Sunday, October 6, 2013

Weapons bazaar

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 5): Weapons bazaar

New gun law, Bangsamoro conflict

BESPECTACLED MORO LEADER Moro rebels led by Ameril Umbra Kato, a commander who broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, leads his armed men in shouting “Allahu Akbar” in Maguindanao. INQUIRER PHOTO

The recent conflict in Zamboanga City shows that despite the final peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), hundreds of MNLF rebels have not been disarmed. Although thousands of MNLF ex-combatants have been integrated into the Army and police, a significant number have not been demobilized and continue to pose a threat to security and peace.

The State faces a dilemma in light of the crisis. Does anyone honestly expect the new Bangsamoro to extend its politico-military reach to the heavily armed islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi? In the absence of a genuine ceasefire covering other threat groups and in the midst of resilient clan violence in Mindanao, does anyone honestly believe that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will agree to lay down its own weapons and demobilize its forces?
Illicit guns galore
The reality is that thousands of illicit weapons are in the hands of rebel combatants, ex-combatants and crime groups in Mindanao. These are accompanied by the hundreds of thousands of illicit weapons kept by civilians.
Yet, in the middle of 2013, the government passed a new gun law that allows even easier access to weapons and the right to carry firearms. The government passed the law while it was negotiating a normalization agreement with the MILF—an agreement that includes the decommissioning of weapons and the demobilization of combatants.
Weapons impunity
On May 29, with the election-related gun ban still in place, President Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10591, known as the Act Providing for a Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof. The law ushers in a new guns regulatory framework that aims to augment the anticrime efforts of law enforcement agencies and stem the proliferation of unregistered firearms.
Taken at face value, the new law should be welcomed in a country where illicit firearms outnumber registered firearms and that has the second highest homicide rate in Asia, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. International Alert UK’s study (2013) of illicit weapons and armed conflict in the Philippines records nearly 2 million illicit firearms in the country in contrast to 930,000 registered ones.
Defects, loopholes
However, the new law contains fatal defects that render it inutile in strengthening government control over the means of violence in the country. The law provides enough loopholes and opportunities for illicit gun manufacturers and traders to evade detection, apprehension and prosecution. Left unaddressed, these weaknesses jeopardize the efforts of government and civil society to tackle the problems associated with illicit weapons possession and proliferation in the Philippines.
In the case of the Philippines, the irony is that with almost 3 million firearms in the hands of citizens, the State is literally outgunned. The enduring presence of several insurgent groups, private armies, feuding clans and violent criminal syndicates attest to the State’s feeble hold over the monopoly of violence.
Privatization of protection
One would therefore expect that the new gun law would shore up the State’s capacity to enforce its will. Instead, the new gun law embodies the vision of a self-help society that is predicated on the privatization of protection. The subtext of this law is the clear message that citizens should henceforth get their own guns to protect themselves.
The law’s warped understanding of maintaining peace and order is apparent in the legal requirements for gun possession. It reiterates a number of provisions that extend the flaws in existing laws—the minimum age of 21 years, passing a psychiatric test, having no criminal record, acquiring a police clearance and a mandatory instruction in gun safety.
These are grossly inadequate in stemming the flow of illicit weapons, as proven by the poor record of enforcement and coordination between law enforcers and other critical agencies of the State. Police records are hardly comprehensive, youth offenders in gun-related crimes persist, psychiatric clearances can be obtained from fly-by-night private clinics and criminal records are seldom cross-checked with all existing court records.
Arming priests, imams
The lawmakers’ callous approach to security is also evident in the legal parameters that enable owners to carry firearms outside their residence or business. The new law states that any person who can prove that his life is under threat can qualify for a permit to carry.
Not just any person though—the law includes a bizarre list that enumerates the following professions that qualify for a permit to carry: lawyers, media persons, accountants, bank cashiers or tellers, priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, physicians, nurses, engineers or businessmen. That’s just about anyone with a profession and public profile in Philippine society.
Equally problematic is the fact that the law’s take on the permit to carry is out of sync with the preferences of Filipino citizens. According to a Pulse Asia survey, 78 percent of respondents would prefer a gun law that allows only law enforcers and licensed private security guards to carry firearms in public places.
