Friday, December 13, 2013

NDF consultant gets 40 years for illegal possession of firearms

From the Philippine Star (Dec 13): NDF consultant gets 40 years for illegal possession of firearms

A consultant of the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) was sentenced last Wednesday to 40 years in prison by a Muntinlupa City regional trial court for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The human rights group Karapatan said the conviction of NDF consultant Eduardo Sarmiento by Judge Myra Bayot Quiambo of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 203 was in violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) that was signed in 1995 by representatives of the Philippine government and the NDF.

According to Karapatan, as a consultant to the peace process Sarmiento is covered by JASIG, having been involved in the peace negotiations between the government and the NDF since 1986, representing the Eastern Visayas region.

“Sarmiento should have been released as early as 2011, had the Aquino government fulfilled its commitment, contained in the February 2011 Oslo GPH-NDFP Joint Statement, to release ‘most, if not all, political prisoners.’ In fact, Sarmiento should have not been arrested at all,” said Karapatan in a statement.

Karapatan said that Sarmiento’s arrest on Feb. 24, 2009 was faulty because it was warrantless and the evidence found on him was allegedly planted.

The group said Sarmiento’s arresting officers claimed they had two warrants of arrest for arson and for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder issued by the Catbalogan Regional Trial Court Branch 29 and of the Municipal Trial Court of Paranas, Samar, respectively.

Sarmiento was later charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives for allegedly carrying a brown bag with one fragmentation grenade.

Karapatan said Sarmiento had a P2-million bounty on his head which was supposedly awarded to an informant. At the time of his arrest, Sarmiento was in Manila for consultations. He was arrested near a mall in Alabang, Muntinlupa by joint elements of the army intelligence and the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

MILF: BLMI-Conciliation Resources hold consultations with MILF members

From the MILF Website (Dec 13): BLMI-Conciliation Resources hold consultations with MILF members


The Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) and Conciliation Resources (CR) with support from the European Union (EU) conducted a two (2) day consultations from December 4-5, 2013 at the BLMI Training Hall on “Promoting Public Participation on the Peace Process” with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a pilot program.
The activity is part of full swing public engagements on the basic law being crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). The Commission is in tie-up with civil society organization based on a memorandum of understanding between the BTC and the CSO’s.  This activity at the BLMI will be followed by a series of consultations in Moro communities of as far as the island provinces and western Mindanao provinces. 

About 100 participants from Maguindanao comprising information officers and political committee officers, with 25 participants each from the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), women and youth sector attended the program.

On November 30, 2013 the BTC and CR signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) at the BTC office between BTC Chair Mohagher Iqbal and Kristian Herbolzeimer of Conciliation Resources. This agreement aims to promote public participation on the peace process also known as 5P’s.

CR have eight (8) partners conducting public engagements on the ground in order to let the public know what the BTC is doing and the feedbacks that it gathers from the public in connection with the drafting of the BBL. Once the BTC completes the crafting of the basic law it will be submitted to President Benigno C. Aquino III for certification as “urgent” bill and transmits the same to congress so that both chambers have ample time to enact it into law.

The consultation started with a recital of verses from the Holy Qur’an followed by opening remarks. Atty. Haron Meling, Chief Executive Assistant of BTC Chair Iqbal lectured on the ministerial form of government and mentioned some activities of the BTC in recent weeks.

“Paragraph 2 of Article 1 of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) provides that the government of the Bangsamoro shall have a ministerial form. The parties agree to entrench an electoral system suitable to a ministerial form of government. The electoral system shall allow democratic participation, ensure accountability of public officers primarily to their constituents and encourage formation of genuinely principled political parties.”

There are four thematic issues or concerns that have been discussed or presented during the workshop such as; governance, territory, security, and Shari’ah Law.

Currently, the BLMI is intensifying its efforts by conducting capacity building activities and promoting peoples’ awareness on the peace process and other concerns. The participants were also challenged to encourage the Bangsamoro people in state building endeavors as stipulated in the FAB.

