Friday, December 27, 2013

Photo: Communist flag raising

Posted to the pro-CPP Davao Today (Dec 27): Photo: Communist flag raising


FLAG RAISING. At around seven in the morning, members of the Kabataang Makabayan raised the flags of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), National Democratic Front of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and the highlight of the event, the flag of People’s Revolutionary Government, in a farflung barrio in Compostela town, Compostela Valley province.(

NPA urged: Respect SOMO

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 28): NPA urged: Respect SOMO

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles called on the New People's Army to be faithful to the ceasefire they have declared and respect the prolonged suspension of military operations (SOMO) being observed by the government.

This was after the killing of an Army soldier in an encounter Thursday night in Bukidnon, as the Communist Party of the Philippines marked its 45 th founding anniversary.

Deles said in a statement she issued, “We challenge those who carry arms in the name of the people to become instruments of peace in this Advent season”.

The CPP-NPA said it is observing SOMO from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26, and from Dec. 31 to Jan. 2 next year. The government ceasefire, meanwhile, took effect Dec. 21 to Jan 15 next year.

“W e are one with our fellow countrymen and women in the belief that better days are ahead, and we join in the call for peace throughout the country, a peace that will allow everyone—rebels and non-rebels alike—to celebrate the holidays free from fear and uncertainty,” Deles added.

Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3 rd Infantry Division commander, who supervises internal security operations in Negros and Panay, said that they will maintain their presence in the communities, to protect civilians, government and private infrastructure, as well as military camps and detachments.

NPA fighters vow more attacks in 2014

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Dec 28): NPA fighters vow more attacks in 2014

Maoist rebels vowed Thursday to launch much wider and bigger offensives with more armed fighters next year.

Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos, the spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) for Mindanao, said the New People's Army (NPA) will intensify its attacks especially in Southern Philippines.

The NPA is the armed wing of the NDFP and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

NPA to intensify offensives

AGUSAN. Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines for Mindanao, told reporters who attended the 45th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines somewhere in Agusan provinces that the New People's Army will intensify its offensives against government forces. (Anjo J. Bacarisas)

The Philippines has been tagged for holding the longest running revolutionary movement in the world.

Speaking before reporters during the CPP’s 45th founding anniversary on December 26, Madlos said they will deploy more NPA fighters in their punitive actions against the government forces in 2014.

Madlos said that in 2010, the revolutionary group initiated 250 armed operations, 350 attacks in 2011, and more than 400 offensives in 2012.

“This year, the revolutionary forces launched more than 400 offensives, and next year, we will launch more than 500 tactical offensives,” said Madlos.

If the recent assaults were initiated by platoons and squads of the NPA, Madlos said that next year, there will be battalion formations that will launch military operations all over Mindanao.

In the North Central Mindanao Region (NCMR), Norsen “Ka Norsen” Mangubat said amid the addition of the Marine Battalion Landing Team and Scout Ranger to the military forces of the Philippines’ 4th Infantry Division (4ID), the insurgents intensified their aggressive actions from 83 last year to 100 this year.

Mangubat claimed the CPP-NPA in NCMR this year eliminated 117 members of the government’s military forces, while the Maoists lost only 11 of their comrades.
“In those tactical operations, the group confiscated more than 80 weapons of different caliber,” said Mangubat.

Madlos added: “From 2011 to 2013, casualties sustained by enemy forces increased to at least a battalion per year while the casualties with the NPA per year did not go beyond a platoon on the same period.”

Communist rebels’ cultural show

CAGAYAN DE ORO. New People's Army fighters perform a cultural show during the 45th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines held somewhere in Agusan. (Anjo J. Bacarisas)

CPP-NPA strength

In NCMR, Mangubat said the forces of the guerilla group increased by 11 percent while the number of high-powered weapons increased by 10 percent.

“The People’s militia in the region also increased by 28 percent,” said Mangubat.
According to the CPP statement, in the five regions of Mindanao, there are 46 guerilla fronts composed of platoons and companies that constitute 10 battalions.

The battalion formations of CPP-NPA in Mindanao are supported by the People’s militia numbering several battalions.

Amid the military and psychological warfare (psy-war) operations conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the bases of the group increased and strengthened in more than 2,000 villages in more than 200 municipalities and 19 provinces in Mindanao.

In sum, the armed revolution in Mindanao guided by the CPP is supported by hundreds of thousands from various sectors of society, the CPP added.

Punitive actions

Based on the CPP statement, part of their tactical offensives were the successful punitive actions on Del Monte Philippines plantation, the raid conducted on an army detachment in Barangay Lantad, Balingasag, Misamis Oriental.

Part of these actions was the confiscation of firearms of Dasia Security Agency in Tagum City and the raid on Philippine National Police headquarters in Kibawe town in Bukidnon and Don Victoriano, Misamis Occidental.

Meanwhile, Madlos, through a press statement, said the Aquino regime has no capacity to alleviate the misery felt by the survivors of Tropical Storm Sendong and typhoons Pablo and Yolanda because it is preoccupied in squandering the people’s money.

Truce violation

In a statement e-mailed to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro on Friday, the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) said the NPA violated the truce between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the CPP.

The military troops under the Barangay Assistance Team for Peace and Development (BATPD) in Sitio Ulayanon, Barangay Kalabugao, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon were allegedly harassed by the members of the NPA using high-powered weapons.
The harassment happened on the same day the CPP commemorated its founding anniversary on December 26, said the army.

The aim of the BATPD, a team of soldiers who were deployed in the different villages in Impasug-ong, is to assist the local government unit in the delivery of basic services and in the implementation of government programs and projects in the area, the military unit added.

“One soldier, namely, Private First class Akmad Maruhom, was killed-in-action,” the 8IB statement said, stressing the attack was a violation of the CPP’s declaration of ceasefire.

“The actions of the NPAs in the area clearly violated this previously announced truce from their side. The incident was the second time that the rebels carried out to inflict casualty among our troops facilitating peace and development activities in the area. First was on November 28 this year when they also perpetrated the same harassment in the area resulting to one soldier wounded,” the unit said.

“It only shows that they (NPA) are deceptive of their pronouncements. In fact, they intend on sowing fear and violence in local communities. More so, they are anti-development and anti-poor,” it added.

The army unit also said that “the CPP-NPA wants the people to continue with their misery so that they can continue to deceive them. In the spirit of Christmas and our strong adherence to peace and development, we once again call on the CPP-NPA to once and for all denounce “armed struggle” and follow the path of peace.”

Captain Christian Uy, 4th Infantry Division (4ID) spokesman, said the division was dismayed “over the actions of the rebels” amid the temporary truce while the whole world is celebrating Christmas and New Year.

There were no reported casualties on the rebel side and the civilians, Uy added.
He said the military has been doing community works, especially in the hinterland villages, in a bid to discourage residents from joining the armed revolutionary movement.

Malaysia trial tests new security law

From Aljazeera (Dec 27): Malaysia trial tests new security law

A complex trial for Filipinos accused of "waging war" against the Malaysian king begins in January.

