Thursday, January 9, 2014

‘Army fails to destroy NPA movement in NegOr'

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 10): ‘Army fails to destroy NPA movement in NegOr'

The National Democratic Front, through its NDF-Negros spokesperson, Frank Fernandez, said that the 302nd Infantry Brigade failed to destroy the revolutionary movement in Negros Oriental, prompting the Philippine Army to seek for a six-month extension to clear the province of the New People's Army.

Fernandez said that, contrary to military claims, the NPA in Negros remains strong, although he admitted that 2013 was a challenging year for the revolutionary movement.

Fernandez cited the deadline set by the AFP to weaken, if not destroy the revolutionary movement in Negros island, through its IPSP Bayanihan campaign plan, using the whole-nation approach strategy, that he said, ended as a failure.

The Philippine Army had earlier declared that the dismantling of NPA Southeast Front in Negros Oriental was imminent, with the reduction of its armed strength by almost 75 percent.

Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, 302 nd Infantry Brigade commander, said earlier that 12 of 17 barangays earlier identified as insurgency-affected, have been neutralized, although this is still subject to validation and confirmation.

Patrimonio said that, having so many rebels return to the folds of the law, with the rest on the run, is an indication that the Army is gaining headway in its mission in Negros Oriental.

Close encounter with Sulu gunmen

From the Star Online (Jan 9): Close encounter with Sulu gunmen

KOTA KINABALU: Sulu intruders started firing at Malaysian security forces on March 1 after threatening them to get out of “their land” in Kampung Tanduo.

Relating to High Court judge Stephen Chung the events that led to the shooting between the rebels and the Malaysian security forces, elite VAT69 Commando Supt Mancha Laga said he and his team were patrolling the area when they came across about 35 to 40 Sulu gunmen.

“The gunmen, clad in camouflage uniform screamed at us, ‘Tiger, berambus kau dari sini. Ini bumi kami.’ (Tiger, get out of here. This is our land.),” said Supt Mancha, the third prosecution witness in the joint trial of 30 people involved in the Feb 12 occupation of Kampung Tanduo last year.

He did not know why the gunmen referred to them as “tiger”, Supt Mancha told the court, held at a hall designated as an open courtroom at the State Prison Complex in Kepayan here.

He said seconds after the verbal encounter, the Sulu gunmen fired shots. Supt Mancha said two policemen from different teams were killed in the ensuing hour-long skirmish.

One policeman, Kpl Sabaruddin Daud, was from his team, while Insp Zulkifli Mamat, was from another team.

Twelve intruders also died in the encounter. The security forces recovered an M16 and two Garran rifles, a Colt pistol, three grenade launchers as well as bullets and a revolver, among others, from the dead gunmen.

Supt Mancha is expected to continue his testimony today. Earlier yesterday, auxiliary policeman Mohd Ali Asmari said he informed the authorities of the presence of “uniformed” intruders in Sabah’s east coast after he spotted the group slipping into the state while fishing in Kampung Tanduo waters at about 7am on Feb 12.

He said the strangers, clad in faded yellow camouflage uniforms, were spotted near a surau at the beach front.

That was when they saw a group of men in “uniform”, and some with red arm and head bands standing around the area.

The 30 accused are represented by Datuk N. Sivanathan, Kamaruddin Mohmad Chinki, Rowiena Rashid and Abdul Gani Zulika.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail led the prosecution, assisted by four others.

New US envoy to visit PMA this weekend

From the Philippine Star (Jan 9): New US envoy to visit PMA this weekend

Newly-designated US ambassador to the Philippines Phillip Goldberg is visiting the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) on Saturday.

Goldberg, who will visit Baguio City for the first time, will be given military arrival honors and parade and review at the country's primier military training institution.

PMA spokesperson Major Lynette Flores said that the US ambassador will turn over additional donation of learning materials to the American Learning Center at the PMA Learning Resource Center.

The American Learning Center (ALC) at the PMA’s Learning Resource Center (PMA-LRC) was inaugurated by Goldberg's predecessor, US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr., in July 2011.

The United States government has also turned over to the PMA various equipment, including computers, web cams, printers, DVD and CD players and an LCD TV.

Also turned over were 62 new book titles and a set of CD Audio of the Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, which is being used by the cadets and researchers in improving their knowledge on the history of the Americans and the Filipinos.

Rebels torch dump truck in North Cotabato

From the Philippine Star (Jan 9): Rebels torch dump truck in North Cotabato

Communist rebels on Wednesday commandeered in Tulunan town and torched a dump truck filled with sand and gravel.

Senior Inspector Ronnie Cordero, Tulunan municipal police chief, said two men disguised as hitchhikers forcibly took the dump truck from its driver, Leoncio de Vera, in Barangay La Esperanza.

Cordero said the truck was supposed to deliver its cargo of about five cubic meters of mixed fine sand and gravel from Datu Paglas, Maguindanao to the newly-constructed airport in M'lang town, also in North Cotabato.

Pursuing policemen and barangay officials found the burnt dump truck in another barangay not far from the spot where it was taken by two men armed with handguns.
Investigators still have no clue of the identities of the two rebels.

No indiscriminate assault in Basilan, troops say

From the Philippine Star (Jan 9): No indiscriminate assault in Basilan, troops say

The military on Thursday vehemently denied reports  it launched indiscriminate aerial assault that wounded two civilians during  an offensive Sunday against high value target Abu Sayyaf group in the coastal village of Basilan province.

Col. Faustino Bejarin, deputy commander of the 104th Army Brigade based in Basilan, said the offensive was “very selective” when troops stormed the group of Nurhassan Jamiri, an Abu Sayyaf leader notorious in the kidnap for ransom operation at Barangay Bato-bato, Sumisip town.

Bejarin said the operation was launched Sunday after the religious leaders of the nearby madrasa and the villagers reported the presence of Jamiri and some 30 of his followers having picnic in the beach.

The military immediately dispatched its MG-520 attack helicopters for reconnaissance in the area but were fired  at by Jamiri and his group, prompting the attack helicopters to launch aerial assault.

“The helicopter gunships were prompted to react because they were fired at and we have the target and the assault was very selective,” Bejarin said.

“It wasn’t an indiscriminate offensive because considering the large number of enemies we could have unleashed a big volume of fire but the target was selective,” the army officer added to dispel reports.

However, Bejarin said it was unfortunate splinters  slightly wounded two madrasa students.

He said the  victims were immediately treated. One of the victims was brought to the hospital in Lamitan for treatment while the other with superficial wound was given first aid treatment.

Reports from a human rights group disclosed that four were  injured in the airstrike that hit civilians who were having a picnic.

