Thursday, December 5, 2013

More public consultations on Bangsamoro basic law set

From GMA News (Dec 6): More public consultations on Bangsamoro basic law set

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission is set to intensify its consultations with the people on the prospective Bangsamoro basic law in the coming weeks, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said Thursday.

BTC Chairman and MILF peace panel head Mohagher Iqbal voiced hopes the dialogues and advocacy activities would lead to a deeper understanding of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which the BTC is drafting.

Some 160 public consultations targeting 7,280 people would be headed by eight organizations that have partnered for the project dubbed "Building Peace in Mindanao through Public Participation in Governance," the MILF said on Thursday.

The BTC and Conciliation Resources, a member of the International Contact Group (ICG) for peace negotiations between the government and the MILF, signed a memorandum of agreement on the intensified consultations last Nov. 30.

Iqbal signed the agreement in behalf of the BTC, one of whose functions involves coordinating and conducting public consultations.

 Kristian Herbolzheimer, Director of Philippine Programs, signed for Conciliation Resources, a UK-based group that supports people living in conflict and helps prevent violence and build peace.

 Project partners

 The MILF said the project partners include MindaNews, Bangsamoro Leadership & Management Institute (BLMI), United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), Mindanao Business Council, Mindanao Association of State Colleges & Universities (MASCUF), Teduray Lambangian Women’s Organization (TLWOI), Nisaa ul Haqq Fii Bangsamoro and The Asia Foundation (TAF) as associate partner.

 Iqbal expressed appreciation to the Conciliation Resources for helping to reach out to the grassroots of Bangsamoro and even non-Bangsamoro communities.

Opening Statement of GPH Chief Negotiator Miriam Ferrer on the 42nd GPH-MILF Formal Exploratory Talks in Kuala LumpuR

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 5): Opening Statement of GPH Chief Negotiator Miriam Ferrer on the 42nd GPH-MILF Formal Exploratory Talks in Kuala LumpuR

GOOD MORNING to everyone, Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, the Malaysian Secretariat and the members of the ICG, Ueno-san (Japan), Nikash-san (UK), and others who will come eventually from the state and from our very committed civil society members of the international NGO members of the International Contact Group (ICG), Ali Saleem of Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD), Emma Leslie of Conciliation Resources, Dr. Sudibyo Markus (Muhammadiyah), and Alberto Quattrucci (Community of Sant'Egidio). Kristian Herbolzheimer is not with us. He is back in Barcelona and Tom Phipps (UK) is still busy with the delegation from the Philippine National Police including our representative in the ICP, PDir. Lina Sarmiento, led by the Chief of the PNP, Director General Alan Purisima, looking at the experience of Northern Ireland with regard to policing reform and so on. We are certain that will serve them well in the work of the ICP.

Our counterparts of course, led by Chair Mohagher Iqbal and members of the Panel, Brother Bobby, Brother Abhoud, and Brother Kinoc. The rest of his delegation, we are happy to see you once again, people we have not seen for a long time: Jucra, Timuay Melanio Ulama, who has not been here for several meetings, and Ishak is back, Roslaine is back, Naguib we have seen many times, and Haj, congratulations – Hajj Haj, on your successful hajj. He has his new look. And our observers from WeAct, Jude. Later on we will be joined by several government officials who will arrive probably on Saturday for the last day with high hopes for a very good ending on Saturday.

We apologize in the delay for the opening of the talks. We thank you for accommodating our request to postpone the formal opening from yesterday to today and convening instead the sub-panel to work on the draft on the Normalization Annex. We believe that they were able to cover significant ground on their meeting yesterday. Also, we apologize for coming a little bit late today. Former Secretary Senen Bacani, Atty Anna Basman, and I arrived at the hotel at almost 2 AM last night. We took the last flight, a very convenient flight, a very good schedule, the 9 PM flight of Malaysia Air. It is amazing how much traffic there is between Malaysia and the Philippines, now that Malaysia Air has added a new flight. Four (4) flights a day, so that is a lot of engagement between the two (2) countries.

In April 2012, just a little bit of review of recent history, we signed the first set of consensus between us, the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles. In October 2012, in a grand ceremony in Malacañan, we signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Afterwards, we completed two annexes – the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities in February this year, followed by the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing in July. In between, we launched in another grand ceremony, this time in Camp Darapanan, in the presence again of President Benigno Aquino III and MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on 11 April 2013, the Sajahatra Bangsamoro attended by the Facilitator as well. Oh, no, you missed it. You had an important event at that time, you married off somebody. But Madame Che was there.

Now, we are at the brink of completing the Power Sharing and Normalization Annexes.

So what has the Bangsamoro people gained so far? Starting with the most important:

· The acknowledgement of and a good, inclusive and non-imposing definition of the Bangsamoro identity;

· The acknowledgment of the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people;

· A potentially expanded core territory for the Bangsamoro, based on the consent of the governed;

· A ministerial form of government with a unique structure of government, unique because it is the only one of its kind in the rest of the country;

· Much-enhanced wealth sharing arrangement. We know that ARMM did indeed suffer from real structural deficiencies that did not allow it to exercise fiscal autonomy, so now we have the additional taxes devolved and new sharing formula from government revenues, increasing the shares for the Bangsamoro;

· The most important, the automatically appropriated and to be regularly released Bangsamoro block grant;

· The Special Development Fund for rehabilitation and development purposes, to be released upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law;

· Special socio-economic programs for conflict affected areas, including combatants and their communities that will be part of the Normalization process;

· A holistic program to be developed for transitional justice and reconciliation;

· A proactive role in keeping the peace in their communities for the MILF;

· A new concept called “Bangsamoro waters,” again very unique because we will not find this water regime in other parts of the country;

· A plural system for the administration of justice;

· A list of powers including around 50 exclusive powers or fully devolved powers and more than 10-15 concurrent or joint powers relating to the administration of justice, the management and protection of various resources, disaster risk reduction and management, trade and economic development, and matters important to the practices and way of life of Muslims (hajj, umrah, halal certification, Shari’ah courts);

· Various intergovernmental mechanisms such as the intergovernmental fiscal policy board, intergovernmental body for environmental and developmental plans and, as contemplated in the Power Sharing Annex, a similar IGR mechanism between the Bangsamoro legislature and the Philippine Congress;

· We now have a Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) whom incidentally we met with yesterday only because some of us have stayed behind and we bumped into them in the hotel. And they sent their regards to the MILF and expressed their interest in meeting with the MILF, especially the Chair of the MILF Panel if his schedule would allow it either on December 8 or 9. So we are extending this message to our counterparts if it can be done, a meeting with the TPMT in Manila on Sunday or Monday before the Chair of the TPMT, former EU Ambassador Alistair Macdonald returns to Myanmar. And for this meeting of the TPMT, they have actually tried to complete their Code of Ethics, the internal rules that will govern the work of the TPMT, and have also scheduled several consultations with different sectors;

· Lastly, we have very good Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) with the very tough work plan which requires meeting almost regularly, almost daily, in order to complete their task of coming up with their recommendations within six (6) months. And so we expect that these recommendations would be ready by April to be incorporated. That is the elements that will be needing legislation in the BBL through the panel and especially through the Transition Commission.

