Wednesday, November 27, 2013

South African rescuers awarded medals for disaster relief efforts in Leyte

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Nov 27): South African rescuers awarded medals for disaster relief efforts in Leyte

The Philippine military awarded two South African humanitarian groups that helped typhoon victims in the Visayas during disaster relief operations in storm-ravaged areas.

The recipients of the military civic action medals were Rescue South Africa and Gift of the Givers. The South African groups were composed of search and rescue teams and trauma response rescuers who provided pre-hospital treatment in Villaba town near Ormoc City in Leyte province.

Members of the Rescue South Africa and Gift of the Givers also set up a temporary clinic where over 700 patients were treated. The two organizations assisted workers from the Department of Health and World Health Organization, according to the Philippine Information Agency.

The teams brought with them rescue and clearing equipment and medicines, and relief goods worth millions of pesos.

Ian Scher, chief executive officer of Rescue South Africa Disaster Response Team, said it was an honor for them to have served humanity. “We came here as rescuers, we left as friends,” Scher said.

More than 5,000 people have perished from the super typhoon Haiyan which struck central Philippines on November 8. And the toll could be higher as more bodies remain under rubble and debris.

Army’s 6ID probes link of junior officer to illegal logging in Central Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): Army’s 6ID probes link of junior officer to illegal logging in Central Mindanao

The Army’s Sixth Infantry Division (6ID) here is currently investigating a junior officer and several others for their connection to the transport of hot lumber aboard two military trucks in Alamada, North Cotabato.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, 6ID spokesman, said 6ID commander Major Gen. Romeo Gapuz has ordered a thorough investigation on the matter and the filing of charges against those involved in the illegal activity.

Members of the Alamada police seized the illegally cut logs, numbering to 28 pieces, on Nov. 22 in the mountain village of Kitapugong aboard military trucks with 6ID markings and escorted by military soldiers.

“The general (Gapuz) has vowed to throw the books to the people behind the unlawful act,” Hermoso said.

He identified a certain Capt. Sarcon Angi, a junior officer at the 6ID unit, as the possessor of the cargo but refused to elaborate pending ongoing investigation.

He also said an altercation occurred between the police and military personnel escorting the cargo during the seizure procedure but was abruptly stopped by their senor officers.

“A police officer misconstrued the body movement of one of the Army man and fired hitting him at the foot but no encounter occurred,” Hermoso clarified.

The seized cargo was turned over to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Office in Midsayap town, also in North Cotabato.

Ambulo Batugan, DENR-Midsayap officer, said the logs have no permit, prompting them to theorize that it came might from protected timberland areas in Alamada.

Both North Cotabato and its neighboring province of Maguindanao, a province-component of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, have earlier declared a total log ban in a bid to save its remaining forests.

GPH-MILF policing body for Bangsamoro arrives in Mindanao for stakeholders’ consultation

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): GPH-MILF policing body for Bangsamoro arrives in Mindanao for stakeholders’ consultation

The Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) has started Monday a five-day consultation with the different stakeholders of the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The ICP, which is composed of representatives of the GPH, MILF and foreign countries, is chaired by Randall Beck, the assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The other commissioners are Australian international expert Cedrick Netto, retired Police Director Ricardo de Leon, Police Dir. Lina Sarmiento, MILF military spokesperson Von Al Haq, retired Police Chief Superintendent Amerodin Hamdag, and Japanese international expert Yuji Eusugi.

On Monday afternoon, the ICP commissioners paid a courtesy call to MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim at the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

They conducted a meeting with MILF commanders also at Camp Darapanan Tuesday morning and in the evening with police officials from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Region 12 in Cotabato City.

On Wednesday, the ICP commissioners held a community consultation, also attended by leaders from the academe and religious sectors, at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute at Crossing Simuay in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The ICP commissioners are also set to consult community stakeholders from the academe, religious and civil society organizations recommended by the GPH peace panel tomorrow (Thursday) in Cotabato City.

The creation of the ICP is contained under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed by the GPH and the MILF on October 15, 2012.

The envisioned Bangsamoro police force, which is civilian in character, shall be professional and free from partisan political control. It is aimed to be effective and efficient, fair and impartial as well as accountable for its action, and responsible to both the National Government and the Bangsamoro Government, according to ICP’s Terms of Reference (TOR).

The TOR was agreed by the GPH and MILF peace panels last February 27 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The ICP’s main function is to conduct studies and produce a set of recommendations on the appropriate policing for the Bangsamoro, the entity that would replace the ARMM government in 2016.

The recommendations will be based on a needs-assessment that will reflect public’s perception of the police, the needs and demands of communities in the Bangsamoro and the human rights situation, among others.

The ICP’s task is aligned with the work to settle the annex on Normalization, which is still being negotiated by the peace panels, along with the annex on Power Sharing.

Earlier this year, the GPH and MILF peace panels signed the annexes on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, and Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing.

AFP Chief visits Israeli field hospital in Bogo

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 27): AFP Chief visits Israeli field hospital in Bogo

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista visited the Israeli field hospital in Bogo City recently.

