Saturday, February 15, 2014

CPP/Ang Bayan: People’s militia training in Cagayan Valley

From the latest English edition of Ang Bayan posted to the CPP Website (Feb 7): People’s militia training in Cagayan Valley

The people’s militia in a guerrilla front in Cagayan Valley recently underwent military training alongside newly recruited fulltime fighters of the New People’s Army. The training formed part of a programmed series of trainings of every people’s militia platoon established in every barrio.

The training lasted seven days and consisted of maneuvers, individual combat techniques (ICT), target shooting and marksmanship and military drills. The political component of the training had already been previously given, such as NPA History and Regulations, NPA Military Regulations and Intelligence and Counter-intelligence Work.

The members of the people’s militia attended the training even if it was the height of the planting season. Even if they were all poor peasants, with some dependent on being farm workers, they sacrificed their work in order to join the training. Some would go home every afternoon to fulfill household responsibilities and come back early the next morning for the training. Others tethered their carabaos before hurrying towards the training ground. Though late, they would still join the ranks.

The militia’s determination to continue was underscored during an enemy operation. The members joined in conducting reconnaissance and standing watch at night.

The militia and their trainor summed-up the training together. From the first day to the end, attendance among the militia was complete. Aside from discovering potential military commanders from among the militia and the new recruits, each trainee was able to try his or her ability to unite and cooperate with others during a military situation.

When asked what he thought of the training, Ka Rim, the political guide of a militia squad said, “We still need to be more conscious of the time and of following orders. We are thankful for learning ICT.”

On the part of the new recruits, they enjoyed learning alongside the militia. According to Ka Jho, it was hard but enjoyable. “There were times when we found things difficult, but we explained ourselves. We were patient with each others’ weaknesses because we maintained our military bearing and bore in mind the political objectives of our training.”

Ka Rey, the lead trainor was very happy even if being an instructor was not an easy job. He said he was glad that no one gave up on the difficult training and everyone graduated.

The graduates and their families were all smiles. They ended the activity with cultural presentations. As for the training ground, it was planted to vegetables so it could serve as the area’s first communal farm.

CPP/Ang Bayan: NPA attacks Sumifru

From the latest English edition of Ang Bayan posted to the CPP Website (Feb 7): NPA attacks Sumifru

Red fighters under the Mt. Kitanglad Subregional Command attacked the Sumitomo Fruits (Sumifru) plant in Barangay Barobo, Valencia City, Bukidnon on the night of January 18, seizing two firearms.

Sumifru is estimated to have sustained P11 million in damage due to the attack. The NPA targeted the company due to its anti-worker and environmentally destructive operations. Its 5,000-hectare banana plantation was seized from peasants and Lumad in two municipalities of Bukidnon.

Many of those who lost their land were hired as workers by the company.

In 2010, the packing plant workers struck due to low wages and unjust working conditions. They were all contractuals and deprived of their right to unionize, receive benefits and enjoy security of tenure.

CPP/Ang Bayan: NPA punishes Cagayan mining firm

From the latest English edition of Ang Bayan posted to the CPP Website (Feb 7): NPA punishes Cagayan mining firm

The New People’s Army Henry Abraham Command meted punishment on January 13 on San You Philippines Mining Trade Ltd. in Barangay Catayuan, Lal-lo, Cagayan. The Red fighters destroyed company machinery during the punitive action.

Among the items burned and eventually destroyed were three big ships that were being used to extract magnetite sand from the sea and the Cagayan River; a backhoe; a loader; two dumptrucks; a bulldozer; and the mining company’s conveyors and separators. The NPA likewise confiscated a BSL firearm from a guard as well as office equipment.

Cagayanos have long been demanding a stop to the plunderous activities of San You, Lian Xing Philippines Stone Carving Corp., Philippine Mining Group Holdings, Inc., Shaitan Cagayan Sand and Gravel Corp., and Yin Yii. These companies have been simultaneously extracting mineral resources from more than 13,000 hectares of shoreline in the towns of Lal-lo, Camalaniugan, Aparri and Buguey all the way to Sta. Ana.

These companies’ long and filthy list of crimes has been etched in the people’s collective memory. First, they have been slowly killing entire peasant and fisherfolk communities because of the destruction wrought by the mining activities on the uplands, farms and fishing grounds from which the masses derive their livelihoods.

Second, they have unbridledly stolen the province’s mineral wealth to the detriment of the environment. Third, they have raked in gigantic profits from their plunder but have been paying their workers measly wages.

Since 2007, these conniving foreign corporations have squeezed billions of dollars from their operations in Cagayan. They have a big ship that receives tons upon tons of magnetite sand from five smaller ships and earn up to `70 million from every dumptruck of refined magnetite. Tons of ore are shipped directly to Taiwan, China and other countries for foreign profit, leaving in their wake pitted grounds and ruined rivers and riverbanks. It is clear that this plunder of the province’s natural resources has not benefited the people at all.

The masses have long been fighting these mining companies in various ways. They have filed petitions, held dialogues, launched picket-marches and built barricades. This struggle, which began as far back as 2007, has erupted and spread to all parts of the affected towns. The people have even raised their grievances before Malacañang.

