Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Journos protest alleged lumber smuggling by soldiers in NCotabato

From the Philippine Star (Dec 10): Journos protest alleged lumber smuggling by soldiers in NCotabato

The 'coverage holiday' on all activities of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID) being observed by Mindanao journalists has been continuing since last week, amid a lumber smuggling controversy hounding its rank-and-file personnel since last month.

The move by members of the media was triggered by a foiled attempt by soldiers to smuggle undocumented forest products about three weeks ago from a protected rainforest in Alamada town in North Cotabato.

Catholic priests and Protestant preachers were among the latest to have called on President Benigno Aquino III to immediately order an immediate overhaul of the 6th ID leadership, after many innocent soldiers complained of demoralization in their ranks as a result of the misbehavior of several colleagues.

Reverend Troy Cordero, leader of a Christian sect in Cotabato City, said he urged his followers to pray for the national government's intervention on the controversy.

"We're not antagonistic or confrontational about it. We just want the controversy resolved expeditiously because we already have so much problems brought about by the perennial flooding in many parts of Cotabato City. The rivers in Alamada flow down to the Liguasan Marsh, whose waters causes the frequent inundation of our barangays in Cotabato City during the rainy season," Cordero told reporters.

Local executives and religious leaders in North Cotabato have earlier called on Malacañang to immediately relieve 6th ID’s commander, Major Gen. Romeo Gapuz, while investigations on the controversy are still underway.

Soldiers, led by an Army captain, were intercepted by members of the Alamada municipal police last month while transporting Lawaan lumbers from the municipality to somewhere in Central Mindanao using military trucks from Camp Siongco, the command base of 6th ID.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of 6th ID, said their local Board of Inquiry (BOI), and officials of the Philippine Army’s national headquarters have launched separate investigations on the issue, which sparked indignation from among local sectors in Central Mindanao, and various peace advocacy organizations and environmentalists.

“We cannot issue any statement yet on the issue pending the outcome of the investigations. We need to wait for results before we can issue an official statement. I hope the 6th ID’s temporary silence will not be negatively misconstrued,” Hermoso stated in a text message to reporters in Cotabato City.

Junior officers and enlisted personnel of the division have complained of having been shamed and demoralized by the involvement of their colleagues in smuggling of lumbers.

“How can those trucks leave the camp without blessing of senior 6th ID officials? So shameful, so embarrassing,” an insider, who asked not to be identified, said.

Reporters have been receiving text messages from members of the 6th ID, urging for a deeper probe on the controversy, which has caused demoralization in their ranks.

Two soldiers escorting the forest products policemen intercepted in Alamada had been shot and wounded for refusing to disarm.

Ambulo Bantugan, district officer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in North Cotabato, confirmed that the lumbers seized from the soldiers were undocumented.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza earlier said she will ask the DENR office in Region 12 to allow the use of the impounded Lawaan flitches for school desks and chairs for public schools in the province.

Members of Central Mindanao’s media community said they will only resume their coverage of the 6th ID’s activities only after Gapuz had retired from the military service in April 2014, or if he gets relieved earlier than his retirement.


Police trace owners of guns in Zambo siege

From the Philippine Star (Dec 10): Police trace owners of guns in Zambo siege

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has traced owners of some of the firearms that its personnel recovered during the mopping up operations in the city after the three-week siege by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesman and chief of the Firearms and Explosives Security Guards Section (FESAGS) of the Police Regional Office 9 (PRO), said they have traced at least 5 owners of recovered firearms.

Huesca said the three of the owners are private individuals and the two other owners registered their firearms at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezo City.

He said the private individuals are residents of Pangasinan, Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte and Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur and a security guard based in this city.

Security forces have recovered more than 300 firearms at the height of the siege and clearing operations after the three-week standoff in this city last September.

Huesca said that the police may get good leads in its ongoing investigation to determine the identities of the individuals involved in the siege, which was instigated by MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari.

Regional police director Chief Superintendent Juanito Vaño has ordered the investigating team to also focus on the people who supported the MNLF in the siege, including those who may have funded and those who provided war materials to the rebel group.

The goverment has filed charges against nearly 300 MNLF rebels for the Zamboanga siege. Twelve of those charged, includingMisuari and Ustadz Habier Malik, remained at large.

There are claims that Misuari has already slipped out of the country and was attending the Organization of Islamic Conference meeting in West Africa.

The military and the police believe that Malik was among those killed by troops while attempting to recover the areas occupied by the MNLF rebels in the city.


Zambo siege was carried out by ‘misguided’ factions in MNLF – AFP official

From GMA News (Dec 10): Zambo siege was carried out by ‘misguided’ factions in MNLF – AFP official

A military spokesman said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is "not against" the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in general since the attack on Zamboanga City in September was carried out not by the whole group but by "misguided" factions led by the group's founding chairman Nur Misuari.

"We have a final peace agreement already with the MNLF and we are not against the MNLF... What happened in Zamboanga [was done by] factions of the MNLF, that they used violence to advance their goals which, to us, is unacceptable," said AFP information chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala on Tuesday.

"We believe that the MNLF still abides by the final peace agreement and that what happened in Zamboanga [was done] only [by] those misguided by Nur Misuari," he added.

Misuari and some of his men are wanted for the attack, which left over 200 people dead, most of them MNLF fighters.

Although not physically present during the attack, Misuari allegedly ordered the siege as he accused the government of disregarding them in the peace negotiations it is conducting with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The rebels claimed last year's signing of a Bangsamoro Framework Agreement between the government and the MILF sidelined the peace agreement the government signed with the MNLF in 1996.


Military offers reconciliation to MNLF-MG relatives, 3 months after Zambo City siege

From the Daily Tribune (Dec 10): Military offers reconciliation to MNLF-MG relatives, 3 months after Zambo City siege

Three months after the bloody, 20-day siege in Zamboanga City, the military has started reaching out to dependents of the members of the Moro National Liberation Front-Misuari Group (MNLF-MG) involved in the conflict that erupted last September, offering cash assistance.

