Thursday, October 24, 2013

AFP probers say US, not China, put concrete blocks in Bajo de Masinloc

From InterAksyon (Oct 25): AFP probers say US, not China, put concrete blocks in Bajo de Masinloc

Photo taken on Sept. 2, 2013 shows two vertical posts at about north off the entrance of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. (Photo from Department of National Defense)

The concrete blocks in Bajo de Masinloc, which Philippine defense and military officials last month accused China of putting there, may have actually been placed by the United States Navy decades ago, military sources said.

A military investigation found that the concrete slabs were covered by algae, an indication that they had been in the area for many years. The probe also found that the blocks had been used by the US Navy as “sinkers” to preserve the wreckage of old ships they used for target practice.

The information contradicts Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s statement at the congressional budget hearing in September in which he accused China of laying the foundation for structures similar to what it did in Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in 1995.

Gazmin released photos of some 75 concrete blocks scattered within Bajo de Masinloc, including a photo of two vertical posts at the shoal’s entrance. Philippine Navy Chief Jose Luis Alano had said they would remove the concrete blocks while Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario said the government would file a diplomatic protest with China. The blocks were never removed; the protest was never filed.

Bajo de Masinloc, known internationally as Scarborough Shoal, is 124 nautical miles off Zambales, which was home to the Subic Naval Base for more than 80 years. Subic was a major ship repair, supply, and rest and recreation facility of the United States Navy until 1991 when the Philippine Senate junked the RP-US Military Bases Agreement.

China claims the shoal, 467 nautical miles away from the mainland, as part of its territory with the name Huangyan Island.

Bajo de Masinloc is referred to as Panatag (calm in Tagalog) by Filipino fishermen who seek refuge in the area during stormy weather.

Sources said the US Navy used Bajo de Masinloc as an impact or bombing range.

The concrete slabs were needed as “sinkers” to keep the balance of the old decrepit ships which were placed in the shoal for the US Navy’s shooting and bombing runs.

Over the years, however, the derelicts became the subject of “salvage operations by local salvors also known as kumbatseros.”

VERA Files sought a statement from the US Embassy but was referred to Gazmin’s office “for any clarification of his remarks.”  VERA Files also asked for a statement from Gazmin's office but did not get any response.

Military sources also said they interviewed a number of fishermen who had seen the concrete blocks way back in the late 1980s and even used them as step boards during high tide.

President Benigno Aquino III, speaking at the annual presidential forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, shared the information that the concrete blocks “are very, very old concrete blocks. Some of them have barnacles attached to them. They are not a new phenomenon.”

Following Gazmin’s statement before Congress, China accused the Philippines of fabricating the photos, and released its own photos of Bajo de Masinloc without the concrete blocks.

The two vertical posts north of the shoal’s entrance turned out to be part of structures placed by the Philippine Navy in 1989, as part of the aborted plan to build a lighthouse there.

Aquino said he does not see any immediate need to remove the concrete blocks, which do not “present immediate danger to any of our vessels or even those that would transit in the area around Scarborough shoal.”

Despite the almost permanent presence of three Chinese ships in Bajo de Masinloc since April 2012, Aquino insists the Philippines has not lost the 120-square-kilometer strategically vital shoal because “we can still go there and we do have overflight missions,” adding that Filipino fishermen “are still in that area.”

The three-month standoff between the Philippines and China in Bajo de Masinloc last year triggered the filing by the Philippines of a suit before the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal. The Philippine government has questioned the legality of China’s 9-dash line that encompasses almost the whole of the South China Sea and encroaches on the exclusive economic zone of several countries in the Southeast Asia.

China has refused to participate in the UN suit.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

AFP accuses MILF in Basilan of harboring terrorists

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 25): AFP accuses MILF in Basilan of harboring terrorists

The military wants the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to submit a list of all its members in Basilan province as it accused a ranking MILF leader in the area of harboring the group Abu Sayyaf terrorist Furuji Indama.

Col. Carlito Galvez, Army 104th Brigade commander, in a recommendation he submitted to the government’s Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), said that lawless elements, including fugitives, in Basilan are affiliating themselves with the MILF to evade arrest.

“Submission of complete listing of MILF members in Basilan since many lawless groups are now falsely affiliated with the MILF — purposely to evade their outstanding warrants and cover their ongoing lawless activities,” Galvez stated in his recommendations.

Galvez’s recommendations were listed in a five-page formal complaint he filed against the MILF, particularly the group of Malista Malanka, for harboring the group of Indama and Sulayman Adjanti, alias Ulay.

The complaint against the MILF stemmed from the Oct. 7 operation by the 104th Brigade in Sitio Bato Sembung, Barangay Mebak in Sumisip town against Adjanti’s group which led to a pursuit operation in nearby Ungkaya Pukan town, a known area of operation of Malanka.

The military accused Malanka of ignoring calls for his group, composed of more or less 50 armed elements, to give way to government security forces tracking down Adjanti’s group. This, despite communication with the MILF-AHJAG in Basilan, through Hadjie Ganie and commander Edris.

Malanka’s refusal to leave the area led to an intense gun battle with government security forces, lasting for more than four hours and led to the killing of two soldiers, one of them was Capt. Harold Camaso.

The military said that Malanka was with Indama’s group during the firefight as indicated by the killing of Mudas Indama, his trusted aide.

Galvez recommended to the AHJAG “immediate sanction and MILF delisting of Malista Malanka’s group.”

“Strong sanctions from the MILF Central Command to MILF commanders who are providing safe havens and colluding with the ASG-lawless elements,” Galvez stated.

Maj. Gen. Leo Cresente Ferrer, chairman of the government AHJAG, said that Galvez’s complaint has already been forwarded to the peace panel for proper disposition.

“We stand by the report of our field commander,” Ferrer said.

Police beefs up security in S. Kudarat hotspot

From Mindanews (Oct 24): Police beefs up security in S. Kudarat hotspot

The Police Regional Office (PRO) 12 has deployed additional police personnel in various villages of Palimbang town in Sultan Kudarat province due to the possible occurrence of security problems in connection with the Oct. 28 barangay elections.

Chief Supt. Charles Calima Jr., Region 12 police director, said such move is part of the security plan that they laid out for the coastal municipality following its declaration as an area of concern for the upcoming polls.

He said the security situation in Palimbang, which has 40 barangays, is considered volatile due to the presence of armed groups in the area.

In the last three years, a number of armed clashes occurred in several villages of Palimbang due to a long-drawn land conflict.

