise their intelligence operations against the group.

Freed on technicality

Visaya revealed that the alleged leader of Khilafah Islamiyah, Dongon, was arrested along with an associate by police intelligence operatives in Barangay Fort in Marawi City last May 11.

Chief Supt. Catalino Rodriguez, PNP-Region 10 director, said that Dongon was allegedly responsible for the bombing of Maxandrea Hotel in Cagayan de Oro last year.

The PNP-10 website said that Dongon and his associate, Emran Napeh, who is also known as Napeh or Miding, was ordered released by a judicial court in Marawi City on a technicality.

A source from the police who requested anonymity said that Dongon is a close associate of Usman Hapids, who was charged along with five others with multiple murder and frustrated murder for the Limketkai bombing.

The same source said that Dongon and Hapids, who reportedly hails from Maguindanao, were trained in bomb making by fugitive Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah operative Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known as Marwan, who is accused of providing training for terror organizations across Southeast Asia.

However, Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainer Cruz, head of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command, said that Marwan was not involved in the July 26 bombing in Limketkai Rosario Arcade.

“This new group acted alone. Marwan was not involved here,” Cruz told reporters.

When Dongon and Napeh were arrested last May 11, police said it found sizable bomb making materials that include 29 pieces of blasting caps, five screw drivers, seven pieces of nine-volt batteries, five pieces of Eveready batteries, a Samsung notebook, five pieces of handheld VHF radios, a compact disc player, six assorted mobile phone SIM packs, a Sony digital camera, a Smart broadband, seven improvised explosive device (IED) components, four soldering guns, 17 pieces of empty 7.62 shells, one gallon ammonium nitrate mixture, two capacitors, and a caliber .45 pistol with seven bullets.

PNP-Region 10 Director Rodriguez said the seized IED components and blasting caps were similar to the bomb components that exploded at the Maxandrea Hotel.

Scene-of-the-Crime operatives also found at Kyla’s Bistro pieces of a radio transceiver believed to be remains of a small VHF radio that serves as the triggering device of the 81-mm mortar used in the bombing.

Suspected NPAs torch Cotabato rubber plant, kills one, injures another

From GMA News (Sep 2): Suspected NPAs torch Cotabato rubber plant, kills one, injures another

One person died and another one was injured when suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels torched a rubber plant and planted a land mine at Bgy. Taluntalunan in Makilala, Cotabato Sunday evening.

More than 20 heavily armed men came shortly before 10 p.m. Sunday and asked the workers to vacate the place before pouring gasoline and setting the rubber processing plant on fire, Anthony Mag-aso, a worker of Standard Rubber Development Corporation (STANDICO) reported to the police.

“They knocked the main gate and identified themselves as NPA and ordered us to leave the area,” Mag-aso told the Makilala PNP.

Sr. Insp. Ma. Joyce Birrey, the town’s chief of police, refused to comment on the identity of the suspects as their office has not yet received a report regarding any extortion activity conducted by this group.

“We are still conducting in-depth investigation in order to determine the motive and the identity of the suspects,” Birrey said Sunday.

Birrey, however, confirmed that a worker identified as Hectore Lalaguna, 46, died, and his companion Francisco Undag Jr, 47, was wounded when a land mine exploded beside the road leading to the processing plant.

Birrey said the two were riding in their service vehicle when the land mine said to be planted by the suspects went off.

Barangay Taluntalunan is estimated to be three kilometers away from the town proper, and could be reached in 10 minutes from there.

Unfavorable road conditions, however, made it difficult for responding fire trucks to enter the area immediately.

Initial reports disclosed that two processing plants were totally razed to ground.

Arson investigators are still determining the exact amount of damages incurred.

STANDICO employs at least 500 workers.

The town’s social welfare and development office is also giving assistance to children who have been traumatized by the incident.

PAF weighs P19-b jet purchases

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 2): PAF weighs P19-b jet purchases

THE Philippine Air Force is closely monitoring the investigation of the manufacturer of the T-50B lead-in jet fighter that crashed and killed two pilots Wednesday last week in South Korea.

The Air Force is interested in the case because the Defense Department is negotiating with Korea Air Space Industries the purchase of a dozen FA50 jet fighters, which have the same platform as the T-50, for P18.9 billion.

