Monday, February 17, 2014

Kerry, Asean urge restraint on WPS issue

From the Manila Times (Feb 17): Kerry, Asean urge restraint on WPS issue

United States (US) Secretary of State John Kerry and Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh underlined the importance of “exercising self-restraint” in view of the “complicated developments” in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) where China’s perceived aggressiveness has become a concern for the international community.

According to a statement by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Kerry paid a courtesy call on Minh and other senior officials at the Asean headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia to discuss US-Asean relations “and other regional issues of mutual interests and concern.”

Part of their discussions touched on the issues surrounding the West Philippine Sea, a resource-rich region and a vital sea lane for global trade. They agreed on “the need for respect for international law,” which includes the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), a 1982 treaty that delineates the maritime territories of coastal states.

China and the Philippines are signatories to the accord.

Kerry and Minh also reaffirmed the importance of the bloc’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea, as well as the urgency of the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC) and the importance of exercising self-restraint.

The principles were drafted in a bid to urge Beijing to negotiate with Asean as a bloc regarding the conclusion of the COC, whose basis is enshrined in the 2002 Declaration on the Code of Conduct (DOC) between China and Asean.

The COC, though without a dispute settlement mechanism, aims to counter aggressive actions in the region and urges all claimant-states to ensure peace and stability in the resource-rich waters.

Asean is composed of the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Brunei Darussalam.

The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei—are claimants to the land and water features of the West Philippine Sea.

China and Taiwan claim 90 percent of the region.

Kerry said Washington will remain committed to enhancing cooperation with the 10-member bloc in the fields of “trade and investment, education, narrowing the development gaps, climate change and disaster management, connectivity, and support for Myanmar’s chairmanship of Asean.”

He added that President Barack Obama is looking forward to attending the Second Asean-US Summit later this year in Myanmar.

Kerry was in Jakarta as part of his Asian tour to meet with senior government officials and address a range of bilateral, regional and global issues relevant to US’ enhanced engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.

Military says Misuari ‘hiding like a rat’

From the Manila Times (Feb 17): Military says Misuari ‘hiding like a rat’

The military remains clueless on the whereabouts of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari, who vanished after MNLF members seized some barangays in Zamboanga City in September last year.

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the Second Marine Brigade based in Sulu, on Monday said the Armed Forces and Police force continue their relentless efforts to locate Misuari and arrest him. There have been reports that Misuari was spotted in Sulu but they could not confirmed these reports.

“We continuously validate his exact location but we could not locate him, [he’s] hiding like a rat,” Cenabre said. “Never had we spotted him since the Zamboanga siege, that is the real story.”

He added that there were also reports that Misuari is already in Indonesia or in the Middle East but these were also unconfirmed.

Cenabre admitted that Misuari is not easy to track down because the MNLF leader has supporters who continue to protect him.

The official added that government troops continue to engage lawless elements in Mindanao, including Misuari’s group.

“It’s a relentless effort,” Cenabre stressed.

In September 2013, hundreds of MNLF members stormed several barangays in Zamboanga City, triggering clashes that lasted three weeks. The clashes left 102 MNLF rebels and 20 soldiers dead.

Beijing’s South China Sea claim strikes at ‘maritime heartland’ of Southeast Asia But China a relative newcomer to the region

From the Manila Times (Feb 17): Beijing’s South China Sea claim strikes at ‘maritime heartland’ of Southeast Asia But China a relative newcomer to the region

ASEAN’s deepest security concerns center on China’s claim to three million square kilometers of the South China Sea and all the island formations on it.

This great inland sea—it extends from Taiwan to Sumatra and flows into the Gulf of Siam and the Java Sea—connects the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Its strategic sealanes carry nearly half of all global seaborne trade—vital not only to its coastal states but also to South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, China, Japan and Australia.

 Submerged at high tide

The military intellectual Jose Almonte calls this area “Southeast Asia’s maritime heartland” and warns that “the power which controls it will ultimately control both archipelagic and peninsular  Southeast Asia, as well as play a decisive role in the future of the West Pacific and the Indian Ocean.”

