Saturday, November 2, 2013

AFP releases P1.2-M for 36 rebel returnees

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Nov 2): AFP releases P1.2-M for 36 rebel returnees

THE Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) released checks worth P1.169-million for distribution to the 36 rebel returnees from Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions in a ceremony at the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) in Camp Evangelista, Barangay Patag Thursday.

Half of the rebels came from Agusan del Sur, others from Agusan del Norte, Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental.

Lieutenant Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, Eastmincom chief, personally handed over the checks.

In his talk during the turnover ceremony, Cruz assured that the war in Agusan del Sur is ending soon citing that the number of rebel returnees and the 42 high-powered firearms laid had been the biggest in the history of the 4ID.

NPA not the state’s enemy

Cruz emphasized that the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed group of the Maoist revolutionaries, is not the enemy of the state but the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) which directs the rebel commanders to execute their “tactical offensives and terroristic acts against the communities.”

“Lilinawin ko lang po. Sana maintindihan natin na ang ginagawa ng NPA, kasi ang totoong nag-uutos sa kanila na gumawa ng karahasan ay ang kanilang partido, ang CPP na nandoon mismo sa loob ng barangay. Tatanggapin ng NPA ang order at sila lang ang nag-iimplement. Ang tunay na kalaban ay ang CPP. Sila ang nag-uutos na putulin ang rubber trees sa Agusan, patayin ang mga baboy, maghagis ng granada at iba pang tactical offensives at terroristic attacks,” Cruz said.

“Kasi may hukumang-bayan sila, kangaroo court. Kung ano man ang gusto nilang i-implement ng NPA, ‘yon ang susundin ng NPA. Hindi nga nila (NPA) alam bakit nila ginawa ,” he said.

‘Mainit na ulo ni Ka Oris’

To dismantle the CPP, Cruz said, the government would need to execute legal actions against the communist group.

He lauded the returnees for deciding in favor of the government, their families and themselves.

He also hoped that there would be more surrender ceremonies in the future.

Cruz also hopes that the cash assistance would help the former rebels to start a new beginning.

He said with the surrender of 36 rebels, “I’m sure, mainit na ang ulo ni Ka Oris (Ka Oris must be cranky now).”

“Kasi watak-watak na sila. Sira na ang kanilang formation (Because they’re fragmented now. Their formation is crushed),” he added.

War won without fighting

4ID Commanding General Ricardo R. Visaya said the “Pagbabalik-Loob Ceremony” marked another milestone in the military’s quest for peace.

“This event where 36 regular members of the NPA with 42 firearms is one of the most significant activities we have ever had at 4ID. A true manifestation that war can really be won even without fighting. This is what we call winning the peace, the essence of Bayanihan. Beyond doubt, it takes cooperation of all to make a difference, to make things happen. This we owe to our Bayanihan teams that are deployed in the barangays,” Visaya said.

Visaya said the laying down the high-powered firearms has been a sign of the rebels’ submission to the government. They also vowed to support the government’s effort to convince their comrades who are actively participating with the NPA in the mountains and “being persuaded by sweet promises of the rebel organization.”

Buried knee-deep

A certain “Reynard” who gave his testimonies before high-ranking officials of the military and the Philippine National Police (PNP), and local government executives Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano, Agusan del Sur Governor Adolf Edward Plaza and Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno, said he never experienced a good life in the struggle.

The families, Reynard said, could not easily visit them or for them to visit their families in their communities.

“Whenever our families could visit us, the movement would tell sweet promises who eventually were persuaded to join,” Reynard said.

He is also disgusted with their commanders who would only bury dead rebels in knee-deep in the ground.

“Katong samaran nga kaya pa madala, dalhon namo. Pero gikasakit nako kay kung mamatay mi, ilubong lang mi tuhod lang ka lawom,” Reynard said.

Behind all the hardships in the mountains, they were also told to remain patient as the movement’s goal to changing the government into a communist-run state where everyone will be equal is almost near.

Reynard surrendered in November 2012. He married a comrade and was blessed with a child. Now, he would be using the cash assistance to begin life anew.

Peace to boost tourism

Emano, for his part, said achieving peace and order in the two regions would be very beneficial for the people. It would be very beneficial for Misamis Oriental which flagship project is eco-tourism.

Emano said he would not have attended the ceremony due to another important occasion, but when he noted that it relates to peace and order, he cancelled all his appointments that day.

Moreno, for his part, also lauded the former rebels for laying down their arms and return to the folds of law.

“Congratulations to the former rebels for their decision to come back to the mainstream community. Congratulations also to the police and the AFP for reaching out. They could certainly have a better future in joining the mainstream society,” he said in his speech.

Moreno looks forward to an insurgency-free Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions.

Plaza hopes for a partnership with the former rebels and the government to develop the province. “Insurgency is not the key to development.”

Captain Christian Uy, 4ID spokesperson, said the former rebels would likely become regular soldiers if they would be qualified.

"They can also become members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) in their communities."

Abducted barangay leaders win in polls

From the Sun Star-Davao (Nov 2): Abducted barangay leaders win in polls

THE barangay chair of Sabud in Loreto, Agusan Del Sur and his three council members, who were among the five people being held hostage by suspected communist rebels, won in the October 28 barangay elections.

