Monday, October 21, 2013

China Asked Korea Not to Sell Jets to Philippines

From the Choson Ilbo (Oct 22): China Asked Korea Not to Sell Jets to Philippines

China asked Korea not to sell FA-50 fighter jets to the Philippines, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Saturday. The daily said Beijing made the request ahead of a summit in Seoul between President Park Geun-hye and Philippines President Benigno Aquino on Oct. 17.

Korea declined, saying it cannot accept "interference" in arms exports, an issue of its national interest, according to the daily.

The government has officially denied the Yomiuri report, but officials privately admit it.

"Every time the Korean or Filipino media reported on the FA-50 sale, China reacted sensitively trying to confirm the reports through diplomatic channels," a government source said.

But the official added the sale will go ahead.

The Spratly Islands consist of around 30,000 tiny islands and reefs occupied by China, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

China has dispatched Navy ships to the South China Sea to bolster its presence there. The Philippines increased troop presence on the islands late last year and established a separate military command to handle their defense. Manila also recently decided to move some of its naval and air force bases near the South China Sea.

There is speculation that the Philippines is acquiring the FA-50 jets to defend the Spratly Islands.

The FA-50 is a light attack fighter jet based on the T-50 trainer jet. It can handle air-to-air and air-to-ground operations as well as taking on gunboats.

The Philippines is also in talks with Korea to spend US$650 million to purchase Korean-made frigates.

China is also engaged in territorial disputes in the South China Sea with Indonesia and Vietnam, which have either bought or are about to buy Korean weapons.

Indonesia signed deals in 2011 to buy 16 T-50 trainers for $400 million as well as three 1,200-ton submarines.

Vietnam held its first military talks with Korea last year to expand cooperation in the field.

In their meeting, Park thanked Aquino for Manila’s decision to buy the FA-50 jets and urged a speedy signing of the contract.

A government official here said, "The Philippines is engaged in a territorial dispute with China over the Spratly Islands, and that appears to be why Beijing protested several times through the Chinese Embassy and other channels."

3 soldiers hurt in latest BIFF attack

From the Philippine Star (Oct 21): 3 soldiers hurt in latest BIFF attack

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines – Three Army combatants were injured in a mortar attack by the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters past 8 a.m. Monday in  Maitumaig area in Datu Unsay town in the province.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the wounded soldiers, who all belong to the 45th Infantry Battalion, were guarding a strategic hill along a stretch of the Cotabato-Gen. Santos Highway in Barangay Maitumaig when two rounds of 60 MM mortar landed near them and exploded.

The mortar projectiles were launched by BIFF bandits from another hill overlooking the position of the soldiers.

Hermoso said the victims were rushed to the military hospital inside the Army’s Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in the first district of Maguindanao.

“All three of them are now in safe condition,” Hermoso said.

Hermoro said three teams of soldiers were dispatched to run after the bandits responsible for the bombing.

Hermoso declined to name the three injured soldiers pending notification of their respective families.

Ex-generals join pork call, earn rebuke

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 21): Ex-generals join pork call, earn rebuke

Malacanang said Sunday there was no need to fear the people’s initiative being pushed by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno to abolish all forms of pork barrel.

But presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte slammed the retired generals for asking President Benigno III to give up his own lump sums.

“There is no need to fear that [the people’s initiative]. We have no doubts over that because a citizen’s initiative is within the bounds of law and they are free to pursue that as they wish,” deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.

“In any democracy that is part of our Constitution, they are perfectly free to pursue any means or measures that they feel would push their advocacies forward.”

A people’s initiative would require the support of at least 10 percent of the total number of registered voters across the country and at least 3 percent of the registered voters in each congressional district.

The Palace initially pointed to the Arroyo administration as the one responsible for  perpetuating the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund.

But amid the reports that the abuses continued under his administration, President Benigno Aquino III eventually admitted that the PDAF, as well as the realigned savings through the Disbursement Acceleration Program, were also misused.

Valte was less genial toward the call of retired military generals for Aquino to give up his own discretionary funds.

“There is no presidential pork barrel,” Valte said.

“It’s a label that some groups out there would like to push upon the citizenry to turn citizens against the President and to divert attention away from the real issues at hand.”

When pressed if she was accusing the retired military generals of being part of the unseen hands trying to bring down Aquino, Valte quickly caught herself.

