Saturday, October 26, 2013

MILF: GPH-MILF Independent Commission on Policing meets to begin work

From the MILF Website (Oct 26): GPH-MILF Independent Commission on Policing meets to begin work

The Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) constituted by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) held its first meeting with the GPH Negotiating Panel on October 21 in Pasig City, Metro Manila.
According to a report posted on October 23 at the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), 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.

ICP members who attended the meeting were 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); and 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.

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. They arranged to continue discussions until Wednesday.

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 notetaker for the MILF representative.

Military probes looting yarn vs soldiers at ‘ground zero’

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Oct 26): Military probes looting yarn vs soldiers at ‘ground zero’

The Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has created a Board of Inquiry (BOI) tasked to look into the alleged involvement of military personnel in looting incidents during the mopping-up and clearing operations in the areas affected by the humanitarian conflict in Zamboanga City.
Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo, WestMinCom commander, in a letter dated Oct. 12 informed Mayor Beng Climaco that the BOI composed of Commands Inspector General, Judge Advocate and ACUCS for Inte, U2 will investigate the allegations.
Gen. Ardo assured the lady chief executive that she will be furnished with a comprehensive report on the investigation.
It can be recalled that at the height of the military’s clearing operations at ground zero, referring to the conflict areas in barangays Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara, Kasanyangan, Rio Hondo and Mariki, the affected residents had complained that their houses were burglarized.
Unconfirmed reports showed that soldiers carrying out the clearing operations were responsible for the looting incidents.
Thus, Mayor Climaco wrote Gen. Ardo to investigate the report in a bid to clearing the military organization of wrong doings and punish those responsible, if found guilty of the charges.

CPP: Camp Bagong Diwa Political Prisoners Greet the Caravan Para sa Kalayaan

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Oct 25): Camp Bagong Diwa Political Prisoners Greet the Caravan Para sa Kalayaan

Political Prisoners at Camp Bagong Diwa
Taguig City

We, political prisoners in various jails here in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, greet with great enthusiasm the Caravan para sa kalayaan that Samahan ng mga Ex-detainee laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (SELDA), KARAPATAN and other advocates of freedom and justice for all political prisoners are launching today, highlighted by a tour of detention centers where political prisoners are being kept in Metro Manila, and a rally before the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to demand the release of detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants and other political prisoners and to call for the resumption of the stalled peace talks between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH). The Caravan para sa Kalayaan is also giving emphasis on the gross inhumanity and injustice in the continuing detention of political prisoners who are sickly, elderly, minors or arrested as minors, and have long been under detention.

Political prisoners in various jails here in Camp Bagong Diwa include those being kept in the Female Detention at the Taguig District Jail (FD-TDJ), in the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA), and in the Metro Manila District Jail-Main (MMDJ-Main), practically all of whom have been unjustly, arbitrarily and illegally arrested, detained and charges in courts.

Among us are five peace consultants of the NDFP (Ma. Loida Magpatoc, detained at the TCJ-FD, Tirso Alcantara, Emeterio Antalan, Leopoldo Caloza and Alan Jazmines, detained at the SICA). Four at the MMDJ-Main, and some 200 more at the SICA, some 25 of whom are associated with the national democratic movement, another of the same number associated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and more than a hundred ordinary community folk – - practically all unjustly, arbitrarily and illegally arrested, tortured, detained and swamped with trumped-up criminalized charges, and mostly under intentional “mistaken identities” just so that those behind their arrest and detention could collect all and pocket huge bounties provided by the U.S. “anti-terrorist” aid and by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

There are also (particularly here at the SICA) a handful of U.S. rendition victims (all Indonesians), who were surreptitiously transferred (under U.S. FBI direction and Philippine police, military and intelligence connivance and implementation) to Philippine detention and made to undergo the exceedingly rotten and slow justice system in the country, just to keep those rendition victims indefinitely detained in a Philippine version of Guantanamo.

As of August 2013, there are 449 political prisoners in the country, all victims of gross violations of justice and human rights, including numerous provisions in the NDFP-GPH’s CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law). The current Aquino regime has been responsible for the arrest and detention of about a third of these, and yet it lies through its teeth in denying that there are political prisoners in the country.

Among political prisoners are some 14 NDFP peace consultants, whose arrest, torture, detention and prosecution have been in arrogant violation of the NDFP-GPH’s JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees), which is supposed to protect peace consultants and peace process staffs from arrest, torture, detention, prosecution and other antagonistic acts that would deter their effective participation and work in the peace process. The adamant refusal of the current Aquino government to abide by the JASIG, as well as CARHRIHL and other standing peace agreements, has caused the stalling once again of the NDFP-GPH peace talks.

Earlier GPH regimes had in varying degrees been more open to abiding by peace agreements, including guaranteeing the freedom and safety of NDFP peace consultants and staffs. The Ramos regime was the most open, such that the NDFP-GPH peace talks achieved the most progress during its reign.

There were also a number of agreements up to the Gloria Arroyo regime. But the problem was that most of those agreements were actually only on paper and not implemented. It was also under that regime when a number of NDFP peace consultants became victims of involuntary disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Eventually the Gloria Arroyo regime even went as far as suspending the JASIG and conniving with the Dutch police to arrest the NDFP’s Chief Political and Peace Adviser, Jose Ma. Sison.

