Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Editorial: Alive and well

Editorial posted to the Philippine Star (Feb 11): Alive and well

Remember the Abu Sayyaf? Six of the bandits were killed by Marines during a raid in Talipao, Sulu over the weekend, the Armed Forces of the Philippines reported. But the bandits are still holding eight hostages, two of them Europeans kidnapped way back in 2012. The raid was meant to flush out the kidnappers.

Will the nation ever be freed of this threat? Since the 1990s, the Abu Sayyaf has pillaged villages and even city centers in Mindanao, torched churches and kidnapped missionaries, and blown up a ferry in Manila Bay. The bandits have snatched teachers, raping and beheading many of their captives, disrupting public education in the provinces where they operate. They have raided private resorts as far as Palawan, grabbing hostages, and taken into custody tourists kidnapped in Malaysia.

Abu Sayyaf atrocities have been among the biggest setbacks to development particularly in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. The entire Philippine tourism industry has been affected by their activities. Yet the group survives, managing to continue its principal fund-raising activity, ransom kidnapping.

The military cannot eliminate this problem alone. Effective local government can deprive troublemakers of sanctuary in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. In recent years, however, there have been reports of local officials themselves being in cahoots with Abu Sayyaf members in ransom kidnapping.

Development will also deprive the Abu Sayyaf of sanctuary, but this has not happened in the provinces where the group operates. This has led to speculation that there is no political will to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf, which was reportedly created by state forces originally to infiltrate genuine Islamic threat groups. In the past years, the Abu Sayyaf has been much weakened by the loss of its founding members and many fighters. Surely the government can neutralize what’s left of the group.


Army soldier wounded in Compostela Valley clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 11): Army soldier wounded in Compostela Valley clash

A soldier was wounded in a clash with communist rebels in Monkayo and Laak towns in Compostela Valley on Tuesday.

Senior Supt. Camilo Cascolan, Compostela Valley police chief, said that at around 12:30 noon, troops from the 25th IB and about 40 communist rebels under a certain Rebo clashed in Casoon village in Monkayo town, leaving a certain Corporal Baysa wounded in the shoulder.

Soldiers also recovered M-14 and M-16 rifles, improvised explosive device and pieces of subversive documents.

Earlier, at 10:30 a.m., soldiers belonging to the Army’s 60th Infantry Battalion encountered about 30 New People’s Army rebels in the village of Ampawid in Laak.


We’re ready to face AFP – BIFF

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 11): We’re ready to face AFP – BIFF

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) yesterday declared it was ready to face the military in the wake of the announcement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that it will pursue offensive operations against all armed groups in Central Mindanao.

In Sulu, six suspected Abu Sayyaf men were killed in a clash with Marines.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry, in an exclusive interview, said that with the group’s forces and arsenal intact, they are ready to face the military.

“Hindi namin sila (military) pipigilan. Handang-handa na po kami,” Misry emphasized during the exclusive interview.

Over the weekend, 6th Infantry Division (6th ID) spokesman Col. Dick Hermoso said that the AFP will pursue law enforcement operations against all armed groups in Central Mindanao, including the BIFF.

These BIFF members, 6th ID spokesperson added, have standing warrants of arrest.

Misry said their forces are still in their respective areas despite the massive military operations staged by the AFP late in January until the start of this month.

But the military claimed that more than 50 BIFF combatants were killed during the operations that resulted in I the recovery of a BIFF camp in Maguindanao.

However, Misry continue to deny the military reports by claiming that BIFF did not suffer casualties during the operations.

“Wala namang nalaglag sa amin. Nandyan pa rin ang aming pwersa at handa palagi yan,” Misry added.

Contrary to military reports, Misry told the Manila Bulletin that no camp was captured by the military since the BIFF has no camp in the area.

“Bahay ni Ustadz Abuhajam Indala ang nakubkob nila. Walang kampo doon. Mismo, tatlong mayors ng Maguindanao ang nagsabi na walang kampo ang BIFF doon,” Misry added.

