Monday, March 31, 2014

Reds hiring out-of-school youth – military

From the Philippine Star (Apr 1): Reds hiring out-of-school youth – military

The New People’s Army (NPA) in South Cotabato is reportedly hiring out-of-school youth and training them to fight the government, an Army official said yesterday.

Lt. Abel Fortu, civil military officer of the 27th Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Tupi town, said the NPA is strengthening its ranks by enticing out-of-school youth to join their cause.

“We are worried about it,” Fortu said as he expressed concerns on the reported recruitment in the province, particularly in the towns of Lake Sebu and T’boli.

The towns have a history of atrocities between the NPA rebels and the government forces.

“Parents were complaining that their children were recruited by the communist insurgents,” Fortu said.

He said two mothers from Lake Sebu sought their help after their sons joined the NPA in November last year. “The mothers said their sons have not returned home to this day,” Fortu said.

Several parents from T’boli also had similar complaints.

Fortu urged the rebels to spare the out-of-school youth in their fight against the government.

Several parents from T’boli also had similar complaints.

Fortu urged the rebels to spare the out-of-school youth in their fight against the government.

China: Ayungin trip betrays PH intent

From Rappler (Apr 1): China: Ayungin trip betrays PH intent

China on Monday, March 31, denounced the trip by Filipino journalists to the disputed Ayungin Shoal as a “provocation” that betrays Manila's purpose in bringing Beijing to court.

Speaking to Chinese reporters, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei also questioned the timing of the trip on Saturday, March 29, a day before the Philippines filed a 4,000-page written pleading against China's expansive claims over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). (READ: PH strikes back, files pleading vs China)

“It fully demonstrates that the purpose for the Philippines' willful pursuit of the international arbitration is to cover up its illegal occupation of China's territory and trouble-making in the South China Sea. It is a political provocation by abusing international legal means,” Hong said.

He added this “provocation” shows that disputes over land, not water, lie at the core of the West Philippine Sea issue. The connection is unclear.

Hong said: “The Philippines' provocation on the Ren'ai Reef (Ayungin Shoal) shows once again that at the heart of the South China Sea disputes between China and the Philippines are the disputes on the sovereignty over islands and reefs, which have been excluded from arbitration procedures provided for under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”

China, after all, insists on two basic arguments in seeking to demolish the Philippines' case:

The disputes involve land, which is not covered by UNCLOS; and

The disputes involve the delimitation of maritime boundaries, over which it rejected arbitral proceedings in a declaration under UNCLOS in 2006

By raising these points, China questions the right of the arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration to hear the Philippines' case. (READ: China rejects PH case, invokes int'l law and PH faces major hurdle in China case)

The Philippines, for its part, says the case is not about land but water. It also keeps it hands off the disputes that China excluded from arbitration. This means the tribunal has jurisdiction. (READ: What's at stake in our case vs China)

DAVID VS GOLIATH. A Chinese coast guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a standoff as the Philippine boat attempts to reach Ayungin Shoal, a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014. Photo by Jay Directo/AFP

DAVID VS GOLIATH. A Chinese coast guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a standoff as the Philippine boat attempts to reach Ayungin Shoal, a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014. Photo by Jay Directo/AFP

In the media conference on Monday, Hong also criticized the trip as a build up to the Philippines' filing of a 10-volume memorial against China on Sunday, March 30.

He called it a “deliberately schemed activity with the purpose of further hyping up the issue of the Ren'ai Reef, building momentum for its promotion of the international arbitration and serving its attempt to illegally snatch the Ren'ai Reef which is China's territory.”

"The Philippine side will have to take the consequences caused by its provocative actions," Hong said. (READ: PH warned about backlash from China)

Philippine military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala, on the other hand, said the trip aimed to resupply the Philippines' personnel aboard the country's stranded ship in Ayungin, the BRP Sierra Madre.

"Media was invited to observe for transparency," Zagala said in a statement quoted by Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda. Zagala invited at least 18 members of local and foreign media to the trip.

On Saturday, China ended up harassing a Philippine vessel again in Ayungin – for at least the 11th time since 2013.

It was "a provocative and destabilizing action" on the part of China, US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs has not issued a comment on China's remarks as of posting time.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Monday said his country is "not here to challenge China, to provoke them into any action, but I do believe that they should recognize we have the right to defend our own interests."

Marines guarding Ayungin get award for bravery

From ABS-CBN (Mar 31): Marines guarding Ayungin get award for bravery

Philippine Marines who were deployed for almost five months aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, a military detachment on Ayungin Shoal, get Bronze Cross medals from Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda at a naval forces camp in Palawan on Monday. Photo by Erik De Castro, Reuters

A Philippine government vessel successfully delivered fresh troops, food, and water to a military outpost on a disputed shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on Saturday, after evading two Chinese coastguard ships trying to block its path.

The new troops raised the flag on Sunday, replacing Marines who had been stationed for almost five months at the outpost on Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal).
The outpost is BRP Sierra Madre, a huge, rusting World War Two transport vessel that the Philippine navy intentionally ran aground in 1999 to mark its claim to the reef.

There, around nine Filipino soldiers live for three months at a time in harsh conditions on a reef that Manila says is within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). China, which claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, says the shoal is part of its territory.


"I hope the troops will not be removed from here, and will always be supported," said one of the newly-arrived Marines, Technical Sergeant Albert Villanueva said, after taking his post on the Sierra Madre.

The soldiers who had been replaced over the weekend stayed longer than planned, with limited food and supplies, due to a flare-up with Chinese vessels in the area.

They had been scheduled to go home three weeks ago but Chinese ships blocked two Philippine supply vessels from reaching them on March 9, a move protested by Manila and which the United States described as "provocative".

The Philippine navy resorted to air dropping food and water instead.

On Saturday, tensions simmered again as the Philippine ship with fresh troops and supplies was moving smoothly until it was spotted by a Chinese coastguard ship about an hour away from Ayungin.

The Chinese boat picked up speed to come closer to the Philippine ship, honking its horn at least three times.

After a few minutes, the Chinese ship slowed down, but then a bigger coastguard vessel emerged, moving fast to block the path of the Philippine boat. The Chinese sent a radio message to the Filipinos, saying they were entering Chinese territory.

Instead of stopping or reversing, the Philippine vessel picked up speed and eventually maneuvered away from the Chinese, entering waters that were too shallow for the bigger coastguard ships.

Philippine Marines who were deployed for almost five months aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, a military detachment on Ayungin Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, pledge allegiance to the Philippine flag during a ceremony upon their arrival at a naval forces camp in Palawan on Monday. Photo by Erik De Castro, Reuters

In a military headquarters in Palawan province on Monday, the nine Marines who were stationed for almost five months on Ayungin received Bronze Cross medals for bravery.

The Bronze Cross is one of the highest military awards in the country.

Nineteen journalists who were onboard a supply ship that evaded a Chinese naval blockade of Ayungin also received citations from the Armed Forces.