British Navy ship completes PH aid mission, goes home

From ABS-CBN (Dec 13): British Navy ship completes PH aid mission, goes home

The British Royal Navy amphibious helicopter carrier, HMS Illustrious, has completed its disaster relief mission in the Philippines and is now on its way to back to the United Kingdom.

The carrier, dubbed "Lusty", has been in the Philippines since November 25 delivering relief goods and giving assistance to Filipinos affected by super typhoon Yolanda (international code name: Haiyan).

The British government said that as of December 6, the HMS Illustrious has aided 12,823 people, delivered 68.2 tons of food, over 2,000 bags of rice and 76 disaster relief packs containing tools and supplies. It said members of the ship’s company have been ashore, camping out among communities to provide sustained assistance.

"Royal Navy personnel, Royal Marines commandos and Army engineers have worked closely together to repair buildings, fishing boats, engines and generators," it said.
Surgeon Lieutenant James Baker said he was part of an assistance team deployed to Calagnaan Island in Iloilo.

"We were tasked to help repair a building damaged by the typhoon. It was hard work; safely removing the old structure and replacing it with one that we manufactured using locally-sourced bamboo," he said.

"We then used tarpaulin transported to the site by helicopter to provide a temporary roof. It is measures like this that are among the most vital in the recovery process. It helps restore the sense of normality that Typhoon Haiyan had disrupted," he added.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin thanked members of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Armed Forces personnel who participated in the aid mission.

"No amount of words can precisely express our most profound gratitude for the noble deeds of HMS Illustrious and the British sailors in extending utmost assistance to the victims of that deadly natural disaster which has ravaged many islands of our archipelago. We can only thank you from the depths of our hearts and treasure your most appreciated help in our trying moments that has in no small way eased the pains and sufferings of our affected countrymen," he said in a statement.

UK Secretary of State for Defense Philip Hammond said he is extremely proud of the British military’s hard work in support of humanitarian relief in the Philippines.

"I am grateful to the RAF detachments and the crews of HMS Illustrious and HMS Daring for their swift distribution of aid during the disaster relief operation and am pleased that the DFID will continue to support the recovery effort."

HMS Illustrious began her return journey to the UK this week after a stopover in Manila to re-supply.

The UK Government is providing over £60 million in humanitarian support to help aid get through to hard to reach areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

The British public also contributed over £73 million through an appeal from the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), a group of 14 UK aid charities.

CPP/NPA: NPA attacks Bukidnon Police Headquarters; 13 firearms seized, 5 PNP casualties reported

Posted to the CPP Website (Dec 13): NPA attacks Bukidnon Police Headquarters; 13 firearms seized, 5 PNP casualties reported

Isabel Fermiza
NPA Mt. Apo Sub-Region Sub-regional Command
NPA attacks Bukidnon Police Headquarters; 13 firearms seized, 5 PNP casualties reported Red fighters belonging to the New People’s Army Mt. Apo Subregional Command raided the municipal headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Kibawe town, Bukidnon province at 4:50 am, December 12.

The tactical offensive lasted for a total of 17 minutes, resulting in the NPA’s seizure of thirteen (13) firearms: seven (7) M-16 Armalite rifles, three (3).45 caliber pistols, three (3) 9mm pistols, several ammunitions, uniforms and vhf. Five PNP forces on duty opened fire at the approaching NPA guerrillas who came in aboard six four-wheeled vehicles.

The ensuing 10-minute battle killed two PNP forces and wounded three other police elements. The Red fighters then proceeded to confiscate the firearms for seven minutes, before withdrawing from the police station. Enemy casualties would have not occurred had the police opted to leave the NPA untouched when the latter conducted the raid and disarming of the PNP municipal headquarters.