One more ‘final’ amnesty
The new law contains a “final” amnesty for those in possession of unregistered firearms. The fundamental problem with a gun amnesty is that it does nothing in terms of actually reducing the number of illicit firearms in the Philippines. None of the weapons that were used in previous wars, gathered from the battlefield, captured from criminals or illicitly smuggled into the country have ever been destroyed or decommissioned.
A gun amnesty hastens the spiraling increase in weapons. In the past, gun amnesties offered an easy way out for law enforcers faced with the proliferation of loose firearms. Hence, the idea that this is the final gun amnesty is as credible as a drug addict’s promise to take one final shot before going into rehab.
Small arms, light weapons
One of the more encouraging elements in the new gun law is the provision that license holders can register only small arms (i.e. hand guns, rifle or shotgun), whereas Class “A” light weapons, which include high-powered firearms, such as machine guns and assault rifles, can be acquired and possessed only by law enforcement agencies. This is certainly a sensible attempt to tilt the balance of firepower toward the State.
While ostensibly limiting the use of light weapons to the police and military, a subsequent provision allows those already in legal possession of light weapons to continue owning and getting licenses for these guns indefinitely.
This provision ruins any expectation of a future environment bereft of light weapons in the hands of civilians. By seeking to maintain the status quo, lawmakers have squandered an opportunity to take high-powered firearms out of the hands of private individuals.
Worse, this provision is vulnerable to the practice of antedating permits or the reemergence of illicit weapons as licensed firearms following the repeated amnesties enjoyed by illicit weapons offenders.
The new licensing system enables “warlord politicians” and other paramilitary groups to escape the detection of their arsenals and the destruction of their illicit weapons. They are the sort of provisions that will enable even the MILF to hang on to their weapons.
Normalizing the abnormal
Last we heard the government panel in the PH-MILF peace process was negotiating a weapons decommissioning agreement with the Moro group. Both peace panels readily admit that the decommissioning of MILF forces will be the most difficult.
Not anymore. Now all it takes is for MILF leaders and rebels to morph into qualified security providers, secure “duty detail orders” as a juridical entity, and sustain the continued ownership and use of their weapons.
Besides, what’s the logic behind calling for weapons decommissioning, while enabling other “qualified citizens” and security providers, including those in the Bangsamoro, to amass more “legal” weapons than they previously owned?  In the absence of a vigorous campaign to stop the spread of illicit weapons, what is the sense in disarming MILF combatants and reintegrating them into their former communities where everyone else is armed?
Notwithstanding the political importance of disarming rebel forces, the proliferation of loose firearms across Mindanao necessitates a more realistic and therefore flexible approach to the decommissioning of MILF weapons. Yet the new gun law conveys such a lax approach to firearms that the government peace panel will be hard pressed to extract any meaningful concessions from the MILF on the issue of firearms.
However, one thing is now crystal clear. It will be grossly irresponsible for the government to enter into a normalization agreement with the MILF that does not include the significant decommissioning of weapons in the hands of rebel combatants.
The crisis in Zamboanga gives graphic evidence of the dangers that lurk behind the impunity surrounding the private ownership of weapons and a government policy that institutionalizes the private provision of protection.
Ambiguous approach
The new law conveys an ambiguous approach to gun control, resulting from a need to compromise the interests of law enforcement agencies, gun manufacturers, gun dealers, gun enthusiasts and those who advocate a gun ban.
International Alert’s analysis of the illicit gun trade in the Philippines (Inquirer, Jan. 12) offers a stark reminder that the rapid expansion of the weapons market and the persistence of a “shadow gun economy” depend first and foremost on the agents of the law. But given the chance to strengthen its monopoly of violence, the State’s response has been found wanting.
Capture of policymaking
The failure to strengthen gun control laws reveals the capture of strategic policymaking in gun control by private gun owners, private security agencies and ruthless politicians, including retired police chiefs and internal security officials who have transformed themselves into legitimate security providers. The result is a gun control policy that is distorted and skewed, and allows the reverse—a robust market in weapons.
That failure now hounds the government in violent episodes such as the conflict in Zamboanga. These episodes will continue to shape the economy and politics of Muslim Mindanao until the spread of loose firearms is contained and peace processes lead to the genuine demobilization and decommissioning of weapons.
(Ed Quitoriano works as an independent risk and conflict analyst for several development agencies.)

