Friday, September 6, 2013

MILF: International NGO and experts offer assistance to Bangsamoro

From the MILF Website (Sep 6): International NGO and experts offer assistance to Bangsamoro

Experts from an international non-government organization and the European Union offered various forms of help to Moro commnuities and the MILF peace panel in its hard work  to overcome difficult issues in the remaining annexes of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
First to  present its willingness to extend financial assistance and technical know-how through training and capability enhancement to the MILF -CCCH was the ICAN Foundation of Japan. The acronym stands for International Children’s Assistance Network.

The Project Manager in the Philippines, Koji Matsuura personally briefed  Chairman Mohagher Iqbal of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the MILF Peace Panel on Monday September 3, 2013 at the BTC office his organization’s initial engagement in identified public schools of Pikit in Cotabato province and Kabuntalan in Mguindanao by repairing dilapidated school buildings and contructing some new ones.

Mr. Matsuura also confided that identified members of the MILF -CCCH will benefit from the training on capacity enhancement to be conducted by ICAN. Expansion of the needs assistance and trainings will depend on recommendation of the MILF leadership and availability of funding from the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Later that moring, Jose Maria Taberal of the European Union visited Chairman Iqbal in his office. The European Union official was on Evaluation Midterm Mission/ Instrument for Stability. The official relayed the readiness of the European Union to extend financial support as well as managerial and technical assistance particularly to the Bangsamoro Development Agency and the Bangsamoro Management and Leadership Institute. He also discussed with Chair Iqbal the issue of cadastral survey and land tenure in the future Bangsamoro political entity.

Another area that the EU official mentioned was the issue of unexploded  EID but Chairman Iqbal was quick to say that unlike Afghanistan and Cambodia there are few cases of unexploded EIDs in Mindanao despite the long  running conflict.

In the afternoon of the same day at the office of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue along Ilang Ilang Street in Rosary Heights VI, an Internaional Imminent Person, Andrew Landley lengthily discussed differnet scenarios on power-sharing, normalization and more importantly, internal waters which are considered  contentious issues in the remaining  annexes of the comprehensive peace agreement.

The imminent person was made available by the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue-European Union through Country Representative Ali Salim.

He summarized the main goal is to be useful in the negotiation such points as: quick technical review and experiences of past agreements, interconnecting all the agreements, implementation mechanism utilizing even existing government service, constitutionalization of the agreement and making sure no major stumbling block to the agreement.

US soldier helps injured man in Zamboanga City

From Zamboanga Today (Sep 6): US soldier helps injured man in Zamboanga City

An unidentified US soldier has come to an aid of a Filipino man who lost consciousness after he fell from a tricycle on Wednesday in Zamboanga City.

Vincent Amet was rushed to the hospital by his companions after he failed to regain consciousness. The US soldier – who was with several American troops in two civilian vehicles - was in the area when the accident occurred.

The soldier helped carry the victim to a safe area and immediately left before locals, curious with what happened, started to flock to the scene. The victim’s companions said they were not able to thank the American soldier, but praised him for helping the man.

US troops are deployed in Zamboanga City and other parts of the southern Philippines to train Filipino soldiers in fighting terrorism. The soldiers belong to the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, numbering about several hundreds.

They are also active in humanitarian and engineering works, among others during their six-month stint in the southern region where local security forces are battling the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, as well as communist and Moro rebels.