"We are just hoping that a resolution may be found for this issue regarding territorial disputes. We are hoping that it will be peaceful. We are hoping," First Lieutenant Mike Pelotera said.

Raising the stakes over the South China Sea, the Philippines filed a case against China on Sunday at an arbitration tribunal in The Hague, subjecting Beijing to international legal scrutiny over the waters for the first time.

China reiterated on Sunday that it would not accept international arbitration, saying the only way to resolve the dispute was through bilateral negotiations.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters.

AFP: Guns in alleged US firearms smuggling did not come from us

From GMA News (Apr 1): AFP: Guns in alleged US firearms smuggling did not come from us

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said it is looking into an allegation that one of its officers may have been involved in a supposed plan to smuggle firearms into the United States, but stressed the guns would not have come from its arsenal.

“Kahit na wala pa kaming hawak na pangalan (of the military officer), kahit na wala pa kaming hawak na dokumento o anumang request, tinitignan na rin namin itong allegation na ito,” Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP spokesman, said in an interview on GMA News' “24 Oras” aired Monday evening.

Zagala however said that it seemed impossible that the smuggled firearms would come from the AFP's inventory.

“Meron at merong mga instances na may baril na mawawala, but someone will be accountable for it. Pero hindi yung madamihan... Kung may mawala, isa or dalawa, investigation kaagad yan,” Zagala said.

California state senator Leland Yee was arrested by US authorities on Wednesday (Thursday in the Philippines) on charges of corruption and alleged conspiracy to smuggle and trade in firearms from the Philippines.

According to a Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit, Yee was in touch with a certain Wilson Lim, who used to be based in Mindanao but now living in Bailey City, California. Lim allegedly had a contact in the Philippine military for the high-powered firearms that would be smuggled to the US.

According to the affidavit, Yee also told an FBI undercover agent that Lim's source for the weapons was a Philippine citizen who previously sold guns to individuals, and had managed to bring guns from Cagayan de Oro to the US.

It is not clear whether the “Philippine citizen” and the “Philippine military official with the rank of captain” are the same person.

Zagala said the AFP is ready to work with the FBI on the case, though they have yet to receive a formal request on the matter.

The FBI affidavit also said Yee told an undercover agent that there were some factions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who were not in favor of the peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF, though Yee did not directly say that the smuggled firearms would come from members of the MILF.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, has already denied the allegation.

“Wala kaming alam na ganyan, na involve sa'min. Wala kaming alam na may MILF na involve sa ganyang transaction, yung gun-running, o kaya pagbili ng armas. At saka yung sinasabing faction ng MILF, walang faction ang MILF,” he said.

Government peace panel chairperson Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, on the other hand, refused to give a statement on the issue as she has yet to read the FBI report.

“It will be unfair to point a finger at this point to the MILF or even a faction of the MILF,” Ferrer said.

Last Thursday, the government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), a product of 17 years of negotiations, which both parties hope will pave way for the creation of a new territory in Mindanao to be called the Bangsamoro political entity.

US accuses China of provoking PHL

From GMA News (Apr 1): US accuses China of provoking PHL

The United States criticized China as provocative Monday after its coast guard tried to block a Philippine vessel that was rotating troops in the tense West Philippine Sea.

The attempted Chinese blockade, which led to a two-hour standoff with the Philippine ship, is "a provocative and destabilizing action," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.

Harf said that the Philippines had permission to resupply troops to the remote reef, Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal), because it has kept a naval presence there since before a 2002 declaration of conduct in the South China Sea.

"As a treaty ally of the Republic of the Philippines, the United States urges China to refrain from further provocative behavior by allowing the Philippines to continue to maintain its presence at Second Thomas Shoal," she said.

The incident was the latest in the South China Sea, where China claims a vast area that overlaps with several neighbors' claims. Manila refers to parts of the South China Sea as West Philippine Sea.

On March 9, China successfully turned away a similar resupply boat from the Philippines.

The United States has been warning China against taking more drastic action in the South China Sea after it declared an air defense identification zone in November over much of the East China Sea, including islands administered by Japan.

Camp Aguinaldo’s ‘cat chaser’ is Central Luzon Army commander

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 31): Camp Aguinaldo’s ‘cat chaser’ is Central Luzon Army commander

Brigadier General Glorioso Mirand (left). Photo from the Philippine Army

Brigadier General Glorioso Miranda is the new commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, a document obtained by revealed.

He will replace the post vacated by Lieutenant General Hernando Iriberri, who was named as the Army chief last February. Both are members of the Philippine Military Academy “Matikas” Class of 1983.

Miranda was previously the commander of the General Headquarters and Headquarters Support Command at Camp Aguinaldo. He was also previously assigned to the 1002nd Infantry Brigade AFP Command and General Staff College.

Last December, the military police under his leadership renewed its crackdown against stray animals inside the camp prior the visit of President Benigno Aquino III for the Armed Forces of the Philippines anniversary. He said there were reports that the stray animals were only being run over by vehicles. He also assured the public that the pets are under their care.

Housed at Fort Magsaysay in the province of Nueva Ecija, the biggest military camp in the Philippines, the 7th Infantry Division operates in the regions of Ilocos and Central Luzon.

Miranda will be replaced by Colonel Arthur Ang as commander of GHQ and HSC.

The orders signed by President Benigno Aquino III effective March 28.

Some of the designations included in the order were of Major General Benito Antonio de Leon as the 5th Infantry Division commander, Brigadier General Ivan Samarita as commander of Training and Doctrine Command, Brigadier General Victor Bayani as deputy chief of staff for Logistics, Colonel Angelito de Leon as chief of the AFP Command Center.

501 IB invites media groups to join defense press corps

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 31): 501 IB invites  media groups to join  defense press corps

The 501st Infantry Brigade is inviting media organizations in the region to  be part of the Armed  Forces of the Philippines (AFP)- Cordillera   Defense Press Corps it is  set to organize.    

Brigadier General Roger Salvador, commanding officer (CO) the 501st IB, said they are targeting to include  at least two members of each  media organizations  become members of the  AFP Cordillera Defense Press Corps (ACDPC).

The commanding officer explained that the setting-up of the defense press corps is in line with their efforts to inform the people of the Cordillera of the AFP’s peace and development programs in the region.

“Your support will be a part of our accomplishment as the brigade continuously delivers its services to the community in the area of responsibility,” Salvador stated’

For further inquires and coordination regarding the ACDPC,  interested media groups may contact  0926-6641-520 or  send  e-mail  to :

Philippines China Rivalry: Geopolitics of the South China Sea

From Liberty Voice (Mar 30): Philippines China Rivalry: Geopolitics of the South China Sea

On Sunday, the Republic of the Philippines filed with the UN for arbitration on its ongoing territorial dispute with the People’s Republic of China. At issue is the control of the tiny Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The Filipino filing comes right after an incident that occurred Saturday, wherein a pair of Chinese coastguard ships attempted to stop a Filipino vessel from provisioning a tiny outpost on Second Thomas Shoal. Understanding why China and the Philippines would clash over a collection of seemingly insignificant rocks is a lesson in the geopolitical rivalries of the South China Sea, rivalries in which the long hand of history can be discerned.