In all, we have the elements of a promising, just, and principled agreement that will stand scrutiny of informed and concerned students and practitioners of negotiated political settlements. This much we have proven recently at the Wilton Park conference that brought together government negotiators and third party facilitators, organized with the support of the Foreign Commonwealth Office of the British Government and attended by several of us here including our facilitator here, Tengku Ghafar, along with the Malaysian Facilitator with the Talks on the Southern Thailand process, myself, the former Chair of the Panel Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, and Secretary Deles as well as by Emma Leslie and Tom Phipps of course who is very much on top of organizing this conference.

Government has committed to all of these elements in good faith, and trust that the MILF will use this chance to prove the potential of Bangsamoro leadership and autonomous governance. That in return, the MILF will prove that it is ready to transform and participate in nonviolent politics. That it is cognizant of the rights of all sectors who will fall under the administrative and political jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro political entity.

That, in the same way that the central government accords the Bangsamoro with respect and parity of esteem, so will it ensure the protection of vested property rights, the recognition of customary laws and rights to communal property of other indigenous peoples (IPs), the recognition of women’s right to meaningful political participation and provisions for plans along the lines of Gender and Development; the basic rights of all regardless of class, creed, disability, gender and ethnicity; and the bridging of differences with other Moro groups – in order to ensure not only broad based support for this process and its implementation but the long-term wellbeing, peace, security and belongingness of those Filipinos and Moros who will live under the politico-administrative jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro political entity that is part and parcel of the Republic of the Philippines.

We know that there are details that we still need to come to terms with. But none are so great as to throw away everything that has been achieved.

Article IX under the section Miscellaneous of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) says, “The parties commit to work further on the details of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in the context of this document and complete the comprehensive agreement by the end of the year.”

The wisdom in this formulation is that it did not say “this year” which was 2012 meaning the year that the FAB was signed. And I understand, after checking this with the former Chair, that this is in fact the wisdom of the MILF Chair Mohagher Iqbal, that the exact formulation came from him, to complete the Comprehensive Agreement by the end of the year. So of course, therefore it could mean 2013, 2014, and so on. But greater wisdom indeed compels us that “the end of the year” be this year and no other year.

The Aquino administration has less than 1,000 days left, let us make the most of these days, before we get caught again in the whirlpool of the next electoral campaign, or our national attention and resources again be consumed by the next super typhoon, earthquake or other devastating events.

So the time is now.

Thank you.

War survivors and Muslim groups urges OIC to stop recognizing Nur Misuari

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 5): War survivors and Muslim groups urges OIC to stop recognizing Nur Misuari

Survivors of the three-week Zamboanga crisis and Muslim groups here are urging the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to stop recognizing Nur Misuari as the sole representative of the Bangsamoro after leading the bloody attacks in this city that killed more than 200 people and displaced over 120,000 more.

The reactions came after Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Nur Misuari faction has released a copy of the invitation letter from the OIC, requesting Misuari to participate in the upcoming OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Conakry in Guinea in West Africa on December 9 to 11.

OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu signed the letter on November 24.

Fredilyn Ramirez, 35, one of those taken captives by the followers of Misuari during the siege on September 9, said the time is ripe for the OIC to heed the real sentiments of the people on the ground that the struggle of the Bangsamoro does not only rely in a single person.

“I am not in favor that he will represent the Bangsamoro in the OIC after what his men did in Zamboanga. My father was killed while being hostage by the MNLF and until now his body has yet to be found,” he lamented.

Ramirez and his two sisters narrowly escaped at the height of firefight.

“Actually, we are traumatized every time we hear his name. His name is now associated with war,” he said.

“If there will be someone who will represent the Bangsamoro in the OIC, it should not be Nur Misuari. I believed that are many good Muslim leaders who can represent (the Moros) in the OIC and can unite the Christians and Muslims in Mindanao and work (together) to bring peace and order in Mindanao,” he added.

Followers of Misuari stormed at least seven coastal villages, shooting civilians and took more than 100 hostages to get attention in setting up their independent state.

The siege lasted for about three weeks with almost half of the 300 MNLF followers were killed, while others are now jailed. Misuari, along with other commanders and followers, has a standing warrant of arrest issued by the regional trial court following the attack.

Some of the MNLF commanders said Misuari duped them. The real intention, according to them, was to carry out a peace rally in the city, and be paid at least P10,000. But it never came.

At the daybreak of September 9, MNLF-Misuari followers instantly killed at least three civilians.

Prof. Ali T. Yacub, president of the Muslim group Golden Crescent of Peace Builders and Affiliates, said that the OIC should know the atrocities Misuari and his men have done in this city. The bulk of the victims are Bangsamoro themselves, whom Misuari is trying to represent.

“The OIC may not have the true and official of what the men of Misuari did to Zamboanga City. The OIC officials must to see for themselves the crime committed by [MNLF-Misuari commander Khabir] Malik and his men against our people. Unless this done, Misuari will continue to be regarded as representing that Bangsamoro which is wrong,” he said.

The same sentiments were also raised by Edmund Gumbahali, the president of the Panglima Hawani Foundation Inc., a nongovernmental organization based in Jolo the capital town of the island province of Sulu.

“Inviting Misuari to attend international sorties is creating more internal problems in the MNLF and even in the peace process. This will again create propaganda and misreading among ground commanders and forces to focus on armed struggle because MNLF- Nur Misuari is still supported by the OIC and Philippine laws have no effect to a revolutionary leader like Misuari,” he said.
For years, the pan-Islamic group recognized Misuari as the representative of the Bangsamoro. However, in recent years, the OIC is trying to facilitate unity even among leaders of the MNLF after splintering into several factions due to leadership issues.

The OIC has also created a so-called Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum to harmonize the positions of the MNLF and the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front. However, the initiative has yet to make strides after Misuari himself has expressed his reservations on the unification efforts of the OIC.