Most MNLF members still faithful to 1996 truce with GPH — sources

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Sep 6): Most MNLF members still faithful to 1996 truce with GPH — sources

Most members of the Moro National Liberation Front, including thousands now serving in the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces, remain loyal to the September 2, 1996 government-MNLF peace agreement, according to leaders of the group and public officials.
More than 7,000 members of the MNLF have been integrated into the PNP and the Armed Forces after the signing in 1996 by Nur Misuari and then President Fidel Ramos of the now 17-year peace accord.
“We and our parents adhere to that peace accord with honor. All our elders want is the completion of the tripartite review of the peace agreement. We love it still more than ever, just the way we respect the Philippine Constitution,” said a Tausog Army captain, integrated into the Philippine Army in 1999.
Senior officials of the MNLF signed in Zamboanga City last September 1 a resolution, after a series of dialogues with executives of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Office of  Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, reaffirming the “primacy of the peace process” and the importance of the tripartite review of their final peace accord with government.
The dialogues in the “MNLF Senior Leaders’ Forum” in Zamboanga City that led to the September 1 signing of the manifesto were organized by the office of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and OPAPP.
The activity provided a venue for discussions on the prospects of the Mindanao peace process and where leaders of the MNLF, which fought the government for three decades, can contribute their views and recommendations to improve their final peace pact with  the national government and promoting the socio-economic welfare of former Moro rebels.
The manifesto was signed by former Sulu Gov. Yusoph Jikiri, who had served as chief of the MNLF-styled Bangsamoro Army prior to Misuari’s election as ARMM governor on September 9, 1996, and Abebakrin Lukman, and Abu Amri Taddik, both senior officials of the group.
Lukman was director of the ARMM’s regional information bureau when Misuari was governor of the autonomous region.
ARMM insiders present in the MNLF forum in Zamboanga City said the senior officials of the group want a peaceful end to the tripartite review of their peace accord with government, a three-way effort to address the  agreement’s “weak provisions” and misunderstandings on its implementation.
The evaluation of the GPH-MNLF 1996 final truce, which started in late 2007, involves leaders of the erstwhile rebel group, combined representatives from Malacañang and the ARMM regional government, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), through its Southern Philippines Peace Committee.
The OIC, a bloc of more than 50 Muslims countries, including petroleum-exporting states in the Middle East and North Africa, helped broker the GPH-MNLF peace agreement.
“We, the senior leaders and commanders of the MNLF who represent the broad masses of our people on the ground and acting on behalf of their general welfare and common good, hereby affirm our sustained support to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and its tripartite review to achieve the full implementation of the agreement,” stipulated the September 1 manifesto of MNLF leaders jointly convened by Hataman’s office and OPAPP.
An ethnic Maguindanaon Army major, who asked not to be identified for lack of authority to speak on the issue, said most MNLF members, including those who belong to its largest, most politically-active faction led by former Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema, remain focused on the peaceful resolution of all issues involving the peace agreement.
“Chairman Sema and his followers in the MNLF’s more than 20 `revolutionary states’ scattered across mainland Mindanao, the southern island provinces, and Palawan continue to adhere to the September 2, 1996 GPH-MNLF peace agreement. They are for the peaceful resolution of any misunderstanding with Malacañang,” the Army official, also an integree, said.
Senior staffers of the ARMM’s local government department, which has jurisdiction over 116 towns and five provinces, earlier confirmed, citing reports from local government units, that a much bigger bulk of MNLF forces scattered in far-flung areas in the autonomous region have remained quiet on last month’s declaration of “Southern Mindanao’s independence” by Misuari.
Misuari was reportedly frustrated over the delay in the completion of the tripartite review of the GPH-MNLF peace agreement.

Pamplona brgy ‘NPA-free’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 6): Pamplona brgy ‘NPA-free’

Barangay Banawe in Pamplona, Negros Oriental, that used to be a haven of communist New People’s Army rebels, has been declared “insurgency-free and development ready” by the Army’s 302nd Infantry Brigade.

This brought to six the number of former rebel-controlled areas declared as insurgency-free by the Area Clearing Evaluation Board, chaired by Col. Christopher Estella, deputy 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, since last month.

Other hinterland barangays declared insurgence-free are Siapo and Basak in San Jose, Silab in Amlan, Enrique Villanueva in Sibulan, and Dobdob in Valencia, all in Negros Oriental, military records show.

