Friday, October 4, 2013

Bombs seized in Misuari’s home

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 5): Bombs seized in Misuari’s home

Explosives, bomb components, firearms, and vital documents were seized yesterday when police and military swooped down on the Zamboanga City residence of  Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari yesterday morning.

Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesman for the Zamboanga Peninsula Police, said the raid was conducted at 4 a.m. in Barangay San Roque, Zamboanga City.

Misuari was nowhere in the house but security forces arrested a Malaysian and a suspected MNLF fighter during the raid. Huesca declined to identify them.

Documents To Link Nur To Zambo Siege

Officials said the documents seized during the raid are enough to link Misuari to the Sept. 9 attack in Zamboanga City that led to an almost three-week standoff and left more than 200 people dead.

Huesca said the pieces of evidence found during the raid will be turned over to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

He said the raid was carried out to gather more pieces of evidence against Misuari, who was charged Thursday with rebellion and violation of international humanitarian law under Republic Act 9851 in connection with the MNLF attack in Zamboaga City.

Huesca declined to give further details on the seized documents.

New Charges Eyed

He added that these will be used to bolster the case against the former MNLF chief as the Philippine National Police (PNP) is also contemplating on filing additional charges against Misuari.

Reports said a joint police and military team that conducted the raid used an “explosive” to breach the gate to the former MNLF’s chair’s house.

But Huesca explained, “hindi naman matatawag na explosive yun, ang ginamit natin ay access or special charge.”
When asked to explain what’s in a “special charge,” Huesca said: “Ang main component po niyan tubig, may konting explosive para itutulak niya yung tubig at yun yung mag-push sa gate para ma-open.”

Mild Panic

The loud explosion caused by the “special charge” sent hundreds of people in San Roque and in the adjacent villages in mild panic.

People living as far as five kilometers were also roused from sleep by the loud explosion, thinking a fresh attack might have been launch by the MNLF in the city.

Newsmen who rushed to the site after hearing the loud explosion were allegedly insulted by newly installed Zamboanga City police chief, Senior Supt. Dennis Basngi, for no apparent reason.

Coddlers Warned

Meanwhile, MalacaƱang warned Misuari’s coddlers that appropriate charges will be filed against them.

“There are offenses that have already been laid out relevant to penal laws when it comes to obstruction of justice as well as other relevant offenses,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday.

We will make sure that all of those involved will be given a fair trial, Valte said.

PN joins Australia’s Exercise Triton

From the Manila Times (Oct 4): PN joins Australia’s Exercise Triton

THE Philippine Navy (PN) has sent an eight-man contingent to Australia for a joint exercise with their counterparts, the first time since the Senate of the Philippines ratified the Philippine-Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) last year.

Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic on Friday said the Filipinos will participate in Exercise Triton Century 2013 and will witness as well the Australian International Fleet Review, which marks the centenary of the Royal Australian Navy’s first fleet entry into Sydney.

“The Philippine Navy participation is historic as it marks the first contingent from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to travel to Australia and participate in joint exercises since the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement was ratified in 2012,” Fabic said.

He said the Filipino sailors are now on board HMAS Parramatta to participate in boarding activities and to cross train on various systems of the warship.

The HMAS Parramatta is an Anza class frigate. It is weighs around 3,600 short tons with a top speed of 27 knots. The ship is equipped of a single 5-inch gun and point-defense missile system supported by a missile-armed helicopter, among others. Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Jose Luis M Alano said the initiative is a welcome development.

“Filipinos and Australians have much in common, as both countries have sizable maritime borders. We find this a great opportunity for Philippine sailors to work side by side their Australian counterparts and likewise gain significant knowledge, skills and training that would be very crucial in a modernizing navy,” Alano added.

Australia Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddell also welcomed the participation of the Filipino sailors in the in the exercise.

”We have a rich defense relationship with the Philippines extending back to the Second World War. While many Filipinos have benefited from education and training in Australia under our Defence Cooperation Program and Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel have participated in training in the Philippines, this is the first time Filipinos have participated in an exercise in Australia since the SOVFA was ratified. We look forward to more similar engagement in the future”.

Obama cancels entire Asia trip

From the Manila Times (Oct 4): Obama cancels entire Asia trip

President Barack Obama scrapped trips to two key Asian summits on Thursday (Friday in Manila), blaming the United Sstates (US) government shutdown for the cancellation of a tour designed to advance a central prong of his foreign policy.

After days of speculation that the trip was in jeopardy following the shutdown crisis, a White House statement on Thursday confirmed Obama would miss the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Bali and the East Asia summit in Brunei next week.

The president had already cancelled plans to visit Malaysia and the Philippines, but had delayed taking a decision on the summit meetings, both seen as an opportunity to push important foreign policy initiatives in the region.

“Due to the government shutdown, President Obama’s travel to Indonesia and Brunei has been canceled,” the White House statement said.