NPA leader killed in clash in Camarines Sur — Army

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 5): NPA leader killed in clash in Camarines Sur — Army

Inquirer file photo
A ranking New People’s Army (NPA) rebel was killed in a clash between Army troopers and seven guerrillas on Thursday in Barangay Sinuknipan, a remote village in Del Gallego town in Camarines Sur, a Philippine Army officer said.

Killed was Rene Briones alias “Al,” “Singkit” and “Arjun,” a native of Antipolo City, and the alleged regional operation commander of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Bicol Regional Party Committee, said Army Capt. Marjorie Panesa, the public information officer of the 9th Infantry Division.

Panesa said in a phone interview that a squad (14-men) of Army soldiers led by Lt. Howard Ardedon of the 49th Infantry Battalion were on a strike mission at about 4:30 a.m. Thursday, when they engaged the group of NPA led by Briones in a five-minute firefight. The rest of the rebels fled after Briones was killed, he said.

Army soldiers recovered from the fight scene a .45 caliber pistol, a shotgun, two laptop computers, seven cellular phones and two back packs.

Panesa said Briones was in the list of ranking NPA leaders operating in Bicol, adding that his death would be a big blow to the communist organization.

No ransom paid for Atyani's freedom – Jordan honorary consul

From GMA News (Dec 6): No ransom paid for Atyani's freedom – Jordan honorary consul

Kidnapped Jordanian journalist released by captors in Jolo

Veteran Jordanian TV reporter Baker Atyani looks at his X-ray as he undergoes a medical check-up following his release from one-and-a-half years of captivity in Sulu province late Wednesday, December 4. Atyani, who interviewed Osama Bin Laden months before the September 11, 2001 attacks, is Al-Arabiya's TV bureau chief for Southeast Asia and was doing a story on Muslim rebels in Sulu when he was kidnapped June 12, 2012 with his two Filipino crew. AP/Nickee Butlangan

The honorary consul of Jordan in the Philipines has denied that ransom was paid in exchange for the freedom of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani, who spent 18 months in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu province.

“I do not think so because I have no information of any money having been exchanged,” said Michael Alexander M. Ang of Consulate of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Manila when asked by GMA News if ransom was paid for Atyani's freedom.

“That would never (be) part of any of the instructions or discussions in terms of anything that transpired,” he added.

Ang said they just received a call from the Philippine National Police informing them that Atyani has been found. The journalist said he escaped from his kidnappers Wednesday night.

Atyani was brought to a provincial hospital for medical treatment and is expected to fly to Manila Friday.

“We're very happy that the situation has finally been resolved,” said Ang.

Philippine National Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac said Atyani may arrive at Camp Crame between 3 to 4 p.m.

Thank you

In a television interview at the hospital, Atyani thanked the police for taking care of him.

“I'm really happy that I'm out after 18 months (with) ASG (Abu Sayyaf group). I would like to thank the PNP in Sulu and the police in Patikul who recovered me when I reached the main road leaving my kidnappers. They recovered me from there, they took me to the hospital, they've taken care of me and given me enough security,” he said.

The PNP, for its part, said it has no information whether ransom was paid or not.

“The PNP has no information as to that aspect,” said PNP spokesperson Senior Superintendent Wilben Mayor in a separate interview.

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade, gave a similar statement. “That we do not know because this is a special operation of PAOCC, PNP and AFP but he was safely recovered because of our operations,” he said.

He said the group of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Asman Sawajaan was behind the abduction of Atyani.
Ransom demand

Agence France-Presse earlier reported that military and police sources said the Abu Sayyaf had demanded millions of dollars in ransom, though neither Atyani's family nor his employer confirmed this.

Al Arabiya News Channel, Atyani's employer, said he was released after several calls by the Cairo-based al-Azhar, Jerusalem Grand Mufti and the Islamic scholars of Mindanao, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Palestinian President Mahmoud, and after continuous follow up by the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) and in close cooperation with his family.

Atyani disappeared in June 2012 along with his Filipino TV crew members Romelito Vela and Roland Letrico, who were freed last February. They said they were separated from the Jordanian five days into their captivity.

Atyani was in Mindanao to shoot a documentary about Muslims in the Philippines. He was about to interview leaders of the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo when he was abducted.

Atyani is the Southeast Asia bureau chief of the Al-Arabiya News Channel. He gained fame for interviewing al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden months before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In the Know: Bansil sisters still remain captives of Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 6): In the Know: Bansil sisters still remain captives of Abu Sayyaf

Nadjoua Bansil (left) and sister Linda (right). AP FILE PHOTO

On June 22, Filipino-Algerian sisters Nadjoua and Linda Bansil were abducted by at least 10 armed men in Patikul town, Sulu province, while riding a passenger jeepney to Jolo town. The two were doing a film on the sultanate of Sulu.

An initial investigation showed that the abductors were members of an Abu Sayyaf faction Aljini Mundoc, also known as Ninok Sapari, and Bensaudi Mundoc.

The Bansil sisters are behind the 2013 Gawad Urian-nominated short film “Bohe: Sons of the Waves,” with Nadjoua as director and Linda as her assistant. The film is about a group of Badjao boys who live on a small island in Batangas province.

Days after the abduction, the Bansil family and Amnesty International called on the abductors to release the women immediately, saying they were human rights defenders and filmmakers who focused on the plight of impoverished Muslims in southern Philippines.

In July, a group of ulama (Islamic scholars) called on Sulu officials to help secure the freedom of two sisters. Ustadz Jaafar Ali, a member of the board of the National Ulama Council of the Philippines, said they should be freed unconditionally.

MILF rebels abduct Marawi cop chief, kill civilian in predawn raid

From the Philippine Star (Dec 6): MILF rebels abduct Marawi cop chief, kill civilian in predawn raid

A civilian was killed and a police officer was abducted in a daring raid by heavily armed members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at the Marawi City police station to rescue their two detained rebels after midnight Friday.

Military spokesman Capt. Jefferson Somera of the Philippine Army's 1st Division said at least 40 rebels stormed the police station at around 12:10 a.m. and rescued their two leaders identified as Jovani Cader and Metron Borodan.

After the daring rescue, the rebels snatched police station commander Superintendent Christopher Panapan and killed his civilian brother-in-law identified only as Malik.

Borodan and Cader were arrested last week for illegal possession of firearms in Marawi City.

Somera said that according to initial reports, Panapan was taken by the rebels to Barangay Wato, Balindong town in Lanao del Sur on board a motorized boat.