The Filipino outpost on Second Thomas Shoal consists of the rusted hulk of a World War II transport vessel, the Sierra Madre, which was grounded on the reef by the Philippine navy in 1999 as a way of establishing Filipino sovereignty. Second Thomas Shoal is a tiny reef islet, one of about 150 or so such features that comprise the Spratly Islands. Despite their diminutive size, the Spratlys are contested territory, with China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all claiming them in whole or in part. Other tiny islands in the South China Sea are also claimed by more than one country. The Paracels, for example, are occupied by the People’s Republic of China, but are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.


The islands may seem trivial, but their location in the South China Sea makes them strategic in a game of geopolitical rivalries between China, the Philippines, and the other state actors in the area. Nearly a third of the world’s maritime shipping passes through the South China Sea, and it is believed to have deposits of oil and gas as well. Additionally, there are many rich fisheries, notably Scarborough Shoal, a feature that is claimed by China, Taiwan, and the Philippines. China has invoked a long history of Chinese fishermen in the waters around Scarborough Shoal and other tiny islands in the region to justify the validity of its claims.

Fundamentally, this provides a material basis for the rivalries, but consideration should also be given to the importance of the ideology of nationalism and national sovereignty. Both the Philippines and China, to say nothing of the other state actors involved in various disputes, portray the dispute in terms of perceived national “rights’” to occupy a particular space. One of the more seminal works on the study of nationalism is Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, which argues for a construction of the whole concept of the nation through the printed word, systems of administration, and mapping of territory. This conception of national sovereignty is clearly at work in the South China Sea geopolitical rivalry between the Philippines and China, with both parties claiming particular islets under the doctrine.

China currently claims the majority of the South China Sea, everything delimited by its “nine-dash line.” This boundary is based on the “eleven-dash line” drawn up by the Kuomintang in 1947, so called because it utilized eleven literal dashes on the map. Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) eliminated two of the dashes on the map in 1953, yielding some of the claimed area to Vietnam. China’s strategy in the region de-emphasized territorial claims for decades thereafter, but recently China’s growing power has given it the capacity to press claims in the South China Sea, igniting the geopolitical rivalry with the Philippines and other state actors. In a testament to the power of the map, the nine-dash line has now become so ingrained in Chinese nationalist thinking that the Chinese leadership is under public pressure to assert China’s rights of national sovereignty.

The rivalry between China and the Philippines is a very unequal one, given that China’s military budget is 47 times that of the Philippines. Still, the Philippines is backed by Washington, and there is little in the way of international support for China’s nine-dash line. For the Philippines, the defense of Second Thomas Shoal and other outposts in the Spratlys is every bit as much a matter of national sovereignty as it is for China. Compounding the problem of settling the disputes is a lack of agreement over how, precisely, this should be achieved. The Philippines and the other Southeast Asian nations want multilateral negotiations between all parties, conducted by rules of international statecraft. China wants bilateral negotiations between itself and each separate state actor.

China’s strategy is also comprehensible in the light of its own long-standing traditions of diplomacy and statecraft. As the controversial U.S. diplomat and political scientist Henry Kissinger noted in his book on China, historically China’s immense size, centralized state structure, and cultural preeminence meant that it was very much the default superpower in a Sinocentric world order. A variety of Chinese dynasties often treated the neighboring kingdoms of Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar (Burma) as vassals. In addition to sending tribute at different points in history, the smaller kingdoms also absorbed a great deal of Chinese culture. Not for nothing did China conceive of itself as the Middle Kingdom, the logical hegemon in East and Southeast Asia.

This style of Chinese statecraft assumed a particularly dramatic form with the fabled voyages of the Ming Treasure Fleets in the early 15th century. The Chinese Muslim Admiral Zheng He led a total of seven voyages through the South China Sea and even the Indian Ocean, reaching the Middle East and even the eastern shores of the African continent. It was a short-lived experiment, but China’s cultural and political dominance over its tributaries in East and Southeast Asia remained.

Far more than an argument over some inconsequential rocks in the South China Sea, the rivalry between China and the Philippines is an object lesson in the imagining of national communities and the making of geopolitical disputes. Both China and the Philippines claim to have rights of national sovereignty that trump those of the other party, and both invoke history. However, China’s unwillingness to engage in multilateral, rules-based negotiations points to a deeper conflict between differing models of international relations. The long hand of history can be seen in China’s assertiveness on this issue, and its insistence on bilateral negotiations. Fundamentally, China’s actions and pronouncements are well in accord with the long-standing historic model of Chinese statecraft and diplomacy, a model in which China as the Middle Kingdom was the center of the world.

[By Michael Schultheiss]

US Reaffirms Support for PHL arbitration

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31): US Reaffirms Support for PHL arbitration

The United States has renewed its support to the Philippines’ move to bring its territorial disputes with China before an international tribunal, calling it a “peaceful means” to resolving maritime row.

Washington’s statement of support issued by the U.S. State Department came after the Philippines submitted on March 30 a 4,000-page document or memorial containing an array of legal evidence and maps that will bolster its case against China.

“The United States reaffirms its support for the exercise of peaceful means to resolve maritime disputes without fear of any form of retaliation, including intimidation or coercion,” the State Department statement said.

All countries, it added, “should respect the right of any States Party, including the Republic of the Philippines, to avail themselves of the dispute resolution mechanisms provided for under the Law of the Sea Convention.”

“We hope that this case serves to provide greater legal certainty and compliance with the international law of the sea,” it said.

China claims the South China Sea nearly in its entirety, including areas that are within Manila’s territorial waters that have been renamed West Philippine Sea.

Manila took a bold step on January 2013 when it filed a case against China before a United Nations-linked international tribunal in a bid to declare Beijing’s sea claims excessive. A five-man court that was assembled to hear the case ordered the Philippines to submit a memorial on or before March 30 to substantiate its complaint.

The U.S., a Philippine defense ally, maintains it does not take sides in the disputes but has declared that it is in its national interest to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and that the disputes are resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, particularly the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan are also claimants to the resource-rich waters, a major trade route where oil and gas deposits have recently been discovered.

It is expected of China to submit a counter memorial under international arbitration procedures. However, Beijing stated that it will not participate in the legal process.

Army chief gets third star

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31): Army chief gets third star

Philippine Army (PA) commander Major Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri was awarded his third star in a simple donning of rank ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Monday.

This took place two months after his appointment as Army commander.

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin personally pinned the third star to Iriberri effectively promoting him to lieutenant general.

Upon his return at PA headquarters, Lt. Gen. Iriberri was accorded arrival honors attended by officers, enlisted personnel and civilian employees of his command.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) "Matikas" Class of 1983, Iriberri was designated as Army commander on Feb. 7.

In his assumption speech, he reminded the soldiers of their "duty to defend and the responsibility to deliver".