The self-styled Royal Sulu Army arrived from the Philippines, claiming the land for the Sultan of Sulu [Reuters]

Some 30 people, 27 of them Filipinos, will go on trial in early January in a specially-converted hall in Sabah’s state prison complex to face charges of "waging war" against Malaysia’s King, in what is set to be the most significant test yet of the country’s newest security law.

The accused were detained in the wake of a surprise attack almost a year ago on the sleepy villages around the town of Lahad Datu in Sabah on the Malaysian part of Borneo, after an armed group of about 200 people from the self-styled Royal Sulu Army arrived in boats from the Philippines, claiming the land for the Manila-based national Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III.

After a three week standoff, and amid accusations the government had been slow to respond, Malaysian forces bombed the villages from the air and began a ground offensive that left scores of attackers dead, along with 10 of their own men.

"It’s a cross border situation and very challenging," lawyer N Sivananthan, who was hired by the Philippine government to represent their citizens, told Al Jazeera in an interview ahead of the trial. "They all face the death penalty; that’s the pressure point.

Nevertheless, it’s going to be interesting to see how the court views SOSMA and how it’s going to find a balance between the purpose of the law and the need for a fair trial."

SOSMA, or the Special Offences (Special Measures) Act, was passed in 2012 to replace Malaysia's Internal Security Act and Emergency Ordinance, which allowed for detention without trial. It was designed, "for the purpose of maintaining public order and security and for connected matters," according to the legislation’s opening preamble.

Those on trial, including the Sultan’s nephew, Datu Amirbahar Kiram, were detained in the days and weeks following the incident, as the Malaysian authorities sought to tighten security and the state’s notoriously porous borders. Sivananthan says his clients were not involved in the conflict and were simply, "in the wrong place, at the wrong time." He notes that while police did confiscate a number of machetes, they found no guns on any of the accused.

A challenging trial

A hearing last September gave some indication of the challenges posed by the trial, which is expected to continue until February 14. The defendants, heads shaved and dressed in purple prison uniforms, shuffled into the first floor court room with their interpreters, barely acknowledging each other or anyone else. It took more than 20 minutes to simply arrange the seating in the dock. Many of the defendants didn't even seem able to follow the proceedings. Given their precarious legal status, no family members were able to attend.

Requesting more time, Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail told the judge that the prosecution would be using a large amount of what he called, "technical" evidence; information gleaned from intercepts and other forms of intelligence material. Sivananthan, a noted criminal lawyer who is Malaysia’s sole counsel at the International Criminal Court, says the prosecution has indicated it may also want to use some "hidden" evidence. Under SOSMA, the prosecution can keep the identity of its witnesses secret and use information without revealing its sources. Abroad, in the UK for example, judges have usually treated such evidence with extreme caution.

"This whole trial could be in Chambers," said Nalini Elumalai, executive director of human rights group Suaram, which campaigned for years for the ISA’s repeal. "It’s a similar situation (to the ISA); a similar modus operandi. The only difference is that, at least, these people are brought to court. The question is the evidence. They may have been involved in Lahad Datu, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to a fair trial. These are serious offences."

The first and last trial on charges of "waging war against the King" involved Al Ma’unah, an Islamic group that seized control of a military armoury in northern Perak in 2000, stealing weapons and killing two hostages during a days-long jungle siege. The leader of the group and his two deputies were both found guilty and sentenced to death, while other members of the organisation were given life sentences. Those who plead guilty to reduced charges got lighter sentences. All were Malaysians.

SOSMA has been used already in a handful of cases and defence lawyers have raised both constitutional issues and fair trial concerns.

"You cannot use a hammer to kill an ant," said lawyer New Sin Yew, who is defending a Malaysian charged under SOSMA with offences against Syria. "Even though SOSMA allows the derogation of certain rights (enshrined in the constitution), what is the extent of that derogation? Those provisions should not go further than necessary. This is going to be a very important trial."

Complex history

Jamalul Kiram died in October, but the Philippines has never completely dropped its claim to Sabah, whose people voted, once the British left, to join the newly independent Malaya in the Malaysian Federation in 1963.

Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos have lived in Sabah for generations, many of them illegally. Many earn a meagre salary on the oil palm plantations that are ubiquitous along the state’s eastern coast, living in makeshift shacks in clearings among the trees.

Most speak only local dialects and can’t communicate in Malay or English.

The Lahad Datu incident shocked many Malaysians – it was the top search on Google in 2013 - and fuelled a slew of conspiracy theories regarding the circumstances surrounding the attack and Malaysia’s relationship with the Philippines, including peace talks between the Muslim south and the government in Manila.

Evidence presented at trial, if it’s released in open court, could well provide more information not only about what actually happened in February and March, but also a complex historical relationship.;postID=422289595873157525

Photo: Outgoing Army Chief

From MindaNews (Dec 26): Photo: Outgoing Army Chief

Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes, Philippine Army chief, receives a gift from Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division, in Cagayan de Oro City 26 Dec 2013. Coballes is due to retire on Feb. 7, 2014 when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

Photos: 45th Year

From MindaNews (Dec 26): Photos: 45th Year

New People’s Army guerrillas perform a drill during the 45th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on Dec. 26 somewhere in the Caraga region. The NPA has vowed to intensify attacks against government forces and increase its fighting force to 25,000. MindaNews photo by Aries Sandino M. Mordeno

Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, Mindanao spokesperson of the National Democratic Front addresses New People”s Army guerrillas, mass base supporters and journalists who attended the 45th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on Dec. 26. The NPA has vowed to intensify attacks against government forces and increase its fighting force to 25,000. The celebration took place somewhere in the Caraga region. MindaNews photo by Aries Sandino M. Mordeno

PNP says kidnapped birdwatchers still alive

From the Manila Times (Dec 27): PNP says kidnapped birdwatchers still alive

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Friday that the two European birdwatchers who were kidnapped by al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits in Tawi-Tawi early last year are still alive.

PNP chief Director General Alan Purisma made the statement after government troops captured a ranking ASG member behind in the kidnapping of Dutchman Ewold Horn and Swiss, Lorenzo Vinciquerra.

“They [Europeans] are still alive, based on the reports, they say they are still alive . . . but we do not have evidence to that,” Purisima told reporters in Camp Crame.

Purisima said that based on PNP information, the two Europeans are still in the custody of ASG in Sulu and said that efforts are being exerted by the authorities to safely secure the two foreign hostages.

“We are investigating all of this, we don’t want to give details . . . they are with their captors and we are still verifying the right information on this,” Purisima said.

NPA rebels dishonor holiday truce

From the Manila Times (Dec 27): NPA rebels dishonor holiday truce

AS the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) claimed major strategic victories in Mindanao, its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), staged another daring ambush against government troops in the province of Bukidnon that left one soldier dead, while  the  party’s  two-day Christmas ceasefire was still in effect.

First Lt. Norman Tagros, battalion spokesman, Eighth Infantry Battalion, Fourth Infantry Division, on Friday identified the fallen soldier as Private First Class Akmad Maruhom, a member of the Barangay Assistance Team for Peace and Development troops of the Philippine Army.

