Tuesday, January 28, 2014

PNP SCOUT course reels off in Negros Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 29): PNP SCOUT course reels off in Negros Oriental
A total of 130 personnel from the Regional Public Safety Battalion-7 (RPSB-7) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Central Visayas will be undergoing a 45-day course on Special Counter-Insurgency Operations Unit Training (SCOUT) in Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental.

This will be the first training in Negros Oriental and the second in the entire Region 7 for this year, according to Chief Insp. Dexter Calacar, training manager of the Regional Special Training Unit 7 of the PNP in Region 7.

The PNP SCOUT Class 42-2014 will reel off Wednesday morning at Camp Ausejo in Barangay Nagbagang, Sta. Catalina town, about two hours drive south of this capital, with Governor Roel Degamo, PNP Region 7 director Chief Supt. Danilo Constantino, Supt. Clifford Gairanod, battalion commander of RPSB-7 and OIC PNP provincial director of Negros Oriental, Supt. Alet Virtucio attending the opening ceremony.

Of the total 130 trainees, 24 are females and 106 are males and all assigned to the RPSB-7, said Calacar.

On Tuesday morning, the PNP SCOUT Class 41-2014 also officially started at the RPSB-7 headquarters in Sibonga, Cebu province with a total of 128 trainees, comprising 24 females and 104 males, according to Calacar.

The PNP SCOUT is a mandatory program for police personnel to enhance their skills in militaristic/tactics.


3 BIFF camps captured in Maguindanao as Army offensive continues

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 29): 3 BIFF camps captured in Maguindanao as Army offensive continues

Government forces captured three small camps of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as the military offensive entered its third day in Maguindanao and North Cotabato borders.

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division have launched air and ground assaults against the BIFF to aid the police in serving warrants of arrest against rebels facing various criminal offenses.

“The rebels were forced to abandon their strongholds and divided into smaller groups to avoid detection,” Colonel Dickson Hermoso said.

Hermoso, 6th ID spokesperson, said evacuees told troops on the ground in Datu Piang that the BIFF fled during the first day of artillery attacks, leaving their camps which served as perimeter defense to a bigger camp in the marshland.

Two soldiers belonging to the 45th Infantry Battalion have been slightly wounded in a brief encounter near a riverside BIFF camp in Datu Piang.

They were among the four Army battalions pursuing about 1,000 BIFF members and confined them in one area in the marshland.

More than 10,000 individuals have been displaced by the fighting in the towns bordering Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Concerned government agencies have been attending to the internally displaced persons. Pikit and Midsayap, were among the towns in North Cotabato where IDPs converged. In Maguindanao, the affected towns were Datu Piang, Datu Shariff Saydona and Sultan sa Barongis.

Army personnel, backed by armored personnel carrier also secured portions of the Cotabato-General Santos highway and Cotabato-Davao highway.

The number of checkpoints were doubled along major highways.

Hermoso said they are grateful to the MILF for cooperating by providing the Army enough room to maneuver during the offensive against BIFF.

“Our tactical activities against the BIFF are being coordinated closely with the MILF, they secure civilian communities,” Hermoso said.


19 BIFF members including child combatants killed in clash with soldiers

From the Philippine Star (Jan 28): 19 BIFF members including child combatants killed in clash with soldiers

Soldiers killed 19 members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the second day of military operations aimed at arresting senior leaders of the notorious group.

Local officials in North Cotabato’s adjoining Pikit and Midsayap towns, and in Datu Piang, in Saidona Mustapha, and in Sultan sa Barongis municipalities, all in Maguindanao have confirmed that 19 bandits have been killed in a series of encounters with soldiers at marshlands at the border of the two provinces.

“Seven of the fatalities were killed when 105 Howitzer shells landed near them while they were trading shots with soldiers approaching their lairs along a river in Datu Piang,” said one of the local officials, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.

Two BIFF bandits were killed and three others were wounded in firefights at a swampy area near Paidu Pulangi in Pikit, in the southwest of North Cotabato, according to Barangay officials.

Police intelligence sources said some of the BIFF fatalities were adolescents the BIFF recruited as child combatants, in total disregard of international humanitarian laws that ban the enlistment of children for warfare.

The Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Relief Team (HEART) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao dispatched on Tuesday relief and rehabilitation experts to Datu Piang and nearby Sultan sa Barongis and Mamasapano towns to assess the extent of the dislocation of local folks due to hostilities.

ARMM’s regional executive secretary, Laisa Alamia, said the HEART is now preparing to ship relief supplies, including food packs and other non-food provisions, to evacuation sites in the affected towns.

Local officials in Maguindanao and North Cotabato said there are now more than 10,000 villagers in makeshift relief sites, driven away from their homes by the BIFF-military encounters that started Monday dawn.


MILF keeps close watch vs possible attack by rival groups

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 28): MILF keeps close watch vs possible attack by rival groups

MANILA, Philippines–A peace panel member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said the group is studying ways to prevent an attack similar to the Zamboanga City attack by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

MILF secretariat head Jun Mantawil told INQUIRER.net Tuesday that they are studying the normalization annex that discusses the laying down of firearms and putting these beyond use.

According to the annex, these firearms would not be destroyed but entrusted to a third party.

When asked for their actions to prevent their members to take up arms similar to the Zamboanga city attack, Mantawil said they are still “composing” and “studying the decommissioning” of firearms.

He added that they would also study the Jakarta peace accord between the Philippine government and the MNLF, a pact that is still under tripartite review despite being signed in 1996.

The MNLF attacked Zamboanga City in September 2013 over an independence bid despite the final peace accord. They claimed to be sidelined in the current MILF-GPH peace pact.

The MILF broke off from the MNLF over a dispute with the peace accord.

“Our agreement is we study these. And we craft carefully in order not to repeat the mistakes of the past,” Mantawil said at the sidelines of the Mindanao and Muslim affairs committee hearing at the House of Representatives.

It is the first time an MILF representative set foot on the House grounds to participate in the legislative process.

Teresita “Ging” Deles, secretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process, added that the power sharing annex provides for proposed recommendations from the review process of the MNLF-GPH 1996 final peace agreement.

She added that these recommendations would be integrated in the Bangsamoro basic law, which would be crafted to create the Bangsamoro political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Deles also said that there was no element of surrender from the MILF, adding that the Moro group would only entrust their firearms to a third party.

On Saturday, the MILF and the Philippine government signed the last annex of the Bangsamoro framework, sealing the deal in a bid to end the decades-long secessionist movement in Mindanao.

Coast Guard tests surveillance system

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 28): Coast Guard tests surveillance system

The Coast Guard on Monday started the pilot test of a surveillance system to improve its ship movement monitoring capability, search and rescue mission, smuggling and environmental protection operations.