Upon taking the helm of the PA, Iriberri emphasized that he will sustain the Army's campaign for peace and development through the continuous implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) "Bayanihan", and pursue genuine transformation through the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR).

Meanwhile, two senior officers of the PA were also promoted to brigadier generals.

Donned with their first star were Brig. Generals Inocencio M. Mayangao and Carlito G. Galvez Jr.

Mayangao is the 502nd Infantry Brigade Commander, 5th Infantry Division.

Prior to this, he served as the Division Inspector General of the 5th Infantry Division; Executive Officer of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, OJ2; and Battalion Commander of the 54th Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Division.

Galvez, on the other hand, is the 104th Brigade Commander, 1st Infantry Division.

He became part of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, OJ3, where he served as Chief of the Operations Division.

In the year 2000 to 2002, he commanded the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion of the First Scout Ranger Regiment, wherein he led his troops in the offensive against the Abu Sayyaf Group that are responsible for the Sipadan and Dos Palmas kidnappings.

"While rank has its own privileges, it also conveys greater responsibilities that must be fully embraced. Wearing it means more than just prestige; it also means venturing into a future of more intricate challenges," Iriberri concluded.

Comelec urges MILF members to register to be able to participate in the May 2016 poll

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31): Comelec urges MILF members to register to be able to participate in the May 2016 poll

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) urged members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to register so that they can participate in the May 2016 national and local elections.

“The Comelec is greatly heartened by the MILF’s thrust towards joining the political arena, moving from bullets to ballots,” said Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez in an interview.

He added, “For this move to achieve its maximum potential, it is now necessary for the members of the MILF to register as voters."

The poll body official is reacting to the statement of MILF officials that they are planning to register as a political party to enable them to join in the forthcoming polls.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said that the MILF is welcome to register as long as they are able to meet the requirements set by law.

Jimenez noted that it is the perfect time for MILF members to register after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) last week.

“The first steps to peace have been taken. Now is the time for our brothers to move farther down that road as ever more significant partners in our democracy,” he said.

The voter registration is set to resume on May 6 until October 31, 2015 in all Offices of the Election Officer (OEOs) at the city/municipality where the applicant resides.

WELCOME TO CHINA! | Over SMS and cyberspace, Beijing sends a message over disputed territories

From InterAksyon (Mar 31): WELCOME TO CHINA! | Over SMS and cyberspace, Beijing sends a message over disputed territories

China appears to be bolstering its claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea, besides regularly deploying sea patrols. In cyberspace and in telecommunications, Beijing seems to have found a subtle way to “virtually” expand Chinese territory.

In 2013, a special report by showed that on Google Earth, China has outsmarted the Philippines by planting its virtual flags on those various islands that dot the coveted, resource-rich archipelago in the West Philippine Sea (how Manila refers to the South China Sea).

A cursory look at photos uploaded by Internet users to the 3D map program Google Earth revealed that citizens from China, Vietnam and Taiwan had “invaded” the islands in question, with a glaring absence of Philippine contributions to the online mapping service.

The photos, uploaded through photo-sharing service Panoramio, dot several locations in the highly disputed Spratly Islands — more commonly referred to as the Kalayaan Group of Islands — and Panatag Shoal just West of Luzon island.

Mobile phone at Ayungin

The scramble to tag the islets - at least on the cybermap - as their possession comes to mind amid the furor triggered by journalist Raissa Robles’ posting of a photo in her blog of an SMS that appeared in the mobile phone of a colleague riding a plane that recently flew over the Ayungin Shoal, scene of the March 29 standoff between a Philippine re-supply boat and two Chinese coastguard vessels.

The civilian fishing boat was bearing food and other supplies for a Marine contingent on the abandoned BRP Sierra Madre, an old Navy ship placed by the Philippines in a strategic spot on Ayungin Shoal to stake its presence in an area it calls part of its continental shelf. The civilian boat, also carrying some mediamen and soldiers who were to relieve the Marines who had finished a five-month tour on the BRP Sierra Madre, was harassed by the Chinese coastguard but eventually evaded the blockade and got near to the Sierra Madre, completing its mission.

As this was happening on the ground, up in the air Robles’ journalist-friend – a subscriber of Philippine telco Globe - was shocked to see an SMS that began with the surreal greeting, Welcome to China!” flashing on the screen of his mobile phone.

Robles wrote: “The plane passengers were monitoring a supply ship that was en route to bringing provisions to marines guarding Ayungin Shoal from being taken over by China. China claims the Philippines is “illegally” occupying Ayungin. A Chinese coast guard vessel was trying to block the supply ship for hours last Saturday.

“In the Globe Telecom statement, the company’s lead lawyer Froilan Castelo, said it is investigating the incident. Castelo went on to say that: ‘Technically speaking, cellular phones are able to pick up a dominant signal in the area where they are. At a certain altitude, cellular signals could be as strong as radio frequencies emitted by cell sites because they are unimpeded by buildings or other on-ground infrastructure. In the case of the Ayungin Shoal, it is quite possible that the mobile phone could pick up the signal of another network since the area is within territorial borders.’

But, Robles pointed out, Atty. Castelo, “does not explain whose territorial borders he’s referring to. Also, how come mobile phones can pick up China Mobile’s but not Globe’s network? Why is China Mobile’s signal dominant in an area claimed by the Philippines as part of its territory when China’s nearest land mass is miles and miles away? Where is China Mobile’s signal coming from?”

Digital landgrabbing

The Ayungin Shoal incident may seem surreal to Filipinos who wonder how territory so near to Palawan’s mainland, and so far from China, could be owned by Beijing; but to those who have tried the Paronamio service on Google Earth, it is not surprising: cyberspace shows numerous islands and islets in the maritime dispute zone littered with “claims”.

 In Parola Island, for example, the farthest Philippine-occupied territory in the island chain, the Vietnamese had uploaded a number of photos depicting structures erected by the Vietnamese government in the island they call Dao Song Tu Dong, or the Southwest Cay.

Further South, the Vietnamese claim could not be more assertive as users uploaded a photo of Dao Da Nam island, part of the disputed Paracel Islands, with the caption: “Belong to Vietnam.”

In Panatag Shoal off Zambales in western Luzon, where Chinese and Philippine governments have been in a standoff since April 2012, the virtual tension is more apparent: while one photo depicting the Philippine flag perched atop one of the rocky atolls in the area is clearly labeled “Panatag Shoal,” another photo — this time a Chinese flag waving atop a small rock — shouts: Huangyan Island – Chinese inherent territory.

Chinese and Philippine naval forces were locked in a standoff last year along Panatag Shoal (also referred to as Scarborough Shoal) as the latter accused the emerging superpower of a “de facto occupation” of the disputed shoal after China dispatched government vessels along the area.

The Philippines insists that the shoal is well within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone as defined by international law, but China has included the shoal as part of the territories it is claiming in almost all of the West Philippine Sea as part of its 9-dash-line claim in the area.