According to Tagros, the incident happened on Thursday at about 6:30 p.m. in Sitio Ulayanon, Barangay Kalabugao, Impasugong, Bukidnon with still more than five hours for the ceasefire to lapse.

On December 18, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) declared a truce to be observed starting at 12 a.m. of December 24 till 11:59 p.m. of December 26.

“The action of the NPAs in the area clearly violated this previously announced truce from their side,” he said, adding that the incident was the second time that the rebels staged an ambush on government troops facilitating peace and development activities.

Tagros explained that said team was not deployed to wage a war against the NPA and other threat groups but rather to assist to assist the local government in the delivery of basic services and in the implementation of government programs and projects.

“The program is rather implemented to address local issues which are commonly
exploited by the NPA so as people may be recruited to its ranks and pursue armed struggle,” Tagros further said.

The CPP has claimed that it is growing stronger in Mindanao and would reach the strategic stalemate phase in the next few years, and eventually towards a socialist revolution.

“Despite the AFP’s [Armed Forces of the Philippines’s] military and psy-war operations . . . the revolutionary bases have rapidly expanded and gained strength in more than 2,000 barrios in more than 200 municipalities and 19 provinces in Mindanao,” said Jorge Madlos, spokesman, National Democratic Front of the Philippines Mindanao Chapter.

In the last five years, Madlos said, tactical offensives of the NPA have significantly intensified from only 250 in 2010 to 350 in 2011, to 400 in 2012 and to more than 400 in 2013.

He claimed that among their major victories include the raid on Del Monte plantation, the raid on the Cafgu-Army detachment in Barangay Lantad, Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, the ambush of an army unit in Barangay Bituan, Tulunan, North Cotabato, the confiscation of arms from Dasia Security Agency in Tagum City and from the PNP headquarters in Kibawe, Bukidnon and in Don Victoriano, Misamis Occidental.

From 2011 to 2013, Madlos added, AFP casualties have risen to at least a battalion a year while that from the NPA did not go beyond a platoon each year for the same period.

A battalion is composed of 300 to 1,200 soldiers, while a company has 80 to 250 soldiers.

Army soldiers to get new boots, medical kits – Gen. Coballes

From MindaNews (Dec 26): Army soldiers to get new boots, medical kits – Gen. Coballes

The Philippine Army will soon be replacing its trusted black boots with a newer version – softer and water-resistant shoes that are well-suited for combat operations in tropical jungles.

Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes, the outgoing Philippine Army chief, said aside from the brand new Army boots, each soldier will be issued with medical kit complete with life-saving blood-clotting medicines.

Coballes said the items are part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ P15-billion modernization program, which includes newer howitzers, tanks and mortar platforms for the Philippine Army.

“These items will be available for the soldiers by next year. We are happy the suppliers have settled their differences,” Coballes said in a visit to the 4th Infantry Division headquarters here today.

Coballes directed battalion commanders of the 4ID to submit the sizes of the soldiers’ feet as soon as the suppliers deliver the new boots.

The new color-green Army boots, Coballes said, is designed like the boots worn by United States soldiers in Afghanistan.

“Instead of desert colors, our boots will be color green to suit our theater of operations,” he said. He added that the new boots, which are water resistant, will also be better for running as these are made of softer materials.

Coballes said medical kits that include life-saving, blood-clotting drugs will be issued to Army soldiers also next year.

“These drugs increase the chances of survival of our soldiers wounded in battle,” he said.

Coballes is due to retire on Feb. 7, 2014 when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Army chief awards 4ID soldiers

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Dec 27): Army chief awards 4ID soldiers

SEVEN soldiers belonging to the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro City were pinned their medals, which were awarded to them for exemplary show of bravery during the different encounters in the division’s area of responsibility.

Lieutenant General Noel Coballes, commanding general of the Philippine Army, pinned the medals of recognition on the soldiers.

The gold cross medal, which is the fourth highest military award, was given to Private First Class (Pfc.) Dexie A. Macalaya; Pfc. Niño S. Negolo and Pfc. Jonbert L. Sabado all from Charlie Company, 58th Infantry (Dimalulupig) Battalion.

The unit encountered around 30 New People's Army members in Barangay Ampianga, Sugbongcogon, Misamis Oriental, wherein two rebels were killed and two firearms were recovered.

The Military Merit Medal, which is given to recognize a soldier’s heroic achievement during or in support to military action, was also given to Captain Henry M. Pang-Ay of 26th Infantry (Ever Onwards) Battalion; Corporal Algrin T. Yañez of 42nd Division Reconnaisance Company; 1st Lieutenant Norman M. Tagros and Corporal Dandy T. Panganiban both from 8th Infantry (Dependable) Battalion.

Coballes was in Mindanao to see the overall condition of his troops in the different areas and to personally delivered to the soldiers his Christmas message and give recognition to the effort of the 4th ID under the command of Major General Ricardo Visaya.

He underscored the efforts of the soldiers for the different programs it successfully supported for the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan.”

Coballes said that the operations of the division resulted in the neutralization of almost 100 NPA rebels and the recovery of 80 firearms.

He also mentioned the significant accomplishment of the unit in terms of environmental protection, which added to the country’s overall economic output most specifically that of Northern Mindanao.

“Lubos akong nagpapasalamat sa suportang binigay ninyo sa aking pamumuno at sa inyong taus-pusong paglilingkod sa bayan,” Coballes said.

Ka Oris: the Party is youthful at 45

Posted the pro-CPP Davao Today (Dec 27): Ka Oris: the Party is youthful at 45

SAN LUIS, Agusan Del Sur — Streamers bearing greetings for the 45th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines were hung in several places, one of which was only few meters away from the Philippine Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion detachment. Not too far away, several “skylab” motorcycles busily negotiated muddy roads as some people from surrounding villages walked on foot.

Amidst the sweltering heat of the sun, Ka Oris, the spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines – Mindanao greeted the thousands who came to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The rebel leader’s message, which he made after a series of cultural presentations by face-painted young presenters from the urban centers, is that “the party is youthful” even as it nears its golden years.

“Look at our performers from the cities, our army (NPA), our leaders, the revolution is indeed young,” he said.

Ka Oris, standing tall in an improvised stage with his iconic white beard and one-star “Mao” cap, then read the National Democratic Front – Mindanao (NDF) statement on the CPP’s 45th anniversary.

The rebel leader said that “despite the AFP’s (Armed Forces of the Philippines) military and psy-war operations,” the “revolutionary bases” of the NPA “have rapidly expanded and gained strength in more than 2000 barrios in more than 200 municipalities and 19 provinces in Mindanao.”

Oris said the NPA number to about 10 battalions which are “spread out in 46 guerilla zones in five regions in Mindanao.”

With the “increasing” number, Oris said that tactical offensives (TOs) of the NPA have “significantly intensified.”

“From only 250 TOs in 2010, this has increased to 350 in 2011, to 400 in 2012 and to more than 400 in the entire year of 2013,” he said.

He said further  that “from 2011 until 2013, casualties sustained by enemy forces have risen to at least a battalion per year, while, on the part of the NPA, the number of casualties did not go beyond a platoon each year of the same period.”