The US-Aquino regime and local politicans who have also profited from foreign mining such as the Enrile dynasty, Cagayan Gov. Alvaro Antonio, Vice Gov. Odi Fausto, 1st District Rep. Sally Enrile, Lal-lo Mayor Florante Pascual, Aparri Mayor Shalimar Tumaru, Buguey Mayor Licerio Antiporda and Gonzaga Mayor Carlitos Pentecostes have all been turning a blind eye to the destruction caused by these mines. Despite the people’s intense opposition, they have granted these foreign vultures 25-year mining permits.

CPP/Ang Bayan: NPA attacks energy company

From the latest English edition of Ang Bayan posted to the CPP Website (Feb 7): NPA attacks energy company

A New People’s Army unit attacked one of the plants of the Philippine Hybrid Energy Systems Inc (PHESI) in Tabinay Liit, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro on January 23.

The Red fighters burned a backhoe owned by the company. The attack served as a warning to the company to give consideration to environmental issues and respect the rights of the area’s residents.

Two days after this armed action, Red fighters clashed with a unit of the PNP Regional Public Safety Battalion in Barangay Talipanan, Puerto Galera. Two police elements were killed and nine wounded in this encounter.

CPP/NDF: Video -- Ka Oris greets Ka Joma

From the Marco Valenbuena You Tube Channel (Feb 9): Ka Oris greets Ka Joma  

Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos, NDFP spokesperson for Mindanao greets Prof. Jose Maria Sison for the latter's 75th birthday and his 55 years of service to the Filipino people. Part of this video is shown in Sine Proletaryo's main video for Prof. Jose Maria Sison, JOMA: 55/75.


[Video: Ka Oris greets Ka Joma]

CPP/NDF: Video -- Ka Maria Malaya for Ka Joma

Posted to the Marco Valbuena You Tube Channel (Feb 9): Ka Maria Malaya for Ka Joma

Comrade Maria Malaya, NDFP spokesperson for Northeastern Mindanao, extends her warm greetings to Prof. Jose Maria Sison's 75th birthday.

In her recollection, she stressed how the Philippine Society and Revolution book, written by Amado Guerrero (Prof. Jose Maria Sison), helped her in combating counter-revolutionary ideas spearheaded by adventurist and opportunist elements during the pre-Second Great Rectification Movement period.


[Video: Ka Maria Malaya for Ka Joma]

CPP/NPA: Video -- Ka Simon Santiago greets Ka Joma

Video posted to the CPP Website (Feb 14): Video: Ka Simon Santiago greets Ka Joma

Ka Simon Santiago, Political Director of the NPA Southern Mindanao Region greets Prof. Jose Maria Sison for the latter's 75th birthday and his 55 years of service to the Filipino people. Part of this video is shown in Sine Proletaryo's main video for Prof. Jose Maria Sison, JOMA: 55/75.


[Video: Ka Simon Santiago greets Ka Joma]

2 marines wounded in ambush get medals

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Feb 15): 2 marines wounded in ambush get medals

Rear Admiral Jesus C. Millan, commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) on Wednesday awarded medals to two Marines who were wounded during an ambush staged by Abu Sayyaf bandits at Sitio Bakud, Barangay Bid, Parang Sulu last February 11.
Sgt. Ramon E RegodonJr. and Pirvate Junelroy C. Belmonte were awarded the Wounded Personnel Medal (WPM) during a simple ceremony at Camp Navarro General Hospital (CNGH), where they are currently undergoing treatment and medication for gunshot and shrapnel wounds.
The two soldiers were among the casualties when a group of some 30 Abu Sayyaf gunmen ambushed the convoy of Marine Battalion Landing Team 9 personnel, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Junior Chamber International (JCI) volunteers around 11:00 a.m.
The convoy was on its way back to Jolo town proper from a tree planting activity in Parang when the ambushed was staged.
The Marines were able to gallantly repel the ambush, depriving the ASG from inflicting more casualties, especially among the civilians in the convoy.
During the ceremony, Rear Admiral Millan expressed admiration to the two marines who put their lives on risk in an effort to achieve lasting peace in the area. The ceremony was witnessed by Commander, Combat Service Support Brigade (C,CSSBde), CNGH staff and officers and men of Naval Forces Western Mindanao.

GPH-MILF talks trigger surge in ARMM investments–exec

From MindaNews (Feb 15): GPH-MILF talks trigger surge in ARMM investments–exec

Investments registered in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) breached the P1 billion mark barely two months into 2014, with the growing investors’ confidence attributed to the strides in the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In a statement, the Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) in the ARMM said it has approved the registration of a record P1.451 billion worth of investments in the area in a meeting last Thursday in Zamboanga City.

Throughout 2013, the investments registered with the RBOI reached P1.463 billion, which are almost the investments registered so far for this year.

“This is the first time that investments in the ARMM reached more than P1 billion year-on-year,” lawyer Ishak Mastura, RBOI chairperson, said in the statement.

He projected that investments in the area could hit P2 billion until the end of 2014.

The strong surge in investment in the ARMM comes in the wake of the signing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last month of the Annex on Normalization, the last of the four annexes to the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB), according to the statement.

