Monday, October 28, 2013

Investing in our national security

Posted to the "Thought Leaders" section of Rappler (Oct 28): Investing in our national security

by Ronald Mendoza and Raffy Alunan

Ronald Mendoza / Raffy Alunan

  Ronald Mendoza / Raffy Alunan

Recently, the AIM Policy Center in cooperation with the Management Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Employers Confederation of the Philippines, Asia Society, Chevron Philippines, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc., Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO), Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, and Harvard Kennedy School and Tufts University Alumni organized a policy forum on “US, China, and ASEAN: The Evolving Realities in the West Philippine Sea.”

Over 200 high-level officials and representatives from government, academe, business sector, civil society, and the security sector were handpicked to attend the event at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).

The starting point for the discussion is the understanding that the defense of the Philippines against any threat – both foreign and domestic – rests primarily with us Filipinos. This in turn could lead to a common understanding of what it would take to secure the nation in its total sense.

Along these lines, three experts shared their views on the rising security challenges linked to the West Philippine Sea and related maritime disputes in the Asian region: Walter Slocombe (Undersecretary of Defense for Policy during the Clinton Administration), Dennis Blair (retired US navy admiral, former Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Command, and former Director of National Intelligence of the United States) and Justice Antonio Carpio (Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines). Their presentations helped clarify a range of issues in this area, which we will attempt to synthesize here briefly.

Credible defense posture

In his presentation, Admiral Dennis Blair expressed concern over the grave security challenges faced by the country, noting the (then unfolding) Zamboanga crisis in our South and the renewed concerns over Bajo de Masinloc (or Scarborough Shoal).

Blair emphasized that the Philippines is actually in a position to build a small but effective naval force that could deny a much larger navy free access to Philippine territory. He noted examples of other country’s naval forces that have managed to accomplish this, including Sweden, which faced down the Soviet navy during the Cold War, or Iran, which has faced much larger naval coalitions (led by among others, the US Navy) in the Persian Gulf. Blair noted that “it is perfectly feasible for a country like the Philippines […] to think about things like swarm tactics, small fast patrol boats, anti-ship missiles launched from various platforms, mines, aircraft, small submarines – these can all make it very dangerous and difficult for even big navies to operate near your coasts.”

Blair then emphasized what he thought was one of the principal challenges in Philippine defense policy (having worked with the country’s armed forces for many years as Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Command) – the need for sustained and competent strategic planning, program planning and execution, budgeting and controlling systems, acquisition programs, audit and follow up. All of this should be underpinned by a cadre of professional officers and officials who can carry those out consistently and without the taint of corruption.

Despite the presence of an existing plan (crafted in 2004) to improve the management and equipment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, succeeding Secretaries of Defense, according to Blair, failed to carry it out consistently. And since 2004, there have been 5 Secretaries of Defense, 3 major reorganizations and 7 Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, providing a tumultuous leadership platform for executing this multi-year plan. Clearly this needs to be addressed.

Developing the legal case

Justice Antonio Carpio discussed the potential case on the Philippine side of the maritime claims, reassuring and clarifying to many that the country’s legal case is robust. Justice Carpio also explained some of the main weaknesses of China’s case:
  • China has made its first official reference to its claim to the area covered by the 9-dashed line in its Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Law enacted in 1998. In this case, a domestic law cannot supersede a customary international law or a convention (as in the case of UNCLOS) in matters related to the rights of a state under the international law.

  • The area covered by the 9-dashed line cannot be considered as part of the internal waters of China as it is located in an open sea and that there has been freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight in it for the past years. It also cannot be part of China’s territorial sea since a 1992 law limits China’s territorial sea to areas that are up to 12 nautical miles away from its baselines. The area is also beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) of China (as drawn from its baselines), and so the area cannot be classified as any of all possible maritime zones (i.e., internal waters, territorial sea, EEZ, ECS) that can be claimed by a coastal state under UNCLOS.

  • China has only officially notified the world of its 9-dashed line claim in 2009, and that it has not effectively implemented its claim during both the pre-UNCLOS (from 1947 when the 9-dashed line claim was first included in an official Chinese map to 1994) and UNCLOS eras. Further, not all countries recognize China’s claim. In this case, the necessary conditions for a claim to “historical rights” are not satisfied.
Need for a balanced strategy

Walter Slocombe noted that maritime disputes in the region are not a matter of inevitable conflict. To mitigate the risk of conflict, he underscored a more balanced approach that would persuade and empower reformist elements in the Chinese government to maintain a peaceful and constructive relationship with its Asian neighbors.

Ultimately, the message is that China needs a peaceful world around it, so it can continue on its own economic development trajectory.

A recent analysis by the AIM Policy Center lays out the importance of peaceful economic and political relations between China and its neighbors, as these also underpin the economic relationships that have served China very well. Think of the multi-trillion dollar international production chains (involving many Asian economies linked to China in input trade) that see China as the main assembly and export hub to major industrial country markets.