“No, not them specifically,” Valte said, referring to the Association of Generals and Flag Officers.

“Perhaps the information on the matter [that the President does not have pork barrel] may not have been fully available to them at the time their statement was made.”

Retired Brig. Gen. Rosalino Alquiza, a former AGFO president, had said the Malampaya Fund, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. fund and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office fund should go to the National Treasury.

MalacaƱang has remained firm on keeping Aquino’s lump sum allocations: the Special Purpose Funds that stood at P957 billion this year and the P5.25 billion President’s Social Fund as of December last year.

“The Special Purpose Fund, by its very name, is self-explanatory,” Valte said in an earlier interview.

“These are funds [that]…by their nature, could not be itemized. If we itemize these, and then there is an unforeseen event, expenses cannot be programmed under the SPF and we can actually be liable for [misuse] if we do it that way.”

Valte said calling the SPF completely discretionary was “a little bit too general” because the allocations were identified.

But compared to this year’s P24.79 billion PDAF, the congressional pork barrel is only 2.6 percent of the President’s SPF.

The items under the SPF include the P1-billion contingency fund, the P98.72-billion Pension and Gratuity Fund, the P333.9-billion debt service fund, and the P319.84-allocation for government units.

Social Watch Philippines lead convenor and former National Treasurer Leonor Briones has called on the government to abolish the SPF, which she has described as the “queen bee” of pork barrel.

PNoy: MILF peace talks on track

From GMA News (Oct 21): PNoy: MILF peace talks on track

Despite an apparent snag in the signing of annexes, President Benigno Aquino III said Monday that the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are still on track.

"I was assured na we are still on track and I didn’t get any information to the contrary," Aquino told reporters during an interview at the Solaire Resort and Casino in ParaƱaque.

He made the assurance even as the two panels failed to sign the power-sharing annex despite extending talks for a day and negotiating for 18 hours on its last round of talks. The 41st round of exploratory talks concluded in time for Eid'Ul'Adha, Islam's feast of the holy sacrifice, last October 15.

Aquino, however, said there has been significant progress in the negotiations.

"Tuluy-tuloy iyong ating mga dialogues with the MILF on the parang pagkakaintindi ko, maganda naman ang developments on the talks on the last two remaining annexes," he said.

The last two unsigned annexes in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro are the ones on power-sharing and normalization.

Once signed, the annexes will complete the comprehensive peace agreement with the MILF.  The two annexes that have been signed are those on wealth-sharing (signed July 2013) and transitional arrangements and modalities (signed February 2013).

Government panel chairperson Miriam Colonel-Ferrer said talks will resume "in due time."

Aside from the negotiations with the MILF, Aquino reiterated that the government continues to talk with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) despite the charges filed against its founding chairman Nur Misuari.

"Kinakausap natin syempre iyong all the other factions and even some of the people who are supposed to be identified with Misuari and some of them have already publicly stated that they were not in favor of what happened in Zamboanga," he said.

"We are still talking to the MNLF who are not…part of the Zamboanga City incident and still interested in the fulfillment of the 1996 peace accord," he added.

Army says: Bayanihan drive gains momentum

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 21): Army says: Bayanihan drive gains momentum

Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3rd Infantry Division commander, claimed yesterday that the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan continues to gain momentum in Negros and Panay, as more rebels have opted to return to the mainstream society.

Baladad cited the recent surrender of nine members of the New People’s Army Yunit Militia in Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, and four others in Capiz.

The nine Negros rebels also surrendered 17 firearms, that included an M72 anti-weapon, 12 rifle grenades and 60mm mortar ammunition.

Baladad said former rebels who surrender guns will receive cash from the AFP’s Guns for Peace Program, based on the remuneration package of the firearms, which they can use as seed money to start a new life.

He added that they continue their call to other NPA rebels to come down and trade their guns in the name of peace, abandon the armed violence and join the mainstream society and they will be assisted to start a new life and give their families and children a better future.

The 11th Infantry Battalion is now processing the documents for the nine former rebels to avail of financial assistance from the AFP, its Civil Military Operations officer, 1Lt. Von Ryan Gomez, said.

Meanwhile, the four former rebels in Capiz, identified as Celso and Joey Francisco, Jimmy Jacinto and Rodelio Delia, received livelihood assistance of P50,000 from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Major Ray Tiongson, 3ID spokesman, said.