In a press statement issued yesterday, the Army’s 104th Brigade, led by Col. Carlito Galvez, said that the move, launched in partnership with Nagdilaan Foundation, local government units and other stakeholders, was implemented in Basilan province recently.

Galvez said the military also engaged the relatives of the MNLF-MG involved in the Zamboanga City siege in a dialog.

“With the help of our partners, we were able to distribute foods and cash assistance to the dependents,” Galvez said.

“The families with great resentment against the military are beginning to open-up and approach and embrace the military and police as a sign of their gesture of appreciation to the dialog and healing activity,” he added.

The move is expected to be implemented in other areas where members and relatives of MNLF-MG reside.

Army 1st Infantry Division (ID) chief Brig. Gen. Felicito Virgilio Trinidad ordered for the propagation of such activity to reach out to the dependents of other MNLF-MG members in other areas.

“Only through this effort that the MNLF-MG dependents understand what happened in Zamboanga City that took the lives of their loved ones. By acting in their predicaments, we will foster the spirit of ‘Bayanihan’ (volunteerism), for the people and for the achievement of long lasting peace in this part of the Philippines,” said Trinidad.

Three months after the bloody siege, the military has yet to account for Nur Misuari, tagged as the brains behind the attack launched by his loyalists, led by Ustadz Habier Malik, whose fate also remained unknown. Both Misuari and Malik are now the subjects of arrest warrant.

While the government claimed that Malik was killed during the siege, it has offered no concrete proof to back up such claim.

On the other hand, Misuari has continuously evade arrest and the MNLF-Misuari faction claims he will be attending the ongoing foreign minister meeting of the powerful Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) which invited Misuari in the meet in Conakry, republic of Guinea in Africa.

Misuari is recognized by OIC as representative of the MNLF which holds a permanent observer status in the powerful group of Muslim states worldwide.


MNLF threatens new attacks

From ABS-CBN (Dec 10): MNLF threatens new attacks

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is threatening to launch new attacks in Mindanao following the signing of the annex on power sharing in the framework agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza issued the warning yesterday a day after the government and the MILF signed the deal in Kuala Lumpur.

“Certainly, that would lead to another war. They can sign everything. If they want to continue, then let the war continue,” Cerveza said.

Cerveza pointed out that the signing of the annex on the power sharing agreement further convinced the group to pursue its desire for a separate and independent state in Mindanao.

The government is moving to downplay the influence of Nur Misuari over the MNLF by declaring that the group is divided into three factions.

As this developed, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles has reportedly asked the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) for the exclusion of Misuari as MNLF representative to the scheduled tripartite meeting in Indonesia next year.

The tripartite meeting between the government, the MNLF and the OIC is aimed at updating parties and the international community on the progress of the 1996 Peace Agreement that the government signed with the MNLF.

Cervesa also claimed that Malacañang was also asking the OIC not to recognize the founding chairman of the MNLF because he is a fugitive.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) dared Misuari yesterday to come out in the open to prove his innocence on the charges of rebellion and other related crimes.

“A warrant has been issued against him and if he is innocent, he should come out and prove his innocence,” AFP Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

The AFP maintains that Misuari – contrary to reports that he has left the country and is now in hiding in the Middle East with his family – is actually holed up in Talipao, Sulu.


Bangsamoro deal unconstitutional, MNLF claims

From ABS-CBN (Dec 10): Bangsamoro deal unconstitutional, MNLF claims

Two days after the signing of the power-sharing annex of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Muslimin Sema said creating a ministerial form of government is unconstitutional.

"Masaya tayo para sa GPH (government of the Philippines) at MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) pero ang pagtatatag ng ministerial form of government ay labag sa batas natin. Kung titingnan ang 1987 Constitution, dapat unitary form of government," Sema said.

Sema said a ministerial form of government was also presented on the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, but since it is against the law, they chose not to continue it.

"Ganito rin ang nangyari sa 1976 Tripoli Agreement, ministerial form din, pero dahil hindi tugma sa konstitusyon hindi na lang itinuloy," he said.

After reading the recently signed power sharing annex of the FAB, Sema said it makes no sense, noting that everything in it is the same with the 1996 final peace agreement.

"Pareho lang ang laman. Kung titingnan ng mabuti, parang walang sense. Ang tapos na sana, inulit na naman, ililipat lang sa ibang papel tapos idadaan na naman sa mahabang proseso," he added.

Meanwhile, GPH chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said what Sema stated is not true.

Ferrer said there are lots of changes and differences between the 1996 final peace agreement and the FAB in terms of governance and jurisdiction.

"Maraming bagay ang nabago. Una, dun sa usapin ng jurisdiction sa ilang aspeto ng natural resources may significant changes. Ang Bangsamoro makakalahok sa pag-determine, exploration, development at restoration of minerals at energy resources.

Hindi malinaw yan sa RA 9054 at 1996 final peace agreement," Ferrer said.
She also said having a ministerial form of government is not against the 1987 Constitution.

"Hindi yan totoo. Ang nakalagay sa 1987 Constitution ay yung autonomous government will define a structure of government. Kung babasahin lahat, nasa Article 10 ng Constitution yan, at ang nakalagay lang doon dapat ay elected ang executive at legislative bodies para matiyak pa rin ang democracy," she explained.

Meanwhile, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) does not seem to care on the matter.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Missry Mama said they do not support nor oppose the FAB, but they are open for a separate dialogue for an everlasting peace.

"Yan naman talaga ang gusto natin eh, kapayapaan para sa Mindanao, hindi naman tayo kontra diyan," Mama said.