Commandant Vice Adm. Rodolfo Isorena said the Maritime Surveillance System has been set up at Cunanan Wharf in Manila South Harbor.

The MSS is equipped with radar, camera, and visual sensors to ensure coverage of of up to 25 nautical miles.

Cdr. Armand Balilo, Coast Guard chief information officer, said the image of a ship will be automatically transmitted to the Coast Guard control headquarters once the vessel is detected by the surveillance system.

At present, the Coast Guard has only three vessel traffic monitoring facilities located in Manila, Corregidor, and Cagayan de Oro.

Representing the US government, Capt. Brian Block joined PCG officials in the pilot test.


Peace pact sealed by March

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 28): Peace pact sealed by March

THE government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front aim to sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro not later than March this year, an official said Monday.

The Bangsamoro will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and to ensure its territorial composition is achieved the government will be looking at the “flexibilities” in the modality of the plebiscite that both panels plan to hold in 2015.

“The Constitution requires a plebiscite. That was a hard fact that we had to swallow,” chief government negotiator Miriam Ferrer said.

“We are looking at flexibilities in the modality of the plebiscite, that instead of voting per province, we can do it at a smaller scale, perhaps at the municipal level.”

Ferrer noted how six municipalities in Lanao del Norte had previously voted for inclusion in the ARMM, but failed to do so because the province as a whole did not get the required number of votes.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said the government must carefully study the “Annex on Normalization,” the last of the four documents that make up the Framework Agreement that was signed by the government’s peace negotiators and the MILF.

He said the constitutional issue involved the territory and subdivision of the country.

“You cannot just make a judgment on that until you have seen and read the whole text of the agreement,” Enrile said.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV cited the need to make the Bangsamoro Basic Law as inclusive as possible following the clashes in Mindanao between the military and those critical of the accord signed by the government and the MILF.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III said his panel would work for the eventual passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, while Senate President Franklin Drilon vowed to make that law “universally fair, practical and constitutionally consistent.”

The members of the government’s peace panel arrived in Manila Sunday night from Kuala Lumpur after signing the peace deal with the MILF on Saturday.

The Australian government on Monday praised the signing of the agreement and announced a $6-million grant to support it.

“We recognize the work that needs to be done in Mindanao,” Australian Ambassador to Manila Bill Tweddell said.

The Japanese Embassy in Manila welcomed the agreement and said it firmly believed peace in Mindanao would be achieved.

“It is a great pleasure that Japan contributed to the progress  of the peace process,” the embassy said.

Under the framework agreement, the Bangsamoro will have for its core territory the present composition of the ARMM.


Peace deal faces testy execution

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 28): Peace deal faces testy execution

THE Philippine government faces challenges implementing an accord aimed at ending decades of conflict in resource-rich Mindanao, with the risk of violence from Muslim rebel groups not included in the deal and private armies in the area. (Related story on A3)

An independent body will conduct a census of rebels, inventory their weapons and schedule the phasing out of arms over the next two years, during which programs will be put in place to help fighters move to civilian life, according to the agreement signed Jan. 25 by the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Kuala Lumpur.

Ending one of Southeast Asia’s most entrenched conflicts could mark a key legacy for President Benigno Aquino, with four decades of insurgency killing as many as 200,000 people and stifling development of the southern region. Still, implementing the accord is “easier said than done” given rival rebel groups and private armies operating in the area, Rommel Banlaoi, Executive Director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said by phone.

“The annex on normalization made a lot of promises. If they fail to deliver, that will create unmet expectations and trigger more armed violence in Mindanao,” Banlaoi said.

Soldiers clashed on Sunday and Monday with members of a splinter rebel group in the Mindanao provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato, Colonel Dickson Hermoso, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th infantry division, said by phone.

Soldiers fired artillery rounds as they tried to arrest members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, with several rebels wounded as they escaped, he said. No government troops were injured. Growth Boost

Lasting peace could bring investors to Mindanao and unlock mineral deposits worth an estimated $300 billion, political analyst Richard Javad Heydarian said.“It would unlock the natural resources and unleash the human capital of one of the most promising but underdeveloped areas in Southeast Asia,” said Heydarian, who lectures at Ateneo de Manila University. “Given Mindanao’s substantial untapped economic assets, such integration will further boost the Philippine economy.”

Standard Chartered Plc economist Jeff Ng estimates a peace accord could boost Philippine gross domestic product growth by as much as 0.3 percentage point. The $250-billion Philippine economy expanded in 2013 by 7 percent, the fastest pace in three years, according to the median estimate of economists before a report due Jan. 30.

Mindanao accounted for 14.4 percent of Philippine output in 2012, according to government data. It’s also home to much of the country’s Muslim population, about 5 percent of the Philippines’ more than 100 million people, according to estimates by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Private armies will be disbanded, six rebel camps will become civilian communities and criminal cases related to the Mindanao conflict will be resolved through pardon and amnesty under the accord, the last of four needed to complete a comprehensive agreement. The peace panels also agreed on jurisdiction over waters to be included in Bangsamoro, the new autonomous Muslim political entity targeted by 2016.

Private armies in Mindanao are “well-entrenched, run by wild oligarchs,” Banlaoi said. “It’s the responsibility of the Bangsamoro government to tame the wild oligarchs.”

Three weeks of fighting in Zamboanga city between government forces and a different Muslim separatist group in September killed at least 203 people and delayed peace talks.

“The MNLF has demonstrated its capability to make trouble,” Banlaoi said, referring to the Moro National Liberation Front headed by Nur Misuari, a former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor, which was involved in the Zamboanga standoff. “It can undermine the peace dividends; it can spoil the whole process and even hijack the agenda of the new Bangsamoro government.”

Disarmament will start after the final agreement and be completed before May 2016, when the first regional elections will be held at the same time as national polls, Ghadzali Jaafar, the MILF’s vice chairman for political affairs, said by phone yesterday. It will be gradual and “commensurate” with other steps, he said.

“There is no problem with the MILF,” Jaafar said. “The apprehension will be on the honest-to-goodness implementation of the comprehensive agreement by the government.”

The incidence of poverty across the ARMM -- a delineation created during a previous attempt at peace -- climbed to 48.7 percent in 2012 from 39.9 percent in 2009, according to a December report. The Philippine Statistics Authority defines poverty as living on less than $1.20 a day.

The government and Muslim rebels agreed on power-sharing last month, on wealth and revenue sharing in July, and on transitional arrangements earlier in 2013.

Benito Lim, a political science professor at Ateneo de Manila University, called the process a short-term arrangement that doesn’t guarantee long-term peace.