With regards to procurement of arms, Ka Oris said that they have in fact bought from AFP personnel.

“Some we buy from the savings of retired officials, some from incumbent. But Aquino need not worry as the quantity is still small,” he jested.

With regards to the AFP’s “capture” of a supposed NPA “mine factory” in Laak, Compostela Valley few weeks ago,  Oris said that they have “many” and can always create “more” factories.

Oris also said that they have launched “punitive actions” against “large-scale mining and plantations owned by the big bourgeois comprador and imperialists who continue to exploit millions of peasants and agri-workers, grab their lands, and plunder and ravage the environment.”

In a press conference that ensued later, a member of the media asked if there was truth that in one of their operations, the NPA slaughtered pigs of Mega Farms in Bukidnon.

Ka Oris explained that the slaughter of pigs was justified, saying “that was just one way to disable their operation. The company polluted the water and the surrounding and destroyed the livelihood of farmers. There is no other way to reprimand them but to kill those pigs,” he said.

Oris said the company was also oppressing their workers who were paid at a P120 per day, smaller than what workers in other NPA-influenced areas who receive at P250.
He also said adding that Mega Farm and other companies have already expressed willingness to talk with them.

With regards to other companies, the NDF, however, has set some “pre-conditions.”
“In plantations for example, the pre-condition is that they cease their expansion before they negotiate with us,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ka Oris scored the Aquino government saying that while “the people continue to suffer from destitution as a result of the country’s economic crisis,” the “US-Aquino III regime holds no interest in and has lost its capability to alleviate the misery of the millions of victims of catastrophes, such as those hit by typhoons Sendong, Pablo, Yolanda and the quake in the Visayas.”

Oris said that “in truth it is only the NPA that has reached the great majority of Pablo victims as they are situated in the countrysides.”

Like in Pablo areas, Oris said that CPP units in Yolanda-hit areas should “re-organize in order to rebuild the people’s livelihood.”

He said that the people cannot rely on the Aquino government as “it is preoccupied with squandering away people’s funds, such as in the detested cases of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and other vile forms of corruption,” he said. He also added in the interview later that “if PNoy is removed, there will be no more DAP, no more PDAF.”

Moreover, he scored Aquino’s “failure to deliver justice to the victims of the Maguindanao massacre as well as to the victims of the mounting cases of extrajudicial killings, indiscriminate bombing during the Zamboanga City siege and other forms of human rights abuses.”

Ka Oris said that the “almost daily gunfight” in Moro areas prove that the Moro people “doubts the government’s sincerity” with its ongoing talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

With regards to human rights, Oris said that it is “good” that the military recognize CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) which he said “promotes the protection of the people’s basic rights.”

However, he stressed the protection of the people’s basic rights is the principal responsibility of the “incumbent political power” and “secondary governments like the NPA.”

Ka Oris, in his statement also called on CPP members to advance the armed revolution until the strategic stalemate phase is achieved in the next few years.

He said that the stalemate phase is when there is already “parity” of the AFP and NPA forces. He explains that with the NPA, this means the support of “people’s militias.”

“With the support of about 10-30 million Filipinos, the enemy can now be overwhelmed by this combination,” he said.

Oris said that the CPP must “consolidate and expand the membership” in order to “increase its ability to lead in raising the level of the people’s war towards the strategic stalemate phase until complete victory.”

Navy transports 266 detained MNLF members to Manila

From the Philippine Star (Dec 27): Navy transports 266 detained MNLF members to Manila

The Philippine Navy (PN) transported under tight security Friday all the detained members of the Nur Misuari faction of the  Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) involved in the siege, an official said.

The military, police and the personnel of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) escorted 266 MNLF detainees into the Navy Landing Ship Transport (LST) 550 from the San Ramon Penal Farm (SRPF) on Thursday night.

Twentysix  of the detained MNLF rebels came from the Zamboanga City Reformatory Center (ZCRC), according to a BJMP official.

Col. Andrelino Colina, commander of the Task Force Zamboanga (TFZ), said the transfer  of the MNLF detainees was made in coordination with other law enforcement units, including the BJMP, Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“The movement of the detainees was not made public due to security consideration,” Colina said.

According to Colina, they could not discount possibility of sabotage even as they were prepared to thwart such an  attempt.

All the MNLF prisoners at the San Ramon Penal Farm were properly turned over by the BJMP to the military and were all aboard the Navy ship that departed under heavy guards about 8 a.m for Manila.

Chief Superintendent Juanito Vaño,  Police Regional Office 9 (PRO) director, committed 552 of his police forces with 164 soldiers, 51 navy, and 105 BJMP personnel securing the detainees enroute to Manila.

The  transfer of the detained MNLF members was based on the resolution approved by the Supreme Court (SC) and the regional court here to transfer the rebels to the detention facility in Bicutan, Taguig in Manila.

Meanwhile, tension has slowly eased in this city following the transfer of the detained MNLF rebels, according to the military and police.

However, government forces and local police said security is still heightened in this city to prevent any possible lashback from the sympathizers and supporters of the MNLF under Misuari, the erstwhile leader who remains at large.

Misuari and the detained MNLF members were charged with rebellion and violation of international humanitarian law, genocide and other crimes against humanity in connection with the September siege.

AFP renews call for NPA to lay down arms

From the Philippine Star (Dec 27): AFP renews call for NPA to lay down arms

The military on Friday renewed its call for communist rebels to abandon the armed struggle in the wake of attacks attributed to the New People’s Army (NPA) during the holidays.

Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the insurgents should support the peace process instead of pursuing the armed struggle.

“Instead of waging violence to make themselves relevant, the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA should just lay down their arms and commit themselves to the peace process without preconditions,” Zagala said in a statement.

“After decades of fruitless insurgency, the CPP-NPA should stop being part of the problem and start becoming part of the solution,” he added.

Zagala made the statement in the wake of atrocities supposedly committed by communist guerillas during the holiday season.

Last Tuesday, suspected NPA members burned three taxis owned by Holiday Taxi in Panabo, Davao del Norte. Authorities believe the incident has something to do with the insurgents’ extortion activities.

A day before the burning incident, suspected NPA members shot dead a soldier on Christmas break in Allacapan, Cagayan.

On Thursday, one Army soldier was killed after insurgents harassed a military team in Impasugong, Bukidnon. The attack happened on the third day of the holiday truce declared by the CPP.

The rebels approved a holiday ceasefire truce that took effect from December 24 to 26 and from December 31 to January 2. The government declared a longer truce that took effect last December 21 and will last until January 15.

The CPP has said that it no longer expects a peace deal to be forged within the term of the Aquino administration due to its supposed unwillingness to negotiate a “just peace.”

Zagala said they would continue to work with stakeholders to address the root causes of insurgency.

He said such cooperation has enabled them to free 29 areas from communist as of June.

Zagala said these areas are Cavite, Marinduque, Romblon, Guimaras, Cebu, Siquijor, Biliran, Bohol, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Aklan, Antique, Eastern Samar, Apayao, La Union, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Kalinga, Nueva Viscaya, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Benguet, Batanes, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, South Cotabato, Saranggani and Davao Oriental.