The current Aquino regime agreed to resume the NDFP-GPH peace talks and revive the suspended JASIG and other peace agreements. But it did not do so in actual practice. It denied JASIG protection for NDFP peace consultants and staffs, and in fact had an NDFP peace consultants and member of the NDFP Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms arrested and detained on the very eve of the resumed peace talks, had a number of other NDFP peace consultants and JASIG holders arrested and continue to be detained, despite the NDFP peace panel’s demand for their release.

The current Aquino Regime also left hanging and did not bother to touch, much less to implement, specific peace agreements entered into by the NDFP and GPH peace panels during the Gloria Arroyo regime, including the following:
  • The review and evaluation of cases about 300 political prisoners documented by KARAPATAN and the immediate release of those found to have been arrested, detained and charged or even convicted of what were made to appear as common crimes, contrary to the Hernandez Doctrine (which prohibits charging with common crimes those with supposed political offenses), as those political prisoners were only involved in political opposition and had nothing to do with common crimes they were arrested, detained, charged or even convicted for — or in many cases were only innocent civilians);
  • The immediate release (within 30 days, i.e. by November 3, 2004 of specifically named political prisoners, consisting of women, minors, ailing and elderly.
Except in the case of a very few who won rare acquittals in court, bulk of the 300 political prisoners supposed to be processed for release by the Gloria Arroyo regime were only passed on to the current Aquino regime, who, instead of continuing with the processing for their release, declared that there are no political prisoners in the country. The current Aquino regime even added another half to the number of political prisoners it inherited from the Gloria Arroyo regime.

Upon resuming the peace talks with the NDFP in February 14, 2011 up to now, the current Aquino regime still has not even released the 30 women, minors, ailing and elderly political prisoners agreed upon by the NDFP and GPH peace panels way back in 2004.

Four of the minors the list (Taufic Muner, then aged 14; Bimbas Abubakar, then aged 14; Omar Galo, then aged 16 and Jammang Palili, then aged 17 are all still detained at the SICA, Camp Bagong Diwa. There are further eight more political prisoners who were minors when arrested and still detained at SICA, Camp Bagong Diwa. Included among them are Grego Guevarra and Reynaldo De los Santos, who were only 17 years old when arrested and detained by the current Aquino regime for more than two years ago to just several months ago.

Another stark phenomenon, especially at the SICA, Camp Bagong Diwa, is the big number of ailing and elderly political prisoners, most of whom have been detained for about a dozen years or more already. Because of their overly long detention already; the poor cramped conditions; poor food rations; lack of medical attention; and the indifferent treatment and severe restrictions they have been undergoing in jail, they have suffered and continue to suffer further deteriorations of their health.

A number of these have died in prison. One of the latest death at the SICA, Camp Bagong Diwa (last “Good Friday”, March 29) was that of Intong Amirol, past 70 years, who suffered a hypertensive stroke more than two years ago and became totally paralyzed and bedridden since then, was not brought to any hospital or given adequate medical attention, and had to totally rely on his cellmates for full-time caregiving. His family could not assist him at all or even just visit him as they are poor and too far away. State authorities were asked to release him, as his precarious health condition could surely only deteriorate further in jail, and as his further detention was not only inhuman but also illegal, since he was already past 70 and, in the first place, he is totally innocent of the charges against him. He was actually a victim of intentional “mistaken identity” as he was arrested, detained and charged as another person (a certain “Intong Aninol”, supposedly of the Abu Sayyaf Group. But the indifferent state did nothing about all these. This indifference killed him.

Another case of a political prisoners, who also unfortunately suffered a lot and died because of the indifference of prison authorities, was that of Alison Alcantara, who had been seriously suffering since early September and who his fellow-political prisoners at the New Bilibid Prison has asked the jail authorities to immediately bring him to a hospital. The jail authorities, however, refused and only did bring him to a public hospital when he collapsed and fell unconscious after six more days of suffering. It was too late and he died from complications from diabetes, pneumonia, infections and other ailments.

A number of other elderly and ailing political prisoners need not only immediate and medical attention, but also the return of the freedom deprived of them. These include Ramon Argente, who had to go through a heart by-pass operation; Alvin Langlang, who has suffered paralysis from the waist down due to brain injury; Vanessa delos Reyes, who is paralyzed from waist down; Miguela PiƱero, who has long been suffering from thyroid and spinal problem; Felicardo Salamat, who has also been suffering from spinal problems.

We, political prisoners, whose existence the current Aquino regime keeps on denying and the demand for whose release has long been an issue, are heartened by the Caravan para sa Kalayaan’s call for our release, including the urgent release of women, minors, elderly and ailing political prisoners.

The call for the release of political prisoners need further to be raised again and again, and echoed widely through various sectors of society to be able to penetrate the thick and tough buffers of the present ruling state and regime.

All advocates of freedom, justice, human rights and the betterment of society need to press on and further intensify the campaign until it eventually bears fruition the face of the prevailing state and regime’s indifference at present.