Along with Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) commanders, Lt. Gen Bautista surveyed the field hospital where he heard directly from the local people the tremendous effect the Israeli operations had in the area following the devastation left by Typhoon Yolanda.

Bautista commended the Israeli troops on their dedication and hard work and spoke of the friendship between the two countries.

During his tour at the field hospital, he stopped beside an incubator and held a newly-born baby with a smile on his face.

Israeli Colonel Yoram Laredo on the other hand said the level of cooperation achieved after the delegations’ arrival in the Philippines had been remarkable and that it was an honor and a privilege for Israel to be able to extend a hand in friendship in such troubled times.

The field hospital started operating on Nov. 15 in front of the Severo Verallo Memorial District Hospital. Since then, they have been treating from 200-300 patients daily as well as delivering births.

Scout Rangers who fought in siege of Zamboanga City honored

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 26): Scout Rangers who fought in siege of Zamboanga City honored

Photo: The Philippine Army Scout Rangers/

An Army junior officer received on Tuesday the third highest medal for combat for leading the assault against hundreds of members of the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City last September.

Captain Rolly Joaquin led this year’s awardees at the Scout Ranger’s 63rd anniversary held at the First Scout Ranger Regiment located at Camp Tecson in Bulacan.

The Gold Cross Medal comes the third highest award after Medal of Valor and Distinguished Conduct Star.

The Scout Rangers are part of military’s elite forces. They specialize in anti-guerrilla warfare.

Joaquin was the commanding officer of the First Scout Ranger Company that led the assault against the MNLF in the villages of Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina in Zamboanga City in September.

He sustained wounds from the MNLF attack but Joaquin chose to stay with his men.
The junior officer is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 2004 and finished top of the class.

In 2004, he was sacked from schooling in the United States Army Infantry School at Fort Benning in Georgia and was sent back home for alleged shoplifting. He reportedly stole a compact disc worth $12.95.

Because he was a topnotcher, he earned a study grant from the United States Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG).

He was reprimanded because of the incident and was reduced in rank in the military lineal list.

Other awardees

Another recipient of the Gold Cross Medal is First Lieutenant Patrick Futalan of the 14th Scout Ranger Company. He led his troops in a clash with communist rebels in Mati village in Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur last January. They were able to seize a rebel encampment despite enemy fires.

The rest of the Gold Cross Medals recipients are Captain Blas Alsiyao of the Scout Ranger Training School, First Lieutenant Loui Talosig and Sergeant Marvin Etao, both of the 15th Scout Ranger Company.

Staff Sergeant Allan Ugbamin was awarded with the Bronze Cross Medal.

Military merit medals were given to Lt Col Freddie  Dela Cruz, Cpt Rodrigo Babaran,  Cpt Aunor Balansi, 1Lt Russel Bawat, TSg Reyland Lagunero, SSg Reynaldo Esteves, SSg Jungie Cuevas, SSg Sanny Sabarre, and Cpl Michael D Binauhan.

The 1st Scout Ranger Battalion was awarded as this year’s Best Battalion, and the 2nd Scout Ranger Company as Best Company.

Cpt Paul Ramos and SSg Rehum Magno were named as Best Officer and Best Enlisted Personnel, respectively.

A Plaque of Recognition was also given to retired Major Generals Julius J Javier, Gabriel M Ledesma and Jose P Magno; retired Second Lieutenants Samuel C Jomento and Rufo B Guigue; retired Chief Master Sergeant Enrique M Pizarra, and retired Senior Master Sergeant Jose T Paet.

Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle C Salazar of Zamboanga City was also a recipient of Plaque of Recognition.

Taiwan Navy delivers second round of relief supplies for ‘Yolanda’ victims

From the Daily Tribune (Nov 28): Taiwan Navy delivers second round of relief supplies for ‘Yolanda’ victims

The Republic of China Navy vessel Chung He departed for Cebu Port at noon on Nov. 25, carrying a second shipment of relief supplies donated to the Philippines by various sectors in the ROC following the super typhoon “Yolanda” disaster.

A simple and solemn donation ceremony was held at Taiwan’s Zuoying naval port. It was attended by Minister without Portfolio Lin Junq-tzer, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ting Joseph Shih, Philippine Representative to Taiwan Antonio Basilio, and dozens of representatives from donor organizations.

The relief supplies were donated by ROC citizens and various private charitable organizations, including the Bliss and Wisdom Foundation, Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, Fo Guang Shan, World Taiwanese Chambers of Commerce, Hsing Tian Kong, the ROC I-Kuan Tao Association, Dharma Drum Mountain, Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Society, Roman Catholic Diocese of Taichung, National Fishermen’s Association, and National Unions.

Relief items include solar panel generators, tents, rice, clothing, crackers and cookies, ready-to-eat food, and drinking water. The shipment, which is expected to arrive in the disaster areas within the next four days, will help those affected get through this difficult time.