Agreed by the GPH and MILF peace panels on October 15, 2012, the FAB consists also of the annexes on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, and Power Sharing. The parties signed the three annexes last year in Malaysia, the third party facilitator.

The FAB and the four annexes will compose the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the final peace deal between the GPH and the MILF.

In Buluan, Maguindanao last week, Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles said that the peace panels are ready to sign the CAB likely by early March.

She noted that President Benigno Aquino III wants the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is being drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, to be finished by March 31 so he can submit it then to Congress as a priority bill.

“We’ve 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.

“The important thing on the part of the government during the negotiations was that it was guided by the principle not to make promises it cannot deliver politically, economically and culturally,” she said.

Mastura said that the new investments are from local investors, who are registering with the RBOI “because of their increased confidence in the improving peace and order situation in the area, brought about mainly by the success of the GPH-MILF peace negotiations.”

“We are actually getting more inquiries about how to invest in the ARMM than is usual from foreign companies,” he added.

With barely two months into 2014, the RBOI registered the P921.56 million biomass energy project of Lamsam Power Corp. in Sultan Kudarat Maguindanao; the P520 million nickel ore mining project of SR Languyan Mining Corp. in Languyan, Tawi-tawi; and the P10 million import and export trading business of ABSCOR Multi-Trading Co. in Maluso, Basilan.
President Aquino, who was in Davao City last Wednesday as keynote speaker for the 2nd ARMM LGU Summit on Governance and Development, has projected a rosy economy for the new Bangsamoro region once it is established.

“Nananabik na po tayo sa araw na maipasa na ang Bangsamoro Basic Law, upang tuluyan na ngang mabuksan ang bagong kabanata ng kasaysayan sa Muslim Mindanao (We are excited to have the Bangsamoro Basic Law passed so that a new chapter will finally unfold in the history of Muslim Mindanao),” he said.

The ARMM will be abolished once the Bangsamoro Basic Law gets the approval of Congress and ratified in a plebiscite.

Soldier killed in NPA ambush

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 15): Soldier killed in NPA ambush

A soldier was killed on Friday after suspected New People’s Army rebels waylaid patrolling soldiers securing a government road project in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

1Lt. Abel Porto, 27th Infantry Battalion commander, said some 30 NPA guerillas fired at a team of soldiers who were conducting clearing operations on a road project in a hinterland village of Sitio Colobong, Barangay Lamfugon in Lake Sebu town.

The soldier who was killed was identified as Pfc. Jhoemer Ramos.
Lt. Col. Shalimar Imperial, 27th IB commander, had deployed additional troops to track down the rebels.

“The NPA rebels will just conceal their firearms and mingle with local residents so that the military could not easily detect their identities,” Imperial said.

Obama Visit to Philippines May Jump-Start Base Talks

From the Wall Street Journal (Feb 13): Obama Visit to Philippines May Jump-Start Base Talks

U.S. President Barack Obama's arrival in the Philippines this April should lend fresh impetus to faltering talks over the deployment of U.S. military forces to Subic Bay, a strategic location overlooking the disputed South China Sea.

The bilateral discussions began last August, but are understood to have stalled over the status of new "temporary" facilities, which would house visiting U.S. forces without contravening a Philippine constitutional ban on permanent foreign military bases in the country.

The latest, fifth round of talks on a proposed "framework agreement" on bilateral security ended on Jan. 31 without resolution, the U.S. Embassy in Manila said.

Manila will be the president's fourth and final stop on his coming regional tour, the White House confirmed on Feb. 12, after Japan, South Korea and Malaysia.

The slow progress of the talks with the Philippine government—an ally under the terms of a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty—has a come as a surprise, given that the two sides share the same end goal, namely the stationing of more U.S. forces in the Philippines.

The Philippines is embroiled in a dispute with China over islands in the South China Sea, and wants to increase the U.S.'s involvement in its security affairs, given China's military superiority over the Philippines' own, largely obsolete armed forces. The U.S., also with an eye on China, wants to make greater use of military bases in the Philippines as it implements a policy of "rebalancing" to the Asian-Pacific region.

The U.S. Embassy in Manila declined to comment on the substance of the continuing talks, while the Philippine Department of National Defense said it would publish details of the latest round of negotiations in due course.

However, the timing of President Obama's visit to the Philippines will prove fortuitous if it helps to resolve the impasse—or awkward, if it fails to jump-start the negotiations and produce the long-awaited deal.

"The sticking point is control," explained Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute of Political and Electoral Reform in Manila. "The U.S. side is insisting on complete control over [any new facilities], and the Philippines is reluctant because of constitutional reasons. It's a question of symbolism, rather than substance."

Subic Bay was formerly one of the U.S. military's most important naval stations in Asia, until the Philippines approved a new constitution in 1987 that made the stationing of foreign military forces in the country illegal. As a result, the U.S. military left Subic—and the Philippines—in 1992.

A 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement subsequently gave permission for U.S. forces to return, provided they were only "temporarily in the Philippines."

Last year, Juan Ponce Enrile, the Senate minority leader, warned that it wouldn't be so easy for U.S. forces to return.