The signing of the Area Clearing Evaluation Board report Wednesday in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, was attended by Estella, Senior Inspector Renato Bureros, Pamplona police chief, Banawe Brgy. Capt. Agatona Sillos, and Sangguniang Bayan members Joel Remolano and Roberto Saga.

Estella declared that Brgy. Banawe is now ready for development.

“As we declare those barangays cleared from the NPA influence, we expect that development will flow into those areas,” Estella said. However, he added, those barangays will still be threatened by the NPA if the issues and concerns of the people are not addressed.

He attributed the “enlightening of the hearts and minds of the masses” to the convergence of the government efforts and the key role of local government units.
The 302nd Infantry Brigade is running against time to clear more than 70 barangays in central and southeastern Negros Oriental, classified as either infiltrated, or under the influence of the NPA.

RPA-ABB protesting ‘unwarranted’ arrests

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 6): RPA-ABB protesting ‘unwarranted’ arrests

The Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas/ Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade yesterday protested against what it calls the “unwarranted arrest” of three of its members in Brgy. Bagtic, Silay City, Negros Occidental.

The arrest of Mayo Rosal, 35, and Gerald Lama, 29, of Brgy. Guimbalaon, Silay City, and Rene Juaniza, 28, of Brgy. Dos Hermanas, Talisay City had yielded a fragmentation grenade, a .45 caliber pistol and three magazines containing live ammunition.

The three are now in jail for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Victorino Sumulong, spokesperson of the RPA, that is now in transition stage to Kapatiran, however, said the circumstances surrounding the incident were clearly not in consonance with the guidelines on cessation of hostilities of the 2000 peace agreement, that they continue to observe.

The RPA-ABB Tabara Paduano Group is now called Kapatiran para sa Progresong Panlipunan (Brotherhood for Social Progress), in line with its transformation into a legitimate mainstream organization as part of the ongoing closure peace agreement with the government.

“This incident does not serve well the shared interest of the government and our organization to come into the final closure agreement,” Sumulong, said in a statement he issued.

Gilbert Arsenal, KPP president, had earlier said that he expects the filing of cases against three of their members, but expressed dismay that the police made them scapegoats of the reported robbery-hold-up incident in the area.

PNoy wants peace pact fulfilled

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 6): PNoy wants peace pact fulfilled

SecretaryTeresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, yesterday said the signing of the closure agreement with the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas and its armed wing has been delayed because President Benigno Aquino III wants to make sure that everything contained in the document can be fulfilled.

In an interview over Bombo Radyo, Deles said she understands the impatience of Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. over the delay in the signing of the closure agreement and one of these days, she will pay him a visit.

Marañon said he is thankful for the explanation of Deles and hopes that when she comes to visit him, she will have good news.

The RPM-P/Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade began their peace talks with the government in December 2000.

The governor said that when he expressed his frustration over the delay, he was also speaking in behalf of the RPM-P/RPA-ABB members, who have been waiting for the closure of the peace talks since last year.

Deles appealed for a little patience, saying the President wants to make sure that everything contained in the closure agreement can be done and will not have to be inherited by the next administration.

She said due diligence was made on the settlement sites of the rebels, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was asked to study tenure arrangements for them.

The President wants to make sure that assistance is in place for their reintegration as productive peaceful citizens, she said, pointing out that the budget for this is already in place.

On the matter of the release of RPA-ABB members from jail, the President also wanted clarification as it is judicial, not executive action that is needed for this, she said.

He wants the OPAPP to clarify this in clear text in the agreement, Deles said.
The clarifications have been sent back to the Office of the President and is under review by its legal office, she said.

3 soldiers feted by MBFI

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): 3 soldiers feted by MBFI

The three were given the MBFI's "The Outstanding Philippine Soldier Award" (TOPS) at the Metrobank Plaza, Makati City.

Brawner is the former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Army spokesperson and currently serves as the chief of Plans, Policies and Programs Division at the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff Operations (J3), AFP.

Mendoza, on the other hand is the Command Sergeant Major of the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Philippine Army in Camp O’Donnel, Capas, Tarlac.