The military spokesperson said that they could not launch an operation against the rebels, who were led by Commander Datu Repor, because of the existing ceasefire agreement between the MILF and the goverment.

Instead, he said they filed a complaint before the Adhoc JOint Action Group (AHJAG) of the MILF panel against Repor's group.
“We demand the safe release immediately of Superintendent Panapan because this is a clear case of violation of the ceasefire,” Somera said.

Somera added that they have alredy coordinated with local government officials and Muslim religious leaders in the area to help in the negotiation for the safe release of the police officer.

Islamic militant group holding at least 7 more hostages

From the Manila Times (Dec 5): Islamic militant group holding at least 7 more hostages

THE al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf is holding at least seven more foreigners and local residents as hostages after it freed Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani late Wednesday.

A Manila-based police intelligence officer who requested not to be named said two Lebanese sisters, a Japanese treasure hunter and two European birdwatchers remain captives of the group.

The sisters, Linda Bansil 35 and Nadjoua, 29, were seized while doing a film documentary on Muslim farmers in Patikul, Sulu last June.

A Japanese treasure hunter, Amer Mamaito Katayama, was snatched while on an expedition in Pangutaram Island in Sulu on July 2010.

The police intelligence officer said Katayama has been utilized as a cook by his captors.

Dutchman Ewold Horn and Swiss Lorenzo Vinciquerra were on a birdwatching expedition when they were abducted in February 2012 in Barangay Parangan, Panglima-Sugala town in Tawi-Tawi.

The Abu Sayyaf is also holding Jess Cabilin, the provincial treasurer of Sulu who was snatched last November 18 near his office in Patikul, and Edgardo “Eddie” Fabella, a businessman who was dragged from his home in Barangay Maasin in Zamboanga City last January.

In March, the group freed Australian Warren Rodwell from 15 months in captivity. Philippine negotiators said his family had paid a $100,000 ransom.

Rodwell was seized in December 2011, and his captors had initially demanded $2 million for his safe release.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin puts the number of Abu Sayyaf hostages at 17.

“Last week, I was able to talk with (a) congressman and he said there are 20. The Jordanian and two others have been released so there are still 17 remaining,” Gazmin said.

Jolo is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for the country’s worst terror attacks, including bombings and abductions of foreigners and missionaries.

US special forces have been rotating through Jolo and other parts of the southern Philippines for more than a decade to train local troops battling the group, which is on Washington’s list of “foreign terrorist organizations”.

MILF rebels storm police headquarters

From the Manila Times (Dec 6): MILF rebels storm police headquarters

Moro rebels stormed a police station in Marawi City and shot one person before springing two detained members and seizing the police chief in a daring predawn raid Friday.

About 50 heavily armed members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) stormed the police station near the coastal village of West Marinaud, shot the brother-in-law of police chief Christopher Panapan and disarmed a small number of officers.

The rebels then freed MILF fighters Johanne Cader and Mesron Borodan who were arrested for illegal possession of firearms.

The rebels escaped with Panapan, to the coastline about 150 meters away where two speedboats were waiting.

The MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group currently negotiating peace with Manila the Aquino government, has confirmed the assault and said government efforts are underway to secure the safe release of the police chief.

A rebel spokesman told The Manila Times that the MILF has repeatedly demanded the release of Cader and Borodon who were arrested despite being covered by cease-fire agreement.

The army has demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Panapan and threatened to launch an assault to rescue the prisoner despite the truce.

The raid occurred as MILF and Philippine negotiators resumed delayed talks in Kuala Lumpur after the two sides failed to sign any substantial agreement in September.

It was not immediately known whether the raid or threats of military assault on MILF forces would have an effect on the peace talks, but previous skirmishes between rebels and security forces in the restive region had grounded the negotiations aimed at ending decades of bloody fighting in the South.

Last year, the panels signed the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement which would pave the way for the Muslim homeland. Under the accord, the Bangsamoro government would take a ministerial form, where members of the legislature who would be elected by the people and in return they would elect a chief minister among themselves.

Negotiators are still locked over how to go about the power-sharing which represents the heart of the peace negotiations since it contains the list of powers reserved for the central government, powers exclusive to the envisioned Bangsamoro government, and concurrent or shared powers between the two.

Any delay in the peace talks would impede the working timeline of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the body tasked to draft the Basic Law.

MILF: Moro journalists train aspiring young Moro writers on basic journalism

From the MILF Website (Dec 5): Moro journalists train aspiring young Moro writers on basic journalism

Two Moro journalists recently trained 24 aspiring young Moro writers from Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA)-Central Mindanao (CenMin) Region on basic journalism in preparation for the planned publication of a newsletter.
Norodin Makalay, contributor to Mindanews and Mindanao Examiner, and Nurhatima Aljani-Masdoc, freelance writer and online blogger, shared their expertise in the field of writing to the participants during the Basic Journalism Seminar-Workshop held at Ittihadun Nisa Foundation (INFo) Training Center, Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on November 29-30, 2013.

Makalay and Aljani-Masdoc are former editors-in-chief of Bagwis, the official publication of Mindanao State University-General Santos City during their college years.

The participants were BDA staff and volunteers of BDA-CenMin including college students who are beneficiaries of the BDA - Youth Development Program (YDP). They delved on lectures and workshops about basic news writing, feature writing, editorial writing, copy reading, layouting and web writing.

“They need to be trained and developed further on writing for our publication to be more efficient and effective,” said Prof. Hashim Manticayan, Regional Manager of BDA-CenMin during his opening remarks.

The participants listened attentively to the lectures and actively participated on hands-on news writing workshops and also expressed gratitude for the learning they acquired.

Makalay suggested common vocabulary for BDA to use in its writing to ensure that words used are sensitive and in accordance to what BDA wants to tell to its readers.

He said the Bangsamoro people need more writers to help portray the good image of the Muslims in the Philippines and inform the public about the conditions of the different Moro communities.

Very few Moro writers appear in the national broadsheets which include Nash Maulana, Amir Mawalil, Edd K. Usman, and Ali Macabalang.

Dr. Mohammad S. Yacob, BDA Executive Director, said in his inspirational message, “This training is instrumental in helping the Bangsamoro build good image through writing.”

Yacob pointed out the importance of linkage with the media practitioners to provide correct information to the people.

The training is in line with the BDA’s effort to capacitate the members of its organization and volunteers with skills contributory to the holistic development of the Bangsamoro people.