Army clears US troops in bar fight

From the Sun Star-Davao (Oct 5): Army clears US troops in bar fight

DAVAO – A military official has denied the reported involvement of four US servicemen in a bar fight in Davao City last Sunday.

Major Jake Obligado, of the Civil Military Operations Battalion of the 10th Infantry Division (10th ID), said he is visiting American soldiers in Davao City and none of the US soldiers have been involved in a bar fight.

Obligado said that several troops came to Davao City since last week for a recreation. He said the American soldiers are participating in a joint activity with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Cotabato.

Obligado said he was with some friends at the Eagles Bar of Marco Polo Hotel on Saturday evening and they noticed a group of four Caucasians who were already drunk and rowdy.

He said the four are not US servicemen, adding that they could be the same foreigners who figured in a bar fight along Obrero early Sunday.

The bar fight resulted after four foreigners, who many locals believed were US servicemen, bullied somebody and poked a dirty finger.

About 20 bystanders allegedly mobbed the four foreigners. Among those who joined the melee was said to be a local politician.

The incident was not recorded at the Davao City Police Office; however, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte confirmed the incident saying he was informed by a colleague who happened to witness the incident.

Duterte refused to divulge details of the incident saying that he was not there when it happened.

Obligado said he just wanted to clarify the issue as the US officers he is in constant contact with are concerned with the report.

MNLF: AFP Burning of Zamboanga 10,000 Houses/Mosques is like Jolo's Inferno in 1974- AFP-MNLF War

From the MNLF Website (Oct 5): AFP Burning of Zamboanga 10,000 Houses/Mosques is like Jolo's Inferno in 1974- AFP-MNLF War


In Facebook, the distressed voices of Fatin Kawthar and Tindug Alif calling directly on Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III and condemning the atrocity of the AFP soldiers to cause anguish and pain to the Muslim natives of Filipino-colonized Mindanao has shown again the destructive repercussion of an imposed genocidal war to perpetuate colonial hegemony in the occupied Bangsamoro territory. The native voices simply cried out: "To: President Aquino, We, the Muslims of Zamboanga City strongly condemned the work of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in burning down the masjids (house of worship) in Barangay Campo Muslim, Rio Hondo and Mariki." "This is an act of terrorism. We as Muslims are entitled to our right for freedom of religion."



It is now common knowledge that the direct cause of the almost three weeks war between the colonial Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) occupation soldiers and the Bangsamoro freedom fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was the blocking by the Zamboanga City government of the supposedly peace rally of the MNLF members and mass followers in support of the declaration of Mindanao independence by the MNLF leadership.

Since the proclamation of the revolutionary government constitution and the United Federated States of Bangsamoro Republik (UFSBR) by MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari in Zamboanga City on July, 2013 and followed up in Talipao, Sulu, on August, the MNLF members and mass supporters have conducted public peace demonstration in Jolo and Davao City. There never was any untoward incident during the MNLF-staged peace rally in both metropolis centers.

However, in Zamboanga City on September 9, the scheduled peace rally was forcibly blocked by Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco, claiming that the MNLF wanted to raise the Bangsamoro flag in the city government's flag pole. The mayor's claim itself was a total lie because as usual the MNLF members wanted only to display both small and regular size flags while holding a peace assembly. In totally suppressing people' right to peaceful assembly, the PNP forces harassed the peaceful demonstrators and some were even arrested and jailed. The oppressive provocation led the MNLF members in Zamboanga City to arm themselves so as to aid and rescue the beleaguered MNLF members that spontaneously started the APF-MNLF battle in the city. The city battle became fiercer and resulted to more heavy casualties on the part of the Philippine military forces when MNLF reinforcements under Ustaj Khabier Malik arrived to personally lead the battle against the AFP and PNP combatants.

Clearly thus, the eruption of the AFP-MNLF war in Zamboanga City is due to the carelessness of Mayor Climaco as suppressor of the fundamental human rights of people to even a peaceful assembly. Later, when the AFP-MNLF hostilities transformed into a major war of mounting casualties, catastrophic chaos and humanitarian disaster, Mayor Climaco started blaming the Office of the Peace Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP), but never herself.

Vincent R. Pozon reported that "Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco-Salazar blamed the OPAPP for the crisis that gripped her city. "Because of the incompetence of the OPAPP in reaching out to the MNLF...the people are suffering. We are all victims here. Despite numerous appeals to OPAPP to go to Sulu, and address the problem of Nur Misuari, the OPAPP did not listen."

On the other hand, it can now be construed that the OPAPP never did listen to any suggestion to engage MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari in sincere and honest peaceful dialogue because it is only formed to deceive and divide the Bangsamoro people and the MNLF and MILF freedom fighters. Because of the fact that the Aquino government have no respect for the September 2, 1996 MNLF-OIC-GRP Jakarta Peace Agreements the OPAPP had only looked down at the MNLF as a "spent force."  Instead, the OPAPP in conspiracy with ARMM had again propped up and used the Arroyo regime-created "15-member Malacanang National Liberation Front-Easy-money Currency (MNLF-EC15)" group managed by ex-Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema to pose as a strong MNLF to be supported by the Aquino government. Now, just like in the old Marcos days of deceptive colonial strategy of divide-rule-destroy tactics, the Aquino government and OPAPP have thus also created now the chaos and humanitarian disaster surrounding the AFP-MNLF war in Zamboanga City and hostilities in other areas, like Basilan and Cotabato.


As in all AFP-MNLF war in the past, the Philippine media as merely mouthpiece of Philippine colonialism have only to print both the civilian and military government side in order not to demoralize more the low moral of the colonial Philippine military occupation soldiers, who are only compelled to face the Bangsamoro freedom fighters in the battle ground for the sake of salary, rank and promotion.

Just like in the 1974 AFP-MNLF war in Jolo, the Philippine media never reported the observation of the once Free Press popular writer, Ninotchka Rosca, that the MNLF freedom fighters "decimated Marcos forces" in the major battle inside Jolo town. But this never stop people from telling the truth about the Jolo war incident, including the burning of almost the entire town by combined land, aerial and sea bombardments and killing of more than 20,000 Muslim, Christian and Chinese civilians.