He has also played a vital role in several medical programs while serving as a peacekeeper in East Timor.

Meanwhile, Baladjay is a high-precision sniper and designer of the lightweight, two-in-one, load bearing army vest presently used in the AFP operations.

As well, he serves as the Company First Sergeant of the 2nd Light Reaction Company, Light Reaction Battalion, Special Operations Command based in Nueva Ecija.

AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista, together with Army Chief Lt. Gen. Noel A. Coballes, Air Force head Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino G. Dela Cruz, and Navy chief Vice Admiral Luis M. Alano, attended the event in support of the uniformed men and women who were conferred with the TOPS award.

TOPS is a joint program by the Rotary Club of Makati Metro (RCMM) and Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI) that is supported by the AFP.

Since 1994, the RCMM and MBFI name the TOPS of the year in recognition of the invaluable contributions of the men and women soldiers during the entirety of their service in the military.

53 rebels surrender to 3rd Infantry Division in first 9 months of 2013

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): 53 rebels surrender to 3rd Infantry Division in first 9 months of 2013 

Fifty-three New People Army (NPA) fighters have surrendered to the units of the Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division for the first nine months of 2013.

Major Ray C. Tiongson, the unit spokesperson, attributes this to their intensified "Bayanihan Team" operations.

Tiongson added the rebels also surrendered three high-powered firearms, 10 low-powered guns, two hand grenades and one rifle grenade.

Recently, a certain Jerome Billamac alias "Maisa" turned himself in to Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and was accompanied by barangay officials.

Billamac, 24, a resident of Sitio Katipunan, Barangay San Roque, San Jose, Negros Oriental, was handed over to Col. Christopher Estella, 302nd Infantry Brigade deputy commander and officers of the 79th Infantry Battalion for custodial debriefing.

He was a member of the NPA involved in several encounters with the government security forces in Negros Oriental.

Billamac was the vice squad leader and a machine gunner of Squad 2, Sentro de Grabidad (SDG), Southeast Front (SEF), Komiteng Rehiyonal-Sentral Bisayas (KR-SB) operating in the hinterlands of Negros Oriental.

“This indicates the waning strength of the CPP-NPA and support from the people. The people support the democratic government and believe in the government’s principle of 'Daang Matuwid' as espoused by our President His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III,” 3rd Infantry Division commander Brigadier Gen. Aurelio B. Baladad said.

“More rebels continue to realize the futility of armed violence and believe in the objectives of the Internal Peace and Security Plan 'Bayanihan' as well as in the sincerity of the government in bringing peace and development in the countryside," he added.

Last May, two former rebels in Negros Oriental who returned to mainstream society have received a P50,000 financial assistance each through the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

The cash given to former rebels as livelihood assistance aims to ensure their successful integration to the community and to improve their socio-economic status.

Billamac on his part will also receive and avail of the same assistance and benefits from the local government after going through the process to be facilitated by the military.

Meanwhile, four high ranking NPA rebels in Panay traded their guns for the future of their families in July of this year.

The ex-rebels received cash from the AFP Guns for Peace Program which they used as seed money for livelihood while living in peace with their love ones.

The AFP’s Guns for Peace Program offers cash incentive to members of the NPA who return to mainstream society with their firearms.

For every high-powered firearm turned-over to the government, immediate cash incentive is given. The seed money is intended to start a new life for the rebels while transitioning back to the community.

Among others, allocated for them are cash incentives as high as P200,000 for light machine guns, P50,000 for Colt M-16 rifle, P60,000 for M-14 carbine and P40,000 for M-203 grenade launchers.

Aside from this, former rebels may also avail of the skills training seminar for their livelihood to start a new life with a bright future ahead for their families.

“Much remains to be done. We should stop fighting first before we can truly achieve peace. We continue to call on other NPA rebels to pursue the right path and be part in building a better community instead of fighting the government authorities," Baladad stressed.