Barangay chair Lito Andalique, village council members Reynaldo Piodos, Balaba Andalique, and Marvin Bantuasan; and Pepe Subla, a CVO, all of Sabud, were taken hostage by rebels of Guerilla Front 34 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee.

The rebels also attacked a team of soldiers stationed at a temporary patrol base in Sabud last October 24.

Colonel Gregory Cayetano, chief of the Army's 401ST Infantry Brigade, said the victory of the hostages, despite their absence, indicates that they are well loved by their constituents.
He said residents in the barangay have shown that "no amount of NPA threats and intimidations will stop them from imposing their will."
"This is a manifestation that democracy has gained ground in the said barangay and that the NPA is losing the support of the people," Cayetano said.
He added Sabud sits in a rebel base until the arrival of the Peace and Development Teams who were tasked to carry out humanitarian mission and secure government projects like Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana).
Cayetano said the persistence of the soldiers to bring peace and development in the barangay helped the people realized that the NPA "is not the people's army but in contrary, the oppressors who continuously create havoc thru harassments, liquidations and extortions."
"It became clear to the people that the NPA has evolved as human rights violators, terrorists and criminals who give no regards on the rights of their victims who are supposed to be protected under the articles of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL) and Geneva Convention," Cayetano said.
"We will pursue the rebels and explore all possibilities to free the barangay leaders while, at the same time, offer the hand of peace to the rebels to join us work for development in the area," he added.

3 rebels killed in Albay in separate encounters

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 3): 3 rebels killed in Albay in separate encounters
Three New People's Army rebels were killed in a separate encounters in Albay on Saturday, the military reported.

Latest fatality was reported when troopers from the 901st Infantry Brigade killed a member of the NPA during an encounter in Barangay Sinagaran, Jovellar town, Albay Saturday afternoon.

Col. Generoso Bolina, 901st Infantry Brigade deputy commander, said the clash took place around 3:15 p.m.

He identified the slain rebel as Alexander Lorelia, a resident of Kagbacong, Legazpi City, Albay.

No losses were sustained by the government troopers.

Bolina said the clash that took place is the third for the day as government troopers were tightening the cordon on the rebel band.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier announced that two NPA members were killed in an encounter with government troops in Albay Saturday.

Major Angelo Guzman, AFP deputy public affairs office chief, said the bodies were discovered by K-9 tracking teams.

"K-9 tracking teams led to the discovery of two bodies of NPAs killed in this (Saturday) morning's clash with AFP in Albay," Guzman said.

Initially four soldiers were wounded in a predawn clash with the suspected NPAs.

He said the encounter occurred in Barangay Mariyawa in Legazpi City in Albay province at 5:00 a.m.

At the time, Guzman said the soldiers were providing security for people going to the cemeteries for All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days.

The AFP is working with the Philippine National Police to ensure a peaceful observance of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days.

Meanwhile, Guzman on Sunday said government troops recovered two improvised explosive devices following a clash with NPAs in Jovellar town in Albay Saturday afternoon.

Malaysian national held for alleged link to MNLF attack on Zamboanga

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 2): Malaysian national held for alleged link to MNLF attack on Zamboanga
A Malaysian national was arrested last month by Philippine authorities in Zamboanga City for suspected involvement  with the Moro National Liberation Front, Malaysia and Philippine authorities confirmed.

“The arrest of the Malaysian man followed the action taken by the Philippine security forces against individuals suspected of being involved in the armed attacks launched by MNLF rebels in Zamboanga City on Sept 9,” the Malaysian state news agency Bernama reported, on Wednesday quoting Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) director-general, Datuk Mohammad Mantek.

The Bernama report said Mantek refused to give further details as the matter is still under investigation by Philippines authorities.

Mantek also declined to comment if the arrested 55-year-old man was involved with the three-week Zamboanga siege last September which killed at least 200 people.

In the gunbattle that lasted for almost a month, MNLF forces attacked the city to build their independent “Bangsamoro Republik”.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Wisma Putra said he was told by Philippine authorities that the man admitted he was a member of the MNLF, a separate report from Bernama said.

Zamboanga Peninsula police information officer Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca confirmed to on Saturday that they arrested a Malaysian national last month during the house raid of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari by government forces.

“He was arrested because he was near our area of operation. The area was cordoned and he was with an MNLF member,” he said.

He clarified, however, that the Malaysian national was only across the house of Misuari when he was arrested.

Huesca said they already turned over the Malaysian national to the Bureau of Immigration, which is the lead agency investigating the matter.

The Zamboanga siege prompted Malaysia to tighten its security along eastern Sabah’s territorial waters to prevent the rebels from entering the state due to Sabah’s close proximity to Mindanao.

“So far, no security threats to Sabah have been detected but we are intensifying security measures along eastern Sabah’s border waters nevertheless,” Mohammad told Bernama.

He said Malaysian security forces would collaborate with their Philippine counterparts if the need arose.

Sultan’s son faces death penalty

From the Manila Standard Today (Nov 2): Sultan’s son faces death penalty
Sabah trial set for intruders

The son of the newly crowned sultan of Sulu and 26 other Filipinos who are facing the death penalty in Sabah will stand trial before a Malaysian court on January 6, 2014 for their alleged intrusion into Malaysian territory last February.