"I don't know whether you can do that," Mr. Enrile said, when asked about the legality of letting U.S. forces back into Subic Bay, adding that it would "become an issue before the Supreme Court."

However, Manila has shown flexibility in its interpretation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. U.S. forces have been stationed "temporarily" in the southern Philippines for more than 12 years to assist in counterterrorism operations against Islamic militant groups linked to al Qaeda, and Mr. Casiple said that the constitutional question "should not be a showstopper," especially in light of Manila's need for military assistance.

China has staged repeated shows of force in the South China Sea, most recently sending a flotilla around the Indonesian island of Java in January in a demonstration of its navy's newfound range. Indonesia's silence on the Chinese mission contrasted with the Philippines' vocal protests over what it regards as Chinese incursions into its territorial waters.

On Thursday, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the U.S. Navy's chief of operations, visited Manila and offered encouragement to the Philippines on the subject of the territorial dispute with China in comments delivered to the National Defense College.

"Of course, we would help you," Adm. Greenert said, when asked whether the U.S. would fight alongside the Philippines in the event of Chinese military aggression.

President Obama's arrival in the Philippines would also be an important "show of support," Mr. Casiple said, and would help focus the minds of the negotiators during the next two months.

"The expectation is that they will find a way," he said, by finding a formula that doesn't compromise Philippine sovereignty, such as locating any new U.S. facilities within a larger area officially controlled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The U.S. could also offer more equipment and military assistance as further incentives, he suggested, although Washington pledged $40 million in military aid to Manila as recently as December.

The U.S. has ruled out opening new bases in the Philippines or anywhere else in the Asia-Pacific, preferring to "rotate" forces through selected host countries. In 2011, Australia agreed to host 2,500 U.S. Marines on a rotational basis, for example, while Singapore has also started to host U.S. Navy warships on similar rotational terms.

With those precedents in mind, U.S. negotiators say they hope the president will be able to announce a newly minted deal with the Philippines when he arrives—and not be forced to negotiate it himself.

QCPD chief conferred PMA Cavalier Award

From the Philippine Star (Feb 16): QCPD chief conferred PMA Cavalier Award

Quezon City Police District (QCPD) director Chief Superintendent Richard Albano was conferred yesterday the prestigious Cavalier Award by the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Alumni Association at Fort Del Pilar in Baguio City.

He received the award for his exemplary performance in the field of police operations.

Albano, a member of the PMA Maharlika Class of 1984, took over as head of the QCPD in January 2013.

As a police officer, he had occupied various command and staff positions in the fields of intelligence, investigation, operations and police administration.

Albano was a former director of the Police Retirement and Benefits Service; chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group for Regions 2 and 3; head of the Northern Police District intelligence division, and head of the QCPD Special Project Unit.

Rebels attack Cagayan black sand mines

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 16): Rebels attack Cagayan black sand mines

LAL-LO, Cagayan—The New People’s Army (NPA) has taken responsibility for the Jan. 13 burning of vessels, heavy equipment and machinery belonging to a Chinese company that is conducting black sand mining operations along the Cagayan River.

In its Feb. 7 issue of Ang Bayan, the communist movement’s official publication, the NPA said the attack was meant to punish mining firm San You Philippines Mining Trade Ltd. for activities that have “been detrimental to the people and the environment.”

San You and other black sand mining companies operating in Cagayan province have committed a “long and filthy list of crimes” that, the statement said, has been “etched in the people’s collective memory.”

“[They] have been slowly killing entire [farming and fishing] communities because of the destruction wrought by the mining activities on the uplands, farms and fishing grounds from which the masses derive their livelihood,” it said.
Police said about 50 armed men swooped down on the compound occupied by San You in Catayauan village, along the banks of the Cagayan River here.

They burned two barges, a backhoe, a payloader, a bulldozer, two dump trucks and the conveyors and separators used in the processing of black sand from the riverbed.

The NPA said its Henry Abraham Command carried out the attack as a form of revenge against foreign companies, which, it said, “have been stealing the province’s natural wealth.”

“They (foreign companies) have raked in gigantic profits from their plunder but have been paying their workers measly wages. Tons of ore are shipped directly to Taiwan, China and other countries for foreign profit, leaving in their wake pitted grounds and ruined rivers and riverbanks,” the NPA said.

Records from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) showed that Mario Ancheta, acting MGB director for Cagayan Valley, approved a total of 24 mineral processing permits for sand and gravel and black sand extraction in the towns of Lal-lo, Peñablanca, Aparri, Abulug, Buguey, Gonzaga and Santa Ana, all in Cagayan.

The NPA also accused Cagayan officials, including mayors in towns where black sand is extracted, of “turning a blind eye” on these activities.

The Inquirer tried to seek former Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile, Cagayan Gov. Alvaro Antonio and MGB’s Ancheta for comment but they did not respond to text messages sent to their mobile phones.

Lal-lo Mayor Florante Pascual declined to issue a response, saying he has yet to read the group’s statement.

US general misquoted, says Gazmin

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 15): US general misquoted, says Gazmin

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Friday that US Gen. Herbert Carlisle had claimed he was misquoted in the news when he appeared to have criticized the heightened rhetoric of President Benigno Aquino III against China.