These form part of the “blue economy” that links many Asian economies in maritime trade and extraction and management of marine resources necessary for food security and inclusive growth in the region for many decades (hopefully generations) to come. In due course China will also benefit from the development of its neighbors (and vice versa) given the growing export market that ASEAN and other Asian economies represent.

China’s own internal challenges (not entirely dissimilar to our own country’s internal challenges by the way) include, among many others, the standing challenge to lift well over 100 million people out of poverty, to critically address the rising inequity in its society and to respond to rising food, energy and other demands that come with industrialization.

Indeed, China, like all countries, contains many groups within it that espouses different views. It is critical to work with those that see China’s future as part of a peaceful and prosperous Asia in which the rights of all nations, large and small, and people/ individuals are respected. These require, according to Slocombe, a balance between firmness and restraint.

Preparing for the long haul

Our own takeaway from these expert views is that the country needs to seriously invest in its national security. Our defense build-up is on catch-up mode and should have taken place after the US security umbrella was lifted in the early 1990s. Our sustained underinvestment in defense has probably emboldened incursions into our sovereign territory since then, spanning those in Mischief Reef (1995) and more recently in Bajo de Masinloc (2012).

The present administration has taken steps to modernize the armed forces, such as the upgrade of the country’s naval and aerial capabilities with the purchase of Navy frigates BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz and 12 brand new fighter jets from South Korea (worth around P18.9 billion), and the enactment of the Revised AFP Modernization Act last year (which provides for an initial funding of P75 billion and the establishment of the Revised AFP Modernization Trust Fund to finance the 15-year modernization program).

However, it would appear that the Philippines is still under-investing in its national defense given its level of income and when compared to other countries in the world.
If we draw a trend-line to estimate the relationship between national income and military spending, the Philippines is well below the trend. Bringing the country to the average defense spending that its income level would imply, suggests an increase of up to PhP70 billion in additional defense investments every year.

And what is the ROI (return on investment)? Every year we already lose billions to smuggling, poaching, and illegal incursions into our sovereign territory. This doesn’t even begin to quantify the costs to future generations of future possible incursions into our territory. We will continue to suffer these losses if we do not invest to protect these resources for our future generations. (Our own fishermen, incidentally, are now unable to fish in some of the disputed areas, thus depriving them of their livelihoods—while leaving these areas vulnerable to unsustainable fishing and extraction by others.)

An important caveat here is that endemic corruption (affecting even the defense establishment) needs to be addressed urgently – corruption now very clearly compromises national security as well. The people’s vigilance and the strength of our democratic institutions to root out corruption and bring back confidence and trust in public finance are now more important than ever.

Addressing our national security challenges requires a form of collective action that will involve no less than an entire generation of leaders, spanning several presidential administrations and involving all of our local governments pulling together to ensure our security despite our archipelagic challenges.

Perhaps Justice Carpio framed it best, by noting that the nation faces an inter-generational struggle to maintain our sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Just as in generations past, the investments the present generation makes today to uphold our sovereignty will shape the freedom of future generations. The time to act is now. -

Rafael Alunan leads the security cluster of the FSGO, while Ronald Mendoza is Associate Professor of Economics at AIM and executive director of the AIM Policy Center. The event held last October 4 is the second of a series of policy discussions linked to AIM's research on the West Philippine Sea, ASEAN Regional Cooperation and the Blue Economy.

CA upholds dismissal of Navy men tagged in Pestaño death

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 28): CA upholds dismissal of Navy men tagged in Pestaño death

The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales’ order dismissing from the service all 10 Navy officers and enlisted personnel implicated in the 1995 death of Ensign Philip Pestaño aboard a Navy ship.

The appellate court’s Ninth Division, in a decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., rejected the Navy officers’ appeal to overturn their dismissal for alleged grave misconduct on the Ombudsman’s order.

The justices did not rule on the Navy officers’ other appeal to overrule Morales’ order to indict them for murder.

Months after her appointment in 2011, Morales reversed a decision made in 2009 by her predecessor, Merceditas Gutierrez, dismissing the criminal complaint for murder and administrative complaint for grave misconduct filed by Pestaño’s parents, Felipe and Evelyn, against their son’s superiors and shipmates.

Of the 10 implicated personnel, four officers and two enlisted men are still in the active service.

“The Court finds the joint order of the Office of the Ombudsman dated Nov. 22, 2011, insofar as (grave misconduct) is concerned, in order.

“The motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners as to the criminal aspect of the case (for murder) is still pending resolution in the Office of the Ombudsman,” the appellate court said.

Those charged were Navy Capt. Ricardo Ordoñez, Commander Reynaldo Lopez, Commander Alfrederick Alba, Lt. Commander Luidegar Casis, Lt. Commander Joselito Colico, Lt. Commander Ruben Roque, Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Sandy Miranda, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Welmenio Aquino, Petty Officer 1st Class Carlito Amoroso and Petty Officer 2nd Class Mil Leonor Igacasan.