CPP/NPA: Abusive army unit punished,5 dead, 5 Cafgus held as NPA POWs

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Oct 25): Abusive army unit punished,5 dead, 5 Cafgus held as NPA POWs

Aris Francisco
NPA Comval-North Davao-South Agusan Sub-region Sub-regional Command
The New People’s Army raided the 26th Infantry Battalion detachment in Brgy. Mansanitas, Loreto, captured at the village center five Cafgu paramilitary forces, four of whom were armed village officials, and confiscated two shotgun rifles and one. 357 pistol on October 24, at 11am.

Red fighters also thwarted a platoon of reinforcement forces of the 26th IB in a gunfight that yielded at least five fatalities on the military side. AFP’s Eastmincom responded by sending two military helicopters that dropped 14 bombs in the community; the helicopters later secured their fatalities.

Thursday’s tactical offensive was the NPA’s campaign against a fascist Army unit and its paramilitary machinery responsible for butchering two peasant leaders — Gabriel Alindao and Benjie Planos of the peasant group Kahugpungan Alang sa Kalambuan sa Kauswagan or Kasaka — detaining and torturing two civilian Lumad minors, and conducting massive harassment and counter-revolutionary drive against the peasant masses in Loreto, Agusan del Sur.

Captured and considered as prisoners of war were barangay captain Lito Andalique, barangay kagawad Marvin Bantuasan, Crisanto Piodos, and Balaba Andalique, and Cafgu tribal member Pepe Subla. The five are currently accorded rights as prisoners of war (POWs), their health and safety at the auspices of the NPA’s custodial force.

Nothing can be so farther from the truth as to the far-fetched claim by Eastmincom Commander Lt. Gen. Rainier Cruz that the arrest of the barangay officials was the NPA’s act of involving itself in the forthcoming reactionary exercise of barangay elections.

The five POWs are not ordinary civilians and reelectionist village officials but are counter-revolutionary paramilitary forces and are, thus, legitimate targets of the NPA.

The POWs are psychological warfare agents, who banned the masses from going to their farms and forcing them to remain at the village centers, in a blatant attempt to control their movement. These POWs have campaigned hard against the NPAs, harassed peasant leaders, and strongly endorsed the entry of palm oil and mining projects — projects that will eventually dislocate the masses and deprive Lumads of their ancestral domain.

In the midst of the US-Aquino regime’s intensified counter-revolutionary campaign, backed up by a fascist mayor in the person of Dario Otaza, the revolutionary forces are persevering in their anti-feudal and anti-fascist struggle, expanding numerous barrio councils while putting up welfare projects to sustain the basic needs of the masses. It is only warranted for the NPA to protect the successes of the People’s Democratic Government by punishing the enemy and enforcing revolutionary justice.

Jamalul Kiram’s successor named

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 26): Jamalul Kiram’s successor named

Sultan Esmail Kiram II 26 Oct.

Datu Esmail Dalus Strattan Kiram, 73, is the new sultan of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, succeeding his elder brother Jamalul who passed away on Oct. 19.

Abraham J. Idjirani, secretary general and spokesman of the sultanate, relayed this on the seventh day prayer for the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

He said the younger Kiram’s ascension to the throne was assured, following “strict adherence to the law and order of succession.”

Idjirani said the new Moro royal leader’s title will be officially known as Sultan Esmail Kiram II. The new sultan was born on Nov. 9, 1940.

In an interview with the new sultan, Kiram II said he will pursue, along with his brothers and sisters, the struggle for peace and economic development, including the pursuit for Sabah through peaceful means.

“That has been my stand since I was young, a peaceful struggle for Sabah,” he said.

Kiram II became a teacher in the province after graduating due to lack of teachers. He was a consistent honor student and a basketball player in high school.

He worked with the Marcos regime’s Ministry of Human Settlements as provincial coordinator for his province.

After the snap elections in 1986, the then President Cory Aquino appointed Kiram II as one of the officers-in-charge Sulu provincial board members.

He has nine children to his first wife, the late Hadja Zainab Hussin Kiram.

Three of his eldest children are Datu Hayder Ali Hussin Kiram, Datu Amirbahar Hussin Kiram, and Dayang-Dayang Shvetlana Hussin Kiram (Abdurajak).

Kiram II is currently married to Hadja Leonor Sakiral Kiram.

8ID partners with Red Cross and Generika drugstore in bloodletting and medical mission activities

Posted to the Samar News (Oct 8): 8ID partners with Red Cross and Generika drugstore in bloodletting and medical mission activities

8ID bloodletting

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City, SamarThe 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army simultaneously conducted Bloodletting and Medical Mission activities in partnership with health stakeholders on October 5, 2013 at Catbalogan City.

The 8ID partnered with Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) Tacloban City for the bloodletting activity held at Headquarters, 8th Infantry Division in Brgy Maulong, Catbalogan City; and likewise partnered with Generika Drugstore for the medical mission conducted at Poblacion, Catbalogan City.

PNRC Tacloban City was the recipient of 21,500 cc of blood from the 47 soldier/donors; while Generika Drugstore, with 8ID medical doctors and nurses, serviced the medical needs of 296 patients, 55 of whom were senior citizens.