“The President made this decision based on the difficulty in moving forward with foreign travel in the face of a shutdown, and his determination to continue pressing his case that Republicans should immediately allow a vote to reopen the government.”

The White House said Obama had called Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to inform him of the cancellation.

“He expressed his regret that the ongoing government shutdown in the United States will prevent him from attending the Summit,” the statement said.

“President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed his full understanding of the situation as we have all been following closely the developments in Washington,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said from Bali.

Obama also called the Sultan of Brunei, the White House said.

Secretary of State John Kerry would lead the US delegations to both countries in place of Obama, the statement said, before rounding on Republicans for causing a “completely avoidable shutdown.”

“The cancelation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government,” the White House statement said.

“This completely avoidable shutdown is setting back our ability to create jobs through promotion of US exports and advance US leadership and interests in the largest emerging region in the world.”

The budget impasse which has shuttered swathes of government departments and sent hundreds of thousands of federal workers home had left Obama torn between his political priorities at home and important foreign policy goals.

White House spokesman Jay Carney had already hinted that the trip to Asia was at risk if the government shutdown was not resolved by the time of Obama’s scheduled departure on Saturday.

Political analysts had questioned whether Obama would risk traveling abroad and present an opening to domestic foes while on the other side of the globe.

Republicans would almost certainly accuse the president of placing more importance on striding the world stage while neglecting his duties at home.

However analysts had warned a no-show by Obama could hurt US interests in Asia, allowing competitors in the region such as China to make the case that Washington is an unreliable partner.

And early reaction in the region was not great.

Simon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said Obama’s decision “could signal the start of the unravelling of the US pivot to Asia.”

“If they can furlough jobs, cease government services and risk a downgrade in the country’s credit rating, American politicians may start finding it tough to be consistent in their political reassurances about US commitment toward faraway Asia,” Tay wrote in a statement.

“I think there’s a lot at stake here with this trip,” said Ernie Bower, a Southeast Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington before the cancellation was made official.

“The geopolitical ramifications of the president not making a trip if he decides indeed that he has to cancel . . . —it would leave a big geopolitical mark.”

Bower said US allies would also question the extent of Obama’s commitment to Asia.

Bower said US allies would also question the extent of Obama’s commitment to Asia amid concerns that Washington lacked the political focus and capital to advance its pivot to Asia.

By nixing the Asia visit, Obama will be missing a chance to rub shoulders with leaders like China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, key players in ongoing geopolitical crises from Syria to North Korea.

Obama in his first term, sensed an opening with Southeast Asian nations irked by China’s increasingly abrasive foreign policy and power plays in simmering maritime territorial disputes in the region.

But the exit of administration heavyweights like former Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and national security advisor Tom Donilon—both closely identified with the pivot—have deprived US Asia policy of a figurehead.

Senior administration officials however point to repeated visits to Asia by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and noted their commitment to concluding a Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) region-wide trade deal as proof of US commitment.

They also cite Obama’s repeated travel to Asia, most recently in November last year, when he visited Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Injured rebel spared raps

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 5): Injured rebel spared raps

The injured New People's Army member, who was captured and brought to a hospital for treatment by his Army captors, has been spared from facing criminal charges, Lt. Col. Efren Morados, 62 nd Infantry Battalion commander, yesterday said.

Morados said they endorsed Diolito Carbanuel, alias Ka Dodoy, 23, to his parents, after he was released Monday from the Alfredo MaraƱon Sr. Memorial Hospital in Brgy. Bato, Sagay City, where he was treated for a gunshot wound on his right foot.

Carbanuel was among the three rebels, who were reportedly injured in an encounter with 62 nd Infantry Battalion soldiers last month at the boundary of Toboso and Sagay City.

The encounter also led to the death of Hergon Llorente, vice commander of the Northern Negros Front Sentro de Grabidad Platoon, the capture of two suspected NPA members identified as Richard Gallego, alias Ka Jamil, and Rene Villarin, alias Juan, and the recovery of three M-16 rifles, three M-14 rifles, an AK- 47 assault rifle and two .45 caliber pistols, a military report said.

Although Carbanuel confessed his participation in the encounter, Morados said there is no witness who can pinpoint his involvement in any NPA atrocities in northern Negros.

We released him for humanitarian reasons, he added.

Morados said “I hope they (NPA) will realize that our sincere intention is just for peace here in northern Negros.”

The 62 nd IB has been assisting the Provincial Peace Integration and Development Unit, a sub-committee of the Provincial Peace and Order Council, in the development of 11 conflict-affected communities in the hinterlands of Escalante City, Toboso and Calatrava.

Military: NPA's claims a ‘mere propaganda’

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Oct 4): Military: NPA's claims a ‘mere propaganda’

THE military denied claims of the Maoist rebels to the chain of attacks that killed a few of the soldiers in three days.