PHL Marine Corps set to buy targeting, imagery equipment

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): PHL Marine Corps set to buy targeting, imagery equipment

In a bid to enhance the capability of the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC), the Department of National Defense (DND) on Tuesday announced that it is allocating P684,230,000 to develop its so-called "Marines Forces Imagery and Targeting Support System Acquisition Project" (MITSS).

Funds for the MITSS will be sourced through the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

Interested bidders are required to supply one MITSS to each of the three brigade of the PMC.

Each MITSS consist of two small unmanned aerial vehicles, three target acquisition devices, and four kits of tactical sensor integration support system.

Aside from this, an integrated logistic support system and one training MITSS manual.

Interested parties are required to complete a similar project within the last five years.

Pre-bid conference is scheduled on Dec. 16 at the DND bidding awards committee conference room, right wing, basement, DND building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Bid opening is on Jan. 6, 2014. Bid documents can be acquired for P75,000.


PN's BRP Emilio Jacinto rescues 10 fishermen off Recto Bank

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): PN's BRP Emilio Jacinto rescues 10 fishermen off Recto Bank

BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35), one of three Jacinto-class patrol vessels in Philippine Navy (PN) service, on Tuesday successfully rescued 10 distressed fishermen who were stranded off Recto Bank, Kalayaan Island Group since Dec. 5.

Western Command spokesperson 1st Lt. Cheryl Tindog said the 10 fishermen are now in stable condition.

BRP Emilio Jacinto is expected to arrive in Camp Gen. Artemio Ricarte in Puerto Princesa, Palawan around 2 p.m.

Once there, the fishermen will be treated at the field hospital located there.

She identified the rescued fishermen of M/B "3 Sisters 98" as: Jessie Salac, Pedro Cabago, Reynald Cabago, Melvin Aquino, Jherson Recacurva, Benjie Bagao, Arislit Ray El Sy, Erlan Sagang, Danilo Layan, and Jayven Secor.

The fishermen got stuck on Recto Bank after their boat suffered engine trouble.

Tindog said the PN had received a distress call from the fishermen on Dec. 5.

A Nomad plane from the Philippine Air Force was sent first to air drop food, water, and medicines for the fishermen.

The PN also sent its rescue team but it returned after the patrol boat was unable to withstand big waves.


AFP prepared to defend against attacks of rogue MNLF units

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): AFP prepared to defend against attacks of rogue MNLF units

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday expressed its willingness to defend the peace and order in the country in wake of the threat of some factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to launch attacks against civilians and military targets.

This is allegedly in retaliation for the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)'s successful signing on Sunday of their power sharing agreement.

"It is the desire of the AFP to end or put a closure to all internal security threats through peaceful means like this one with the MILF. This closure will bring peace to the area. However, if others do not see it that way, that is unfortunate but it is the duty of the AFP to maintain peace and order at all times, so if there are any threats from anyone we are prepared for it," said AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.

He added that the AFP will not tolerate any attacks that would disrupt the ongoing peace process.

Zagala also stressed that the AFP does not want a repeat of the September siege in Zamboanga City.

"We do not desire (a repeat of the) Zamboanga City and now if there are threats, we will address it accordingly," the AFP public affairs office chief stated.

But so far, Zagala said they are still to receive pertinent information regarding threat of MNLF attacks.


Kerry to visit typhoon-hit Tacloban during PHL visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): Kerry to visit typhoon-hit Tacloban during PHL visit
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to the typhoon-ravaged city of Tacloban during his visit to the Philippines next week, the State Department said on Tuesday.

“The Secretary will visit the storm-hit city of Tacloban to witness first-hand the recovery efforts that are taking place there and discuss how the United States can continue to contribute to the relief and reconstruction work,” a State Department statement said.

The U.S. government, a long-time military ally of the Philippines, was among the first countries to bring in troops and aircraft, navy ships and financial assistance after the country was stunned by the magnitude of the death and destruction wrought by super typhoon Yolanda on Nov 8. At least 5,800 were killed and the numbers continue to grow by the day as more bodies are being retrieved from the rubble.

Kerry’s Philippine visit is part of his Southeast Asian swing, which includes Vietnam.

The State Department did not say the date of Kerry’s Philippine visit but said he will travel to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Tacloban and Manila from December 11-18.

“In Manila, the Secretary will meet with senior Philippine officials to discuss ways to build on our already-strong economic, security, and people-to-people relations,” it said.

Kerry was supposed to visit Manila last October in place of U.S. President Barack Obama, who canceled his first-ever visit to the Philippines on Oct. 11 and 12, due to a budget deadlock at the U.S. Congress that forced a shutdown of U.S. government agencies nationwide.

The trip was shelved due to bad weather.

Kerry was expected to discuss with counterpart Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario a planned increased rotation presence of American troops in the Philippines -- the terms of which are being negotiated by Philippine and U.S. panels.

They were also expected to touch on regional and international issues like China’s air defense zone and the renewed tensions in the South China Sea, where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, China and Taiwan are locked in a years-long territorial rivalry.


Former MNLF commander turned politician hails passage of power sharing in Bangsamoro Framework Agreement

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): Former MNLF commander turned politician hails passage of power sharing in Bangsamoro Framework Agreement

The former commander of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) turned politician Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong on Tuesday hailed the signing of power sharing annex between the government peace panel and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the proposed Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.

“One of the two most complex issues in the forging of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement has finally passed the crucible of national interest, where the government and the MILF successfully hurdled opposite, overlapping and conflicting claims and rights on power sharing,” said Balindong, who is also one of the deputy speakers in the House of Representatives.

“It was never easy. It was problematic, and many said it could not be done. They have been proved wrong! For the sake of peace, it is upon both panels, to bridge the gap of mutual mistrust and mistakes perpetrated in the pursuit of freedom to live according to one’s ideology. Both sides suffered greatly; loss of life, limb and property went on for decades, until they came to the negotiating table to seek out our destiny of peaceful brotherhood,” he added.