The Army division in Eastern Visayas will continue to nurture its partnership with PNRC and Generika Drugstore to help address the gaps on health-related concerns that cannot be attended to by the local government units due to limited resources.

BGen Jet B. Velarmino AFP, Commander of 8th Infantry Division said, “The 8ID also supports and will continue to assist the private sector, corporate entities and public organizations which are cognizant of their social responsibility and undertake programs and initiatives beneficial to our people. We share their desire and commitment to help our less fortunate countrymen improve their health well being.”

New Sultan of Sulu named

From the Philippine Star (Oct 26): New Sultan of Sulu named

A younger brother of the late Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo Jamalul Kiram III is the new successor to the throne.

Sultanate of Sulu spokesman Abraham Idjirani said Datu Esmail Kiram, 73, is the new sultan of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo succeeding his elder brother Jamalul, who died last October 19 at the Philippine Heart Center.

Idjirani said Esmail will be known as Sultan Esmail Kiram II.

Idjirani said there was no hindrance to the younger Kiram's succeeding his elder brother.

"Everybody accepts the law and order of succession in the sultanate. The crown prince, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, had already made known that he will observe the succession's law and order," he said.

The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo hugged the headlines for a time after a band of some 300 of its fighters led by Agbimuddin Kiram landed in Sabah in an apparent attempt to force the Sabah issue into their favor.

The landing of the Sultanate's armed men in Lahad Datu in Sabah triggered clashes with Malaysian security forces.

Basilan villagers afraid to vote

From the Philippine Star (Oct 26): Basilan villagers afraid to vote

Army Trucks carrying soldiers drive through a secluded area in Sumisip town in Basilan as part of the security missions being initiated by the Army's 104th Brigade in support of the efforts of the Commission on Elections to administer clean and honest elections in the province. JOHN UNSON

Residents are zealous to cast their votes for favored candidates for barangay positions in the impoverished Tumahubong area in Sumisip town, Basilan, but are apprehensive to come out for the elections on October 28 due to security reasons.

Ethnic Yakan and Visayan voters in Barangay Tumahubong, which used to be the wealthiest district in Sumisip, had witnessed how unscrupulous candidates for barangay positions violently worked out their election in past electoral exercises.

“Some of us went out to vote, but failed because the barangay elections in the last two, or three exercises were rigged and our votes became meaningless,” a Visayan community leader told The Star via mobile phone.

Voters want the military to tightly secure the area to enable them to freely vote for deserving candidates for barangay positions on October 28.

Barangay Tumahubong, touted as the economic hub of the west of Basilan from the 1960s until the 1980s, is now a hostile area, gripped by grinding poverty due to mismanagement by barangay officials and misuse of development funds.

Beleaguered residents said their barangay leaders, most of them seeking re-election, managed to railroad their victory during past electoral exercises through intimidation and fraud, even disenfranchising voters they knew were against them.

Barangay Tumahubong was the seat of operations of the multinational tire producer BF Goodrich Rubber Company from the 1960s until 1984, when a Malaysian firm took over the operation of the almost 5,000-hectare rubber plantation established by its pioneer developer based in Akron, Ohio.

The lands covered by the plantation eventually got divided and distributed to laborers under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program during the time of President Corazon Aquino.

It was after the plantation's having been subjected to CARP that the barangay started to become politically and socially turbulent due to the squabbles for control of the cooperative that grouped beneficiaries together.

Barangay folks have asked the commander of the Army’s 104th Brigade, Col Carlito Galvez, Jr., to help empower them anew by providing tight security, through the 64th Infantry Battalion, to teachers and poll personnel tasked to administer the October 28 elections in Tumahubong.

Galvez told The Star via text message he will see to it that all directives from the Commission on Elections on how to peacefully administer the October 28 elections in Tumahubong will be carried out by members of the 64th IB.

Galvez said combatants of the 64th IB will see to it that only legitimate voters and poll watchers deployed by candidates can enter polling sites.

“We shall do everything to help the Comelec ensure honest, peaceful and credible barangay elections in the area,” Galvez said.

Some of the teachers in Tumahubong have asked to be relieved of election duties due to either security reasons, or their being related to certain candidates.

Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes, director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police, earlier said Comelec is to deploy 1, 741 policemen to help administer the barangay elections in far-flung areas of ARMM.

Delos Reyes said the policemen, to come from Visayas and Luzon, will act as poll personnel in areas where teachers have refused to render election duties.

Major in Jonas case posts bail, gives alibi

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 26): Major in Jonas case posts bail, gives alibi


On the day Edita Burgos’ son Jonas went missing, the parents of Army Major Harry Baliaga welcomed home their own son whom they had not seen for more than a year.

Baliaga had given this alibi before and he stressed it again Friday as he presented himself to the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 126, which last month ordered his arrest in connection with the 2007 abduction of farmer-activist Jonas Burgos.

Charged with arbitrary detention, Baliaga posted a P40,000 bail after submitting his mug shots and having his fingerprints taken. He was accompanied by his civilian lawyer, Bumin Pasiwen.