Based on a press statement released by the New People’s Army–North Central Mindanao Regional Command (NPA-NCMR) Wednesday, the Maoist rebels claimed they have killed 16 members of the Philippine army assigned in Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon.

“Sulod lang sa tulo ka adlaw, 16 ka sundalo ang napatay ug laing unom pa ang samaron gumikan sa sunod-sunod nga mga aksyong militar sa New People's Army sa North Central Mindanao Region (In just three days, 16 military personnel were killed and six were wounded due to the series of attacks owned by the New People’s Army in North Central Mindanao Region,” the statement said.

The NPA–NCMR, according to their statement, made the biggest score when the group used command-detonated landmines against the Army’s 58th Infantry Batallion in Sitio Camansi, Barangay Banglay, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental.

The statement said the NPA-NCMR killed 10 and wounded five soldiers from that encounter alone.

“Bisan patay-limod ang kasundalohan sa pag-asdang sa rebolusyonaryong kalihukan dinhi sa rehiyon, apan ang serye sa mga opensiba sa NPA ug nagkadakong ihap sa kaswalidad sa AFP ang mupamatuod sa pagkusog sa armadong pagsukol sa katawhan (Although the army denied the increasing forces of the revolutionary movement, but the series of offensives of the NPA and the big number of casualties coming from the AFP only proves that the armed struggle is soaring high),” the statement said.

The statement said the series of victorious tactical offensives is their (NPA) response to President Benigno Aguino III’s Oplan Bayanihan that protects his decrementing regime due to the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scandal.

Meanwhile, Captain Christian Uy, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4th ID) said: “Almost everything they have reported were just propaganda.

He said only thing that is real in those statements is the harassment.

Mga three to five ra ka shot para lang ma-divert among attention from our operation sa Lagonglong (The rebels fired two to five shots just to divert our attention from our military operations in Lagonglong),” said Uy.

Uy said only one member of the army died in those combat operations and six were slightly wounded.

He added the encounters in Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental was a military offensive as they conduct pursuit operations after the attacks in Lantad in Barangay Kibanban in Balingasag town in Misamis Oriental last week.

On Thursday, two helicopters landed in the 4th ID base in Camp Evangelista, barangay Patag to bring food and ammunition to their troops chasing the rebels in Lagonglong.

“Gaka-ipit na ang NPA sa Lagonglong, and open mi sa mga mo-surrender (The NPAs are getting cornered in Lagonglong, and we are open to those who want to surrender),” said Uy.

In a text message to this paper Thursday evening, the rebels said they killed two more soldiers in its offensive at Sitio Kapatagan in Barangay Umagos in Lagonglong town Thursday morning.

"We strafed the helicopters of the military which made an emergency landing in Balingasag," the message read.

Troops pursue rebels in Cateel encounter

From the Sun Star-Davao (Oct 4): Troops pursue rebels in Cateel encounter

TROOPS belonging to the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) launched on Monday pursuit operation against suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) whom they encountered in Cateel, Davao Oriental on October 1.

Lieutenant General Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III, commander of Eastmincom, directed all division commanders under his command to continue their pursuit and security operations in their respective area of responsibility.

Killed during the encounter was identified as Gerald Tagal, 28, believed to be vice chief of the NPA's Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda of Guerilla Front (SYPGF) 25, who hails from Barangay Tubo-Tubo in Monkayo, Compostela Valley.

The five wounded soldiers are identified as Sergeant Mario A. Torres, Corporal Zhelmer P. Roquero, Private First Class (Pfc) Gestonie R. Fabale, Pfc. Trifino F Cacdac II, and Pfc. Ronald M. Bulaco.

Captain Raul Villegas, spokesperson for the Army's 10th Infantry Division, said the five soldiers are now undergoing treatment at Camp Panacan Hospital. He added that the soldiers are doing well.

Villegas said the troops were conducting security operations following the report about the presence of the NPA rebels in the area, when they encountered the rebels at around 2 a.m.

The troops also arrested a suspected NPA member identified as Kim Gargar, who is said to be a former Biology professor at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

Captain Alberto C. Caber, chief of Eastmincom's Public Information Office, said Gargar was captured by pursuing soldiers after the encounter.

Lieutenant Colonel Krishnamurti A. Mortela, commander of the 67th Infantry Battalion, said Gargar was found comatose, while clutching a rifle 200 meters away from the encounter site in Barangay Aliwagwag.

"The 67th Infantry Battalion had given him (Gargar) first aid, before he was brought to Davao Oriental Provincial Hospital," Mortela said, adding the rebel was then endorsed to the police station after the treatment.

Caber said based on initial reports, Gargar was a professor in UP Diliman from 2000 to 2003; Don Mariano University in Cagayan de Oro City 2003-2005; PUP Sta. Mesa 2006-2007; and Mapua University 2007-2008.