BDA looks forward for the replication of similar activity to other regions. BDA has regional offices in Southern Mindanao, Davao, Lanao, Zamboanga Paninsula, Zamboanga-Basilan, and Sulu - Tawi-tawi.

The agency is tasked in to determine, lead and manage relief, rehabilitation and development projects in the conflict affected areas of Mindanao.

BDA is also tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Development Plan in support to the proposed establishment of the Bangsamoro Government, a new political entity that will replace the present Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao by 2016.

MILF: Maguindanao town holds peace advocacy on Framework Agreement

From the MILF Website (Dec 6): Maguindanao town holds peace advocacy on Framework Agreement

November 16, joint MILF Committees in Maguindanao held a peace advocacy on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro at Matanog town. Many MILF personalities including asatidz and ulama were in attendance.
The activity did not only dealt on the contents of the FAB nor to hearken important issues, concerns and the latest development in the ongoing peace negotiation but also shared  expertise and knowledge in the way how the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) did during his lifetime.

Among the issues delved by the speakers were the teachings and values of the Holy Prophet and the Holy Qur’an as well as messages in relation to the MILF’s program of Islamization and self-reliance.     

Chairman Mohagher Iqbal of the MILF Committee on Information and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission was invited to speak on the progress of the peace negotiation and other updates but begged off due to prior commitment. Mr. Esmael “Mike” Abdullah, BLMI Steering Committee member represented the information committee and provided the participants updates on the on-going peace talks.

Mike Abdullah as he is fondly called commenced his updates to more than 700 participants from historical perspective point of view considering that the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination is one of the longest revolutionary struggles in Asia. He narrated the persecutions of the Moros from the time of the conquistadors (Spaniards) followed by the Americans down to the succeeding Filipino colonial regimes where countless of native inhabitants perished in battles others were mercilessly killed by the aliens and Filipino soldiers in the decades that followed. Before the declaration of Martial Law by then President Ferdinand Marcos on September 21, 1972, the Moros were already fighting local ILAGA marauders who attacked and encroached on Moro villages and eventually usurped Moro landholdings. The fiercest battles however were fought at the early part of martial law era in 1973 until 1975 all throughout Mindanao and the island provinces.

Now, the atmosphere in Mindanao has drastically changed from violence to peace-making with the Government of the Philippines and the MILF trying to reach a comprehensive peace agreement. The remaining unresolved two annexes on Power Sharing and Normalization hinder the two peace panels from inking the most-awaited peace pact that will establish the Bangsamoro new political entity in Southern Philippines.

PH to press 'equal access' to US facilities in bases deal

From Rappler (Dec 5): PH to press 'equal access' to US facilities in bases deal

EQUAL ACCESS: Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin says the Philippines will insist on equal access to US facilities. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

EQUAL ACCESS: Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin says the Philippines will insist on equal access to US facilities. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

The Philippines will press the United States to give Filipino troops "equal access" to temporary facilities that it will be allowed to build in our military bases, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters on Thursday, December 5.

Negotiating panels of the two countries resumed talks earlier this week in the US, drafting a military-to-military agreement that will allow American troops increased rotational presence and more access to military bases in the Philippines.

During a difficult round in October, access and security issues were sticky points that the two sides couldn't resolve. (READ: PH, US resume bases access talks after impasse)

Gazmin said he is confident that the US will agree to the condition of the Philippines. "We've instructed our panel to negotiate in accordance with our Constitution. There will be no permanent bases. The Constitution also provides that it should be beneficial to both countries," Gazmin explained.

Gazmin is not expecting that the panels can finish the talks soon. "It's still a long way to go. We're still in the language. You know if you're talking to lawyers, it will take a long time. They will discuss commas and they have to agree on the adjectives," Gazmin said.

The negotiations also resume after the US military's swift response to the Philippines' call for help after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) killed thousands and flattened towns and cities in the Visayas. Its effect on the negotiations remains to be seen.

US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg has been repeatedly highlighting the benefits of US troops presence to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. "As everyone saw, the first stage in disaster relief is often the military. Then, we move to the civilian," Goldberg told reporters in the Senate on Thursday, in a joint press conference with Senate President Franklin Drilon.

The Philippines sought the assistance of the US in the wake of China's aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), which coincides with the US "pivot to Asia."

Beyond the US, the Philippines continues to closely coordinating with allies in the region. (READ: PH 'closely coordinating' with allies amid tensions)

Japanese defense minister Itsunori Onodera will arrive in the Philippines on Saturday, December 7, to meet with Gazmin at a time when China is stirring up regional tensions with its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) policy.

China wants foreign aircraft to provide a flight plan if they want to fly over the disputed area. (READ: Japan cites 'cooperation' with PH amid China tension and Japan vows to help PH amid China sea row)

Gazmin said the country supports Japan in declaring that the air defense zone is inconsistent with international flight safety rules but downplayed fears that China will expand it to the West Philippines Sea.

"It's speculative at this point. We cannot react if they're not doing anything," Gazmin said. "It will alarm us if they will do that," he added.

At least 17 hostages still held by Abu Sayyaf

From Rappler (Dec 5): At least 17 hostages still held by Abu Sayyaf

THE BANSIL SISTERS. Linda and Nadjoua Bansil. Photo courtesy of Niño Tan.

THE BANSIL SISTERS. Linda and Nadjoua Bansil. Photo courtesy of Niño Tan.

Al Arabiya's Jordanian reporter Baker Atyani has been freed, but the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is still holding at least 17 hostages in Sulu, according to Colonel Jose Cenabre, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade based in the province.

Eight of them were kidnapped in Sulu but Cenabre said 4 of them willingly joined the bandits. The rest were kidnapped in other provinces and transferred hands to Sulu-based ASG members.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said he and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II are planning to go to Sulu to convene the peace and order council. He said they will check on the direction of operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

"There are several hostages still with the Abu Sayyaf.... We want to be able to rescue the kidnap victims without jeopardizing their safety," Gazmin said.

"It's isolated in the island of Sulu. They are contained there. We will just have to craft some operation that will be able to address the deficiency of the current operation against them," Gazmin added.
Cenabre said names of the hostages cannot be disclosed, although some of them have already been identified:
  • Filipino-Muslim filmmakers 39-year-old Nadjoua Bansil and her 37-year-old sister, Linda were abducted in June 2013. They worked together to produce low-budget, independent films showcasing Filipino Muslim life and culture. Linda also wrote to Amnesty International in the Philippines
  • Birdwatchers Dutch Ewold Horn, 52, and Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 47. They were kidnapped in February 2012 in Tawi-Tawi by rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who turned them over the Abu Sayyaf.
  • Japanese Toshio Ito was kidnapped in July 2010.
Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa reported on the other hostages in a report published after the release of Australian Warren Rodwell in March.