But Misry refused to confirm when asked on the present strength of the BIFF in terms of combatants and military arsenal.

He also told the Manila Bulletin that Ameril Umbra Kato remains the head of their group.

“Siya pa rin ang pinuno namin, masaya siya ngayon at malakas”, Misry confirmed.

•Sayyaf Chief Hurt

Meanwhile in the Sulu clash, Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, 2nd Marine Brigade commander, said they received information that Middle East-trained Yasser Igasan, who succeeded Khaddafy Janjalani as leader of the Abu Sayyaf, was wounded during the firefight.

Cenabre said the fighting broke out around 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Barangay Mabahay, Talipao town.

Prior to the clash, Cenabre said the military has been monitoring activities of the ASG in the barangay.

“We succeeded… without any collateral damage,” he added.

No casualty was reported on the government side.


Gov’t, MILF to ink comprehensive peace deal by March

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 11): Gov’t, MILF to ink comprehensive peace deal by March

KIDAPAWAN CITY – The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are likely to sign by March a comprehensive peace pact, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace (OPAPP) said.

The pact would be called a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which, according to OPAPP Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, would include the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its four annexes on transitional arrangement and modalities, revenue generation and wealth sharing, power sharing, and normalization.

It also includes addendum on Bangsamoro waters.

The peace pact, she stressed, would become the basis in drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission is tasked to draft such proposal.
Deles, speaking on Monday during the 3rd Sagayan Festival in Buluan town in Maguindanao, called on the residents to vote yes during the plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Such law, once ratified, would be the basis in establishing a new Bangsamoro political entity in Mindanao.

Deles said the joint leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives has agreed to make the proposed Bangsamoro law a top legislative agenda.

They target its approval on or before December 31, she added.

Based on the peace deal and the proposed law, the new Bangsamoro political entity covers the present geographical area of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

It also covers six towns of Lanao del Norte, which include the Municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal.
At least 39 villages in the towns of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigcawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap in North Cotabato that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite would also be included in the new political entity.

Also, the territory covers the cities of Cotabato and Isabela and all other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least ten percent (10%) of the qualified voters in the area asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“We’ve already come this far, so let us all support this peace process. The negotiations were difficult in adherence to the order of the President to learn from the lessons of the past and that everything must be within the ambit of the Constitution,” Deles said.


Bicol NPA heads arrested

From Rappler (Feb 11): Bicol NPA heads arrested

Over the weekend, police apprehended two ranking leaders of the communist New People's Army (NPA) who are also facing various criminal cases.

In a statement on Tuesday, February 11, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said its field units in the Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions identified the two as George Villacort Geluz alias "Mario Dela Cruz, Ka Mulong, Rommel, or MC," and Silvestre Layones, also known as "Ka Eric or Dexter."

Geluz, identified in police and military records as secretary of the Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC) of the NPA had a standing warrant of arrest for charges of robbery in band with arson and double frustrated murder.

The PNP did not list down the alleged crimes for which Layones, who is head of the BRPC's UrbanCom, was being hunted for.

Geluz was apprehended by police forces at a police-military checkpoint in Gumaca, Quezon before midnight Saturday, February 8. Layones, meanwhile, was arrested in another police-military checkpoint along the Diversion Road in Naga City a few hours after.


PMA expects 4,000 visitors, 1,900 of them graduates, in Saturday’s alumni homecoming

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 11): PMA expects 4,000 visitors, 1,900 of them graduates, in Saturday’s alumni homecoming

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) has prepared to host 4,000 visitors this weekend as it hosts the yearly alumni homecoming to some 1,900 graduates of this premier military school in Asia, Major Agnes Lynette Flores, public information officer said Tuesday.

Former Senator Panfilo Lacson, presidential adviser on rehabilitation will be the guest of honor and speaker.

By tradition, the PMA Cadet Corps of cadets perform the parade and review to the graduates, a good number of them became the country’s top officials and statesmen, high officials in the bureaucracy and government functionaries abroad. All of them served as officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in various ranks and capacities.