Brig. Gen. Almonte, national security adviser to President Fidel V. Ramos in 1992-98, authored a 1998 monograph arguing that the Philippine dispute with China over areas of the South China Sea “is not merely about islets, some of which disappear at high tide,” but about Southeast Asia’s long-term security.

From that privately circulated paper, I’ve lifted much of the data I cite here.

Seaborne peoples  of Southeast Asia

Since the flooding of the Sunda Shelf 15,000 years ago, the South China Sea has been a maritime thoroughfare that bound the Southeast Asian peoples more closely to one another than to any outside influence, until the coming of the West in the 1600s.

To the Slives of its coastal peoples, it has been as vital as the slightly smaller Mediterranean to the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome, the Levant and North Africa.

Despite its contrary claims, China is a relative newcomer to the region. India, Ceylon and even the Arab world have had anolder and deeper cultural influence—manifest in the Hindu-Buddhist monuments of Borobudur in Java and Angkor in Cambodia; and in the Islamic heritage of both Indonesia and Malaysia.

Throughout much of its history, dynastic China had been turned inward, to the threat from Central Asia’s nomads. Chinese maps didn’t even include the Philippine archipelago until the tenth century.

The first traders from Mindoro reached Canton in 982; and sometime in 1171-72,  tattooed Visayan raiders, riding the southern monsoon, struck at the Fukien coast from staging areas in the Pescadores off Taiwan. When the Spaniards took Manila in 1571, they found 150 Chinese residents in it.

A maritime economy

By then, linkages among the Southeast Asian principalities themselves were well advanced. From Srivijaya in Sumatra during the seventh to the eleventh century, down to Jolo (Sulu) in the 1770s, interconnected maritime cities mediated regional commerce.

Until the eve of our own time, Southeast Asia was a maritime economy. Its peoples harvested their surrounding sea for its sea cucumber, shark fins and mother of pearl for the markets of China and India. Only in the late 1800s did Southeast Asia become a “land economy”—when it began to grow rubber, abaca, sugar and palm oil for European industry.

Until now maritime habits pervade Southeast Asian cultures. We still call our basic political unit the “barangay,” after the plank-built sailing boats that brought our Malay ancestors to the archipelago. East Indonesian villagers regard themselves as a “boatload,” and in communal meetings arrange themselves as though out at sea, on a boat-shaped meeting place.

Faster than the possible

For much of this period, the Chinese Empire was self-sufficient, aloof—disdaining foreign contacts, until in the 1840s the western powers began (in Sun Yat-sen’s phrase) “slicing China like a melon.”

Now, making up for what it terms “150 years of humiliation at the hands of the great powers,”China is growing faster than the world had thought possible. After surpassing Germany as the largest exporter, it overtook Japan to become the second-largest economy. And all these in one generation: yet when Deng Xiaoping’s reforms began in the 1980s, China’s economy had been smaller than Italy’s and just about the same size as Canada’s.

What’s next?

I think it reasonable to assume China will become stronger proportionate to the United States during this next decade or so. (The Americans expect China to reach superpower status by 2025.) The Communist Party plans to move 250 million rural people to big cities over the next 12-15 years. If this mass movement succeeds, it should keep China’s GDP growth close to its Deng-era levels, broaden Beijing’s tax base and indulge military spending.

Already China is showing off its high-profile navy. In recent months its warships have helped rescue an ice-bound Antarctic expedition and aided a US laboratory ship destroying Iran’s chemical weapons.

Showing the red flag

Last July, five Chinese warships for the first time transited the East China Sea, entered the Pacific and circumnavigated the Japanese archipelago. Then Beijing’s first carrier battle group showed the red flag around the South China Sea.

In reply, the region’s states—except for our poverty-stricken country—are acquiring submarine fleets. Vietnam last month received the first of six Kilo-class subs it ordered from Russia.

Thailand is training crews with its potential suppliers, Germany and South Korea. Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia already have operational fleets. Jakarta plans to have 12 subs by 2020.