VIDEO | 17 more hostages remain in Abu Sayyaf's hands, says Defense chief

From InterAksyon (Dec 5): VIDEO | 17 more hostages remain in Abu Sayyaf's hands, says Defense chief

Seventeen more hostages including foreign birdwatchers remain the in the hands of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf, Department of National Defense (DND) chief Voltaire Gazmin said Thursday quoting information from local officials.

“With the release of the Jordanian and his two Filipino buddies, the number is now down to 17,” said Gazmin.

However, the kidnap victim itself countered reports that he was freed by his abductors. In an interview with ABS-CBN, Atyani said he was able to escape because his captors were "very busy" and there was no security.

The DND chief said a new strategy would be necessary to curb kidnapping in Mindanao.

“We will just have to craft some operation that will be able to address the deficiency of the current operation against them (bandits),” Gazmin said without giving further details.

[Video here]

103 trucks, other 8th ID vehicles available for G.I. sheets delivery, distribution

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): 103 trucks, other 8th ID vehicles available for G.I. sheets delivery, distribution

Should the program to deliver 300 million tons of G.I. sheets to people whose houses in Eastern Visayas were devastated during the onslaught of super typhoon "Yolanda," the 8th Infantry Division on Thursday said that it has around 103 trucks and other vehicles to contribute in the effort.

Capt. Amado Gutierrez, 8th Infantry Division spokesperson, said that these vehicles are now helping the Department of Social Welfare and Development in its ongoing relief distribution.

"But should this (G.I. sheets distribution program) go into high gear, we can easily shift this to help in that effort," he added.

An average 6x6 military truck can carry two to three tons of cargo.

Earlier, the Philippine Navy announced that it will continue to conduct "humanitarian assistance disaster relief" (HADR) missions as long as it is needed.

"The PN as a force provider supports the AFP Central Command in HADR operations and if directed by higher headquarters, then we will undertake the mission," Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said.

He earlier said that two of the PN's logistic ships, the BRP Bacolod (LC-550) and BRP Dagupan (LC-551), can be utilized for this mission.

"These ships can be loaded to the utmost of their capacity and deployed to deliver the G.I. sheets in Eastern Visayas and Western Visayas" he added.

Both ships are capable of carrying 4,000 tons of assorted cargoes.

Local government officials in Eastern and Western Visayas earlier said that 300 million tons of G.I. sheets (around 7 million pieces) are needed to repair the homes damaged by "Yolanda."

Each beneficiary will be given between 20 and 50 pieces of G.I. sheets to fix their houses.

Soldier hurt, 50 families flee as Army clashes with NPA in NorCot

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Soldier hurt, 50 families flee as Army clashes with NPA in NorCot

A soldier was wounded while three NPAs were seriously hurt when government forces clashed with communist guerillas in the hinterlands of North Cotabato Wednesday, authorities here said.

The clash erupted at about 1 p.m. which also forced about 50 families to flee their homes.

Lt. Nasrullah Sema, speaking for the Army's 57th Infantry Battalion, said the NPAs were using complete Army uniforms when they entered the village of New Baguio, Makilala, North Cotabato and harassed civilians

One soldier was wounded, Sema said, adding that the communist guerillas fled with their three wounded comrades deep into the forest.

He said village officials alerted the Army about the presence of the NPAs.

Eddie Buencosa, Makilala disaster risk reduction and management council officer, said the affected families were from Barangay Tambis, Barangay New Baguio, Makilala where elements of the 57th Infantry Battalion and NPAs clash at about noon Wednesday.

Buenacosa said the local government of Makilala is now attending to the needs of the displaced families who fled to nearby villages.

Sema said residents tipped off the Army about the presence of soldiers believed to be responsible in the ambush last October of government forces that left nine soldiers and para military personnel killed.

Sema said before the skirmishes Wednesday have been calling for the removal of soldiers in Barangay Baguio.

“They want us out of the village because they sympathize with the NPAs,” Sema said in response to calls for the re-position of the military.

“Our operation continues,” Sema said.

Sema said that communist sympathizers wanted the Army out of the village so they can continue mulcting farmers of their newly harvested products.

4 Army camp awards military merit, medal to outstanding soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): 4 Army camp awards military merit, medal to outstanding soldiers

CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, GAMU, ISABELA -- The 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army (5ID-PA) based here has awarded four military merit and medals to its outstanding soldiers who have shown gallantry and heroism in fighting insurgency in their respective area of operations.

The awarding was conducted at Camp Melchor dela Cruz parade grounds by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista Wednesday and assisted by 5ID Philippine Army commander Major General Joel Ibanez.

The soldiers who received the awards are Lt. Col. Ferdinand Melchor dela Cruz, commanding intelligence officer of 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army received bronze cross medal award, Private First Class Moses Inginga, member of Alpha Company, 54th Infantry Battalion received military merit medal, Sergeant Frederick Calucag, member of medical service at 5ID, PA who received another military merit medal award and Sgt. Rommel Mabborang, platoon sergeant of 24th Infantry Battalion.

The outstanding soldiers are instrumental in attaining peace and security in the area of operations of 5th Infantry Division, PA based in Gamu, Isabela.

AFP chief tells 158 new soldiers to help attain peace, unity in the Cordilleras

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): AFP chief tells 158 new soldiers to help attain peace, unity in the Cordilleras

CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, Gamu, Isabela -- Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista urged 158 new soldiers who are sons and daughters of former rebels to uphold the institution they now belong to and help attain peace and unity in the Cordillera region.

The new members of the Philippine Army were officially administered oath of enlistment by Senior Master Sergeant Reynaldo Aduca, 5th Infantry Division Sergeant Major, witnessed by the AFP chief and concurred by the training director and adjutant of the Army division.

Bautista said he expects the new soldiers to serve as catalyst for change to sustain peace in the Cordillera and help the government insulate the Cordilleran communities from groups that will threaten their peace and progress.

The 158 new soldiers who are children of Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) members joined the AFP effective December 4 after finishing the six-month military training course on jungle warfare and marksmanship that was conducted by the 5th Infantry Division from June to December this year.

The integration into the Army of CPLA sons and daughters is one component of the peace initiative signed between the government and the rebel group in 1986 during the administration of President Corazon Aquino.