Maj. Gen. Nicanor Vivar, 3rd Air Division chief of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), said the air craft launched the assault because there was order from the ground.

“We would not have delivered the strike if  we were not given the signal from the ground and the target was not positive,” Vivar said.

Bejarin added that even the religious leaders in the nearby madrasa and the villagers provided the information on the presence of Jamiri.

Bejarin said they have  explained their side about the incident to the local government officials in the area.

Military pursuit continues against the group of Jamiri after the latter escaped toward the forested area and into the jungle.

The military said the mainstream rebel forces have not  reacted since as the latter were informed of the target of the operations.

2 angles probed in Basilan bombing

From the Philippine Star (Jan 9): 2 angles probed in Basilan bombing

Authorities suspect that the  animosity between the Abu Sayyaf and militiamen in the community, or old grudges among members and officials of a local rubber cooperative farm,  could have led to the December 31 deadly grenade attack in Sumisip town in Basilan.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman, chairman of the ARMM’s peace and order council, told The Star the two possible angles on the bombing, which left seven dead and injured six others, are now being pursued by police investigators.

Hataman said he has been receiving reports that the bombing suspects could be from Sapah Bulak, a farming enclave near Barangay Tumahubong, where they bombed a gazebo full of people on the eve of New Year’s Day.

“There are also other angles being studied now by investigators. We just have to patiently wait. Criminal cases will be filed against the culprits,” Hataman said.

Barangay Tumahubong is at the center of a vast rubber plantation originally owned by the American multinational tire manufacturer BFGooodrich, which eventually became a cooperative managed by workers, after having been subjected to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in the 1980s.

Members of the inter-agency provincial peace and order council (PPOC) in Basilan held Thursday an emergency meeting and discussed the recent violent incidents in the province, and formulated measures to prevent a repeat of them.

The PPOC is chaired by Basilan Gov. Jum Akbar, who has been helping resolve the December 31 bombing in Barangay Tumahubong.

The meeting was jointly presided over by Akbar and Hataman, who is chairman of the larger ARMM regional peace and order council, whose members include the region’s police director, Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes, and senior officials of the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City.

Hataman said mayors in the island province and its provincial governor have expressed willingness to help pursue the restoration of peace in the island province at least by the middle of 2014.

Hataman had earlier offered to shell out an amount as a reward in exchange for any information that would lead to the arrest of the suspects behind the bombing in Barangay Tumahubong.

Talks have been circulating in Barangay Tumahubong and surrounding areas in Sumisip that the bombers had actually targeted the San Vicente chapel in the village, but changed their plan when they saw soldiers guarding the surroundings of the worship site.

The two suspects, whom witnesses said were riding a motorcycle together, were seen roaming suspiciously around the chapel minutes before a powerful explosion ripped through a gazebo.

MILF asks MNLF to help in formulating Bangsamoro law

From the Philippine Star (Jan 9): MILF asks MNLF to help in formulating Bangsamoro law

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has urged the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to help in the crafting the law that would lead  to the establishment of the Bangsamoro government.

In an editorial posted on its website, MILF said the good provisions of the 1996 peace deal between the government and MNLF should be part of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“What should be done now is for the MNLF and MILF leaders to work together to pluck out what are good in the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement in 1996 and incorporate them into the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” the editorial read.

“The only real and desirable thing now is that we produce the best BBL for the future Bangsamoro Government. This law is not for the MILF; it is for our people as a whole,” it added.

MILF said the MNLF should disregard notions that only one person or group can solve the Bangsamoro issue.

“We appeal to our brothers from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to come to grip with reality that during the current Aquino administration, the only viable and pursued peace track is the one with the MILF,” it said.

The MNLF sought to create an Islamic state in the south. In 1976, it signed the Tripoli deal with the government which led to the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 1996.

MNLF members who were dissatisfied with the agreement broke away from the group and formed the MILF.

Last year, the government and the MILF inked a framework agreement that seeks to create a Bangsamoro region that would replace the ARMM, which President Aquino called “a failed experiment.”

The new region will cover Isabela City in Basilan, Cotabato City, six towns in Lanao del Norte, and some areas in North Cotabato, in addition to the ARMM provinces Basilan, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

MNLF founder Nur Misuari, however, said the framework violates the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, the Jeddah Accord and the 1996 final peace agreement. He warned that the deal would lead to more conflict in Mindanao.

The government and the MILF have also signed the transitional arrangements as well as the annexes on wealth and power-sharing.

Both sides will soon discuss matters on Bangsamoro waters, the annex on normalization and the final peace deal.

The MILF cited the progress in its negotiations with the government. The group, however, admitted that nothing is sure yet as far as the final closure of the talks is concerned.

“Negotiation is one human endeavor that is highly unpredictable. It is like a mercury that rises up and low very fast depending on the prevailing temperature or heat,” MILF said.

“However, on the basis of the issues or agenda settled by them, it is not an exaggeration to say that the peace negotiation is in the final stretch. If nothing of consequence blocks the way, the chance of signing the comprehensive peace Agreement very soon is very possible.”

MILF: Editorial -- Trustworthiness counts much in peace talks

From the MILF Website (Jan 8): Trustworthiness counts much in peace talks

It is not always true to say that you cannot trust your “enemy”. Anybody can be trusted; it only depends on the degree and level of engagement.
Fear should not always be the guidepost in making decision with your nemesis. Oftentimes, one must trust even the most untrustworthy in order to succeed. Oftentimes, if not in all, trust begets trust --- and it must be genuine.

If the current Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace negotiation is travelling fast and is covering much of the ground in the peace journey, trust, we are sure, is the main factor. President Benigno Aquino III deserves to be trusted --- he has not fell short so far in all his commitment. Similarly, the MILF led by Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim has also shown and demonstrated that it is capable of being trusted. This credit hinges on the very foundation of its ideology that a trust or commitment made with a nemesis is as sacred as those entered into with the most trustworthy. The sacredness of the commitment carries with it the moral obligation for compliance.

Nothing is sure yet as far as the final closure of the GPH-MILF peace negotiation. Negotiation is one human endeavor that is highly unpredictable. It is a like a mercury that rises up and low very fast depending on the prevailing temperature or heat. However, on the basis of the issues or agenda settled by them, it is not an exaggeration to say that the peace negotiation is in the final stretch. If nothing of consequence blocks the way, the chance of signing the comprehensive peace Agreement (CPA) very soon is very possible.

It is for this reason that we appeal to our brothers from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to come to grip with reality that during the current Aquino administration, the only viable and pursued peace track is the one with the MILF.  The track with the MNLF had its time before. What should be done now is for the MNLF and MILF leaders to work together to pluck out what are good in the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement (GRP-MNLF FPA) in 1996 and incorporate them into the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is currently being crafted by the MILF-led 15-man Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). The BBL should contain the best from the FPA and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes, which will be signed into one document called CPA.