In their appeal, the Navy officers and personnel said Morales could no longer revive the complaint since the decision in 2009 that absolved them was already final.

But the CA Ninth Division took the side of Morales after she countered that her predecessor’s decision was based on “insufficiency of evidence to establish that murder… had been committed.”

Pestaño’s parents had asked Morales to reverse the Ombudsman’s finding that their son had committed suicide.

Pestaño was found dead inside his cabin on the BRP Bacolod City before the ship reached Manila coming from Sangley Point, Cavite.

He was found lying on a bed with a single gunshot wound in the right temple.

The Senate and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in their investigations, ruled it a suicide.

Mountie brings expertise on ‘culturally sensitive policing’ to Philippines’ war-weary Zamboanga

From the Edmonton Journal (Oct 27): Mountie brings expertise on ‘culturally sensitive policing’ to Philippines’ war-weary Zamboanga

A senior Mountie has been thrust into one of the least known and most intractable conflicts in the world.

Assistant RCMP Commissioner Randy Beck arrived in the Philippines last week to oversee the establishment of the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) in war-weary Mindanao where many of the country’s seven million Muslims live and where more than 120,000 people have died over the past half century in fighting between Islamic insurgents and government forces.

Beck’s commission is to make recommendations next April on what kind of police force Mindanao will need if separation talks succeed. The ICP will be looking for a model that will reflect the southern region’s ethnic and cultural differences.

Just before the police commission work got underway — and at the same time as comprehensive peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front seemed to be making progress — the MILF’s longtime rival, the Moro National Liberation Front, launched a spectacular attack seizing scores of civilians and holding them hostage for several weeks in the heart of predominately Christian Zamboanga City.
By the time government forces regained control of an urban area last month where more than one million people live, 206 Islamic insurgents were dead, as were 25 security forces and 13 civilians. And large swathes of this steamy tropical city were in ruins.

As Vietnam-era Huey gunships swept over nearby mountains and large numbers of police and soldiers brought in from across the country patrolled constantly, feelings were still running sky high last week.  This was most obvious where some of the tens of thousands Muslim refugees from the latest fighting were living in wretched conditions under flimsy plastic sheeting they had pitched along the normally idyllic waterfront.

The bloodbath in Zamboanga City has complicated Beck’s work before it has really begin.

“Mistrust is a fact of life and that is how we are dealing with it. We are not approaching it as a disenabler,” Beck, who represents the Canadian government in the ICP,  said during an interview in Manila. “We approach it as a risk factor to any future success.”

What made Beck a good fit to be chairman of the ICP was that he comes to this deeply impoverished archipelago in the south with nearly four decades of hands-on experience working with national, provincial and municipal police forces across Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Of particular interest here was that Beck had done a lot of what he referred to as “culturally sensitive policing” in aboriginal communities and had helped several indigenous police forces that were independent of provincial and federal services. It is a model that will be examined to see if it is useful here.

“For reference purposes, I can put those pieces on the table as annexes to this jigsaw puzzle that we are trying to put together,” said Beck, a former detective whose last job at home was as head of criminal operations for British Columbia, which is the RCMP’s largest division.

“How Canada does policing is something that interests us a lot,” said the MILF’s top peace negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, who lauded the Mountie’s appointment. Because Canada had a long record of multi-jurisdictional policing involving three levels of government as well as aboriginal groups, “he could give us some good lessons” about how the Bangsamoro Muslims of Mindanao could establish their own police force.

The MILF used to carry out bloody attacks against Philippine security forces. But for a couple of years now it has been seeking “more autonomy,” for the Bangsamoro through negotiation in areas such as policing, Iqbal said, before offering a quick summary of his people’s harsh experiences under Spanish, American and Filipino rule.
“Incidents such as what just happened in Zamboanga are precisely why we decided to enter into peace negotiations,” Iqbal said.

“The MNLF’s attack was a disaster. We do not understand the reason for this action,” he said before acknowledging that the rival Muslim group’s strategy was to try to kill the peace talks and thwart the ICP’s work before it had even begun.

Alluding to the same possibility, Beck said that if the talks about the future shape of policing in Mindanao succeeded “the momentum that that creates and the awareness of a heightened positive expectation of the community is potentially going to be viewed a risk to a number of stakeholders.”

That clearly makes the ICP a potential target in a region where  travel by westerners is strongly discouraged by every western embassy including Canada.

“We are very, very conscious of the practical fact that it takes courage to be down in Mindanao, but we are not foolhardy,” Beck said. “We will manage our conduct appropriately.”

The war between Muslims and Christians in Mindanao was likened to a scab by Iqbal because it was bloody at certain times and dried up at others.

“The wound was not completely healed and then it got irritated again and is causing much pain,” he said of the raging street battles in Zamboanga last month. “It has made things worse between the two confessional communities of Mindanao.”