Today, during the 20-day AFP-MNLF war in Zamboanga City, the Philippine media again have repeated the same propaganda tactics of reporting only the side of Philippine colonialism, but never the side of the colonized victims. Immediately after the withdrawal of Ustaj Khabier Malik and reinforcement forces from the war zone, but not after killing more than 100 AFP Scout Rangers that treacherously assaulted the MNLF troops while performing the Friday congregation prayer, the Aquino government and Philippine media were just so desperate to pronounce and speculate the death of the MNLF leader that inflicted so much heavy casualties to the almost 5,000 AFP soldiers deployed to the Zamboanga war zone. On the third week of the AFP-MNLF war, the Philippine media reported the conflicting reports of a total of 126  MNLF killed and 146 captured and surrendered (AFP source), and 185 captured, 24 surrendered and 107 killed (PNP source).

However, the AFP and Philippine media were silent on the mounting casualties of the every day AFP-MNLF war that the Zamboanga City medical center has to be hurriedly converted into AFP command post to hide the big number of white coffins containing dead soldiers. From insider report in AFP Camp Aguinaldo, up to the 5th day of heavy fighting, it listed already "503 dead, 741 wounded and 63 'war shock' (awl/deserter) AFP soldiers," and this did not include PNP casualties. Thus, after the 20-day AFP-MNLF war, the figure of "1,006" AFP soldiers killed cited by an unknown source in the social network can describe how MNLF freedom fighters have mastered the conduct of warfare in their freedom struggle against Philippine colonialism.

In truth, Ustaj Khabier Malik has only proven true the legend of Maas Kamlon, the Tausug warrior, who with only fifty loyal followers, wiping out the entire battalion-size Philippine military Korean veteran Nenita unit sent to Sulu in the 1950s. The old Maas Kamlon was deceptively ensnared to surrender, jailed, pardoned by the Marcos regime and died of old age.


The tragedy today of the burning of 10,160 houses, mosques and madrasah (learning centers) in the Muslim communities of Zamboanga City by combined AFP war machine has only highlighted again the pattern of genocidal war strategy conducted by Philippine colonialism against the Muslim and Animist Lumad natives of Mindanao. The genocidal strategy of "pulverizing" or burning of civilian community houses was the brainchild strategy of the first Zamboanga City-based South Western Command (SOWESCOM) chieftain, Commodore Jose Fernandez, who belittled the capacity of the MNLF freedom fighters to wage a liberation struggle from the beginning. At the instance of the first battle in Sulu between the colonial AFP occupation forces and MNLF Mujahidin, Commodore Fernandez issued out the tall order to pulverize Jolo island to end the war in one week. But the Philippines-Bangsamoro war in Jolo and throughout Mindanao did not end in one week. Instead the AFP-MNLF war has extended up to now.

Nonetheless, the destructive pulverization or burning pattern has been established that during the February 7, 1974 AFP-MNLF war in Jolo, the AFP soldiers mercilessly razed to the ground commercial buildings, civilian houses, mosque and Chinese temple in the town center to drive out the MNLF freedom fighters.

Thus, today, the AFP occupation soldiers have perpetrated the same war strategy by deliberately burning civilian houses, mosques and mini-stores in the Muslim communities of Campo Muslim, Sta. Barbara, Rio Hondo, Lustre and Mariki in order to dislodge the MNLF freedom fighters from the areas.

It is interesting to note that both Jolo and Zamboanga City burning incidents have revolved around a father and son Filipino military general in the service of Philippine colonialism.

While the Marcos/Bautista team figured in the burning of almost the entire Jolo town during the 1974 AFP-MNLF war, the Aquino/Baustista regime today is credited for burning the 10.160 houses and mosques of Muslim civilians. During the AFP-MNLF 1974 Jolo war, Brig. General T. Bautista, Sr. was with the First Infantry (Tabak) Division assigned mainly to handle the MNLF in Sulu. He was later in 1977 killed by the loyalist followers of the legendary MNLF mass leader Usman Salih. Today, General T. Bautista, Jr. (Emmanuel Bautista) is the AFP Chief-of-Staff, who has personally supervised the 20-day AFP-MNLF war in Zamboanga City together with President Benigno S. Aquino III for the first few days.

Indeed, this is one noted legacy that the Bautista father and son have contributed to the genocidal war in Mindanao.


Another interesting tale to the AFP-MNLF war in Zamboanga City was the mysterious whereabouts of Ustaj Khabier Malik whose sudden disappearance from the war zone literally silenced the heavy shooting war. It can be written in Bangsamoro history that he prominently figured in the almost three weeks ground battle that created chaos, humanitarian disaster and business haywire in the city inviting the attention of the United Nations (UN), Organization of Islamic Conference, European Union (EU), concerned humanitarian NGOs, Church groups and individual known peace advocates to morally intervene to end the war.