We ask our brothers from the MNLF not to take the issue as personal or one group has the monopoly of good knowledge, or worse, to assume that the MNLF or MILF has the sole franchise to solve the Bangsamoro Question. Neither the FPA nor FAB is a perfect agreement. The only real and desirable thing now is that we produce the best BBL for the future Bangsamoro Government. This law is not for the MILF; it is for our people as a whole.

MILF: Bangsamoro Transition Commission visits Banda Aceh

From the MILF Website (Jan 10): Bangsamoro Transition Commission visits Banda Aceh

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in partnerhip with the Japan International Cooperation Agency  (JICA) conducted an educational tour to Banda Ache, Indonesia on December 14-21, 2013. This was part of the three - year project being jointly undertaken by the BTC and JICA dubbed as Bangsamoro Comprehensive Capacity Development Program.
JICA invited representatives from different  agencies of the MILF such as Bangsamoro Leadership and management Institutue (BLMI), Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostitlties (CCCH) and BTC.

As counterparts to the peace process, representative from the government such as the Adhoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) and CCCH and from the Civil Society Organizations joined throughout the duration. 

The trip expoxed the participants to best practices, experiences and lessons learned from the Banda Aceh after signing an agreement with the national govenrmnet of Indonesia such as the drafting of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), implementation of the Law on  Governing of Aceh (LOGA), political party formation, economic reintegration, justice and electoral system as well as the role of the CSOs.

BTC Commissioners Eisma and Munos led the trip and interactions with various agencies agencies in Jakarta and Aceh, exploring possibilities for benchmarking that can be applied with the GPH – MILF Peace Process.

The group were given the chance to meet the Banda Aceh Governor and their Wali Nangroe to personally address questions on their experience after the signing of the peace aggreement.  Interaction with the local political party leaders, academicians, CSO’s and grassroots individuals werealso done.

BTC is tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Government based on the GPH – MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed at Malacanang Palace in October 2012 and its signed Annexes.

Kidnapping raps up vs Sayyaf leader

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jan 9): Kidnapping raps up vs Sayyaf leader

CRIMINAL charges were filed against an Abu Sayyaf leader and several others in connection with last month’s kidnapping of fish trader in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay.

Charged before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 24 of Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay were Abu Sayyaf leader Nurhassan Jamiri, Adznar Chiong alias Buda and several John Does, the police said Thursday.

They were tagged as responsible in the kidnapping of Cynthia Caboberte, a fish trader from Dipolog City.

Caboberte was kidnapped by six gunmen last December 12 at Sitio Palid in the village of Magdaup, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.

The suspects were charged for robbery, and abduction and serious illegal detention, the police said.

Except for Chiong, all of the suspects including Jamiri, remain at large, the police said.
The police arrested Chiong at his house in the village of Bangkerohan, Ipil town, in a follow-up operation hours after the kidnapping of Caboberte.

Chiong was turned over last January 6 to the custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the police said.

Philippines has 343 AFVs in arsenal

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): Philippines has 343 AFVs in arsenal
The Philippine Army (PA), which has around 10 infantry divisions, is equipped with 343 AFVs (armored fighting vehicles).

Capt. Anthony Bacus, Army spokesperson, said that these AFVs are distributed to the various infantry units to provide them with mobility and additional firepower.

"Around 85 percent of these AFVs are on green status (fully mission capable) while another 10 percent are on yellow status (undergoing repair) and five percent are on red (beyond repair)," he added.

Around 150 of the vehicles are the United Kingdom-built GKN "Simba" with the remaining AFVs consisting of US designed V-150 and V-200 APCs, M-113 "Bradley", Turkish made ACV-300s and British Scorpion CVRTs.

He said these AFVs give the PA its armor capability and are organized into a 14-vehicle mechanized infantry companion for deployment with regular units.

'A PROVOCATIVE ACT' | China 'requires' foreign fishers to seek permission to enter West PH Sea

From InterAksyon (Jan 10): 'A PROVOCATIVE ACT' | China 'requires' foreign fishers to seek permission to enter West PH Sea

A handout photo shows two Chinese surveillance ships which sailed between a Philippines warship and eight Chinese fishing boats to prevent the arrest of any fishermen in the Scarborough Shoal, a small group of rocky formations whose sovereignty is contested by the Philippines and China, in the South China Sea, about 124 nautical miles off the main island of Luzon April 10, 2012. REUTERS/Philippine Army Handout

The United States on Thursday called new Chinese fishing restrictions in disputed waters in the South China Sea "a provocative and potentially dangerous act."

The legislature of China's Hainan province approved rules in November that took effect on January 1 requiring foreign fishing vessels to obtain approval to enter waters under its jurisdiction.

"The passing of these restrictions on other countries' fishing activities in disputed portions of the South China Sea is a provocative and potentially dangerous act," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a news briefing.

"China has not offered any explanation or basis under international law for these extensive maritime claims."

Earlier, the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that it was looking into reports of the new Chinese regulation. "We are verifying the news with our embassies in Beijing and Hanoi," Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a text message on Wednesday.

The new regulation came after China announced an air defense zone over a group of islands it is disputing with Japan in the East China Sea, which triggered protests from the United States, Japan and the Philippines.

Under the regulation, foreign vessels entering the waters, which was declared by China as part of Hainan’s administrative maritime zone, are required to seek approval from Chinese authorities.

Competing claims to the South China Sea, a strategic waterway believed to be sitting atop huge gas and oil deposits, have sparked occasional violence and now regarded as a potential regional flashpoint for armed conflict.

Manila has adopted the name West Philippine Sea for parts of the South China Sea that are within its exclusive economic zone.

China’s persistent incursions and massive claim to the waters has prompted the Philippines to challenge Beijing’s assertion before a United Nations-linked international tribunal in The Hague, The Netherlands.

China refused to join the arbitration, saying the Philippine case is groundless and carries unacceptable allegations.

CPP/Ang Bayan: Gains in Southwest Negros

From Ang Bayan posted to the CPP Website (Jan 7): Gains in Southwest Negros

The New People’s Army (NPA) in the Southwest Negros Front has maintained its size despite intense military operations, the deceptive Peace and Development Program, the enemy’s surrender drives and other grand and intricate psywar operations of the reactionary government, said Ka Andrea Guerrero, spokesperson of the front’s Armando Sumayang, Jr. Command.