Military officials had confirmed the presence in the area of a unit of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters under a certain Udtog and Mod, who were tagged as the brains behind several attacks this year in civilian communities in Barangay Ned of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

Aside from Palimbang, the regional police has not identified any other areas of concern and election watch list areas or hotspot in the region.

On Wednesday, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), PRO 12 and local units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines laid down the region’s security plan for the barangay elections in a briefing here.

The meeting was joined by Philippine National Police (PNP) Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas Jr., who was tasked by PNP Director General Alan Purisima to review the security preparations in the region for the polls.

“We looked at how the deployment of police personnel and those from other units will be made to make sure that the elections on Monday will be peaceful,” Rojas told reporters.

As part of the area’s poll security plan, Calima said all police units in the area were mandated to maintain their visibility and strengthen the established security checkpoints.

He said they will continue to enforce the election firearms ban that already led to the arrest of 23 violators in the region.

Calima said they will establish police security assistance desks in all polling centers and provide security to Comelec personnel and teachers who will be serving as board of election tellers.

Lawyer Michael Abas, Comelec Region 12 director, said they are satisfied so far with the security preparations for Monday’s barangay elections.

“We’re really watching the situation on the ground because the dynamics of the campaigning are very personal,” he said.

Citing their observation, Abas said the barangay election is a “family affair” by nature.
“Meaning, those vying for positions could come from the same family and circle of friends,” the official added.

MILF: Editorial -- Cleansing Process

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Oct 24): Cleansing Process

No one in his or her correct mind would like the killing, destruction, and other horrible things to happen. Not even those who undertake a real and legitimate people liberation movement would even desire these happenings. But this brand of struggle has its own ways and patterns that any other human undertakings don’t have.
There are necessary things that a real revolutionary has to undertake that are capped together in the nature of the armed struggle, which resorts to all forms of legitimate means of resistance, including the use of force if necessary; in fact, the core of it.

The MILF, for one, has engaged in this armed struggle, nay, jihad, since 1972. The talking of peace with the government, notwithstanding, is still within the ambit of this basic principle and concept. But the MILF’s guidepost is clearly stated in the Quran, to wit: “But if the enemy inclines towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things).” This is the reason why the MILF pursues the negotiation track since 1997.

However, the MILF’s perspective of this struggle differs markedly with others especially those of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist orientations. The communists believe that the struggle between capitalism and communism, which are both economic systems, will not end until the former collapses. On the other hand, the MILF’s views the contradiction between the Philippine state and the Bangsamoro as temporary; it can be settled when the latter are given the right to freely determine and run their lives not necessarily in an independent state. Even in a “meaningful autonomy”, the late MILF Chair, Salamat Hashim, clearly expressed, the Bangsamoro right to self-determination can be addressed.

In the course of this struggle, however, the MILF knows that so much cleansing of dirt within oneself, the society, and the people at large will take place. While it is detestable, but that fighting between Muslim versus Muslim, MILF forces versus MILF forces, MILF versus MNLF, is part of the overall cleansing process, which can be prevented in many ways but is inevitable in some other times. The MILF had tried and will continue to prevent these evil things to happen, but until such time everyone is cleansed of this dirt, these horrible evils will keep coming in again and again. Often people, especially the hard-headed and the so-called radicals, will get educated of the correct path --- and make amend --- after they tasted the bitter pills of fighting one another.

But the good thing to hear is that this infighting is taking place in few isolated instances. Largely, the ideological, political, and organizational consciousness and capacity of the MILF has reached a level of maturity that its control and command is effective and followed. This is known far and wide.

MILF: Forum on the Role of Local gov’ts in Ministerial, Decentralized and Federal states held

From the MILF Website (Oct 24): Forum on the Role of Local gov’ts in Ministerial, Decentralized and Federal states held

A two day seminar was held from October 21 to 22, 2013 for the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) at the Alnor Convention Center here in Cotabato City. For emphasis the seminar was subtitled: The Lessons for the Bangsamoro.
Majority of the members of the BTC were in attendance including the chairman Hon. Mohagher Iqbal and the staff of the other commissioners.

Konrad Adenaur Stiftung, the German think tank that offers political education and conducts scientific fact-finding research in many parts of the globe and the local Institute for Autonomy and Governance sponsored the seminar.

In his welcome message, Chairman Iqbal emphasized the relevance of the knowledge imparted by the international experts to the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law specifically the asymmetric relation of the GPH and the Bangsamoro on the first level and the relation of the latter with local government units on the second level that will hopefully bring about cohesive effective environment for good governance in the future political entity.  

Three internationally acclaimed experts were invited lecturers to impart their knowledge on the subject matter the role of local governments in ministerial, decentralized and federal systems with focus on the future Bangsamoro government everyone is awaiting to be born anytime soon.

Professor Dr. Ulrich Karpen of the University of Hamburg, Germany, an International Expert on Constitutional Law and former member of the Hamburg State Parliament discussed the topic the Role of Regional Governments and Local Governments and their Relations to Each Other in Different Models of Decentralized and Federal States.

Dr. Karpen says unity in diversity can be a source of beauty of federal democracies as shown by the German experience, thus, it is also highly recommended for societies with many ethnolinguistic groups like the Bangsamoro, where decentralization is best approach.

Professor Edmund Tayao, Executive Director of the Local Government Development Foundation, Department of Political Science, University Santo Tomas, Manila, handled the topic: The Role and Powers of LGUs under the Local Government Code of the Philippines.

He emphasized that decentralization improve delivery of basic services, afford significant autonomy for the local government units, and develop local economy as economic activities are enhanced, thus empowering the people.

Professor Tayao also recalled that former President Ramos instituted reforms package ideal for empowered society but Congress chop up the package to be acceptable to the members. He farther said that decentralization not done in practice is as good as we call it because while there is form there is no substance.

Asked on the present state of corruption he blamed the present system for failing to institute measures to prevent massive misuse of funds, liquidating these funds takes too long and auditors are  beholden to the powers that be, local government units have to lobby for funding as there are no automatic allotment.

The Role and Powers of Local Governments in the ARMM was handled by Atty. Anwar Malang, Regional Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG)-ARMM.

He says that the present ARMM has the mandate but there is no money, while local government units have money because of IRA but not the mandate. He also cited the need to clarify the relation between the regional government and LGUs, the need for ideal and functioning bureaucracy, and fiscal autonomy for real autonomy.

Asked why performing LGUs are those run by non-Moros, Atty. Malang says that some municipalities like Parang and Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao that are led by Moros have recently been awarded the seal of good governance by the Civil Service Commission. He also advised to take the lesson of the Chinese of olden days who excelled in business and prospered among the majority Moros in the past.