The T-50B is “South Korea’s first indigenous supersonic aircraft jointly developed by Korea Aerospace Industries and Lockheed Martin,” according to an article that reported the crash.

The article said the crash was the second incident involving the same aircraft, and that the first was in November last year when a T-50 crashed into a mountain and killed the pilot.

On Friday last week, a source said a representative from KAI met with some officials of the Defense Department in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

“The recent crash of a T-50B in Korea is still under investigation by South Korea’s Air Force,” Philippine Air Force spokesman Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said.

“As for the [Philippine Air Force’s] plan to acquire the FA50, this will be taken up with the manufacturer to ensure that all issues are resolved should we proceed with the planned acquisition.”

Mortar bombs fired at Maguindanao villages

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 1): Mortar bombs fired at Maguindanao villages

Google map of Maguindanao province. (Mindanao Examiner)

An unidentified group fired several mortar rounds on Sunday in the town of Shariff Saydona Mustapha in Maguindanao province in the Muslim autonomous region southern Philippines.

The Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) reported that the mortar bombs were fired from the village of Buayan in Datu Piang town towards the direction of Dasawao village and in the mountains of Ganta and Bakat.
It said the areas had been abandoned since last month due to sporadic fighting between troops and rebels.

“No displacement occurred as there were no residents in the villages. Residents have not returned home yet since the fighting in Dasawao on August 12. MinHRAC grassroots monitors are closely monitoring the situation,” it said in a bulletin sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

 Security forces have been fighting members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement which is pursuing an independent Muslim state in the country.

Soldiers hurt in North Cotabato bomb attack recovering fast

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 1): Soldiers hurt in North Cotabato bomb attack recovering fast

The two soldiers wounded in a bomb attack by suspected Moro rebels i a remote village here last week are recovering, police said here Sunday.

This developed as police in Midsayap placed its forces on heightened alert following intelligence reports of more bomb attacks on government forces and populated areas.

Supt. Renante Delos Santos, Midsayap police chief, said Staff Sgt. Rodolfo Obugan and Sgt. Raymond Sapon, both of 7th Field Artillery Battalion are recovering fast at the Army's Camp Siongco Hospital inside the military's 6th Infantry Division in Barangay Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

The two soldiers were manning an Army base in remote Barangay Nabalawag, Midsayap, near the borders with Datu Piang, Maguinanao.

They were to take a bath at a nearby water pump when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) left by suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) went off at 6 a.m.

Army and police bomb experts said the IED was fashioned from 60 mm mortar with mobile phone as trigger mechanis, a signature armament of the BIFF.

It was the fifth bomb attack in Midsayap in August.

Soldiers manning all entry and exit points forced two suspected bomber to abandon an IED in front of a variety store in Barangay Ned last week.

The two men posed as cigarette buyer at the variety store and left hastily followed by a power blast that ripped through the semi-concrete variety store. Nobody was hurt.

Police have deployed more "police multipliers," composed of militiamen and village defenders against lawless elements from Maguindanao to thwart any bombing attempt.

Photo: Independent Mindanao (MNLF)

From the Sun Star (Sep 1): Photo: Independent Mindanao

DAVAO. Moro women hold flaglets in support of an independent Mindanao during Sunday’s peace rally of the Moro National Liberation Front at the Rizal Park in Davao City. (Seth delos Reyes)

DAVAO. Moro women hold flaglets in support of an independent Mindanao during Sunday’s peace rally of the Moro National Liberation Front at the Rizal Park in Davao City. (Seth delos Reyes)

3 BIFF members dead in North Cotabato

From the Sun Star-Davao (Sep 1): 3 BIFF members dead in North Cotabato

Three members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were killed in an encounter Saturday evening.

Brigadier General Ademar Tomaro, 602nd Brigade chief, said the BIFF attempted to enter Sitio Mirasol, Barangay Polongoguen, Midsayap but were spotted at 7:05 p.m. by the members of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) and Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO) who blocked the rebels.

The large number of BIFF forces led by Commander Eskak, alias King Size, prompted quick response from the forces of the 40th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army led by Colonel Robert Huet, alongside police officers.

Their encounter lasted for around two hours.

The loud gunfire caused civilians to disperse toward safe areas.