Sgt. Nicolas Noli, whose police unit had flown 860 kilometres south from Manila when the siege began last month and was now helping to guard a shrine frequented by Catholic pilgrims, was emphatic that government security forces were “fighting jihadis terrorists.”

However, not everyone in Mindanao saw the conflict in such stark religious terms.
“This isn’t about Muslims and Christians, it is only about what the MNLF wants,” said 25-year-old Michell Roque, who had come to the city two years ago to study from a distant Christian village in Mindanao.

“We go out every day hoping that a bomb won’t go off. That’s why we are happy that so many police and soldiers are still here. It means we are safe.”

Roque doubted the independent police commission or the peace talks would succeed because “the MNLF will just keep coming back.” Her mother, she said, had told her to never forgive their betrayal.

Retired air force engineer Antonio Julian thought the war was being fought over land, not religion.

“The MNLF lost this most recent battle badly but everyone believes it is regrouping to fight again,” he said.

Land surveyor Abdel Azziz, whose home in the Muslim suburb of Santa Barbara was razed during the fighting, said he had no patience for the MNLF or its tactics, but accused the government security forces of behaving badly towards Muslim civilians during the recent battles.

Placing his hopes on the peace talks and Beck’s police commission, which will soon begin a series of community visits in Mindanao, Azziz added: “This is a political problem, not a religious or military problem. So it requires negotiated political solutions.”

Op/Ed: NPA using landmine attacks hurting civilian population

Opinion piece posted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 27): NPA using landmine attacks hurting civilian population

Six soldiers and three Cafgu (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit) volunteers were killed in Tulunan, North Cotabato, on Oct. 21, 2013, in an ambush and landmine explosion. Four others were wounded. New People’s Army rebels are believed to be behind the attack.

The NPA is becoming active again, wreaking havoc and harm, and adding to our nation’s current problems.

I happened to come across a primer on landmines and the Philippine Landmines bill. What I learned is that there are various kinds of landmines—victim-activated antipersonnel landmines, command-detonated antipersonnel landmines, victim-detonated antivehicle landmines, and the command-detonated antivehicle landmines.

All of these are deadly, killer landmines that the NPA obviously has been using in its attacks against government troops. These landmines have also been used by international and foreign terrorists in their attacks.

Landmines have so far killed more than 500,000 people worldwide; more than 300,000 other victims have survived landmine attacks but live the rest of their lives with physical and emotional trauma.  Landmines, thus, cause unnecessary suffering.

In the NPA’s landmine attacks, civilians have become innocent victims. Many of those who survived these attacks have lost their capacity  to work or live normal lives. These attacks have also left countless orphans.


Army denies NPA killed 2 soldiers

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Oct 28): Army denies NPA killed 2 soldiers

THE military denied on Sunday that two government soldiers died in a clash with the New People’s Army (NPA) on Friday in Sitio Dalao-ay, Barangay Minalwang, Claveria town, Misamis Oriental.

Captain Christian Uy, spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), said the report that two 58th Infantry Battalion (58th IB) soldiers were killed in action is not true.

“Actually, there was an encounter between our troops and the NPA, but after a brief encounter that lasted about six minutes, the NPAs retreated,” Uy told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro Sunday evening by phone.

Uy said no soldier was even wounded during the encounter.

The information was obtained by Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro through a statement e-mailed Sunday morning by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

In the statement, Lorena Mangahas, spokesperson of the NPA’s Eastern Misamis-Northeastern Bukidnon (NPA-Emoneb) sub-regional command, claimed that last Friday’s skirmish was the latest harassment operation of the leftist insurgents against the government troops.

Mangahas said the NPA fired on the elements of the 58th IB as they were walking on single column somewhere in Dalao-ay.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines maintained that the persons who were killed in a recent firefight in Barangay Dao, San Fernando, Bukidnon were indeed members of the NPA.

Uy said Mabini Manobia, alias “Toto,” and Zaldy Ambayot, alias “Onggo,” were NPA combatants.

As proof of this, Uy said taken from them were M-16 and AK-47 rifles.

“(Manobia and Ambayot) were not guerillas operating in the area by ordinary tribal members together with the 58 datus whose ancestors have been protecting the abundant gold deposit found on their ancestral land in sitio Kiranggol, Dao,” another statement sent by the NDFP-Northern Mindanao said.

Army clearing landslide hit San Isidro-Antequera Road in Bohol

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 28): Army clearing landslide hit San Isidro-Antequera Road in Bohol

To ensure the safety of relief convoys, the Philippine Army (PA) over the weekend started blasting and clearing landslide-prone areas of the San Isidro-Antequera Road in Bohol.

Operations will continue until Monday.

The blasting aims to clear areas to protect convoys bringing relief goods to quake-hit areas.

Bohol was hit hardest by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that devastated Central Visayas last Oct. 15.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said at least 215 had been killed by the quake, with 201 from Bohol alone.