Commissioner Pete Eisma suggested the return of no-IRA towns to their mother municipalities, but Atty. Malang says the ARMM cannot do it on their own as there is need for someone to start the same.

Dr. Peter Koeppinger, a political scientist from Germany and International Expert on Government Systems and Institutional Mechanisms in Democracy, and the Resident Representative of the Konrad- Adenaur-Stiftung in the Philippines discussed: The Positions of the FAB on the Role of and Legal Framework for LGUs: Challenges for the Future Role of the Powers of the Bangsamoro Regional Government and LGUs in Bangsamoro and their Relations to Each Other.

He says in a decentralized arrangement states enjoy full statehood, only supervision by the federal government is needed, thus a good example for local government units in Bangsamoro.

Pressed to give specifics Dr. Koppinger cited the need to communicate with local governments, involve them in dialogue, utilize existing political movements/parties for the process, institutionalize cooperation with future legislative councils and not force anything on them, and finally he mentioned the role of money to finance projects and development.

Atty. Ben Bacani synthesizing the lectures and discussions stated that decentralization is now the worldwide practice, so that only those that cannot be done below by the local government units where the central government comes in. He says that in the envisioned Bangsamoro we can choose what will work for us and reject what does not work.

Atty. Bacani maintains that charter change was the big elephant before and still is ahead of us in the peace negotiations.

Commissioner Maulana Alonto says once the Bangsamoro Basic Law has been enacted and operational, everybody must follow. 

In closing Chairman Iqbal made use of similarities and dissimilarities saying the seven colors of the rainbow make it beautiful and the different instruments of the orchestra produce the rhythm and music, and say that diversities are as beautiful as unity. Citing the European experience that rose from the ruins of past world wars into the present democratic and successful nations. He concluded by saying let us enjoy our dissimilarities.’ts-in-ministerial-decentralized-and-federal-states-held

PNP to display proposed new police uniforms Nov. 14

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 23): PNP to display proposed new police uniforms Nov. 14

The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday announced that it will be displaying its proposed new uniforms this coming Nov. 14.

This event is dubbed "COPWALK2...PNP on the RAMP".

It will be held at the PNP Multi-Purpose Center Hall in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

On display are the proposed general office attire (GOA) and patrol uniforms for the PNP.

The event aims to get individual preferences of PNP end-users and stakeholders on the suggested uniforms through on-site survey and evaluation.

Pictures of the prototypes will also be sent to all police regional Offices to cast votes for better selection probability.

The points that will be earned during the survey and evaluation will be combined with the points gathered during the live prototype COPWALK 2 show, through a board of judges and from the results of feedback/evaluation/choices from short messaging service (SMS), facebook ( and other social networking sites to be added to the overall score.

COPWALK 2, with the theme, "Dignified Uniform: Adoptable and Flexible to the Demands of Times," is another live prototype presentation of police uniforms, expanding the categories to other sets of uniform suitable for the various functions of the PNP, particularly for the GOA and patrol uniform.

From the total of 693 fabrics submitted, 41 were initially chosen and then lessened to 27 fabrics.

The 3rd phase was conducted by the PNP Command Group and directorial Staff which selected the final fabrics entry, eight of which for patrol uniform, seven for the GOA shirt and five for the pants of GOA and patrol uniform.

The pre-selected fabrics were used by the designers in prototyping their designs as entries to the police uniform design competition.

North Cotabato native tops 3rd Infantry Division CSC course

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 24): North Cotabato native tops 3rd Infantry Division CSC course

The Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division announced that a North Cotabato native has topped its rigid and demanding six month Candidate Soldier Course (CSC) training recently at Camp Gen. Macario Peralta Jr. in Jamidan, Capiz.

Ericson C. Catis from Barangay Malibatuan, Arakan, North Cotabato topped this year’s training.

He has a general point average of 90.49 percent in all evaluated subjects both academic and non-academic.

Catis received the Commander, 3rd Infantry Division Award for graduating number one in his class besting 159 other candidate soldiers in the training.

“Your training does not stop here. We should continue to enhance and develop on our skills and capabilities to best perform our mandate in serving the people and securing the land as we intensify our efforts in implementing the AFP Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan. I further urge you to focus on your job and adhere to and internalize the Human Rights, the International Humanitarian Law and the Rule of Law,” 3rd Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad said.

He said these new soldiers will be immediately assigned in the different battalions in Panay and Negros Islands to perform peace and development works in the countryside.

The prospective troopers were also taught on Jungle Warfare Mountain Operation Course (JWMOC).

Fake IEDs found in University of Southern Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 24): Fake IEDs found in University of Southern Mindanao
Authorities have deployed explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams to the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) in Barangay Poblacion, Kabacan town, Cotabato Thursday after suspected improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were found at its premises Thursday morning.

Capt. Antonio Bulao, 602nd Infantry Brigade civil-military operations officer, said that this took place around 9:15 a.m. after USM security guards found three unattended boxes with wires seen hanging at the library, faculty office and office of student affairs.

Responding EOD teams quickly responded to the scene and found out that the suspected IEDs were only a hoax.

Investigations are now underway to determine the suspects behind the prank.

AFP, PNP intensify campaign vs threat groups in barangay elections

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 24): AFP, PNP intensify campaign vs threat groups in barangay elections

Authorities on Thursday intensified its campaign against on threat groups which could be used by candidates for violence and election-cheating purposes during the barangay elections.

In a PNP-AFP-Comelec joint press conference in Camp Crame, Quezon City, Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said they have been also receiving reports that threat groups like the New People’s Army (NPA) are also extorting money from barangay candidates.

Tutaan said all the assets and personnel of the military are on standby for election duties.

“Based on law, we can be deputized by the Comelec for election duties and this means that all our resources can be tapped for the coming barangay elections. We just don’t have the specifics because the specifics of the operations depend on the arrangement of officials on the ground,” he explained.

The police intelligence community earlier revealed that there are 25 Partisan Armed Groups actively operating for the barangay elections, most of them are in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

For his part, Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP-PIO chief said that the authorities are also monitoring the fielding of candidates of threat groups.

Sindac said they will be deploying 50 percent of the personnel assigned to do desk works on the day of the elections to augment the police and military personnel assigned to perform election duties.

Meanwhile, Senior Supt. Wilben Mayor, PNP spokesman, said they have already recorded 30 cases of election-related violent incidents since September 28.

Mayor said that the figure is higher on the 25 cases reported at the span of the election period during the 2010 barangay elections.