The court set the arraignment on Nov. 12.

The Department of Justice earlier found probable cause against the officer based mainly on statements given by a restaurant busboy who claimed he was the same man who seized Burgos and forced him into a vehicle outside Ever Gotesco Mall, Quezon City, on April 28, 2007.

Speaking to reporters at the Quezon City Hall of Justice, the 36-year-old Baliaga maintained his innocence, claiming he was in his home province when Burgos was abducted.

We came here to show that we believe in the justice system because this is also the justice system that will exonerate me. One hundred percent, I believe that I will be exonerated,” said Baliaga, a member of the Philippine Military Academy's Class of 2000.

“I had wanted this to happen sooner because this would hasten efforts to serve justice for Mrs. Burgos and for myself,” he said. “I have always said, and it’s in my affidavits, that I had nothing to do with this case."

Baliaga appeared last year in a Court of Appeals hearing on Edita Burgos’s petition for the writ of amparo. He became teary eyed on the stand particularly when asked about his whereabouts on the day Jonas was abducted.

On Friday, Baliaga said he had long wanted to explain why he became emotional before the CA justices—but again his voice cracked and his eyes welled up.

He paused to take a deep breath, wiped an eye and shook his head. He turned his back as though to excuse himself, took another deep breath, and asked for a five-minute lull before he could continue.

Baliaga, a native of Mountain Province, insisted that on April 28, 2007, he went to see his parents, Harry and Dominga, and his then girlfriend, Rachel, who is now his wife.

He said he had not been in his hometown for more than a year because he took a Special Forces training course at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province and later a basic airborne course which ran until April 19, 2007.

“I cried that time (when the justices) asked where I was on April 28 because I thought about my family right away. I was on my way to see them. But then here are other people saying: ‘No, you did something wrong that time’,” Baliaga said, adding:

“It was very painful for me to think that I was in that situation (of being accused). Basically, I felt self-pity. I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t take it, thinking that I was on my way to see the people I love most in my life and then others would say, ‘you’re lying, you were committing a crime at that time.’ That’s not right.”

Baliaga said the testimonies of his parents, as well as that of an aunt who joined him on the bus ride home, would prove his innocence.

He was at the PMA, teaching military science and military arts courses to the cadets, when he learned that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) had implicated him in the Burgos case, the officer further recalled.

Soon after, the Armed Forces of the Philippines reassigned him to the Army Headquarters in Fort Bonifacio to make him available for court proceedings. He was, in effect, placed on floating status.

“I could no longer follow the career path I wanted to take because of (the charges) being leveled against me,” he said.

Baliaga said he was already with another military unit, and was no longer assigned to the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion, when Burgos was abducted. The vehicle allegedly used to abduct Burgos was traced to the battalion’s headquarters in Bulacan province.

He said it dismayed him to hear the CHR’s insinuation that the military had put together a group of soldiers from different units to commit a crime. “Our military is not like that. There’s no military operation like that.

US ‘pivot’ to Asia gaining strength—admiral

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 25): US ‘pivot’ to Asia gaining strength—admiral

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON—The United States has significantly increased its warships and aircraft deployed in Asia despite Washington’s budget woes, adding punch to its “pivot” to the region, a senior naval commander said.

Rear Admiral Mark C. Montgomery, commander of an aircraft carrier strike group homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, said the expanded military presence would have a calming effect on simmering tensions and territorial disputes in the region.

“The strategic rebalancing has resulted in an extremely higher number of surface combatants, cruisers and destroyers that support the strike group,” Montgomery told Agence France-Presse in an interview on Wednesday aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

“What we’ve seen is an increase in surface combatant presence here in the Western Pacific… so these ships are spread throughout those areas,” he said, in the interview at the flag bridge of the nuclear-powered supercarrier as fighter jets took off and landed on the deck as part of drills.

“Having more ships gives us more presence. It allows us to have a greater force.”

Montgomery said US defense budget cuts and the recent 16-day partial US government shutdown have not affected his command.

The shutdown forced President Barack Obama to skip two Asian summits this month, triggering concerns about the extent of US commitment to the region as China becomes more assertive.

“Operations and maintenance decisions have not affected us. The strategic rebalance is continuing in earnest,” the admiral said.

“We have sufficient funds for our operations… there is in fact a strategic rebalancing in place that has resulted in more ships and aircraft being out here.”

Last year, then US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in Singapore that the Pentagon would shift 60 percent of US naval assets to the Pacific region by 2020 as part of an Asian “pivot” announced by Washington.

Montgomery, a 25-year veteran in the US Navy, said ships and planes from San Diego, California and Pearl Harbor in Hawaii are being deployed to Asia for up to eight months as part of the rebalancing.

“That gives me a lot more flexibility, a lot more presence,” he said.

US presence has ‘calming effect’

Montgomery commands Carrier Strike Group Five from the nuclear-powered George Washington, which was in international waters in the West Philippine Sea on Wednesday when journalists and other visitors were flown in from Singapore.

A carrier strike group packs a powerful punch as it comprises an aircraft carrier, backed by at least one guided missile cruiser, a destroyer, a supply ship and a fast attack submarine.