Gargar said he was also doctorate scholar in chronological Biology at University of Groningen in Netherland. He worked with Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) founder Joma Sison.

"Sabi niya (Gargar) he helped the CPP-NPA in their production of several books aimed to exploit the countryside. He joined the NPA in Compostela Valley in 2012 while his wife works as writer of (online news organization)," Caber said.

Gargar, on the other hand, was amazed on how he was treated well by the soldiers. He was very cooperative to his captors until he was visited by members of Karapatan group, Caber added.

"Gargar is a good example of how soldiers value and respect human rights," Cruz said.

MNLF key leaders to meet in Davao

From the Sun Star-Davao (Oct 4): MNLF key leaders to meet in Davao

KEY leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) will meet in Davao City this week to discuss their future plans and also meet with government leaders.

Major General Ariel Bernardo of the 10th Infantry Division said the MNLF leaders will be coming from all over Mindanao including Maguindanao, Lanao, Marawi, Soccsksargen, Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-tawi. He said all factions of the MNLF will be attending at an undisclosed place here.

Bernardo said the MNLF activity has been coordinated with the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Peace Process (Opapp) and the military for security purposes.

The official said that like the past peace rally by the MNLF in Davao City on Sept. 1, authorities have also requested MNLF members not to bring firearms.

Bernardo said the MNLF leaders will meet for two days and on the third day, they will meet with Opapp, Minda, and the military. It was not clear if Opapp Secretary Teresita Deles will be attending the third day meeting.

Secretary Senen Bacani of the government peace panel, meanwhile, urged all factions of the MNLF to make representations with the Organization of Islamic Conference so that not only will the Misuari faction be recognized as the sole MNLF representative.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, for his part, said that he is in full support of the plan of the MNLF to hold a summit in the city. He said that the same conditions he laid during last month's peaceful rally must be observed by the MNLF members.

Conditions like no bringing in of firearms, no wearing of camouflage uniforms while traveling towards Davao City, and no violence and no breaking of any law.

Duterte said the MNLF is also free to raise their flags anywhere they wanted to for as long as it is not leveled with or higher than the national flag.

Military presence triggers evacuation in Compostela

From the Sun Star-Davao (Oct 4): Military presence triggers evacuation in Compostela

SOME 200 Matigsalog tribesmen were forced to leave their homes in Barangay Mangayon in the town of Compostela, Compostela Valley on Friday due to the deployment of more government forces in the area.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Mindanao secretary general Sheena Duazo, in text messages to Sun.Star Davao on Friday, said lumads in the area fled their homes after soldiers from the Army's 25th Infantry Battalion occupied their community at sitio Bermuda in the said barangay.

Duazo suspected that the soldiers were deployed in the area to pave the way for a mining company to operate in the area.

"Musulod na pud sa area ang Agusan Petroleum and Minerals, sister company sa San Miguel Corp., (The Agusan Petroleum and Minerals, a sister company of San Miguel Corp., will penetrate the area once again,)" Duazo said.

She then called for the pullout of the troops as the mining company may operate and destroy the lumads' ancestral domain.

She also pointed out that the presence of the mining company in the area may also deter the development of farmers and small-scale farmers.

The Matigsalog tribesmen are currently taking refuge at town hall gym in Compostela.

The Matigsalog community, along with other lumad communities and farmers in the area, held on September 30 a picket at the town hall and declared a tribal war against the Agusan Petroleum and Minerals due to their ongoing operations.

MILF: Editorial -- Gift to Our People

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Oct 1): Gift to Our People

The whole of Mindanao and Sulu were once ruled by the Moros. Together with the unIslamized indigenous tribes, they owned 98 percent of the lands and made up 90 percent of the population of the Moro Province (made up of five districts namely, undivided Sulu, Zamboanga, Davao, Lanao, and Cotabato).
Had they been given self-rule by the United States, they would have formed their own government by now, and perhaps, Mindanao would have been better governed than Luzon and Visayas to this day. But there is no way to ascertain this; it did not happen.

In the current stage of the government-MILF peace negotiation, much of which are devoted to discussion of natural resources in the seas and waters,  which used to be the lakes of the Moros especially the Sulu Sea and Moro Gulf, including the Illana (Iranun) Bay. Moro ethnic identities are associated with waters; for instance, Tausog means “people of the current”; Maranao, “people of the lake’; and Maguindanao, “people of the flooded plain”. “Mindanao” was also coined from the same root word,”danao”, which means flooded or inundated. Hence, Mindanao is a place which is flooded and inundated. That place was and still is in Cotabato City now. It is also this waters that had given them feathers in the cap as masters of the seas, or more pejoratively as “pirates”. (During earlier times especially in the 16th and 17th centuries, there had been no dividing line between legitimate trade and piracy).