“Carlisle said he was misquoted,” Gazmin told the Inquirer in an interview.

Gazmin said Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta relayed the information to him.

Azcueta met Carlisle at the Singapore Airshow a few days ago after the US general’s statements were published by Bloomberg on Feb. 10.

By then, the defense department had fired off a strong reaction to Carlisle’s statement.

“What we are saying on our part, clearly we are the ones being harassed here and the statement of the President is rallying the international community, stating that we are invoking the rule of law,” Gazmin said.

Gazmin said the United States ensured the freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in the region.

“Their cold stance presence in the area would be of help in the region, that there would be no expansionism or aggressiveness on the part of other countries. If the United States is not there, then that’s when the problems come in,” he said.

Gazmin: Critics driving wedge with Aquino

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 16): Gazmin: Critics driving wedge with Aquino

Smarting from the incessant criticism of his work style and uncommon closeness to President Benigno Aquino III, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said there were some in government who would love to take over the defense portfolio from him and they were behind the smear campaign against him.

“I guess there are sectors that would want to put a wedge between myself and the Armed Forces of the Philippines and myself and the President … The reasons are obvious. They can see that my relationship with the AFP and the President are strong. In government, the strongest force comes from the AFP,” Gazmin said in an interview.

Of all the criticisms leveled against him, the one that irks him the most is the suggestion that he dictates on the President in the appointment of key military positions.

Some of the secretary’s critics refer to the Board of Generals, the recommendatory body chaired by the AFP chief of staff, the “Board of Gazmin.”

Gazmin said this was unfair to the appointees and most especially to President Aquino who is being pictured as a “weakling.” He said Mr. Aquino was in fact a “decisive leader” who knows how to choose his appointees well.

The talk in the defense community is that Gazmin tends to overrule most of the senior military officers and key defense officials who were either his former junior officers or who served under his staff command when he was in the active service.

Gazmin described himself as a “strict” commander. “My military bearing is sometimes overbearing. I am really very strict,” he said.

He admitted that there were times during planning sessions or even during operations when he had “stepped on the shoes” of the AFP chiefs, like Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, who was once his platoon commander.

“But when I do that, I apologize to him and then I just (follow up) and consult, and ask what the course of action is,” Gazmin said.

According to Gazmin, even if today’s military commanders were once his junior officers, he expected them to debate with him and push their own plans for their service commands because they are the end users.

“I am just a policymaker,” he said.

He said he also believed everyone was “equal when it comes to discussions.”

“Everyone is given the privilege to argue their case. At the end of the day, it is our decision, it is the decision of the group. If we fail, it is everyone’s failure,” Gazmin said.

He said that when he gave an official a dressing down, it meant that he valued the person’s work and it was not because he wanted to embarrass the person. “When I ignore you, that’s when you should start thinking of your performance,” he said.

Gazmin was also criticized for staying in the background during last year’s security crisis in Zamboanga City and in the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

But he argued that he did not need to be in the limelight or be his own spokesperson because his job is to preside over discussions on the table and ensure that decisions are executed well.

Last year, it was also rumored that Gazmin was planning to give up the defense portfolio.

Not so. He is not about to desert the President, the son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino whom he had served for much of his military career.

“I will step down only when the President tells me to step down. And when I feel that I cannot perform anymore then I will tell the President that I cannot do the work anymore. But for as long as I can do it, I will stick it out with him. And I will serve him until the very end,” Gazmin said.

Government forces in CdO placed on alert for possible BIFF attacks

From the Daily Tribune (Feb 16): Government forces in CdO placed on alert for possible BIFF attacks

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Cagayan de Oro City were alerted and adjusted their peace and security operations following intelligence reports of the presence of members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the city.

The Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division confirmed report that there are groups of BIFF who were able to slip into the city.

PA 4th ID spokesman Capt. Christian Uy said that monitoring operations have been launched by the military against the bandit groups who are reportedly out to conduct spy operations against the government troops.

The government authorities are presently conducting counter-checking on the intelligence report as they vowed that security operations are being prepared against the BIFF group in case they launched terror attacks in the city.

If the presence of the BIFF group were confirmed, the military noted that adjustment of security operations will be implemented to secure the residents of the city.

President Aquino last Tuesday it can be recalled has visited Mindanao amid the series of bombings said to be orchestrated by the BIFF. President Aquino attended a summit of local officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to discuss with them the government’s peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The BIFF, a breakaway group of the MILF, has been allegedly attempting to undermine the ongoing peace talks, especially after the signing of the normalization annex, the last document needed to seal the final peace agreement.

China warns US vs siding with RP in maritime rift

From the Daily Tribune (Feb 16): China warns US vs siding with RP in maritime rift

China warned the United States anew against taking sides in the South China Sea dispute after US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said Thursday that the US will “help” the Philippines in the event that China occupies disputed islands in the South China Sea.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said the bilateral arrangement between allies the Philippines and the United States “should not harm the interests of a third party.”

China always maintains that the South China Sea dispute should be solved through bilateral negotiation and consultation between countries directly-concerned based on respect for historical facts and international law,” Hua said.

She said the US is not a party concerned in the South China Sea dispute and should honor its commitment of not taking sides on territorial sovereignty issue. 