An earlier agreement signed with Misuari’s MNLF in 1996 collapsed partly because it “failed to put post-conflict rebuilding mechanisms in place,” Teresita Deles, Aquino’s peace adviser, said in an interview last July.

The Philippines sought support from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to review the 1996 deal and merge it with the MILF agreements.

Aquino has asked lawmakers to pass legislation this year creating Bangsamoro, setting the stage for an autonomous Muslim region before his six-year term ends in 2016.


Govt to MNLF: UN petition for Mindanao independence won’t prosper

From GMA News (Jan 28): Govt to MNLF: UN petition for Mindanao independence won’t prosper

The Moro National Liberal Front (MNLF)'s plan to revive its petition seeking the independence of Mindanao will not prosper since the United Nations (UN) recognizes the government's efforts in the peace process, Presidential peace process adviser Teresita Deles said Tuesday.
Deles said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the signing of the last annex to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and even congratulated the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for "their perseverance, courage and commitment in having reached this important milestone in the peace process."
"I think the statement speaks for itself as to how the UN regards how the government is addressing the situation in southern [Philippines]," she said in a text message to GMA News Online.
She issued the statement after MNLF spokesman Rev. Absalom Cerveza said they plan to revive their petition before the UN seeking the independence of Mindanao, claiming the government had abrogated the 1996 peace agreement it had signed with them.
Deles, however, said the UN does not only recognize the FAB and its annexes but its agencies have also been providing "support" to the GPH-MILF peace process.
So instead of reviving their petition, she said the MNLF should just work with them to come up with the "best" law possible for the Bangsamoro people.
"Our call and the cry of all people of good will is for all Bangsamoro stakeholders, including the MNLF, to work together to come up with the best law possible for the autonomous region and its people," she said.

Bangsamoro Basic Law

During a press conference on Tuesday, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. also quoted Deles as saying that “MNLF inputs to the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law are welcome.”

He said Deles likewise said that there is no abrogation of the 1996 final peace agreement with the MNLF and that the government even wants to incorporate all the “best features” of the pact as well as those in Republic Act 9054 or the Organic Act on the ARMM into the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“Ang pananaw ng pamahalaan ay gusto pa ring maging kasali ang lahat ng mga may taya dito sa prosesong ito. Kaya nga patuloy ang koordinasyon at pakikipag-ugnayan ng ating pamahalaan sa Committee of 15—yung bagong governance structure ng MNLF,” Coloma said.

He said the government has specifically adopted the 42 consensus points agreed upon during the tripartite review of the implementation of the 1996 peace pact with the MNLF.

“These consensus points have been conveyed to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission,” Coloma said.

A Bangsamoro Transition Commission shall be in charge of drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will use the FAB annexes as guide. It is expected to result in a Bangsamoro Political Entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Coloma said the government had invited the MNLF into the commission but they refused to name a nominee.

“Ganunpaman, bukas pa rin ang pintuan ng pamahalaan para tanggapin ang kanilang mga inputs, dahil hindi naman kailangang maging miyembro noon para magpanukala ng probisyon sa Bangsamoro Basic Law,” he said.
Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said they hope to present the Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress by early 2014.

MILF helping govt in operations vs. BIFF – Palace

From GMA News (Jan 28): MILF helping govt in operations vs. BIFF – Palace

Malacañang on Tuesday said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is helping law enforcers in its operations against its splinter group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said the military and the police are conducting joint law enforcement operations to serve arrest warrants against members of the BIFF, who had an encounter with government troops after the signing of the last annex of the peace agreement with the MILF on Saturday.

“According to the Philippine Army, the MILF are part of the operations to secure their communities and prevent entry of BIFF elements,” Coloma said during a press briefing.

But Coloma said government troops were not surprised by the attack since it was them who went on the offensive.

“Sila ay nagsasagawa ng patrol, sila ay nagsasagawa ng paghahanap sa mga suspects na may mga warrant of arrest nang nagkaroon ng encounter. At ayon din sa mga ulat, sinusuportahan sila ng mga elemento ng MILF, dahil isa rin sa mga layunin ng MILF ay pigilin yung pagpasok ng BIFF sa mga MILF communities," he said.

“Tila nandoon tayo sa kabilang panig na active naman yung engagement... at meron namang sapat na kakayahan ang pamahalaan na sagutin ang challenge mula sa BIFF,” Coloma added.

As for reports about foreign terrorists or militants allegedly infiltrating the area together with the BIFF, Coloma said law enforcers remain on alert.

“Makatitiyak tayo na ang lahat ng mga galaw ng mga pinaghihinalaang terorista, galing man sa loob ng bansa o sa labas ng bansa, ay tinututukan ng ating intelligence forces at sasagutin ‘yan ng karampatang aksyon ng Armed Forces of the Philippines," he said.


MNLF: No plans to renegotiate with gov’t

From GMA News (Jan 28): MNLF: No plans to renegotiate with gov’t

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said it no longer intends to renegotiate the 1996 final peace agreement with the government and will just appeal to the United Nations (UN) for the independence of Mindanao.

"No renegotiation, no talks or anything with government," MNLF spokesperson Absalom Cerveza said at a press conference with members of local media in Davao City, according to a Philippine Star report on Monday.

The statement came after the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday.

Cerveza said the agreement between the MILF and the government abrogates the 1996 FPA signed in Jakarta. He said the group plans to question the legality of the framework agreement before the Supreme Court.

In a post on its Facebook account Tuesday, the MNLF denounced the MILF leadership for entering into an agreement with the government without consulting its members especially the commanders on the ground.

"MILF leaders sold out the lives of its warriors in the grounds to the GPH...Ngayong araw, in celebration of the signing of MILF-GPH deal, binobomba na ang mga MILF fighters sa grounds ang Maguindanao at Liguasan marsh," it said.

The MNLF also said it is open to accept MILF members who are not satisfied with the framework agreement. "We, MNLF, shall open our arms for the MILFs to return back to us, and we shall provide adequate sanctuary to the MILFs na tinraydor at binenta ng kanilang mga negotiators," the group's statement said.

MNLF: MILF to launch new offensives

In another statement posted on its Facebook account Monday, the MNLF warned of more offensives by the MILF ground commanders.

"The war department of the MILF will launch a new round of armed conflicts. Their objective is to prove that the MILF negotiators have no popular support and control in the grounds. We don't have any information as to what event triggered this, how they will do it, where, or when it will spark. GENERAL ORDERS to ALL MNLF: Do not participate. Wherever there is armed conflict, your orders are to go away from that area, and be safe," the Facebook post said.