An undetermined number of reinforcement troops belonging to the Regional Mobile Group and the 8th Infantry Battalion were also hit by the NPA’s command detonated explosives an hour after Red fighters withdrew from the Kibawe police station. The area was immediately cordoned by the enemy.

Thursday’s tactical offensive not only aimed to secure the much-needed firearms that would enable the NPA subregional command to develop more fighting platoons. The NPA raid in Bukidnon was also meant to punish an abusive police unit and an army unit responsible for the forced recruitment of paramilitary Cafgus and building of Army detachments in several parts of Bukidnon. The masses have successfully struggled against Cafgu conscription in guerrilla base areas and guerrilla zones, as the Army’s Special Operations Teams conduct abusive operations in the province.

As the US-Aquino regime suffers from political isolation and incur the people’s wrath due to corruption, inutility and failure to solve the worsening economic crisis, the revolutionary movement continues to take the political-military initiative in advancing the revolutionary struggle to a higher stage while persevering to build and strengthen the People’s Democratic Government.

CPP: CPP condemns GPH 40-year sentence against NDFP Consultant Eduardo Sarmiento

Posted to the CPP Website (Dec 13): CPP condemns GPH 40-year sentence against NDFP Consultant Eduardo Sarmiento

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today condemned the Aquino regime and the Muntinlupa City regional trial court for convicting and sentencing NDFP Peace Consultant Eduardo Sarmiento to 40 years imprisonment over trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. The conviction and sentencing was carried out by Judge Myra Bayot Quiambo of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 203 last Wednesday.

Sarmiento serves as NDF Peace Consultant for the Eastern Visayas. He was in Metro Manila conducting discussions and consultations related to peace negotiations when he was arrested by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on February 24, 2009.

“The conviction and sentencing of NDF Peace Consultant Eduardo Sarmiento is in stark violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG),” pointed out the CPP. The JASIG secures personnel of the NDFP and the GPH involved in peace negotiations against prosecution by either side. It prohibits either side from carrying out “surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive action” against the accredited personnel of the other party.

Sarmiento’s sentencing is also in violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which upholds the GPH’s own Hernandez Doctrine prohibiting the state from criminalizing political offenses." At least 13 NDFP consultants are languishing in various prisons and detention facilities under the Aquino regime because the acts they have allegedly committed in furtherance of their political convictions have been regarded as common crimes such as illegal possession of firearms, murder, robbery in band and arson.

“This development makes the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GPH ever more difficult as it exemplifies the grave danger posed on the lives of NDFP consultants as a result of the GPH’s refusal to abide by outstanding agreements,” pointed out the CPP.

“The CPP demands that the GPH rescind the conviction and sentencing of NDFP Consultant Eduardo Sarmiento. It calls on the human rights community, peace advocates both in the Philippines and abroad to stand together to defend the lives of all NDFP peace consultants and amplify the demand for their release.”

“Even under the GPH’s own laws, Sarmiento’s arrest and detention was illegal. He was taken into custody by the military without any warrant, in violation of his basic right against arbitrary arrest,” pointed out the CPP. “Furthermore, the supposed pieces of evidence against him were planted by the military operatives who carried out his illegal arrest.”

“The 40-year sentence imposed on Sarmiento constitutes cruel and unusual punishment on someone who was arrested and incarcerated for political reasons,” said the CPP. Sarmiento, 62 years old, is among the 400 political prisoners being detained under the Aquino regime, 150 of whom were arrested over the past three years.

Further US ship deployments planned in Singapore

From the Philippine Star (Dec 13): Further US ship deployments planned in Singapore

The U.S. said Thursday it will deploy two more combat ships to Singapore in the next two years as part of America's commitment to deepening its military engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met his Singaporean counterpart Ng Eng Hen at the Pentagon, and said they also discussed how to expand military cooperation in areas such as cyber and maritime security.

The U.S. has just completed the first, seven-month deployment of a littoral combat ship to the Southeast Asian city state. Up to four deployments are planned by the end of 2016.