In his remarks during the ceremony, Shih said that, in the wake of the disaster, President Ma Ying-jeou had promptly instructed the government and nongovernmental organizations to work together to launch the ROC’s humanitarian relief effort in the shortest possible time. This shows that the ROC upholds the spirit of being a humanitarian aid provider, and that public-private partnership in this country is deepening.

Meanwhile, Philippine Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras expressed his appreciation for the ROC’s assistance and commended the ROC for being the first country to transport relief supplies to the Philippines on C-130 cargo planes.

Abang Lingkod gets party-list seat

From the Sun Star (Nov 27): Abang Lingkod gets party-list seat

ABANG Lingkod party-list finally got a seat in the House of Representatives after a failed try in 2010.

In a decision, the Supreme Court ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to proclaim Abang Lingkod since it garnered more than the required 200,000 votes.

The SC also said the group need not present its track record to show that they have championed the causes of marginalized sectors.

"It would thus be the height of injustice if the Court, in this certiorari action, would scrutinize the legitimacy of Abang Lingkod as a party-list group and the genuineness of its representation of the farmers and fisherfolk, and affirm the cancellation of its registration, when the issue is limited only to the track record of Abang Lingkod," the decision read, adding this requirement is no longer part of the accreditation process.

The group went to the SC when the Comelec disqualified them from participating in last May's elections.

But the High Court, which came out with new party-list accreditation guidelines in April, allowed Abang Lingkod to join the race.

Video: NDFP-EV denounces Aquino government’s inutility in aiding calamity victims, calls for speedy humanitarian assistance

Posted to the PRWC blog site (Nov 21): Video: NDFP-EV denounces Aquino government’s inutility in aiding calamity victims, calls for speedy humanitarian assistance
Fr. Santiago Salas (Ka Sanny)
NDFP Eastern Visayas Chapter
[Video: Fr Salas on Yolanda: NDFP-EV denounces Aquino's inutility, calls for speedy humanitarian assistance
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Eastern Visayas commiserates with the millions of people who suffered losses of lives and properties in the region and elsewhere in the country due to Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last November 8. We condemn the gross incompetence and unreadiness of the Aquino government even though weather forecasts had already warned days in advance of the category 4 superstorm and the expected massive flooding from the storm surge. The Aquino government only made token announcements and evacuations, did not stock food and water, and did not prepare emergency services. Rather than passing the buck to the local government, it should have been the responsibility of the national governmment to ensure the safety and well-being of the people because of the scale and scope of the calamity.
It is simply untrue that the New People’s Army has been harassing relief operations to the people and that the NPA is sowing disorder after the storm. In reality, the NPA along with other revolutionary forces and the People’s Democratic Government has been striving to aid the stricken people and working to ensure the speedy delivery of humanitarian assistance. The Communist Party of the Philippines also showed concern for the people by declaring a unilateral ceasefire from Nov. 14-24 in the areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda. It is in fact the Aquino regime that is antagonizing the people by garrisoning Tacloban City, the hardest hit area, with police and military troops who impose a virtual martial law. It is the Aquino regime that is causing disorder and anarchy because of its slothful and disorganized relief operations.
Thousands are believed to have been killed especially in Tacloban and Ormoc cities in Leyte, as well as Basey and Guian towns on Samar island, among other areas. After the storm, the people had to fend for themselves as the Aquino government’s relief efforts were virtually nonexistent. Indeed, more than a week after the storm, food and water have yet to reach Guiuan and other areas, and many of the dead have yet to be buried.
The presence of Aquino and other top governmment officials in the region after the storm were nothing more than publicity gimmicks. They were posing for the media, while outside, the people whose homes had been destroyed were living on the streets and dying of thirst and starvation. In the crucial days after the storm, the people had to commandeer food, water, medicine and other supplies because there was absolutely nothing coming from the government. Displaying utter heartlessness and contempt to the people despite their plight, instead of emergency supplies Aquino sent in armored cars and armed troops as a “show of force” to “stop the looting.” What little food and water arrived the people had to walk several kilometers to go to, and had to form long lines under the rain and under the heat of the sun. The Aquino rehimen is surely adept in stealing from the people through the pork barrel scam and patronage system, but lazy and despicable when the people desperately need help.
The Philippine and US governments make much of the psywar gimmick of some US troops participating in relief and rehabilitation, and there is talk of additional foreign troops. Do they have other, ulterior motives in doing so? In fact, there are more than 10,000 military and police troops in Eastern Visayas, but the Aquino regime is loath to shift them away from “counterinsurgency” operations and make them actually useful to the people by clearing roads, building shelters, repairing infrastructure, and restoring agricultural production. But the main concern of the military troops is to watch the people in the name of “peace and order” and to provide security for the publicity gimmicks of politicians, who take advantage of the people’s miseries to bolster their political ambitions. We condemn the Aquino government for putting more importance into its war with the NDFP, rather than in alleviating the people’s sufferings.
The damage to the region and elsewhere from Typhoon Yolanda may take years of social recovery. The natural calamity underscored the man-made calamity that is the Aquino regime. Having suffered for so long under the rotten semifeudal and semicolonial ruling system, the people surely resent the added ordeal the Aquino government made them undergo aside from the natural calamity and the long years of uncertainty ahead.
In the face of the plight of the many victims of calamity, the NDFP-EV is appealing to the people’s organizations in the Philippines and abroad to help the people of Eastern Visayas. The NDFP-EV is also calling on the New People’s Army, the revolutionary mass organizations and the People’s Democratic Government, to persevere in the relief operations they are already undertaking and to participate in the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. There can be a unity of efforts to ensure that aid and supplies contributed by private individuals and groups, as well as by foreign aid agencies, non-government organizations and government organizations can directly and speedily reach the intended recipients.
The NDFP-EV also calls on the people to rise up and protest the scarcity of emergency supplies and the arrogant and callous method of distribution. The calamity victims and the people must also join hands and bring the Aquino regime to account for its incompetence and ill-preparedness, and demand as a matter of social justice the appropriate rehabilitation and recovery after the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda.