High Court Justice Stephen Chung, who set a Nov. 1 hearing, has moved the proceedings next year, following another appeal for postponement filed by  the Malaysian lawyer of the 27 Filipino suspects, according to Malaysian news agency Bernama.

The hearings on January 6-10, 15-17, 27-30 and Feb 10-14  will be held at the Sabah Prisons Department, which will be designated an open court.

Datu Amilbahar Hussin Kiram, the Sabah-based son of new Sultan Esmail Kiram II of the Sulu Sultanate, along with 26 alleged followers, had pleaded not guilty to charges of Waging War against Malaysian King Yang di-Pertuan Agong and sheltering or recruiting individuals to become members of a terrorist group during their arraignment on June 27.

The young Kiram was said to have the rank of “general” in the Sulu Sultanate’s Royal Security Forces, and was charged with taking an active part in the intrusion.

In Taguig City, sultanate spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, said the new sultan is set to announce next week his first royal decree on the Sabah claim.

Kiram II has succeeded his elder brother Jamalul Kiram III who died on Oct. 23, 2013.
“The matters on the January 2014 trial will be part of the new decrees and the Kingdom’s policies,” Idjirani told Manila Standard.

The sultanate earlier called on the Philippine government to assist the detained Filipinos.

On May 15, eight Filipinos were sentenced to life imprisonment by the Malaysian court for allegedly taking part in the intrusion.

The Sabah conflict started on February 9 when 235 followers of Kiram III sailed to Lahad Datu, Sabah, to revive the sultanate’s claim over the disputed territory.
The so-called Sulu Royal Security Force was led by the sultan’s brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram.

The Malaysian government gave the Sulu gunmen until March 1 to surrender despite President Aquino’s appeal for “maximum tolerance”.

The next day, the Malaysian armed forces launched an offensive resulting in the death of 68 Filipinos and 10 Malaysian soldiers and policemen.

Peace projects

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 2): Peace projects

At least seven projects under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) were completed in the conflict-affected towns of Maguindanao.

The projects include the newly-built multi-purpose building in the villages of Bugasan-Norte in Matanog, and Datu Anggal in Midtimbang, the bailey bridge and an agricultural warehouse with solar dryer in Barangay Kabuling in Pandag, and the farm-to-market road in Barangay Bugasan Norte of Matanog.

The Maguindanao provincial government, in partnership with OPAPP, is also constructing a two-storey Women’s Center in Poblacion, Buluan.

OPAPP records show that these villages are all communities of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) identified under the Government of the Philippines-MNLF final peace accord signed in September, 1996.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu said the PAMANA projects are aimed at helping communities cope with poverty and underdevelopment.

The OPAPP data also showed that the PAMANA projects in the Maguindanao towns are not only benefiting the MNLF communities, but also combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

2 NPA rebels killed, 4 soldiers wounded in Albay encounter

From the Daily Tribune (Nov 3): 2 NPA rebels killed, 4 soldiers wounded in Albay encounter

Two New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed while four soldiers were wounded during clashes in Legazpi City yesterday morning.

Col. Raul Farnacio, commander of the Army’s 901st Brigade, said that elements of the 2nd Infantry Battalion (IB) and 91st Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC) clashed with more or less 10 NPA rebels along Sitio Binicitahan, Barangay Mariawa at around 5:30 a.m.

Farnacio said that the encountered NPA band was led by one Antonio Abadiza, alias Flatop.

Four soldiers were wounded during the clash, sustaining shrapnel wounded.

“The wounded personnel were extricated in the area through helicopters and were immediately brought to Camp Elias Angeles Station Hospital for medical treatment,” Farnacio said.

On the other hand, two NPA rebels were reportedly wounded during the clash.

Recovered from the scene were one caliber .45 pistol, three backpacks, personal belongings, six hammocks, a magazine pouch for K3-SAW, a bandoleer for M14 rifle with six magazines loaded with ammunition, a cellular phone with four simpacks and various subversive documents with high intelligence value.

Farnacio said that at around 1 p.m., pursuing troops, aided by K9 unit, clashed with the same NPA band within the vicinity that resulted in two rebels killed, whose bodies were recovered from the scene.

Also recovered were an M16 rifle and M14 rifle.

“This is the result of the renewed cooperation by residents to the military after we intensified our safety and security awareness program in the area,” Farnacio said.

China’s ‘cabbage strategy’ not a healthy topic — Palace

From the Daily Tribune (Nov 3): China’s ‘cabbage strategy’ not a healthy topic — Palace

The Palace refused to bite into the “cabbage strategy” that a Chinese military official was quoted by New York Times as saying as being employed in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in a news article on the territorial dispute.

Presidential deputy spokesman Abigail Valte opted to keep mum on the alleged Chinese naval strategy in the article titled “A Game of Shark and Minnow.”

Valte considered the statement, despite being made by a top Chinese military officer as not representative of the official position of the Chinese government.

The strategy supposedly involved the deployment of layers of civilian, government and military ships to maintain Chinese claim on the contested shoal.

“I did also see that particular (issue) in the New York Times article, but at this point, we won’t comment on that yet, primarily because while a Chinese General may have indeed said that, we don’t want to automatically attribute that to the Chinese government immediately. It would be better for us to not comment on that matter yet,” Valte said.

China’s military Major General Zhang Zhaozhong told New York Times that since April 2012, the Chinese navy had taken measures to seal and control the areas around the shoal which it Chinese government calls as the Huangyan Island, a report in the China Daily Mail said.