She also advised US officials to “be discreet in word and deed and do more for peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific, rather than the opposite.”

Greenert told students at a state defence college during a visit to Manila that the US would honor its mutual defence treaty with the Philippines amid a seething territorial conflict with China over the resource-rich waters.

“Of course we would help you. I don’t know what that help would be, specifically. I mean we have an obligation because we have a treaty,” he added.

His remarks, one of the strongest US declarations of support for the Philippines, come as concerns rise that China will attempt to forcefully assert its claim to almost all of the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also on Friday stated China’s basic view and policy on the South China Sea during talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Wang said the overall situation in the South China Sea is stable. China is capable and confident of working with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to safeguard peace in the region.

The freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea was, is and will always be, unquestionable, he said, noting that all countries enjoy the lawful right to free navigation in the South China Sea.
China and Asean countries have implemented the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and strengthened maritime cooperation, he said, adding that the negotiation on the South China Sea code of conduct (COC) is moving forward smoothly.

China has sufficient historical and legal evidence for its sovereignty over the Nansha islands and adjacent waters, Wang said.

The existing disputes in the South China Sea were caused by some countries’ illegal occupation of islands belonging to China since the 1970s, he said apparently referring to the Philippines.

“Even so, China has always been committed to solving disputes through negotiating directly with countries involved and in a peaceful manner,” said the foreign minister.

He said that recent unfounded and untrue rumors had magnified disputes in the South China Sea and artificially upped tensions in the region.
“This is unacceptable,” Wang said.

China’s claim conflicts with that of the Philippines, which has a 1951 treaty with the United States that officials say bind the two partners to defend each other in case of external attack.

The United States has not taken a stand on the conflicting territorial claims over the South China Sea, which also involve Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

But Admiral Greenert said that he wanted to send a “clear signal... that aggressive behavior outside of international norms is contrary to good order.”

“You may have seen some statements coming from our policy makers exactly in that direction. You will see more of that from us,” he added.

He also said that the US Navy would increase its presence in the Western Pacific region from the present level of about 50 ships to 60 ships by 2020.

In December, during a visit to the Philippines, Kerry warned China against any move to declare an air defence zone in the South China Sea, a declaration that was seen as an affirmation of the defence ties between Manila and Washington.

Greenert also praised the Philippines’ move to ask a UN tribunal to strike down China’s claims to most of the South China Sea, saying it was “a terrific idea.”

He urged the Philippines “to stay the course and bring this to fruition,” even though China has refused to participate in the process.

Greenert said during his visit to the National Defense College of the Philippines in Camp Aguinaldo the development of maritime domain awareness capabilities of nations with conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea will do much to ease the tensions in the region.

“I would work on maritime domain awareness, in other words I would work to be sure that we had a clarity of what’s going on out there in and around the West Philippine Sea on a consistent manner, he added.

He added interoperability (with other powers in the region) should be attained.

“Use the easy stuff first to share information on what we see out there so whatever you see you want, as I’m saying, make sure your headquarters understand that, thoughout your headquarters in Manila but also out there at your fleet headquarters (and) then be willing to share that with Vietnam, Malaysia whomever and work toward that,” the US admiral stressed.

Greenert said that all countries with stakes in the sea dispute must be able to communicate with each other to get assistance or force multipliers.

“I think (developing) maritime domain awareness will be tough, and then underpinning it all is training your people so getting a solid baseline of professional officers,” he added.

Greenert’s three-day official visit with the Philippine Navy which started last Feb. 12 ended yesterday.

Defense chief defends AFP choice

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 15): Defense chief defends AFP choice

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin had expected critics to react negatively after President Benigno Aquino III appointed Maj. Gen. Hernando Iriberri as the new Army commander.

Iriberri is closely identified with Gazmin.

“We were discussing the issue … We were discussing how do we manage this because they (critics) will start speculating because Iriberri is the youngest [among the front-runners] and was identified with me. We were anticipating this problem. What I said was, we just have to bite the bullet.

This is for the good of the organization,” Gazmin told the Inquirer in an interview yesterday, adding he had discussed the matter with the President and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.

True enough, a week after Iriberri formally assumed his post, rumors abound that Iriberri got the President’s nod because of the “Board of Gazmin,” a reference to the defense chief’s alleged practice of dictating to the President who to place in key military positions.

“That ‘Board of Gazmin,’ that irritates me because I do not meddle with the selection process. When it comes to my table, the recommendation is already signed by the Board of Generals,” Gazmin said in Filipino.

In April, Philippine Air Force Commanding General Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino de la Cruz will be retiring, to be followed by Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Adm. Jose Luis Alano in May.

In July, Bautista will be stepping down as military chief upon reaching the mandatory age retirement of 56.

Gazmin said President Aquino conferred with him and Bautista on the possible military appointments. But ultimately, it is the President who makes the final decision, he said.

Iriberri was a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) ’83 while the other front-runners were northern Luzon command chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang of PMA ’81 and Central Command chief
Lt. Gen. John Bonafos of PMA ’82.

Ties that bind

Gazmin said Iriberri’s accomplishments should reflect his capabilities as a leader and must not be overshadowed by the ties that bind the two of them, such as the latter’s being the defense chief’s former spokesperson and senior military assistant.