The membership of the people’s militia continues to grow. The people’s militia assists the NPA in propaganda work among the masses, in mobilizing and organizing them and in launching tactical offensives. With the organized masses and allies’ active participation, the NPA was able to mete punishment on the destructive Philex Mining Corporation. Basic tactical offensives were launched against the 47th IB, seizing five high-powered firearms, including a K3 machine gun, rounds of ammunition and military equipment.

More than a thousand people have benefited from continuing mass struggles to raise the price of coffee, hike the wages of farmers and farm workers, till and develop idle lands, dagyaw (cooperation) and the antimining movement, among others. These served as the wellspring of Red fighters for the NPA and members for the Party.

The farmers also continued struggling against the seizure of their land by capitalist investors in oil palm plantations.

The peasant masses also courageously fought landlords such as the Novero family in Barangay Dancalan, Ilog and father and son Pablito “Jean” and John Paul Sola of Barangay Camansi, Kabankalan who have been seizing their land. The Solas enjoy the protection of the Regional Public Safety Maneuver Battalion (ROSMB) which is also based in Barangay Camansi.

CPP/Ang Bayan: Oplan Bayanihan fails in Negros

From Ang Bayan posted to the CPP Website (Jan 7): Oplan Bayanihan fails in Negros
 Red fighters in Western Mindanao Region (WMR) made a fiery finish to 2013 in simultaneous attacks by company-size forces of the New People’s Army (NPA) on two police headquarters in Misamis Occidental and Zamboanga del Sur at dawn of December 14.

Oplan Bayanihan has failed to crush the revolutionary movement in Negros despite its having been made a national priority by the US-Aquino regime, said Juanito Magbanua II, spokesperson of the Apolinario (Boy) Gatmaitan Command of the New People’s Army in Negros in relation to the 45th anniversary of the reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

With the all-out implementation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) “triad operations” consisting of intelligence, “civil-military” and combat operations in the countryside and urban areas, the regime has mobilized the entire local government and deployed to Negros an entire Civil Military Operations battalion and the bulk of the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) in Western Visayas. For a more zealous intelligence build-up against the armed movement and the legal democratic movement in the urban areas, the Military Intelligence Battalion (MIB) and the Military Intelligence Company have been stationed in Bacolod City.

There have been up to 39 companies of the Philippine Army, Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC), Scout Rangers, Regional Mobile Group (RMG), Provincial Mobile Group (PMG), CMO and 12th IB CAFGU Handler deployed in Negros since 2010. This is aside from forces of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Special Action Force (SAF) deployed in the island’s four guerrilla fronts.

Despite the deployment of such a huge enemy force, the AFP has failed to destroy even a single guerrilla front in Negros. Instead, the theater of war has expanded for the armed revolutionary forces.

Mass organizations are being revitalized. The mass base continues to be expanded, while being assidously consolidated by forming and operating barrio organizing committees and full-fledged mass organizations in many villages. The revolutionary forces are now focused on building the municipal chapters of full-fledged mass organizations. A number of barrio revolutionary committees are ready to be formed.

The mass base has been steeled in antifeudal, anti-imperialist and antifascist mass struggles, among them the establishment of land cultivation areas (LCA) which have gained momentum and launching struggles to raise the wages of farmers and farm workers and raise the farm-gate prices of agricultural products, antimining struggles and campaigns against hunger and landgrabbing.

Through small and big tactical offensives launched by the Red fighters in the region, the guerrilla army has been able to accumulate enough high-powered rifles to arm an NPA company and inflict at least 200 casualties on the enemy. Thus, the morale of NPA Red fighters remains high as they fight the mercenary troops of the AFP and the class enemies.

CPP/Ang Bayan: NPA seizes 26 firearms in WMR

From Ang Bayan posted to the CPP Website (Jan 7): NPA seizes 26 firearms in WMR

An NPA platoon raided the local headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Don Victoriano Chiongbian, Misamis Occidental while a bigger group of Red fighters attacked the PNP station in Josefina, Zamboanga del Sur some eight kilometers away.

At exactly 5:23 a.m., the NPA swiftly swooped down on the Don Victoriano station manned by 14 policemen, including ten who belonged to the elite SWAT unit. The Red fighters played a ruse by wearing Philippine Army uniforms. In a span of ten minutes, thousands of rounds of ammunition were seized as well as 26 firearms of various caliber. The arms seizure consisted of an M60 machine gun, an M203 grenade launcher, 12 M16 rifles and 12 short arms.

Meanwhile, at around 6 a.m. of the same day, a bigger NPA troop used the same tactic against six policemen who were positioned at the PNP headquarters in Josefina. The policemen noticed that the men who arrived were not real Philippine Army soldiers and barricaded themselves within the station.

For close to an hour, the NPA tried to convince them to surrender. But the policemen stubbornly refused. Nonetheless, the NPA command decided to call off the offensive because the growing number of civilians that had begun to mill around could be caught in the crossfire.

Afterwards, a platoon under the 55th IB coming from the neighboring town of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur was dispatched to reinforce the policemen. They were blocked by an NPA team that detonated explosives along the soldiers’ path just a few hundred meters from their camp. Five soldiers were killed on the spot and several others were wounded.

These tactical offensives were launched in a region where the enemy had long considered the revolutionary movement as a crushed and spent force.

CPP/Ang Bayan: Victories in Mindanao hailed

From Ang Bayang posted to the CPP Website (Jan7): Victories in Mindanao hailed

The revolutionary forces in Mindanao successfully held gatherings in various parts of the island to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on December 26. In accordance with the CPP’s call, all the celebrations began with the singing of the Internationale and raising the Party’s hammer and sickle flag while Red fighters were in formation.

The main gathering was held in San Luis, Agusan del Sur and led by Comrade Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front-Mindanao and the host forces of the North Central Mindanao Region.

A thousand peasants from neighboring villages trekked to the venue to attend the gathering. Despite the threats and the checkpoints set up by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the difficult travel due to the muddy and pothole-filled roads, hundreds of visitors from the cities also thronged to the site. Ka Oris praised the attendees’ perseverance.

In a statement, Ka Oris said that there were up to ten battalions of the NPA’s regular guerrilla fighters organized in platoon formations all over Mindanao. This is aside from the people’s militia found in their respective guerrilla zones.

He said that the establishment of Party committees that have influence over more than 2,000 villages in 200 towns in 19 provinces of Mindanao provides favorable conditions for launching NPA tactical offensives on various levels and in pursuit of various objectives.

From 250 tactical offensives all over Mindanao in 2010, the number grew to 350 in 2011; 400 in 2012; and more than 400 in 2013.

The revolutionary movement in the island continues to persevere in reaching a sufficient expanse of territory and recruiting enough Red fighters to achieve the strategic stalemate, said Ka Oris.