Kalayaan islands ours

Though Vietnam and China had made their virtual claims to these islands more apparent than the Philippines, not all islands are, so to speak, “reserved” by these nations. In Pag-Asa Island, for example, where the seat of government of the Kalayaan Group of Islands is located, most contributed photos were that of detachment units and structures that were built by Filipinos on the island. Though there were still Chinese and Vietnamese photo uploads on the island, the Philippine-contributed photos clearly outnumber them all.

The scarcity of Philippine-uploaded photos on the Google Earth application, however, may not be attributed entirely to a more vigorous claim by other countries. The photos, sourced from Google-owned service Panoramio, are user-generated — which means Filipinos would have to contribute their own photos so that it will show up in the service.

The real battle

Meanwhile, the real battle unfolds on two fronts: first physically, in the waters where Beijing’s substantially increased maritime fleet has been deployed for regular “patrols” of Chinese-claimed territory, routinely harassing boats of other nations like the Philippines; and second, in the United Nations court, where Manila infuriated Beijing last Sunday (March 30) by proceeding to file, despite warnings, its Memorial or summary of arguments in its complaint against China’s “excessive” nine-dash-line claim.

Beyond the physical and legal battle fronts, the war for people’s hearts and minds could also be fairly expected to proceed apace in cyberspace and in telecommunications, underscoring the weird texture of today’s messages: to Filipinos preparing to commemorate in April the worst episodes of their three-year misery under foreign occupiers during World War II, nothing can be as chilling as the short, chirpy phrase: “Welcome to China!”

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Abu Sayyaf abducts school principal in Sumisip

From the Philippine Star (Mar 31): Abu Sayyaf abducts school principal in Sumisip

Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen abducted a public school principal Monday morning in a remote village of Basilan province, according to officials.

Basilan school district superintendent Dr. Norhaya Abdurahim identified the victim as Benita Enriquez Latonio, 60, a native of Barangay Talisayan this city, but assigned as school principal of Manggal Elementary School in Sumisip town, Basilan.

Police investigation disclosed the victim and several teachers aboard a passenger jeepney,bearing plate number JVK-359 bound for Isabela City, were blocked by five  suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen, wearing bonnets, under Juhaibil Alamsirul alias Abu Kik about 6:20 a.m. at sitio Mompol, Barangay Libug, Sumisip.

Villagers told police the suspects took Lotonio at gunpoint and left the rest of teachers unharmed and fled on foot toward an unknown direction.

The companions of Lotonio were escorted by authorities on their way back to the town proper of Sumusip.

Basilan Police Provincial director Senior Superintendent Mario Dapilloza declined to answer phone calls and inquiries about the latest kidnapping incident in Basilan.

It was not known if the victims failed to coordinate for security during their travel passing outskirt of Sumisip which is known to be infested by the Abu Sayyaf group.

Alerted military and police forces immediately launched pursuit operation to  rescue the  school principal.

Davao’s NPA rebels are the biggest, strongest

From Asian (Mar 30): Davao’s NPA rebels are the biggest, strongest

If Ka Simeon Santiago is to be believed, there are now close to 1,000 fully armed New People’s Army guerrillas operating in Southern Mindanao alone.

That is close to 10 percent of the total armed strength of the Maoist-inspired NPA in the whole of the Philippines.
On Saturday, March 29, the NPA marked its 45th Founding Anniversary becoming the oldest running insurgency of its kind in Asia.
In a six-minute video posted on YouTube, Ka Simeon addressed a battalion of NPA regulars saying they have built 40-platoon guerrilla force spread throughout the five sub-regional commands of the Southern Mindanao Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines.  This has led to the establishment of NPA regional command’s first ever Pulang Bagani Battalion, according to Ka Simeon.
NPA guerrillas in Far South Mindanao. Pic by Edwin Espejo
NPA regulars in the Davao region are said to be the biggest and strongest in the Philippines.Pic by Karlos Manlupig
It is one of the stronger, if not the strongest, NPA regions in the whole of the Philippines along with the Northeastern Mindanao Regional Party Committee of the communist movement where the more identifiable Mindanao rebel spokesman Jorge Madlos, a.k.a. Ka Oris, is based.
The NEMPRC is believed to have approximately the same number of NPA battle-tested combatants.
An NPA platoon is normally composed of at least 21 armed regulars.  A Philippine Army platoon is composed of at least 29 soldiers.
An AFP battalion will have at least 900 men but its effective combat force may only be 600 soldiers while an NPA battalion could not have more than 300 combat forces.  An NPA company has between 50-80 men while the AFP has each 120-man regular company.
The Central Committee of the CPP-NPA said in a statement sent to the media Saturday that its armed regulars have now exceeded the number it had in 1985 when party documents said their high-powered firearms were only 5,600.
The CPP-NPA said the actual NPA strength in 1985 was contrary to government pronouncements which placed the rebel strength at 25,000 armed regulars.
“It (NPA) has surpassed its previous peak in 1985 and is now about 10,000 high-powered rifles,” the CPP-NPA said in the statement.
The rebel group said even relatively weaker regions have grown in recent years, citing the 120 percent increase in the number of platoons in Far South Mindanao Regional Command of the NPA.  The NPAs in Far South Mindanao are believed to have at least four companies of armed regulars.
The CPP-NPA however suffered a major blow a week before the NPA founding anniversary.
CPP chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma, along with five others, were captured in Cebu City on March 22 after a massive government manhunt.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said the communist rebels have been decapitated following the arrest of the couple.
The NPA was organized in 1969, months after the CPP was re-established in December 1968.
It was formerly headed by Bernabe Buscayno, alias Kumander Dante, who became a rallying figure for student activists in the tumultuous decade of the 1970s.
Among the activists was Tiamzon who was then a government scholar at the University of the Philippines.
From 35 vintage rifles and handguns, the NPAs have grown to become a continuing security threat to the Philippine government.
The NPA claims it is now operating in 110 guerrilla fronts in 71 provinces.
The CPP-NPA says it aims to increase its armed regulars to 25,000 to advance the stage of its protracted armed struggle to the next stage.
The communists said they are preparing to advance from strategic defensive to strategic stalemate with the government.

AFP on the trail of another top NPA official

From ABS-CBN (Mar 30): AFP on the trail of another top NPA official

The 4th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is in hot pursuit of another top official of the New People's Army (NPA), a military official said Saturday.

The subject of the pursuit is prominent Communist leader Jorge Madlos, also known as "Ka Oris."

In 2012, the Aquino government offered a P5.6-million reward in exchange for information that would lead to his arrest.

Madlos has led numerous attacks against civilian and military targets in Mindanao, which is under the jurisdiction of the 4th ID.

“He cannot hide forever. There will come a time that we will catch up on him,” said Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.

The statement was made after the arrest of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman Benito Tiamzon, his wife Wilma Austria who is the CPP's secretary general, and five of their staff in Cebu on March 22.

The government has offered P10-million reward each for the capture of the couple. An NPA insider allegedly provided information to the military, leading to the arrest of the couple who are currently detained in Camp Crame.