He said a total of 22 people, including candidates, incumbent and civilians, died while 24 others were wounded.

Mayor said that as of 7:56 a.m. Thursday, 509 persons, mostly civilians, have been arrested for allegedly violating the Commission on Elections gun ban rule.

Of the total number, 475 were civilians, five police officers, four military men, four government officials, and 19 security guards.

He also said that 412 firearms and 3,153 ammunition were recovered, along with 18 firearms replica, 170 bladed weapons, 65 grenades, and 221 other explosives.

The gun ban is being implemented by the PNP and other law enforcement agencies for the barangay election period from September 28 to November 12, which is 30 days before, and 15 days after the October 28 village elections.

“[PNP chief], Police Director General Alan Purisima, assures that the PNP will remain vigilant in its law enforcement and security operations to ensure Safe and Fair Elections,” Mayor said.

2 PA divisions conduct RYLS

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 24): 2 PA divisions conduct RYLS
The Philippine Army's 2nd and 9th Infantry Divisions based in Tanay, Rizal and Pili, Camarines Sur respectively held their first ever Regional Youth Leadership Summit (RYLS) last Oct. 18-22.

A total 120 delegates from 2nd Infantry Division and 200 from 9th Infantry Division participated in the simultaneous RYLS in their respective regions.

They were then brought to Metro Manila for an educational visit Oct. 21-22.

Highlights of the program included wreath laying ceremony at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on Oct. 22 to commemorate the heroism of fallen soldiers.

On the same day, a team building activity at the Headquarters Philippine Army Grandstand followed.

The RYLS is an initiative to engage the youth and help them become responsible citizens and advocates of the government’s peace and development programs.

Independent policing body for Bangsamoro meets to discuss police force structure

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 24): Independent policing body for Bangsamoro meets to discuss police force structure

The Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) constituted by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has started discussing on the form, structures, and relationships of the police force for the envisioned Bangsamoro region.

The meeting was held at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in Ortigas Center, Pasig City on Monday but details of the confab was only released Thursday.

OPAPP said the meeting was attended by members of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panels negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), members of the ICP, namely, Randall Beck as Chairperson (from Canada); retired Police Director Ricardo De Leon (GPH selected local expert); retired Police Chief Superintendent Amerodin Hamdag (MILF selected local expert); Police Dir. Lina Sarmiento (GPH appointed representative); Von Al Haq (MILF appointed representative) Cedric Netto (international expert from Australia).

Another international expert who will be nominated by the Japan government has yet to be named. Hirotaka Ono, First Secretary of the Japanese Embassy in the Philippines and member of the International Contact Group (ICG), attended in the meantime.

The meeting was in preparation for its task of submitting recommendations to the peace panels on the appropriate form, structures, and relationships of the police force for the envisioned Bangsamoro region.

“This is a getting-to-know-you session and we hope to provide you with some overview of the institutional context of the task on hand” said GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer who presided over the meeting held at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process headquarters in Pasig City.

During the meeting, Sarmiento discussed the structure, history, and constitutional mandate of the Philippine National Police while Coronel-Ferrer presented the legal framework relevant to policing in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

After the meeting with the panel, the ICP led by its chairperson proceeded to the Canadian Embassy to hold their organizational meeting.

The ICP was convened for the first time in September during the 40th round of talks wherein the parties, in a joint statement, said that “the ICP shall commence its work by mid-October.”

The ICP's Terms of Reference was signed by the parties on February 27, 2013 during the 36th GPH-MILF exploratory talks.

As stated in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), the commission “shall recommend appropriate policing within the Bangsamoro which is civilian in character and responsible both to the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government, and to the communities it serves.”

Also present in the said meeting were GPH panel member Undersecretary Yasmin Busran-Lao; Atty. Jesus Doque IV, member of the GPH Technical Working Group on Normalization; and officials of the Canadian Embassy to the Philippines, namely Benoit Girouard and James Christoff. Rasid Ladiasan, Head of Secretariat of the MILF ceasefire committee, also came as note taker for the MILF representative.

NorCot gives financial aid to families of ambushed Army combatants

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 24): NorCot gives financial aid to families of ambushed Army combatants

Governor Emmylou Mendoza handed over on Wednesday financial assistance to the families of nine Army men killed in an ambush perpetrated by communist rebels here earlier this week.

Mendoza personally condoled with the bereaved family of Sgt. Alonto Heramis, a member of the Army’s 1002nd Brigade, who was killed along with eight other colleagues in the boundary of Barangay Caridad and Bituan here last Oct. 21.

Along with this, the governor sent Sangguniang Panlalawigan Board Members Noel Baynosa, Joemar Cerebo and Loreto Cabaya Jr. to the families of the other killed soldiers as well as those wounded in action.

Baynosa went to Kidapawan area, Cerebo to Matalam and Cabaya to Midsayap, met with the families and distributed the much-needed financial support to augment such costs as the burial of the soldiers.

Mendoza personally handed the amount of P10,000 cash to the family of Heramis while the same amount was distributed by the board members to the rest of the victims’ families.

Aside from Heramis, the other fatalities were identified as SSgt. Joel Hadlucon; Sgt. Jovencio S. Ocho; Cpls. Thong M. Bansuan, Razzel Baylon, Roger Espititu; CAAs Jonell Tundocan, Melquides Butaslac Jr. and Reynaldo Ballesteros.

The soldiers belonging to 1002nd Brigade and also those from the 38th and 57th Infantry Battalions were on their way to Barangay Caridad on board an Army truck when hit by a landmine planted by New People’s Army rebels.

Wounded in same incident were 1Lt. Bruno Jugo, Sgt. Gredum Maybitoin, S/Sgt. Rolando Abastillas, PFC Frederick Barcenal and CAA Elmer Esmella.

All injured personnel were also given P 5,000 each by Mendoza as financial assistance.

The governor assured the families to give justice to the victims of the attack.

MILF tries to settle infighting among its field commanders in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 24): MILF tries to settle infighting among its field commanders in Maguindanao

Leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have sent emissaries to warring MILF members in remote villages here to prevent the clan war from escalating and affect the coming village polls.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, said influential MILF officials have been sent to Barangay Bagoinged, Pagalungan, Maguindanao to convince MILF Commanders Akmad Andoy and Sanday Bhuto to stop firing at each other and allow the displaced families to return home.

At least eight MILF members have been killed in the three-day sporadic skirmishes between Andoy's group and Bhuto's followers. Four others were wounded.

Speaking in the vernacular, Jaafar told Bhuto and Andoy to disengage and stop fighting.