The rebels retreated after the military started to use an 81-mm mortar and a 90-rr bazooka.

No one from the military, Cafgu and CVO were wounded, and civilians said that three from the rebels died while many others were wounded.

GPH, MNLF Peace Accord at 17

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 30): GPH, MNLF Peace Accord at 17

The historic Final Peace Agreement (FPA) between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) will be 17 years old on Sept. 2, 2013.

In 1996 at the MalacaƱang Palace, Ambassador Manuel Yan, then GPH peace panel chairman, and MNLF founding Chairman Nur Misuari signed the FPA. It would take 17 years before it can be implemented, but not until it is thoroughly reviewed by the present stakeholders. 

The peace pact marked the end of the MNLF's over three decades of rebellion against the government, which at the inception was for the independence of Mindanao. 

But dispute on the FPA's implementation arose between the two signatories, prompting the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2007 to call for a tripartite review of its implementation. The review, being facilitated by the Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (OIC-PCSP), has yet to be completed after about six years.

In contrast, the negotiations brokered by the OIC in Indonesia lasted from 1992 to 1996. In this connection, OIC foreign ministers asked OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanuglo to call for a fourth formal tripartite meeting to resolve whatever issues still need to be resolved. They made the call at the 39th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (OIC-CFM) in Djibouti on Nov. 15-17, 2012. Dr. Abdurahman Amin, a senior leader of the MNLF, said the three-party meeting is being made through Indonesia, chairman of the PCSP.

"Before the formal meeting, there will be an informal meeting in the Philippines, then the formal talks will most likely be in Indonesia," said Amin.

A check with the OIC, showed that Point No. 10 of the OIC-CFM Djibouti conference Resolution No. 2/33MM on the "Question of Muslims in Southern Philippines" highlighted the pan-Islamic group that "Calls upon the (OIC) Secretary General to hold another session of the tripartite meeting at the earliest to contain any impacts that may result from the Framework Agreement between GPH and MILF) Moro Islamic Liberation Front), save the 1996 Agreement and link it to the Framework Agreement."

Secretary Teresita Deles said GPH confirmed having known about the new tripartite meeting.

"That is our understanding but we are still awaiting official word from Indonesia as 3rd party facilitator of the tripartite implementation review (of the FPA), Indonesia being the chair of OIC-PCSP)" Deles said in a text message.

As this developed, Amin said an MNLF senior leaders' meeting is being organized in Zamboanga City on Aug. 31-Sept. 2.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is organizing the Zamboanga meeting, as confirmed by ARMM Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman.

He said the meeting is called the "convergence and forum for development within MNLF communities. We call it C2C, for camps to communities," he said.

Amin said senior leaders of the MNLF are expected to join the meeting, without regard for any MNLF faction.,_MNLF_Peace_Accord_at_17#.UiNSUZfD8kM

Recent arrest of another NDFP Peace Consultant, in further spite of the peace process

From the CPP Website (Sep 1): Recent arrest of another NDFP Peace Consultant, in further spite of the peace process

Alan Jazmines
NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and various local and international organizations pushing for the peace process have intently been pressing on with their efforts towards genuine, lasting peace through the attainment of mutual agreements, fundamental socio-economic and political-constitutional changes, and serious end to hostilities.

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) – - in particular, as of late on the part of the present Aquino regime – - has, on the contrary, treacherously been continuing with its belittling and grave disregard of (to the extent of intently trampling upon) agreements already made from the onset and through the course of the NDFP-GPH peace talks.

This, even in the case of agreements quite crucial to the continuation and progress of the peace process, such as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). The CARHRIHL is supposed to ensure the respect and protection on both sides in the ongoing civil strife in the country. The JASIG is supposed to ensure that peace consultants and staffs of both sides are protected from surveillance, arrest, detention, prosecution and other antagonistic acts that would violate their rights as well as deter their effective participation and work in the peace process.

Yet, the military, paramilitary, police and intelligence forces of the GPH have without let-up been surveilling, arresting, detaining, swamping with trumped-up criminal charges and violating the human, legal and other rights of NDFP peace consultants and other JASIG-protected NDFP forces the GPH forces can lay their hands on.