The next ship will arrive in late 2014, followed by a third in late 2015, a joint statement said.

Singapore has agreed to host the vessels on extended, rotating deployments — one of the more tangible steps to boost the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific as the superpower shifts focus after a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The first ship, USS Freedom, suffered some technical glitches but also helped in distribution of relief supplies when Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines last month.

"We believe that the U.S. presence in our region is a force for stability," Ng told a news conference, alongside Hagel.

Hagel reiterated the U.S. commitment to its rebalance toward Asia. He said he hoped a bipartisan budget compromise being put to Congress would provide more predictability for U.S. military planners over the next two years, and provide some reassurance to allies and friends "that we will stay committed to our allies and our interests around the world."

Hagel said he discussed with Ng China's new air defense identification zone — which straddles some disputed islands further north — and its "implications this has created for freedom of maritime and airspace navigation."

Hagel repeated the U.S. call for China not to implement it or take similar actions elsewhere.

China's new zone escalated its territorial dispute with U.S. ally Japan. There has been speculation that China could take similar steps to assert its claims in the South China Sea, where it has disputes with several Southeast Asian nations.

Ng did not directly address China's action, but emphasized the need for dialogue "to reduce the risk of miscalculation."

Also Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and reiterated that China air defense zone would not affect U.S. operations in the East China Sea.

Biden also expressed support for steps to reduce regional tensions, the White House said.

Gunmen kidnap 2 women in Zamboanga

From the Philippine Star (Dec 13): Gunmen kidnap 2 women in Zamboanga

A barangay chairwoman and fishing firm owner were abducted separately by heavily armed men late Thursday night in Zamboanga Peninsula, according to security officials.

Security officials identified the victims as Cecilia Alas-as, chairwoman of Barangay Paniran, Sibuco town, Zamboanga del Norte and Cynthia Caboverde, 50, owner of a fishing company and resident of Barangay Magdaop, Ipil town, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Senior Inspector Darwin Asaali, Sibuco chief of police said Alas-as was forcibly taken by 3 heavily armed gunmen about 10 p.m. from her residence in Barangay Paniran, a coastal village of Sibuco town.

Asaali said gunmen wearing bonnets barged into the house of Alas-as and seized her at gunpoint. The kidnappers escaped with Alas-as on board a pumpboat.

He said the gunmen have yet to contact the victim's family to demand a ransom payment for her release.

Col Ignacio Obligacion, chief of the Philippine Army's 102nd Infantry Brigade, said that Caboverde was snatched around midnight by eight heavily armed men from her home in Sitio Palid, Barangay Magdaop in Ipil town.

Obligacion said that the gunmen forcibly took the businesswoman and escaped on two pumpboats.

Pursuit operations were immediately launched by the Army unit in hope of recovering the victim from the gunmen.

Based on police records, the latest abductions brought the number of captives in Zamboanga Peninsula and Sulu province to nine.

The Abu Sayyaf group is still holding European nationals Elwold Horn and Lorenzo Vinceguerre; Filipino sisters and indie film makers Nadjoua and Linda Bansil; telecommunication technician Dennis Aloba and his escort Nasri Abubakar; and provincial treasurer Jess Cabelin.

The seven victims are believed to be somewhere in Sulu.

Senior MNLF officials: Nur not in OIC meeting in Guinea

From the Philippine Star (Dec 13): Senior MNLF officials: Nur not in OIC meeting in Guinea

The table intended for Nur Misuari at the venue of the 40th ministerial conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the Guinean capital Conakry was vacant for the whole duration of the Dec. 9-11 meeting.

The group of Nur Misuari again drew flak from local sectors for allegedly lying that he attended the Dec. 9-11 ministerial meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Conakry, Guinea.

Senior Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) officials confirmed that Misuari did not attend the meeting of representatives from different OIC member-states, contrary to the announcement to the media by his spokesman, lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla.