OIC to pursue peace talks with gov’t, MNLF

From the Philippine Star (Nov 27): OIC to pursue peace talks with gov’t, MNLF

The OIC-Peace Committee on Southern Philippines (PCSP) chaired by Indonesia has reiterated its commitment to continue  in the contribution to the comprehensive solution for peace in Southern Philippines, he added.

Fontanilla said the tripartite meeting is set after the 40th session of  the council of foreign ministers.

The OIC Secretary General has asked MNLF chairman Nur Misuari to appoint a delegation  to the tripartite and council of ministers meeting.

Indonesia as chairman of the PCSP will submit a report on the hostilities in Zamboanga City.

The OIC PCSP has also asked the Philippine government to take into account the important and historic role of Misuari in the peace process.

It will also ask member-Islamic nations to increase their humanitarian assistance in Zamboanga City after the outbreak of hostilities last September.

A STAR source said Misuari is now in the Middle East and preparing to attend the foreign ministers’ session where he is expected to deliver his report during  the plenary session.

The  OIC has recognized the MNLF under Misuari as the representative of the Bangsamoro in the Philippines. Misuari has been granted a permanent observer status in the OIC.

Fontanilla declined to confirm or deny the whereabouts of Misuari, who has a pending arrest warrant due to the Zamboanga crisis.

NPA rebels torch Dole tractor in SCotabato

From the Philippine Star (Nov 27): NPA rebels torch Dole tractor in SCotabato

Communist rebels have torched a tractor of Dole Philippines in South Cotabato and have killed a soldier in Masbate, military officials said Wednesday.

Cpt. Alberto Caber, spokesman of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command, said the insurgents burned the Dole tractor in Sitio de Asis, Barangay Afus in T’boli town Tuesday at around 4 p.m.

He said the driver, identified as Fidel Taton, was held at gunpoint by three masked men who identified themselves as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The armed men reportedly told Taton that Dole did not heed their extortion demands.

“The security officer of Dole Philippines said that they have not received any extortion demands,” Caber said.

The burned tractor, Caber claimed, was worth around P5 million.

“This is another gross violation of the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) by the NPA,” Caber said.

Army and police forces are now conducting operations against the insurgents.

Meanwhile, a soldier who was about to go to market was killed Wednesday by suspected NPA assassins in Uson, Masbate.

A report by the Army’s 9th division said the soldier, identified as Pfc. Arjay Barbin, was shot dead by four members of the Special Partisan Unit at around 6:30 a.m.

Members of the 93rd Division Reconnaissance Company are now pursuing the rebels.

NPA rebels attack Dole's South Cotabato farm

From Rappler (Nov 27): NPA rebels attack Dole's South Cotabato farm

ANOTHER ATTACK: NPA reportedly burned Dole's tractor in South Cotabato. File photo by Karlos Manlupig

ANOTHER ATTACK: NPA reportedly burned Dole's tractor in South Cotabato. File photo by Karlos Manlupig

The New People's Army (NPA) burned a tractor of pineapple giant DOLE Philippines (Dolefil) in T'boli, South Cotabato, according to the military.

"Around 4 pm of November 26, 2013, one tractor owned by Dolefil was burned by armed NPA in sitio De Asis, barangay Afus, T'boli, South Cotabato," said Captain Alberto Caber, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command.

"The driver Fidel Taton said that he was held at gunpoint by 3 masked armed men who identified themselves as NPA and was told that the Dolefil did not heed their extortion demands," Caber added.

The Dolefil security officer said they have not received extortion demands, Caber said. The tractor is worth P5 million, the military added.

In March, Mindanews reported that the NPA attacked a police outpost also in T'boli, South Cotabato, supposedly as a "punitive action for the presence of multinational companies in the area."

In Bukidnon in February, the NPA also reportedly attacked offices of Dole and Del Monte, killing a security guard and wounding 3 others.