“The fishermen conduct normal production there. In the area around the island, fishing administration ships and marine surveillance ships are conducting normal patrols while in the outer ring there are navy warships. The island is thus wrapped layer by layer like a cabbage. As a result, a cabbage strategy has taken shape,” Zhang said.

Zhang said: “If the Philippines wants to go in, in the outermost area, it has first to ask whether our navy will allow it. Then it has to ask whether our fishery administration ships and marine surveillance ships will allow it. Therefore, our fishermen can carry out their production safely while our country’s marine rights and interests as well as sovereignty are safeguarded,” Zhang added.

Zhang further described the “cabbage strategy” as entailing surrounding a contested area with so many boats — fishermen, fishing administration ships, marine surveillance ships, navy warships — that “the island is thus wrapped layer by layer like a cabbage.”

According to the NY Times article, “there can be no question that the cabbage strategy is in effect now at Ayungin (Scarborough) and has been at least since May. General Zhang, in his interview several months ago, listed Ren’ai Shoal (the Chinese name for Ayungin) in the P.L.A.’s “series of achievements” in the South China Sea,” he said.

He had already put it in the win column, even though eight Filipino marines (in a grounded Philippine navy ship) still live there. He also seemed to take some pleasure in the strategy, it added.

Of taking territory from the Philippines, he said: “We should do more such things in the future. For those small islands, only a few troopers are able to station on each of them, but there is no food or even drinking water there. If we carry out the cabbage strategy, you will not be able to send food and drinking water onto the islands. Without the supply for one or two weeks, the troopers stationed there will leave the islands on their own. Once they have left, they will never be able to come back.”

“It would be more proper for us to take the course of prudence rather than to react to every single thing that may cause tension in an already sensitive issue,” Valte said.

Valte also refused to comment on the impending military exercises between Malaysia and China.

“You know, we’d rather not comment on that now because normally there is a bilateral relationship among the countries, with our neighbors and we don’t interfere in those things,” Valte said.

Malaysia and China have scheduled joint military exercises beginning next year, nine years after having signed a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation, Bernama National News Agency said.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, who is on his maiden visit to Beijing following his appointment to the post last May, said the exercises would encompass the three disciplines of land, sea and air.

He said the holding of the exercises was one of the matters agreed to during his meeting with China’s Defence Minister Gen Chang Wanquan to forge a more comprehensive strategic cooperation between the two countries.

“Both sides agreed to foster greater cooperation in defense, particularly in holding joint exercises, exchange of military personnel, establishing cooperation in the defense industry and fighting terrorism and transnational crime,” he said in a statement sent to Bernama from Beijing.

Hishammuddin’s visit was aimed at strengthening bilateral defence relations besides following up on the state visit of China’s President Xi Jinping to Malaysia from Oct 3 to 5.

Malaysia had officially established defense cooperation with China in 2005 but it had been confined to the exchange of visits and education.

Hishammuddin said his visit also coincided with the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and China, which would be celebrated next year.

Terror not land ownership reigns in Noynoy’s Luisita

From the Daily Tribune (Nov 3): Terror not land ownership reigns in Noynoy’s Luisita

A farmers’ group protested yesterday what it termed as a reign of terror inside the Hacienda Luisita owned by President Aquino’s family despite the government announcement last month that it completed the distribution of land titles to farm workers in compliance with the agrarian reform law.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said last Oct. 20 that it had successfully completed the series of distribution of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) to farmer beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita.

“The land in Hacienda Luisita is now theirs,” said DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, referring to the about 663 out of 745 farmworker-beneficiaries of Barangay Mapalacsiao.

Mapalacsiao was the last barangay scheduled for CLOAs distribution in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac City that started last September 30 in Barangay Pando, according to De los Reyes.

The regional farmers’ group Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL, Farmers’ Alliance in Central Luzon), however, said in a statement that an intensified assault against its chapter in Hacienda Luisita, the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala, Farm Workers’ Alliance in Hacienda Luisita) is being undertaken by the Cojuangco-Aquino family, particularly its controlled firm, the Tarlac Dev’t Corp. (Tadeco).

“It has been reported that when the Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR) commenced with the raffle-distribution of CLOAs since October, Tadeco and another Cojuangco corporation, Luisita

Realty Corp. have put up fences around a 100-hectare land in barangay Cutcut and about 400 hectares in barangay Balete and recently last October 31, Dennis Dela Cruz, a leader of Ambala was murdered in barangay Balete. Dela Cruz was actively working at a ‘bungkalan’ cultivation site, AMGL said.

“Hacienda Luisita is under a reign of terror, perpetrated by the Aquino government and the Cojuangco-Aquino family. They have sabotaged the Supreme Court decision to distribute the lands using the partial schemes implemented by DAR, and now a leader of Ambala was mercilessly killed,” AMGL chairman Joseph Canlas said.

Ambala stated that it believed the murder of Dela Cruz is connected to the land issue as he was a staunch activist working with the bungkalan campaign, and was threatened by Tadeco security guards last September.

The group said that the killing was done to terrorize farm workers who are fighting for their rights to land against the plot of the Cojuangco-Aquino family.

In addition, Ambala reported that military deployment in Hacienda Luisita is intensifying with at least four military tanks seen entering the estate.