Given these facts of history and being part of the patrimony of the Moros, it is very hard to imagine that they will not be given a share of the natural resources found in and beneath the Sulu Sea and Moro Gulf. After all, both the territory of the Bangsamoro defined in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the doctrine of ancestral domain included the land mass as well as the maritime, terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, and the aerial domain and the atmospheric space above it.

This is one aspect of the negotiation which the MILF wants to improve on what the MNLF had forgotten or failed to secure for our people. The issue of waters is never part of the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement of 1996. Nur Misuari, who claimed to be a Tausog and as such has bigger claim thereof, had either forgotten this or found this issue hard to argue and assert, much less to get.

Be this as it may, we still believe that under the current administration that such deprivation would not happen. We have high regard for the high sense of justice of President Benigno Aquino III. His daang matuwid or straight path policy has core values that are antithesis to cheating people. A share of these resources is the best gift that President Aquino can give to our people. This they will value and remember forever!

9 bodies of slain MNLFs exhumed

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Oct 4): 9 bodies of slain MNLFs exhumed

Police on Tuesday exhumed nine bodies of suspected MNLF rebels in Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina as clearing and retrieval operations continue.

Police Regional Office-9 information officer Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca disclosed that two of the seven bodies were dug-up inside the Sta. Barbara Elementary School around 3:45 p.m.
It was learned that the two bodies were clad in camouflage combat attire with bullet wounds.
Around 6 p.m. of the same date, seven more bodies were exhumed in Sta. Catalina.
Two of the seven cadavers were identified as Usain Abdurahman and Akaram Ahmad, both of Parang, Sulu. They were identified through their  MNLF identification cards recovered from their possession as well as voter’s IDs.
A .45 caliber pistol was also found in one of the two bodies.
All the bodies were brought to the Villa Funeral Parlor for examination.

Beng thanks elite AFP forces involved in battle vs MNLFs

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Oct 4): Beng thanks elite AFP forces involved in battle vs MNLFs

Mayor Beng Climaco has expressed heartfelt gratitude to the Joint Special Operations Group of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that was directly involved in fierce ground, air and sea assaults on the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters who occupied six barangays of the city for the past 23 days of September.
“We in Zamboanga City desire for peace, and as you prepare to go back to where you came from, we want to show to you our deepest gratitude, especially to those who risked their lives in defending the rights of the people, especially the children,” Mayor Climaco said of the elite military forces during the send-off ceremony at the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) Wednesday morning.
Climaco said the most painful experience for her as mayor during the 23-day crisis was the life of a six-year-old girl who was held hostage and shot on the forehead by the rebels.
“Her life and the lives of the soldiers and civilians killed in the firefights we now entrust to God Almighty. On behalf of the people of Zamboanga, I thank you and I hope when you come back to the city we will be able to give you a warm welcome,” the lady chief executive said.
For his part, WesMinCom chief Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo congratulated the JSOG forces for a job well done in Zamboanga, saying they have successfully defended and liberated the city from the enemies even as the operations resulted in severs casualties on government forces.
“We are proud of you and we sincerely thank you for your critical contributions to the operations in Zamboanga. They (enemies) never thought that we have such a force that is not only professional but equipped and suitable for this type of operational setting that no one ever thought of,” Gen. Ardo said.
“Notwithstanding the operations of war,” he said, “the bullets from the adversaries, the wounds inflicted by the enemies, the JSOG forces should bold display of military professionalism during the different encounters.”
Gold Cross Medals were awarded to the elite troopers from the different Light Reaction Units composing the JSOG for their gallantry actions that resulted in the deaths, surrenders and arrested of hundred of MNLF attackers since their deployment on the second week of the crisis.
Maj. Franco Rafael Alano, spokesman of WesMinCom, said the elite military forces had already accomplished their mission in Zamboanga, therefore they are no longer needed here.
“The JSOG forces have to be sent back to barracks for re-training. We do not need them anymore for the clearing operations because their expertise is purely direct assaults on the enemies,” Maj. Alano said, adding that the WesMinCom troops and the local police are capable enough to carry out the ongoing clearing operations in the affected barangays and nearby areas.

US experts urge RP to boost defense amid China tension

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 5): US experts urge RP to boost defense amid China tension

The Philippine government must sharply boost its defenses and China has to learn to “play by the rules” to keep South China Sea territorial spats from escalating, two former US officials yesterday said.

Manila has consistently accused Beijing of aggressively pressing its claim to most of the South China Sea, even up to the coasts of neighbors like the Philippines, raising tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.

Speaking at the sidelines of a maritime security forum, former US Defense Undersecretary Walter Slocombe stressed that no one wanted to see a confrontation with China over territory.

“We (military allies the Philippines and the United States) must find a way to defend our interests and our sovereignty, the rule of law and the proposition that issues like this are to be resolved peacefully and not by the threat of the use of force.”

“There is a real danger of an incident blowing up and becoming a source of a much bigger conflict,” he warned.