Fontanilla was quoted early this week in newspaper reports as saying that Misuari, leader of one of three factions in the now fragmented MNLF, was in Conakry, attending the OIC’s 40th ministerial meeting.

The OIC, a bloc of more than 50 Muslim countries, including petroleum-exporting states in the Middle East and North Africa, helped broker the 1996 final peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MNLF.

“Chairman Misuari wasn’t there. It was a lie. He did not attend the OIC meeting in Conakry. How can he leave when there is a warrant for his arrest in connection with the trouble his group instigated last September in Zamboanga City,” a Meranaw MNLF leader in Lanao del Sur told The Star.

The source, who asked not to be identified, said Fontanilla lied when he announced that Misuari was in Conakry.

“He is Misuari’s spokesman so whatever he says about the MNLF Misuari faction is an official statement of Misuari’s group,” the source pointed out.

A Tausog MNLF official even provided reporters with a photo of the vacant desk for Misuari at the venue of the OIC meeting in Conakry.

The photo showed that even the green folder on top of the table, apparently containing important documents such as an outline of the meeting agenda, and the minutes of last year’s 39th OIC ministerial conference, was virtually untouched.

Sources from the Department of Foreign Affairs have confirmed that Misuari was nowhere at the venue of the OIC meeting in Conakry, from the day it started until it culminated on Dec. 11.

“The wrong information given by the MNLF spokesperson is a strong indication that he was like firing a gun from the hip when he issued the statement,” a key DFA insider said.

A senior member of the MNLF’s Sema Group, which is led by former Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema, said the announcement by Misuari’s group, which turned out false, was a serious blunder.

“Revolutionary organizations survive by being credible to the people it claims to fight for, and gets strength from public sympathy and support.What sympathy can you get from the public if you create false scenarios? That was too bad,” the MNLF leader said in Filipino, in heavy Maguindanaon accent.

The MNLF Sema group is the largest and most politically active faction in the once monolithic Moro revolutionary organization that waged a secessionist war in Mindanao for three-decades and signed a peace pact with government on Sept. 2, 1996.

Suspected rebels torch construction equipment in Zamboanga

From the Philippine Star (Dec 13): Suspected rebels torch construction equipment in Zamboanga

Gunmen believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) torched and damaged a private construction firm's two heavy equipment units in San Miguel town, Zamboanga del Sur shortly after midnight Thursday.

Senior Inspector Hailil Junnairi, acting San Miguel police chief, said residents of Purok Sinco, Barangay Dumalian were awakened by a loud explosion at around 12:45 a.m. as a group of gunmen torch a heavy equipment.

Another mild explosion occurred in the nearby sub-village of Purok Quatro. The explosion also happened as gunmen torch a dump truck.

Allan Marcillones and Engineer Hazel Bongabong, project and field engineer respectively of Walter Lao Construction Company, immediately reported the incidents to the police.

Authorities placed the damage from the attacks at P8 million.

Police said the attack could be related to the NPA's extortion activities.

Stepped-up campaign vs. kidnappings in Sulu assured -- Roxas

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 13): Stepped-up campaign vs. kidnappings in Sulu assured -- Roxas

Roxas said government security forces have revitalized their campaign against kidnap-for-ransom groups and extortionists in the province amid reports that between 12 to 15 more kidnap victims are still being held by groups either sympathetic to the Abu Sayyaf Group or the Abu Sayyaf Group itself.

“Yan ang dahilan kung bakit nagkaroon tayo ng Peace and Order Council meeting. Kasama si (Defense) secretary (Voltaire) Gazmin, ang buong puwersa ng pamhalaan, ang AFP, ang PNP ay nakatutok dito,” Roxas said after emerging from a meeting with Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II, Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan, and the 16 city and municipal mayors of the province.

The meeting was held at Sulu Provincial Capitol in Patikul town.