“The Aquino government deployed many elements of the police and military during the so-called CLOA distribution by DAR, to subvert the protest of the farm workers. Now they are actually sending in more forces to intimidate the unarmed farm workers led by Ambala,” Canlas said.

AMGL said the Cojuangco-Aquino family is firm in keeping their control over the vast lands of Hacienda Luisita expecting billions of profit due to recent road developments in the area.

Agricultural land valuation around the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) ranges from P1 million to P6 million per hectare or P100 per square meter to P600 per square meter, AMGL said.

It added reclassifying these lands, as the Cojuangco-Aquino family has prepared in the land use plan furnished by the Luisita Realty Corp. in 1998, will obviously bring in unimaginable profit.

“The Cojuangco-Aquinos are notorious in violently attacking the farm workers. It was under martial law during the Marcos dictatorship, de-facto martial law during Hacienda Luisita massacre and Oplan Bantay Laya, they are now again waging terror against the farm workers,” Canlas said.

Amgl said it is reiterating its call for genuine land reform in Hacienda Luisita, immediate and free land distribution to the farm workers and halt to terror tactics launched by the Cojuangco-Aquinos.

“Inside Hacienda Luisita is like a time-space warp where you would think that it is still during the Spanish colonization where hacienderos rule with iron-fist and slaughtering those who oppose them. The Cojuangco-Aquinos are social parasites who fed from the sweat and blood of the farm workers. It is long overdure to overthrow their feudal control over the lands and we call on different sectors to struggle for national democracy,” Canlas added.

Based on DAR data, the government claimed a total of 5,718 CLOAs were distributed to farmers out of a total of 6,189 ready for distribution, or 92.39 percent of the CLOAs registered to date.

According to De los Reyes, the CLOAs of other beneficiaries are still being registered with the Registry of Deeds.

Others are still not generated or pending because some FWBs who are out of the country have not yet signed their Application to Purchase and Farmers Undertaking (APFU).

De los Reyes said that those who were not able to receive their CLOAs during the scheduled distribution activities in the barangays can proceed to the DAR provincial office to get their certified true copies.

He said that after the distribution of certified true copies of the CLOAs, the DAR is preparing to install the farm worker beneficiaries in their lots.

“We will be installing them in their lots as we progress with the ‘monumenting’,” de los Reyes said.

He explained that it is quite impossible to do this at this time when many of the lots are still planted with sugarcane.

However, he assured the farm workers that monumenting will be done when harvesting starts this month so that they will be able to clear the area where the ‘mohons’ will be placed.

CPP: CPP condemns murder of peasant leader in Hacienda Luisita

From the CPP Website (Nov 2): CPP condemns murder of peasant leader in Hacienda Luisita
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemns the brutal murder last October 31 of one of the leaders of the peasant workers of Hacienda Luisita. The body of Dennis dela Cruz, an official of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), was found bludgeoned inside a hut he was fixing in Barangay Balete.

“The murder of dela Cruz could only have been perpetrated by the armed goons of the Cojuangcos who are determined to drive away the peasant workers who have been actively exposing the fakery in the so-called land distribution scheme being implemented by the Department of Agrarian Reform in connivance with the Cojuangco’s Luisita Realty Corp. and the Tarlac Development Corp.,” said the CPP.

Prior to dela Cruz’s murder, TADECO and the Luisita Realty Corp. deployed armed guards to fence off 100 hectares of land in Barangay Balete and 400 hectares in Barangay Cutcut to drive out peasant farmers who have long been tilling the land in the area. Peasant workers in the area have engaged in “bungkalan” or collective tilling of land to assert their ownership of the land and produce food stuff for their consumption and retail.

According to AMBALA and the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), the armed guards threatened dela Cruz several times over the past few days.
The armed guards occupied four other houses in Barangay Balete and prevented its owners from repairing their homes. They have been telling the residents who have been tilling the land that they should cease from planting rice and vegetables. Charges of trespassing have been filed against 82 farmers in Barangay Cutcut.

Peasant organizations in Hacienda Luisita have also complained that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is increasing its deployment in the different barangays. There are reports that the AFP has deployed at least four tanks in the area.

Hacienda Luisita is a 6,500 hectare land owned by the Aquino-Cojuangco clan that was taken from the peasant workers in the 1950s. It has avoided land distribution through various legal and corporate schemes. In 2011, the Supreme Court ordered the distribution of the Luisita land under the government Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and CARP Extension with Reforms (CARPER).

No land distribution, however, is actually taking place. Instead, peasant organizations have exposed that what is being distributed are certificates of land amortizations which are to be paid for by supposed beneficiaries for the next 225 years. They have also exposed how the scheme has displaced a number of long-standing claimants to the land who have been excluded from the list of beneficiaries prepared by the DAR in collaboration with the Cojuangcos.

“Over the past 25 years under the CARP and CARPER, this commercial real estate scheme has resulted in the reversion of land ownership to the original or new landlords and the complete failure of land reform.”

Police, military up forces in Zambo to strengthen security

From the Business Mirror (Nov 2): Police, military up forces in Zambo to strengthen security

To prevent a recurrence of the September urban warfare happening again, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police said they have beefed up forces in the city.