At the closing period of the 20-day strife, he raised the AFP-MNLF war into high level emotions when he mesmerized one and all with his call for parrang-sabil (martyrdom) on Friday (September 27, 2013). The call even elicited the cooperation of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) freedom fighters to bombard the electrical power base in Cotabato, setting three provinces in total darkness for days.

However, after inflicting another heavy casualty on the so-called AFP elite force that treacherously attacked the compulsory Friday prayer gathering led by Ustaj Khabier Malik, without knowing that MNLF fighters under Commander Tuan Aqsa were stationed in strategic positions safeguarding the praying group, the urgent Islamic call to peace reached him. As a Tausug warrior of peace and war, he submitted himself to the call of peace because of his formal education as a Muslim scholar and learned guru. He left the Zamboanga City war zone though with a pledge that if the peace call is again betrayed by war, he will surely be back in Zamboanga City or anywhere else in Mindanao to resume his sacred duty as a Bangsamoro freedom fighter.,000%20Houses.htm

ICRC checks conditions of MNLF detainees

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 7): ICRC checks conditions of MNLF detainees

The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) has deployed medical workers to check into the health and living conditions of at least 230 detained members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who participated in the siege in Zamboanga City last month.

The ICRC said two of its doctors have already visited the MNLF members, who are facing rebellion charges for instigating the weeks-long crisis in Zamboanga City, to attend to their medical and other daily needs.

The crisis left at least 244 dead and thousands of civilians wounded and homeless.
“They have monitored the conditions in which the detainees are being held and the treatment they receive,” ICRC said.

“The detainees have had a medical screening and received clothes, slippers, soap, shampoo and toothpaste. Food and medical supplies for the detainees were given to the detaining authorities,” it added.

ICRC also said it provided food rations to about 10,000 displaced residents in evacuation centers and distribute essential items to 51,000 others.

The ICRC is appealing to the government for long-term assistance for the affected residents, who now faced prolonged displacement after they lost their homes and livelihood.

It urged the government to continue providing basic utilities in evacuation centers as well as the creation of disease monitoring system.

“These people have been exposed to violence. Now they are living under difficult conditions in evacuation centers. That adds up to a lot of stress, especially for vulnerable and elderly people,” ICRC said.

“We need to provide safe water, decent sanitation and a disease monitoring system to prevent the outbreak of disease,” it added.

In a related development, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said private companies have expressed interest to provide temporary employment for the displaced workers.

This is apart from the government emergency employment program, which will benefit at least 1,300 affected workers.

Suspected BIFF man arrested

From the Philippine Star (Oct 6): Suspected BIFF man arrested

A suspected member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was arrested after he allegedly left an improvised explosive device (IED) in a roadside hotel in Midsayap town here yesterday.

Abdulgani Malang Abas was arrested by bystanders as he was leaving the area where he left a box containing the explosives.

Superintendent Renante delos Santos, municipal police chief, said responding policemen brough Abas to the police station for interrogation.

Abas told investigators he was hired by a woman to bring the box to the town proper and leave it near the entrance to the Hill Park Hotel.

The IED, fashioned from a mortar shell was placed in the box covered with durian.

Delos Santos said they have yet to confirm whether Abas is a member of the BIFF as bomb experts defused the IED.

He said Abas had initially confessed to probers that the IED came from an armed group in Barangay Tugal in Midsayap, not far from the farming villages that the BIFF bandits attacked last week.

Meanwhile, authorities have been implementing curfew in 17 of 57 barangays in Midsayap town for three days now to protect residents from possible attacks by the brigand BIFF.

“Only bad guys will roam in these 17 barangays with the curfew in place. The police and military will deal with them promptly,” Midsayap Mayor Romeo Araña, chairman of the municipal peace and order council (MPOC), told journalists.

The 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is being imposed with MPOC’s permission, according to Araña.

Lawmaker eyes bill regulating drones in PH

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 6): Lawmaker eyes bill regulating drones in PH

Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan PHOTO FROM CONGRESS.GOV.PH

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan said it might be high time to pass a bill monitoring and regulating the use of drones in the country because of the number of accidents involving these hi-tech devices.

Ilagan said drones have figured out in accidents that happened in Tawi-Tawi and even in Pikit, North Cotabato, but government agencies supposedly tasked to monitor these devices are still at a loss how to go about monitoring them.

“I had asked the DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communication) about the need to register it (drones) but they don’t know how to do it yet,” Ilagan said in an informal forum with Davao reporters over the weekend.

“In Tawi-Tawi, there had been an accident involving drones. I asked the DOTC who are licensing them? Whether manned or unmanned, they need to be monitored, but who? Who will assess whether drones are responsible for the accidents or not? Who will regulate the drones?” she said.