The latest NDFP peace consultant who has been subjected to such traitorous acts of the GPH forces has been Ma. Loida Magpatoc, an NDFP peace consultant representing the NDFP in Far South Mindanao.

Magpatoc is 52 years old, married and a “Lola” to five grandchildren.

Despite her being JASIG-protected, a P500,000.00 reward was put up by the Armed Forces of the Philippines for her capture.

In performance of her work as an NDFP peace consultant, Magpatoc had been immersing and consulting with the local community folk in the barangays of Far South Mindanao in regard to land, production and other socio-economic and political issues, when the 1002nd Brigade (1002ND Bde) of the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (10th ID PA) got wind of her presence in Brgy. Zone III, Digos, Davao del Sur and came to arrest her as early as 4am last July 28.

The entire local community, however, immediately learned of the situation and came out en masse to protect her and block the 1002nd Bde. Magpatoc presented her JASIG Document of Information to the 1002nd Bde and claimed her protection from arrest.

But the 1002nd Bde only confiscated her JASIG document, ignored her claim for protection from arrest, and insisted on proceeding to arrest her. The barangay folk, who were surrounding her, refused to let the 1002nd Bde forces take her, as the former were apprehensive that the latter would only commit foul deeds against her. Magpatoc and the barangay folk asked if there was a warrant for her arrest, but the 1002nd Bde forces were not able to present any.

The arrest was eventually made, however, when the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Davao del Sur came later in the day to take her, this time armed with warrant of arrest (based on trumped-up criminal charges of “robbery,” “damage to properties” and “double homicide”), and bring her to their Digos headquarters. From there, she was flown on August 4 to Metro Manila and brought for confinement at the Taguig City Jail Female Dormitory in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

After her arrest, the reward for Ma. Loida Magpatoc’s capture by the AFP, suddenly became P5.6 million.

Alan Jazmines
NDFP peace consultant
detained at the
Special intensive Care Area,
Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City
02 September 2013

Sagada bombings deplored

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 1): Sagada bombings deplored

A party-list lawmaker yesterday denounced the aerial bombing of suspected communist rebel camps in the tourist-destination town of Sagada in the Mountain Province.
The international news agency Pressenza said the aerial attacks and clashes between government forces and New People's Army rebels started Thursday afternoon.
The attacks were reported by residients living near the bombed areas, the news agency said.
We strongly denounce the aerial bombings employed by the PNP and the AFP in its counter insurgency operations in Aguid, Sagada, Mountain Province,” said Gabriela Womens Party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan.
Ilagan said she supported the call of Sagada residents for an end to the bombings, saying that it has inflicted “immeasurable damage to indigenous people’s, communities, lives and livelihood.”
Ilagan said aerial attacks and “indiscriminate firing” were also reported in the municipalities of Besao, Sadanga, Bontoc where Fidelisan, Dallic and Bontoc tribes reside.
Pressenza said the attacks were launched in retaliation against recent ambushes staged by the communist rebels.
Casulaties remain unknown.
While community leaders and human rights groups have yet to give a complete assessment of the damage, initial reports show that several bombs were dropped on communities and farms. Crops and livelihood were destroyed and several lives were in danger,” said Ilagan.
Ilagan also expressed serious concern for children in the area.
The trauma leaves permanent scars, making children constantly fearful if not violent,” she said.
Ilagan said this was not the first time that Cordillera communities reported aerial attacks.
A similar incident was reported last May 31 in Malibcong, Abra, where the 503rd Infantry Battalion reportedly dropped several bombs some 40 meters away from minors gathering snails in nearby rice fields and 60 meters away from a rice granary, she said.
[President] Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan has wreaked widespread destruction among indigenous communities. We join calls for the immediate demilitarization of Cordillera communities and hold those responsible for these atrocities accountable,” she said.

September is National Peace Consciousness Month

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 1): September is National Peace Consciousness Month

The Philippines will be celebrating the 10th National Peace Consciousness Month  this September aimed at promoting a culture of peace and increased public  awareness and understanding on the comprehensive peace process.

Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in  statement said this time of the year is "another great opportunity for the public to engage in empowering venues that encourage positive action and dialogue for peace."

Deles said that this year’s peace month celebration centers on the theme, "Lahat ay peace-sible!"  which is a play on the Filipino proverb, "Walang imposible sa taong naniniwala na lahat ay possible (Nothing is impossible to a person who believes that everything is possible)."