Alternative arrangements

As China’s economic and technological capabilities mature, Beijing will demand more breathing space—some relaxation of the containing wall around its 6,000-kilometer border.

There will have to be some give in that issue, from the United States and its allies, as the balance of strategic power shifts with time.

Of the alternative arrangements at hand, Deng Xiaoping’s proposal to set aside the sovereignty issues and share the fisheries and mineral resources of the South China Sea is the easiest to organize. Over the medium term, such a deal could morph into a neutralization of the China Sea itself.

For Taiwan, a Hong Kong-SAR (special autonomous region) formula seems the eventual answer—perhaps with more self-government and for a longer period. That Kuomintang and Communist delegates have just held their first official talks since 1949 in Chiang Kai-shek’s wartime capital of Nanjing may mean something.

As for a live-and-let live deal between the two principals, it’s no secret that Washington is moving to Guam in the Marianas, on the eastern edge of the Philippine Sea, the focal point of its efforts to project power in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Guam is two day’s sailing to Manila for a carrier fleet.

The littoral states themselves will need to incorporate China in a regional security order that works, if they are to preserve the stability that has benefited them all so well. It should help that, since 2012, every Asean state—except for the Philippines—has been doing more business with China than with the United States.

MNLF agrees to talks to end 1996 peace pact

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 18): MNLF agrees to talks to end 1996 peace pact

The Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front appeared to have softened its hardline stance when it announced on Monday that it would accept the offer of the government to proceed with the tripartite talks in Jakarta on the GRP-MNLF 1996 final peace agreement.

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza, however, said their group would not enter into any talks on the resumption of peace negotiations but had merely agreed to formalize the closure of the agreement.

“We have accepted the government offer to formalize talks on the final closure of the peace negotiation brokered and duly acknowledged by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jakarta,” Cerveza said.

The formal closing of the tripartite review talks between the GRP-MNLF, which the MNLF claimed the government had abroagated last year, was discussed during a meeting between Absalom and Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process undersecretary Jose Lorena in South Cotabato on Friday.

“We (MNLF) are ready to meet the government on the issue on the petition on the note verbale the government had sent to the OIC asking the termination of the talks,” Cerveza said.

Malacanang, however, reminded Cerveza that it is the OOIC which will decide who will attend the meeting and not the MNLF.

“It has always been the OIC Peace Committee on Southern Philippines that has determined who represents the MNLF in tripartite meetings. We will continue to abide by that protocol,” Deles said.

“What we know is that the new chairman, Egypt, has been meeting with representatives from different MNLF factions. And the MNLF knows Misuari is a fugitive,” Deles added.

Misuari is wanted for rebellion charges following the bloody three-week siege in Zamboanga City. Deles said with the standing arrest warrant, Misuari cannot leave the country.

Misuari has remained at large since the Zamboanga siege, and the military apparently has no information on his whereabouts.

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade and chief of Task Force Sulu, admitted that they receive information on Misuari’s location from time to time, but could not confirm if the reports were true.

Cenabre said some reports said that Misuari is still in Sulu, while another report said that the former MNLF chairman had already fled to Indonesia.

He, however, said the military is continuing its efforts to locate Misuari.

Sources said, however, said that Misuari had sought refuge in an island northeast of Indonesia, after he failed to attend the OIC conference in Guinea, Africa in November 12 last year and the 18th Inter-parliamentary meeting in Tehera, Iran held January 18.

According to the same source, Misuari left early for the African conference but proceeded first to Saudi Arabia before finally proceeding to Africa, but was not seen during the conference.

Cerveza, however, said Misuari had briefly returned to the country after his failed trip to Africa, because he was able to talk to the MNLF chairman.

Meanwhile, Cerveza said that after the tripartite review talks are formally closed, the MNLF will submit its comment, after which the OIC will report to the principal (head of the OIC) what transpired at the last meeting.”

Cerveza said the government’s abrogation of the tripartite talks which had prompted Misuari to declare independence for Mindanao which eventually resulted in the bloody siege in Zamboanga City.