Alumni since the early 1900’s remain to have the Borromeo Field as their favorite place to visit while inside the academy. In particular, this is where the parade ground and the grandstand are located. The place where the academy’s motto Courage, Integrity, Loyalty is emblazoned served as reminder to each alumni how they were trained on military tactics, and where they were commissioned either as second lieutenants or ensigns after their graduation rites.

Flores said that aside from the formal activities, the alumni will have some social gatherings like picnics as well as sports activities.

Some exchange students from foreign countries like Singapore graduated in this academy, which by its curricula adequately prepared with excellence professional soldiers with Bachelor of Science degrees to greater fields of service to the country and the Filipino people.

Meanwhile, Flores said that the well-preserved environs of PMA made it as one of the favorite destinations of tourists coming to this mountain resort 250 kilometers north of Manila.

”An average of 500 visitors come and visit the academy daily. There are times that PMA is closed to visitors but most of the time, the academy is open for the public to visit,” she said.


Piles of charges to be filed vs nabbed top ranking CPP-NPA leader in Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 11): Piles of charges to be filed vs nabbed top ranking CPP-NPA leader in Palawan

The Palawan Police Provincial Office (PPO) is set to file charges after charges against arrested top ranking leftist leader Sonny Gonzales and wife Alma Moreno, S/Supt. David Martinez announced in a media conference Tuesday morning.

At the conference held at the PPO headquarters in Barangay Tiniguiban, Martinez, the head of the provincial police force, said five warrants of arrest for murder, robbery, arson and others were served to Gonzales, who goes by the aliases Gilbert Silagan, Ka Glenn and Ka Marlon, shortly after he was nabbed in Barangay Inogbong, Bataraza early Sunday morning.

Warrants had been served too, to his wife Moreno, who goes by the alias Ka Carol, for murder and attempted murder staged when both were still in hiding from military and police authorities, who were looking for them for more than 13 years in the jungles of Palawan.

Around 20 cases, the provincial police chief said, will be filed against the husband and wife rebel tandem, who are now under tight security watch at the PPO.

The media conference did not present the captured rebel couples. Martinez explained Gonzales requested them to forego this, saying they did not want to reply to any queries. He also did not say when they will bring both to court for the filing of charges.

Meanwhile, Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez, who was also present at the media conference, called on the remaining members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) not to be scared "to lay down their arms" because the provincial government is willing to help them renew their faith in the government and provide them with livelihood to begin life anew.

He followed this invitation with an announcement that the provincial government is preparing for the P3-billion Arms-to-Farms Program to help those who will choose to surrender and pledge allegiance to the Philippine Constitution in Palawan.

The amount, he said, will be provided as grants to help rebel returnees, their families, and the community, where they will choose to live new lives, by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Palawan governor said the amount is now deposited at Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) for implementation.

Asked if Gonzales and Moreno can qualify under the said program, Alvarez clarified that if rebel returnees have to answer for any law violation in court, they will not qualify. However, their families will be assisted by the program. The same policy will also apply to other rebels who will surrender.

Surrendering is important to qualify to the Arms-to-Farm Program, as well as documents that would prove they are indeed rebels. In this case, the help of military and police authorities will be needed to verify identities.

Following the announcement, Alvarez lauded the PPO, military and other authorities involved in the capture of Gonzales and Moreno, who are highly believed to be behind a series of atrocities in the northern and southern parts of the province, such as collection of revolutionary taxes from mining companies and other local businesses, burning of heavy road equipments, raid on pearl farms, and roadside ambushes since 2000.

Alvarez said "peace and security" are two things important to the development of the province, particularly in ensuring that it continues in the coming years. Without peace, he said, there can be no true development as people would always live in hesitation knowing there are people who can pose risk to their lives.

Western Command commander Gen. Roy Deveraturda, who was also present at the press conference, also called on the rebels to surrender now, and help the local government in the development of Palawan.

He said now is no longer the time to fight for a cause that is no longer existing, especially in Palawan, where the provincial government is sincere in helping them.