Dennis Blair, former commander of US forces in the Pacific, added: “We have to convince China that as it involves the rest of the region and the world in solving its problems, it has to play by the rules whether those rules are in business, diplomacy or in military force.”

The two said they could not fully explain why China is now pressing its territorial claims.

It could be a case of leaders manipulating nationalism, a mistaken assumption that the United States was withdrawing from Asia, or even the belief of some important Chinese figures that “China should run the world,” Slocombe said.

China’s restiveness had produced negative reactions, said Slocombe, who was in the Pentagon when Bill Clinton was US president. “In a very short time, China has made the US very popular in the Western Pacific.”

But while the Philippines is relying on the United States to back it up against China, Slocombe said it must also undertake a serious effort to develop “a minimum deterrent military capacity.”

“The Philippines needs to do a strategic analysis of what it needs to do for its maritime defense,” added Blair, the US Pacific commander in 1999-2002.

This would include a multi-year program to acquire modern weapons, properly train its personnel and develop military doctrines and mechanisms, and “organize itself in a more effective manner.”

Such a program for the poorly-armed Philippines “will not only support its relations with China but will find a much more willing and able and ready partner from its treaty ally, the United States,” he added.

Frigates useful also for disaster relief, OFW repatriations

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 4): Frigates useful also for disaster relief, OFW repatriations
Aside from defending the country's vast maritime territories, the two frigates that the Department of National Defense (DND) is acquiring for P18-billion, can also be used for repatriations of Filipino workers abroad and victims of natural and man-made calamities.

This was revealed by DND undersecretary for finance, modernization, installation, and munitions, Fernando Manalo Friday.

"Aside from territorial defense, (frigates) can be deployed to repatriate OFWs in hot spots abroad and victims of calamities, that how versatile these ships are," he added.

Manalo defended the long delivery period of the frigates (around 1,460 calendar days) to the fact that these ships are brand-new and designed specifically for the Philippines.

"Delivery period will be long as these frigates are new-builds," he stated.

Manalo declined to comment on whether the ships will be fitted with anti-ships and anti-aircraft missiles.

S. Cotabato town forges peace covenant with MNLF

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 4): S. Cotabato town forges peace covenant with MNLF

In a bid to ensure the area’s security, local officials of T’boli town in South Cotabato and other stakeholders signed a peace covenant on Thursday with local members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

T’boli Mayor Dibu Tuan said Friday they forged the covenant with the MNLF on Thursday afternoon following a dialogue and consultation hosted by the local government.

“We agreed to further strengthen our linkages and jointly pursue initiatives that will help maintain peace in our area,” he said.

Despite the conclusion of the earlier standoff between government forces and members of the MNLF-Misuari faction in Zamboanga City, the mayor said they deemed it necessary to pursue the signing of the peace covenant to avert similar incidents from happening in the area.

Tuan and other local officials signed the covenant on behalf of the municipal government while the MNLF was represented by its local leader Tang Salambat.

He described Salambat as a commander of a local MNLF unit, which is reportedly composed of 100 mostly non-combatant members.

The group is reportedly based within the boundary of Barangay Lamsalome of T’boli and Barangay Lampari of Banga town.

Supt. Jemuel Siason, T’boli police chief, said the signing of the peace covenant was mainly aimed at uniting the area’s stakeholders and avert any planned movement by the MNLF in the area.

He said it reinforced the fact that MNLF members in the area are cooperative and are not threats to local peace and security.

The covenant was also signed by Siason and Lt. Col. Zhalimar Imperial, commander of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion.

“The covenant cited that in case a problem emerges among parties, we will find appropriate solutions in a peaceful manner,” Siason said.

Imperial said they fully support the signing of the peace covenant and called on other local government units to initiate similar moves.

“This will help clarify many issues that might create some problem later on in some areas if not handled properly,” he said.

The official noted that at the height of the conflict Zamboanga, several mobile phone text messages circulated in the area warning of supposed movements of local MNLF forces.

The text messages, which he cited as part of the disinformation activities of certain parties, have created some panic and tension among local residents.

“When we checked later on with the MNLF, they also received messages warning of supposed attacks by the military against their units. So it’s clear that some parties just want us to fight with each other,” Imperial added.(

DOJ to file cases next week against Misuari and Malik et al

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 4): DOJ to file cases next week against Misuari and Malik et al

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to file criminal cases in court next week against Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding-chair Nur Misuari and MNLF Commander Habier Malik, et al.

This was announced here in a press briefing late Friday by DOJ Sec. Leila De Lima after she met with the team of prosecutors she formed to handle the filing of cases against all those involved in the standoff here.

“The prosecutors told me that they are ready to file the criminal information in court this coming week corresponding to the first batch isasama na diyan si Nur Misuari and Habier Malik,” De Lima disclosed.