7 killed in dealy attacks in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 19): 7 killed in dealy attacks in Southern Philippines

BASILAN  – Seven people were killed in separate violent attacks in the restive province of Basilan in the Muslim autonomous region, police said.

It said four people were ambushed near the village of Bohelebung in Tipo-Tipo town and among them a government militia and his two children. The attackers also decapitated some of their victims.

Three family members were also killed when unidentified men barged in their house in the village of Yakal in Lantawan town and attacked them.

Police are investigating the motives of the attacks, although there were reports that the ambush could be connected to family feud or clan war.

No individuals or groups claimed responsibility for the killings, but rebels and private armies are actively operating in the province.

The army brigade in Basilan has not released any details about the deadly attacks.

2 NPA ‘amazons’ tagged in Batangas bus attack

From the Philippine Star (Feb 18): 2 NPA ‘amazons’ tagged in Batangas bus attack

Footage taken by a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera showed two suspected female rebels as among a group of armed attackers who burned eight buses inside the terminal of the Jam Liner Inc. in Lemery town on Sunday.

A team of artists is helping drivers and conductors identify the suspects, said Senior Superintendent Omega Jireh Fidel, Batangas police director.

Fidel said based on the statements of the witnesses, two women were among the 14 rebels who entered the terminal at about 12:55 a.m.

He said the two women could also be the same persons seen in a CCTV footage of the burning of construction equipment in the town of Padre Garcia a year ago.

“We now have the identities of the two women rebels but we will not release them yet to the media so as not to jeopardize our operation,” Fidel said.

Fidel said the head of the Lemery police, Chief Inspector Arthur Divino, was relieved from his post over the incident.

Police said the rebels did not hurt any of the bus personnel, including the two security guards, Welijado Banastao and Marlon Pineda.

One of the employees told police he overheard the armed men saying they were NPA rebels and they were after the bus firm’s management, Police Officer 2 Richard Caragay said.

Reports said the bus company received an extortion letter bearing the letterhead of the NPA’s Melito Glor Command in October or November last year.

Witnesses said the armed men escaped in two vans, taking with them the security guards’ revolver and shotgun, a handheld radio, a power supply device for a desktop computer, and the cell phone of one of the guards.

Special investigation task group Jam was formed to handle the case.

Group asks MNLF help to secure kidnapped lay minister

From the Philippine Star (Feb 17): Group asks MNLF help to secure kidnapped lay minister

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) congregation asked the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to help secure the release of a kidnapped Catholic lay minister and his spouse snatched in Jolo town in Sulu on Sunday.

OMI missionary Eliseo Mercado Jr., director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, said they are convinced that leaders of the MNLF in Sulu, a known stronghold of the group, can help work out the release of couple Bonifacio and Claire Salinas.

The victims were reportedly snatched in downtown Jolo, while on their way to church. Salinas, a Catholic lay minister, is also a senior member of the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus while his wife is an active volunteer church worker.

“We appeal to all people of goodwill, and to the MNLF to help secure the safe release of the couple,” Mercado said.

The OMI congregation has been operating various missionary programs for Muslims and Christians in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi since before World War II.

4 dead in clan war in Basilan

From the Philippine Star (Feb 18): 4 dead in clan war in Basilan

At least four people - two pro-government militiamen and two civilians - were killed while another was wounded in a clash Monday afternoon between two warring clan leaders in a remote village of Basilan province, according to a military official.

Ground reports disclosed that two of the victims were reportedly beheaded following the ambush at about 3:41 p.m at Barangay Bohe Lebong, Tipo-Tipo town.

“The incident was triggered by rido (clan war) between two clan commanders,” said Capt. Ma. Rowena Muyuella, spokesperson of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

The victims were identified as Kasuyan Murang, a village councilman, and Habir Callitut, both members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU); and Wahid and Husin Upisalin, both sons of a CAFGU member.  A wounded victim was not immediately identified.

The military said the victims were followers of Commander Mongon Agama and all residents of Barangay Bohe Tambak, Tipo-Tipo.

The military said the victims were on their way to their village when they were ambushed by the followers of Commander Bazir, who is from Barangay Bakisung, Albarka town.