New battalion commander of Army’s 79th IB assumes office

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 11): New battalion commander of Army’s 79th IB assumes office

The newly-appointed commander of the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, based in Siaton, Negros Oriental, has assumed the post with the assurance of taking on the challenges left behind by his predecessor.

Lt. Col. Harold Pascua, took his oath Monday afternoon at the command ceremonies at the battalion headquarters in Siaton as he replaced Lt. Col. Marion Sison, who had served in the position for two years, two months and five days.

It is a big challenge to lead the 79th IB and a big shoe to fill in, said Lt. Col. Harold Pascua, referring to the accomplishments of his predecessor and the tasks ahead of him.

Pascua said he is full of joy and eagerness to assume the helm of the prestigious unit and with a firm resolve promised to give his best to serve in his new position.

He called on local officials, government agencies, organizations and community partners to continue to work together with the battalion to alleviate the lives of the people and bring development, especially to far-flung communities.

A united effort to “extinguish” the insurgency will certainly help improve the lives of the people, Pascua said.

“Security and development is a shared responsibility”, Pascua pointed out, as he expressed optimism that remnants of the insurgency will be back to society if mechanisms are in place to assure of their transformation to a new life.

This is the true essence of “bayanihan”, said Pascua, referring to the government’s moniker for its internal peace and security plan to eradicate insurgency in affected areas.

Lt. Col. Pascua promised to endeavor to do his best to maintain culture and excellence in the battalion and put into action his vision for the 79th IB to be a cohesive and competent organization responsive to the needs of stakeholders.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Marion Sison in his parting words expressed his gratitude to local leaders, government agencies, non-government organizations and other stakeholders for their support and cooperation during his stint as 79th IB commander.

Sison attributed the battalion’s accomplishments in managing to reduce the insurgency problem in his area of coverage to these community partners.

He said it is his honor to work with partners in sharing the same passion in fighting the insurgency and aiming for peace and development.

Sison said he will leave with a heavy heart as the battalion has been his second home where, during his assignment there, he has gained experience, knowledge and true friends.

Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, presided the command turn over which was attended by Governor Roel Degamo, Philippine Army officials, Philippine National Police officials, some mayors, heads of government agencies, partner non-government organizations and civic groups, and other stakeholders.


4 NPAs surrender to Army troopers in Northern Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 11): 4 NPAs surrender to Army troopers in Northern Samar

Four members of the New People's Army (NPA) surrendered to the Northern Samar-based 34th Infantry Battalion over the weekend.

Belated reports from Capt. Amado Gutierrez, 8th Infantry Division spokesperson, identified one of the surrenderees as a certain "Macky", who also handed a .22 caliber pistol to authorities, and the three others only as belonging to NPA unit based in Barangay Malidon, Gamay town, Northern Samar.

Gutierrez declined to identify the four for security reasons.

He added that the four decided to surrender due to hardships they have suffered and after witnessing the sincerity of the government through the "Bayanihan" team operations of troops working in their barangays.

Under the Local Social Integration Program of Northern Samar Province, an NPA surrenderee will receive P10,000 as immediate assistance and P30,000 as livelihood assistance.

The surrenderees will be receiving their benefits upon completion of documentation of their surrender.

“The surrender of the NPA personalities depicts the general sentiment of the people in communities where NPAs have influence, but given the chance to choose between the path to peace and violence, NPA rebels will choose peace. With the program that Northern Samar is implementing, we are looking at more NPA rebels to return to the mainstream and contribute in the nation’s march to peace and progress,” said 34th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Rodrigo Ilustrisimo.


AFP chief visits Eastern Mindanao Command to ensure 'Bayanihan' implementation

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 11): AFP chief visits Eastern Mindanao Command to ensure 'Bayanihan' implementation

To ensure that the operational thrust of Internal Peace Security Plan "Bayanihan" will be maintained, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Garcia visited the Eastern Mindanao Command on Tuesday.

Capt. Alberto Caber, the unit's spokesman, said Bautista's visit took place at 7:30 a.m. at their Naval Station Felix Apolinario, Panacan town, Davao City.