DND to pursue acquisition of 21 refurbished 'Huey' helicopters

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): DND to pursue acquisition of 21 refurbished 'Huey' helicopters

Despite the failure of the third bidding for the 21 UH-1 "Huey" helicopters for the Air Force, the Department of National Defense (DND) on Friday announced that it will still continue with the program.

"While it is unfortunate that we have to declare the (failed) bidding, we are still going to pursue the implementation of this project," DND undersecretary for finance, munitions, installation and materiel Fernando Manalo said.

The lone bidder for the project, the joint venture of Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters Ltd., was declared ineligible to bid due to its failure to satisfy some documentary requirements.

The DND declined to mention the reason for the failure of the first two bids earlier this year.

He also said that the bid documents will be returned to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and the military service will be directed to make a study and a recommendation on how to pursue the "Huey" acquisition program.

The project is worth P1.2 billion.

And when asked on whether Friday's bidding is the last for the DND 'Huey" project, Manalo said that the decision will be up to the Bidding and Awards Committee (BAC).

"The decision is with the BAC and it will always be premised on what is most advantageous to the government," he stressed.

"It can be a negotiated procurement, as I have mentioned the consideration will always be what is really best for the government, and we will do it very very fast this time and we will direct the PAF to immediately comply with what is required by regulation (and) immediately made a 'double-time' study of (the) documents and immediately return to the DND with a recommendation," Manalo pointed out.

The PAF requested for 21 additional "Huey" helicopters to boost its airlift capability.

According to the recent report of the Defense Acquisition System assessment team, there are only 16 fully/partial mission-capable Hueys in the PAF inventory.

79 candidate soldiers finish training in Isabela

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): 79 candidate soldiers finish training in Isabela

At least seventy nine candidate soldiers finished their six-month extensive military training after graduating Thursday at Camp Melchor dela Cruz based in this town.

Army 1st Lieutenant Rowena Abayon, division public affairs office chief, said the new graduates will become an organic member of the army division and will be dispatched to the different army units of the 5th Infantry Division.

During the graduation rites, army North Luzon Command chief Major General Gregorio Catapang urged the new soldiers to abide to the military commands and apply what they have learned in their training.

Catapang was the guest of honor during the graduation ceremony Thursday at the camps grandstand.

The new soldiers were automatically enlisted with the rank of private first class.

Meanwhile, another batch of 159 candidate soldiers were also inducted to undergo a six-month extensive military inside the camp. Most of the trainees are from Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) or former members and sons and daughters of Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA).

The integration of former members and sons and daughters of CPLA is part of the peace process agreement signed between the government peace panel and Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development officials.

Army troops clash with suspected NPA rebels in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): Army troops clash with suspected NPA rebels in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental

Army troops of the 11th Infantry Battalion on Friday afternoon clashed with some 20 suspected members of the rebel New People’s Army at Sitio Hinobaan, Barangay Plagatasanon in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

An initial report from the Philippine Army’s 302nd Brigade, the mother unit of the 11th IB, said the government troops, led by SSgt. Rehum P. Magno, were conducted clearing operations in Plagatasanon, a village about 20 kilometers from the city proper.

No casualties were reported on the government side but the Army believes the NPAs suffered some casualties as they fled from the site of the encounter.

Pursuit operation is ongoing as more troops were poured in the area to reinforce the government forces.

Helicopters from the Philippine Air Force are on standby alert at the brigade headquarters in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, to support the ongoing combat operations in Guihulngan City.

Government forces have heightened their security and established checkpoints to secure the civilians against the fleeing suspected rebels, said Capt. Cresencio Gargar, Public Information Officer of the 302nd Brigade.

Earlier, Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd brigade commander, had announced that military troops will continue relentlessly with their combat operations to reduce the insurgency problem in Negros Oriental to an insignificant level.

He had admitted that one of the areas that still have many barangays affected by the insurgency problem is Guihulngan, which military and police authorities have tagged as a “rebel stronghold.”