According to the veteran lawmaker, in this season of hope and peace, truly, the signing of the annex of power sharing is a special gift for the Filipino nation, and we believe, the genuine start of a lasting peace and brotherhood for all.

“But let us urge them not to rest their laurels until the Bangsamoro framework agreement has been signed, sealed and delivered, for the start of yet another phase, the making of the Bangsamoro basic law by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. As promised by the two panels, we urge them to finish the last Annex on normalization by the end of this year,” he pointed out.


PA supports all measures that will eliminate violence against women, children

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): PA supports all measures that will eliminate violence against women, children

The Philippine Army (PA) on Tuesday said it fully supports all measures that will eliminate incidents of violence against women and children in the country.

Capt. Anthony Bacus, Army spokesman, said that the PA is making a conscious efforts against gender–based violence as this is considered as a form of human rights violation.

Responding to the call to end violence against women, the PA through the Gender and Development Branch of the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel (OG1, PA), on Tuesday initiated a symposium on violence against women at the Philippine Army Officers’ Club House.

The symposium was participated in by 300 Army personnel including officers, enlisted personnel, and civilian employees from PA headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

It seeks to inculcate among the soldier-participants and the civilian personnel as well the fundamental principles of gender–based violence and the provisions of the violence against women and children laws.

Dr. Ma Lourdes Veneracion-Rallonza from the Ateneo De Manila University was the resource person and facilitator during the symposium.

It is believed that through this, Army personnel will be informed and will be aware that violence against women and children is a grave offense.

This activity is also part of the observance of the 18-day campaign to end violence against women, organized by the Philippine Commission on Women, which is being observed from Nov. 25 to Dec. 12.

The 18-day campaign kicked off with an Advocacy Walk from the Cultural Center of the Philippines to Rizal Park in Manila last Nov. 24. Almost 400 Army personnel joined in this undertaking.

A simultaneous flag raising activity was also conducted last Nov. 25, wherein a message from the Philippine Commission on Women was read.


5ID Army soldiers donate 1-day subsistence allowance to typhoon Yolanda victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): 5ID Army soldiers donate 1-day subsistence allowance to typhoon Yolanda victims

Army soldiers of the 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army (5ID-PA) based in Gamu town will donate their one-day subsistence allowance for the victims of super typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas, a 5ID official said.

Second Lieutenant Charmaine Lenonero said the soldiers in the Army Division are willing to donate P90 each to help raise P443,000 for the affected Visayas provinces and cities.

Leonoro said that aside from the subsistence allowance, some soldiers are also willing to donate used clothes and food items.

The 5ID-PA has three infantry brigades located in Isabela, Kalinga and Ilocos region maintaining peace and order.

Meanwhile, as part of the upcoming 78th founding anniversary of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) celebrated Dec.21 yearly, all divisions were urged to donate blood for needy patients.

At least 34,000 cubic centimeters of blood was received during a recent blood- letting inside Camp Melchor dela Cruz.

The soldiers also planted forest trees and fruit-bearing trees inside the camp.


USAID revisits Bohol to assess post-earthquake state

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): USAID revisits Bohol to assess post-earthquake state

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) led by Greg Beck, deputy assistant administrator for Asia Bureau of USAID Washington, arrived here again on Dec. 9-10, to conduct the post-earthquake assessment on the extent of damage and pledged to extend assistance to some calamity-stricken towns.

Before proceeding to this earthquake-town, Beck dropped by Antequera town, about 10 kms north interior from here, to do the same task.

He was welcomed by officials and apprised of the situation on the damages wrought by the earthquake, especially on the school buildings and huddled with the local officials led by Mayor Mario Pahang.

This town and Anteqera are still reeling from rubbles of the earthquake-stricken damages of their respective turfs but they are pushing for rehabilitation of their education facilities in terms rebuilding infrastructure, said Vice Mayor Fructuoso Redulla, who represent Mayor Leoncio Evasco who was out of town.

“This (referring to rehabilitation) is going to be not a quick fix,” he said.

Redulla and Pahang stressed during the USAID official visit the need to continue education of children after the earthquake that struck Bohol on Oct. 15, 2013.

Redulla said they wanted to maintain or improve the standing of the town’s education as top ranking LGU in the national achievement test.

Both municipalities adversely suffered a hefty number of totally damaged day care centers and public elementary schools due to the tremor. This made their classes divide into two sessions a day rather than the usual after the earthquake under the temporary tent classrooms made of bamboo/wood and canvass.

Beck expressed optimism before the session of the Antequera Sangguniang Bayan that “there’s a bright future ahead” for the people of Bohol, adding that Boholanos are not alone and USAID is here to work together with them.

He also expressed deep “sympathy to the loss and tremendous impact” of the earthquake to the Boholanos.

“A sense of hope and resiliency is remarkable” among the Boholanos who tried to rise again amid the rubbles and pains after the tremor, he said.

USAID got what Maribojoc and Antequera need after Beck sat down with the local officials when Beck asked the local officials their priorities for rehabilitation.

Both towns identified their top priority was for the rehabilitation of schools and day care buildings; provision of learning materials; and rebuilding of school facilities/laboratories damaged by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake, said Redulla.

USAID country representative Gloria Steele and other officials accompanied Beck in his sorties, as he is expected to visit Tubigon and Catigbian towns Wednesday (Dec. 11), also badly hit by earthquake.

Beck took time to visit the damage 15th century triangular watchtower in this town at coastal village of Punta Cruz.

The watch tower was partly damaged on its top and is now off limits to tourists and visitors.

He also inspected the coastal area just below the watch tower that have been uplifted for a few meters after the earthquake that created a vast dried up coral stones.

Earlier on, USAID along with representatives of the World Health Organization and other national agencies, visited Bohol to extend assistance such as the hygiene kits to earthquake victims.