Rebel unit claims victories in Negros

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 27): Rebel unit claims victories in Negros

The Apolinario Boy Gatmaitan Command of the New People's Army yesterday claimed victories in several tactical offensives they have launched against government forces, and also declared having defeated military campaigns in Negros Island since 2007.

Rebel spokesman Juanito Magbanua II, in a statement he issued, said that despite the obstacles and difficulties faced by the NPA in Negros, they were able to defeat the Oplan Bayanihan, triad operation and the whole nation approach strategy of the Armed Forces, that mobilizes local government units and agencies, non-government organizations, and the church, through its Church-Military-Police Advisory Group.

Contrary to military claims, Magbanua said, not a single guerrilla front has been dismantled in Negros. Instead, he said, they were successful in their expansion and recovery of their lost territories, as they have also established the Komiteng Pang-Organisa sa Baryo and Lubos Asosasyon Masa in several barangays and soon also in the municipal level.

Magbanua also claimed that they have confiscated firearms, that could arm a company-sized unit of the NPA.

The Armando Sumayang Command, one of the NPA guerilla fronts in Negros island, in another statement it issued, also claimed success in southern Negros, citing the successful ambush against 47 th Infantry Battalion soldiers, that led to the recovery of five high-powered firearms.

Andrea Guerrero, spokesperson of the Armando Sumayang Command, said they have also punished the Philex Mining Company for the destruction of environment, meted death penalty to a drug pusher, rapist and a military informant.

Rebels who staged ambush in La Castellana penalized

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 27): Rebels who staged ambush in La Castellana penalized

Members of the New People's Army responsible for the ambush in Brgy. Puso, La Castellana, Negros Occidental, on Jan. 27, 2013 have been penalized because of the incident, the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command, said in a statement it issued, yesterday.

The incident, described by the military and police as a massacre, claimed the lives of eight civilians and a policeman, and caused injuries to 12 others.

Rebel spokesman Juanito Magbanua, however, maintained that the members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team who were killed in the ambush had firearms, based on their witnesses.

Magbanua said BPAT members, armed with M-16 armalite rifles, accompanied members of the Philippine Army in the raid on those accused of coddling and hiding NPA members.

In a tape-recorded statement, the NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command, through its spokesman,  Ka JB Regalado, had earlier apologized for the deaths of the civilians, and admitted lapses committed by the guerrillas. He claimed that it was being investigated.

The victims, who were on board a Fuzo Canter vehicle, were on their way home after attending a fiesta when they were ambushed by about 20 rebels on January 27 in Barangay Puso, La Castellana.

Magbanua said leaders and members of a squad-size rebel unit who staged the ambush, had violated the rules and regulations of the NPA

‘Gov't, NPA Negros ceasefire holding'

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 27): ‘Gov't, NPA Negros ceasefire holding'

The ceasefire declared by the government and the New People's Army appears to be holding in Negros, with no insurgency-related incident taking place as of yesterday, as the Communist Party of the Philippines marked its 45 th founding anniversary, military and police records show .

Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3 rd Infantry Division commander, however, said that with the suspension of military operations, they will continue to pursue their peace and development work in Negros and Panay islands, while also taking proactive defense counter measures to prevent any violence that may be staged by the NPA.

Baladad, who noted that the NPA usually resorts to violence during the CPP anniversary, said they will maintain their presence in communities, to protect civilians, government and private infrastructure, as well as military camps and detachments.

The military has suspended its offensives against the NPA from Dec. 21 to Jan. 15 next year. The six-day SOMO of the NPA, meanwhile cover Dec. 24 to Dec. 26, and Dec. 31 to Jan. 2 next year.

Baladad said the NPA took advantage of its initial SOMO, in relation to the occurance of typhoon Yolanda, by firing at the Bayanihan Team of soldiers conducting peace and development activities in Miag-ao, Iloilo on Dec. 17

“We will not allow the past transgressions and violations committed by the CPP-NPA that stained the holidays with violence to happen again this year,” Baladad , said in a statement, he issued.

Despite the armed conflict, Baladad said, the Army's commitment, sincerity and resolve to peace will always be present, especially during this Christmas season. “Communities deserve to celebrate the yuletide peacefully,” he added.

Amid ceasefire, soldier killed in Bukidnon gunbattle

From ABS-CBN (Dec 27): Amid ceasefire, soldier killed in Bukidnon gunbattle

A soldier died in a clash between government troops and suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon on Thursday evening.

Soldiers from the Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) team of the Philippine Army's 8th Infantry Battalion encountered some 10 NPA rebels in Barangay Kalabugao at around 6:30 p.m.

The ensuing gunbattle lasted for about 20 minutes and resulted in the death of one of the soldiers. The clash occurred as the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the political arm of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, celebrated its 45th anniversary.

The encounter also took place as a truce between the government and the communist rebels is in effect.

The CPP said it would declare a Christmas ceasefire that would cover December 24, 25, 26, 31, Jan. 1 and 2.

For its part, the government announced a ceasefire or Suspension of Offensive Military Operation (SOMO) from December 21 up to Jannuary 15.

Abducted Indian national escapes captors

From ABS-CBN (Dec 27): Abducted Indian national escapes captors

An Indian national who was abducted in Barangay Landasan, Parang, Maguindanao was able to escape his captors early Friday after being held captive for over a month.

Krishan Singh Arora was rescued by police authorities in Purok 2, Barangay Piraka in Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte at around 6 a.m.

Senior Inspector Junberth Dahili, chief of Sultan Naga Dimaporo police, said they received information regarding the presence of a kidnap victim in the area.

Arora, 53, was abducted by around 10 men in his house last November 13.

Arora said 7 of his captors, who he said were led by a certain Commander Aguila, were wearing masks to cover their faces.

He said the suspects used pepper spray and pointed a gun at him. He was brought to Nunungan, Lanao del Norte.

He said he was unharmed during his captivity, but was guarded by around three to five men all the time.

Arora, who is the chief managing director of Cresencia C. Alberto Mining and Resources Trading, said his company paid his captors P200,000 as ransom last December 11, but the suspects refused to release him.

He said he was fortunate that at one moment today, his guards fell asleep, giving him the opportunity to escape.

Meanwhile, Arora expressed gratitude to the police and the residents who helped him.
Manhunt operations have already been launched against Arora's captors.