OPAPP head to meet with Negros Occidental gov to discuss RPA-ABB closure pact

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): OPAPP head to meet with Negros Occidental gov to discuss RPA-ABB closure pact 

Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process is set to meet with Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. to discuss details on the signing of the closure agreement between the national government and Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas (RPM-P) and its armed group.

Deles made the announcement over a radio interview here after the governor aired his complaint regarding the delayed signing of the final agreement. She has not yet finalized the schedule of her visit here.

RPM-P’s armed wing, the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Bongcayao Brigade (RPA-ABB), based mainly in Negros Occidental, signed a peace agreement with the national government in 2000, in rites held at Don Salvador Benedicto town witnessed by former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada.

In April this year, the RPA-ABB changed its name to Kapatiran para sa Progresong Panlipunan (Brotherhood for Social Progress) as part of their compliance with the provisions of the peace agreement.

Deles said President Benigno Aquino III is making sure that all the provisions of the closure agreement can be met and will no longer be a problem for the succeeding administration.

The OPAPP chief said due diligence was carried out on the settlement sites of the RPA-ABB rebels, and tenure arrangements for them are also being studied by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

She added that President Aquino is making certain that assistance will be in place for the former rebels during their reintegration to the society.

According to the OPAPP, the peace agreement seeks to transform the RPA-ABB into a civilian, socio-economic organization, and to mainstream its members into their communities by providing them with livelihood and employment, and move them towards disarmament and the dismantling of their military structure.

Its records show that 716 members of the RPA-ABB under the Tabara-Paduano Group have been profiled, including 607 in Negros Occidental, 58 in Negros Oriental, and those in Panay and some areas in Luzon and Mindanao. The group has more than 400 firearms and 300 explosives.

3 suspected NPA rebels captured during clash in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): 3 suspected NPA rebels captured during clash in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental

Scout Rangers of the Philippine Army on Friday afternoon arrested three suspected members of the rebel New People’s Army (NPA) – the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippinesin Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, identified the captured alleged NPA rebels as Jessie Abing, 25, of Barangay Nasunggan, La Libertad and Thomas Esugan, 19, of Barangay Buenavista, Guihulngan, all in Negros Oriental, and a 17 year old from Barangay Camandag, La Castellana, Negros Occidental.

Army troops recovered from them an M-14 Armalite rifle with several rounds of live ammunition and backpacks. They were captured in the vicinity of the encounter site as government forces were pursuing the suspected rebels, said Brig. Gen. Patrimonio.

A progress report received by Brig. Gen. Patrimonio Friday evening said that upon verification of the location, it was determined that the encounter site actually took place at Sitio Cansayawan in Barangay Linantuyan, Guihulngan at the boundary of Barangay Plagatasanon.

Reports reaching the brigade commander said that troops of the 3rd Scout Ranger Company of the First Scout Ranger Battalion clashed around 12:50 p.m. with at least 20 suspected NPA rebels who had divided themselves into two groups.

The suspected insurgents fled towards the southeast and the northeast following several minutes of firefight, said Patrimonio.

No casualties were reported on the government side but the Army believes the NPAs suffered some casualties as they fled from the site of the encounter.

Pursuit operation is ongoing as more troops were poured in the area to reinforce the government forces.

Meanwhile, the captured suspected NPA rebels were turned over for custody to the 11th IB at Camp McKinley in Guihulngan after which they shall be handed over to the police for detention and the filing of criminal charges, said Patrimonio.

DOJ exonerates ex-AFP, PNP execs on Burgos' abduction

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): DOJ exonerates ex-AFP, PNP execs on Burgos' abduction

The Department of Justice has exonerated former officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in the criminal complaint on the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos.

In a resolution dated Sept. 3, 2013, absolved of charges of arbitrary detention, murder and obstruction of justice filed by Mrs. Edita Burgos were former AFP Brig. Gen. Eduardo Ano; Lt. Col. Melquiades Feliciano; Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino; Gen. Hermogenes Esperon; Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano; and former PNP Chief Director General Avelino Razon, Jr.