She said the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the Department of National Defense (DND) seemed to be at a loss as how to deal with it.

“Who are the owners of these drones, why are they not registered?” she asked.

Although a resolution has been filed in Congress to investigate the presence of drones and how are they used in the country, there might be a need to file a bill if these devices are being used by too many people, according to Ilagan.

“You can’t prevent a private individual from operating one, so, there’s a need to regulate, monitor and check what purpose they are used and who are using them, and to assess, in times of accidents,” Ilagan said. “These are high-tech devices used for various purposes. These can also bring about disasters, hence, someone should be held accountable for,” she added.

In Davao city, the regional director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) earlier announced the agency would use drones to monitor illegal logging activities in the far-flung areas of the region.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte earlier confided he refused the US’ proposal to make the city’s old airport as a launching pad for drones in Mindanao.

The question came up after Ilagan was asked to comment over Duterte’s possible change of mind over the entry of US’ forces in Davao following the two explosions here in September.

“It would be a very serious matter of concern if the mayor changes his stand because he’s the only mayor in the country who has been very consistent in barring the US forces entry in Davao,” Ilagan said.

MNLF-Sabah intrusion link probed

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 7): MNLF-Sabah intrusion link probed

An alleged ranking commander of the Moro National Liberation Front who was arrested in Sabah is being investigated for his links to Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, who sent 200 armed men to fight in the disputed territory last February.

The 43-year-old Filipino, reportedly a battalion commander of the MNLF, is serving his 18-month imprisonment meted out on Sept. 9, 2013, a Malaysian court for encroaching on Silabukan Forest Reserve in Merabung, Tungku, a Malaysian newspaper said.

He was not identified in the report.

Tungku is about 45 kilometers from Kampung Tanduo, where Kiram’s fighters, led by his brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram landed in February to revive the sultanate’s long-standing claim over Sabah, Daily Express said.

The intrusion trigerred clashes with the Malaysian security forces that led to the death of 68 Filipino insurgents and 10 Malaysian policemen and soldiers.

Assistant Commissioner Omar Mammah of the Sabah Crime Investigation Department said investigation has started focusing on the suspect’s involvement in the 4,000-member “Bangsa Moro Army” of the MNLF that was activated and sent to Sabah last month to join the Royal Security Forces of the Sulu Sultanate deployed early February.

The suspect was found living in a cluster of huts with four women in the forest reserve.

The huts were later destroyed.

“During the demolition, officials uncovered documents identifying the suspect as a Moro National Liberation Front soldier, as well as military paraphernalia including a beret and Commando badge,” Mammah said.

He said the police was trying to pin him down under the terrorist provision under Section 130KA of the Penal Code alongside the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.

In Taguig City, Kiram’s spokesman Abraham Idjirani said the sultanate had no information about the detained MNLF commander.

“Raja Muda (Agbimuddin Kiram) has not informed us anything about this MNLF commander,” he said.

At least 29 alleged followers of the Sulu Sultanate, including Kiram’s nephew Datu Amirbahar Hussein Kiram, are facing trial for their alleged participation in the Sabah standoff. Terrorism-related cases entail a death penalty under the Malaysian laws.

Eight other Filipinos were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on May 15, 2013 in the Sabah intrusion case.

Rains delay Zambo clearing ops

From Malaya (Oct 7): Rains delay Zambo clearing ops

THE clearing operations in areas of Zamboanga City formerly held by rebels from the Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front rebels have been hampered due to heavy rains.
Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca, Western Mindanao Police Regional Office spokesman, said the clearing operations have stopped since Friday.
The heavy rains were due to the inter-tropical convergence zone in the areas of Palawan, Visayas, and the whole of Mindanao.
Huesca said ground troops have cordoned off the area as remnants of Misuari’s forces might escape.
“Hindi kasi natin masasabi na wala nang MNLF sa former conflict areas. Nakabantay ang mga tropa sa outer area ng conflict zone,” he added.
Military forces continue to provide support to the PNP in clearing Zamboanga City of remaining MNLF stragglers, bodies, unexploded ordnance and weapons since Sept. 29. 
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan said  Task Force Zamboanga continues to play the support role in so far as the clearing operations is concerned. Higher authorities have given  PNP and AFP forces 10 to 14 days to complete the operations.
Five Army soldiers accused of looting the residence of Zamboanga City councilor Benjamin “BJ” Guingona during the clearing campaign have been brought to Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio.
“The investigation is now with the Army. They (Army officials) are conducting the investigation and they are going to proceed with the court martial if there is enough evidence against them (erring soldiers),” AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said. 
Bautista ordered the detention of the five soldiers last Sept. 20 at the headquarters of the AFP Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City shortly after their fellow soldiers reported their misbehavior.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said the five, including an officer, are detained at the Army Custodial Center. 
He said the Army Provost Marshal is conducting the formal investigation. “It (Army Provost Marshal) will recommend if the case will be elevated to court martial,” he said.
Cabangbang said the case that the five are facing before the Army is not prejudicial to the filing of criminal charges. “To us in the Army, the most we can give them is discharge (from the service),” he said.