The suspects immediately escaped following the  attack.

Muyuella said they were verifying  reports that two of the victims were  beheaded.
She said military troops were deployed and  retrieved the remains of the victims and turned them over to the victims' families.

Troops were also deployed in the area to avert the possible spill of fighting between the two warring clans.

The military and local government officials in Basilan have been working to settle clan war and rido incidents in the province.

AFP readies turnover of security to LGUs

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 18): AFP readies turnover of security to LGUs

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Central Command is moving towards the turnover of local peace and security to the local government in Negros Oriental that is expected within the first semester of this year, its commander, Maj. Gen. John Bonafos, said yesterday.

Bonafos said the 302nd Infantry Brigade, headed by Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, has successfully addressed the security threats of the Komiteng Rehiyonal Sentral Bisayas that has moved out from Negros Oriental.

He said they have noted a drastic reduction of KRSB in the past years, and it is now at a level they already call insignificant.

The KRSB South East Front in Negros Oriental, the supervision of which was reportedly transferred to the Komiteng Rehiyonal Negros under the leadership of former priest Frank Fernandez, has 25 remaining members, Patrimonio said.

“We are already moving on to the finalization stage where the province of Negros Oriental will be at a normalization process,” Bonafos, who attended the Peace, Integration and Development forum at the Provincial Capitol Social Hall in Bacolod City, said.

“Once we achieve it, we will move to Panay island to help stabilize the peace and security situation,” he also said.

The KRSB used to have its base of operations in Cebu and Bohol. However, when Cebu and Bohol were declared as insurgency-free by the AFP, they transferred to Negros Oriental, military records show.

In Negros Occidental, the military estimates that there are still about 200 armed NPA members, distributed to three NPA guerilla fronts. Eight of the 661 Negros Occidental barangays have been classified as insurgency-affected, Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said.

To avoid the transfer and movement of the remaining NPA members in Negros Oriental to the Occidental side, Bonafos said they have to synchronize their peace and development activities, with the two provincial governments.

As far as Negros Occidental is concerned, he said, the peace and security is at a manageable level.

Police nab ‘rebel leader’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 17): Police nab ‘rebel leader’

Bacoleño Romulo Bitoon, alleged by the military to be a ranking leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army in Negros Island, was re-arrested yesterday at a police checkpoint in Brgy. Efigenio Lizares, Talisay City, Negros Occidental.

Chief Inspector Joresty Coronica, Talisay City police chief, said the apprehension of Bitoon was made by virtue of an arrest warrant for murder issued by Cadiz Regional Trial Court Judge Renato Munez, who also denied him bail.

In April 2010, Bitoon was arrested for an arson case, and the warrant was issued by San Carlos RTC Judge Kathrine Go. He was later freed from jail after posting bail.

Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, claimed that Bitoon served as the secretary of the Regional Unified White Area Committee of the Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros.

Coronica said the arrest warrant issued against Bitoon stemmed from the death of 1Lt. Archie Polenzo, who was killed in an encounter with suspected NPA rebels in Cadiz City, in previous years.

He said Bitoon, 49, refused to reveal his name, when he and his companion, who was driving the motorcycle he was riding, were asked for his identity.

But Coronica said they were able to establish his identity through the two identification cards recovered from him.

The apprehension of Bitoon, a resident of Doña Juliana Heights in Bacolod City, came three days after suspected NPA leader Victor Tapang, who is facing three counts of murder, was also arrested in Brgy. E Lopez, Silay City. His arrest yielded a .45 caliber pistol and two rifle grenades.

Tapang was also denied bail by San Carlos RTC Judge Maria Rita Bascos-Sarabia, Supt. Jacob Crisostomo, Silay police chief, said.

Bitoon, who was arrested by a joint team of Talisay police, PNP Special Action Force and 303rd Infantry Brigade, was reported earlier to have vehemently denied that he had committed arson.