The Aquino administration revived peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the NPA's political arm, but the process also collapsed months later. (READ: PH: Peace talks with NDF a failure and Joma wants peace, the 'ground' doesn't — Alex Padilla)

Caber said the attack violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), an agreement between the government and the NDF, to respect civilians and civilian properties.

Kidnappers strike in Zamboanga Sur

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Nov 27): Kidnappers strike in Zamboanga Sur

Google Maps of Labangan town in Zamboanga del Sur province in Southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

Kidnappers on Wednesday have seized a 28-year old man in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Sur and demanded ransom in exchange for his freedom, police said.

Police said Edmund Corpuz was seized in the village of Dalapang in Labangan town. Corpuz was originally reported missing by his family until kidnappers contacted them to demand ransom.

No further details were released by the police about the latest kidnapping incident.
It was not immediately known how much ransom the kidnappers were demanding, but police have ordered commanders in the region to tighten their security to prevent future kidnappings for ransom.

“You are all directed to enhance target hardening measures to preclude further occurrence of serious incidents in your area of responsibility. The fast coming yuletide season will surely bring about increase in lawlessness and other forms of criminality, hence, serious implementation of all police operation plans must be done,” reads a police order sent to commanders in western Mindanao.

Corpuz’s kidnapping came a day following the safe release of a kidnapped Chinese-Filipino trader Robert Cua and Filipino engineer Edwin dela Torre in Iligan City also in southern Philippines.

The duo was seized by gunmen earlier in November in Lanao del Norte’s Linamon town where Cua runs a lumber yard. It was not immediately known how much ransom was paid by Cua’s family to the kidnappers.

Alleged bus bomber escapes but aide gets killed

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 27): Alleged bus bomber escapes but aide gets killed
A former Moro rebel leader blamed for a wave of bombings and kidnappings in Central Mindanao has eluded arrest, but one of his aides was killed in a shootout with police and soldiers in North Cotabato, police said Wednesday.

Chief Inspector Elmer Guevara, chief of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in North Cotabato, said a hunt was continuing for  Datukan Samad alias Commander Lastikman, who escaped a police and military dragnet set up Tuesday in the town of Midsayap. One of Samad’s men identified as Ramon Bantolinay was killed and a policeman wounded in an ensuing shootout.

Samad was  arrested in December 2011, but escaped from the Maguindanao provincial jail here in July 2012.

He was moved to the jail in Cotabato City after his followers attacked the North Cotabato provincial jail in Kidapawan City in a failed attempt to rescue him in February 2012. He was being held there on charges of masterminding a series of bus bombings.

Guevarra said that the authorities received information on Tuesday that Samad was hiding in a hut in Sitio Tinibtiban in the town of Pikit and mounted an operation to arrest him.

“When we arrived at past 10 a.m., armed men opened fire and slightly wounded P02 Christopher Soriano on the shoulder. We returned fire and killed one of them,” he said.
Guevarra said the authorities recovered at least three high-powered firearms following the raid.

He said Samad’s life as a fugitive was coming to an end because of the cooperation with the authorities of some people he had trusted, including his wife.

“In due time, Lastikman will fall into government hands,” Guevarra said.

Former Cotabato City police director Senior Supt. Danny Reyes said in previous interviews that Samad, who has been repeatedly disowned by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was a serious threat to public safety and his capture, dead or alive, was the only way of ending his notoriety.

“He is a very dangerous person, whom the community should be wary about. Any sighting of him should immediately be reported so that the police can act on it,” Reyes said then.