With continuing improvements in ideological, political and organizational work, the people’s war is sure to reach the level of strategic stalemate, if not in this decade, then in the next.

Meanwhile, Ka Norcen, spokesperson of North Central Mindanao Region relayed the outstanding victories achieved by the revolutionary forces in the region in 2013. His report stating that more than a hundred tactical offensives were launched by the NPA was met by cries of “Long live the NPA!”

One of the tactical offensives that received enthusiastic applause was the punitive measure meted by the NPA on the DOLE multinational company. A dramatization by cultural activists showed how the masses congratulated the Red fighters on this victory.

Ka Norcen shared how the Party committees within the NPA, the Red fighters, revolutionary masses and allied organizations are assiduously persevering to sustain if not surpass the victories attained in 2013 and contribute to the Party’s campaign to complete the requisites for the strategic stalemate.

CPP: Protest Aquino’s antipeople big business projects in calamity areas—CPP

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jan 9): Protest Aquino’s antipeople big business projects in calamity areas—CPP

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) called on the Filipino people, especially the victims of the supertyphoon Yolanda and other calamities last year to expose and wage mass protests against the antipeople programs and big business projects of the Aquino regime misrepresented as “rehabilitation.” The CPP issued this statement amid public outcries over the reported overpricing and use of substandard materials in the construction of bunkhouses being built by the Aquino government.

The Aquino government has hired private contractors to build at least 222 bunkhouses, the design and specifications of which have been criticized by architects and planners as subhuman and below international standards. Each bunkhouse, costing nearly P1 million each, is to be divided into 12 units of 8 meters square each, described as big enough only for two large tables.

The CPP pointed out that the reported overpricing of the construction of bunkhouses in Leyte is not the first of such cases under the Aquino regime. Early last year, residents of Compostela Valley exposed the overpriced bunkhouses constructed by the Aquino government for the victims of typhoon Pablo.

“Aquino’s substandard, inhuman and overpriced bunkhouses in Leyte are a grave insult to the victims of the supertyphoon Yolanda,” said the CPP.

“Tens of thousands of people continue to live in tents yet are prevented from rebuilding their houses where they used to stand as the Aquino government has duplicitously classified these areas as ‘no-build’ zones,” pointed out the CPP. On orders of Aquino, people are prohibited from constructing their homes within 40 meters from the coasts of Samar and Leyte province, purportedly to restore mangroves and marine life.

“This is a half-witted policy as people have long been living by the coasts where mangroves are healthy,” said the CPP. “In fact, the poor fisherfolk have been serving as the first-line protectors of the mangrove areas, as they are the ones who know full well that healthy mangrove areas make better fishing grounds.”

“Tens of thousands of small fisherfolk families and poor toiling people have been displaced from their homes and places of livelihood by Aquino’s no-build policy, and, they are bound to suffer even more with the subpar and inhuman conditions of the bunkhouses they will be cramped into,” said the CPP.

“The Aquino regime is taking full advantage of the massive destruction caused by the recent supertyphoon and other storms to attract and justify the allocation of large amounts of funds and funnel these into the profit-hungry big private big business companies, especially those close to the ruling clique,” added the CPP.

“Local big capitalists and their foreign funders are drooling over the investment heaven being opened by the Aquino regime in the supertyphoon-devastated areas,” said the CPP.

“Aquino is making a big show of so-called rehabilitation, but has yet to put into place any measure that addresses squarely the urgent problems of the people for immediate livelihood,” said the CPP. “Among others, the people of Samar, Leyte, Panay, Negros, Bohol and other areas devastated by the supertyphoons demand that the Aquino regime absorb the debts that poor peasants owe big loan sharks.”

“The clamor for genuine land reform is being amplified by the broad masses of peasants,” added the CPP. “The peasantry and other toiling masses in the devastated areas are exerting all-out effort to campaign and struggle for land reform to bring down land rent and usurious debt interests, raise production and get a fair price for their produce.”

“The revolutionary forces are working hand-in-hand with the people to organize work cooperatives and build communal farms in order for them to collectively confront the mammoth tasks of rebuilding their lives,” said the CPP.

CPP/NDF EV: Aquino regime’s hostile actions jeopardize welfare of typhoon Yolanda victims

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jan 8): Aquino regime’s hostile actions jeopardize welfare of typhoon Yolanda victims

Fr. Santiago Salas (Ka Sanny)
NDFP Eastern Visayas Chapter
Even while Eastern Visayas struggles to recover from typhoon Yolanda’s devastation, the Aquino government persists in escalating the civil war without any concern for the people’s welfare. According to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Eastern Visayas, the Aquino regime pursued and is set to intensify its Oplan Bayanihan despite the unilateral ceasefire declaration of the revolutionary movement in the region up to mid-January this year for the avowed purpose of aiding the typhoon victims. The Armed Forces of the Philippines also grudgingly declared its own unilateral ceasefire in December 2013, which was soon belied by their continuing military operations all over the country.

NDFP-EV spokesperson Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas said, “The 8th Infantry Division of the AFP in the region continued military operations even while the New People’s Army was on ceasefire and focused on aiding the typhoon victims. The NDFP-EV condemns the Nov. 25, 2013 attack by 87th IB troops on an NPA unit in Brgy. Calundan, San Jorge, Western Samar and the subsequent arrest of Renato Baleros and his wife Vangie Colinayo. The couple were heading the NPA’s relief operations in Western Samar when they were arrested. They were charged with trumped-up criminal cases: Baleros in Eastern Samar and Colinayo in Northern Samar, where they are detained respectively – even though they have never been involved in revolutionary activities in the said provinces and have always performed their duties in Western Samar. Thus the baseless criminal charges and arbitrary detention are violations of due process and their basic civil-political rights, running afoul of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, and meant as well to make their legal and family support difficult.
“Earlier, military agents also arrested Romulo Grabillo, 40, a Red fighter, on Nov. 21, 2013 in Brgy. Tag-alag, Marabut, Western Samar. Grabillo was on leave from the NPA to aid his family which had suffered from the typhoon.”

Fr. Salas likewise condemned the sentencing to life imprisonment last Dec. 11, 2013 of Eduardo Sarmiento, NDFP peace consultant for Eastern Visayas. Sarmiento had been arrested on Feb. 24, 2009 in Alabang, Muntinlupa City in violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the NDFP and GPH.  “With Eastern Visayas and other parts of the country devastated by typhoon Yolanda, the Aquino government should have made efforts to resume peace talks with the NDFP and discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms. But with Sarmiento’s sentencing, the Aquino government has added another nail into the coffin. There is no way the NDFP can agree to talk with the Aquino government after its dastardly treatment of Sarmiento and other NDFP consultants who remain detained.”