The exchange of gunfire that lasted three weeks resulted in the death of some 300 people.
Most of them are followers of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of founding Chairman Nur Misuari. Some of the dead, however, included military and police personnel, and civilians in the coastal and semi-urban villages.
Houses and properties were heavily damaged in the villages of Santa Catalina, Rio Hondo, Santa Barbara, Mampang, Talon-Talon, Mariki and Kasanyangan.
The military and the police said last week they have withdrawn from these villages and other affected areas after nearly a month of clearing operations.
Recently installed Zamboanga City Police Chief Sr. Supt. Dennis Busngi said he has created a special task force to replace these troops.
The existence of the Task Force is stipulated in Memorandum Circular 24-2013. The document outlines the procedures and guidelines to be undertaken by local police after the withdrawal of military personnel who were airlifted here at the height of the gunfight.
Members of the police task force were deployed in the affected areas which were divided into 11 zones with each zone manned by eight to 10 PNP men, Busngi said.
He added that policemen will work with members of the Army’s Task Force Zamboanga “to ensure a sound security plan within the conflict areas.”
Meanwhile, Task Force Commander Col. Andrelino Colina said security forces at the nearby San Ramon Penal Colony, where some 200 captured and surrendered MNLF rebels are currently detained, have been fortified with more troops from the Philippine Marines.
The move is designed to strengthen the prison security until the detained rebels could be transferred to a city in Metro Manila for trial.
Earlier, through the advice of Justice Secretary Leila M. Delima,  State Prosecutor General Claro Arellano sought a copy of a resolution from the Supreme court directing the transfer from the Regional Trial Court in Zamboanga City to the RTC in Taguig City for the hearing of the case of rebellion and violation of International Humanitarian Law filed against Misuari, his top field Commander Ustadz Habier Malik and other respondents.
The High Court ultimately granted Arellano’s request for the transfer of venue of the hearing of the controversial case for the security of the witnesses and others who will attend the hearing. 

Government militia killed in ambush

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Nov 2): Government militia killed in ambush

Two masked gunmen shot dead a pro-government militia in an attack in the town of Naga in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga Sibugay, police said Saturday.

Police said the 26-year old Bryan Talas died instantly from the ambush which occurred in Purok 3 in Baluno village. The attackers, one of them wearing a black bonnet and a pair of military short pants, escaped after the ambush.

Talas was assigned with the army’s 16th Special Forces under Captain Nocky Siao. Police investigators said they recovered bullet shells of M16 automatic rifle used in the killing of Talas.

Police said the militia was shot at least 5 times. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack which was just 100 meters away from the army barracks.

The motive of the attack is still unknown.

Gunmen shoot 3 people in Pagadian City

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Nov 2): Gunmen shoot 3 people in Pagadian City

Terror gripped anew the southern Philippine city of Pagadian following an attack that killed a woman and wounded her two companions.

The victim, Remedios Robesquillo, 45, a fish vendor, was shot and instantly killed by two gunmen at Purok Zone 2 in the village of Muricay. Her companions – Mohammad Dacula, 21, and Marlon Lumawan, 30, were also attacked by the gunmen with .45-caliber and 9mm pistols.

The assailants escaped after the attack and police said investigators retrieved at least 13 bullet casings in the area.

The victims just came from the Tiguma public market and on their way home when the gunmen attacked them without warning. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, but hired killers actively operate in Pagadian, the capital of Zamboanga del Sur and seat of the regional center in western Mindanao.

Killings and gun attacks are not uncommon here where most of the cases are unresolved.

EU sets peace pact incentive

From the Manila Standard Today (Nov 2): EU sets peace pact incentive

The European Union will increase its development aid to Mindanao as a result of the expected signing of a final peace agreement  between the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

An EU Commission official who asked not to be named said the announcement of the EU contribution to the Mindanao Trust Fund will be made during the visit of EU Commissioner for development Andris Piebalgs to Manila on Nov. 10-12.

“We are all hopeful that a peace agreement will be signed soon, and the EU will be there to support not only the peace process but development projects which are peace dividends,” the source said.

Alexandre Polack, spokesman of the EU Commission for development, confirmed Piebalgs’ visit but declined to give details on the possible announcements concerning Mindanao.

“Regarding concrete EU contributions to the Mindanao Trust Fund in the future, we cannot advance much at the moment,” Polack said in a separate interview.

“But we can confirm that the EU will continue to support the peace process in the future, both at the political level as well as by supporting economic development programs. Mindanao will remain a priority area of attention.”

Polack also confirmed that Piebalgs, who is the first-ever EU Commissioner for development to visit the Philippines, is scheduled to engage in high-level meetings with presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles, Energy Secretary Carlos Petilla, and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario.

The EU was the first donor to provide financial assistance amounting to P312 million to Mindanao after the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in October last year, which was sent through the World Food Programme.

The 28-member bloc is also the largest donor to the Mindanao Trust Fund with a contribution of P324 million. It also launched a P29-million de-mining project in collaboration with the Aquino administration and the MILF to reduce the threat from land mines and unexploded ordnances.

The government and the MILF are now completing the last two annexes on power-sharing and normalization that would complete the comprehensive peace agreement.

During their last talks in Kuala Lumpur, both sides had agreed to a gradual and phased disposition of weapons and decommissioning of the MILF combatants that would start after the signing of the peace pact.