"The theme is a hopeful reminder that lasting peace is possible, especially if we all contribute towards it," she said.

Deles added that the peace month is  also a time to celebrate the milestones achieved in the peace process.

"For one, we are inching closer towards signing a Comprehensive Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)," she added.

Deles said that the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF have already completed two of the four annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). These are the Annexes on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, and the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing. The remaining annexes being discussed by the parties on the negotiating table are on normalization and power sharing. These four annexes, together with the FAB, will constitute the Comprehensive Agreement which the parties aim to sign within the year.

"The government and the MILF couldn’t have achieved these if not for the support of our people. However, we still need to strengthen our peace constituency in order to sustain the gains of the peace process,"  Deles said.

The GPH and the MILF panels are slated to meet in September to resume discussions on the remaining annexes.

Deles said that OPAPP, together with its peace partners, has organized activities for the month-long commemoration.

To serve as a kick-off event is the "1 Goal for Peace"  scheduled today, Sept. 1 at the Emperador Stadium, McKinley Hill Football Field in Taguig City. At least 200 Muslim and Christian kids from urban poor communities are expected to participate in a football clinic to be led by the Azkals and the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) coaches and football players.

The event is a collaborative project of OPAPP, PFF, Generation Peace, Asia-America Initiatives, and Urban Poor Associates. The event is sponsored by Air21.

On Sept. 21, OPAPP will join the global celebration of the International Day of Peace through the KaPEACEtahan 2013 to be held at the Liwasang Aurora, Quezon City Memorial Circle in Quezon City. Now on its third year, the event is envisioned to serve as a venue where peace advocates and the public can gather to celebrate peace and the journey taken to achieve it.

Highlights of the KaPEACEtahan 2013 will include a Job Fair and Serbisyong Bayan participated by various government agencies as well as a peace concert featuring National Peace Ambassadors, Ebe Dancel and other local artists.

A series of conferences with the theme, “"magining a Post-conflict, Post-Agreement Philippines," is also slated to be held in key cities in the country. The conferences aim to provide an avenue for stakeholders to envision a “post-conflict, post-agreement” society and assess what these stakeholders can contribute in ensuring that the realization of a just and lasting peace is indeed possible.

OPAPP has been leading the annual celebration of the National Peace Consciousness Month by virtue of Proclamation No. 675 series of 2004. (OPAPP)

Retired Marine general appointed DND Usec

From ABS-CBN (Sep 1): Retired Marine general appointed DND Usec

President Benigno Aquino III has appointed a retired Marine general as an undersecretary for the Department of National Defense.

Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte first announced the designation of Retired Major General Natalio Ecarma.

DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said the agency will announce the specific title that Ecarma will hold on Tuesday.

However, a source from the DND said Ecarma will take over as undersecretary for defense affairs.

"General Ecarma is taking over as undersecretary for defense affairs. Actually he already reported as early as last week," the source said.

Ecarma headed the multi-national United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in Syria in 2010.

He is a member of the Philippine Military Academy class of 1981, and was a classmate there of Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima.

Release of alleged NPA leader worries AFP

From ABS-CBN (Sep 1): Release of alleged NPA leader worries AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be closely monitoring the movements of an alleged ranking leader of the New People's Army (NPA) who was released last Friday.

Rolly Panesa was released from detention on Friday after the Court of Appeals (CA) granted a writ of habeas corpus.

The CA also said authorities were not able to prove that Panesa is the same person as Benjamin Mendoza, an alleged secretary of the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee of the NPA.

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the intelligence community will be closely monitoring the movements of Panesa.

The official said the Office of the Solicitor General has asked the CA to reconsider its decision.

"Our monitoring will continue because most (NPA members) who were released from detention have returned (to the underground movement)," he said.

Panesa was arrested by the military in Quezon City last year for murder and kidnapping.

An amount of P5.6 million was rewarded to an informant that led the military to Panesa's arrest.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs chief, has earlier said Mendoza and Panesa are the same person.

"We are very firm that Rolly Panesa and Benjamin Mendoza is one and the same person based on facts and witnesses," said Zagala.

Zagala also insisted that the information they got about Panesa is legitimate.