The NDFP-EV spokesperson furthermore said the Aquino regime is stepping up its attacks on the revolutionary movement, which it dreads will rally the people to demand accountability over the fiasco of the government’s response to typhoon Yolanda as well as other issues. “The Aquino regime is sorely mistaken in thinking it can cow the people. The people are angry, they demand answers to their miseries after Yolanda, on top of other issues – they can surely surge and sweep the Aquino government from power. The revolutionary armed struggle of the people will also surely go stronger once the people realize if they can remove a government from power as they have done twice already, they can certainly overthrow the reactionary ruling system in the long run.”

Borge said Norway open to help in peace talks

From Business Mirror (Jan 9): Borge said Norway open to help in peace talks

NORWEGIAN Foreign Minister Borge Brende said his government is open to help in facilitating peace talks between the Communist Party of the Philippine-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).
“When it comes to peace talks with different movements in the Philippines and among them is the communist movement, and we’re committed to continue as facilitator in this different processes, as long as this is the interest of the government of the Philippines.”
Oslo, Norway, has been the site of negotiations between the CPP-NPA and the GRP since 2001. Three joint statements were issued from the Norwegian capital, with the recent one in 2011.
Malacañang has said in April last year that Norway is the third-party facilitator in the formal peace talks between the Philippine government and the leftist rebels, which bogged down in February 2013.
“I think the presidency of Aquino is here for several years and we are looking into the opportunity to resume talks in the future, I think this is what I can say,” Borge said.
Borge added Norway’s role as facilitator was one of the topics he discussed with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.
“I understand that there is an interest for the future to find good solution to this ongoing problem,” Brende added.
Asked whether those supporting the peace talks have established a timeline for the talks on resumption, Brende said that he will announce the answer if his meeting with President Aquino in Malacañang on Thursday afternoon pushes through.
“Let me get back to you after my meeting with the President.”
The peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA 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.
The communist group also called for President Aquino’s ouster, saying in a statement he is worse than former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in terms of violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

US, PHL to expand exercise prior to military agreement

From the Business Mirror (Jan 9): US, PHL to expand exercise prior to military agreement

THE United States and the Philippines have already agreed to widen the scope and frequency of the military exercises under the Balikatan even before the increased rotational presence of American troops in the country.
The bigger military exercises was agreed upon by Armed Forces Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista and US Pacific Command (Pacom) chief Admiral Samuel Locklear during the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board meeting in Hawaii late last year.
The exercises under the Balikatan is expected to begin March or April this year and onward.
“General Bautista and Locklear signed the agreement increasing the frequency of the Joint Balikatan Exercises this year and onward,” a source said.
The Department of Defense is currently negotiating an increased presence of US Soldiers and their equipment’s access to military camps in the country under the US pivot in Asia.
The negotiations are, however, taking a longer period than expected to seal because of some contentious points in the proposed agreement.
However, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier said the Philippine side is expecting to notch the agreement within the initial months of this year as “all the issues are already being discussed by the two sides.”
The Philippines and the US have already programmed some of the bigger activities under the Balikatan this year, and they included joint naval, air and land drills, as well as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response operations.
Aside from the Balikatan, the Philippine military is holding the Balance Piston, which involve Air Forces of both countries, the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training for both navies and the Philippine Bilateral Exercise involving both forces of the two countries.
Meanwhile, the defense department said China could impose a fishing ban so long as it will not cover or encroach into the country’s waters and even in its claimed islands in the West Philippine Sea.
The department is reacting to the ban that Beijing has imposed for fisherman in the South China Sea.
“We will have to verify statements regarding this alleged fishing rules by China. Nonetheless, all countries are free to enforce fishing rules within their own exclusive economic zones,” said Defense Spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said.
“Likewise, the defense establishment is ready in enforcing the maritime rules in the Philippines. We will enforce the protection of our resources,” he added.

Clan wars among North Cotabato families erupted anew, LGU settles dispute

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): Clan wars among North Cotabato families erupted anew, LGU settles dispute

MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato -- Local officials here are trying to peacefully settle a long standing family feud, locally known as "rido" to restore normalcy and allow displaced families to return home.

Mayor Romeo Arania of Midsayap has repeatedly and separately met with two Muslim clans who happened to be related to some members of either the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) or Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

This after clashes between a village chair and an MILF commander erupted Tuesday night in Barangay Lumupog, Midsayap, North Cotabato.

"It was a long standing rido that we are trying to solve and settle peacefully," Arania who stressed both sides agreed to a amicable settlement.

Involved in the clan feud on one side was Chairman Datu Puti Tukuran of Barangay Lumupog and MILF Commander Abas Kudanding.

Tukuran is said to have relatives and allies both in the MILF and MNLF.

"This is not an organization fight, this is more of family feud and their affiliation or alliance with MILF or MNLF was accidental," Arania told reporters.

In January 2012, both sides clashed in Barangay Lumupog that forced hundreds of families to flee and have not returned home since.

Arania said both sides previously agreed to a ceasefire but there were occasional exchange of bullets as both sides were armed.

He said a Muslim council of elders have been mediating the warring clans with the help of the GPH-MILF ceasefire committee.

According to Arania, pride prevail among warring families thus they fire shots every time they meet or see each other.

"It was just a small barangay and the warring clans occupy two areas that when one member crosses the border he or she will be fired upon," he said.

Early this week, a house of one of the followers of Kudanding was allegedly torched and was blamed to the group of Tukuran.

"It was supposedly a quite place for a while until the reported burning of a house when they started shooting each other again," Arania said.

The displaced families who had been staying in nearby barangay of Sambolawan and other villages continue to receive assistance from the town's social welfare and development office.

PAF to recruit 600 soldiers this year

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): PAF to recruit 600 soldiers this year

CAUAYAN CITY, ISABELA -- The Philippine Air force (PAF)– Tactical Operations Group 2 will recruit at least 600 air force soldiers this year.

PAF-TOG 2 deputy commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Jose Ritchie Pabilonia called on interested applicants in the region to take the opportunity to join the air force and serve the country and the people.

Pabilonia said the PAF TOG-2 has urged interested individuals to take the exam set on January 25, 2014 at the PAF-TOG 2 located near the Cauayan City airport in San Fermin, Cauayan City.

To qualify, applicants must have at least earned 72 units in college, a natural born Filipino citizen, single, five feet in height, not less than 18 years old or 20 years old upon admission, with good moral character and mentally and physically fit.

During the January 25 entrance examination, an applicant must bring with him two 2x2 ID pictures with white background, National Statistics Office authenticated birth certificate, and authenticated copy of transcript of records.