PAF to continue flying choppers despite crash

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): PAF to continue flying choppers despite crash

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) will continue to use its helicopters to bring relief goods and humanitarian workers to super typhoon "Yolanda"-ravaged areas despite the crash of one of its choppers.

Eight persons were injured after a PAF UH-1H Huey helicopter crashed in La Paz, Leyte last Friday afternoon.

The chopper’s two pilots were injured along with two PAF crew members and four workers of the Department of Social and Welfare Development.

Gen. Romeo Poquiz, commander of the PAF Second Air Division based at the Mactan Air Base in Lapu-Lapu City, said the cause of the accident is still under investigation.

Poquiz assured PAF’s choppers are safe and their pilots well-trained.

He said the air forces of Japan, Italy and Australia are still in the country to assist relief operations and rehabilitation efforts in storm-ravaged areas.


Protesters storm QC village to rally outside Noy's house on Times Street - report

From InterAskyon (Dec 10): Protesters storm QC village to rally outside Noy's house on Times Street - report

An effigy of President Aquino, part of the Karapatan news advisory for their activities, 10 December 2013.

Some 200 protesters stormed a Quezon City subdivision to rally outside President Benigno Aquino III‘s house on Times Street in commemoration of the 65th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Tuesday, according to a report from dzMM.

The demonstrators from human rights group Karapatan and government employees’ organization Courage outnumbered the policemen, who were caught by surprise by the early morning rally.

According to its media advisory released Monday, Karapatan said the schedule was for the protesters to jog from UP Diliman Oblation to the Aquino residence on Times at 6 a.m.

They will then proceed to Sto. Domingo Church to Blumentritt, where they will march to Mendiola near the President’s official residence.

Karapatan said the day-long activities demand the release of all political prisoners. They are also meant to “protest against the BS Aquino regime’s grave sins against the Filipino people” and “to account for [Aquino’s] sins of corruption, inutility, inaction, impunity, and human rights violations.”


Where in the world is Misuari? In Guinea, says MNLF spokesman

From InterAksyon (Dec 10): Where in the world is Misuari? In Guinea, says MNLF spokesman

MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari. FILE PHOTO BY JOJO VITUG

MNLF founding chairman Nurjulani “Nur” Misuari is in Guinea, said his spokesman lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla of the Misuari-led faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Tuesday.

Fontanilla’s claim is different from Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala’s.

Citing military report as of December 2013, Zagala, head of the military public affairs office, said Misuari was “still in Sulu."

Nasa OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) na po ‘yung ating mahal na propesor. Doon na po siya sa Guinea at nakikipag-usap na po (Our beloved professor is in OIC. He is in Guinea talking),” Fontanilla countered.

Regardless of where he is, Misuari is on the run after a Zamboanga City court issued warrant for his arrest on a charge of rebellion and a separate warrant for crimes against humanity for allegedly violating the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Habier Malik, Misuari’s trusted lieutenant, led more or less 500 MNLF fighters in a three-week siege in Zamboanga City that resulted in the killing of about 200 people and the wounding of more than 200 as the government forces quelled the MNLF’s “war for independence.”

The deadly siege affected almost 118,000 residents from several barangays and left more than 100,000 residents homeless as their houses were razed from intense fighting.

Billions of pesos worth of infrastructure and livelihood were destroyed in that war.


Palace orders probe of Misuari 'escape' to Guinea

From InterAksyon (Dec 10): Palace orders probe of Misuari 'escape' to Guinea

File photo of MNLF chair Nur Misuari

Malacañang has ordered an investigation into how Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari was able to sneak out of the country even though his passport had long been cancelled.

"Since that is a violation of the cancellation of the passport, we will look into the circumstance ng paglabas niya sa bansa [We will look into the circumstances on how he was able to leave the country]," said Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma Jr. in a media briefing on Tuesday.

Misuari is already in Guinea, according to the MNLF chairman’s spokesperson Emmanuel Fontanilla.

"Nasa OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) na po 'yong ating mahal na propesor... Doon na po siya sa Guinea…” Fontanilla told dzMM radio on Tuesday.
[Our beloved professor is already at the Organization of Islamic Conference…He’s already in Guinea.]

Misuari is attending the OIC foreign ministers’ meeting and is looking for a “peaceful solution” to the conflicts in the Philippines, according to Fontanilla.

Misuari and his men are facing rebellion charges for attacking Zamboanga City in September that left hundreds of people dead and millions worth of properties damaged.
Government forces have been searching for his whereabouts after the Zamboanga City siege.


CPP/NDF: On Oplan Bayanihan and the prospects of peace and environmental justice

Posted to the CPP Website (Dec 9): On Oplan Bayanihan and the prospects of peace and environmental justice

Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chief Political Consultant
NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Presentation at the Media Forum on Oplan Bayanihan and the Prospects of Peace and Environmental Justice
Sponsored by the Apo Sandawa Lumadnung Panaghiusa sa Cotabato (ASLPC)
and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Probinsya sa Kutabato (KMP-PK)
Kidapawan City, North Cotabato
09 December 2013
Thank you for inviting me to be your speaker in this Media Forum on Oplan Bayanihan and the Prospects of Peace and Environmental Justice. I am mindful of your concern about the peace and order and environmental situation in Mindanao and I appreciate your desire to understand the root causes of the problems.

It is a privilege for me to share information and views with the forum participants who come from leading media institutions, youth and student organizations, civil society groups, academe, and church people in various affiliations. I am confident that our forum can shed more light on the issues and that we shall be better able to take them up in our efforts at public education and mobilization.

A. Oplan Bayanihan

1. Nature and Purpose of the Oplan. Like Oplan Bantay Laya, Oplan Bayanihan is a national military plan designed by the US and based on the US Counterinsurgency Guide for the vain purpose of destroying or reducing the New People’s Army to inconsequentiality. But supposedly unlike Oplan Bantay Laya, which had become notorious for gross and systematic violations of human rights, Oplan Bayanihan is designed to be more emphatic on psywar and intelligence work, without lessening combat operations but making them more effective through psywar and intelligence work.