It is a key element in the US strategy of projecting its military power across the world.
The George Washington heads the US Navy’s largest carrier strike group and the only one homeported outside the US. It operates in three theatres, including the waters off the Korean Peninsula where tensions between North and South Korea are simmering.

It also operates in the sea off Japan where Tokyo and Beijing are locked in a territorial dispute, and in the West Philippine Sea, where China and four Southeast Asian states as well as Taiwan have overlapping claims over territories.

Montgomery’s carrier strike group held military exercises with South Korea and Japan off the Korean peninsula this month, sparking a sharp rebuke from Pyongyang which denounced the drills as a “serious military provocation” and an “attack on our efforts for peace”.

This week the group was cruising the West Philippine Sea while holding smaller military exercises with the Malaysian navy and air force and later in the month with its Singaporean allies.

“I’m an element of any contingency response. I think a carrier strike group is always a critical element of it,” Montgomery said, when asked about the role of his command in any military conflict in the region.

China claims almost all of the waters in the West Philippine Sea, including those approaching the shores of smaller countries like the Philippines, a former US colony with which Washington has a mutual defense treaty.

Manila, which is the most vocal in criticizing China’s alleged aggressive moves in the sea, and Washington are in talks over a deal that will expand US military presence in the Philippines, which evicted fixed US military bases in the early 1990s.

Montgomery said the increased US military presence in the region is a stabilizing factor.

“Presence always has an assuring and calming effect,” he said. “I think the fact that we’re here (now) says a lot whether or not we will be here if there was a crisis.”

Negrense general shines

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 26): Negrense general shines

The Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brig. Gen. Ademar Tomaro, bagged the best brigade award for the fourth time, besting three others of the 6th Infantry Division in central Mindanao.

Winning the best brigade award the 602nd Infantry Brigade, started when Tomaro, a native of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, assumed its command Oct. 26 last year. In the successive 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2013, the 602nd IB won the same award, military records show.

Tomaro supervises about 1,500 troops of the 57th, 40th and 7th Infantry Battalions in addressing threats of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Fighters and the New People’s Army, among other lawless groups operating here and in neighboring provinces.

Last month, the 602nd Infantry Brigade successfully rescued civilians held hostage by BIFF in Midsayap town, North Cotabato.

Tomaro received the award in behalf of his unit Wednesday at the 6ID headquarters in Awang, Cotabato City, from Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz.

The 7th, 40th and 57th IBs alternately won the award as best battalion of 6ID in the 1st, 2nd and 3 quarters of this year, military records also showed.

The 10th Infantry Division recently took over the supervision of the 57th IB, that main task of which is to address threats of the NPA .

Recently, the city government of Kabankalan headed by Mayor Isidro Zayco conferred an award to Tomaro for being the outstanding Kabankalanon in the field of military service.

NPA declares seized candidates 'prisoners of war'

From Rappler (Oct 26): NPA declares seized candidates 'prisoners of war'

STRONGHOLD. NPA guerrillas in a gathering in Agusan del Sur. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

STRONGHOLD. NPA guerrillas in a gathering in Agusan del Sur. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

The New People’s Army (NPA) seized 5 barangay election candidates in Loreto town, Agusan del Sur on Thursday, October 24 and declared them "prisoners of war."

Ka Aris Francisco, spokesperson of the NPA’s ComVal North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command, said heavily armed communist guerrillas swooped down on the village center in Barangay Mansanitas capturing a re-electionist barangay captain, a re-electionist incumbent barangay councilor, and 3 others who are also running as barangay councilors.

The captured candidates were armed militias and are members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit, Francisco said.

“Captured and considered as prisoners of war were barangay captain Lito Andalique, barangay kagawad Marvin Bantuasan, Crisanto Piodos, and Balaba Andalique, and Cafgu tribal member Pepe Subla. The 5 are currently accorded rights as prisoners of war (POWs), their health and safety at the auspices of the NPA's custodial force,” Francisco said.

Simultaneously, the communist guerrillas raided a detachment of the 26th Infantry Battalion in the same village, the NPA claimed.

Agusan del Sur is identified as one of the strongholds of the NPA in the country.

5 soldiers killed

Francisco said they also engaged the reinforcements sent by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), killing at least 5 government soldiers.

“Red fighters also thwarted a platoon of reinforcement forces of the 26th IB in a gunfight that yielded at least 5 fatalities on the military side. AFP's Eastmincom responded by sending two military helicopters that dropped 14 bombs in the community; the helicopters later secured their fatalities,” Francisco said.

Capt Alberto Caber, chief of the public information office of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, asserted that 6 were captured and that no soldier was killed in the incident.

“Only one soldier was grazed in the head. They should explain what they did with one of the captives. They are responsible to the 6 persons they kidnapped,” Caber said.
The military officer also said that members of CAFGU are not regular soldiers.

“Why did the NPA do that? Duties of the CAFGU are only for 15 days and they only receive honorarium and not salary,” Caber said.

Government militias automatically resign from their duties once they run for public office, Caber said.

“These are resigned CAFGU members,” Caber added.