Lady commander leads Philippine Army contingent to Haiti

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 28): Lady commander leads Philippine Army contingent to Haiti

The 17th Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) contingent to the United Nations (UN) Peace Keeping Force to Haiti will be deployed this Tuesday.

The unit will be headed by Capt. Luzviminda Camacho, the first ever female commander to head such mission.

A send-off ceremony led by Vice Admiral Jose Luis M. Alano, Philippine Navy flag-officer-in-charge, will be accorded to the group when they depart for Haiti at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.

The 17th all Navy contingent will be tasked to provide perimeter security to the Force Headquarters of the UN Mission to Haiti, provide administrative and logistics clerical services to the Force Headquarters, operate military vehicles, and provide VIP security to specified personalities.

They are expected to serve their tour in Haiti for six to nine months.

PN deploys relief ship to Tagbilaran, Bohol

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 28): PN deploys relief ship to Tagbilaran, Bohol

In line with the government's ongoing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the Central Visayas which was badly damaged by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake last Oct. 15, the Philippine Navy (PN) on Monday announced that it has deployed the BRP Dagupan City (LC-551) to Tagbilaran, Bohol to bring relief supplies.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, Navy spokesperson, said that logistic support vessel left Sangley Point, Cavite for Tagbilaran Pier Monday morning.

The vessel was carrying 361.07 tons of assorted relief goods.

Fabic said the relief items were collected from different government and non-government organizations.

Aside from the relief goods, the BRP Dagupan City is also carrying personnel from Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Social Welfare and Development and Philippine National Red Cross.

The PN sent 16 personnel from Naval Construction Brigade or Seabees who will participate in the construction of seven makeshift hospitals for the seven towns of Bohol that were greatly affected by the earthquake.

Fabic said that PN personnel will also participate in the repair, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the damaged infrastructures in those areas.

He added that BRP Dagupan City is expected to arrive at Tagbilaran Pier by Wednesday.

Barangay polls general peaceful, successful - AFP, PNP

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 28): Barangay polls general peaceful, successful - AFP, PNP

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public information office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala on Monday described the recently-concluded barangay elections as generally peaceful and successful.

He attributed this to the strong partnership between the military and the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

"We can make an assessment that the elections were successful because there were only a few areas (only in the 6th Infantry Division's area of operation in Maguindanao) was there some disruption," Zagala stressed.

"(As) we concluded the election, the AFP and PNP troops remain vigilant to ensure that as the polling precincts closed and the transportation of the ballot boxes were being done, our troops remained alert and vigilant," the AFP public information office chief stressed.

Meanwhile, Zagala's views were also shared by PNP public information office chief Senior Supt. Rueben Theodore Sindac.

"The sovereign will of the electorate has prevailed. As the polling centers officially closed at 3 p.m. today, all 17 Police Regional Offices across the country reported no serious peace and order concerns in their areas of responsibility," he added.

Sindac stated that although there were some reported cases of isolated incidents of violence Sunday and Monday, including 13 incidents over the last 24 hours, these where not at all serious as to have a significant effect on the overall peace and order situation on a national scale.

"Under COMELEC supervision, canvassing of votes were underway in some 170,000 clustered precincts housed in 36,000 polling centers nationwide," the PNP official added.

Police security forces were under specific instructions to remain in their posts to provide security to the election activities until after completion and termination of the proceedings.

In the ARMM where 995 or 39.96 percent of the 2,490 barangay in the region were listed as priority areas, there were 1,649 PNP personnel performing election duty as members of the Special Board of Election Tellers (SBET) in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Sulu.

"Thru the Regional Special Operations Task Groups (RSOTG) more focused law enforcement operations on election security concerns were being undertaken by PNP units in cooperation with the AFP under the spirit of the PNP-AFP Joint Letter Directive establishing the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Committees (JPSCC)," Sindac stated.

During the past 30 days of the 45 day election period that started on Sept. 28, the PNP public information office chief said that the Task Force SAFE 2013 “Alpha” Action Center recorded a total of 38 politically-motivated incidents involving 32 shooting incidents, one strafing and three stabbing with 73 victims, among whom, 22 died, 34 were wounded and eight were missing.

Eleven of the fatalities were incumbent barangay officials

Over the same 30-day period, as of 3:27 p.m. Monday, no let-up implementation of election laws (COMELEC Resolution 9561-A) had resulted in the arrest of 622 gunban violators and the confiscation of 516 firearms, 18 gun replica, 200 bladed weapons, 68 grenades, 290 other explosives, and 4,328 rounds of ammunition.

A total of 578 civilians topped the list of arrested gun ban violators, along with 21 security guards, eight PNP men, six government officials, six AFP personnel, and three militiamen.

Regions 1, 3, 4A, 4B, 11, Cordillera and National Capital Region reported the arrest of 219 violators of the liquor ban.