Pabilonia said application forms are now available at the PAF-TOG 2 headquarters in Cauayan City.

He urged interested applicants to apply now and prepare all the necessary requirements to be admitted in the entrance examination.

2 die as Moro clans trade bullets in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): 2 die as Moro clans trade bullets in North Cotabato

Two armed men were killed and another two were wounded when two warring clans clashed in a remote village in Midsayap, North Cotabato Thursday.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the armed skirmishes erupted between the armed group of Abbas Kudanding, a field commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Barangay Lumupog Chair Datu Puti Tukuran in Barangay Lumupog.

The slain rebels belonged to MILF 105th base command, according to Capt. Antonio Bulao, speaking for the 602nd Infantry Brigade.

Two civilian volunteer organization were wounded and they were identified as Daniel Baguiner and Anuarudin Sambayaan.

Both were followers of Chairman Tukuran.

Earlier, a house owned by the followers of Tukuran was allegedly torched by followers of Kudanding thus the armed conflict erupted.

Bulao said the local government of Midsayap through its Muslim elders have been mediating in an effort to solve the conflict peacefully.

"Rido" or family feud had been one of the issues both the government and the MILF are trying to solve as this may affect the efforts to bring about peace in Muslim Mindanao.

Moro families locked in land dispute or misunderstanding normally resort to violence than bringing the issue before Philippine courts to get justice.

PH ready to protect economic zone in Spratlys

From Rappler (Jan 9): PH ready to protect economic zone in Spratlys

'CHINA GET OUT:' Hundreds of protesters troop to the Chinese consulate in July 2013 to denounce Beijing's 'bullying' over the West Philippine Sea. File photo by Vincent Go

'CHINA GET OUT:' Hundreds of protesters troop to the Chinese consulate in July 2013 to denounce Beijing's 'bullying' over the West Philippine Sea. File photo by Vincent Go

The Philippines is verifying reports that China is requiring fishermen to ask for its permission to operate in the vast waters south of China, including the West Philippines Sea.

Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Peter Galvez said the Philippines is ready to protect its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which extends 200 nautical miles from the country's shores.
"All countries are free to enforce fishing rules within their own exclusive economic zone. The defense establishment is ready to assist in enforcing the maritime rules in the Philippines EEZ," Galvez said.
"We will enforce the protection of our resources," he added.
Manila filed before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) a historic arbitration on the territorial dispute, following Beijing's aggressiveness in the South China Sea. (READ: Hearings on PH, China dispute begin)
Tension has marked territorial disputes in the South China Sea, which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines is among 6 countries claiming islands in the Spratlys, locally known as the Kalayaan Group of Islands.
The vast waters is a strategic area for military operations and is believed to be rich in oil.
In April 2012, the Panatag Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) located off the coast of Zambales province was also the site of a tense standoff between Philippines and China ships. The Philippines sent warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar although it was later pulled out. (READ: PH Navy in standoff with Chinese ships)
Amid growing tension in the region, the Armed Forces of the Phiippines (AFP) is shifting its focus from fighting insurgents to territorial defense.
"We are continuing our modernization program. We are acquiring assets to improve our capability to patrol and secure our national territory.... We are looking at more air assets and water craft to be able to address this particular situation," Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Tuesday, January 7, on the sidelines of the joint DND-AFP New Year's Call.
Northen Luzon Command (Nolcom) chief Lieutenant General Gregorio Catapang said the situation in Panatag is "relatively quiet," although they continue to monitor Chinese coastguard ships passing by the area.

Shake-up: AFP top brass retiring this year

From Rappler (Jan 9): Shake-up: AFP top brass retiring this year

CLASSMATES: AFP chief General Emmanuel Bautista and Northern Luzon Command chief Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

CLASSMATES: AFP chief General Emmanuel Bautista and Northern Luzon Command chief Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

By the end of 2014, the military would have an entirely new top brass. The chief of staff, the vice chief of staff, the commanding generals of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, as well as chiefs of 3 of the 6 major commands are all retiring this year.

Army chief Lieutenant General Noel Coballes is the first to retire on February 7, when he turns 56, the mandatory retirement age in the milixtary. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Tuesday, January 7, that the Board of Generals (BOG) has already submitted to President Benigno Aquino III its list of nominees to replace Coballes.

Air Force chief Lieutenant General Lauro Catalino Dela Cruz is retiring on April 30 while Navy chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano is retiring on May 1.

Armed Forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista is retiring on July 20. Vice chief of Staff Lieutenant General Alan Luga is retiring on May 12.

Four other 3-star generals are also retiring this year:

February 16 — Philippine Military Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Edgar Abogado

August 17 — Western Command chief Lieutenant General Roy Deveraturda

September 6 — Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Rainer Cruz

September 8 — Southern Luzon Command chief Lieutenant General Caesar Ordoyo

Strong contenders in the Army post

All eyes are on the selection of the next Army chief, a key post that has become the stepping stone of those later picked as AFP chiefs of staff.

This was Bautista's route. He was Army chief for 14 months before he was appointed chief of staff of the 125,000-strong Army-dominated troops.

Two names have been floated as the possible successor of Coballes in February and possibly even of Bautista in July — Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) chief Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr and 7th Infantry Division commander Major General Hernando Iriberri.

Catapang is a classmate of Bautista in the Philippine Military (PMA) "Dimalupig" Class 1981. He enjoys the advantage of familiarity to President Aquino who hails from Tarlac, where Nolcom is based.

Catapang could take Bautista's route. He may be appointed Army chief in February and then chief of staff in July.

When he was a young lieutenant, Catapang joined the military revolt against the Marcos dictatorship as member of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM). He was part of the EDSA rebel force that secured the Radio Veritas station in Quezon City that was used by the mutinous units to broadcast their anti-Marcos propaganda.

After Edsa 1, Catapang pushed for the disbandment of RAM because it was becoming divisive. The group would be responsible for various coup attempts against the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino. (READ: Gregorio Catapang: 'I was prepared to die for this cause')

Before becoming the Nolcom chief, Catapang was the same command's operations chief and then later commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division based in Nueva Ecija.

"Trabaho lang po, kahit sa'n po tayo makarating, basta mabigyan tayo ng panibagong trabaho, trabaho lang po tayo (We're just doing out job. We will continue to do our jobs wherever we will be appointed next)," said Catapang.

Catapang was in Camp Aguinaldo on Monday, January 6, for the turn-over ceremony of Nolcom's P379,000 donation to ABS-CBN's Sagip Kapamilya Foundation. Nolcom turned acacia trees felled by Typhoon Santi in October into furniture and sold them.