The basic premise of the US Counterinsurgency Guide and Oplan Bayanihan is that a regime can defeat a revolutionary movement by being credited for good governance, being clean on the straight path, and efficiently delivering services to the people. Even if untrue, claims of economic success are important in psywar and far more important than undertaking peace negotiations, which are considered dispensable and which may be undertaken only for the purpose of psywar.

2. The Key Role for Aquino. As campaign financiers in 2010, the biggest foreign and domestic businessmen chose Aquino to become the president and play the key role in Oplan Bayanihan. He enjoyed a honeymoon of more than three years with the bourgeois mass media, which touted him as the paragon of a clean, honest and efficient government and as the miracle maker of an economy growing fast and bubbling with hot money from abroad.

In coordination with the military, the key civilian agencies of Aquino in combining psywar and intelligence work against the revolutionary movement are the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the DWSD Secretary, and the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Chairman. They are in charge of deploying the dole outs under the Conditional Cash Transfer and the PAMANA funds in a futile attempt to undermine the mass base of the revolutionary forces and get intelligence at the community level about revolutionary fighters, mass activists and their families for the purpose of enticing them with payments, similar to those under the Amnesty and Rehabilitation Program under Cory Aquino and Ramos.

3. Unravelling of the Aquino Regime. The false image of Aquino and his regime as clean, honest and efficient has unravelled. It began when the Napoles pork barrel scam related to the Priority Development Assistance Fund became exposed, uncovering Aquino as the pork barrel king who disburses for his personal gain and political advantage public funds in the Disbursement Acceleration Program and so many other lump-sum appropriations under his sole discretion.

Causing the Aquino regime to further unravel has been the disappearance of calamity funds and the failure of the regime to make pre-disaster preparations and to provide prompt and adequate rescue and relief assistance to the millions of victims of super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). The OPAPP, DWSD and NAPC have become notorious for bureaucratic corruption rather than for promoting peace, aiding people in distress, and fighting poverty.

B. Prospects for Peace

1. Sabotage of the Peace Process. At the very first formal meeting of the GPH and NDFP negotiating panels in Oslo in February 2011, the GPH attacked The Hague Joint Declaration as a document of perpetual division. The NDFP pointed out that said declaration had been the framework agreement making possible more than 10 major agreements, including the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The GPH proceeded in 2012 to declare the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) as inoperative.

It has refused to release the political prisoners protected by the JASIG and the hundreds of political prisoners imprisoned by the Arroyo regime in violation of CARHRIHL. Absolutely ruthless and devoid of any human empathy, it has proceeded to imprison indefinitely more political prisoners. The NDFP cannot trust a regime that does not know how to respect agreements. When offered the possibility of truce and alliance or cooperation on the basis of a general declaration of common intent, the regime demanded surrender under the guise of “unilateral simultaneous indefinite ceasefires”, without reference to the agenda stipulated in The Hague Joint Declaration.

2. NDFP Commitment to Peace Process. The NDFP remains committed to the peace negotiations in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and further agreements, despite the bad experience of negotiating with the Estrada, Arroyo, and Aquino regimes. The most important reason of the NDFP for persevering in the peace negotiations is to seek the solution of the basic social, economic, and political problems that victimize the people in their millions.

There is no significant indication whatsoever that the Aquino regime is interested in resuming the formal talks in the peace negotiations with the NDFP. Therefore, what the people need to do is to hasten the removal of the Aquino ruling clique from power and demand the commitment of the next president to resume the formal peace talks.

3. Crisis Requires the Peace Process. For the sake of the Filipino people, the peace negotiations must be resumed, especially in the face of the protracted and worsening crisis of the world capitalist system. The people are already suffering a high rate of unemployment, soaring prices of basic goods and services, decreasing and deteriorating social services, widespread poverty and misery. The illusion of economic growth bloated by hot money will soon burst and the people will suffer far more than they do now.

The successful advance of the peace negotiations is not an impossibility. The peace process is a matter of building on what has been achieved. It has already succeeded in producing a substantive agreement, the CARHRIHL, within the framework of The Hague Joint Declaration. It is possible to have a comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms, with land reform and national industrialization as the key provisions. It is also possible to have a comprehensive agreement on political and constitutional reforms, with national independence and people’s democracy as the key provisions. On the basis of these substantive agreements, then it is possible to agree comprehensively on the end of hostilities and disposition of forces. The people must be aroused, organized and mobilized to demand the resumption of peace negotiations.

C. Prospects of Environment Justice

1. Environmental Crisis in Mindanao. Nationwide, we see the wanton plunder of the natural resources and the destruction of the environment. The Philippines now has the second-lowest forest cover in the whole of Southeast Asia. The deforestation had been going on since the Spanish era in Luzon and Visayas, but in the past century has been principally caused by the operations of logging, agribusiness, and mining companies especially in Mindanao.

As of 2003 (the latest year for which official forestry data is available), the total remaining forest cover nationwide has gone down to just below 21 per cent. It is even worse in Mindanao where forest cover is only 15.2 per cent. The resultant loss of forest cover has left rural and urban communities alike more vulnerable to typhoons, constant soil erosion, landslides, heavy silting of rivers and lakes, biodiversity loss and diminished wildlife, and urban overheating.

The use of open pit mining and large amounts of chemicals to accelerate extraction of minerals, including magnetite or black sand mining along the coasts, have aggravated soil erosion and the poisoning of the streams, rivers, lakes and coastal waters at the expense of the peasants and fishermen. The expansion of plantations for the production of bio-ethanol and such products for export like fruit, rubber and palm oil have involved excessive use of chemicals and grave imbalances in land use to the detriment of the environment and staple food production.