"For the safe of civilians, you are directed to return to your respective communities," Jaafar told the warring groups who have been locked in a long-standing family feud that stemmed from politics.

Army Capt. Antonio Bulao, speaking for the Army's 602nd Infantry Brigade, said both Commanders Andoy and Bhuto have relatives running for elective posts of Barangay Bagoinged for the Oct. 28 polls.

"Andoy’s relatives are running various positions in Barangay Bagoinged, running against aspirants identified with Bhuto," Bulao said.

"Obviously this has something to do with the election, one group is harassing another group to dislodge supporters of rival candidates," said Bulao, adding that the conflict area is far from portions of the Cotabato-Davao highway.

Jaafar said both Andoy and Bhuto were supporters of former Mayor Norodin Matalam who died due to cardiac arrested before the local polls last May.

The Commission on Elections is still studying the situation and would decide soon whether to postpone the balloting in Barangay Bagoinged.

"We are assessing the situation and will submit report to the Comelec soon," Bulao said.

Barangay Bagoinged has about 2,000 registered voters as of 2010.

Military targets to declare Samar as MCA-DRA before end of the year, N. Samar by 2014

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 24): Military targets to declare Samar as MCA-DRA before end of the year, N. Samar by 2014

The 8th Infantry Division (8ID) of the Philippine Army (PA) based in this city targets to declare Samar as Manageable Conflict-Affected and Development Ready Area (MCA-DRA) by year-end and before end of 2014 for Northern Samar.

Cpt. Amado Gutierrez, chief of the Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO), said that strategies in order to achieve this target have been in progress for almost a year.

This include exposing the skeletal formation of New People's Army (NPA) within an “influenced barangay” for the people in the community to be aware of their presence and their real intent to overthrow people’s strong desire for peace and development.

Such intent of the NPAs, according to Gutierrez, obviously contradicts to the programs the barangay are pursuing because their agenda is against development.

Gutierrez, however, revealed that the kind of strategy they are employing to win peace back usually results to armed encounters because of their concentrated efforts to clear areas infested by NPAs.

Meanwhile, another strategy Gutierrez also believed to be effective in meeting the target is encouraging rebels to reintegrate in the mainstream society and avail of the national government’s current program through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Gutierrez said that this is a package of livelihood assistance, immediate assistance and remuneration under AFP’s (Armed Forces of the Philippines) "Guns for Peace" to whatever firearm the former rebel will also bring along with him as he returns to the fold of law.

Gutierrez also mentioned another package of cash assistance and other available services and opportunities a former rebel is likewise entitled to receive and avail from a local government unit where he is a part of through the Local Social Integration Program (LSIP).

At present, Gutierrez disclosed, that there are more than 130 NPAs, militia and members of mass organizations combined who benefited from such government’s programs. They are now productive in their chosen means of subsistence while enjoying a life that is peaceful and happy with their respective family.

This program alongside the conduct of combat operations and other activities in the barangay, as stated also by Gutierrez, contributed much to the significant decrease in manpower of NPA’s Regional Party Committee.

From the 654 manpower during the first quarter of 2011, it scaled down to 613 during the same period last year and dwindled down again to 575 during the first months of 2013.

It continues to drop in number until currently, their manpower is at 569. This means, the Regional Party Committee off-tracked with 85 of its members in the span of three years only.

Meanwhile, there was also significant decrease in the number of firearms possessed by NPAs this year in comparison to 2011 and 2012.

From 700 during the first semester of 2011, it became 678 during 2012, and has decreased again to 647 during the same quarter of 2013. Currently, it is at 637.

With this trend in the number of NPA personalities and firearms continue to decrease; Gutierrez believed a promising result is underway for Samar to be declared as MCA-DRA this year and Northern Samar by 2014.

Eastern Samar province was declared already as “Manageable Conflict-Affected and Development Ready Province” March 26 of this year, same with five towns in the Province of Northern Samar just recently. These are the towns of Allen, Biri, Capul, San Antonio and San Vicente.

GPH chair lauds Army's 6th ID for its contribution to peace process

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 24): GPH chair lauds Army's 6th ID for its contribution to peace process

Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer Thursday lauded the Army's 6th Infantry Division for supporting the government's peace process in southern Philippines since talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) started almost 17 years ago.

The Army's 6th ID, also known as the "Kampilan Division," is celebrating its founding anniversary Thursday.

Ferrer said the Army's 6th ID is celebrating its birthday at a time ripe for both opportunity and threat. "Opportunity because the beginning of the transition resulting from a comprehensive agreement between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is almost in sight," she said in a statement sent to Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz, 6th ID chief.

Ferrer said the 6th ID had been very helpful in the government's peace initiative as it provided the panel with the needed partnership.

"Through collaboration, we know we can better address the security concerns in the region and successfully bring about the new Bangsamoro political entity," Ferrer said.

She lauded the support extended by the Army in the transition which everybody knows are fraught with many dangers.

"There are groups and individuals who benefit from the continuing state of unpeace or are not ready for democratic and nonviolent politics. They oppose the peace negotiations and try to subvert its steady progress," she stressed.

"Against these forces, several soldiers of the 6th ID have paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to defend our peace process. We remember them today, and honor them as we celebrate with you your Foundation Day," Ferrer noted.

She specifically thanked the Army division for strictly upholding the primacy of the peace process. "Such steadfast commitment to preserve the ceasefire has been instrumental in sustaining the momentum for earnest political negotiations," she added.

The 6th ID, the fightingest unit having been deployed in the province where the MILF used to operate, was also commended for its localized peace initiatives, including the resolution of “rido” and other community disputes.

"These initiatives are a big boost to the national government’s peace and development efforts," Ferrer said.

"Truly, as the 6ID’s slogan goes, 'Peace is happening' in these parts of Mindanao!

" the GPH chief said.

More insurgents give up armed struggle in Leyte

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 24): More insurgents give up armed struggle in Leyte

The number of New People’s Army in Leyte continues to dwindle as more opted to avail of programs made available by the government to rebel returnees.

Col. Rafael Valencia, commander of the 802nd Brigade of the 8th Infantry Division (8ID) said more than 20 former New People's Army (NPA) gave up their armed struggle since he assumed his post.

From around 100, the rebels' number has decreased to estimated 40, concentrated in the mountainous areas of central Leyte.

He attributed the success to the local social integration program of Leyte that has been very active in providing assistance to rebels who decided to surrender.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for this year has also released some P2.15 million for livelihood assistance.

Rebels who surrender their firearms are also entitled to compensation in addition to livelihood assistance.