Gazmin's spokesman

The other strong contender for the top Army post is one of Catapang's deputies, the current 7th Infantry Division commander Major General Hernando Iriberri, who enjoys the backing of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

He was Gazmin's former senior military adviser and spokesman (when Gazmin was Army chief) before he became the commander of the Army's 503rd Brigade in Abra and later 7th ID chief.

A member of PMA "Matikas" Class 1983, Iriberri is considered too young for the post. But seniority was not an issue for Aquino when he appointed Bautista Army chief in 2011 and AFP chief in 2012. He bypassed commanders more senior than him. (READ: Son of slain general is new AFP chief)

Catapang's other route

Whether or not he takes the Army's top post, Catapang is also among those in contention for the post of AFP chief of staff.

His current post as chief of Nolcom is also a key post that has launched the career of previous AFP chief of staff General Ricardo David, the first chief of staff under the Aquino administration.

David's route could work for Catapang. Iriberri could take the top Army post while Catapang waits it out as Nolcom chief for 5 months until Bautista retires in July.

Iriberri can then wait for Catapang's retirement on July 11, 2015 and have 9 months to become chief of staff before he himself retires on April 22, 2016 – a month before the 2016 presidential elections.

Other names

While Catapang is the strongest contender for now, there's also no telling how the tide will change from February to July as shown in the previous selection of the chief of staff. Dela Cruz was believed to be a shoo-in for the post, but the President surprised many when he appointed Bautista instead.

If seniority will be the primary consideration, Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero will be a candidate. The former Marine commandant will remain as the most senior 3-star general when all the 9 have retired. The first and only chief of staff to come from the Marines is now Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon.

A possible dark horse in the chief of staff race is current Deputy Chief for Plans (J5) Major General Jeffrey Delgado of PMA Class 1982. He comes from the Air Force and was the President's senior military adviser and later commander of the 15th Strike Wing.

Delgado is perceived to be the strongest candidate to succeed Dela Cruz as commanding general of the Philippine Air Force.

Transitioning military

Bautista retires in July as the AFP begins the second phase of Oplan Bayanihan, the military's Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) that aims to make insurgency irrelevant by 2016. The military will start handing over the security operations of various local government units to the police.

"The year 2014 is our transition period. We will initiate gradual transition [of LGUs] to appropriate agencies of government," Bautista said.

The New People's Army (NPA) remains the biggest threat to internal security. It is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which recently declared it has given up on the peace talks with the Aquino administration.

Bautista belittled CPP's plans to grow its numbers back to 25,000. The military earlier estimated their numbers to be around 4,000. The CPP remains strong in other areas, especially in Mindanao.

Against the backdrop of growing maritime disputes in the region, Bautista said the military has to aggressively shift its focus on territorial defense. The military also has to deal with the impact of climate change.

"Our approach to territorial defense remains the same. We renounce war as an instrument of national policy. We would like to resolve conflicts in the most peaceful manner. It applies internally and also externally. We will continue to pursue that national policy, without saying that we will not prepare for any contingencies. We will prepare for any contingencies that is why we have modernization program," said Bautista.

Norway hoping for resumption of stalled GPH-NDF talks

From InterAksyon (Jan 9): Norway hoping for resumption of stalled GPH-NDF talks

Visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende discussed with Philippine officials the possibility of resuming in the coming months stalled peace negotiations with communist rebels as he assured his country would continue to act as third-party facilitator in the talks.

“We’re committed to continue as facilitator ... as long as this is the interest of the government of the Philippines,” Brende told reporters after meeting with Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles.

Brende was also expected to take up the matter in his meeting with President Benigno S. Aquino III in Malacanang Thursday afternoon.

Talks between the government and the National Democratic Front, which represents the revolutionary movement led by the Communist Party of the Philippines, to end the 45-year old insurgency have been stalled since 2011.

50 families flee as MILF, govt militia clash in North Cotabato

From InterAksyon (Jan 9): 50 families flee as MILF, govt militia clash in North Cotabato

At least 50 families have fled their homes, with more set to evacuate, in Barangay Lumupog, Midsayap, North Cotabato after clashes erupted Thursday morning between members of local government militia and fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Captain Antonio Bulao, spokesman of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, said barangay chairman Datu Rhenz Tukuran, leads the Civilian Volunteer Organization.

The rebels, from the MILF’s 105th Base Command, are headed by Commander Abas Kudanding and have been joined by fighters under Commanders Haon and Obitin.

Bulao said two MILF fighters were reported killed while CVO members Daniel Bagener and Anuaruden Sambayan were wounded.

Although the CVO is supposed to be an unarmed village watch, this rule is routinely ignored in many parts of the country where they are often used by the military as “force multipliers.”

In some places, they are also used as private armies of political warlords.
Bulao said sporadic fighting continued to take place as of this posting and more residents were leaving their homes to seek shelter at evacuations centers set up in Barangay Sambulawan.

Aquino seeks Norway's help to revive talks with Reds

From InterAksyon (Jan 9): Aquino seeks Norway's help to revive talks with Reds

President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday sought Norway's help in reviving failed peace talks with the National Democratic Front, his peace adviser said, nearly a year after negotiations hosted by Oslo fell apart.

Aquino met Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende after the visiting diplomat said Norway remained committed to mediating negotiations between Manila and the NDF in a bid to end the 45-year old insurgency.

"While serious problems have confronted and continue to challenge this particular peace process, the president affirmed the government's commitment to pursue a peaceful settlement of all internal armed conflict," presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said after the meeting.

The communist insurgency has claimed 30,000 lives since 1969 according to government estimates, though its armed force is down to about 4,000 guerrillas from more than 26,000 in the late 1980s.

"The government of the Philippines will continue to consult with Norway as to how the process may move forward in light of current difficulties," said Deles.

In April last year the government announced that the peace talks being brokered by Norway had collapsed, dampening hopes of a political settlement before the Aquino’s term ends in 2016.

Speaking to reporters earlier Thursday, Brende urged the government and rebels to consider returning to the negotiating table in the coming months.
"We are looking at the opportunities to resume talks in the future ... during the (Aquino) presidency," Brende said after meeting with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.

On Sunday Luis Jalandoni, the Netherlands-based chief rebel negotiator, said in a statement to news organizations that they were holding the Aquino government "responsible for stopping the peace process."

He accused the government of failing to honor agreements between the negotiators, including the release of detained rebels who the NDF claims are consultants.

"Because of the Aquino government's refusal to comply ... the prospects this year of the peace negotiations between the Aquino administration and the (rebels) are dim," he said.

The government has had better results in negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, with which it hopes to sign a treaty before Aquino leaves office.