Roxas said the kidnapping problem in the province can be stopped once the community cooperates with authorities.

Aside from this, he said government security forces must cordon off the area of Patikul so that the kidnappers cannot transfer from one place to another once operations are launched against them.

Roxas, however, clarified that offensives against the kidnappers is the not the sole factor to stomp out the problem even as he assured that the government is doing all it can to once and for all get rid of the problem.

“Nandito kami para siguraduhin at para alam ng local government units na nakatutok ang pamahalaang national dito. Maaasahan nila ang aming tulong at kooperasyon para paigtingin ang laban kontra kidnapping,” Roxas added.

PA beefs up CMO capabilities

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 13): PA beefs up CMO capabilities

The Philippine Army (PA) will continue to enhance its Civil Military Operations (CMO) capabilities through its policy and program development.

"To realize this end, the PA through the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations (OG7, PA), initiated the conduct of an Army-Wide CMO Annual Review at the NCO Clubhouse in Fort Bonifacio on Dec. 10 to 12," Army Spokesperson Capt. Anthony Bacus said.

With the theme, "Strengthening Capabilities, Aligning Strategies", the seminar primarily aims to develop CMO policies and programs; assess and review the status on implementation of existing CMO policies; and identify gaps, issues and concerns on CMO programs and activities undertaken by subordinate units, and formulate ways and means to address those identified.

Bacus said the CMO Annual Review was participated in by 56 CMO officers and personnel from the different Army units nationwide.

He added the three-day activity was a combination of lectures, review presentations, open forum and plenary discussions, wherein CMO operators of the Divisions presented their CMO activities during the year and their proposed programs and activities for 2014.

PA chief Lt. Gen. Noel A. Coballes earlier emphasized that he will undertake to pursue the objectives of Internal Peace and Security Program "Bayanihan".

He stressed that the Army will not lose sight of the more important end state of "winning the peace rather than defeating the enemy".

CMO activities carried out by the Army are all geared towards forging strong partnership with the citizenry, building linkages with government agencies, non-government organizations and people's organization, encouraging local government executives to support military efforts, and establishing an environment conducive for peace and reconciliation.

PHL navy developing ASW capability

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 13): PHL navy developing ASW capability

With the modernization of the Philippine Navy now in high gear with the arrival of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) and three of the five-brand new AW-109s "Power" helicopters, the PN announced that it is now it is developing its anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, Navy spokesperson, said that this is one of the PN's long-term programs.

ASW refers to the capability to detect, locate and if necessary destroy submarines found intruding in the country's territorial waters.

"We have plans for (developing) an ASW capability but it is still in the long-term plans. This is part of the PN's 'Active Archipelagic Defense Strategy'. We are looking at ship mounted and helio (helicopter) ASW capability," Fabic said.

He added this program will be an important part of the Philippines' defense system once it reaches full bloom.

Fabic also called the arrival of the new equipment for the Navy this year a significant development.

Gregorio Del Pilar frigates to undergo 'SLEP'

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 13): Gregorio Del Pilar frigates to undergo 'SLEP'

To ensure that the two Gregorio Del Pilar frigates will continue serving the country as long as possible, the Philippine Navy (PN) announced that the two vessels will undergo the so-called "service life extension programs" (SLEP).

The latter refers to the systematic upgrades to the warship's power-plant, navigation, weapons system, communication, and hull.

This has the effect of making the ship serviceable for much longer period of time.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, PN spokesperson, said that the two Gregorio Del Pilar frigates in Philippine service, BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), will undergo SLEP upon serving the Navy for a specified number of years.

The upgrades will make the ship at par with other modern vessels being fielded by other navies.

SLEP will also ensure that the PN will have these ships in service much longer.

It is also a cheaper alternative.

Fabic added that ships constructed during the 1960s up to present are easily upgradeable due to their modular construction.

The two Gregorio Del Pilar frigates in PN service had their keels laid up during the early part of the 1960s.