"Police units will continue to enforce election laws particularly the liquor ban that remains in effect until midnight tonight and the election gun ban that is enforced until Nov. 12," Sindac concluded.

Army soldiers in peacekeeping missions in Benguet, Mountain Province and other CAR areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 28): Army soldiers in peacekeeping missions in Benguet, Mountain Province and other CAR areas

Elections in remote villages in Benguet and Mountain Province earlier described as “areas of concern” due to alleged presence of armed groups suspected as members of the New People's Army (NPA) remain peaceful since the balloting started at 7 a.m. Monday.

Lt. Col. Richard Sibayan, commanding officer of the 51st infantry battalion stationed in these areas, said the soldiers are on alert and ready to respond when needed.

Benguet provincial governor Nestor Fongwan earlier confirmed that Army soldiers stationed at Mount Pulag in Kabayan town are also holding on to their ground against illegal loggers and swidden farmers in that area.

The governor has expressed confidence that the elections in that eco-tourism town will be peaceful and orderly.

In several barangays in Tineg and other interior towns in Abra Province, the soldiers and policemen are ready to serve as members of the local board of election inspectors once the public school teachers fail to report due to fear of the intense political rivalries of candidates.

This was learned earlier from Commission on Elections (Comelec) regional director Julius Torres who said that the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are in tandem to help their office to ensure the success of the political exercise.

For his part, Police Senior Superintendent David Limmong, public information officer of the Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCOR), said enough policemen were deployed in the CAR provinces to safeguard the communities where the 909,233 registered voters will cast their votes.

The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) which has a total land area of 18,294.6 square kilometers still has remnants of the insurgency problem posed by some remaining elements of NPA.

Rebels in Iloilo running for elective position in barangay polls: PA

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 28): Rebels in Iloilo running for elective position in barangay polls: PA

The Philippine Army in Panay Island has monitored several members of the New People's Army(NPA) who are running for an elective position in Iloilo in this year’s barangay election.

As this developed, Brig. Gen. Arnold Quiapo, commander of the 301st Infantry Brigade based in Camp Hernandez, Dingle, Iloilo, has called and convinced these candidates to support the government because they are already part of the government once they will win in this barangay elections.

But the ranking army official in Panay asked voters who are to exercise their right of suffrage to refrain from supporting these candidates who supported or a member of rebel groups themselves.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Army has implemented full force deployment of soldiers throughout Region 6 a day before the barangay election to ensure a peaceful polls.

Quiapo said they have already deployed army troops in troubled areas as well as in areas where tense political rivalry were reported like Sicogon Island off Carles, Iloilo where a land dispute was reported as well as in identified rebel-infested areas in the region.

In Sicogon Island, Iloilo provincial election supervisor Atty. Elizabeth Doronila has placed under areas of immediate concern the three barangays in the island following the reported harassment made by armed men among hundreds of families in the island.

The incident saw the deployment of a police team and army soldiers to maintain peace and order.

Likewise, the alert Philippine Navy and the aerial force has conducted patrol operations for its readiness in whatever exigency or emergency situation.

The 301IB commander himself personally conducted an aerial survey over the weekend elsewhere in the region as part of its security preparations.

NPA terror attacks hurt 471 people since 2010

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 28): NPA terror attacks hurt 471 people since 2010

The 10th Infantry Division, based in Compostela Valley, announced that indiscriminate attacks by the New People's Army (NPA) have harmed and wounded 471 civilians and military personnel from 2010 up to the present.

Most of the casualties were caused by NPA-detonated landmines.

These can be broken down into 75 civilian casualties, with 27 killed and 48 wounded, while the military suffered 396 casualties, with 109 killed and 287 wounded.

The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect to Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) protects civilians, non-combatants and hors de combat or those soldiers who are wounded and rendered incapable to fight.

“The 10th Infantry Division vehemently condemns the acts of the criminal group New People’s Army in using landmines, robbery and their explicit violation of CARHRIHL, that endanger the lives of civilians and non-combatants. This likewise manifests the armed group’s utter disregard for human rights and International Humanitarian Law as they continue to defy the international ban on the use of landmines,” said 10th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo.

“With the Bayanihan efforts of all peace loving stakeholders, we can give justice to our fallen troops and to those victims of the atrocities of the New People’s Army,” he added.

Poll tension in future Bangsamoro

From Rappler (Oct 28): Poll tension in future Bangsamoro

Respect peace covenants.