Election-related violence

The military said the incident proves the alleged intention of the NPA to interfere with the elections through harassment.

“The NPA is trying to let the people see that they are capable of sowing fear. That they can do anything anywhere here in Eastern Mindanao,” Caber said.

The NPA, he added, is also harassing the candidates for extortion purposes.

“We consider this as an election-related violence. And the Eastern Mindanao Command condemns these atrocities by the rebels,” said Caber.

However, the NPA denied the accusations, saying that the “POWs” are legitimate targets for participating in “anti-people” activities.

“The five POWs are not ordinary civilians and reelectionist village officials, but are counter-revolutionary paramilitary forces, and are, thus, legitimate targets of the NPA. The POWs are psychological warfare agents, who banned the masses from going to their farms and forcing them to remain at the village centers, in a blatant attempt to control their movement,” Francisco said.

“These POWs have campaigned hard against the NPAs, harassed peasant leaders, and strongly endorsed the entry of palm oil and mining projects — projects that will eventually dislocate the masses and deprive Lumads of their ancestral domain,” the communist spokesman added.

Francisco said the raid was a “campaign against a fascist Army unit and its paramilitary machinery” who are allegedly responsible for “butchering two peasant leaders — Gabriel Alindao and Benjie Planos of the peasant group Kahugpungan Alang sa Kalambuan sa Kauswagan or Kasaka — detaining and torturing two civilian Lumad minors, and conducting massive harassment and counter-revolutionary drive against the peasant masses in Loreto, Agusan del Sur.”

Francisco said that as the government continues to intensify its counterinsurgency operations, the revolutionary movement will also step up its attacks and expand its “barrio councils” while establishing “welfare projects to sustain the basic needs of the masses.”

Three tribal leaders were sent by the local government of Loreto to negotiate for the release of the captives.

Caber said the rescue and pursuit operations would temporarily slow down to give way to the talks.

NPA leader, follower dead in clash

From Tempo (Oct 25): NPA leader, follower dead in clash

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – A commander of the New Peoples’ Army and one of his followers were killed in an encounter with the government troopers in Bukidnon province.

Capt. Christian Uy, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division based in Camp Edilberto Evangelista here, said the clash occurred in Barangay Dawo when government troopers in Bukidnon responded to a report about the presence of the communist rebels in San Fernando.

Capt. Uy, identified the dead rebel commander as one “Commander Toto” of Front Committee 6 of the CPP-NPA North-Central Mindanao Regional Party Committee.

His follower who also died in the gun battle has not yet been identified.

NPA frees 1 civilian, still holds 5 barangay candidates in Agusan Sur

From GMA News (Oct 26): NPA frees 1 civilian, still holds 5 barangay candidates in Agusan Sur

The New People's Army guerrillas released one of their hostages in Loreto town, Agusan del Sur on Friday morning, a day after they abducted six people, five of whom are candidates for the barangay elections on October 28.

Loreto Mayor Dario Otaza told GMA News Online in a phone interview on Saturday morning the freed civilian relayed the demands of the NPA for the release of the remaining captives.

Tonie Subla, the freed captive, said the NPA demands pullout of all government soldiers in the town and the disarming of Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

But Mayor Otaza said, “Hindi tayo papayag sa demands dahil tayo ang gobyerno.”

Also, he said the municipal government has already sent three datus (indigenous leaders) to negotiate for the peaceful surrender of the rebels, adding that the three emissaries are expected to be back on Sunday morning.

Still in the hands of the rebels are Lito Andalaque, Balaba Andalaque, Reynaldo Piodos, Marvin Bantuasan, and Gina Bantuasan.

Meanwhile, 1st Lt. Peter Sarsagat of the 26th IB told GMA News Online in a separate phone interview the military will also not yield to the demands of the NPA.

Sarsagat said some 40 armed men engaged the military in a firefight on Thursday. The same group is suspected to have stormed Barangay Sabud and seized the 6 victims afterwards.
The military is currently conducting pursuit and rescue operations, he said.

Criminology students visit 1st Infantry Div HQ

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 26): Criminology students visit 1st Infantry Div HQ

Around 65 graduating criminology students and six instructors from the Josefina H. Cerilles State College (JHCSC) Dumingag Campus, Zamboanga Del Sur visited the 1st Infantry Division headquarters in Kuta Major Cesar Kuta-Sang-An, Labangan town Friday.

1st Lt. Franco Salvador Suelto, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said the JHCSC group was headed by Prof. Allan T. Caw-it, dean of the school.

The guided tour started with an audio-visual presentation (AVP) coupled with explanation on the 1st Infantry Division history, current activities, AFP Internal Peace and Security “BAYANIHAN,”

Winning the Peace AVP, Juana Change which is an AVP depicting th3 efforts of Philippine Army towards the Army Transformation Road (ATR) Map.

Also, Sarah Geronimo’s IPSP BAYANIHAN theme song and the Philippine Army recruitment video highlighted this part.

The educational tour also allowed the students to gain a glimpse of the different capabilities of the Army and orientation on the life of soldiery inside camp.