However, the DOJ recommended that Maj. Harry Baliaga, Jr. be charged in court for the case of arbitrary detention.

The source clarified the murder case against all the respondents was dismissed as the body of Burgos has not yet been found and his location has not yet been determined.

The source added the resolution of the DOJ will have no effect on the result of the investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation into the case of disappearance of Jonas Burgos.

Baliaga was positively identified by one of the eye witnesses who was allegedly one of the abductors of Jonas from a restaurant inside a mall in Quezon City on April 28, 2007.

China denies 'concrete facilities' in Panatag

From Rappler (Sep 5): China denies 'concrete facilities' in Panatag

CLAIM 'UNTRUE.' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei denies that China built concrete facilities in Panatag Shoal. File photo from China Foreign Ministry

CLAIM 'UNTRUE.' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei denies that China built concrete facilities in Panatag Shoal. File photo from China Foreign Ministry

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday, September 5, denied that China “had built concrete facilities” in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal after the Philippines released photos of concrete blocks allegedly installed by China.

n a brief question-and-answer statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei addressed the following question: “The Philippine side reportedly said that China had built concrete facilities on the Huangyan Island. Please confirm.”
Hong said, “What the Philippines said is untrue.

Besides, he explained, the disputed shoal that China calls Huangyan Island “is China's inherent territory.

READ: Why China calls it Huangyan Island

'PRELUDE TO CONSTRUCTION:' A second navy reconnaisance flight shows China has placed 75 concrete blocks. DND photo'PRELUDE TO CONSTRUCTION:' A second navy reconnaisance flight shows China has placed 75 concrete blocks. DND photo
“Given the current situation, Chinese government ships maintain routine patrol in the waters off the Huangyan Island to safeguard the sovereignty over the Huangyan Island and keep order in relevant waters. It is within China's legitimate rights and interests and beyond dispute,” Hong said.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, for his part, on Thursday said the Philippines eyes using against China the reported installation of Chinese blocks.

“I think that's a substantive piece of information that we can tack on to our arbitration case. We can have it work positively for us,” Del Rosario said in an interview with reporters after his speech at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) budget hearing at the House of Representatives. (Watch the video below.)

Del Rosario added the Philippines will file a diplomatic protest over the installations in the West Philippine Sea, particularly the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. He said the Philippines will file this protest "in the next few days."

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told lawmakers on Tuesday, September 3, that China has installed “concrete blocks” in Panatag. He described it as an obvious “prelude to construction.”

Based on a second reconnaisance flight by the Philippine Navy, China has placed at least 75 concrete blocks in the disputed shoal off Zambales.

Failed bidding in Air Force's 21 refurbished Hueys

From Rappler (Sep 6): Failed bidding in Air Force's 21 refurbished Hueys

The third bidding for the much-needed 21 refurbished Huey combat utility helicopters of the Philippine Air Force has failed. The lone bidder submitted on Friday, September 6, documents that did not meet the requirements for the P1.26-billion contract.

"Honestly, I am really saddened. We get 20 typhoons a year and this (Huey or UH-1H) is one of the primary equipment the Philippine Air Force needs to perform its functions. The need is urgent. It is unfortunate," said Fernando Manalo, defense undersecretary for finance, munitions, installation and materiel.

The lone bid was submitted by a joint venture company between the US-based Rice Aircraft Services Inc and the Canada-based Eagle Copter Ltd. Some documents turned out to be unsigned. In one document, the signature was questioned.

"The discrepancies committed are beyond repair," said Manalo. The lone bidder initially sought the Bid and Awards Committee to reconsider its decision but eventually withdrew it.

Philippine Air Force Vice Commander Maj Gen Raul Dimatatac says they will pursue the project. "We need 96 based on our table of equipment. Our gap is 75. That's big. UH-1 is not only a combat utility helicopter. We need for various roles," Dimatatac said.