“Our operations against him are continuing, although he may become very conscious of his security because of what has happened to Tiamzon,” said Visaya, referring to Madlos, the spokesman of the National Democratic Front in Mindanao.

Visaya, however, admitted that it is difficult for the military to set a timetable for the arrest of Madlos, especially as he is believed to be staying in the mountain.

He said Madlos may be one of the candidates to succeed Tiamzon, considering the length of his service to the movement. Madlos has been with the CPP since the 1970s.
But the military general said Madlos, despite being a candidate to succeed Tiamzon, will not automatically get the post because of his age. He is now in his 60s.

Visaya further explained that the arrest of Tiamzon and his wife will result in a leadership vacuum in the communist movement, despite the claim of some communist leaders that the said vacuum will only be temporary.

“They (communists) say that the leadership vacuum (due to Tiamzon’s arrest) is just temporary. Yes, it's temporary but how long is the temporary because it will be hard to select a new leader,” the official said.

Madlos' last reported location was Surigao del Sur. Visaya said about 800 to 900 NPAs are operating in the area of responsibility of the 4th ID, particularly in the entire Caraga region and parts of Northern Mindanao.

WesMinCom launches peace mural as NPA celebrates 45th anniversary

From the Zamboanga Today (Mar 30): WesMinCom launches peace mural as NPA celebrates 45th anniversary

A mural promoting peace and development was launched here Saturday, March 29, 2014, two days after the signing of Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The public artwork was held at the Armed Forces of the Philippine’s Western Mindanao Command headquarters in Calarian, west coast of Zamboanga City, in time the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army celebrated its 45th Anniversary on Saturday.

Earlier, Cagayan de Oro City,at least seventy two members of the New People’s Army (NPA) from Northern Mindanao and Caraga formally surrendered to the government at Camp Evangelista.

According to the reports, the surrender comes a day before the 45th Anniversary of the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Phillippines – and less than a week after two of the NPA’s top leaders were arrested.

The former rebels also surrendered 69 firearms which cost more than P2 million and as part of the AFP’s Gun for Peace Program, those who surrendered will be given financial help equivalent to the value of the firearm that they turned-over to the military, the report said.

Also on March 22, authorities captured CPP leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria in Cebu, while Andrea Rosal, another alleged CPP leader and daughter of former NPA Spokesman Roger Rosal, was also arrested Thursday night in Caloocan City.

Likewise, authorities on Thursday arrested another suspected communist leader — Andrea Rosal, daughter of the late rebel spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal.

Hundreds of soldiers, navy men, policemen, peace advocates, students, youth, and civilian volunteers painted the perimeter walls of Western Mindanao Command headquarters along Calarian highway, in the bid to create awareness on peace and development through “bayanihan”.

The Western Mindanao Command public information office said the peace mural painting is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ peace advocacy in collaboration with the national and local artists in the country, peace advocates Zamboanga and artists from the different universities.

“This is one form to promoting the ‘bayanihan’ through the peace mural painting,” said Marine Major Muella, WesMinCom information officer. “This is purely volunteerism with one goal which is to promote peace in the entire Mindanao.”

Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said the mural is very timely as the government and the MILF just signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and for the peace they are espousing.

“Peace advocacy is one of our main thrusts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines through the ‘bayanihan’, hoping that our countrymen will see this especially by those who are still fighting it out and using the way of violence,” Guerrero added.

According to Guerrero, “This is in fact a long overdue project but because of the siege last September this was disrupted. The spirit of bayanihan or working together is what we are promoting here It’s a multi-stakeholder undertaking where all the stakeholders join together for one activity.”

One of the civilian volunteers in the mural painting took the opportunity to call on the government and the MILF, saying that “Our call, that is why, we are here in this mural painting not only to paint but to demonstrate to all that peace is everybody’s interest, concern.”

“If (peace) is the interest of all, everybody should participate so that our place will become peaceful. If a new government (in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao ) is put in place, they (government and MILF) should see to it that their agreement is not only for leaders but also for grassroots,” said Mersia Alli, convenor of Tibuok Lupah Sug, a Sulu-based one network of the civil society for peace and unity.

Although she is hopeful and elated by the recent signing of peace accord between the government and the MILF, Mrs. Alli expressed doubts, saying what had happened with the 1996 peace agreement of the Moro National Liberation Front with the Philippine s government will be repeated.

“Hindi pa rin buo ‘yung belief namin sa agreement dahil hindi lang naman ito ang unang agreement mayroon agreement nuon with the MNLF, so medyo natatakot pa rin kami baka maging ganun din (Our belief to the agreement is still not full because this it not first agreement there was agreement before with the MNLF, so we are relatively afraid because it might be repeated again).”

Hence, Mrs. Alli said suggested with the hope that the people would realize from the lessons or experiences in the past especially what had happened with the ARMM and MNLF.

“We hope that before the term of President Aquino ends, the Bangsamoro politicial entity will be properly established because if there is a new president something might happen,” she continued. “We hope also that the government and the MILF won’t shortcut the process,” she further said.

“What we want also is that before the conduct of plebiscite, the people must be informed, educated well about the Bangsamoro government because the people still do not really understand the annexes and the CAB.”

Reacting to the massive proliferation of loose firearms, she said the government should invest more and focus on education of the people to address the problem. “We hope that problem on loose firearms will be given solution by the Bangsamoro government because it is the root cause of the conflict and criminality in the region.

“The gun culture exists in our society because the people don’t feel secured but if there is a safe and sound atmosphere, I think no one would like to carry guns,” she said.

For Dante Arboso, head of the Antipolo artists group, said they recommended to the event organizers that the art concept of the participants especially by the students and the youth art enthusiasts should be exposed on the walls of schools in Zamboanga to create awareness among the public.

“Ang pinaka maganda sa public art na ito ay iyung promotion sa kapayapaan sa lugar na ito na kung saan nagkaron ng kaguluhuhan, (What is really good in this publis art is the promotion of peace in this place, where a conflict occurred,” he said. “The art of participants here is actually the reaction of what happened during the conflict.”

Asked to comment on what situation he sees in Mindanao today, he said Mindanao is so vulnerable because of the existence of different armed groups, but what is important we have to be concerned about the next generation,, the people here needs unity for peace and development.”

2 Sagada cops dead, 2 wounded in NPA raid

From the Philippine Star (Mar 31): 2 Sagada cops dead, 2 wounded in NPA raid

Two policemen were killed and two of their colleagues were wounded when New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, marking their 45th anniversary, swooped down on the camp of the Regional Public Safety Battalion in Sagada, Mt. Province Saturday.

Senior Superintendent Oliver Enmodias, Mt. Province police director, withheld the identities of the slain and wounded soldiers as their relatives still have to be informed about the incident.

Sagada was declared a peace zone in the early 1990s supposedly to be off-limits to both rebel and military forces.

In June last year, police and the military launched an assault following the NPA ambush of police trainees in Tadian town that left one dead almost a dozen others wounded.