This was the call made on candidates by stakeholders in the future Bangsamoro on Monday, October 28, as delayed precinct openings and instances of poll-related violence were reported hours before and during the elections.
As of posting, the military has reported at least 12 incidents of violence in 4 ARMM provinces. They are verifying if two more incidents are poll-related.
"The plea is to have fair elections," Samira Gutoc of Bantay Eleksyon told Rappler, even as they urged citizens to be more vigilant.
"Today's barangay elections is the last before the so-called new Bangsamoro is formed in 2015. After covenants with civil society, army, PNP, and MILF in an unprecedented effort to help avoid barangay violence in ARMM, we hope the fruits of labor in voters education will bear fruit," Bantay Eleksyon said in a statement.
The Lanao del Sur-based group particularly expressed concern over the murder of a female candidate for barangay captain in Piagapo, Lanao del Sur.
The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is finalizing a peace deal that will usher in the creation of a new Bangsamoro entity that will replace and expand the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The goal is to create the Bangsamoro by 2015 so the new entity can elect their new leaders in the 2016 presidential and local polls.
Bantay Eleksyon reported delays in the opening of voting precincts and the arrival of election paraphernalia and a 3 am "strafing incident" in Barangay Sugod in Madalum town, near the capital Marawi City.
Citing initial reports, Captain Jefferson Somera of the Army's 1st Infantry Division said it was not a strafing incident but a single gunshot fired by still unidentified person. Somera said they are waiting for the official report.
The military reported various incidents across ARMM and other areas that will be included in the new Bangsamoro entity.
The police has acknowledged a spike in poll-related violence. But the worst is not over. The most critical period of the polls is between the closing at 3 pm and the declaration of winners, usually expected within two hours after that.
Basilan: Scared teachers
In Basilan, a barangay official was fatally shot by an unidentified suspect. Kagawad Hj Faizal Mohammad, 59, of barangay Bohe Lebbung, Tipo-Tipo town, was on his way to cast his vote when an unknown suspect stopped him, engaged him in a heated argument, and later shot him.
An unidentified voter snatched at 12:50 p.m. the ballot box of Precinct 51A and 51B in barangay Bohesuyak of the town of Ungkaya Pukan. The voter fled towards barangay Materling, according to a police situation report.
A separate incident in Lamitan City also prompted a teacher serving as chairperson of the Board of Election Tellers (BET) to "withdraw" from the polling center.
"At about 7:15 am of October 28, 2013, a commotion incident transpired at Barangay Bulanting Hall Polling Center, Sitio Lebe, Bulanting, Lamitan City, Basilan. Mrs Nasiha A. Jamiri – BET chairman of said polling place – decided to withdraw and proceeded to Lamitan City Hall," reads the military situation report.
The military also reported two other incidents in Basilan – harassment in Barangay Ibbu in Lamitan City and indiscriminate firing in Barangay Tong-umus in the town of Tabuan-Lasa. The military is still investigating if they are election-related.
North Cotabato: Delayed voting, encounters
The military received various reports in North Cotabato, where a number of towns will be joining the Bangsamoro.
At least 14 barangays in Pikit town failed to open the polling precincts on time, according to a midday situation report from Captain Antonio Bulao, Civil Miiltary Operations Officer of the Army's 602nd Brigade.
The 14 barangays are: Rajamuda, Talitay, Bagoinged, Buliok, Barungis, Balungis, Bualan, Gocotan, Balabak, Tinutulan, Balong, Macabual, Bulol, and Macabual.
Bulao said the BETs of the 14 barangays were instructed to hold elections in their respective barangays but they (BETs) want to hold polls elsewhere.
The Commission on Elections eventually clustered the voting precincts so elections would push through in these barangays, according to a followup report from 6th Infantry Division (6th ID) spokesman Col Dickson Hermoso.
Also in Pikit, the military reported a 6 am strafing incident in the vicinity of Barangay Macasendeg. A similar incident happened Sunday night. Initial reports show candidates are involved, supposedly to block voters from proceeding to voting centers.
"No failure of election in any barangays in 6th ID area of responsibility despite attempts of some armed grous to disrupt the political exercise," said Hermoso. These attempts, he said, were perpetrated by losing candidates hoping that the Commission on Elections will delcare failure of election.
Hermoso acknowledged that their job to secure the polls is not over. "The 6th ID and PNP will be more vigilant especially in the transport of ballot boxes to canvassing areas," he said.
In the nearby town of Carmen, at Sitio Kirumiay of Barangay Malapag, a firefight transpired around 9 am on Monday between the group of Commander Akas Kumawit and Commander Dimakukom of the MILF against the group of Commander Umpa Akmad of the Kapalawan Provincial Revolutionalry command.
"The military unit in the area sent a buffer force to prevent the escalation of the conflict while facilitating for the peaceful resolution of the conflict," said Bulao.
In Midsayap, voting was temporarily stopped at the Ulandang Elementary School after unidentified men fired at the voting center around 10 am on Monday. Bulao said the military has deployed a team to secure the school. Voting immediately resumed at 10:50 am, according to the military situation report.
Maguindanao: Gunfires
In Maguindanao, the military reported "sporadic gunfires" at Sitio Lakpan, Barangay Cabayuan, of the town of Buldon early Monday morning. The Army's 6th Infantry Division spokesman Colonel Dickson Hermoso said assorted high-powered firearms were used, including an M203 grenade launcher.
"Accordingly, the armed men are planning to block the delivery of ballot boxes to Poblacion Buldon, Maguindanao," said Hermoso. There were no reported casualties. Combined forces of the military and police are conducting pursuit operations.
In the same Maguindanao town on Sunday, unidentified suspects burned 4 classrooms at the Central Dinganen Elementary School. The motive is believed to be election-related. The classrooms were to be used as voting centers.