The AFP’s Guns for Peace Program was launched in April to give cash to the rebels who surrendered their firearms in the name of peace.

Tiongson said former rebels who surrender firearms will receive as much as 200,000 for light machine guns, P50,000 for a M-16 rifle, P60,000 for an M-14 rifle and P40,000 for M-203 grenade launchers.

Aside from the AFP Guns for Peace program, Tiongson said former rebels may also avail of benefits from other government programs and immediate cash assistance from the local government unit.

Nine high-powered firearms were recovered by the 62nd Infantry Battalion last month in a series of encounters with suspected NPA members at the boundary of Sagay City and Toboso, that also led to the death of a rebel leader and the capture of three others, military records show.

MILF: BDA staff undergo management training in Malaysia

From the MILF Website (Oct 21): BDA staff undergo management training in Malaysia

Seven staff of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) attend a weeklong training entitled “Managing Challenges to Nation Building: Sharing the Malaysian Experience” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on October 20-27, 2013.
Comprising the BDA team are Julhaina E. Cadon, Coordinator of the BDA-International Labor Organization (ILO) Local Economic Development through Enhanced Governance and Grassroots Empowerment (PLEDGE), Norhaini Manongkarang, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer from CMO, Nor-ayn Makakena, Faidz L. Edzla, and Imran M. Malomalo.

Two BDA Regional Managers namely Hashim B. Manticayan from Central Mindanao and Mohalikin D. Piang from Southern Mindanao were part of the delegation.

The activity manifests the commitment of Malaysia to help in the peace and development of Mindanao through the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Program.

Malaysia, which has the crucial role in facilitating the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, looks forward that the training will further equip the participants in their quest to help develop the Moro communities in Southern Philippines.

Piang said they will share the knowledge they will acquire from the training to fellow BDA staff in line with the agency’s mission to lead in the rehabilitation and development of conflict affected areas in Mindanao.

BDA envisages an enlightened, progressive self-sustaining, and healthy Bangsamoro Community living in harmony, dignity, justice, security and peace.

The agency was created in 2001 as agreed upon by the GPH-MILF Peace Panels to establish a body that will help in the rehabilitation and development of conflict affected areas in Southern Philippines.

BDA is supported by foreign development institutions such as the World Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency, European Union, and various agencies under the United Nations.

Among the important role of the BDA is to craft a comprehensive development plan for the Bangsamoro people in preparation to the much awaited new Bangsamoro Political Entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 2016.

Crimes, revolutionaries still shaking up peace, order

From the Sun Star-Davao (Oct 20): Crimes, revolutionaries still shaking up peace, order

MINDANAO is faced with two faces of law and order risks: criminalities and revolutionaries, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said.

Unlike in other places where they only worry about criminality, Duterte said the situation in Mindanao is "different" since it is "faced with so many fronts," referring to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and New People’s Army (NPA).

"The ideology-driven, NPA-Communist Party of the Philippines. The dream of the MILF, MNLF for a homeland and for what they believe and the injustice committed to Moro people over centuries," Duterte said.

He said the insurgency in the Philippines is about to enter its 45th year, in which the "yearnings and the aspirations are reflected in the organizations."

"We have to contend with the NPA and the harsh taxation of the NPA in the countryside. It's a reality that has to be talked about openly," he said, adding that "NPA is most active now in Region 11 and there's a lot of taxation going on."

He said there is a profound effect of taxation on the businesses in Mindanao.

"We must admit that there is historical injustice committed on the original inhabitants in Mindanao," he said.

Aside from these, he said the government, military, and police in Mindanao are faced with criminality.

Between the two, criminality is easier to resolve even as it affects everyone.

"Pero yung revolutionary, itatabi ko muna yan. I give it to the (national) government," he said.

NPA ambushes claim lives of 8 troops, injure 5 others in North Cotabato

From InterAksyon (Oct 21): NPA ambushes claim lives of 8 troops, injure 5 others in North Cotabato

At least eight government soldiers and militiamen were killed and five others were wounded Monday morning in twin ambushes by the New People’s Army in North Cotabato province.

Two other soldiers were wounded in an unrelated bomb blast in Maguindanao province.