Korean troops in PHL to help with Yolanda rehabilitation and recovery

From GMA News (Dec 27): Korean troops in PHL to help with Yolanda rehabilitation and recovery

South Korean troops in PHL to help with Yolanda rehabilitation

Members of the South Korean Armed Forces in Cebu before heading to Leyte to help with rehabilitation and recovery operations. Embassy of the Republic of Korea

More than 60 years after the Korean War, some 500 members of the South Korean Armed Forces arrived in Cebu Friday to conduct rehabilitation and recovery operations in typhoon-ravaged Leyte.
“The deployment of the troops reflects the gratitude of the Korean people to the Filipinos who fought with them during the Korean War, and their optimism about the future of Tacloban," according to a press statement from the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Philippines.
"We hope that their work will bring the people of the two countries closer to each other,” it added.
The Korean expeditionary unit, composed of medical and engineering personnel, will carry out its mission for up to a year. 
It will prioritize recovery of public facilities like schools, hospitals, and government offices particularly in Tanauan and towns in the vicinity of Tacloban.
The Korean team, known as “Araw” or “Sun,” will take temporary shelter in Palo, Leyte.
The Korean embassy said this is the first ever overseas deployment of Korean military personnel in the form of a state-sanctioned unilateral assistance.
Korea was among the first countries to respond to the needs of typhoon-affected residents with $25 million in cash and in kind.
A Korea Disaster Relief Team also conducted relief and recovery operations in Tacloban. Its medical team stayed long after many other foreign aid teams had left.
On Nov. 8, Typhoon Yolanda raked through the Visayas, flattening towns and cities and killing over 6,000 people.
Based on the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FaiTH), the total foreign aid pledged is now at P23.798 billion with P592.58 million total cash already received by the government.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) earlier said rebuilding typhoon-hit areas will cost P361 billion.

The figure includes P183.3 billion in housing and resettlement costs, P28.4 billion for rebuilding public infrastructure, P37.4 billion for financing education and health services, P18.7 billion for agriculture, P70.6 billion for industry and services, P4 billion for local government, and P18.4 billion for social protection.
President Benigno Aquino III expects the reconstruction and rebuilding efforts to be finished by 2017.

Palace asked: Release P10B for fighter jets

From Rappler (Dec 26): Palace asked: Release P10B for fighter jets

PUSHING THROUGH: Defense department asks Malacañang to release funds for fighter jets. Rappler file photo

PUSHING THROUGH: Defense department asks Malacañang to release funds for fighter jets. Rappler file photo

The Department of National Defense has requested Malacañang to release some P10 billion to comply with the demand of Korean Aerospace Industry (KAI) for a 52% downpayment for the 12 fighter jets the Philippines is acquiring.

"It will push through. We sent it to the Office of the President with our recommendation.... We recommended approval of the downpayment and progress billing," said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
As territorial disputes intensify in the region, the FA-50 is meant to build the fighter capability of the Air Force after it retired the last of its US-designed F-5 fighters in 2005.

The payment terms earlier put the government-to-contract in limbo after the South Korean company demanded the huge downpayment for the P18.9 billion contract.
Under the law, the defense department can only pay a maximum of 15% downpayment. (READ: 'Major issues' with South Korea delay PH fighter jets)
It is now up to Malacañang to approve the DND recommendation. If approved, delivery is expected in June 2015.
The purchase of the 12 fighter jets is part of the revised Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization program, which got an initial funding of P75 billion from President Benigno Aquino III. The fund is focused on acquiring assets to improve the military's capability to defend the country's maritime territory.
The defense department also asked KAI to agree to deliver spare parts within 60 days. KAI ealier wanted 180 days. This will be applicable during the warranty period, which is usually a period of 2 years.
Modernization plans

Aside from fighter jets, the Armed Forces is also acquiring 2 new frigates also worth P19 billion. These are the 2 major items to be acquired using the fresh funds.

BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcararaz are currenlty the Navy's most capable warships. They were recently acquired from the US Coast Guard to patrol the West Philippine Sea. (READ and WATCH: Maiden voyage of PH's most capable warship)

Some of the military's assets were put on display in Camp Aguinaldo during AFP's 78th anniversary celebrations. Among them were 3 brand new naval helicopters that earlier this month. These naval choppers will be deployed in tandem with the warships to expand the navy's monitoring capabilities.

The 2 brand new frigates will be more capable than Alcaraz and Del Pilar. It will be capable of submarine warfare and will be able to carry missiles. The DND has opened the bid for the new frigates.

The Armed Forces is also improving its naval detachment in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, that is facing the disputed Spratly Islands. (READ: PH to upgrade naval detachment facing Spratlys)

A shore-based missile with an allocation of P6.5 billion is also in the pipeline.

Over 200 MNLF fighters move to Metro Manila jail

From Rappler (Dec 27): Over 200 MNLF fighters move to Metro Manila jail

TO MANILA. A file photo of MNLF fighters caught after the Zamboanga siege. Rappler file photo

TO MANILA. A file photo of MNLF fighters caught after the Zamboanga siege. Rappler file photo

Over 200 Muslim rebels arrested for their participation in the Zamboanga City siege in September were moved on Friday, December 27, from Zamboanga City to their new detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

They face lifetime imprisonment for charges of rebellion and crimes against humanity. They will be tried by the Taguig regional trial court.
According to Region IX state prosecutor Peter Medalle, the rebels are expected to be arraigned in January 2014.
Zamboanga Ciy raised the maximum Code Red alert on Friday following the transfer of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) detainees from the San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm located in the southern part of the city, according to city information officer Sheila Covarrubias.
Upon the request of Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle "Beng" Climaco, the Supreme Court approved last October the transfer of the MNLF fighters to Metro Manila.
"It's safer if they are in Manila. Camp Bagong Diwa is a detention facility for high-value prisoners," Medalle told Rappler. It is where some members of the Abu Sayyaf Group are also detained.
Zamboanga City residents feared possible rescue missions for the detainees, a common operation that the MNLF launches to save their members from imprisonment. Most of the detained MNLF fighters are from nearby Basilan and Sulu.
"There could be attempts to rescue them from their present detention. Authorities decided it is wiser to try them in Manila," said Medalle.
The MNLF attacked the city on Sept 9, 2013 and aimed to raise their flag of independence at the City Hall. In previous media interviews, Commander Habier Malik protested the government's talks with rival group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The standoff set back prospects for peace in Mindanao.
The military said it's convinced Malik is dead, but there is no proof of a dead body. An arrest warrant was also issued against MNLF founder Nur Misuari but he remains at large. (READ: Habier Malik: Trapped in the city he seized)
The standoff killed 183 MNLF fighters, 18 soldiers, 5 cops, and 12 civilians. Over 10,000 houses were damaged inside the combat zone. Three months since the siege, many of the families remain in evacuation centers.

CPP gives up on peace talks, calls for Aquino ouster

From Rappler (Dec 27): CPP gives up on peace talks, calls for Aquino ouster

The peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has been in limbo for months. On its 45th anniversary on December 26, Thursday, the CPP declared it is giving up on the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

"In view of the proven unwillingness of the Aquino regime to negotiate a just peace, the revolutionary movement does not expect the resumption of peace negotiations with the regime. It has no choice but to wait for the next regime to engage in serious negotiations," reads a statement of the CPP central committee.

It is also calling for Aquino's ouster, saying he is worse than former President Gloria Arroyo in terms of violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

"Let us do our best to cause the ouster of the Aquino regime or compel Aquino’s resignation from his office because of puppetry to US imperialism, corruption, electoral fraud, grave human rights violations, mismanagement of pre-disaster preparations and disaster aid, mendacity, unrestricted mining, logging, landgrabbing and other forms of destroying the environment," it said.