"The basis for the capture of Benjamin Mendoza came from legitimate intelligence information that warranted the release of the P5.6-million reward money," added Zagala.

Army now pursuing group who torched P1-M worth of equipment in Surigao Del Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 1): Army now pursuing group who torched P1-M worth of equipment in Surigao Del Norte

Troopers from the Army's 30th Infantry Battalion are now tracking the New People's Army a lawless band who burned P1-million worth of equipment in Barangay Roxas, Mainit town, Surigao Del Norte Saturday morning.

The destroyed equipment is owned by the Silangan Mindanao Mining Company, Inc.

The incident took place around 8:40 a.m. when six heavily-armed men appeared out of nowhere and harassed the employees of the mining firm at gunpoint.

Afterwards, the suspects torched one VIP5000 Transmitter (Induced Polarization Survey Equipment), one unit Honda KVA Generator Set, nine electric rods, four spools and a tent costing more than P1-million.

The rebels also disarmed security guards, Nilo Macula and and Danilo Dag-uman of Marilag Security Agency of their service shotguns.

Investigators theorized that the attack was brought about the refusal of the mining company to give to the group's extortion demand.

Army CMO participates in 'Alay-Lakad 2013'

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 1): Army CMO participates in 'Alay-Lakad 2013'

The Army's Civil-Military Operation (CMO) Battalion, based in the National Capital Region, has participated in "Alay-Lakad 2013" which was held at the Quirino Grandstand, Rizal Park, Manila Sunday early morning.

This year's theme is “Lakad Bayan: Para sa Kapayapaan”.

"Alay-Lakad" is an annual fund-raising activity conducted by the Alay-Lakad Foundation Inc. (ALFI).

This year’s lead organization is the Rotary International District 3810 with Rotary District Gov. Karen Tamayo as over all chair of the National Coordinating Committee for Walk 2013 with the participation of different government agencies, civic organizations, non-government organizations and the Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP) to support and finance socio-economic projects of ALFI for the out of school youth.

Man nabbed in Maguindanao claims he is into selling bombs, guns

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 1): Man nabbed in Maguindanao claims he is into selling bombs, guns

The man arrested for gun and improvised bomb possessions Friday admitted to police authorities he was into bomb and gunrunning business.

Rahib Pelandoc Guialudin alias “Jerome Guialadin” and “Candao” admitted to Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (CIDG-ARMM) that he was to deliver the assorted high powered firearms and complete improvised bomb to a “contact buyer” in Davao Oriental when arrested by lawmen in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

Aside from complete IED, Guialudin also yielded three home-made cal. 50 Berretta sniper rifles, an M-16 Armalite rifle and cal. 45 pistol when police cornered him Friday in Barangay Madidis.

“Hindi sa akin yong mga baril at bomba (Those firearms were not mine), I ventured into gunrunning and bomb selling because I am unemployed, I am an ordinary farmer,” Guialudin told a local TV station in Filipino Saturday.

According to the suspect, he bought the home-made sniper rifle for P20,000 and will sell it at P25,000 to a contact buyer in Davao Oriental.

On the other hand, he said he bought the IED, which was fashioned from 60 mm mortar, from a certain “Toto” who hails from Barangay Pagatin, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, known bailiwick of the renegade Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Frighters (BIFF) to be delivered to a buyer in Davao Oriental.

Improvised bombs with cellphone as trigger mechanism was a signature armament of BIFF against the military in Maguindanao.

Guialudin was arrested while his companion, Nadzir Pakasi Mongkas, was killed when he shot it out with arresting CIDG-ARMM elements.

Both were on board a multi-cab with license plate MEH-338 en route to Davao City when flagged down by government forces in Barangay Madidis.

Days earlier, government agents had received a tip the duo will transport explosives from DAtu Paglas to Davao City.

Guialudin is currently detained at the CIDG-ARMM headquarters in Cotabato City.

Earlier, police reports said Guialudin is a member of "Tamengkog group" engaged in bomb making and gun selling in Maguindanao and nearby provinces.