Latest fighting in Sorsogon; Army, NPA exchange claims of body count

From the Bicol Today (Oct 3): Latest fighting in Sorsogon; Army, NPA exchange claims of body count

Bulusan, Sorsogon. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Bulusan, Sorsogon. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

SORSOGON CITY, Sorsogon Province – Another firefight was reported in Bulusan town, this province on Sunday, where New People’s Army (NPA) rebels suffered casualties, the Army said Monday, September 30.

However, the Army did not clarify actual body count of rebel casualties in the Bulusan fighting, but summed it up as “undetermined number.”

In a related development, the NPA also made claims that the Army had suffered 17 casualties, dead and wounded, during the Army’s weeks- long offensive that started September 15. The NPA claim could not be verified.

On the latest Bulusan encounter Sunday, September 29, the Army reported that NPA rebels were sighted in the hinterland areas, and a composite platoon of 31st Infantry Battalion, under 1st Lt. Abdul Hamid M. Salik and 1st Lt. Dominic De Guzman, figured in a series of gunfight with the rebel group at Sta Barbara and Sitio Kaprikuhan, San Isidro villages.

Col. Joselito Kakilala, Commander of 903rd Infantry Brigade exercising operational control over 31st Infantry Battalion, said on Tuesday the series of clashes with the rebels, which both lasted for about ten (10) minutes, were still part of the continuing tactical offensives of the soldiers aimed to track down the large band of heavily armed NPAs who had evaded government troops during the encounters on September 22, 2013 in the mountainous area of Juban, Sorsogon.

“In as much as we desire to put an end to our tactical offensives against the NPA rebels, their hostile reactions left us with no choice, but to continue to locate them in their suspected lairs. We will continue to hunt them wherever they go. We will constrict their area of operations in order to leave them with no room where they can conduct their atrocities”, Colonel Kakilala further stated.

According to Army intelligence reports, an undetermined number of communist rebels suffered considerable casualties during the encounters, while no casualty on the side of the government troops.

Meanwhile, the NPA command in this province claimed a total of seventeen (17) Army soldiers died and others injured over the week-long Army battalion-size offensive that started September 15 until September 22 on the upland villages of Juban, Bulan, and Magallanes towns.

The clandestine NPA group here called Celso Minguez Command (NPA-CMC) issued a communique on the internet, saying that their forces did not suffer casualties, but state security forces had suffered some 17 soldiers injured and killed.

The NPA said the casualty report came from rural folks who allegedly saw the injured being carried away by soldiers. The veracity of the NPA claim of casualties on the government side could not be verified, but the Army insisted its troops did not suffer any casualty.

NPA-CMC also said, in its statement Tuesday, September 24, the Army has imposed “media blackout” to hide its series of losses during several encounters with their units over a week period. But, NPA-CMC did not clarify if their forces suffered any casualty during the latest firefight in Bulusan last Sunday.

Previously, the NPA claim was strongly denied by Army Col. Kakilala over radio interview on Tuesday, September 24, and reiterated again during succeeding media interviews.

Colonel Kakilala strongly emphasized that government forces are firmly in control over the area, and that they did not suffer any casualties.

Last week, the Army had used two (2) helicopter gunships over upland villages of Juban on Sunday afternoon, September 22, when fighting against NPA rebels in the area was tough for Army ground troops to handle.

Despite the use of helicopter gunships, NPA-CMC scoffed off the week-long military campaign by claiming successes in thwarting the offensive.

Early reports said NPA-CMC had claimed killing 2 soldiers on Saturday, September 21, by command-detonated landmine while Army troops were maneuvering to attack the rebel position in Dolos village, Bulan town.

On that same day, another rebel team lobbed a hand grenade at an advancing Army platoon. In Magallanes town, 4 Army troopers died when a hand grenade exploded that was thrown by rebels during an operation in Lapinig village.

The day after, another firefight broke out in Calmayon village, the area where helicopter gunships strafed by machine gun fire suspected NPA positions and dropped bombs. The NPA later said there was no casualty on their side.

No shoot-to-kill order vs Misuari - Palace

From ABS-CBN (Oct 6): No shoot-to-kill order vs Misuari - Palace

Malacanang is not in favor of a shoot-to-kill order against Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari, who remains elusive days after the Zamboanga City siege ended.

We do not certainly abide by the shoot on sight or ‘yung shoot-to-kill order. So I will leave the rest [of the plans] to the [Philippine National Police] on the ground,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told radio dzRB.

She confirmed, however, that military troops are now guarding closely the exit routes that Misuari may use to escape the country.