The military earlier said the clashes in Maguindanao and North Cotabato between the military and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a rebel group that broke off from the MILF, has nothing to do with the signing of the MILF-GPH peace agreement.

“Unang una, I would like to correct the misimpression that the recently signed Normalization Annex is connected with the operation. The law enforcement operation we launched together with the police of Maguindanao yesterday ay kadugtong ng mga ginawa naming operations sa mga nakaraang buwan at taon,” Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the Armed Forces 6th infantry division said in an interview with GMA News TV's "News To Go". He said their offensive operation was aimed at serving arrest warrants against some BIFF members.

The clash left 17 BIFF rebels dead.


AFP says 17 rebels dead in offensive vs. BIFF, denies ops linked to peace talks

From GMA News (Jan 28): AFP says 17 rebels dead in offensive vs. BIFF, denies ops linked to peace talks

A military spokesperson clarified Tuesday that the recent operation against Muslim splinter group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which led to the death of 17 rebels, had nothing to do with the signing of the last annex for the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.
Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the Armed Forces 6th infantry division, said the offensive was due to the “excesses of the BIFF in North Cotabato and Maguindanao.”
“Unang una, I would like to correct the misimpression that the recently signed Normalization Annex is connected with the operation. The law enforcement operation we launched together with the police of Maguindanao yesterday e kadugtong ng mga ginawa naming operations sa mga nakaraang buwan at taon,” he said in an interview with GMA News TV's News To Go.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which some BIFF members broke from, and the government panel signed the Normalization Annex on Saturday
AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the law enforcement operation was conducted to to battle lawless elements such as the BIFF and other auxiliary groups that threaten the community and the safety and security of the people residing in it.

“We consider them as peace spoilers. They may do actions that are detrimental to our peace process that is advancing greatly,” he said in an interview with reporters.

Hermoso said intense fighting erupted when BIFF members refused to accept arrest warrants issued by the court.
“Nagbakbakan ng umaga at nagtapos ng alas-kwatro ng hapon. May dalawang slightly wounded na sundalo, okay naman sila ngayon. Dun sa BIFF, as what we got from the ground, may 17 na nasawi at patuloy na bineberipika ng barangay peace and order council ang iba,” he said.
He said no BIFF member was arrested but government troops were able to seize firearms and improvised explosive devices.
BIFF has at least 100 members, according to the AFP official, noting that Shariff Saydona Mustafa, where the fighting occurred, is a rebel stronghold.
“Nung maitaboy natin sila sa Guindulungan and Talayan, Maguindanao nung nakaraang taon dahil hinarangan at sinarahan 'yung kahabaan ng highway, tumakbo sila sa bundok ng Reina Regente which is the boundary of Saydona and Datu Piang. Nag-put up sila ng stronghold doon,” he said.
He said the number of BIFF fighters usually increase during operations because of the help coming from their relatives who are members of private armed groups.
He said the military and police operation against the BIFF will continue with or without the signing of the peace agreement with the MILF.
“Yes, precisely. Dahil 'yung pag-commit ng krimen ay walang pinipiling oras o araw kaya 24/7 din 'yung aming paghahabol sa mga miyembro ng BIFF na involved sa mga nangyayaring krimen sa Central Mindanao,” he said.

BIFF ‘crimes’
Hermoso said among the crimes of BIFF were the attack on military and police camps, and hostaging and killing of teachers and civilians in Midsayap last September.
He also said the BIFF is involved in extortion regarding the irrigation project of the National Irrigation Administration in Pikit, Cotabato.
“Napuno na ang tao at local government units kaya tuloy-tuloy 'yung paghabol simula kahapon,” the spokesperson said.
The BIFF usually stages offensives when the MILF and the government panel are in Malaysia for the peace talks, Hermoso noted.
“Galing sila sa hanay ng MILF pero 'yung ideology nila, eh, more on extortion, pananakot. Hindi kapareho sa MILF, kung ano ang gusto nilang mangyari, dahil opposed sila sa ongoing talks ng MILF at government. This is a small group na ayaw nila ng mapayapang solusyon sa Mindanao,” he said.

Zagala said the military has enough troops to handle the BIFF but he cannot assure that there will be no spillover.

“There is already a plan and, of course, we cannot remove the possibility of a spillover that's why we are preventing that. If it will escalate, we have enough troops to handle the estimated 300 BIFF force, there's enough forces on the ground to address any threat,” he said.

News To Go reported that the residents of Brgy. Ganta and neighboring communities in Shariff Saydona Mustafa and Datu Salibo, both in Maguindanao, have left their houses since the fighting erupted.

In Brgy. Magaslong, Datu Piang, the GMA team saw evacuees from Lower Damabalas and barangays Pendi and Penditen.

“Oo, wala nang mga tao doon, yung plane ba dalawa ang nagbomba, putukan pa, mga baka, mga palay namin naiwan na," said Kadilon Magaluyan of Lower Damabalas.

Foreign terrorists

Mayor Benzar Ampatuan of Mamasapano, Maguindanao said they received information that among the ranks of BIFF are two foreign terrorists.
"Yung initial na report na ibinigay sa atin, may mga foreign terrorist na kasali, kasama sa operation na ito. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang pangalan pero yun yung mga report na galing sa baba," he said.

The television report said Abu Misry Mama, BIFF spokesperson, denied the AFP claim on the number of casualties from their group. He said only one BIFF member was wounded.
He also denied that among them were foreign terrorists.

Rival rebel groups back call for unity

From Business World (Jan 27): Rival rebel groups back call for unity

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- The two rival factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) separately backed yesterday the call of the influential Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for the integration of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) in the final peace accord between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Jimmy Labawan, vice-chairman of the MNLF central committee affiliated with founding chairman Nur Misuari, welcomed the call of the OIC for the GPH, MNLF and MILF to unite in developing a mechanism to harmonize the peace agreements of the two Moro fronts.

In a statement, Mr. Labawan also lauded the GPH and the MILF for the successful completion of the 43rd Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur.

“I support the advocacy in uniting all the Bangsamoro people as one in the quest for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Mindanao,” Mr. Labawan said.

Abdul Sahrin, secretary-general of the MNLF Council of 15 headed by Muslimin Sema, also welcomed the resolution issued by the OIC calling for the inclusion of the gains of the 1996 GPH-MNLF peace agreement to the Bangsamoro framework agreement of the GPH and the MILF.

“It is good if we can put the two peace agreements together so that we can come up with a more comprehensive, inclusive and meaningful solution to the Bangsamoro problem,” he said.

Last week, Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Q. Deles reiterated the government’s call for the MNLF to participate in the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would govern the Bangsamoro government, and replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 2016.