The talks collapsed in February 2013 when the two panels couldn't agree on the initial agenda of the negotiations.

According to government, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison changed his mind on a "special track" he had originally agreed to. Under this, both sides would immediately declare a ceasefire and a special panel from both sides would be convened to tackle issues that bring about rebellion. (READ: 'Joma wants peace, the ground doesn't' – Padilla)

Government negotiator Alex Padilla claimed the rebel troops in the Philippines prevailed on Sison to reject the special track and bring back to the table old demands that the government had already rejected. The NDF had wanted the government to, among others, terminate the Aquino administration's anti-poverty flagship program, the conditional cash transfer, stop the military's Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency program, and give land to 5 million landless farmers.

According to the NDF, it was presidential peace adviser Ging Deles who "sabotaged" the talks. “The [government] has deliberately refused to comply with its commitments in agreements forged with the NDF, despite the full knowledge that compliance would immediately break the impasse and cause the resumption of the formal talks,” Sison told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

NDF panel member and spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili tried to save the peace talks when he came to Manila to find out the "real sentiments" of President Aquino. The "special track" and the "regular track" are complementary, he said. But nothing came out of his visit. Agcaoili believed that the President was misled by his Cabinet officials. (READ: NDF exec in PH to get Aquino's 'real sentiments' on peace talks)

It's a familiar refrain in the peace process with the NDF that began two decades ago, at the time of former President Corazon Aquino. (READ: Guess who's 45?)

The communist underground reached its peak under her regime - with close to 25,000 armed regulars, according to the military. But the fall of communism, factionalism, as well as strategic and battlefield blunders have reduced communist strength and influenced over the years. Padilla said the New People's Army (NPA) is now down to more than 4,000 armed regulars.

Yet the military still considers the NPA the biggest security threat. (READ: Finish insurgency, AFP chief tells commanders)

Significant developments, achievements noted in the military, defense sectors

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 27): Significant developments, achievements noted in the military, defense sectors

With the year 2013 coming to a close, the military and defense sectors, despite being hampered by a chronic lack of funds, have reported significant accomplishments in their security, community development and disaster relief missions and acquisition of additional equipment that further boosted their capabilities to defend the nation.

The following are some of the events that have tried and tested the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of National Defense (DND) during the outgoing year:

The Philippine Army demonstrated its capability of defending the country against aggression when it repelled rouge Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters who attacked and occupied parts of Zamboanga City from Sept. 9 to 21.

Fifteen Army soldiers, including three officers, died while defending and liberating Zamboanga City from this unprovoked assault.

"Though the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the PA in particular, successfully performed its mandate, it had to bear the loss caused by the death of these brave warriors. After almost three weeks of fighting, the rogue MNLF fighters under Nur Misuari surrendered. The calibrated response done by the Army to protect the non-combatants which further led to the rescue of 195 hostages, was considered as one of the most successful rescue missions in (its) history," PA spokesperson Capt. Anthony Bacus said.

Another test in the capability of the military was the disaster response effort for typhoon "Yolanda" which battered a large part of Eastern Visayas, including the regional capital Tacloban City, last Nov. 8.

Bacus said the PA deployed 155 military vehicles and 4,000 soldiers to help in the humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts in Tacloban and other typhoon-affected areas.

According to Bacus, major units coming from the 10th and 4th Infantry Divisions based in Mindanao had sent battalions of carpenter-soldiers to help rebuild wreck schools, hospitals and other government buildings severely damaged by the super typhoon.

He said that water search and rescue (WASAR)–capable and collapsed structure search and rescue (CSSR)–capable teams from the 525th Engineering Battalion were also deployed to Tacloban City.

Troopers from the 48th Infantry Battalion, 7th Infantry Division; 80th Infantry Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division and the 1st Special Forces Battalion were also sent as augmentation forces.

The PA spokesperson stated that medical teams from the Army General Hospital had also been deployed, as well as two squads from the Civil Military Operations with their loud speakers and communication electronics and information assets.

Aside from these units, a Philippine Army Relief Center was also established at the PA Wellness Center (Army Gym in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City) with the Civic-Military Operations Group as the unit responsible for the collection and repacking of relief items.

Besides the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, the PA also conducted "Operation Linis/Coastal Clean-Up" and tree planting activities with full multi-sector participation.

On the other hand, the arrival of its Hamilton-class cutter, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), and three of the five AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters, and signing and bidding of major ship contracts, the modernization of the Philippine Navy (PN) is now going on a good clip.

Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said that they are very excited with the way things are going for the PN which for decades has sadly lagged behind its other Southeast Asian counterparts.

With the arrival of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz last Aug. 6 after a two-month voyage from the United States, and commissioning last Nov. 22 and delivery of the three AW-109s last Dec. 8, Fabic said the maritime domain awareness capability of the PN was greatly boosted.

Contracts for the naval helicopters were signed on Dec. 20, 2012.

The arrival of these assets also ensured that BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), the country's first Hamilton-class cutter, will no longer have to do maritime sovereignty patrols in the West Philippine Sea on her own.

The ability of the PN to protect the country's vast waters will be greatly increased once the combat versions of the AW-109s, the last two of the five ordered for P1.33 billion from AgustaWestland, arrives in the third quarter of 2014.

Last Dec. 12, BRP Ramon Alcaraz, after her three-week relief mission off "Yolanda"-battered Tacloban City, was assigned to the Western Command in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

This military unit is tasked to protect Palawan's vast maritime areas which include parts of the Kalayaan Island Group and the West Philippine Sea.

"2013 was a very good year for the PN. We are hoping that the coming year (2014) will also be a good one for us," Fabic said.

Aside from this, another good thing that happened for the Navy in 2013 was that the contract for the PN's P4-billion "strategic sealift vessel" (SSVs) was finally awarded to PT PAL Indonesia (Persero) early last August.

The latter company won after offering a bid price offer of P3,863,999,520.

The two-ship project is expected to be completed within two years.

"The SSV is an integral part of the PN's Service Force (logistic) and is needed to accomplish the Navy's missions in different areas," Fabic earlier said.

The ships are estimated to weigh around 7,300 gross register tons and capable of transporting at least a battalion of troops (500 men) and their equipment.

The SSVs will also be used to improve the PN's transport and lift capabilities.

These missions are needed especially in times of natural disaster of which the Navy is one of the responders, as proven during the aftermath of typhoon "Yolanda" where the PN deployed around 30 ships to help in the ongoing disaster and relief efforts.

The ships are capable of acting as mini-helicopter carriers as it is capable of carrying two helicopters at its flight deck and another at its enclosed hangar area.

Another welcome development for the Navy this year is the bidding for its two-brand new frigates has finally gotten of the ground.

First stage bidding was conducted last Oct. 25 and as of this posting, around four firms have qualified for the program which is worth P18 billion.

Navantia Sepi (RTR Ventures) of Spain and South Korean firms STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. Ltd. and Hyundai Heavy Industries Inc. hurdled the first stage of the bidding process, which involved the inspection of company documents.