In the first incident, soldiers of the Army’s 38th Infantry Battalion and militiamen were in a vehicle to deliver the allowances of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit stationed in Barangay Bituan in Tulunan town when rebels believed to belong to the NPA’s Guerrilla Fronts 72 and 74 set off an improvised explosive device on the boundary of the village and Barangay Caridad around 9:20 a.m.

The ambush accounted for seven of the fatalities and left Captain Ernesto Aguilar wounded.

At 11:57 a.m., another IED was set off against a truck ferrying soldiers of the 57th Infantry Battalion to Barangay New Cariad, also in Tulunan, killing one and wounding Lieutenant Bruno Hugo and four of his men.

Although North Cotabato is under the jurisdiction of the 6th Infantry Division, the areas where the ambushes happened are part of the operational area of the 10th ID.

Meanwhile, in Maguindanao, two IEDs exploded near a police detachment along the national highway in Datu Unsay town past 9 a.m., wounding two troops of the 45th Infantry Battalion.

The incident prompted the 6th ID to go on red alert.

Of PH's four Sabah claim options, 'most realistic' is to seek rent hike from Malaysia

From InterAksyon (Oct 21): Of PH's four Sabah claim options, 'most realistic' is to seek rent hike from Malaysia

The Philippines is considering four options to peacefully settle its territorial dispute with Malaysia regarding its Sabah claim, President Benigno Aquino III said in an interview aired over state-run Radyo ng Bayan on Monday.

Of these four options, the "most realistic" is to seek an increase in the rent paid by the Malaysian government to the Sulu Sultanate, Aquino said.

He also gave an assurance that the inter-agency study on the Sabah claim will not end with the death of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who passed away on Sunday.

Aquino said the "most realistic" option is to seek an increase in the rent paid by the Malaysian government to the Sulu sultanate.

Earlier, Aquino formed a team composed of the Department of Justice, Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office to study the status of the country's Sabah claim.

The inter-agency team has also already started compiling the available data on the Philippine claim.

QC court issues arrest warrant on Army major in Jonas Burgos abduction

From InterAksyon (Oct 21): QC court issues arrest warrant on Army major in Jonas Burgos abduction

A combo picture shows the still-missing farmer-activist Jonas Burgos and Major Harry Baliaga Jr., whose arrest has just been ordered by a QC court. INTERAKSYON.COM FILE

A Quezon City court has ordered the arrest of an Army major implicated in the abduction of the still-missing farmer-activist Jonas Joseph Burgos after finding probable cause in the charge of arbitrary detention filed against him.

"After personally evaluating the evidence in support of the above-entitled case, consisting of the affidavits of witnesses, the Information, the Resolution of the prosecutor and all other evidences attached to the record, this Court finds that probable cause exists against the accused MAJOR HARRY BALIAGA JR. and that there is a necessity of placing him under immediate custody in order not to frustrate the ends of justice," said Judge Alfredo Ruiz II of QC Regional Trial Court Branch 216, in an order, a copy of which was obtained by

Baliaga was identified by witnesses among those who dragged Burgos, then 37 years old, from a restaurant at Ever Gotesco on Commonwealth Avenue as he lunched alone on April 28, 2007.

Jonas's mother Edita had earlier pleaded with Baliaga Jr., in an open letter, to come clean and reveal all that he knows about her son's disappearance and name the masterminds of the deed, which has been internationally assailed in human rights circles.

Jonas is the third child of Edita and the late world press freedom icon Jose G. Burgos Jr., who trailblazed in the so-called "Mosquito Press" or alternative media that covered critically the Marcos dictatorship. The elder Burgos was jailed by President Marcos' military in December 1982 after a raid on his newspapers offices, which the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional two years later.

Military truck runs over landmine in North Cotabato, killing 5 soldiers, 3 militia members

From InterAksyon (Oct 21): Military truck runs over landmine in North Cotabato, killing 5 soldiers, 3 militia members

Five soldiers and three militia members were killed after the truck they were on ran over a landmine set by the communist New People's Army rebels along the boundary of sitio Mangi, Brgy. Caridad and Brgy Bituan both of Tulunan, North Cotabato on Monday morning.

The troops were on the way to deliver salaries of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) personnel in Tulunan, the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command said in a statement.

Names of the dead have been withheld pending notification of the families and pursuit operations are now being conducted, the statement said.