Mr. Sema has clarified his group is not opposed to the forging of a final peace agreement between the GPH and the MILF, as he noted the need to respect the 1996 GPH-MNLF final peace agreement.

“We are not against the signing of a peace agreement between the MILF and the government,” Mr. Sema said in a radio interview last week in Cotabato City.

Meanwhile, House committee on national defense and security chairman and Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo G. Biazon yesterday cautioned the government to further study the peace agreement it signed with the MILF to avoid further questions before the Supreme Court (SC) later on.

In a chance interview on Monday, the former senator and Armed Forces chief-of-staff said the conditions in the Bangsamoro framework agreement should be examined carefully to ensure that it does not violate provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

He noted that there can be “traps” in the annexes signed between the government peace panel and the MILF, and may require constitutional amendments, or the enactment, repeal, or amendment of a law. One of the contentious issued cited by Mr. Biazon is the creation of a new police force within the envisioned new Bangsamoro territory.

“The Constitution is very clear: there shall only be one Philippine National Police, civilian in character and national in scope. I am not saying that it is hard for us. We need to examine all the scope of the annexes and find out and begin to study which of the provisions of these four annexes will require deeper examination so that we will know where the traps might be,” he said.

Mr. Biazon predicted that there will be many other provisions in the peace agreement that will be questioned before the high court.

In 2008, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) creating an independent state within the Philippines, but was later on struck down by the SC as unconstitutional.

On Saturday, peace negotiators of the GPH and MILF reached an agreement to demobilize more than 11,000 rebels -- deemed the last step before a comprehensive peace deal is signed.

The remaining Annex on Normalization was signed in Kuala Lumpur, completing the framework for a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, or final peace agreement.

Aside from the Annex on Normalization, the parties also signed the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters that sets the division of authority between the national and Bangsamoro governments over such areas. The normalization annex details the gradual phasing out of MILF forces to be carried out until the new ministerial form of government is formally established in 2016.


Public-school employees abducted in Zamboanga

From the Business Mirror (Jan 28): Public-school employees abducted in Zamboanga

EIGHT armed men abducted on Tuesday a couple who were working as supervisors in one of the public schools in Zamboanga del Sur, the police said.
According to an initial report, the victims were identified as Rudy Luna and Tessie Luna, both supervisors at the Kumalarang Central Elementary School, who were snatched at around 8 p.m. at Barangay Diplo, Kumalarang.
The two were reportedly brought to Sitio Dacun, Barangay Picanan, Kumalarang onboard a white Toyota Fortuner that was owned by the victims.
At Sitio Dacun, Tessie managed to escape while the armed men forced her husband into a pumpboat that sped toward an unknown direction.
The police and military are still scouring the area for the victim.
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group chief Sr. Supt. Renato Gumban said that the PNP recorded at least 50 cases of kidnapping last year.We categorized them as kidnapping for ransom by organized crime group, we have two; by criminal gangs, we have nine; by terror groups we have 20,” he said. Gumban said most of the kidnapping were perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf Group and kidnap-for-ransom groups.   
In 2012, he said the PNP recorded at least 28 cases.

‘Peace deal with MILF won’t abrogate 1996 pact with MNLF’

From the Business Mirror (Jan 28): ‘Peace deal with MILF won’t abrogate 1996 pact with MNLF’

MALACAÑANG on Tuesday insisted that the government’s new peace accord with the breakaway Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) creating “a new Bangsamoro entity” will not abrogate the 1996 peace pact between the Ramos administration with the mainstream Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that created the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. also assured that the agreement being finalized with the MILF would even include the “best features” of the earlier peace deal forged by the Ramos administration with the MNLF led by fugitive ex-ARMM Gov. Nur Misuari. 

Addressing what he called “continuing challenges to the viability of the peace process” at Palace news briefing, Coloma quoted Presidential Adviser Teresita Deles saying “the  MNLF inputs to the crafting of the Bangsamoro basic law are welcome.”

“She also said that there is no abrogation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. In fact, the government wishes to incorporate into the proposed Bangsamoro basic law all the best features of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, as well as those in the Organic Act on the ARMM or Republic Act [RA] 9054,” Coloma said.

He noted that Deles, likewise, explained that the government had adopted the 42 consensus points agreed upon during the tripartite process involving the Philippine government, the MNLF and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). 

“These consensus points have been conveyed to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission that is tasked to prepare the draft bill to be submitted to the President and Congress,” the Palace official added.

Coloma also downplayed the effects on the ongoing peace negotiations of the latest outbreak of violence in Maguindanao perpetrated by the so-called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), reporting that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police “are now conducting joint law-enforcement operations to serve arrest warrants against members of the BIFF—a breakaway group from the MILF.

“According to the Army, the MILF are part of the operations of the military and the police to secure their communities and prevent entry of BIFF elements,” the secretary said.

He also cited reports over the weekend that after the signing of the normalization annex in the MILF peace deal, “a BIFF spokesman identified as Abu Misri Mama said the splinter group will not sabotage the peace process despite disagreements with the Central Committee of the MILF.”

“The government is hopeful that with the support of the citizenry there will be no serious disruption of the peace process as it moves toward full fruition,” Coloma told reporters at the briefing.

He confirmed the government negotiation panel’s projection that a final peace deal with the MILF could be formally signed by March this year, after which a proposed basic law crafted by a transition commission creating the new Bangsamoro entity would be submitted for Congress concurrence and subsequent ratification in a plebiscite, possibly by next year.

“The next step after the signing of the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro will be the drafting of the Bangsamoro basic law. As we have discussed previously, even after the signing of the annexes on transitional arrangements, power-sharing and wealth-sharing, and now normalization, the members of the commission have started to address the salient points that will be included into the draft bill,” Coloma said.

He added that once the draft bill is completed, it will be submitted to President Aquino and then to House of Representatives and the Senate for enactment. “As soon as Congress enacts the Bangsamoro basic law, it will set the date for a plebiscite for its approval. We are hoping that approval may take place in 2015.”

“After the approval of the Bangsamoro basic law in a plebiscite, the final step will be the election of officials of the Bangsamoro political entity, which we hope can and will take place before June 30, 2016,” Coloma said, referring to the last day of President Aquino’s six-year term.

The Palace official voiced confidence there is enough time to pass the enabling law “for it [election of new Bangsamoro officiuals] to be held simultaneously with the May 2016 national elections. So those are the remaining steps on the road map toward the full fruition of the Bangsamoro peace process.”

US, Canada hail signing of agreement

THE United States on Tuesday congratulated the Philippines and the MILF for concluding negotiations toward a historic, comprehensive peace agreement.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement, “This agreement offers the promise of peace, security and economic prosperity now and for future generations in Mindanao.”