The more than 20-year stalled peace process was revived under the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and integrating the CPLA into the Army has come to final closure while the livelihood component continues.

Found pilot's body in Puerto Princesa identified

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Found pilot's body in Puerto Princesa identified

The remains of the OV-10 Bronco 630 pilot found still strapped in his seat early Wednesday morning was identified to be that of Maj. Jonathan Ybanez.

Brigadier General Conrado Parra Jr., wing commander of the 570th Composite Tactical Wing and head of Task Force Bronco, disclosed Thursday morning that the police’s Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) helped identified the remains of Ybanez.

The examination and identification of the remains, Parra Jr. said, was made immediately Wednesday night after divers belonging to the task force retrieved the bodty.

Ybanez’ remains will be transported as soon as possible to Manila to reunite with the family he left behind, said the air force general.

Parra Jr. said the discovery of Ybanez’ remains have given the TFB hope that Lt. Abner Trust Nacion’s own may not be too far from the location where the major was found.

He said that although the search operation continues, they will make the BM Beach area as the focus to find the lieutenant.

Ybanez’ remains were discovered still strapped in his seat with his flight suit and helmet following an inspection dive of the main wreckage of the OV-10 Bronco 630 on Wednesday morning.

Parra Jr. said the inspection dive was done to ensure that the main wreckage did not move before the 15th Strike Wing arrives to conduct retrieval operations.

Meanwhile, newly-installed Western Command (Wescom) chief Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda called on families of the missing pilots and other individuals to wait for the investigation of the 15th Strike Wing and avoid speculating on the real cause of the crash of the aircraft.

As former chief of the strike wing, he said that now that the main wreckage has been found, and after it is retrieved, investigation can begin to properly determine the real reason of the unfortunate incident.

AFP chief wants rebel groups to abandon armed struggle

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): AFP chief wants rebel groups to abandon armed struggle

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista expressed hope that the rebel groups will abandon armed struggle by his innovative program for the military dubbed as Operation Plan Bayanihan.

Bautista bared his intention to widen the Oplan Bayanihan to all rebel groups in the country on Wednesday on his visit to the camp as guest of honor and speaker during the graduation exercises of the 158 sons and daughters of Cordillera People’s Liberation Amy (CPLA).

The AFP chief said that under his leadership, he wantsto end armed struggle from all rebel groups in the country by encouraging them to join in the development efforts of the government to attain lasting peace and progress.

Bautista cited a concrete example of Oplan Bayanihan in the case of CPLA where the government’s peace panel and the military and other stakeholders joined together to make Cordillera region peaceful.

He said the integration of sons and daughters of CPLA into the military is one component in pushing peace and development in the area while the livelihood component under the agreement between the government and the Cordillera Forum on Peace and Development (CFPD) will continue.

“Under my leadership in the military, we want rebel groups in the country to abandon armed struggle and join the development effort of the government for the country's attainment of real progress”, Bautista said.

“It has been more than four decades of fighting between government troops and the rebels, we need to end it now”, Bautista added.

Bautista is hopeful that all rebel groups in the country will heed to his call so that the nation will move on and progress will spread in all parts of the countryside.

DND chief calls Atyani's recovery 'good news'

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): DND chief calls Atyani's recovery 'good news'

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Thursday said the recovery of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani, from the clutches of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), is very good news as it reduces the number of captives held by the brigands to only 17.

Prior Atyani's retrieval, the bandits held around 18 hostages.

"His release (Atyani) is very good news," Gazmin stressed.

And while still to read the official report concerning the Jordanian's release, Gazmin said no ransom was paid.

He added his standing orders to field forces in Basilan and Sulu -- to ensure the safe and successful rescue of the remaining captives.

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, 2nd Marine Brigade commander, said they retrieved the Jordanian around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The Al Arabiya News correspondent is now undergoing debriefing with security forces.

Atyani was abducted by the ASG together with two Filipino crewmen, who were earlier freed by the bandits, in June 2012 in Patikul town, Sulu.

1 dies, 2 hurt when gunmen attack North Cotabato police outpost

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): 1 dies, 2 hurt when gunmen attack North Cotabato police outpost

Joint police and military authorities have launched a manhunt against gunmen who harassed a police detachment in a remote village here Thursday night.

Supt. Danilo Peralta, North Cotabato police chief, said one police multiplier was killed while two, including a police officer, were hurt when about three men strafed a police outpost in Barangay Ugalingan, Carmen, North Cotabato at 8 p.m.

Peralta said the Army’s 602nd brigade is backing the police in hunting down the suspects.

Hurt were PO1 Ronan Cruspero, detachment chief, and Definito Itak, a village tanod (watchperson).

Jovencio Mama, another tanod, was seriously wounded when responding police and military rushed him to the nearest hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.

According to Peralta, the three suspects armed with assault rifles crawled at the back portion of the detachment and opened fire.

Peralta said it’s too early to who were responsible but police investigators have initial identification of the attackers.

Lawless elements, cattle rustlers, Moro rebels and New Peoples Army operate in Carmen town.

“The motive remained unknown, we can only surmise this was purely harassment, nothing personal against the victims,” Peralta said.

During the attack, another tanod returned fire forcing the suspects to flee.

Peralta said police investigators are also looking at election angle since the barangay elections was recently held.

Army accounts (for) missing hero soldier

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Army accounts (for) missing hero soldier

The 8th Infantry Division on Friday announced that it has finally accounted (for) one of its soldiers who was reported missing after being swept by the storm surge caused by Supertyphoon "Yolanda" last November 8.

Capt. Amado Gutierrez, 8th Infantry Division spokesperson, said they found out Thursday that the body of Staff Sgt. Rolando Hidalgo was retrieved last December 3 and already laid to rest.

Hidalgo was a member of the security team of 8th Infantry Division commanding officer, Major Gen. Jet A. Velarmino, who helped his comrades survive the onslaught of "Yolanda."

Hidalgo's cadaver was recovered last Dec. 3 in Diyo Island which is two kilometers away from Dioscoro Papa Naval Station in Barangay San Jose, Tacloban City.

He was missing for three weeks until his remains was found.

Gutierrez said Hidalgo was already laid to rest at the Superior Memorial Garden Cemetery in Barangay Diit, Tacloban City last December 4.

According to his fellow security team members -- Staff Sgt. Carlo Caracol and Cpl. Rolando Del Monte -- Hidalgo helped them survive the storm surge.