Zambo siege hero gets Gold Cross

From Malaya (Nov 27): Zambo siege hero gets Gold Cross

An Army junior officer who played a key role in the massive operations against during the Zamboanga City siege in September had been conferred with the Gold Cross Medal, the third highest military decoration in combat.
Capt. Rolly Joaquin, commander of the elite First Scout Ranger Company, was pinned with the medal by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin during the celebration of the 63rd foundation anniversary of the 1st Scout Ranger Regiment in   Bulacan yesterday.
Joaquin led the assault against hundreds of MNLF rebels in their stronghold in barangays Sta Barbara and Sta Catalina, two of the several villages that was occupied by the MNLF men by commander Ustadz Habier Malik.
Military officials believe that Malik died in the several weeks of intense operations but the troops have not recovered the body of the MNLF leader. There are reports that Malik actually escaped the military offensive.
“Despite sustaining wounds from the enemy’s attack, Captain Joaquin chose to stay with his men, thereby boosting the morale and the will to fight of the engaged troops,” said Army spokesman Capt. Anthony Bacus.
Joaquin’s career was tainted in 2004 when he was sent back by the US Army Infantry School at Fort Benning in Georgia - where he was sent for Basic Officers Course - after he was caught technically shoplifting a compact disc.
Joaquin, the valedictorian of the Philippine Military Academy class of 2004, was found by authorities to have removed a 50-cent discount tag from a sale item and attached it to the CD worth $12.95 which he wanted to purchase.
Upon return, the officer was investigated by the Philippine Army. Then a second lieutenant, Joaquin was subsequently reprimanded and lowered in the lineal list, one of primary factors in the promotion of officers.
AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala  Joaquin’s company was involved as the “main effort” during the calibrated military response in the Zamboanga siege that resulted in the rescue of nearly 200 hostages and killing, capture and surrender of about MNLF 500 men.
Those who also received the Gold Cross Medal for similar feats were 1Lt. Mark Patrick Futalan of the 14th Scout Ranger Company, Capt. Blas Alsiyao of the Scout Ranger Training School, 1Lt. Loui Talosig and Sgt. Marvin Etao, both of the 15th Scout Ranger Company.
Several other Scout Ranger personnel were given awards during the anniversary - S/Sgt. Allan Ugbahim (Bronze Cross Medal); Lt. Col. Freddie dela Cruz, Capt. Rodrigo Babaran, Capt. Aunor Balansi,1Lt. Russel  Bawat, T/Sgt. Reyland Lagunero, S/Sgt. Reynaldo Esteves, S/Sgt. Jungie Cuevas, S/Sgt. Sanny Sabarre and Cpl. Michael Binauhan (Military Merit Medal).
The 1st Scout Ranger Battalion, where the company of Joaquin is under, was adjudged as the best battalion for this year while the 2nd Scout Ranger Company was recognized as the best
Meanwhile, Capt. Paul Ramos and S/Sgt. Rehum Magno were named the best officer and best enlisted personnel.
Plaques of recognition were also awarded to retired generals Julius Javier, Gabriel Ledesma and Jose Magno, retired 2Lts. Samuel Jomento and Rufo Guigue, retired Chief Master Sergeant Enrique Pizarra, retired Senior Master Sergeant Jose Paet and Zamboanga City mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar.

Army pursuing rebels who torched DOLE-Fil tractor

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 27): Army pursuing rebels who torched DOLE-Fil tractor

Troopers of the Eastern Mindanao Command are now pursuing the rebel band who torched a tractor owned by DOLE-Fil in T'Boli, South Cotabato Tuesday afternoon.

Capt. Alberto Caber, the unit's spokesperson, said the incident took place around 4:00 p.m. in Sitio De Asis, Barangay Afus in T'Boli town.

Initial reports made by the vehicle's driver, Fidel Taton, said that he was passing in the area when stopped by three heavily-armed NPA fighters, who said that they will burn his tractor for DOLE-Fil's refusal to give in to their extortion demand.

The rebels quickly fled after destroying the vehicle.

PHL says Chinese deployment of aircraft carrier to South China threatens regional peace

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 27): PHL says Chinese deployment of aircraft carrier to South China threatens regional peace

The Philippines on Wednesday expressed alarm over China’s deployment of an aircraft carrier to the disputed South China Sea, saying such move violates a regional code of conduct it signed with other Asian claimants and threatens peace in the region.

“Its deployment does not contribute to collective efforts to strengthen regional stability and instead serves to threaten the status quo,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told a press briefing.

“Its deployment raises tension and violates the Declaration of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea,” Hernandez noted, referring to the accord signed by the China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia in 2002.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, which have claims over the resource-rich waters, and Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar comprise the ASEAN. Taiwan, a self-ruling democratic government regarded by China as its renegade province, is also a claimant to the South China Sea.

China’s deployment of its sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, came after it unveiled a plan to set up an airspace defense zone in waters where Japan is also claiming ownership.

Chinese media reported that the Liaoning will carry out "scientific research, tests and military drills” in the disputed waters - a move that is likely to stoke tensions anew with other claimants, particularly the most vocal ones like the Philippines and Vietnam.

Hernandez said Manila expects Beijing to adhere to the existing international law, such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a 1982 accord by 163 countries that sets territorial boundaries of coastal states. China is a signatory to the treaty.

“Its deployment must not be violative of international law. Its deployment must therefore not be for other than peaceful purposes,” Hernandez said.

Manila is locked in a long-running territorial rift with China over the South China Sea.

The Philippines has adopted the name West Philippine Sea for some parts of the waters it is claiming.

Washington has declared that unfettered access to sea and peaceful resolution of disputes are in America’s national interest.

1 dies, 1 hurt as BIFF attacks North Cotabato village

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 27): 1 dies, 1 hurt as BIFF attacks North Cotabato village

Suspected member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was killed while a civilian was wounded when lawless elements attacked a remote village in Midsayap, North Cotabato Tuesday night, the military here said.

Capt. Antonio Bulao, speaking for the 602nd Infantry Brigade, said about 30 BIFF members under a certain Commander Dadoy Pulalon, entered Sitio Narra, Barangay Tugal, Midsayap, North Cotabato at past 6 p.m.

But village defenders engaged them in a shootout that lasted for about 30 minutes until Army reinforcement arrived.

Villagers identified the slain attacker as Guialal Kasanorin of Datu Piang, Maguindanao. Siang Sambatan, a barangay tanod, was wounded.

Barangay Tugal chairperson Ping Kulilong said the armed men apparently wanted to rob farmers of their work animals and other valuables like what they used to do in the past.