4 soldiers wounded in clash with rebels in Albay

From the Bicol Today (Nov 2): 4 soldiers wounded in clash with rebels in Albay

Daraga, Albay. Photo courtesy

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City – Four Philippine Army soldiers were wounded in a two-hour gun fight with New People’s Army rebels at the boundary of Barangay Mariawa, Legazpi City, and Sitio Talahib, Barangay Binisitahan, Daraga, Albay, Saturday morning.

A police report said the encounter occurred about 5:30 a.m., Saturday, while the government troopers were on a patrol operation in the area and they came across about 20 armed rebels, resulting in a two-hour exchange of gun fires.

The communist rebels immediately withdrew when a military helicopter came to reinforce the soldiers.

Army officials have not yet come out with additional information as of press time.

GMA News Sabah Conflict Online Special Coverage

GMA News has established a special section for developments related to the Sabah Conflict:

Trial of Kiram followers over Sabah row to start January 2014

From GMA News (Nov 2): Trial of Kiram followers over Sabah row to start January 2014

A Malaysian high court judge has scheduled for January 2014 the start of the trial of 30 people over the standoff between followers of the late Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and Malaysian forces in Sabah earlier this year.

The trial dates include January 6 to 10, January 15 to 17, January 27 to 30, and February 10 and 14, according to a report on Malaysia's New Straits Times.

High Court judge Stephen Chung set the trial dates during a case management process at the Sabah Prisons Department headquarters in Kota Kinabalu.

Expected to lead a six-member prosecution team is Malaysian Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.

The report quoted Abdul Gani as saying he "cannot confirm" if there will be 50 witnesses. "It might go up or down," he added.

On the other hand, lawyer Datuk Sivananthan will be the lead counsel for 27 of the defendants. Other counsels include Kamaruddin Mohmad Chinki, Rowiena Rasid and Abdul Gani Zulika.

Last February, Kiram's followers engaged Malaysian forces in a standoff in Lahad Datu in Sabah. The standoff ended in bloody clashes starting March 1.

Sultan Kiram died last month, but sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said the sultan had ordered his followers to continue efforts to "repossess" Sabah.

Armed clashes with soldiers kill 2 rebels, injure 6 others in Albay

From InterAksyon (Nov 2): Armed clashes with soldiers kill 2 rebels, injure 6 others in Albay

At least two fighters of the New People's Army (NPA) were killed while six others, including four soldiers, were wounded in two clashes reported on Saturday along the boundary of Daraga town and Legazpi City, both in Albay, the police and military said.

Senior Inspector Art Gomez, spokesman of the Police Regional Office 5 (PRO5), said the first encounter took place at around 5:30 a.m. in Sitio Binicitahan, Barangay Mariawa, Legazpi City, while the second clash was reported at around 1:10 p.m. in the adjacent Barangay Talahib, Daraga.

In the first incident, a platoon of soldiers led by 1st Lt. Richard Relloso of the 2nd Infantry Battalion engaged more than 10 rebels in a firefight. The NPA members were believed led by a certain alias Antonio Abadiza from the NPA-Kilusang Larangang Guerilya 78.

The firefight lasted more than 10 minutes. Corporal Henry Nino Barra, and Private First Classes Valentino Renon, Melvin Navarro and Ryan Majistrado were wounded.

Maj. Angelo Guzman, deputy of the Public Affairs Office (PAO) at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, confirmed the incident. He said the four soldiers were slightly wounded by shrapnel blast, probably from rifle or grenade launchers fired by the rebels.

Battalion commander Lt. Col. Andrew Costelo said two rebels were also wounded in the encounter.

Pursuit operations by the platoon of Relloso resulted in the second encounter.

The afternoon firefight lasted more than five minutes. Soldiers recovered two bodies of suspected NPA rebels after the clash. It was not clear, however, if the two fatalities were the same rebels earlier reported as wounded during the first encounter.

NPA rebel abandons unit, yields to Philippine authorities

From the Mindanao Examiner (Nov 1): NPA rebel abandons unit, yields to Philippine authorities

A young member of the New People’s Army, who was recruited only this year, abandoned his unit after missing home and surrendered to authorities in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Sur, security officials said Friday.

Officials said Jhomer Veraño surrendered to a composite team of police and military in the village of Dawa in Josefina town. Veraño told interrogators that he trained four months in the mountain, but decided to surrender after missing his family in Tigbao town, also in the province.

The rebel said he is a member of Squad Dos, SECOM KARA of Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee under rebel leader Romanito Sumasay

Officials said Veraño surrendered his gun and told interrogators where he hid his Ak-47 assault rifle and munitions provided him by the NPA. He said his team is based in the village of Dalapan in Guipos town and composed of 70 rebels and armed with assorted weapons and their operations cover half of the province.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines which has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate state in the country.

NPA rebel surrenders in Zambo Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 1): NPA rebel surrenders in Zambo Sur

A New People’s Army (NPA) rebel has surrendered to government authorities in the province of Zamboanga del Sur, the police reported Friday.

Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) information officer Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca identified the surrenderee as Jhomer Veraño, 17, alias Ka Jack.

Huesca said that Veraño surrendered around 4 p.m. Thursday in Barangay Dawa, Josefina, Zamboanga del Sur following series of negotiations by joint police and military team.