Armed group abducts 7 village officials in Agusan del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 26): Armed group abducts 7 village officials in Agusan del Sur

Ongoing negotiation and rescue efforts are now being now conducted by a crisis management committee of Loreto town in Agusan del Sur for the release of seven village officials who were reportedly abducted by about 40 heavily-armed group believed to be New People's Army rebels.

The same group was also said to have harassed an Army community organizing for peace and development(COPD) team in the area.

Reports from Agusan del Sur Police Provincial Office said a team from the Army's community organizing for peace and development (COPD) team of the Charlie Company, 26th Infantry Battalion, 4ID PA, led by Corporal Edmar B. Jumawan with 12 other army enlisted personnel were conducting immersion activity early Thursday in Barangay Sabud, Loreto in Agusan del Sur when harassed by the armed group -- believed to be members of the Guerilla Front 34 of the Southern Mindanao regional Committee (SMRC).

The army troopers engaged the attackers in a firefight which resulted to the wounding of PFC Joe-Gil Cabillo. Barangay Sabud is the remotest part of the town which is about 60 kilometers from the Loreto Municipal Police station.

At 7:30 a.m. the same day, the fleeing armed group proceeded to the village center and forcibly took baranay captain Lito L. Andalique, village councilors Balaba Andalique, Marvin S. Bantuasan, Crisanto M. Piodos, CVO Pepe Subla and Maria Gina V. Bantuasan.

The armed group brought said village officials with them as they fled the area heading to an unknown direction.

The Agusan del Sur Provincial Public Safety Company as well as the municipal police stations near the area were instructed to conduct checkpoints for the possible interception of the fleeing rebels and rescue of the victims.

The Loreto police has coordinated with concerned units of the Philippine Army operating in the area for intelligence monitoring and possible identification of the suspects.

PNP 12 turns over modern explosive and ordnance device to Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 26): PNP 12 turns over modern explosive and ordnance device to Sultan Kudarat

The Sultan Kudarat police provincial office based in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat is now equipped with modern explosive ordnance disposal device courtesy of Philippine National Police regional office 12.

The equipment, an EOD Mobile and Robotic device, was handed over Friday by Chief Supt. Charles Calima Jr, PNP-12 regional director to Sultan Kudarat police provincial director Senior Supt. Rex dela Rosa and Sultan Kudarat Gov. Suharto Mangudadatu.

"I have seen that there are a lot of good and efficient police, but due to lack of commodities, they couldn't perfect their duties. Hence, we will not foil ourselves from upgrading and accepting changes to make every operation easy and exact," Calima said during the turn over rites of EOD mobile and Robotic device at the SKPNP provincial office in Barangay Kalawag here.

After being trained by United States Explosive and Ordnance Device experts, PNP-12 is now is now ready to operate the well deserved Explosive Ordnance Device equipment.

Visibly elated, Gov. Mangudadatu named the EOD equipment as "Charles robocop."

"The robot will be a helpful device to secure the safety of the people of Sultan Kudarat province and the region as a whole," Calima said.

"Due to the bombings in different places in this region, the aforementioned device will help the police force in identifying threats quickly and accurately," he added.

Speaking during the program, Mangudadatu said his office will provide P30,000 monthly assistance to the Sultan Kudarat PNP bomb disposal unit for the maintenance of the robot equipment.

The provincial government will also provide P600,000 annually for the SKPPO peace and order fund.

Calima told police and local officials that Sultan Kudarat was a lucky equipment of the EOD robot since there are only three of this kind in the country.

One in the National Capital Region and the other in Zamboanga City.

"Such amenity is very timely especially that our alertness is being tested by lawless elements," Calima said.

Isulan, Tacurong City and nearby Koronadal City had been subjected to bomb attacks by lawless elements, including extortion gangs which used cellphone triggered improvised explosive device. These attacks were blamed on Moro rebels turned into banditry.

Plebiscite on new Davao Occ province to be held Monday

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 26): Plebiscite on new Davao Occ province to be held Monday

A plebiscite for the creation of the new province of Davao Occidental will push through on Monday.

This, after the Supreme Court during its special en banc session Friday decided to dismiss the petition filed by Davao del Sur Gov. Marc Douglas Cagas IV against the conduct of such a plebiscite.

The SC declared as without merit the petition of Cagas.

It allowed the conduct of the plebiscite to be supervised by the Commission on Elections and to be held simultaneous with the barangay elections on October 28.

The SC said the conduct of a plebiscite is within the power of the Comelec to get the pulse of the residents of Davao del Sur whether they agree to divide the province into two separate provinces.

Under Republic Act No. 10360 or "An Act creating the Province of Davao Occidental", which was passed into law by the 16th Congress on July 23, 2013, the Comelec is mandated to supervise the plebiscite for the creation of the province of Davao Occidental and it will be conducted within 60 days after the enactment of the law.

Section 46 of RA 10360 provides that majority of the voters of Davao del Sur should vote in favor the creation of the province of Davao Occidental.

The Comelec earlier recommended to conduct the plebiscite simultaneous with the barangay elections as the government stands to save P29 million.

If the "yes" votes have it, the province of Davao Occidental will be composed of the towns of Sta. Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino, Jose Abad Santos and Sarangani.