They may opt for a negotiated bidding, an option allowed after at least two failed competitive public biddings. Under a negotiated bidding, companies will be invited to submit proposals. The government agency will study the proposals, select the best one, and then begin the negotiations.

Manalo vowed they will make the process transparent.
Why Huey?

The UH-1H is a Vietnam war combat ulility helicopter but both Dimatatac and Manalo, formerly with the Air Force, say it is the best choice considering the capability of the Air Force and government's budgetary constraint.
"We get 20 typhoons a year. It is very effective. We can use it for rescue and relief operations," said Manalo. He maintained that spare parts and material for the UH-1H will be available in the next 20 years.
Air Force pilots are very familiary with the Huey, Dimatatac added. "To exaggerate, you can bring us to the helicopter blindfolded and we can tell you all the parts. We are that familiar with the Huey. Pilots can listen to the machine and we know if there's a problem and what," he said.
 "We are acquiring refurbished Huey helicopter. It is cheaper. If we had the money, we want to get the newer ones," Dimatatac added.

Funds about to expire

The Department of National Defense (DND) is pressed for time, however. The budget allocation expires in December.

"That will be a major challenge," said Manalo. "We know that we have a limitation as far as the validity of the funds. But we will not allow that the funds will expire because there is no contract we are able to entered into," said Manalo.

The funding is outside the fresh P75-billion allocation for the Armed Forces of the Philippines' modernization fund.

The DND was initially gearing to negotiate the bid after the second bidding failed. It called for a third bidding after 14 groups signified interest to bid and 8 bought bid documents worth P75,000.

But it was only the joint venture of Rice Aircraft and Eagle Copters that ended up submitting bid documents on Friday, September 6.
THIRD ATTEMPT: Fourteen groups signified interest to join bidding for 21 refurbished Huey but only one ended up submitting documents. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler
THIRD ATTEMPT: Fourteen groups signified interest to join bidding for 21 refurbished Huey but only one ended up submitting documents. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

"It appeared to us that there were about 14 proponents who were interested to participate. It will be very very hard for any bids and awards committee to engage in a negotiation with 14 proponents. It will be chaos. So we decided that we do it through public bidding," said Manalo.

Kidnapped Filipina trader freed

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 6): Kidnapped Filipina trader freed

Freed kidnapped victim Nancy Gonato shortly after her arrival in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines shortly after her arrival on September 6, 2013. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Ely Dumaboc)

A Filipina trader who was kidnapped along with her boyfriend in Zamboanga City has been freed in the southern Philippine town of Talipao, police said Friday.

Police said Nancy Gonato, 38, was released on Thursday afternoon, but the fate of Ronnie Sandagon, 50, remains unknown. The couple was kidnapped in April 7 inside a private wharf in the coastal village of Baliwasan where the duo runs a buying station for lobsters and other marine products.

It was not immediately known whether ransom was paid for the freedom of the woman, but the kidnappers had previously demanded P10 million in exchange for the victims.

Jolo town Mayor Hussin Amin said the woman was freed in Talipao town and then taken to the provincial hospital for medical examination shortly after meeting with government leaders and police and military commanders in Jolo.

“Our security is tight in Jolo town,” Amin told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The couple owns a company called Ocean World Marine Products in Zamboanga City.

The local police said at least 5 gunmen were involved in the kidnappings and the motive of could be connected to the couple’s business and huge debts.

It was not immediately known whether the captors are members of the Abu Sayyaf which has been blamed by authorities for the spate of kidnappings for ransom in southern Philippines.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for kidnapping of the couple which occurred barely a month after the Abu Sayyaf freed a kidnapped Australian adventurer Warren Rodwell in exchange for P4 million ransom.

Rodwell was seized by 5 gunmen, who posed as policemen, from his seaside house in Ipil town just outside Zamboanga City in December 2011.