For his part, Eastern Mindanao Commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III expressed his sympathy to the bereaved families as he directed all military units to continue with their focus of defeating the NPA through Bayanihan operations.

8 killed in rebel attack in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Oct 21): 8 killed in rebel attack in Southern Philippines
Communist rebels on Monday ambushed a military truck in the southern Philippines and killing at least 8 soldiers and militias, a military spokesman said.

Army Captain Alberto Caber, of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said New People Army rebels detonated a landmine as the truck was passing the village of Caridad in North Cotabato’s Tulunan town.

“The troops were transporting salaries of government militias when the attack occurred. We condemned this attack and the continued use of landmines by NPA rebels which is illegal and banned around the world,” Caber told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

He said Lieutenant General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, the regional military chief, has ordered troops to pursue the attackers.

The NPA did not give any statement about the latest attack, but it previously warned the government of fresh offensives in the southern region.

The rebels are fighting for a separate communist state in the country.

Military officers interact with 6th graders

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 21): Military officers interact with 6th graders

In a bid to restore nationalism and discipline in today's crop of students, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) together with the Heroes Foundations, Inc. (HFI) visited sixth graders in Assumption College, Makati City and shared their experiences as soldiers and defenders of the country.

Participating in this event was AFP deputy chief of staff for operations Brig.Gen. Lysander A. Suerte and public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.

Discussion with the students centered on the duties and responsibilities of soldiers, as well as the dangers that face them in the field.

Also raised during the open forum was “how they felt when they first held a gun” and “gays in the military.”

Around 180 students were present in the activity.

Three other officers from the Joint Special Operations Group that participated in Zamboanga City crisis were also present in the discussion.

Zagala said the discussion with military officers was part of the students' peace, educational advocacy, and community extension project.

Michelle S. Chan, HFI director for marketing and resource mobilization, also shared how their group help soldiers' orphans get their education.

Navy distributes 7,000 liters of water to quake-battered areas in Bohol

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 21): Navy distributes 7,000 liters of water to quake-battered areas in Bohol

The Philippine Navy's (PN) water sanitation teams have distributed 7,000 liters of potable water to residents of quake-battered Barangays Jantig, Dipatlong, Bayacabac, Maribojoc town, Bohol Monday.

Aside from providing clean water, Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said medical and psychological teams were also deployed in the above-mentioned areas for the conduct of hospital care support to residents injured in the Oct. 15 7.2 magnitude earthquake.

He added that the PN has already delivered 120 tons of relief goods to Tubigon, Bohol as of this posting.

Six Navy ships were utilized for this effort.

Military transports 285,000 pounds of relief goods to Bohol

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 21): Military transports 285,000 pounds of relief goods to Bohol

As part of its disaster relief efforts, the Armed Forces Monday announced it transported 285,000 pounds of relief goods to Tagbilaran, Bohol Sunday.

This is broken down 48,000 pounds of relief goods airlifted by the two C-130s and 237,000 pounds by the three Navy logistic ships.

The relief items were donated by the Philippine Red Cross, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, Royal Malaysian Armed Forces, and ABS-CBN Foundation.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said the Philippine Air Force's W-3A "Sokol" combat utility helicopters are on stand-by for further distribution of relief items.

Meanwhile, the military's humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR) operation continues to support the Philippine National Police, DSWD, and the Bohol provincial government.

Zagala said AFP Central Command based in Camp Lapu-Lapu, Cebu is still on Red Alert status for HADR operations, and supervising/monitoring of HADR operations in Bohol.

He added Special Forces Battalion has completed the hauling of 1,000 packs of relief goods in Danao, Bohol in coordination with DSWD Sunday.

Moreover, the 2nd Special Forces Battalion, Philippine Army and the 53rd Engineering Brigade continue to assist in the distribution of relief goods in the municipality of Sagbayan and Tubigon respectively, in coordination with the PNP and Bohol provincial government.

8 gov't troops killed in twin encounters with NPAs in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 21): 8 gov't troops killed in twin encounters with NPAs in North Cotabato

Eight government troops, including three militiamen, were killed and five others wounded following two encounters with the New People's Army (NPA) in Tulunan, North Cotabato Monday morning.

All of the government casualties resulted from landmines detonated by the rebel group, military officials in Manila said.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, said the first attack occurred at the boundary of Barangays Caridad and Bituan at around 9:20 a.m. when troops of the 38th Infantry Battalion, delivering subsistence allowance to auxiliary forces, were land mined/

Around 11:25 a.m. troops under the 57th Infantry Battalion were also land mined while on their way to Barangay New Caridad. also in Tulunan.