The Army’s 54th Infantry Battalion used to encamp in Sagada but pulled out early this year after the municipal council and elders wanted the peace zone revived.

“What is clear in last Saturday’s assault was the rebels’ violation of the ongoing peaceful status of the area,” Enmodias told The STAR.

NPA rebel slain in Cagayan clash

From the Philippine Star (Mar 30): NPA rebel slain in Cagayan clash

A suspected New People’s Army (NPA) guerrilla was killed in an encounter with Army troops in a Cagayan town yesterday.

The clash occurred as authorities were on a heightened alert for possible attacks by communist insurgents, as part of the armed group’s celebration of its 45th founding anniversary.

Reports identified the alleged rebel as Ronald Beran, 42, of Barangay Masi, Rizal town, where the encounter took place.

The soldiers were conducting patrol operations at the area when at least 10 armed men fired at them, triggering the firefight.

No one was hurt from the government forces led by a certain 2/Lt. Ranola of the Isabela-based Army’s 5th Infantry Division.

The encounter came a day after some 20 armed men believed to be communist guerrillas stormed a property of a former village chairman in Cabisera 2 Hacienda San Antonio in Ilagan City.

Isabela police director Senior Superintendent Sotero Ramos said the group, including two NPA amazons, entered the compound of Reynaldo Edrada, whose son-in-law, John Sales, was an incumbent councilman.

The armed men reportedly distributed letters demanding taxes from local grain traders.

Edrada and Sales were not home during the incident.

Rebel tagged in killing of bishop’s brod

From the Philippine Star (Mar 29): Rebel tagged in killing of bishop’s brod

An alleged member of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade was tagged in the killing of the brother of Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla.

In a press conference yesterday, Chief Inspector Joseph Euje Almaquer, spokesman of a special investigation task group, said three witnesses have identified Julie Cabino, 30, alias Jojo Cabino and Jojo Cabarles, as one of the two assailants of Romeo Capalla in Oton town two weeks ago.

Almaquer though said Cabino’s gun was not the one that killed Capalla, as his firearm jammed after he fired it.

Murder charges were filed against Cabino and four John Does yesterday.

3 wounded as Abus storm Sulu village

From the Philippine Star (Mar 30): 3 wounded as Abus storm Sulu village

Three persons were wounded when suspected Abu Sayyaf militants stormed a village in Patikul town in Sulu on Friday, security officials reported yesterday.

The bandits, armed with assault rifles, fired rifle grenades near a Marine detachment at around 1:30 p.m.  in Barangay Bungkaong, said Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto, head of the 2nd Marine Brigade and Joint Task Force Sulu.

Pinto expressed belief that the detachment could be the target of the attack.
All shots fired by the bandits from an M203 grenade launchers hit civilian houses.

The Marines retaliated prompting the bandits to retreat.

Marine soldiers applied first aid treatment to the victims before they were taken to the hospital.

Pinto said the raid was followed by another attack on a detachment in Barangay Latih. No one was reported wounded in the incident.

Security around Patikul was stepped up following the spate of kidnapping incidents perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf militants who held their captives in the area.

Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said they have intensified their operation against the Abu Sayyaf particularly now that the government has finally forged the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Guerrero said they would maximize the operation against the militants and other threat groups once the normalization annex of the agreement will be implemented.

Misuari faction in Maguindanao: dream Bangsamoro Republik lives on

From MindaNews (Mar 31): Misuari faction in Maguindanao: dream Bangsamoro Republik lives on

Followers of  Moro  National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari on Saturday said their dream for a Bangsamoro Republik lives on even as government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27.

The MNLF members, led by Suhod Ebrahim, commander of the MNLF’s 6th Sudarah Brigade, met members of the press at their camp in Barangay Raguisi, Sultan Kudarat town, a few kilometers away from the MILF’s Camp Darapanan.

The  group didn’t display any firearm but the red MNLF flags, Ebrahim said, are symbols that their dream Bangsamoro Republik lives on.

He said they have nothing to do with the CAB and have no plans of supporting it.

The Moro National Liberation Front-Maguindanao led by Suhod Ebrahim at their camp in Sultan KUdarat town. MindaNews photo by Ferdinandh B. Cabrera

The Moro National Liberation Front-Maguindanao led by Suhod Ebrahim at their camp in Sultan KUdarat town. MindaNews photo by Ferdinandh B. Cabrera

A tarpaulin on display in the camp features the photographs of US President Barrack Obama, the secretary-generals of the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, and Misuari, who is wanted for rebellion and crimes against international humanitarian law following the bloody 21-day standoff with government forces in September.

He said Misuari relayed the information about the allege support of the three prominent personalities to their bid for independence and that they are just awaiting Misuari’s directive on the action they would undertake such as the possibility of a siege similar to Zamboanga.

Ebrahim said  “this (siege) part 2  (is) not yet scheduled… It depends upon President Misuari.”

Misuari is referred to by his supporters as “President of the Bangsamoro Republik.”

Ebrahim said their only hope is the promise of independence that Misuari allegedly said will be realized with the help of America and the United Nations and the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, two entities that have been supporting the GPH-MILF peace process.

In a press statement issued in the evening of Thursday, after the signing of the CAB and reception at Malacanan Palace, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said the United States “will continue to be a major development partner in Mindanao and in an effort to help bring about a successful outcome” of the CAB.

“We believe the CAB can benefit the people of Bangsamoro, and all Filipino citizens,” Goldberg said.

In Washington DC, the State Department in a statement said it “fully supports the ongoing peace and reconciliation process, and we encourage all parties to continue their efforts to ensure a future of peace, prosperity, and stability in the southern Philippines.”

‘CAB puts peace in jeopardy’

From the Manila Times (mar 30): ‘CAB puts peace in jeopardy’

President Benigno Aquino 3rd has derailed the peace process in the southern Philippines by sacrificing another Muslim group when he signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the leader of the International Police Commission (IPC) said on Sunday.

Malacanang apparently was unperturbed by the accusation, with Herminio Coloma, chief of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, saying: “All stakeholders are called upon to participate in the peace and rebuilding process.”

Gen. Rafael Clarete, president of the IPC, which is recognized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, said the President, as a result of inking the CAB last week, now risks “serious uprising and secession” from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Clarete, speaking from General Santos City in Mindanao after arriving from California also last week, added that Malacanang should have honored the peace agreement that the government signed with the MNLF on September 2, 1996 before “expediting” the CAB.

The President would have no one to blame but himself “if war erupted between the MNLF and the government,” he warned.

Clarete said Aquino, in signing the peace agreement with the MILF, leaves his successor the “burden of a war” that would fester for years.

The IPC president, who met with senior MNLF leaders in Mindanao last Monday, learned that the President had put aside ironing out 42 supposedly defective provisions of Republic Act 9054 and other clauses under Phase I and Phase II of the 1996 peace agreement in favor of signing the CAB.

“How can you have peace in the region [Mindanao] when a large force [MNLF] is [girding] for war… that would erupt soon because the Aquino government cannot totally implement the provisions of the 1996 peace accord?” Clarete said.