Several alleged NPA leaders, including two women, arrested in Negros Occidental since last year, were charged with murder, in connection with the death of Polenzo, which they vehemently denied.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares earlier called for the removal of prosecutors and judges who help the Armed Forces of the Philippines in filing what he called “trumped-up charges” against leaders of progressive party-lists and human rights advocates.

Several leaders of militant organizations in Negros Occidental, who have been included as respondents in robbery-in-band, arson and murder charges, also condemned the military and police for filing false criminal complaints against them.

Police and military records, however, show that majority of the alleged NPA leaders, who had been arrested in the past several years, were freed from jail, after posting bail. They include Romeo Nanta, regional commander of the NPA in Negros island.

Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said yesterday that he respects court decisions to allow arrested rebel leaders to avail of bail.

“That is part of the rule of law,” Baladad said, adding that a portion of the IPSP Bayanihan, which is a six-year campaign plan of the AFP, ordered them to strictly follow the International Humanitarian Law and the Rule of Law.

Bayanihan Award conferred on guv

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 18): Bayanihan Award conferred on guv

The Armed Forces of the Philippines yesterday conferred on Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. the “Bayanihan Award” for taking a lead role in the implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan-Bayanihan in Negros Occidental, that aims to promote peace and development of insurgency-affected communities.

Maj. Gen. John Bonafos, commander of the AFP Central Command in Visayas, gave the Bayanihan Award to Marañon in behalf of AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, during a forum on Peace, Integration and Development at the Provincial Capitol Social Hall in Bacolod City.

Bonafos said the award was supposed to be given to Marañon during the AFP day celebration in December last year, in recognition of his all-out support and that of the provincial government, and partnership in the implementation of Bayanihan plan.

Maranon, through the newly-organized Provincial Peace, Integration and Development Unit, actively involved and spearheaded the peace and development campaign in six conflict-affected communities of Escalante City, Toboso and Calatrava in northern Negros.

The creation of Pro-PIDU, a brainchild project of Col. Jon Aying, was credited for the successful implementation of Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan, in tandem with the civil society, including peace advocates, non-government and people’s organizations, as well as the Church.

Marañon who said he was greatly honored by the award given to him by the AFP, however, also said “I feel I don’t really deserve the award because there is much to do and so much to be done” adding, “We are all instruments for peace”.

He said he hopes the award gives him more resolve to do more for the peace of the province.

There can never be progress, if there is no peace, Marañon said.

He also said that the award should be given to the 303rd Infantry Brigade headed by Col. Aying, stressing that the provincial government only gave moral and material support to them.

Marañon said he hopes that, by the end of 2016, peace and order in Negros Occidental will be attained with the help of his provincemates and of his 11-point Negros First Agenda.

Under the Point of Care program, he said all those hospitalized in government-managed hospitals in Negros Occidental will be automatically enrolled in PhilHealth, including rebels.

BIFF supported by businessmen, politicians?

From ABS-CBN (Feb 17): BIFF supported by businessmen, politicians?

Some politicians and businessmen are allegedly supporting the Moro renegade group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Central Mindanao.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Missry Mama, on Monday, said there are businessmen and politicians supplying them with firearms and ammunitions.

"Hindi naman tayo mauubusan ng bala at baril eh, kasi merong mga negosyante diyan na nagsusupply sa atin, yung iba sa kanila mga pulitiko rin at sa side ng gubyerno," Mama said.

After the recent offensive of the military against the BIFF in Maguindanao, Mama said their forces are still strong.

He added that they are even expanding and they have new members in the different parts of Mindanao.

"Hindi tayo natinag, walang namatay sa atin. Hindi tayo nagrerecruit, pero mas dumadami pa tayo kasi naiisip siguro nila na tama ang ipinaglalaban natin," Mama said.

Mama said they are not yet ready to have a dialogue with the government and the MILF.

This is after the statement of MILF chief negotiator Mohager Iqbal that MILF is not closing their door to their former members.

Mama also said it doesn't matter if they are not covered by the ceasefire as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Ging Deles announced during the inauguration of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission office.

"Yun ang pinakamagandang sinabi ni Iqbal, pero hindi pa tayo handa na makipag-usap. Iba ang ipinaglalaban nila, iba rin yung sa amin," Mama said.