Bautista’s visit to the Eastern Mindanao Command aims to directly oversee the respective operational thrust for 2014 in connection with the implementation of the “Bayanihan”.

The AFP chief was personally briefed by Eastern Mindanao Command head Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III on the progress of “Bayanihan” in his area of operations.

Bautista congratulated the officers and men of Eastern Mindanao Command for continuously winning the peace in Eastern Mindanao.

During his talk to the men, the AFP chief said he wanted to get feedback directly from the commanders for him to get their operational, administrative, and logistics concerns.


Palace dismisses US general's comment that PHL, Japan should tone down rhetoric vs. China

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 11): Palace dismisses US general's comment that PHL, Japan should tone down rhetoric vs. China

Malacanang on Tuesday dismissed a comment made by a United States general saying that political leaders of the Philippines and Japan should de-escalate their rhetoric against China as this could lead to tension.

The comment was made by Gen. Herbert Carlisle, commander of the US air forces in the Pacific, who said that the rhetoric was “not helpful,” referring to Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III’s comparison of China’s territorial claims on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to Hitler’s imperialism.

He also referred to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement that there was confrontation between Germany and Britain despite strong economic ties, and cautioned Japan and China to avoid a similar fate.

China, meanwhile, continues to push its territorial claims in both the East and South China Seas.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio B. Coloma Jr. said in a text message that President Aquino’s comments should be put in proper context.

“President Aquino simply called attention to the need for international solidarity in asserting the primacy of the rule of law to deter expansionism in West Philippine Sea (South China Sea),” Coloma said.

“It’s understandable for a military commander to adopt a viewpoint that’s different from a head of state’s perspective,” he added.


DND denies report PHL is escalating tensions in West Philippine Sea

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 11): DND denies report PHL is escalating tensions in West Philippine Sea

The Department of National Defense (DND) on Tuesday denied claims that it is escalating tensions in the West Philippine Sea by comparing China with then Nazi Germany in its assertiveness in claiming territories out of its own borders during 1938.

"We believe that the Philippines’ defense and military establishments have exercised maximum restraint with respect to the situation in the West Philippine Sea," the DND said in a statement.

It made this claim after US Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle said that comments made by President Benigno Aquino III comparing China to Nazi Germany is not helpful to the stability in the region.

"Based on the previous occurrences, it is clear that the Philippines has been the object of harassment," the DND stressed.

"We must understand the statement of President Benigno S. Aquino III in light of the Philippine government’s call to the international community to oppose aggressive acts as they contravene established international conventions," it pointed out.

"We believe that in opposing aggressive and expansionist behavior, the Philippines is not only serving its national interests, but also serving the region’s as well, including all states which have a stake in freedom of navigation and clear territorial rights as defined under the principles of UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)," it concluded.


USS Pinckney ends five-day port visit to PHL

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 11): USS Pinckney ends five-day port visit to PHL

The USS Pinckney (DDG-91), one of the 62 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the United States Navy service, formally ended its five-day port visit to the Philippines Tuesday.

Capt. Brian T. Block of the US Embassy Military Public Affairs Liaison Office declined to give the exact departure time of the ship for security reasons.

"For security reasons, we don't give out specific times for ships movement," he explained.

The USS Pinckney arrived last Friday at the Manila South Harbor for its five-day port visit.

The destroyer was named after USN cook William Pinckney, who was awarded the Navy Cross for rescuing a fellow crew member during the Battle of Santa Cruz in Solomon Islands in 1942.

Arleigh Burke-class destroyers can engage any threats at very long ranges afforded by its two Mark 41 VLS (vertical launch system) of which 96 tubes are fitted to the ship.

The Mark 41 VLS can fire any anti-air, anti-surface, and anti-submarine missile in the US Navy inventory.

Acting in a support role is the Mark 45 Model 4 five-inch automatic gun which can engage surface and air threats in conjunction with the 20mm Phalanx CIWS (closed-in weapon system) fitted at the stern of the ship.