Kerry said both sides are moving closer to the vision of a just and peaceful solution as outlined in the October 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro.

The US also commended the government of Malaysia, facilitator of the talks, as well as the International Contact Group, for their constructive role in helping resolve a decades-long conflict.

At the same time, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird welcomed the peace agreement, saying: “This marks another step forward as both sides continue along the path toward building lasting peace, stability, development and prosperity in Mindanao following decades of conflict.”

With a foundation for peace now established, we encourage both parties to continue working in the spirit of cooperation during the implementation phase of the agreement in the months ahead, Baird added.

He said Canada also recognizes the important work done by Malaysia as facilitator of the negotiations, and that of the International Contact Group on Mindanao in advancing the process.

Canada is proud to support the efforts of both parties through our contribution to the work of the Independent Commission on Policing.”

Over the weekend, the government and the MILF signed the Annex on Normalization during the recently-concluded round of talks brokered by Malaysia.

Government chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer on Monday said she is hopeful that a comprehensive agreement with the MILF will be signed by March of this year.

The signing of the comprehensive peace deal with the MILF will take place ‘hopefully, not beyond March this year,” she said at a televised press briefing in Malacañang.

She said the comprehensive deal will be made up of the framework agreement, the four signed annexes and two addendum.

However, she added that to pull these parts together, some kind of text is needed which they are working on through teams that the government and the MILF have agreed to create.

“Very soon, we hope to be able to also work on the specific preparations that will be needed for a ceremonial signing of the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro,” Ferrer said.


NPA rebels gun down ex-Army man in Albay

From the Bicol Today (Jan 26): NPA rebels gun down ex-Army man in Albay

New People’s Army (NPA) rebels shot dead a former member of the Philippine Army whose motorcycle they stopped at about 12:45 a.m. Sunday in Sitio (sub-village) Patag, Barangay Sampongan, Libon, Albay.

A police report identified the victim as Jomar Marano, 35, married and formerly assigned with 31st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Sorsogon City.

A resident of Barangay San Jose, Libon, Marano was bringing home his cousin, Arnel Sierra, when they were stopped by the rebels, the report said.

The communist dissidents asked Marano and Sierra to alight from their vehicle and shot dead the former military man but spared his cousin.

After seeing Marano dead, the rebels casually walked away from the crime scene. Sierra immediately sought help from nearby residents and the police.

Police recovered Marano’s motorcycle and empty shells of a .45-caliber pistol from the crime scene. Marano’s body was taken to a funeral parlor.


CPP: Istatus: SMR (Southern Mindanao Region)

Propaganda video posted to the CPP Website (Jan 28): Istatus: SMR (Southern Mindanao Region)

An interview with Ka Simon Santiago, Political Director of Merardo Arce Command, NPA-Southern Minanao Region.

Santiago relates the comprehensive victories of the revolutionary movement in SMR, paticularly in the field of base-building, armed struggle and extablishment of revolutionary people's democratic government. Istatus:SMR is the third in a series of video features which present the situation and victories achieved by the CPP in the different regions in the Philippines, as well as the challenges confronting the revolutionary forces in further advancing the people's war.




CPP: Supertyphoon Haiyan: Aquino regime’s criminal negligence vs people’s heroic efforts at relief and rehabilitation

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jan 27): Supertyphoon Haiyan: Aquino regime’s criminal negligence vs people’s heroic efforts at relief and rehabilitation
Luis Jalandoni
Chief International Representative
NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Supertyphoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on 8th of November 2013. Winds of more than 300 kilometers per hour and storm surges devastated wide areas of central Philippines and other areas. Official death toll has already exceeded 6,000. More than four million people have been rendered homeless and a total of 14 million people were gravely affected by the supertyphoon.

The Filipino people in their millions accuse President Benigno Aquino of criminal negligence and incompetence. Two years before supertyphoon Haiyan struck, in the wake of earlier calamities, a parliamentary bill was proposed to provide funds for pre-disaster preparations, like setting up of strong structures for evacuation and warehouses with food, drinking water, and medicines. Aquno vetoed this bill. He shortsightedly declared that money should be used only when disasters strike, not before.

A day before the supertyphoon made landfall on 07 November, the Manila Observatory released a report warning that the storm “could cause catastrophic damages especially in provinces in Visayas and islands in Southern Luzon, as well as parts of Northern Mindanao.” It advised that mass evacuation would be needed to in order to move communities eight to 16 kilometers from the coastline. Aquino disregarded these warnings. No evacuation was carried out. In contrast, Vietnam evacuated 600,000 people before Haiyan struck.

Criminal Incompetence

In the face of these warnings, Aquino even made the preposterous and arrogant declaration that there would be zero victims, there would be “zero casualties”. He boasted of having the planes and helicopters of the Air Force and 20 vessels of the Navy “prepositioned” in the areas to be affected. He gave the assurance “that help will arrive as soon as the storm passes.” But after the winds subsided on 08 November, there were no sight of air force planes nor navy ships to deliver urgently needed drinking water, food and medicines. Moreover, Aquino tried to belittle the loss of lives, announcing in an interview with the CNN that only 2,000 to 2,500 died. The provincial police chief who stated that the loss of lives would reach 10,000 was summarily relieved.

More than a month after the disaster, many affected areas had not yet received any food, drinking water, nor medicines from the Aquino government, despite huge funds contributed by international aid agencies. Even two months after, many dead bodies had not been buried and numerous corpses have yet to be identified.

US Warships and Troops Allowed by Aquino

In utter disregard of the country’s sovereignty, Aquino allowed US warships and troops to come in, under the guise of offering emergency relief. Ten thousand US troops entered the affected areas, taking over airport, ports and other facilities. The Armed Forces of the Philippines set up checkpoints, falsely alleging that victims of the disaster had been looting relief supplies. The US and Aquino government soldiers set up military rule in various areas.

Aquino’s military falsely claimed that the New People’s Army attacked Red Cross trucks carrying relief supplies. They also spread false information of the NPA carrying out attacks in disaster-affected areas. This demonizing of the NPA was an additional excuse for allowing the entry of thousands of US troops and the imposition of military rule in the devastated areas.

Corruption in Bunk House Construction

Today, bunkhouses are being constructed by political allies of the Aquino government. The bunkhouses are temporary shelters for six months before permanent housing is constructed. The bunkhouses have been severely criticized by international observers and experts as inhumanly substandard and overpriced. The room per family is very small, only 8.67 square meters, lacking ventilation, safety and privacy. In most cases, there are no toilets and kitchens. The overpricing is more than five times the actual cost.