Barangay Tugal is beside the village of Malingao where last September was also attacked by BIFF that trapped about 62 persons, including 13 teachers.

In the ensuing fire fight, four BIFF and two soldiers were killed.

The BIFF is a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that gained notoriety in 2008 following the botched signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

They attacked border barangays in North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

It has about 1,000 armed followers.

Army vows to provide PNP with manpower, resources in hunting down rogue rebel

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 27): Army vows to provide PNP with manpower, resources in hunting down rogue rebel

The Army here vowed Wednesday to provide the police with necessary manpower and resources in hunting down Central Mindanao's most wanted man.

Capt. Anthony Bulao, speaking for the 602nd Infantry Brigade, said the Army's 7th and 40th Infantry Battalion will provide the necessary Army personnel and resources in searching for Datukan Samad, who was wanted for murder, multiple murder and frustrated murder, bombings and highway robbery.

Samad, alias "Commander Lastikman," managed to elude arrest when lawmen, led by CIDG North Cotabato, raided his safe house in Barangay Tinibtiban, Pikit on Tuesday morning.

His follower, Ramon Bantolinay, died on the spot from multiple gunshot wounds when he fired approaching lawmen who immediately returned fire.

A policeman, SPO2 Christopher Soriano, was wounded in the ensuing encounter.

As the fighting intensified, Samad and some of his men fled with the civilians and left Bantolinay and three Armalite rifle.

Police took custody of Samad’s wife, who was cornered in one of the houses nearby.

"The wife is cooperating with us, he vowed to help the police in convincing her husband to surrender," Chief Inspector Elmer Guevara of North Cotabato's provincial CIDG office.

Last year, armed men allegedly to be members of the MILF, raided the Kidapawan City jail where Samad was detained for possession of explosives and firearms.

In that daring raid, three were killed, including a Red Cross volunteer.

He was moved to Midsayap, North Cotabato where he was also facing murder charges. The court transferred him to Maguindanao provincial jail in Cotabato City where he escaped last July 2012.

Bulao said the Army is mobilizing its intelligence agents to locate Samad wherever he goes.

MILF gets credit for release of seized trader

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 27): MILF gets credit for release of seized trader

Kidnappers had released the Chinese trader and an engineer who were seized a week ago while on their way to Cagayan de Oro City after visiting a sister company in Lanao del Norte Wednesday last week.

Former Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Vicente Emano, who led the negotiations, said that Yaser Kalendada, division commander of the Lanao-based Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) command, has played a critical role in the successful release of the victims.

Robert Kua, owner of the wood-based Vicmar Company in Misamis Oriental and Findlay Miller Lumber Company in Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte, was released Tuesday night together with Edwin dela Torre, the company engineer.

Kua and dela Torre were on board the firm’s Toyota Land Cruiser vehicle on their way to Cagayan de Oro City when their vehicle was reportedly flagged down in barangay Buru-un in the town of Linamon, Lanao del Norte around 5 p.m.

Police Senior Supt. Madid Paitao of the Lanao del Norte police command, said that the suspects commandeered the vehicle toward Tagolo-an in Lanao del Sur where the driver identified as Candido Mausisa was subsequently released.

Paitao said that Mausisa reported the incident a day after, prompting the police to immediately launch a search and rescue operation that led to the recovery of the Toyota Land Cruiser already abandoned in Tagolo-an, Lanao del Norte.

Emano said that the family of Kua sought help Thursday last week for the release of Robert Kua from the kidnappers who initially demanded an P80-million ransom.

He said that he kept the incident away from the prying eyes of the media so a backdoor negotiation could smoothly push through.

Emano said MILF Commander Kalendada voluntarily provided the necessary security during the negotiation while at the same time pressured the suspects to release the victims.

The Philippine government and the MILF signed a framework agreement last year as a prelude to ending the armed conflict in Mindanao.

Emano said the suspects released Kua and dela Torre without paying the ransom but the victims had to reimburse expenses incurred as “board and lodging”.

After their release, Kua told the negotiating panel that the kidnappers treated them well during their captivity.

Credit was also given to the assistance extended by city prosecutor Fidel Macauyag and the Office of Media Affairs headed by Regional Director Oggie Gandambra.

Gov't conducts dental, medical missions in Tacloban

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 27): Gov't conducts dental, medical missions in Tacloban

Ensuring the health of typhoon victims housed in evacuation centers, the Philippine Army alongside the Japan Disaster Relief-Self Defense Forces (JDR-SDF) Units held dental and medical missions here Wednesday.

"We have started the dental and medical mission at 9 a.m.," said AFP Major Luther Punzalan of the 8th Infantry Division.

Punzalan said they are offering extraction and consultation services for the evacuees who are temporarily housed at Tacloban City Convention Center.

The AFP dental team assisted at least 27 patients as of 11a.m. There were also doctors treating evacuees with ailments and minor wounds. The government earlier assured enough supply of medicines to assist typhoon victims.