Four were wounded and one was killed in the incident.

"The NPAs, indifferent to the dangers posed on civilians by their persistent use of unstable improvised explosive devices that they use as precursor to an ambush, continue to violate the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law," Zagala said.

Suspected extortionist arrested in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 21): Suspected extortionist arrested in North Cotabato 

Alert policemen on Sunday arrested during a dragnet operation here a suspected notorious extortionist preying on businessmen in the province.

Superintendent Renante Delos Santos, Midsayap municipal police chief, said suspect Glen Ferolin voluntarily yielded when he was collared by policemen who acted as couriers of the P70,000 he tried to mulct from grains trader Fred Rapacon.

Earlier, Rapacon reported to the police about Ferolin's demand of "protection money" in exchange for the safety of his grains buy and sell business in nearby Pikit, town also in North Cotabato.

This prompted Supt. delos Santos to hatch an entrapment plan to determine whether the suspect meant business and was really mulcting money from the trader.

Two policemen posted near the place agreed upon by Rapacon and Ferolin. On Sunday, Rapacon came a see Ferolin in an undisclosed place in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Police said Ferolin apparently knew Rapacon but the trader could not recall knowing the suspect.

As Rapacon handed over the envelop containing the P70,000 marked money to Ferolin, the police closed in and handcuff the suspect.

Surprised, Ferolin denied he was asking protection money and told police the trader voluntarily offered to help him.

The Midsayap PNP is still interrogating the suspect to determine whether he had victimized other traders in Midsayap or nearby towns or he has links with al-Khobar, an extortion gang preying on traders and bus companies operating in North Cotabato.

North Cotabato town exec saddened by ambush of govt troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 21): North Cotabato town exec saddened by ambush of govt troops

Makilala, North Cotabato --Mayor Rudy Caoagdan of this town Monday expressed sadness over the atrocities committed by New Peoples Army here.

The attacks by NPA in Makilala and in the town of Tulunan, both in North Cotabato, left nine government forces killed and six others wounded.

"This is too much to bear for our efforts to make Makilala a peaceful place to live when lawless elements are committing atrocities," he said, in reaction to the twin incident.

Makilala, home of various multi-national firms engaged in rubber and banana business, was among the areas of operation of the NPAs Front 73 and Front 74.

Before Monday's atrocities, the NPAs torched a rubber processing plant in Makilala, damaging about P20 million equipment and rendering about 700 workers jobless.

The NPAs also prey on bus firms plying the Davao-Cotabato highway for its failure to provide protection money.

Beside, the NPAs also torched several heavy equipment of several banana firms in the province.

Palawan rebel returnees fulfill dream of freedom in Kalayaan

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 21): Palawan rebel returnees fulfill dream of freedom in Kalayaan

Their only wish was to have their honeymoon in the disputed Kalayaan Islands Group (KIG), the southern Palawan town in the West Philippine Sea that literally means "freedom" in English.

And rebel returnees identified only as Ka Elmer and Ka Kayla will get their wish, after they exchanged vows Sunday at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Puerto Princesa City, their honeymoon is set on the island town heavily contested by six countries.

"Mas maisasakatuparan namin ang pangarap namin na maranasan ang normal na buhay sa kalayaan, at sana nga sa Kalayaan kami makapag-umpisa muli (We will be able to fulfill our hope and dream to experience normal life in freedom, and we pray that we can start anew in Kalayaan)," Ka Elmer said.

Ka Elmer met Ka Kayla at the training camp of the rebel group New People's Army (NPA) three years ago. Sharing a common belief instilled by their recruiters, both were active in the underground movement, having actively participated in insurgent activities.

But their life had a complete turnaround when the couple had their first born.

"Bigla kaming nagkaroon ng realization, ano ang magiging kinabukasan ng anak namin kung ganito kami sabi namin. Lagi kasi kaming nagtatago. Walang kasiguruhan ang buhay. Kaya nang magkaroon ako ng pagkakataon na makipag-usap sa mga sundalo sa area namin sa Roxas, lumapit kami at di naman kami binigo (We had a sudden realization, what will be the future of our child if we are like this, we told ourselves. We always hide. Our life had no definite track. When we had the opportunity to talk to the soldiers in our area in Roxas, we went to them and they did not fail us)," Ka Elmer told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

62nd Civil Relations Unit Team leader, Army Technical Sergeant Rodrigo A. Sevilla, who was assigned in the area for IPSP activities, accepted the couple and immediately facilitated their surrender along with two others.