“It is unfair to me, General Bautista, General Iriberri and especially the President,” he said.

Gazmin described the President as a “decisive leader” who knows how to choose his military commanders well.

The selection process for top military commanders goes through the Board of Generals, which in turn submits a recommendation to the AFP chief of staff. The military chief elevates it to the defense chief, who finally endorses it to the President, the final appointing authority.

Step by step, Gazmin said, the candidates are vetted, with their military records on paper showing their capabilities.

But the final showdown, so to speak, is the interview with the commander-in-chief, where the front-runners start on a clean slate.

Make or break

Gazmin said the President had a way of interviewing his top commanders for a key post, giving them the chance to show the kind of leaders they would be.

It can make or break one’s chances, Gazmin said.

Gazmin prides himself as being a good mentor, noting that a number of the junior officers who were his platoon leaders or staff officers ultimately made it to the top.

Some of them, like retired Generals Hermogenes Esperon, Alexander Yano and Victor Ibrado, became AFP chiefs of staff under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

At that time, Gazmin was out of government service and was even practically on the other side of the political fence because the late President Corazon Aquino was a staunch Arroyo critic.

Gazmin also noted that a number of military officers now heading unified commands, like Air Force Lt. Gen. Rey Deveraturda, chief of the Western Command; Army Lt. Gen. Rainier Cruz, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, and Marine Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, were never under his command.

“But look at where they are now,” Gazmin said.

Talks for US troops’ presence in PH still ongoing

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 15): Talks for US troops’ presence in PH still ongoing

President Benigno Aquino III on Friday said details were being worked out for a framework agreement that would allow the increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines—but it was not being rushed for completion in time for the visit of US President Barack Obama in April.

President Aquino told reporters that meetings were currently being held to iron out details of the framework pact, “so that it adheres to the laws of both countries.”

“Since the negotiations started, the goal was to reach an agreement soonest.
But we must make sure that the result does not violate the rules of both countries. We still have to iron out the details,” he said yesterday in an ambush interview in Pasay City.

“The principle that we want to uphold… is to come up with clear details. As they say, the devil is in the details,” said the President.

He made the clarification amid speculation that the pact was being rushed for signing in time for the US visit to Manila of Obama.

“[Talks] have yet to be concluded. There are still meetings on the details of this rotational presence to meet our needs and Americans’ needs,” he said. Mr. Aquino said there were “nuances” but did not elaborate.

The added presence of US forces is expected to boost the Philippine’ position in its territorial row with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The proposed pact is formally called the “increased rotational presence (IRP) framework agreement.”

In a briefer, Malacañang said the IRP was the policy that “increases the presence of US forces on a rotational basis in Philippine territory toward the development of a minimum credible defense posture.”

The pact aims to maintain a “minimum credible defense posture intended to enhance maritime domain awareness and develop a deterrence capability,” the briefing paper states.

This can be accomplished through “high-impact and high-value joint exercises, which promote interoperability and capacity building that will also bolster humanitarian assistance and disaster response.”

The IRP framework agreement addresses the current thrust of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which is external defense.

On the question of whether or not the United States would come to the defense of the Philippines when attacked, the briefer says that “the United States has time and again stated that it will honor its commitments under the MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty).”

MNLF wants basic law final draft

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 15): MNLF wants basic law final draft

THE Moro National Liberation Front on Thursday said Malacañang’s move to persuade Mindanao’s inhabitants to accept its recently-signed framework agreement with the MILF was “too premature” because its peace initiatives with that group faced a bumpy ride ahead of its implementation.

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza criticized Malacañang’s move to persuade the Bangsamoro people to support the government’s peace agreement with the MILF because of its unresolved peace agreement with the MNLF.

“It’s too early,” Cerveza said.

“They have yet to produce the final draft of the Basic Law and yet they’re already campaigning.”

Cerveza made his statement even as Reps. Jerry Treñas and Mel Senen Sarmiento called for a swift passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and urged the stakeholders to give the peace process a chance to succeed.

“I am all out for the swift and easy passage of the envisioned Bangsamoro Basic Law, and I think that this belief is shared by many of our colleagues in the House of Representatives,” Treñas said.

“So long as that law will not prejudice our national interest, I will definitely support it all the way.”

Sarmiento said he expected a swift passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law because no less than President Benigno Aquino III had said he would endorse it as an urgent measure.

“The majority will definitely through their support behind the measure,” Sarmiento said.

“We all want the peace process to succeed and hopefully, this time it will truly work.”  

President Aquino and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, along with his allies in the local governments, held a preliminary political sortie in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to campaign for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

But Cerveza said the government, instead of entering into a new phase of peace initiatives with the MILF, should first resolve its stalled final implementation of the peace agreement with the MNLF in 1996.

Last year, the government apparently abrogated its review of the 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF after it entered a separate peace treaty with the MILF, and then concluded the first phase of the accord with both sides signing the four annexes of the framework agreement preparatory to the crafting of the basic law.

“It’s not the answer to the problem. They still don’t know whether the people will accept the final draft of the agreement,” Cerveza said.