De Lima said that the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) have filed criminal complaints before the City Prosecutor’s Office in six batches against a total of 284 MNLF rebels for their involvement in the standoff in this city.

The standoff started when hundreds of MNLF rebels infiltrated this city last September 9.

De Lima said the last batch of complaint was filed Friday.

The complaints include for rebellion and violation of Republic Act 9851 otherwise known as the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity.

She said that based on her evaluation the evidences and the testimonies of the witnesses are sufficient to prove Misuari’s involvement in the standoff when briefed by the team of prosecutors.

“This time, we are making sure that when the prosecutors file the information against Misuari et al ay malakas, may patutunguhan, and that it will lead to successful prosecution,” she stressed.

She said they will issue a hold departure order to prevent the respondents from leaving the country once the cases are filed in court.

Meanwhile, De Lima said she is wondering why no charges were filed against Misuari for the November 2001 Cabatangan siege in this city.

“For the Cabatangan incident, Nur Misuari was never charged was never indicted, I really don’t know why.” De Lima said.

Troops arrest Malaysian national, MNLF member in Zambo raid

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 4): Troops arrest Malaysian national, MNLF member in Zambo raid

Zamboanga City -- Government security forces have arrested two persons, including a Malaysian national and a suspected Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebel, when they raided the residence of MNLF founding-chair Nur Misuari in this city.

The raid was carried out around 4 a.m. Friday in Sitio Pasay, Barangay San Roque, six kilometers west of City Hall, “as part of the legal offensive” aimed to gather more evidence against Misuari.

The police have filed on Thursday a criminal complaint of rebellion and violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) against Misuari for his alleged involvement in the three-week standoff in this city.

Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) information officer Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca disclosed the Malaysian national and the MNLF member were arrested outside but in the vicinity of Misuari’s compound.

Huesca disclosed the duo were sighted near Misuari’s compound while policemen backed by soldiers conducted the search inside the compound.

“They were seen going around in the vicinity and they become restless when the policemen approached them,” Huesca said, citing they were placed under investigation.

Huesca said the raiding team has also recovered Improvised Explosive Device (IED) components, Monotom Bombs, ammunition of Mortar, MNLF subversive documents, maps and tarpauline of MNLFs and of other personalities.

Detained UP prof in Davao Oriental an NPA, AFP claims

From Davao Today (Oct 4): Detained UP prof in Davao Oriental an NPA, AFP claims

The Armed Forces of the Philippines claimed on Thursday that the University of the Philippines Professor Kim Gargar, whom they captured in Cateel, Davao Oriental, was a member of the New People’s Army.

Lt. Colonel Krishnamurti Mortela, commander of the 67th Infantry Battalion Commanding Officer said in a statement that “Gargar was captured by the troops who were pursuing the rebels after a firefight in (Barangay) Aliwagwag, (Cateel, Davao Oriental).”

He said troops pursuing the guerrillas found Gargar “wounded” and “unconscious while clutching a rifle 200 meters away from the encounter site”.

“An M16 rifle, landmines and subversive documents were recovered from him,” Mortela added.

The troops brought Gargar to the Davao Oriental provincial hospital for treatment, the statement further said.

The statement further alleged that Gargar joined the NPA in Compostela Valley in 2012, after spending years teaching in UP Diliman from 2000 to 2003 then in various universities in Manila and Cagayan de Oro.

The statement further said that Gargar, while studying for a doctorate degree in Netherlands, “helped CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA founder Joma Sison in the production of several books aimed to exploiting the countryside”.

While the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command Commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III said that their handling of “Gargar is an example of how soldiers value and respect human rights”, he would still be charged with violation of Republic Act 9516 or “An Act Imposing Stiffer Penalties for Certain Violations of Illegal/Unlawful Possession of Explosives”, another two cases of attempted murder and violation of the Comelec gun ban.

Gargar’s lawyer, Atty. Joel Mahinay from the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao, said the charges “are fabrications heaped on Gargar by the military after their encounter with the NPA.”

Mahinay said Gargar explained that the reported encounter between the NPA and government troops in Aliwagwag last Monday happened “1.5 kilometers away from where he was found by the soldiers.”

Gargar was conducting a scientific study on the impact of Typhoon Pablo in that area, which is intended to help in the rehabilitation and reforestation plans for Davao Oriental by Balsa Mindanao,” Mahinay added.

Juland Suazo, Panalipdan spokerperson said Gargar joined Balsa Mindanao’s fact-finding and relief mission to the Typhoon-Pablo affected towns in Baganga, Davao Oriental last April that got stranded for one night after “harassments” by state security agents.  (see article here)

Meanwhile, the scientists group AGHAM  (Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya Para sa Sambayanan or Advocates of Science and Technology for the People), in which Gargar is a member, released a statement condemning the arrest and charges.