"Hindi na mahalaga kung hindi tayo sakop ng ceasefire, ganun talaga. Itutuloy parin natin ang ating ipinaglalaban," Mama added.

Mama said they will continue to struggle for total independence through an independent Islamic state.

MILF: Editorial -- Classic display of discourtesy

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Feb 17): Classic display of discourtesy

The courtesy call of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to Mayor Maria Isabel “Beng” Climaco on February 12 was originally set in her office in the Zamboanga City Hall, but she changed the venue to the City Council Hall, and later to the Astorias Hotel.

The visit was a pure courtesy call to Mayor Climaco and members of the City Council. Strictly speaking, it was not even in the nature of a consultation, because Zamboanga City is not contiguous to the core land area of the future Bangsamoro entity where a plebiscite is to be held to determine which geographical areas are going to join it.

In return, what did the BTC Commissioners get? In the program, there was not even a welcome address to signal that the visitors were indeed welcomed or any gesture of hospitality. Not even a welcome drink to quench the thirsts nor biscuits for their empty stomachs of the commissioners, who came all the way from Davao for another peace forum. Moreover, in Climaco’s message it was nothing but a litany of complaints, emotional outburst, and sentiments. However, Chairman Iqbal and the other commissioners calmly listened amidst the tongue-lashing. They came to pay courtesy and on a mission of peace and reconciliation -- and they stuck to it. 

Most if not all of those who participated were preselected, briefed, and coached with the sole reason of insulting the visitors. Others were “paid” to ask insulting or hostile questions. Mayor Climaco even hugged one of those so-called Muslims who asked a piqued question to the BTC whose membership are mostly Muslims. To have an immediate special effects, Climaco instantly acted as a cheerleader and led the hostile crowd in yelling and shouting against Zamboanga City joining the Bangsamoro entity.

Most of the questions centered on whether or not Zamboanga City or any portion of it will be involved in the plebiscite to determine the territory of the Bangsamoro. The answer of the BTC especially those who are also members of the MILF peace panel were very forthright and clear-cut: The city or any part of it is not contiguous by land to any part of the core area of the Bangsamoro, and, therefore, they will not be involved in the exercise. The crowd pressed on and on the same question but the commissioners consistently stuck to their answer and asked the audience to look at the Framework Agreement including the four Annexes and the Addendum of Bangsamoro Waters whether there is such explicit reference to the inclusion of the city or any of its villages. 

“All the documents are silent on the issue,” the commissioners repeatedly said. But the audience repeatedly wanted a categorical answer whether the city or any portion thereof is involved or not involved, but the commissioners repeatedly stuck to their answer.

Clearly, there is suppression of ideas in Zamboanga City. Individual or even collective right to freedom of speech and political opinions are curtailed. What happened during the BTC’s courtesy call was not only a classic display of discourtesy and arrogance, but also gutter politics at its height.  It was meant to play on the emotions of people and divide them.

We don’t believe the divisive politics of Climaco and her power cliques is the right way to run Zamboanga City.  We are sure there are a sizeable number of people in the city who are guided by conscience and fair play.  We are sure there will come a time the people of this city will speak for themselves and not through leaders like Climaco who is still living under the shadow of the Moro-Spanish War that lasted for more than 300 years.

MILF: Islamic scholars declares full support GPH – MILF Peace Agreement

From the MILF Website (Feb 18): Islamic scholars declares full support GPH – MILF Peace Agreement

Some 100 Islamic scholars coming from all over the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) declared during the 2nd Ulama Summit held couple of days ago in Zamboanga City their full support to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“We the Ulama (Islamic Scholars) and Mufti (House of Pronouncements) from ARMM declares our full and unwavering support to the GPH – MILF Comprehensive Peace Agreement that the two parties will soon sign,” the Ulama expressed during session with the MILF Peace Panel and Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Chairman Mohagher Iqbal two day ago. 

“We commend President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murada Ebrahim and the GPH – MILF Peace Negotiating Panels for their commitment to peace and resolving the conflict by peaceful and democratic means through the negotiation table, above all, under the auspices of the Malaysian Government,” the Ulama added.