“He [Aquino] is too in a hurry. the GRP-MILF peace accord could just die a natural death. There are many things yet to be considered.”

Lacson says PMA honor code, a very unique one

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): Lacson says PMA honor code, a very unique one

Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR) Panfilo Lacson on Saturday said that the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) is the only learning institution that requires its students to adhere to a honor code.

Lacson, a member of the PMA Class 1971, made this statement during the annual PMA alumni homecoming in Baguio City.

He added that he still has to hear of any learning institution, past or present, that instills honor among its students in its truest form and substance other than the PMA.

"We admit it is not perfect, but we are sure it is real," he said.

"For four years our beloved alma matter imbibes in each and every cadet the virtues of courage, integrity, and loyalty. We find them extremely difficult to learn at first, but since cadets are all together at it and in an environment made most conducive to being honorable, it has become more of a source of pride in us all," Lacson stated.

"And so comes graduation and the real cruel world thereafter. The idealist still very much armed with the academy virtues suddenly comes face to face with practically everything that is opposite of what was taught in the hallowed grounds of Fort Del Pilar- corruption, treachery, cowardice," the PARR chief said.

"So when the young graduates encounter in their fields of assignment some upperclassmen who have already succumbed to the temptations of misplaced values or have countenance such commissions, the effects could be very frustrating if not disastrous," he further stated.

Lacson hits PMA alumni with 'misplaced values'

From Rappler (Feb 15): Lacson hits PMA alumni with 'misplaced values'

POLITICS AT THE PMA: Former Senator Panfilo Lacson brings politics to the Philippine Military Academy. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena

POLITICS AT THE PMA: Former Senator Panfilo Lacson brings politics to the Philippine Military Academy. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) has always tried to be politically neutral. But on its alumni homecoming on Saturday, February 15, keynote speaker former Senator Panfilo Lacson recalled how he was "maligned" by the previous administration.

He also slammed graduates of the country's premiere military institution with "misplaced values" who succumbed to corruption and forgot about the PMA Honor Code.
"Times have changed. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is no longer the commander in chief. Jose Miguel Arroyo is no longer First Gentlemen.
While I have forgiven them and their cohorts for their individual and collective actions to malign my personal reputation and honor, I am quite sure I will not forget their names," Lacson said in his speech.
[Video: Speech of Former Sen Panfilo Lacson at the PMA Alumni Homecoming 2014
A 1971 PMA graduate, Lacson served as former chief of the Phiippine National Police (PNP), former senator, and is now Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery.
Lacson is a controversial PMA alumnus himself. He was a fugitive of justice when he left the country under the Arroyo regime to evade arrest over a case involving the murder of public relations agent Bubby Dacer.
Lacson has always maintained that the case was politically motivated because he was a staunch Arroyo critic.
PMA chose him as keynote speaker because of his important task to rehabilitate areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda, said Colonel Romeo Brawner, chairman of the PMA Alumni Associate Inc public relations committee. Lacson did not speak about Yolanda in his speech, however. (READ: Lacson: Yolanda rehab until 2016)
But Lacson did not impress everyone including the former Armed Forces chief of staff under Arroyo, retired General Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
"He had a very good speech except that it was destroyed by the mention of 2 people, who did not have to be mentioned. He could have removed that line and it would have been perfect," Esperon said.
"Let's not speak as if we have monopoly of virtues," he added.
Upperclassmen with 'misplaced virtues'
Lacson reminded cadets to follow the PMA Honor Code – courage, integrity, and loyalty – even after graduation and when they encounter upperclassmen "with misplaced behavior."
"And so comes graduation and the real cruel world thereafter. The idealist is still very much armed with the academy virtues suddenly comes face to face with practically everything that is opposite of what was taught in the hallowed grounds of Fort Del Pilar: Corruption, Treachery and Cowardice."
"When young graduates encounter in their field of assignment some upperclassmen who have already succumbed to the temptation of misplaced values, the effect could be very frustrating if not disastrous," Lacson added.
The PMA Honor Code helped him transform the PNP, he said. "Rightly or wrongly, we were generally perceived as a bunch of ICUs: inept, corrupt, and undisciplined," he said.
"With much help from cavaliers, the potbellied policemen became uniformly fit and trimmed, not more than 34 inches in their midsection. Not only did our policement stop the 'kotong' culture, they were arresting traffic enforcers preying on motorists," he said.

NPA rebel leader yields in Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Feb 15): NPA rebel leader yields in Mindanao

A New People’s Army rebel commander has surrendered to the Philippine Army in Bukidnon province in Northern Mindanao, officials said Saturday.

Officials said the 42-year old Adaser dela Mansi, whose group operates in Bukidnon’s Malaybalay City surrendered to the 403rd Infantry Brigade under Col. Francisco Pabayo.

Dela Mansi also yielded a rifle and ammunition when he surrendered in the village of Aglayan after abandoning his unit, according to Capt. Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command.

Caber said the rebel leader is being interrogated by the army.  He said over 270 rebels had surrendered last year in Eastern Mindanao.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, also urged other rebels to return to the folds of the law and rejoin their family in peace.

The NPA has been fighting for a separate Maoist state in the largely Catholic country.