The IPC leader, who flew to the Philippines to observe the signing of the CAB, said he will make a critical report to the US government that would mention the supposed discontent of the MNLF under the Aquino administration.

The President trusted the MILF too much when the group’s leaders are “not capable of handling” the Bangsamoro homeland, according to Johnny Siao, chief of the MNLF’s National Border Command forces based in Mindanao.

Henry Dazo, a retired police superintendent, agreed, saying the MILF leadership lacks “experience and leadership.”

A newly created group called Southern Philippines Tri-People Indigenous Association, which is said to be composed of 10,000 members, also on Sunday said it was supporting the MNLF’s demand that the government fulfill first the terms of the 1996 peace agreement before implementing the peace deal with the MILF.

Hotbed of insurgency

 Still, Mindanao will remain a hotbed of insurgency even if CAB is implemented immediately, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

This is attributed by the military to the presence of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group and other threat groups.

Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya also on Sunday disclosed that one-half of the total strength of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is concentrated in Mindanao.

The NPA, he said, is “strongest” in areas under the 4th Infantry Division and the 10th ID.

The 4th ID spokesman, Capt. Christian Uy, said their division has jurisdiction over the Northern Mindanao area, which includes the Caraga region, composed of the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Surigao City and Butuan City.

Also under the 4th ID are Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and Camiguin in Region 10 with the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Gingoog, Malaybalay and Valencia.

First Lt. Ernesto Carolina, 10th ID spokesman, said under their area of responsibility are the southernmost parts of Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, Sarangani, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental and the easternmost part of North Cotabato.

Madlos is one of the most senior communist leaders and one of the top contenders to replace Benito Tiamzon, allegedly the CPP chairman, who was recently arrested with his wife Wilma.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said the NPA is almost a spent force and would be “irrelevant” by 2016.

The military has claimed that 25 out of 81 provinces in the country are insurgency-free and that the NPA’s strength has dwindled to 4,043 from a peak of 24,430 fighters during the 1980s.

A lawmaker also warned that the establishment of the Bangsamoro homeland by 2015 would not immediately silence the guns in southern Philippines.

Iloilo Rep. Jerry TreƱas also on Sunday said the CAB is just one step toward winning peace, noting that other security threats still exist in Mindanao.

But the people of the region, Trenas added, should not be discouraged if the law would not end the cycle of violence in a snap.

Meanwhile, he said, “Congress has more than enough time to pass the law before year-end.”

Trenas conceded that “influential groups and individuals who are against any power-sharing and wealth-sharing deal with a new Bangsamoro authority” would try to resist the implementation of the CAB.

The MILF has about 10,000 armed followers, according to the military, which makes it easily the biggest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines.

Having long fought for an independent homeland for the nation’s Muslim minority to be carved out of Mindanao, it split in the 1970s from the-then main rebel group, the MNLF.

The MNLF had agreed to autonomy but founding MILF leader Hashim Salamat was intent on fighting for independence.

The Bangsamoro refers to people who at the time of Spanish conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of southern Philippines. Their descendants and spouses are recognized as Bangsamoro people.

Bangsa is a local word for nation. Moro derives from the term “Moors” used by Spanish colonialists to refer to Muslims.

Under the CAB, the MILF drops its claims for a separate state in Mindanao and settles for parliamentary self-rule in the Bangsamoro autonomous region. This region will be established by 2016.

The Bangsamoro will replace another Muslim autonomous region that was brokered in the 1990s with the MNLF, which the government says has failed.

Also under the CAB, the MILF will “gradually” decommission its forces and put the weapons “beyond use.” A local police force will assume law enforcement functions from the Philippine police and military but the Philippine government will retain exclusive powers on defense, foreign policy, currency and citizenship matters.

The autonomous government will receive 75 percent of all local taxes, fees and charges, 75 percent of revenues from metallic minerals and control of fishing areas up to 12 nautical miles from the coastline.

The region will not be an Islamic state, rather a secular government. Sharia law will apply only to Muslims and only for civil cases, not for criminal offenses. All residents are guaranteed basic rights to life, movement, privacy and freedom of religion and speech.

It will cover five provinces, plus two cities, six towns and 39 villages in the South, comprising about 10 percent of the Philippines’ total land area.

Aquino is to ask Congress to pass a “Bangsamoro Basic Law” for the autonomous region by the end of this year.

People living in areas to be included in the autonomous region will need to ratify the law in a plebiscite to be held in 2015.

After the basic law is approved and ratified by the plebiscite, a 15-member “Bangsamoro Transition Authority” will govern the region until a regional parliament is elected. The President will appoint members of the transitional authority, but the MILF will have a majority and the chairman.

A regional parliament, expected to have 50 seats, is to be elected in conjunction with the national elections in May 2016.

Luzon Army brass named

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 30): Luzon Army brass named

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III has finally signed the appointment of the generals who will command the two of the four army divisions in Luzon Island.

Maj. Gen. Benito De Leon, current commander of the Armed Forces Training and Doctrine Command based at Camp O’Donnell in Capaz, Tarlac,  was tasked to command the 5th Infantry Division based at Camp Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela.

De Leon, a classmate of AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, confirmed his appointment that took effect March 28, but he will assume his new post on April 4.

The other new commander is Brig. Gen. Glorioso Miranda who was ordered to take command of the 7th ID based at Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija.

Miranda also confirmed his new appointment but he said the turnover of command has yet to be scheduled.

Miranda is currently camp commander of the AFP General Headquarters in Quezon City.

The 7ID was formerly headed by Army chief Maj. Gen. Hernando Iriberri while the 5ID was commanded by Maj. Gen. Joel Ybanez who has recently retired.

The commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, Brig. Gen. Ivan Samarita was designated new commander of TRADOC while Samarita will be replaced by Col. Rodel Alarcon, current Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans (G5) of the Army.

Miranda will be replaced by Col. Arthur Ang, current Assistant Commander of the 2ID while Col. Angelito de Leon will be the new commander of the AFP Command Center.

Aside from the 5 th ID and 7 th ID, the other army divisions based in Luzon are the Second, based in Tanay, Rizal, and the Ninth, based in Pili, Camarines Sur.

The appointment of the two new commanders were confirmed a day after the Philippines signed agreements to buy $528 million worth of military aircraft from South Korea and Canada.

“After more than four decades of stagnancy in its dream of improving its capability, our air force has found a promise of new life with the realization of our modernization program,” Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Friday.

Korea Aerospace Industries will deliver 12 FA-50 jets worth 18.9 billion pesos ($421.12 million) in just over three years under a contract agreed by Philippine defence officials and South Korean government representatives.

The Philippines also completed a P4.8 billion contract with Canadian Commercial Corp. and Canada’s Bell Helicopters to build eight helicopters for the military.

The twin deals are part of the Philippines’ P75 billion effort to upgrade its armed forces, particularly units tasked with patrolling disputed territory in the South China Sea.