"Gusto namin normal lumaki ang anak namin, makapag-aral, maging ehemplong tao sa lipunan, at kami, maging mga simpleng mamamayan (We want our child to grow up in a normal environment, to study, to become a good example in the society, and all of us, to become simple individuals in the community)," Ka Kayla said, on the other hand.

After their wedding, whose primary sponsor is Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Rustico O. Guerrero, the couple will be heading to Kalayaan town in southern Palawan to lead a peaceful and progressive life next week.

Guerrero expressed optimism that Ka Elmer and Ka Kayla can start anew in Kalayaan, a municipality under the Philippine claim.

“The fact that they went back to government folds means there is nothing in the NPA that is attractive for them to stay to have a normal family. In Kalayaan, they can build new hopes and dreams for their families,” he said.

Military information officers participate in Palawan Press Club's journalism workshop

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 21): Military information officers participate in Palawan Press Club's journalism workshop

"Pen is mightier than the sword," so goes an old cliche.

To enhance their skills in writing, military public affairs officers participated in a one-day comprehensive journalism enhancement seminar organized by the Alyansa ng Palawenyong Mamamahayag Inc. (APAMAI) and Focolare Movement at the Victoriano J. Rodriguez Hall, Capitol Complex, Puerto Princesa City.

Apamai is the media organization Palawan Press Club while Focolare is an international organization that promotes the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood.

The seminar-workshop covered advanced story writing and caption-writing skills discussed by Jose Aranas, editor in chief of New City Magazine.

Aranas shared best practices in media coverage and taught new, more efficient ways to write responsible journalism.

"We are glad military PAOs were also in this event that was designed for media practitioners. They were very attentive, very eager, and very professional," Aranas said, referring to the soldiers attending the workshop.

"I was incredibly impressed with them. I learned that they were exposed to similar training through their various programs, but the interaction between the soldiers and the local media is always nice to have."

Apamai president Ed Javarez, concurrent program director of RGMA Super Radyo Palawan, said the seminar was concluded with mutual respect and a bond that exists in the people connected to the multi-media.

Topics included interviewing, news writing, photojournalism, public relations, and multimedia. It aimed to teach creative and efficient ways to communicate through press releases, newspapers, magazines, and broadcasts, Javarez said.

NPAs ambush soldiers in North Cotabato, Army launches manhunt

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 21): NPAs ambush soldiers in North Cotabato, Army launches manhunt

MAKILALA, North Cotabato –- The military here has launched pursuit operations against a band of communist New Peoples Army (NPA) who ambushed Monday morning a convoy of military vehicles in nearby Tulunan, North Cotabato.

Lt. Nasrullah Sema, speaking for the 57th Infantry Battalion, said about 50 heavily armed NPAs planted and set off a land mine along a dirt road in Barangay Batuan at about 9:00 a.m. as the Army convoy was passing by.

He said the soldiers were carrying funds for the honorarium and allowances of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit when the ambush occurred.

"First, a land mind exploded then the NPAs fired at our troops," Sema said, adding that the Army suffered wounded and killed in action.

He refused to name the wounded and slain soldiers as the Army is yet to inform their nearest next of kin.

Witnesses said at least seven soldiers were killed, including an Army captain but Sema said he is still verifying the report.

The ambush site was in Barangay Batuan, Tulunan, North Cotabato, near the boundary of North Cotabato and Davao del Sur where the NPAs have strong presence.

Sema said an Army truck from 57th IB, one from the 602nd army brigade and another military truck from the 38th Infantry Battalion, were heading toward Barangay Bituan at 9 a.m. when a land mine went off along a dirt road.

“We are still pursuing the ambushers,” Sema told reporters, adding that what he had was sketchy report about the incident.

He said the ambush took place when the soldiers went to the area not to conduct military offensive against the NPAs but to pay the paramilitary troops.

Civilians in the area said the armed men took a huge bag believed to be the money for CAFGUs allowances and several firearms.