Oust Aquino Campaign

This criminal negligence and incompetence of the Aquino regime follows the exposé of the massive corruption in so-called pork barrel funds and the presidential discretionary funds running into scores of billions of euros. This is propelling a widespread campaign demanding for the overthrow of the Aquino regime or the forcible resignation of Aquino.

Filipino People’s Heroic Efforts

The revolutionary forces throughout the country, especially those in the affected areas, are carrying out heroic efforts in undertaking relief and rehabilitation operations for the communities severely affected by the supertyphoon. The Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army declared a unilateral ceasefire from 8 November until 24 December 2013 in all regions affected. In Eastern Visayas region, covering especially Leyte and Samar islands, the ceasefire was extended until mid-January 2014. This ceasefire declaration was meant to put the highest priority and concentration of the revolutionary forces on the urgent needs of relief and rehabilitation.

The victims themselves, the people in the affected areas, organized themselves to do what is possible to look for their necessities, build their temporary shelters, secure drinking water, food and medicines. This resiliency and determination of the people had been noted by international observers who found the people’s courage and resourcefulness highly inspiring. One international observer who visited the affected areas declared: “Typhoons, earthquakes, and floods may come and go, but the Filipino people will still be around.”

People’s organizations on the national, regional and local levels worked tirelessly and heroically, together with the affected communities and with some international NGOs. They collected goods, drinking water, medicines. They formed health teams to give immediate medical care and psycho-social assistance for the traumatized persons and families. Five hundred volunteers from Mindanao, who were among the victims of earlier calamities, went to Leyte, Samar, and other affected areas to assist in relief and rehabilitation.

Overseas Filipino organizations in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East conducted fund raising and other solidarity activities, collecting significant amounts. They sent the assistance directly to the people’s organizations in the Philippines.

International Solidarity

Solidarity organizations and progressive NGOs from different parts of the world sent teams to the Philippines and conducted campaigns of solidarity. Their activities strengthen the solidarity of the international community not only with the people in the affected areas, but in many cases, also with the liberation struggle of the Filipino people against the US-Aquino regime and the unjust semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system in the Philippines. It is noteworthy that international organizations, including some governments and intergovernmental organizations, declared that they did not want to channel their aid through the Aquino government. They had received reports of the widespread accusations of corruption of the Aquino government and how international aid for past disasters were pocketed by corrupt bureaucrats. It was known that many relief goods ended up being sold in supermarkets and groceries.

In sharp contrast to the Aquino government’s criminal negligence, incompetence and corruption, the people’s heroic efforts and the international solidarity of overseas compatriots and concerned international organizations and agencies underlined the just struggle of the people for rebuilding their lives and future and struggling for a just and free Philippines.


NDF belittles Bangsamoro peace pact

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 28): NDF belittles Bangsamoro peace pact

The National Democratic Front, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has expressed skepticism about the latest breakthrough in the peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“The government is hoping to have peace in the area (Mindanao), but to us, this is not going to happen,” said Jorge Madlos alias Ka Oris, the spokesperson for the NDF in Mindanao.

Madlos told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview on Tuesday that the euphoria brought by the signing of the Annex on Normalization of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro was not something to look forward to.

“You must not lose sight of the real cause of the struggle of the Moro people, which should be set free from the feudal system of the ruling class, the imperialist masters and the aspiration of the real autonomy,” Madlos said.

He said majority of the Moro people remain landless, and a peace agreement will not address this main concern.

“Their natural wealth, including the Liguasan Marsh and their plains, will surely be up for plunder by the domestic and multinational corporations, who will continue to treat the Moro people as a second class people,” Madlos said.

Based on experience in the case of the peace accord between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front, Madlos said, only “the few MILF hierarchy and not the majority of the Moro people… stand to benefit from the peace deal.”

Madlos instead encouraged the MILF to “coordinate” with the NDF for a common struggle.

“Either they participate directly with the revolutionary government or other resistance group will closely coordinate with the NDF,” Madlos said, adding that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, an MILF breakaway group, can cooperate with their forces.

The NDF has been engaged in on-and-off peace talks with the government for two decades now.

Madlos said the communist movement was not closing the door to a peace agreement, “but government forces keep on attacking us.”

“We don’t expect seriousness and sincerity on the part of the government,” Madlos said.


MNLF wants Misuari arrest warrant withdrawn

From the Philippine Star (Jan 28): MNLF wants Misuari arrest warrant withdrawn

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is demanding that the arrest warrant issued by a Zamboanga City regional trial court against its fugitive founding chairman Nur Misuari be withdrawn.

“We want that the arrest warrant be withdrawn. There is no one that could take his place as the legitimate and real chair of the MNLF,” MNLF Islamic Command Council chair Habib Hashim said.

Misuari has reportedly been in and out of the country after his followers attacked Zamboanga City last September.

Charges of rebellion and violation of Republic Act 9851 (Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity) were filed against Misuari and several of his followers before the Zamboanga City RTC last Oct. 7.

The Department of Justice recommended no bail for Misuari and his commanders.
On the separate cases on RA 9851, no bail was recommended for all accused. Last Oct. 9, the RTC issued arrest warrants against Misuari and his commanders.

Clashes between government forces and MNLF rebels lasted for 22 days when more than 400 armed men attacked Zamboanga City last Sept. 9 to capture city hall and raised the flag of the “independent Bangsamoro Republik.”

Some 190 MNLF rebels were killed while 292 other suspects were either captured or have surrendered.

Twenty-three soldiers and policemen were killed and 180 were wounded, while 12 civilians were killed.

At least 120,000 residents were evacuated after the rebels burned houses to derail the military operations against the MNLF fighters.

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza said Misuari is currently in the country but the rebel leader could slip out anytime.

Cerveza was actually waiting for instructions from Misuari last Sunday while he was holding a press briefing at a Davao City hotel.

“He is now in a very safe place. And he is in perfect and robust health,” Cerveza said.

He said Misuari is “some distance away” where there is no cell site, which makes it difficult to contact the MNLF chairman.

Cerveza said authorities could not find Misuari.

“Of course they could not find the chairman because they are not looking for him at all,” Cerveza said.


More rebels embrace 'Kabsatklo Ipategko Program' of Abra

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 28): More rebels  embrace  'Kabsatklo Ipategko Program' of Abra

More  remnants of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) here and from the neighboring provinces continue to return  to the folds of the law through the ‘Kabsatko Ipategko Program” of the Provincial Government of Abra (PGA) in partnership with the Philippine Army.

For surrendering with their firearms,  they are given  financial remuneration under the “Guns for Peace” program, formerly the  Balik-Baril Program of the government.