Veraño, a resident of Barangay Tuburan, Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur, has revealed during debriefing that he had just completed a four-month training after he was recruited to join the NPA, according to Huesca.

He said Veraño decided to surrender as it is very lonely to be away with his family.

He said that Veraño is a member of Squad Dos, Section Committee KARA of the NPA’s Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee (WMRPC) under the leadership of Ka Romanito Sumasay.

Veraño turned over a caliber .38 revolver when he surrendered.

Veraño was turned over to the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) since he is still a minor, according to Huesca.

ARMM settles Lanao Sur clan war

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 2): ARMM settles Lanao Sur clan war

Peace and development are expected to come in a remote village in Lanao del Sur after warring clans agreed to bury the hatchet and work for their community’s improvement.

Patriarch and elders of the Ukra and Macacua families in Barangay Linang, Bayang town, Lanao del Sur have signed a truce in front of Vice Gov. Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong, Jr.

Both vowed before he Holy Qur’an that they will stop killing each other and together work for the benefit of their clan members, according to Lucman.

Local officials, Army and police witnessed the signing of the peace covenant.

The Ukra and Macacua clan, composed of 16 sub-families, agreed to reconcile through the joint intercession of Lucman, Adiong, and Hataman.

The clans last fought during the fasting month of Ramadhan, police report said.

At least 13 people have died and more than two dozen houses were torched when they last fought during a chance encounter at a wedding party.

Lucman said their last fight also forced about 5,000 families to flee.

4 soldiers wounded in clash with rebels in Albay

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 2): 4 soldiers wounded in clash with rebels in Albay

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City -- Four Philippine Army soldiers were wounded in a two-hour gun fight with New People’s Army rebels at the boundary of Barangay Mariawa, Legazpi City, and Sitio Talahib, Barangay Binisitahan, Daraga, Albay, Saturday morning.

A police report said the encounter occurred about 5:30 a.m., Saturday, while the government troopers were on a patrol operation in the area and they came across about 20 armed rebels, resulting in a two-hour exchange of gun fires.

The communist rebels immediately withdrew when a military helicopter came to reinforce the soldiers.

Army officials have not yet come out with additional information as of press time.

Army sets entrance exams in Bicol

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 2): Army sets entrance exams in Bicol

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur -- A mobile team from the headquarters of the Philippine Army will be conducting the Philippine Army Aptitude Test Battery (PAATB) in the different provinces of Bicol region on Nov. 21-28.

Captain Mardjorie Paimela P. Panesa said the schedule of the examinations is as follows: Nov. 21-22, Pili Sports Complex, Pili, Camarines Sur; Nov. 23, Bicol College, Daraga, Albay; Nov. 25, Magallanes Coliseum, Masbate City; and Nov. 28, Eco Athletic Field, F. Pimentel Ave., Daet, Camarines Norte.

Panesa said the examinees are required to bring the following: valid identification card, birth certificate from the National Statistics Office (original); college diploma/transcript of records (original); pencil # 2; 2x2 picture; and white folder.

“If the examinee passes the PAATB, he may join the Army depending on the qualifications and requirements, through the Officer Candidate Course (OCC),” she added.

The OCC is a one-year course which prepares the trainee mentally, physically and emotionally to become an Army officer.

Upon graduation, the applicant will be commissioned as an Army 2nd Lieutenant in the Regular Force, Armed Forces of the Philippines.

He must be a Filipino citizen; a baccalaureate degree holder; must pass the PAATB with a score of 100 or higher; 21-24 years old at the start of training (civilian); 21-29 years old at the start of training (for enlisted personnel); must complete at least one term or three continuous active military service (for EP); single, never been married and has no legal obligation to support a child; at least five feet for both male and female; and physically and mentally fit.

"There is also the Officer Preparatory Course (OPC), which is, if you are already an Army 2nd Lieutenant in the Reserved Force, AFP, on inactive status, the six-month OPC prepares one for active duty in the AFP," Panesa said.

The requirements are Filipino citizen, baccalaureate degree holder, commissioned 2LT in the reserved force, must pass the PAATB with a score of 100 or higher, not more than 31 years old on the date of Call to Active Duty (CAD), must complete at least one term/three years continuous active military service for (EP); single, never been married and has no legal obligation to support a child at the time of CAD; at least five feet for both male and female; physically and mentally fit; and no pending case in any court.

Applications are also open for the Candidate Soldier Course (CSC), a six-month course which prepares an individual to become a combatant and non-commissioned officer of the Army.

Upon graduation, the applicant will be enlisted as a private in the Regular Force, AFP.

Qualifications are Filipino citizen; preferably with 72 units in college; high school graduate will be accepted provided he has a certificate from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or with special skills needed by the Philippine Army; must pass the PAATB with a score of 80 or higher; 18-26 years old but must not be 27 years old at the convening date; single, never been married and has no legal obligation to support a child; at least five feet for both male and female; physically and mentally fit; and no pending case in any court of law.

For more inquiries, applicants may visit nearby units of the Army Reserve Command or visit the Philippine Army website.

Quota allocation for candidate soldiers in Bicol will be announced soon prior to the conduct of training.

For other inquiries, one may also LIKE the 9th ID Facebook Fanpage: 9th Infantry (Spear) Division, Philippine Army, to know updates of the recruitment.

“Be a part in building a stronger country, be one of the keepers of democracy,” Panesa said.