Punzalan said they will be visiting other 31 evacuation centers in Tacloban to give free medical and dental aid to affected families.

The Japan Disaster Relief Forces, meanwhile, offered free immunization for measles, oral polio, and vitamins and health supplements for the evacuees.

Tetsuro Amano, minister and deputy chief of the Mission Consul General, said they have deployed four doctors to administer the vaccination.

Amano said they are expecting more than 200 evacuees who will avail of the free medical services.

"We give vaccinations to children ages 5 months old up to 6 years old," he said.

This activity was in coordination with the World Health Organization, United Nations and the Department of Health.

Senate leaders rebuff DFA chief on 'Yolanda' response justifying increased US military presence

From InterAksyon (Nov 27): Senate leaders rebuff DFA chief on 'Yolanda' response justifying increased US military presence

Senate leaders on Tuesday rebuffed Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario for citing the swift humanitarian response to the devastation of super typhoon “Yolanda” to make a pitch for increased US military presence in the country.

Despite the brushoff, the DFA maintained its position that an increased American presence would benefit the country, with spokesman Raul Hernandez saying: "With respect to the negotiations on increased rotational presence, one of the significant benefits of having a framework agreement is in further strengthening our capabilities in humanitarian assistance and disaster response."

Currently, the Philippines and US are negotiating the terms for the “increased rotational presence” of the Americans, which critics of foreign military presence fear could be a justification for a return to permanent basing.

In the aftermath of Yolanda, the US was among the first to respond and sent a whole carrier battle group to assist with relief missions in devastated areas.

This prompted Del Rosario to tell reporters Monday: "What [we have seen] in Central Philippines as a result of this typhoon, and the assistance provided in terms of relief and rescue operation ... demonstrates the need for this framework agreement that we are working out with the United States for increased rotational presence."

"It accentuates one of the main purposes of this framework, which is to make humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and response one of the major aspects of this agreement,” he added.

But Senate President Franklin Drilon said any American military presence should be anchored on the Constitutional provision banning the permanent basing of foreign troops on Philippine soil.

Ang importante, ang lahat ng gagawin ay sang-ayon sa Constitution at walang permanent basing dito sa ating bansa,” Drilon said.

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said if Del Rosario’s logic is to be followed, “we should allow the establishment of US military bases” in the country.

Ang mga tropa ng ibang bansa, ginagamit lang natin sa security, not for relief operation … E di, kung ganoon ang theory nila, dapat eh, magkaroon ulit ng military bases ang Amerikano dito dahil every year, tinatamaan tayo ng bagyo, ‘di ba?,” Enrile said.

“I respect his (del Rosario) opinion but, I don’t think that is enough because we do not always have that kind of problem. Otherwise, the anticipation of such disaster will always be, or any contingency will be, a justification for the presence of other troops in the country,” he added. “With due respect to them, sa akin (for me), it could not be.

It’s not a justification otherwise an anticipation of a big earthquake in the Philippines would be a justification of foreign troop presence in the country. Hindi pwede ‘yun (That can’t be allowed).”

The 1987 Constitution bans permanent basing rights of foreign troops in the country.
In 1991, the Senate rejected the RP-US Military Bases Agreement, shutting down the American facilities at Clark and Subic, although US troops are allowed temporarily into the country for joint exercises and other activities under the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Enrile said any increased US presence should pass through the Senate.

“I think it will have to come to us. It will become an amendment to the Visiting Forces Agreement because there is a prohibition in the Constitution regarding the establishment of military bases in the country, foreign military bases. It depends upon the way they will craft the relationship,” he explained.

Enrile vowed to personally scrutinize any framework agreement laid down for the Senate’s approval, including any amendments to the VFA.

“There are so many questions. We will see how frequent is the rotation … And then, who will provide the logistics for the troops, the American troops and their quartering? Where will they be quartered? Are they going to be quartered in Philippine facilities or American facilities?” he said.

Hernandez, sought for comment on the senators' sentiments, said: "The United States was among the first countries to respond generously providing resources and manpower to assist in relief rescue operations."

"Such positive experiences certainly bring tremendous goodwill to any negotiation, allowing negotiating parties to look more at all opportunities obtaining instead of impediments," he added.

SC upholds seizure of former AFP chief Abadia's unexplained wealth

From InterAksyon (Nov 27): SC upholds seizure of former AFP chief Abadia's unexplained wealth

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld an anti-graft court’s order forfeiting in favor of government more than P11 million in unexplained wealth from former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Lisandro Abadia and his wife, Violeta.

The high court’s Third Division dismissed Abadia’s motion for reconsideration of the Sandiganbayan ruling ordering him to return to the government P11,262,876.01, saying it found no irreversible error in the lower court’s judgment.

The Sandiganbayan said the Abadia couple could not explain the abrupt increase in the former military chief’s Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) of Abadia -- from P3.77 million in 1991 to P6.476 million in 1992, and then to P13.61 million in 1993.

Abadia retired as AFP chief in 1994.