2. Responsibility for the Crisis. The foreign multinational firms and their big comprador and high bureaucrat allies are mainly responsible for the destruction of the environment in the Philippines. The Aquino regime is reprehensible for emboldening illegal logging, unrestricted mining and the rapid expansion of plantations. It has consistently upheld the pro-foreign Mining Act of 1995, and has encouraged the influx of big foreign mining firms in Mindanao side by side with the militarization of mining areas. The regime made a show of declaring a so-called total log ban in natural forests. But in reality it has made numerous exemptions and even tolerates outright illegal logging by the AFP-CAFGU and local government units such as in the PICOP and Forest Research Institute areas.

The imperialist powers headed by the US are responsible, both historically and in current volumes, for the carbon emissions that are causing global warming. Natural disasters caused both by extreme weather events such as cyclones, and slow-onset hazards such as coastal flooding, have become more frequent and destructive because of the global warming.

Third world countries like the Philippines, which did not produce the bulk of greenhouse gases, are more vulnerable not only because they are directly in the path of tropical cyclone belts and overheated ocean currents but also because underdevelopment hinders their capacity to cope with disasters. The super typhoon Yolanda was definitely maximized by the warming of the Pacific Ocean.

As shown by the measly outcomes of the recent COP-19 climate talks in Warsaw, the imperialist powers stubbornly resist the Third World demand for them to compensate the victims of the natural disasters generated by global warming. They impose on the world the use of fossil fuel and retain the privilege of emitting carbon dioxide. For these reasons, it is but right for the oppressed peoples of the world to view the issue of climate change and its disastrous impacts as one of environmental injustice imposed by imperialism instead of being just a natural phenomenon that all countries face in equal measure.

It is true that the people, especially the most impoverished sections of the workers and peasants, are desperate enough to eke out a living in the margins at the expense of ecological balance and safe and healthy living conditions. But it is the height of callousness for the Aquino regime to put the blame on them for environmental problems and for living in disaster-prone areas, and even forcibly demolish and relocate their communities on that alibi. The broad masses of the people are the victims, not the culprits, of environmental injustice aggravated by human rights violations.

3. Attainment of Environmental Justice. For so long as the Philippines remains semicolonial and semifeudal, the imperialist powers and the reactionary puppets will continue to subject the Filipino people to environmental injustice. The way for the people to attain environmental justice is to struggle for national independence, democracy, social justice, development and international solidarity with the people of the world. But even now, we should be conscious of the need to stop the ruin of the environment and the wanton outflow of our precious nonrenewable resources, especially mineral ores, and do whatever is possible in this regard.

By gaining national and social liberation, a truly empowered Filipino people can prevent the plunder of natural resources and destruction of the environment. We can ban the imperialist and big comprador-landlord firms from taking away the natural resources as fast as they can while leaving the country more underdeveloped and the masses more impoverished than ever before. It becomes possible to protect and manage our natural resources and use them wisely by processing them for national industrialization and to support agricultural and all-sided rural development on the basis of agrarian reform.

With national industrialization and agrarian reform generating local production and employment many more times greater than what the imperialist and comprador-landlord firms can offer, it also becomes feasible for our people to adopt more ecologically wise methods of production, implement environmental protection, avoid geohazards, and cope with disasters more effectively through mass mobilization.

There is a direct link between the struggle for peace and the struggle for environmental justice. In fact, we have always said that the only basis for a genuine and lasting peace is on the basis of justice brought about by substantial social, economic, and political reforms. Fighting for environmental justice means struggling for such comprehensive reforms, towards a just and lasting peace.


CPP/NPA: NPA refutes AFP claim: 20 soldiers killed in series of tactical offensives

Posted to the CPP Website (Dec 9): NPA refutes AFP claim: 20 soldiers killed in series of tactical offensives

Daniel Ibarra
NPA ComVal-Davao Gulf Sub-region Sub-regional Command
There is no truth to the preposterous claim made by Eastern Mindanao Command Commander Lt. Gen. Rainier G. Cruz, III that “in their Bayanihan, they have prevailed against the NPA” by killing 4 New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas last week in Maco town, Compostela Valley. The enemy has pursued its atrocious military operations in separate incidents of strafing and bombing that left a civilian dead, the detention of three others, and the dislocation of hundreds more in Maragusan and Maco towns since November 18 up to December 6.

While hiding its savage deeds against the masses, the AFP is engaging in a futile attempt to reverse the real score in the battlefield. In contrast to the AFP’s indiscriminate aerial bombing and strafing that did not distinguish combatants from civilians, the NPA triggered command detonated explosives, harassed and ambushed legitimate targets from enemy units in four separate punitive actions over the last three weeks. The AFP suffered a total of 34 casualties, with 20 killed and 14 wounded after NPA units under the Comval Davao Gulf Subregional Command launched a series of tactical offensives meant to punish the fascist 71st Infantry Battalion, 66th IB, and Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC) all under the 10th ID-Eastern Mindanao Command of the AFP.