“We condemn the illegal detention and harassment of Kim.  He should be freed immediately as his arrest and detention is illegal,” said AGHAM President and UP Diliman Professor Giovanni Tapang.

AGHAM’s statement posted on its Facebook page detailed Gargar’s involvement in various investigations on environment issues across the country.

“As a volunteer scientist of AGHAM, (Gargar) has been involved in various activities concerning people’s welfare. He took part in many investigative missions such as the impacts of monocrop cassava plantation in Isabela, flood monitoring in Buwaya River and technical review of the Philex mine tailings spill. His recent work on typhoon Pablo research led him to go to Eastern Mindanao for a comprehensive assessment of the affected areas. Despite sterling credentials in the Academe, he chose to make use of his knowledge and expertise not for his own personal gain but for the benefit of the marginalized people.” The post read.

Tapang said Gargar was a PhD student at Groningden (Netherlands) in Chronobiology and taught in UP Diliman and Mapua Institute of Technology.

PH Navy sends team to Australia for first time for training exercises with counterparts

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 4): PH Navy sends team to Australia for first time for training exercises with counterparts
Representatives from the Philippine Navy for the first time went to Australia where they joined their counterparts in training exercises as part of the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement that was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 2012. 

Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic, Navy spokesman, said on Friday that the Filipino sailors have been in Australia since September 17 to participate in the Exercise Triton Century 2013. There were 17 other countries that joined the exercise.

They will also witness the Australian International Fleet Review, which marks the centenary of the Royal Australian Navy’s first fleet entry into Sydney. Eight sailors from the Philippine Navy were on board HMAS Parramatta, to participate in boarding activities and to cross train on various systems on board the Australian warship.

“The Philippine Navy participation is historic as it marks the first contingent from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to travel to Australia and participate in joint exercises since the SOVFA,” Fabic said.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano said he found this “a great opportunity for Philippine sailors to work side by side their Australian counterparts and likewise gain significant knowledge, skills and training that would be very crucial in a modernizing navy.”

Ambassador of Australia to the Philippines Bill Tweddell also welcomed the participation of the Navy sailors in an exercise in Australia.
“We have a rich deference relationship with the Philippines extending back to the Second World War. While many Filipinos have benefited from education and training in Australia under our Defence Cooperation Program and Australian Defence Force personnel have participated in training in the Philippines, this is the first time Filipinos have participated in an exercise in Australia since the SOVFA was ratified. We look forward to more similar engagement in the future,” he said.
The Filipino sailors will return back to the country on October 7.

AFP Chief: Malik remains missing

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 4): AFP Chief: Malik remains missing

Habier Malik, Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari’s top lieutenant who led the attacks in Zamboanga City, remains missing.

“We have so far not identified the body of Malik, but you know, we are looking at everything until we find his body. We’re not saying that he’s dead already because we have not found his body,” Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief Emmanuel Bautista told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo Friday.

The government on Saturday declared that the siege was over after they rescued all the remaining hostages, but failed to determine the whereabouts of the MNLF leader.

Police, who are now at the helm of the mopping-up operations after the three-week gunbattle, were still engaging with remnants of the MNLF around the conflict areas.

As to reports that Malik had escaped, Bautista said they “have not confirmed any” and “anything is possible.”

“We will not know for sure until we see. Nothing is still conclusive,” he said.

“We have not seen Malik so we cannot categorically say that he is dead or alive. But anyway his force has been decimated in Zamboanga. You have been witness to that. And our primary mission there was to rescue the hostages. And we did,” he also said.

To go after the forces that “invaded” Zamboanga was only their secondary mission.

“We were able to decimate that force and most of their commanders have been accounted for,” he said.

Misuari house raided (w/ photos)

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Oct 4): Misuari house raided (w/ photos)

Nur  Misuari' house in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Ely Dumaboc)

Police on Friday raided the house of a former rebel chieftain Nur Misuari as clearing operations continue in villages that hundreds of gunmen occupied in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines.

Police said the Misuari’s house in the village of San Roque was empty, but raiders seized many documents.

It was not immediately known whether police forces found any weapons or explosives in the bungalow, but a police spokesman said a local court issued a warrant to search the house which stands near a creek.

The subject of the search warrant is explosives, components for improvised explosive devices, unlicensed firearms and documents. We have recovered several items,” Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

He said police forces set off a charge on the front gate of the house to be able to enter the sprawling compound which was heavily guarded by former rebels in the past.

Several towers could be seen from the outside the house despite its tall wall.

Inside the compound were several small buildings and a basketball court and MNLF streamers and tarpaulin signs.

The area has been under tight guard since September 9 when hundreds of Misuari’s supporters led by his lieutenant Ustadz Khabir Malik stormed several villages and took more than 200 people hostage.

The fighting left more than 400 people dead and wounded that resulted in a humanitarian crisis following the exodus of more than 100,000 villagers.