“When we were initially swept by the storm surge, Staff Sgt. Hidalgo got hold of a floating refrigerator and swam towards our position until we also got hold of the refrigerator,” Caracol recounted.

They all survived the initial wave of the storm surge. However, when the second wave hit them, they got separated with Caracol and Del Monte managing to get hold of a log,

“We survived because of Staff Sgt. Hidalgo. Without him sharing the floating refrigerator, we could have died as well.. We will be forever grateful to him,” Del Monte said.

Drilon assures no permanent US bases in PH

From ABS-CBN (Dec 5): Drilon assures no permanent US bases in PH

Senate President Franklin Drilon assured there would be no permanent basing of American troops here as a result of a framework agreement the Philippines is discussing now with the US government.

"I have briefed [US Ambassador Philip Goldberg] on the necessity of a treaty [if] it would involve permanent basing. Our discussion clearly involved there would be no permanent basing here. And as emphasized by Ambassador Goldberg, it would be beyond the military aspect of the relationship, meaning [it will also cover] the aspect on the humanitarian and relief readiness,” he said.

Goldberg told reporters that the immediate plans of the American government for the Philippines have been dominated by the relief efforts and the ongoing rehabilitation stage. The US has already committed around $60 million for the relief efforts.

He explained that the discussion between him and Drilon was also in the context of humanitarian assistance.

"[The increased rotational presence can] help in the areas of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, being able to preposition supplies, being able to do things that will help here in working with the Armed Forces of the Philippines…Everyone saw that the first stage of disaster relief is often the military, then we move to the civilian side,” he said.

New US envoy urges China to reduce regional tensions

From ABS-CBN (Dec 5): New US envoy urges China to reduce regional tensions

The new US Ambassador to the Philippines called for diplomatic initiatives following China’s latest move to set up an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea.

"I think you know where we stand. We think that we should be working very much to reduce tension, [whether it] is in Southeast Asia or Northeast Asia, that is our goal," said Ambassador Philip Goldberg after a courtesy call Thursday morning on Senate President Franklin Drilon.

Goldberg said there was no discussion on China's Air Defense Identification Zone with Drilon.

He said China's unilateral decision is something that could raise tensions and possibly involve miscalculations.

" Vice President (Joe Biden), I know, has made that clear in his visit to Japan and China. I think we need to work to reduce tensions and to make sure there are no miscalculations. We should not try or speculate about additional measures. Let's reduce, not increase," said Goldberg.

The Philippines on Wednesday called for an agreement on a legally-binding Code of Conduct over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) amid China’s implementation of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea.

Several nations are claiming ownership over the West Philippine Sea, including the Philippines and China.

 Secretary Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said: “Nagpahayag na rin po ang ating [DFA] na hindi dapat magkaroon ng premise o reason para mag-escalate ang anxiety or tension hinggil diyan dahil ang nagiging practical consequence diyan ay iyong concerns about civil aviation and nautical safety.

"Kaya nga po patuloy iyong ating paninindigan na kinakailangan maging rules-based ang approach diyan at isaalang-alang ang kapakanan ng lahat ng mga bansa na merong… stakeholders diyan sa prosesong iyan. And we join the other ASEAN countries in the hope that the promulgation of the Code of Conduct ay mas mapapabilis in the light of recent developments.”

Video: Jordanian journalist recalls being ASG's 'prisoner'

Posted to ABS-CBN (Dec 6): Jordanian journalist recalls being ASG's 'prisoner'

     Jordanian journalist [Atyani] recalls being ASG's 'prisoner'
[Video report: Jordanian journalist recalls being ASG's 'prisoner'
Nakatakas at hindi pinalaya ang Jordanian Journalist na si Baker Atyani sa kamay ng Abu Sayyaf. Ito ang ibinulgar ni Atyani sa eksklusibong panayam niya sa ABS-CBN News. Magba-Bandila si Jay Ruiz. Bandila, Disyembre 5, 2013, Huwebes

CPP: Corruption and militarism to mark Aquino’s Yolanda rehab with Lacson—CPP

From the CPP Website (Dec 5): Corruption and militarism to mark Aquino’s Yolanda rehab with Lacson—CPP
Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemned the Aquino regime for appointing the fascist and criminal bureaucrat Panfilo Lacson, a close ally of Benigno Aquino III, to oversee rehabilitation efforts in areas devastated by supertyphoon Yolanda.

“Lacson’s appointment as the so-called rehabilition czar reveals the Aquino regime’s militarist and antipeople priorities in facing the demand for the rehabilitation of the vast areas devastated by supertyphoon Yolanda,” said the CPP.

“By appointing Lacson and giving him control of more than P40 billion of newly allotted funds, the ruling Aquino regime is set to make use of rehabilitation efforts to advance the interests of big bourgeois compradors, especially of the big Chinese compradors, with whom Lacson maintains strong ties.”

“Lacson’s appointment is yet another indication of how the people’s demand for calamity response and rehabilitation is being subjected to the politicking and factional struggles of rival ruling class cliques whose main concern is how to take advantage of bureaucratic privileges for the benefit of their relatives, friends, loyalists and supporters in big business,” said the CPP.

“Aquino’s big capitalist friends, from the Ayalas to the Petillas, the Cojuangcos and Pangilinans, are sure to benefit from the massive influx of cash for big infrastructure projects and the displacement of people from prime real estate, particularly in Tacloban City,” pointed out the CPP. “By appointing Lacson, Aquino is also set to preempt rival political families in Leyte, particularly the Romualdezes, from obtaining control of large amounts of rehabilitation funds.”

“By appointing Lacson, Aquino also reveals his militarist mindset in suppressing the people in the areas devastated by the recent supertyphoon, in much the same way that he applied the Oplan Bayanihan campaign of suppression against the victims of supertyphoon Pablo last year when they demonstrated their outrage at the Aquino regime’s criminal negligence in failing to address their needs,” added the CPP.

“Lacson is notorious for fascist brutalities during his career as a young military officer during martial law and his bureaucratic criminal activities during his stint as police chief and security officer under the Estrada regime,” said the CPP. “He continues to maintain strong links with criminal syndicates involved in carnapping, kidnapping and illegal gambling through active police officers in his criminal network.”

“Lacson’s appointment dovetails Aquino’s refusal to relent in waging his Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression,” said the CPP. “Aquino’s militarism is clearly shown by the fact that his ground forces in the Visayas, particularly the 8th and 3rd ID,
continue to prioritize offensive military operations against the revolutionary base areas instead of heeding the people’s demand for a ceasefire in order to facilitate relief and rehabilitation work.”