The second stage of the bidding will involve the opening of financial proposals and technical documents. This phase will determine if the bidders’ offers are well within the approved budget of P18-billion and if their goods are in line with the specifications provided in the bid documents.

The DND decided to conduct a two-stage competitive bidding due to the technical and detailed nature of the project.

The winning bidder is required to deliver the ships within four years from the opening of a letter of credit, a document that assures the supplier that the government will honor its financial obligations.

And should it come into fruition, the two ships will be the most heavily-armed vessels in the PN service.

At present, the most potent weapon system in the PN service is the 76mm Oto Melara main gun and Mark 38 Model 225mm "Bushmaster" auto-cannon fitted in the Gregorio Del Pilar class frigates and Emilio Jacinto class patrol vessels.

Earlier, PN Patrol Force head Commodore Jose Renan C. Suarez said that the two frigates will be the most capable yet in Philippine service due to its capability to detect and engage airborne, surface and underwater threats simultaneously.

Suarez said that these ships are part of the PN's "Navy Frigate Program" which has a timeline of 2013 to 2017.

He added that these ships are designed with numerous upgrades cycle to ensure that they will remain relevant and competitive against new vessels coming in line.

Suarez said that these ships will greatly enhance PN's capabilities to defend the country's vast maritime territories.

Aside from this, other items in the process of bidding for the Navy include three more multi-purpose attack crafts, of which six to nine are already in service and the so-called "Marines Forces Imagery and Targeting Support System Acquisition Project" (MITSS) for the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) which is worth P684,230,000.

This aims to improve the surveillance, monitoring and targeting capability of three brigades that make up the PMC.

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 getting new equipment to bolster up its capabilities, plans are also afoot to upgrade the existing ships of the fleet.

The DND earlier announced that it is allocating P216 million to modernize the BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37), one of the three Jacinto Class Patrol Vessels (JCPV), in its service.

The latter are the Peacock patrol ships acquired from the United Kingdom on Aug. 1, 1997.

Winding this down is the announcement of DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin that the decision to acquire South Korea's F/A-50 jet aircraft is still on go.

He made this statement after noting that the DND has submitted its report to the Office of the President which recommended approval of the Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) request that the Philippines pay 52 percent of the P18.9-billion price of the 12 F/A-50 aircraft which the country is planning to acquire as it interim fighter planes.

Gazmin also said that should the Office of the President go ahead with their recommendation, along with the so-called progress billing, the planes will be delivered by June 2015.

The DND chief added that both parties have reached a compromise on the delivery of spare parts to 60 days.

DND undersecretary for finance, modernization, installations and munitions Fernando Manalo earlier admitted that some major issues need resolving before the country can push through with its acquisition of the F/A-50 jet aircraft.

He said that the issues are now in the process of negotiations. These include the turnaround time for spare parts which the Philippines wants 30 to 45 days but which the Korea Aerospace Industries is insisting on 180 days, issue on advance payment with the DND insisting only on 15 percent but KAI wants 52 percent.

The DND official stressed that the Philippine decision for a less turnaround time for the spare parts is aimed at keeping the jet aircraft flyable at all times.

Manalo said that the insistence of South Korea of a 52 percent down payment is a major difficulty as the AFP Modernization Act only allows 15 percents payment with the balance being given on the subsequent deliveries.

He added that they will elevate this issue to the Office of the President to determine whether they can give more than the mandated 15 percent to KAI

"We can recommend to the President to grant their request as the money will be used to invest (in the production line) for the aircraft," he added.

The DND earlier had allocated over P18.9 billion to acquire 12 brand-new F/A-50 jet aircraft from KAI.

Fighting erupts anew in Bukidnon, 1 killed

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 27): Fighting erupts anew in Bukidnon, 1 killed

A soldier was killed as fresh fighting between the communist guerrillas erupted on the border of Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental Thursday morning, the military reported on Friday.

Capt. Christian Uy, spokesperson of the army’s Public Affairs Division here, identified the lone fatality as PFC Acmad Maruhom, who was killed in a 20-minute firefight with communist guerrillas of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the outskirt village of Ulayanon, Kalabogao, Bukidnon.

Uy said that the communist guerrillas clearly violated the “unilateral ceasefire” which the NPA themselves asked during the observance of the Christmas holidays.

He said that the soldiers who were members of the Peace and Development Team were conducting community services in the area when fired upon by the NPA in gross violation of the unilateral ceasefire.

Uy said that the NPA flaunted their guns and firearms in a show of force during a propaganda blitz in observance of the NPA’s 45th anniversary on Thursday by posting banners and posters along the highways in the eastern coast of Misamis Oriental unmolested.

He said that the military would have launched a tracking team to engage the armed communist guerrillas in Misamis Oriental and elsewhere in Northern Mindanao were it not for the unilateral ceasefire.

Peace building is Nation building. A Message from Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Dec 27): Peace building is Nation building. A Message from Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

“Peace on earth, good will to all” is the call of the Christmas season, simple and true. And we at OPAPP have sounded this call with all our hearts: through the storms that have rendered parts of the country a howling wilderness, through a senseless siege that has defaced a southern city, through widespread outrage over exposed grand larceny among some high-ranking politicians that has plundered public coffers.

The pain and suffering dealt by these serial disasters is more than we can bear collectively as a nation. But it is precisely at this point that the call to peace and goodwill must convict us at its core. For Christmas brings the promise of new life and a new being. The gospel promise of life abundant does not mock our tragedies. Rather it is a beacon that says life can be much more if we affirm, rather than kill, each other; if we can honor diversity; if we hold all life sacred—including forests and oceans and rivers. How to become instruments of peace so that new life can take root and flourish?

At OPAPP, peace is mediated through five tables; namely (and alphabetically), with the CPLA, the CPP-NPA-NDF, the MILF, the MNLF, and the RPM-P and RPA. Hard as peace negotiations are in the best of times, they become doubly challenging with disasters stretching government resources and attention beyond breaking point.

But, with tenacious resolve, we have managed to stay the course.  We strove with all our will to keep our eye on the ball, so to speak. And, as we approach the end of a year made unforgettable by the horrors it has visited on our shores, we feel truly grateful that we have kept within our grasp the promise of peace even across our most difficult peace tables.  We are grateful for the stakeholders who have stepped up, mainly coming from the areas most affected by the conflict, to help restore and strengthen mechanisms for making and building peace. 

We value the possibilities for dialogue still being birthed and nurtured where it has at times floundered badly.  We take special note that, in the negotiations with MILF, the annex on wealth sharing was a gift of Ramadan, the most sacred Islamic month, and the newly-signed annex on power sharing is a gift of Advent, most holy and celebrated in the Christian calendar. 

As we mark a Babe’s birth, and greet the New Year, let us remember that peace building, in essence, is nation building. We must rise from the rubble and learn to dream anew. This we must pledge not as a Taclobanon or Waray or Davaoeno or Bol-anon or Chavacano or Bisaya or Tausug or Yakan or Samal. This we must pledge as one body politic, as Filipinos who, with our different cultures and histories, are united by birth and blood, unbent by foreign yoke and unbowed by killer quake and storm.

Peace on earth and good will to all. Assalam allaikum.