AS POLLS CLOSE | 'Minimal' 18 incidents in 42,000 villages a good record – Comelec

From InterAksyon (Oct 28): AS POLLS CLOSE | 'Minimal' 18 incidents in 42,000 villages a good record – Comelec

Ballots that "drowned" in Capiz; poll officials improvising hand-prepared ballots after the official ones were snatched in Northern Samar; bad weather delaying delivery of poll materials; and the usual string of shootings, harassment, flared tempers in precinct-level arguments. In all, a total of 18 "incidents" marked Monday's barangay elections nationwide, a record the poll body deemed "minimal" considering there are 42,000 villages in the race.

In a press briefing, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said a total 18 "peace-, security- and other election-related incidents" had been reported to them as the polls closed 3 p.m. nationwide. He described this as "very minimal" and "isolated."

He invited journalists to consider that "there are more than 42,000 barangays so the 18 [cases] is very minimal. Almost nil. So we are happy so far as the ongoing voting appears to be OK except for some minor incidents."

In the case of ballots that "drowned" in Capiz, it was learned that ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia on a motorbike bearing the chair of the Board of Election Tellers in Cuartero, Capiz fell into a river while crossing the bridge on their way to the polling place. The election officer survived, but the ballots for clustered precincts No. 35 with 275 RVs (Registered Voters) of Barangay Mahabang Sapa, had to be replaced with emergency ballots, according to Atty. Bartolome Sinocruz, Jr., deputy director for operations. Polling began late, at 1 p.m., as a result.

Meanwhile, Sinocruz listed only two-election related incidents in Metro Manila; three strafing incidents in Barangay Basco, Mariveles, Bataan; Barangay Mati, Digos City, Davao del Sur; and in Barangay Macasindig, Midsayap, Cotabato.

He cited two shooting incidents reported in Negros Occidental and Capiz; and gunfire in Sultan Kudarat.

Also, Sinocruz reported to the Comelec that the opening of polls was delayed in four barangays in Camarines Norte; a BET was harassed in Guimaras; there was political harassment in Iloilo; ballot snatching in Northern Samar and in Basilan, among others.

Sinocruz said appropriate measures were initiated in those areas with election incidents to resolve the problems.

'Very much lower' cases this year

Compared to the 2010 barangay polls, Brillantes said this year's case load was "very much lower" and that "we don't really have much of a problem up to this point."

Brillantes hoped the trend of minimal incidents will continue until the counting and canvassing--which he described as more critical--is done.

"This is what we will continue to monitor. We don't have much of a problem at this point but . . . as we move into the more critical stages of counting and canvassing, we hope this [trend in] reports [will hold]," he said.

The incidents listed by Comelec are:

1. A fire at Padre Burgos Elementary School in Sta. Mesa, Manila that partially damaged seven clustered precincts;

2.  Missing ballots in Tonsuya, Malabon City;

3. Strafing of the house of barangay chairman Abel Lopez in Basco, Mariveles, Bataan'

4. Delayed opening of polling precincts in barangays Banoctog, Pinagtigasan, Mankawayan and  Vinzon in Camarines Norte due to late delivery of election paraphernalia

5. Harassment of the Board of Election Tellers in barangays San Jose and Lucmayan in Nueva Valencia in Guimaras;

6. Shooting incidents in Poblacion, Toboso in Negros Occidental that resulted in the death of a person;

7.  Ballot snatching in San Antonio, Catubig in Northern Samar;

8. Ballot snatching in Bukut-Umus in Tabuan-Lasa, Basilan; 

9. A molotov bomb explosion at the Don Mariano Marcos Elementary School and Isaac Ablayan Elementary School in Mati, Digos City in Davao de Sur;

10. Shooting incidents in Barangay Nagba, Cuartero, Capiz between two groups of kagawad;

11. Political harassment involving a vice mayor and members of the sangguniang bayan in Tambunac in San Enrique, Iloilo;

12. Strafing of the barangay hall of Mati in DIgos City, Davao del Sur;

13. Gunfire incident in barangay Udtong, Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat;

14. Strafing of civilians in barangay Macasindig, Midsayap, Cotabato;

Calayan islands polls postponed

Chairman Brillantes said elections were postponed to Oct. 30 and 31 in Minabel, Babuyan Claro, Dalupiri and Balatubat in Calayan island, after bad weather delayed the delivery of election paraphernalia.

Elections in Bohol, which was struck by a killer earthquake last Oct. 15; and Zamboanga City, still reeling from a 20-day siege by MNLF elements that destroyed 10,000 homes, was earlier re-scheduled to Nov. 25.