Meantime as barangay election draws near, he said that they continue to make their presence felt in areas where there is a presence of insurgents and urged them to vote for people they believe in and not because of force and intimidation.

2 NPA rebels die in Bukidnon encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 24): 2 NPA rebels die in Bukidnon encounter
CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City -- Two communist rebels of the New People's Army were killed in a firefight with government troops in the mountains of Bukidnon, an army report reaching here said Thursday.

Capt. Christian Uy, spokesperson of the army’s Public Affairs Division here, identified the fatalities as Mabini Manubia a.k.a Kumander TOTO and Zaldie Ambayot, both of Guerilla Front 6, North Central Mindanao Regional Committee operating in the hinter areas of San Fernando, Bukidnon.

Uy said soldiers from the army’s 8th Infantry Battalion encountered six communist rebels in the vicinity of Dao in San Fernando while the government troops were crossing the Matimbos River Thursday morning last week.

He said a five-minute firefight erupted killing the two rebels instantly while the remaining four other NPA rebels fled toward an unknown direction.

Uy said that the government troops did not suffer any casualty.

Government troops recovered one Caliber 5.56 mm M16 rifle and Caliber 30 carbine from the scene of the encounter, Uy said.

Flag at half-mast for fallen soldiers in North Cotabato Army camp

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 24): Flag at half-mast for fallen soldiers in North Cotabato Army camp

The Philippine national flag was flown at half mast inside the headquarters of the 57th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Poblacion here as the Army paid respects and tribute to their fallen comrades.

Lt. Nasrullah Sema, speaking for the 57th IB, said the act was in recognition to the contribution of nine infantrymen who perished in a communist attack in the town of Tulunan, North Cotabato on Monday.

"We sympathize with the families of our comrades who died in line of duty that's why we have decided to fly the national flag at half-mast," the emotional Lt. Sema told reporters.

At the same time, Sema condemned the atrocities by the New Peoples Army, not only on the government forces but to civilians.

"It was normal for our combatants to suffer the fate in performance of our mandate," Sema said but added the act was brutal that, aside from blasting off a landmine which already maimed soldiers, they strafed the wounded and downed government forces.

Sema stressed that the use of landmine or weapon of mass destruction has been banned internally but the NPA guerillas are still using it.

Sema said the ambush on Monday in Barangay Bituan, Tulunan, North Cotabato was an overkill.

"It was so brutal and overkill, after the blast, some of our troops could have survived and live longer but the NPAs finished them off," he recalled.

Were the NPA rebels in the same situation, government forces would allow the wounded rebels to live by bringing them to the nearest hospital.

"We do not finish off a heavily wounded enemy because he cannot fight back anymore, so we need to bring him to the hospital for him to live after suffering injury in a legitimate battle," he explained.

Widows and children of slain soldiers were seeking for justice.

"My heart bleeds seeing young sons and daughters of our fallen comrades," Sema said.

Companion-soldiers of the fallen fighters took turns in consoling the wives and children during a wake inside the 57th IB camp where military honors were provided for them by Col. Noel dela Cruz, 57th IB chief.

Sema said the 57th IB will file charges against the National Democratic Front for violating the international humanitarian law, mine ban treaty and other rules of war.

DFA backtracks on protest over Panatag blocks

From Rappler (Oct 24): DFA backtracks on protest over Panatag blocks

NO PROTEST. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario says the government has 'no determination of the facts' on the concrete blocks allegedly installed by China. Photo courtesy of the DFA

NO PROTEST. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario says the government has 'no determination of the facts' on the concrete blocks allegedly installed by China. Photo courtesy of the DFA

From wielding a “substantive piece of information” over a month ago, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) ended up having no “determination of the facts.”

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Thursday, October 24, admitted the Philippines is not ready to file a diplomatic protest over concrete blocks allegedly installed by China in the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

“We don't have a determination of the facts,” Del Rosario told reporters when asked if the Philippines is still filing a diplomatic protest against China.

The secretary departed from a previous statement. In an interview on September 5, Del Rosario said the Philippines would file a diplomatic protest “in the next few days.”

(READ: DFA: Chinese construction to bolster PH case.)

“I think that's a substantive piece of information that we can tack on to our arbitration case. We can have it work positively for us,” Del Rosario said back then. (Watch the file video below.)

[Video: DFA: Chinese construction to bolster PH case]

On Thursday, Del Rosario's admission came after the President said he is not convinced that China placed the blocks in disputed area in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

President Benigno Aquino III contradicted his defense officials, who repeatedly claimed that China placed at least 75 concrete blocks in Panatag.

(READ: Aquino on Panatag blocks: No proof vs China.)

In an interview with reporters in Brunei on October 9, Aquino said a closer inspection showed barnacles and moss covering the concrete blocks. He said this means the blocks weren't dropped or “placed there recently.”

“We don't accuse until we have proof,” Aquino said, after a journalist asked him why the Philippines hasn't filed a formal protest against China over this.

Defense department's 'error'

The President on Wednesday, October 24, repeated that the blocks “are very, very old.”

“They are not a new phenomenon. So they don't seem to give us any reason to have an increase in anxiety,” he said in a forum with foreign correspondents.

The President's words clashed with those of the Department of National Defense (DND) in the middle of a historic case that Manila filed against Beijing.

'VERY, VERY OLD.' Defense officials say China installed 75 concrete blocks in Panatag – a claim that the President contradicts. File photos from DND

The DND's claim, from the first day, was expected to trigger diplomatic consequences – as it did, when China hit the Philippines. "What the Philippines said is untrue," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

(READ: China denies 'concrete facilities' in Panatag.)

Did the DND request clearance from the DFA, the government's diplomatic arm, when it exposed the supposed Chinese blocks? Del Rosario declined to respond categorically.

The secretary, however, noted that the DND and DFA remained “co-equals” in the Cabinet.

When a reporter asked for a reaction on “what seemed to be an error on the part of the defense department,” Del Rosario replied: “I think you have two opposing views.”

“The Philippines' view is that there are concrete blocks there. We don't know how it got there, when it got there, who put it there. The Chinese view is that there are no concrete blocks; there are only rocks," Del Rosario said. "So there you are."