ON PEACE MONTH | Govt panel calls on communist rebels to 'end violence'

From InterAksyon (Sep 1): ON PEACE MONTH | Govt panel calls on communist rebels to 'end violence'

At the start of Peace Consciousness Month, government peace negotiators on Sunday called on communist rebels to “listen to our people,” “end violence,” and “build peace.” They also noted the advances made in its peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“With the Filipino people, we renew our call to the Communist Party of the Philippines for an end to violence on the ground so we can together build the peace that we all aspire for,” the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)

“With our people, we share the urgency of ending the armed hostilities to give way to development, especially in conflict-affected areas, which are the poorest and most deprived communities in the country,” it said.

For the past four decades, the CPP has been waging war against the government. The revived peace talks with the Aquino administration have been stalled for some time now, but occasionally the two parties would call and abide by a ceasefire agreement, usually during the religious holidays of Christmas and Holy Week. Sometimes, after a devastating disaster, the two parties would also agree to a localized cessation of hostilities.

In its statement, the government reminded that CPP that violence has no place in Philippine society, especially with “ample democratic space for everyone to peacefully pursue reforms and contribute to social change.”

“As we celebrate the 10th National Peace Consciousness Month, we call on the CPP to listen to our people. Instead of violence, let us build peace. Instead of belligerent statements, let us put on the table ideas and strategies for building meaningful consensus that will put an end to armed hostilities,” the OPAPP said.

“We continue to believe that if we listen to our people’s aspirations and act accordingly, lasting peace is still possible in spite of stumbling blocks in the peace process. Our people deserve no less,” it added.

Peace talks with MILF

On its peace negotiations with the MILF, the OPAPP said it has reached several milestones in trying to achieve “just and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

“After more than 15 years of negotiations, the GPH and the MILF made history in October 2012 with the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), paving the way for the creation of the new Bangsamoro political entity,” it said.

There have been no armed skirmishes between government forces and the MILF since January 2012, the government said.

Of the four annexes that, alongside the FAB, that will form part of the GPH-MILF Comprehensive Agreement, two have been completed: “The Annexes on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, and Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing were conscientiously crafted by both sides with the end view of providing meaningful political and fiscal autonomy to the envisioned Bangsamoro region,” OPAPP said.
At the same time, OPAPP said it targets the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement this year.

Second crash has PAF rethinking P18.9-B Korean FA50 jet option

From InterAksyon (Sep 1): Second crash has PAF rethinking P18.9-B Korean FA50 jet option

A model of the FA50 jet fighter of South Korea is seen in the 2012 Air Power symposium

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is closely following developments in the crash investigation of the T-50B lead-in jet fighter that killed two pilots recently, in light of earlier plans to work out with the same manufacturer the purchase of a dozen FA50 jet fighters with the same platform as the T-50B, for P18.9 billion.

The aircraft is billed in one article that reported the crash as “South Korea’s first indigenous supersonic aircraft jointly developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin.”

It also said the crash Wednesday last week off southwestern Gwanju City was the second one involving said aircraft. In November 2012, a T-50 crashed “into a mountain…killing a pilot,” added the article.

A representative from KAI met some officials of the Department of National Defense last Friday, sources said.

Meanwhile, PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said the command had learned that the Air Force of the Republic of Korea (ROK) was also doing a parallel probe.

KAI is reportedly attributing the crash to  “pilot error”.

Okol said the latest crash “is still under investigation of the ROKAF (Republic of Korea Air Force).”

On PAF’s plan to acquire the FA50, Okol said this is among the issues to be "taken up with the manufacturer" and that officials will make sure "that all issues [are] resolved should we proceed with the planned acquisition.”

Indonesia reportedly ordered 16 T-50s in 2011; and that Seoul is also pursuing a contract from Iraq.

Meanwhile, the DND has not indicated if President Benigno Aquino III will approve the contract to acquire the FA50, for which P18.9 billion is being set aside for 12 units.

The money will be sourced from the P75 billion approved by President Aquino for the upgrade of the Armed Forces' capability for territorial defense.

Certain defense and military experts had earlier doubted if the FA50 is the best option for PAF in terms of territorial defense.

It will be recalled that in his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July, Mr. Aquino criticized the decision of military officials to acquire, for P2.8-billion, eight brand-new Sokol combat utility helicopters from Poland's PZL Swidnik. Such aircraft, said Mr. Aquino, are not really fitted as combat helicopters.