Topping this off is the advanced radars and sonars installed in the USS Pinckney which can detect, track and, if needed be, can guide these sophisticated missiles to their respective targets.

The USS Pinckney belongs to the Flight II series and is the 41st ship of the Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers consist of 62 ships.

Flight II ships are equipped with more advanced radar, sensor systems and generally bigger flight decks than their predecessors.

The Arleigh Burke-class is among the largest destroyers built in the United States measuring 505 feet.

Only the Spruance and Kidd classes are longer at 563 feet.


Marine trooper killed, 5 others wounded in Sulu ASG ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 11): Marine trooper killed, 5 others wounded in Sulu ASG ambush

A trooper from Marine Battalion Landing Team- 9 was killed while five others were wounded after a group of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) brigands ambushed them shortly after a tree planting mission in Sitio Bakud, Barangay Bid Parang, Sulu Tuesday morning.

Capt. Ryan Lacuesta, 2nd Marine Brigade civil military operations officer, said the incident took place around 11 a.m.

He said troopers from Marine Battalion Landing Team-9 and employees from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Jolo Jaycees had just finished planting trees at the Parang Elementary School when the brigands fired on their convoy consisting of three M-35 trucks, one V-150 armored fighting vehicle, one KM-450 truck, and two civilian vehicles.

He said the firefight lasted for 30 minutes and resulted in the death of one Marine trooper, wounding of five others and undetermined number in the side of the ASG.

Lacuesta attributes the attack to the retaliatory actions of the ASG on government clearing operations last Feb. 8 which resulted in the death of six ASG men in Barangay Mabahay, Talipao, Sulu.

"Right now, the government forces-- the Marines together with the Philippine National Police and the local government unit are now conducting law enforcement operations in Parang municipality to locate and neutralize the perpetrators of this ambush incident," he concluded.


DBM releases P3.8B for DND equipment upgrades

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 11): DBM releases P3.8B for DND equipment upgrades

In a move to fast-track the modernization of the country's defense forces, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released a total of P3.68 billion to the Department of National Defense as part of its 2013 year-end releases.

In two separate Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) issued last December, a total of 18 priority projects, which include the acquisition of much-needed equipment upgrades, were given the go-signal and were accordingly charged against the programmed appropriations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program under the 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

"When President (Benigno) Aquino (III) drew up his social contract with the Filipino people, he made particular note of our need to beef up the government's ability to protect our citizens. We remain committed to this pursuit of peace and the rule of law, and one of the ways we're reinforcing that is by supporting our Armed Forces' modernization activities," said DBM Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad.

"These initiatives are of course necessary in improving our territorial defense capabilities and ensuring better national security," he said.

Abad said the P3.68-billion release would benefit the DND general headquarters, Philippine Army, Philippine Navy, and the Government Arsenal.

Priority projects and acquisitions include strategic sealift vessels, small amphibian vehicles, multi-purpose assault weapons, sniper rifles, mortars, portable radio receivers, radio test equipment, production capability and facility upgrades, and technical forensic upgrades, among others.

In addition, Notice of Cash Allocations (NCAs) with a total of P6.62 billion were also issued by the DBM in the last month of 2013, that funded the acquisition of strategic sealift vessels, small amphibian vehicles, utility helicopters, communication equipment such as manpack radios and personal role radios, and other projects under the AFP Modernization Program.

"The Department of National Defense gave us their assurance that they would be able to obligate the funding released to them before the year ended. These projects and equipment acquisitions supported by the funds were already just short of award in terms of their progress in the procurement process when we approved the release," said Abad.

Nevertheless, he said, the government will "continue to urge and encourage all national government departments and agencies to obligate their budgets as early in the year as possible."

"This is exactly why we pioneered and implemented the GAA-as-release document regime this year, so that agencies are able to obligate their allotments at the very start of the fiscal year. This, among our other budget reforms, promotes the prompt delivery of key government programs, projects and activities, especially towards our goal of economic expansion and rapid, sustainable, and inclusive growth," he added.