Aquino: 'Cultural sensitivities' complicate Nur capture

From Rappler (Oct 23): Aquino: 'Cultural sensitivities' complicate Nur capture

BOUNTY FOR NUR? President Benigno Aquino III admits there are challenges in capturing Nur Misuari and says he has yet to issue a reward for any information on his whereabouts. Malacañang Photo Bureau

BOUNTY FOR NUR? President Benigno Aquino III admits there are challenges in capturing Nur Misuari and says he has yet to issue a reward for any information on his whereabouts. Malacañang Photo Bureau

The government's search for Nur Misuari continues, but President Benigno Aquino III admitted there are certain issues hampering his capture — including respecting "cultural sensitivities."

On Wednesday, October 23, Aquino told reporters that aside from still being unable to locate the fugitive Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder, the government was also proceeding with care to avoid aggravating the post-Zamboanga crisis situation.

READ: How to arrest a rebel like Nur Misuari

"Well, you have to identify exactly where he is. You also ask some loyalists with him. We have to be careful about treating cultural sensitivities of others who are not presently involved but who might find common cause in protecting a fellow Muslim. So you have to craft it in such a way that you’d come up with a solution and not exacerbate the problem," he explained.

Aquino said latest reports indicate Misuari is still in the country, likely in Sulu, "and transferring from island to island." He said he still issued a reward for any information on his whereabouts but with the warrant of arrest out, it could be the last step to hasten his capture.

Aquino said government troops also continue to find Habier Malik, a Misuari loyalist who led the rebels in Zamboanga and who is at large.

"The important thing is, they as a force have been greatly reduced," Aquino offered.

Misuari is facing rebellion charges for masterminding the three-week siege of Zamboanga City in September. The conflict killed at least 12 civilians and 18 soldiers, and damaged about 10,000 houses.

The 71-year-old rebel leader wants the government to re-open negotiations on the unimplemented provisions of the 1996 peace pact. He is opposed to the current negotiations between the MNLF's breakaway group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government, branding it as a form of "betrayal."

Peace talks

Meanwhile, Aquino said he is confident the government and the MILF will complete its peace talks before the end of his term in 2016.

Two more annexes – on power sharing and on normalization – await discussion and approval to complete the comprehensive agreement. The Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, signed on July 13, came 5 months after the first document, the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, was signed in February.

Earlier, the government panel expressed confidence it would sign the remaining annexes "within the year." The past two talks in Kuala Lumpur, however, ended in impasse.

"The bottom line is, both parties acknowledged that the annexes will have the most contentious issues and we are progressing. Of the four annexes, we’ve concluded discussions on two. We have the remaining two left. That doesn’t stop us from having the Sajahatra program and actually acting on it and showing them the benefits of peace," he said.

"Are we delayed? Crafting the correct agreement that is livable and doable by all will necessarily take time, and we are cognizant of that fact. And better to have the good deal rather than to have any deal that is not livable by all parties," he said.

As the government and the MILF continue negotiations on the comprehensive peace pact on the Bangsamoro, both parties have agreed to start the process towards normalization, and launch Sajahatra Bangsamoro, a basic services program for MILF communities.

To be implemented within one to two years, the program will bring Philhealth services to MILF communities, as well scholarships from the Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education Skills Development Authority, among others.

Bohol shows need for choppers, not fighter jets

From Rappler (Oct 23): Bohol shows need for choppers, not fighter jets

FAILED BIDDING: The budget allocation for the procurement of refurbished Hueys expires in December. Photo from Philippine Air Force

FAILED BIDDING: The budget allocation for the procurement of refurbished Hueys expires in December. Photo from Philippine Air Force

Government's delayed response in various areas in Bohol after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook the province shows the need to prioritize the procurement of helicopters over fighter jets, a lawmaker said on Wednesday, October 23.

"I have always said this: instead of fighter jets, we should complete our requirement for helicopters," Muntinlupa Rep Rodolfo Biazon, a former military chief of staff, said on Wednesday, October 23. "We need more helicopters to address the question of internal security and disaster response. We cannot use fighter jets [for these purposes]."

It's been a week since the earthquake, and Biazon noted the complaints of residents who are still waiting for government assistance. "Whether this claim is true or not, this is an issue being raised. If we have 7 helicopters there, how come these issues are raised," Biazon said.

The government is finalizing a government-to-government deal with South Korea to purchase 12 fighter jets at the cost of P18.9 billion.

(READ: DND wants delivery of 4 fighter jets ASAP)

"I'm not saying the Department of National Defense should not buy fighter jets. I'm saying we should prioritize the helicopters," he added.

(READ: Congress questions DND plans to buy fighter jets)

MADE IN SOUTH KOREA. T-50 is South Korea's first indigenous supersonic aircraft and one of the world's few supersonic trainers. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

MADE IN SOUTH KOREA. T-50 is South Korea's first indigenous supersonic aircraft and one of the world's few supersonic trainers. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Biazon was in Camp Aguinaldo, the military headquarters, to lead the House panel comprising the congressional oversight committee on the implementation of Republic Act 10121, the 2010 law that created the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). He proposed to realign the pork barrel fund for 2014 to fund the economic recovery of Bohol and other areas hit by natural and man-made calamities.

Biazon said it is also more important to procure C-130 cargo planes over fighter jets. "I am looking at increasing the number of the C-130 [cargo planes] and transport ships that can move troops and equipment for economic activities," Biazon added.

Defense Undersecretary Eduardo Batac assured Biazon that the purchase of more helicopters is underway. "There were some hitches in the procurement process but we are trying to correct this so that we can acquire these helicopters as soon as possible," Batac said in the same hearing.

The last bidding for 21 Hueys failed. The defense department is rushing to complete a negotiated bid because the allocation expires in December.

(READ: Failed bidding in Air Force's 21 refurbished Hueys)

Officer in Burgos case available for arrest – Army

From InterAksyon (Oct 23): Officer in Burgos case available for arrest – Army

The Army major implicated in the 2007 abduction of farmer-activist Jonas Burgos will make himself available to authorities once police serve an arrest warrant from the court, according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang.

However, Cabangbang said, the Army has yet to receive a copy of the warrant issued by Judge Alfonso Ruiz II of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 216 in Quezon City on the charge of arbitrary detention.

Ruiz has set bail at P40,000 for Baliaga’s temporary freedom.

Cabangbang said Wednesday, “The Army will enforce the warrant once received. He (Baliaga) is currently assigned at Headquarters, Headquarters Support Group of the Philippine Army.”

In finding cause to issue the arrest order, Judge Ruiz gave credence to the testimony of one witness tagging Baliaga among the abductors of Burgos, who was eating lunch at a Quezon City restaurant on April 28, 2007 when taken by six persons, including one woman.

His family tagged military personnel in the crime after positive identification of the abductors' vehicle showed up a plate number that in turn was traced to an Army camp in Bulacan.