A recap of the series of events in the last few weeks showed how the AFP, ironically, prevailed not over the NPA but over unarmed peasants and poor residents:
  • On November 18, at 6:30 am, the 66th IB-AFP rained bombs over the villages of Brgy. Mahayahay, Maragusan town, Comval; for one whole day, the enemy strafed and poured bullets in reconnaissance by fire against peasant farms, forcing residents to evacuate.
  • On November 21 at 7am, the 66th IB bombed villages of Sitio Camuso, Brgy. Parasanun. At about 9am, the NPA’s 6th Pulang Bagani Company and the Rhyme Petalcorin Command Front 27 Operations Command encountered with troops belonging to the 71st IB in North Davao, Brgy. New Leyte, Maco; three soldiers were killed and three were wounded. Around 10:30 am, the military bombed communities of North Davao and Sitio Bunlang, using a 105 howitzer. At 4pm, two mg520 helicopters rained bombs in North Davao and in Masara lines, Maco town. When the enemy was resting at their camp in Brgy. Parasanun at 11pm, the NPA triggered a command detonated explosive that killed 5 and wounded 6.
  • On November 23, at 8am, the NPA harassed the camp of 71st IB alpha company, wounding three of its troops. At around 10am, two mg 520 helicopters bombed the farms of Brgy. Elizalde, Brgy. Teresa and Brgy New Barili in Maco.
  • On November 25, at 9pm, the NPA triggered a command detonated explosive at Sitio Camuso, Brgy. Parasanun killing four elements of the 66th IB.
  • On November 28, the NPA harassed the 71st IB troops in Sitio Biokadan, Brgy. Teresa, killing one soldier. At 9am, the military forced residents of Biokadan and Sitio Mahayahay, Brgy Teresa to evacuate.
  • On December 4, at 8am, the NPA’s 6th Pulang Bagani Company and the Rhyme Petalcorin Command Front 27 Operations Command ambushed the 71st IB in Sitio Lim-aw, Brgy. Teresa that killed 7 and wounded 5 soldiers. At 9:30 am, the enemy bombed the villages of Sitio Lim-aw and Sitio Gakub, using a 105 howitzer and dislocating the peasant communities in the process.
  • On December 6, at 10 am, the 1001st DRC and the 71st IB raided villages of Sitio Binagyuhan, Brgy. Malamudao, Maco town. An hour later, mg 520 helicopters bombed the villages of Sitio Binagyuhan and Sitio Barabay in Brgy. Malamudao, and Sitio San Vicente of Brgy. New Barili. The military shot to death Pedro Tinga, a civilian and arrested three others: Dodong Camporemundo, Orong Gabriel and Abla Bakud. The victims were all residents of Purok 2, Brgy. Malamudao.
Not content with disinformation by erroneously labeling the victims as NPA guerillas, the AFP also connived with Malamudao Brgy captain Edgar Reyabonansa to gag the victim’s family and prevent them from pursuing charges against the enemy.

Indeed, the blatant cover-up and a host of human rights abuses in the last few weeks manifested the AFP’s character as harbinger of injustice and implementer of the hideous policy of neutralization under the Oplan Bayanihan. The masses can only rely in the revolutionary justice, time and again , dispensed by the NPA through its punitive actions against legitimate targets in the AFP and the US-Aquino regime.


CPP: Oppose widespread AFP aerial bombing campaigns, CPP urges HR/IHL advocates

From the CPP Website (Dec 10): Oppose widespread AFP aerial bombing campaigns, CPP urges HR/IHL advocates

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today marked the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights by calling on all advocates and defenders of human rights and international humanitarian law to expose and oppose the aerial bombing campaigns being conducted by the Aquino regime and its armed forces which have been damaging people’s properties and agricultural livelihood, endangering the lives of people and causing grave psychological trauma to residents.

“The indiscriminate bombing runs being conducted by the AFP under its Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression are grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law,” said the CPP. “The Aquino regime is utterly hypocritical in claiming that it upholds peace and human rights when it continues to commit grave abuses and brutalities against the people.”

In calling for a campaign to oppose aerial bombing operations by the AFP, the CPP pointed to the recent bombing runs conducted by the AFP last November 18, 21, 23, December 4 and December 6 in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley.

On November 18, at 6:30 am, the 66th Infantry Battalion dropped bombs at Barangay Mahayahay in Maragusan town, Compostela Valley. This was followed by day-long strafing of bullets forcing residents of the barangay to evacuate their homes.

At 10:30 am of November 21, the AFP bombarded Sitio Bunlang and other communities in Davao del Norte using 105mm howitzer canons. This was followed by the dropping of bombs at 4 pm by MG-520 helicopters in North Davao and Maco town. On November 23, the AFP employed at least two MG-520 helicopters to drop bombs over farmlands in Barangays Elizalde, Teresa and New Barili in Maco town, Davao del Norte.

On December 4, at 9:30 am, the AFP bombarded Sitio Lim-aw and Sitio Gakub, in Barangay Teresa, Maco town with 105mm howitzer canons forcing peasants to evacuate. On December 6, MG-520 helicopters dropped bombs in Sitio Binagyuhan and Sitio Barabay in Barangay Malamudao and Sitio San Vicente in Barangay New Barili in Maco.

“In their desperation to meet their vain hope of decimating the NPA by 2013 and waging a war against the revolutionary mass base, the AFP has resorted to the brutal use of aerial bombings and other means of indiscriminate attacks against civilians,” said the CPP.

Earlier in August 29-30, the AFP carried out massive aerial bombings in the Mountain Province damaging farmlands, indigenous irrigation systems and the natural environment in the northern barangays of Sagada and parts of Bontoc. In May, another aerial bombing was conducted by the AFP in Malibcong town, Abra. Such aerial bombing campaigns have resulted in grave psychological trauma in children.

“Over the past three years, Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan has revealed itself as being no different from the previous brutal military campaigns such as Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2,” pointed out the CPP.

“The reactionary armed forces, police and paramilitary organizations continue to violate human rights with impunity targetting the poor communities where the people have been rising up and raising protests against the oppressive and exploitative system,” said the CPP.

“Aquino’s armed forces continue to carry-out extrajudicial killings. Last December 6, just a few days before Human Rights Day, the operating troops of the 1001st DRC and the 71st IB carried out the killing of Pedro Tinga of Barangay Malamudao, in Maco town,” the CPP pointed out.

“In violation of the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the Aquino regime continues to jail no fewer than 400 political prisoners, including 13 peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP),” added the CPP.

“Aquino’s stubborn insistence to detain the NDFP peace consultants further violates the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) which has impeded the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the Aquino government and the NDFP.”