6 soldiers wounded during encounter with NPA rebels in Davao Del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 11): 6 soldiers wounded during encounter with NPA rebels in Davao Del Sur

Six soldiers were wounded during an encounter with New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Sitio Lutangan, Barangay Kapatagan, Digos City, Davao Del Sur Monday afternoon.

Capt. Alberto Caber, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson, said the soldiers were wounded when the rebels detonated an improvised explosive device to cover their escape.

He said the troopers were responding to reports on an NPA extortion activity in the area when the firefight took place.

Civilian reports pointed to a certain "Rangrang" as leader of the extortion unit of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee of the CPP/NPA/NDF operating in Davao Del Sur areas.

The wounded soldiers were quickly taken to the nearest local hospital for treatment.

It can be recalled that on Jan. 29, four NPA members who were on extortion activities in Sitio Matabang, Barangay Taocanga, Manay, Davao Oriental were killed in an encounter with government troops.

The soldiers recovered two M-16 automatic rifles, one AK-47, an M-4 rifle, three landmines, a cellphone and subversive documents from the rebels.


8 soldiers, NPA rebels wounded in Digos City clash

From InterAksyon (Feb 11): 8 soldiers, NPA rebels wounded in Digos City clash

Eight government troopers and New People’s Army rebels were wounded in an ambush Monday afternoon in Sitio Lutangan, Barangay Kapatagan, Digos City, Davao del Sur.

Captain Ernest Carolina, spokesman of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said the casualties were members of the 39th Infantry Battalion.

"The firefight happened at around 2:30 p.m. It lasted for an hour and resulted in six soldiers wounded," said Carolina in a text message he sent to reporters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. He said two rebels were also wounded.

He identified the wounded soldiers as Sgt. Eliseo C. PeraƱo, Cpl. Marcelino B. Bagood Jr., Pfc. Olomodin S. Dicampong, Pfc. Lory Kim A. Lacal, Pfc. Genesis C. Quilaton, and Pvt. Michael M. Guibao.

Carolina said one soldier, Cpl. Ricky G. Tuarez, was reported missing after the firefight, but was found by 10 p.m. of Monday. "Report says he's OK," Carolina said.


Voting 15-0, SC clears way for mass-murder trial vs Satur, 4 others

From InterAksyon (Feb 11): Voting 15-0, SC clears way for mass-murder trial vs Satur, 4 others

Satur Ocampo

Voting 15-0, the Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared all hurdles to the trial of former party-list lawmaker Satur Ocampo and four other prominent figures of the Left in a Manila court where they face multiple murder charges.

The case centers around a mass grave in Leyte in which communist rebels supposedly buried comrades in a controversial purge in the 1980s. The Army dug up 54 skeletal remains in 2006.

Sought for a reaction, Ocampo told InterAksyon.com in a phone interview, "This is bad news." He said he will first consult with his lawyer.

The High Court ordered Branch 32 of the Manila Regional Trial Court to proceed with hearing the cases of Ocampo and others facing charges for the multiple murder of 54 members of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army (CPP/NPA).

All justices---Associate Justice Marvic Leonen concurred but with separate opinion—voted to dismiss the consolidated petitions of Ocampo, Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis and Vicente Ladlad assailing the proceedings of the criminal case being tackled by the Manila court.

The SC said the petitioners shall remain on temporary liberty under the same bail it granted them until the termination of Criminal Case No. 08-262163 or until the actual participation of Echanis, Baylosis and Ladlad as CPP-National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants in the peace negotiations with the government are concluded or terminated, whichever is sooner.

This case goes back to the discovery of a mass grave in Sitio Sapang Daco, Brgy., Kaulisihan, Inopacan, Leyte in August 2006 by members of the 43rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army. The grave contained skeletons of individuals believed to be victims of "Operation Venereal Disease" (Operation VD) by the CPP/NPA/NDF to purge suspected military informers.

There were 12 complaint-affidavits from relatives of the alleged Operation VD victims, saying that their relatives had been abducted or were last seen with members of CPP/NPA/NDF. They were never seen again.