“Kasama, siyempre, sa kanilang paghahanda at sa kanilang pagpaplano ‘yung pag-iisip ‘nung mga posibleng maging susunod na hakbang kaya ina-anticipate po din nila ‘yung ganitong mga bagay,” she said.

Asked if the government has already asked the help of Malaysia in case Misuari plans to go there, she said the matter has not been discussed as efforts have been concentrated on the local front.

The Palace last week announced an end to the siege although clearing operations continue. As a result, more soldiers and rebels have died.

Humanitarian operations also continue. Zamboanga City was also inundated due to non-stop rains last week.

VIDEO | Govt spent P500M to build Palawan naval base for US -- leftist fishermen's group

From InterAksyon (Oct 6): VIDEO | Govt spent P500M to build Palawan naval base for US -- leftist fishermen's group

US Marines during the joint Balikatan 2012 exercises in Palawan. FILE PHOTO

The government has spent P500 million of taxpayers’ money to build a naval base in Palawan for the use of visiting United States military forces in the country, the leftist fishermen’s group Pamalakaya said in a statement Sunday.

Vice chairperson Salvador France of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the Department of Public Works and Highways has released half a billion pesos to complete some major infrastructure, including a 12-kilometer access road from the Luzon mainland to develop Oyster Bay in Palawan which the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Philippine Navy seek to transform into a naval base capable of hosting large US military warships.

France is reacting to the statements of Commodore Joseph Rostum Peña, commander of Naval Forces West, who said that once completed, the Oyster Bay naval base in Palawan could accommodate “at least four large naval vessels.” The Philippine Navy officer said the development of Oyster Bay is part of the Philippine military’s modernization program, which would include the installation of high-powered radar systems in strategic areas from north to south of Palawan facing the highly disputed West Philippine Sea. The radar systems, he said, would allow the AFP to monitor developments in the contested region.

But the leftist fishermen’s leader said the construction of a “mini-Subic naval base in Oyster Bay violates the sovereign rights of the Filipino people.” He said the plan will make Palawan the launching pad of US pivot and Washington's war of aggression in East Asia and the Pacific.

“The plan would (also) have (a) disastrous impact on the livelihood of Filipino fisherfolk and marine environment,” he said.

“The 500 million pesos of hard-earned taxpayers' money had already been spent for this naval base tp be used by US troops in their unjust wars and terrorist activities,” he added.

Stop construction of naval base

France thus urged the Philippine Navy and the DPWH to stop the construction of mini-naval base, warning Commodore Pena that he could face criminal and other charges for violating the sovereign rights of Filipinos and the 1987 Constitution which prohibit the building of foreign bases inside the Philippine territory.

He also urged the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to stop releasing funds for the construction of the naval base.

Earlier, the group said it will officially ask the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and Senate Committee on National Defense to investigate the plan to transform Oyster Bay in Palawan into a naval base for visiting American forces.

Pamalakaya said the plan to convert Oyster Bay into a mini-Subic Naval Base was revived under the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in response to Washington's gesture to donate frigates in 2011 and 2012.

"We will contest this grand mockery of Philippine sovereignty in the parliament of the streets, in any appropriate court or forum, and in the court of public opinion. US President Barack Obama and the puppet president in Manila should be held accountable for this grandslam crime against national sovereignty and patrimony," France said.

The group said this construction is grossly unconstitutional and would put extreme danger to the lives and livelihood of the people and their environment.

France said a US military base in Palawan is not only to check China’s aggressive expansion into the West Philippine Sea but also to maintain the military hegemony of Washington in the region.

[Video: Short news report in Tagalog]

More vigilance from the Senate

Pamalakaya called on Philippine senators to be extra vigilant as the plan to build a mini-Subic Naval Base in Oyster Bay is in preparation for the signing of the framework agreement on “increased rotational presence” of American forces in the Philippines which would allow more American access to local military bases and even the construction of new US military facilities.

“The Philippine Senate, the ratifying authority of any military agreement in the country, is completely ignored here,” said Pamalakaya.

The group said the Senate should investigate the Oyster Bay project and summon officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of National Defense (DND), and compel them to report on the current status of the US naval base plan and the outcome of the talks between Malacanang and the US government.

Earlier, Foreign Affairs official Carlos Sorreta said the government sees no problem with the construction of US military facilities as long as it is pre-approved by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and that ownership is turned over to the Philippines after every joint military exercise.

Pamalakaya said this planned relocation of AFP air force and navy camps to the former American Naval Base in Subic, Zambales is also part of the grand design to “justify Washington's unlimited access to Philippine bases.”

This would reverse the decision of the Philippine Senate in September 1991 to kick out the US military bases in the country, Pamalakaya said.

The Philippines plans to grant visiting US forces, ships, and aircraft temporary access to more of its military camps to allow for a larger number of joint military exercises than are currently staged each year.