His mother Edita just last month continued her objection to the confirmation of Intelligence Service-AFP (ISAFP) chief Gen. Eduardo M. Ano, whom she accused of involvement in a conspiracy to abduct her son, accused by the military of being an NPA leader.

After bypassing him twice, the bicameral Commission on Appointments confirmed Ano's nomination last Sept. 4.  On that same day, the Senate and Mrs. Burgos separately received copies of a Department of Justice resolution clearing Ano and several ranking officers of any role in the abduction, and leaving only Baliaga.

After ruckus over Chinese 'structures' on Panatag, PNoy admits concrete blocks 'very old'

From InterAksyon (Oct 23): After ruckus over Chinese 'structures' on Panatag, PNoy admits concrete blocks 'very old'

Defense Sec Voltaire Gazmin showing concrete blocks at Panatag Shoal (InterAksyon file photo by Lira Dalangin-Fernandez)

After government earlier accused China of planning to build structures at Scarborough, or Panatag, Shoal, President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday said there is no need to remove concrete blocks from the disputed territory as these were “very, very old.”

"There is no need to remove concrete blocks ...They do not represent any immediate danger to our vessels plying the Scarborough Shoal," Aquino said at the annual forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines. "The concrete blocks were very, very old. Some of them have barnacles attached to them. They don't seem to give us any reason to have increasing anxiety."

Last month, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told a congressional hearing that China had violated a non-binding code by preparing to build new structures on Scarborough, showing lawmakers surveillance photos of the rocks.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told Reuters in an earlier interview the government will file a diplomatic protest against China, saying Beijing was moving to occupy the shoal.

China denied the accusation and accused the Philippines of deliberately stirring up trouble over disputed waters in South China Sea, insisting Scarborough is Beijing's "intrinsic territory."

Panatag Shoal is also called Bajo de Masinloc by Manila and Huangyan Island by China.

Friction over the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea as Manila calls it, one of the world's most important sea lanes, has surged as China uses its growing naval might to assert a vast claim over the oil-and-gas rich area more forcefully, raising fears of a military clash between it and other countries that border the area.

The Philippines is also fighting an unprecedented arbitration case under the United Nations' Convention on the Law of the Sea against China's claims and has ignored growing pressure from Beijing to scrap the action.

Any result will be unenforceable, legal experts say, but will carry considerable moral and political weight.

Aquino also said he does not share some analysts' views the Philippines has lost control over the shoal, saying local fishermen can still freely go there.

"We are not allowed to go to Scarborough Shoal seems to be an oxymoron ... there's no rule that says we can't go there," Aquino told FOCAP, insisting the disputed area is within the country's exclusive economic zone.

4 killed, 4 wounded as MILF battles MILF in Maguindanao; bomb found in North Cotabato university

From InterAksyon (Oct 24): 4 killed, 4 wounded as MILF battles MILF in Maguindanao; bomb found in North Cotabato university

Four people were killed and four others wounded as two bands of Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters clashed in Pagalungan town, Maguindanao Wednesday, reportedly over rival candidates in Monday’s barangay elections.

Meanwhile, police bomb experts disarmed an improvised explosive device that had been found outside the library of the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato Thursday morning. The bomb, placed inside a small carton container, was discovered by a janitor.

Authorities could not yet say who planted the explosive but the incident did not disrupt regular classes at the campus.

Although the fighting in Pagalungan had died down Thursday, tension remained high because of the continued presence of MILF fighters under Mohammad Anday, alias “Kumander Buto,” and there was uncertainty over the village polls in Barangay Bago Inged after residents fled to escape the violence, Captain Toni Bulao, spokesman of the 602nd Infantry Brigade, said.

Anday is a former chairman of the village and was once Association of Barangay Captains president of Pagalungan. He ran for mayor last May but lost.

His son is running for barangay captain on Monday.

This is the third clash between the two groups, including one last week that sent hundreds of residents fleeing.

CHOPPERS NOT JETS | Citing Central Visayas quake, Biazon tells DND to get priorities right

From InterAksyon (Oct 24): CHOPPERS NOT JETS | Citing Central Visayas quake, Biazon tells DND to get priorities right

A former chief of staff of the Armed Forces, citing difficulties getting badly needed relief to victims of the Central Visayas earthquake, urged the defense establishment to get its priorities right and purchase helicopters instead of fighter jets.

Bakit hanggang ngayon meron pang issue na may mga villages na hindi napupuntahan (Why is still there the issue of villages that have not been reached?)?

Whether this claim is true or not, this is an issue being raised. Kung may pitong helicopters du’n, e bakit hanggang ngayon issue pa rin itong hindi (dumarating ang mga relief goods sa) mga lugar (If we have seven helicopters there, why is it still an issue that relief goods are not reaching those places)?”

Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon asked at a news briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Wednesday, where he presided over a conference between officials of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Disaster and Relief.

“What I’m saying is buy helicopters, make it a priority,” Biazon said.

“I have issued this as chairman of the (House) defense committee; I have issued this statement to the Secretary of National Defense (Voltaire Gazmin). If you remember, I’ve emphasized that instead of buying fighter jets we should buy first helicopters that we can use for counterinsurgency because you cannot use a jet fighter for counterinsurgency … We need more helicopters to address the question of internal security and disaster response,” Biazon said.

On his recent state visit to South Korea, President Benigno Aquino III clinched a deal to purchase 12 FA-50 fighter jets for P18.9 billion.

However, Biazon said: “Instead of the fighter jets, I am looking at increasing the number of C130 (transport aircraft) and then transport ships that can move troops, that can move equipment for economic activities.”

‘Yang fighter jets, hindi ko sinasabing huwag tayong bumili. Ang sinasabi ko, uunahin muna natin dapat na bilhin ang helicopters, C130, transport ship (I’m not saying we shouldn’t buy the fighter jets. What I am saying, let us first buy helicopters, C130s and transport ships),” he added.

Defense Undersecretary Eduardo Batac explained to Biazon that, “the helicopters that we plan to procure have been stalled for more than one year. There were some hitches in the procurement process and thus the delay. But we are trying to correct this so that we can acquire these helicopters as soon as possible.”

The DND has yet to adequately explain why it has not entered into government-to-government procurement after three failed biddings for the long-delayed acquisition of 21 refurbished Huey helicopters for the Philippine Air Force.

The Procurement Law allows “G to G” deals after at least two failed biddings.
But a reliable source said the bids and awards committee of the DND has set a fourth bidding for the choppers, with the opening of proposals scheduled for November 4.