Petitioners were issued subpoenas and asked to file their counter-affidavits but it was only Ocampo who responded.

Petitioners accorded due process - SC

The SC found that the petitioners were accorded due process during preliminary investigation and in the issuance of the warrants of arrests.

The court also found that the political offense doctrine is not ground to dismiss the charge against the petitioners prior to a determination by the trial court that the murder were committed in the furtherance of rebellion.

In his separate concurring opinion, Justice Marvic Leonen wrote that he agreed with Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno that the case should be heard so that the trial court could properly examine the evidence raised by the accused by way of defense. However, citing "the interest of judicial efficiency", Leonen concurred separately to provide the observation that acts of violation of RA 9851 could not be absorbed in the crime of rebellion. 

15 victims named

On February 16, 2007, the investigating prosecutor recommended the filing of an Information for 15 counts of multiple murder against 54 named members of the CPP/NPA/NDF, including petitioners for the death of the following:

1. Juanita Aviola
2. Concepcion Aragon
3. Gregorio Eras
4. Teodoro Recones Jr.
5. Restituto Ejoc
6. Rolando Vasquez
7. Junior Milyapis
8. Crispin Dalmacio
9. Zacarias Casil
10. Pablo Daniel
11. Romeo Tayabas
12. Domingo Napoles
13. Ciriaco Daniel
14. Crispin Prado
15. Ereberto Prado

The information was filed with Branch 18 of the RTC in Hilongos, Leyte, where the presiding judge found probable cause to issue warrants of arrest against the accused, including the petitioners, with no recommended bail for temporary liberty.

Political offense doctrine invoked

Ocampo then filed a special civil action before the SC, questioning the order of the judge and asked for unconditional release from detention. He invoked the "political offense doctrine," where a common crime such as murder is absorbed by a political offense like rebellion when the common crime is committed as a necessary means.

Ocampo's case was set for oral arguments on March 30, 2007, with the application of the "political offense doctrine" to the multiple murder charge filed against him being the main subject.

Pending the resolution of the High Tribunal, the lower court suspended the proceedings in the criminal case.

Echanis was then arrested by virtue of the warrant issued in 2007, prompting Echanis, Baylosis and Ladlad to question this arrest. These challenges were later consolidated with Ocampo's petition.

Baylosis and Ladlad asked to be allowed to post bail, saying that they are consultants of the NDFP negotiating panel to the peace talks with the GRP, which the SC later granted. However, this is subject to the condition that their temporary freedom would be limited to the period of their actual participation in the peace negotiations.


6 soldiers wounded in NPA clash in Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Feb 11): 6 soldiers wounded in NPA clash in Mindanao

Photos released by the Eastern Mindanao Command to the Mindanao Examiner show troops helping a wounded soldier out from a chopper.
The Philippine military said six soldiers were injured in clash with communist rebels in the southern region of Mindanao where insurgents are fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate state.

Capt. Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the fighting erupted in Digos City in Davao del Sur province. Citing reports from the 10th Infantry Division, Caber said several members of the New People’s Army were believed killed or wounded in the fighting on Monday afternoon.

“We have six soldiers wounded in the battle and there could be more casualties on the enemy side,” Caber told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The rebels detonated a roadside bomb while troops were patrolling a village and sparking a gun battle in the area. Caber said villagers provided information to the military about the presence of gunmen extorting money from locals.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, the Eastern Mindanao Command chief, condemned the rebels' continued use of landmines, saying, the NPA violated an accord that banned the use of landmines in the country. The Geneva Convention also banned the use of landmines, he said.

Security forces have launched a follow up operation on Tuesday against the insurgents who broke into smaller groups and fled to the hills.

The small offensive coincided with the visit of Philippine military chief Emmanuel Bautista at the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao.

Caber said the arrival of Bautista was part of his visits to all unified commands in order to directly oversee their respective operational thrust in connection with the implementation of the Internal Peace Security Plan called “Bayanihan.”