Last January 22, 2013, four  former rebels were given their checks for the firearms they have surrendered.   Three  got P50,000 each  for  surrendering the M16 armalite rifles they surrendered while one  received  P60,000 for his baby armalite.

The checks were awarded to the former rebels by Governor Eustaquio P. Bersamin, assisted by Col. Paul T. Atal, Commanding Officer of the 503rd Brigade and Lt. Col. Danilo Domingo, Commanding Officer of the 41st Battalion of the Philippine Army. It was witnessed by the Provincial Social Welfare Officers headed by Decimia Cabang; the religious and private sector and media.

In his message,  Bersamin assured the  former rebels from Cagayan and Kalinga to bring to the attention of their  governors  their  need for further assistance in their reintegration. He thanked them for their trust and confidence in his sincerity to carry out the peace program of the national government.

He  thanked the Philippine Army for helping the PGA sustain his flagship program on peace and order and counter-insurgency through the Kabsatko Ipategko  ’which was launched  during his first term as governor.

The KIP  aims to support the rehabilitation of  rebel  returnees under a caring scheme  where a sponsor assists the former rebel in his reintegration to the community.  

Atal likewise thanked the FRs for their “Pagbabalik-Loob sa Pamahalaan” (surrender to the government), and  commended the officers and men of the 41st IB for their continued efforts in collaboration with the local chief executives of the upland LGUs for facilitating the surrender of the remnants of the NPAs.

Last month, two others surrendered and the PGA outright gave them immediate financial assistance while their documents are being validated and processed at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process for the release of their livelihood assistance funds.


Royal Brunei Navy commander visits PHL counterparts

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): Royal Brunei Navy commander visits PHL counterparts

In line with its efforts to increase defense cooperation in the region, Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) commander, First Admiral Dato Seri Pahlawan Haji Abdul Halim Bin Haji Mohammad Hanifah and his party visited the country as the official guest of the Philippine Navy (PN) from Jan. 27 to 29.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, Navy spokesperson, said the visit of the RBN chief is an official farewell visit of the latter as Hanifah is scheduled to retire this coming February.

The visit includes courtesy calls on Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista at the AFP general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Tuesday.

Hanifah also visited the PN headquarters at Naval Station Jose Andrada, Roxas Boulevard, Manila and paid a courtesy call on Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Jose Luis M. Alano.

After that visit, the RBN commander and his party also visited Rear Admiral Jaime Bernardino, Philippine Fleet Commander at Sangley Point, Cavite City.

Arrival honors for the honoree was rendered at the PN headquarters and at Sangley Point, Cavite to show the Fleet-Marine Team’s gratitude for his visit.

This visit emphasizes the warm and friendly defense relations between Philippines and Brunei.

The PN and the RBN interact regularly through visits, courses and other professional exchanges.


87 former young rebels back to school thru ALS

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): 87 former young rebels back to school thru ALS

A memorandum of agreement (MOA)was signed Tuesday morning for a partnership between the Philippine National Police 11, the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, Department of Education 11, the University of South Eastern Philippines (USEP), and the Junior Chamber International Senoritas Chapter (JCI) to assist 87 former young rebels in completing high school education through the help of the Alternative Learning System or ALS.

The ALS is a shorter modular education program for elementary and secondary school, and is designed primarily for out-of-school youth who were denied of a chance to receive proper education by circumstance.

The signatory for the 10th Infantry Division in the said MOA signing was Major General Ariel B. Bernardo, the division commander.

Bernardo said the 10th ID has joined the partnership for the benefit of the young former NPA rebels who surrendered in his area of responsibility

“We want to give them a chance to be reintegrated into society on an equal footing with their peers who have not been deceived to join the armed struggle. These youth have been robbed of their childhood and the opportunities in life afforded by education when the communist movement recruited them to join the armed struggle,” Bernardo said.


More BIFF rebels die in Army offensive in Maguindanao, North Cotabato borders

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): More BIFF rebels die in Army offensive in Maguindanao, North Cotabato borders

More Moro bandits were reported killed as the Army offensive against Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) entered its second day.

Local officials in Maguindanao and North Cotabato told reporters at least 19 BIFFs have been killed, with most of the bodies taken by their comrades.

Thousands of civilians also fled their homes anew as sporadic skirmishes between BIFF and government forces continued Tuesday.

Disaster officials in the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato initially placed the number of affected families at about 5,000.

But Atty. Laisa Alamia, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) executive secretary, said that some 9,070 individuals or 1,814 families have fled their homes since Sunday due to the continuing clashes.

North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza, aware of possible human dislocation as a result of the military offensive against BIFF in the borders with Maguindanao, has sent Sonia Ortega, provincial disaster risk reduction management officer, to Pikit to assess the needs of displaced families.

Tahira Kalantongan, Pikit town disaster officer, said the number of displaced individuals from interior villages could reach 5,000 and even more.

“We continue to assess, the number is increasing by the minute,” Kalantongan said in an interview. She added per barangay population, the number of evacuees could reach more than 5,000 persons.

She said the villages of Kabasalan and Paidu Pulangi, two communities of Pikit had been deserted since Monday.

“We have enough food packs for them but their problem was lack of kitchen utensils since they hurriedly left Monday dawn,” she said.

Santos Sulayman, a resident of Barangay Kabasalan, Pikit, North Cotabato, Kabasalan, said most of the evacuees left with their valuables.

Barangay Kabasalan is located in the middle of the marshland and the mode of transportation was wooden boat.

Moro families who do not own a banca had to cross the river by foot. “Others had to swim across the river," he added.

The affected Maguinanao towns are Datu Piang, Sultan sa Barongis, Datu Shariff Saydona and its residents have already fled to safer grounds.

“Our relief personnel with enough food supplies are already on the ground to assist the displaced families," Alamia, also ARMM's Humanitarian Emergency and Relief Team (HEART) chairperson, told reporters.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the military, said the surgical offensive continuous Tuesday with still no military casualty.

Hermoso said only three BIFF fatalities were confirmed but local officials in the affected communities told police and military personnel that the BIFF had 19 fatalities.“The reported 19 dead on the BIFF side is being verified, we only recovered three dead bodies," he said.

Local officials backed military action versus the BIFF.

“The Army offensive against the BIFF was an indication of the government’s commitment to peace and justice while we at the local government units should be prepared at all times to take care of the internally displaced persons and victims of violence,” Gov. Mendoza said in a statement.

“The skirmishes should not put to waste the gains of the peace process,” she added.

Hermoso said the military is helping the police in serving arrest warrants against BIFF members facing kidnapping, bombing, extortion and murder charges.

Abu Misry Mama, speaking for the BIFF, denied the Army claims they suffered 19 dead. "We will not surrender, we will remain on a defensive position," he said.