However, the Summit urged both the government and MILF to step up their partnerships all through the way and remain highly committed to ensure all the painstaking efforts, investments and ultimately the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the sacred sacrifices of the martyrs and peace loving people will surely succeed.

“Islam means peace and a peace culture or a way of life for peace. And as Islamic scholars, the Ulama will always be for peace as this is the key for a prosperous life, global solidarity and everlasting happiness in the world and more importantly in the world life after,” a Islamic Scholar from Tawi – Tawi said.

“The promises of the peace accord the government and MILF, as presented by the MILF Peace Panel and Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo, will ink soon ushers in the realization of the aspirations of the Bansgamoro for strong self-governance and right to self-determination,” the group of Aleem from Lanao provinces stressed.

The Bangsamoro and the Flipino people in general have suffered so much the brunt of the decades of armed conflict that wrecked havoc on the lives, liberties, properties and development opportunities in Mindanao and in the Bangsamoro.

The three-day 2nd Ulama Summit in Zambonga City organized by the Bureau of Madaris Education of the Department of Education – ARMM ended yesterday.

Summit organizers said the initiative is pursuant to the marching orders of ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman to all the agencies and instrumentalities of the autonomous region to promote the policy of President Benigno Aquino on the primacy of the peace process and all-out support push for the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law by the BTC and its passage in the Philippine Congress following its certification as urgent bill by the President.

Also with Chairman Iqbal and Atty. Sinarimbo were BTC Commissioner Ibrahim Ali and Abdullah Camlian, Prof. Aiyub Alih and Abbas Salung, Chairman of the MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH).–-milf-peace-agreement

MILF: Bangsamoro Region to benefit from Internal Revenue Allotment

From the MILF Website (Feb 18): Bangsamoro Region to benefit from Internal Revenue Allotment

In a consultation with local officials of North Cotabato led by Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza on February 16, government peace panel Chairman Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer clarified that the Bangsamoro Region will enjoy benefits similar to other local government units such as the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), the Philstar reported.
Ferrer said the LGUs under the Bangsamoro region would also benefit from the development projects to be brought by the peace process.

Government peace panel member Senen Bacani, who along with fellow peace panel member Yasmin Busran-Lao joined Ferrer in the consultation, said the 40 percent IRA of LGUs will remain intact.

 “There will be a block grant to the Bangsamoro and this will not be taken from the 40 percent IRA share of the LGUs,” Bacani said.

Bacani said the block grant is contained in the annex on revenue generation and wealth sharing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

He said the block grant is comparable to the IRA of LGUs and it will be sourced from the national revenue collections and released annually by the national government to the Bangsamoro government.

Under the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, the “block grant shall be based on a formula provided in the Bangsamoro Basic Law which in no case shall be less than the last budget received by the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) immediately before the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.”

Bacani said the annex on revenue generation and wealth sharing further stated that the formula “shall be subject to review by the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government after 10 years, on the basis of need and actual revenues generated.”

The government peace panel shared that it is working with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Finance (DOF) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in determining a formula based on estimates of the cost of all devolved functions.

MILF: “Fast-track consultations on BBL”-BTC Chairman Iqbal

From the MILF Website (Feb 17): “Fast-track consultations on BBL”-BTC Chairman Iqbal

Mohagher Iqbal, Chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) told the Mindanao CSO (Civil Society Organizations) Leaders Peace Summit at the Royal Mandaya Hotel on Tuesday afternoon, February 11 to fast-track consultations on the basic law so the Commission can submit the draft to Congress by March 31. He said that BTC is going to organize a special committee that will process the feedbacks and recommendations of the consultations for consideration by the 15-member Commission during the drafting of the bill.
“If there is a need for it, we will continue to engage and try to inform you about our recommendations to your recommendations,” he said.

BTC chair Mohagher Iqbal late last year announced they were targeting April 2014 for submission of the draft BBL to Congress. But in their courtesy call on President Aquino in Malacanang on January 30, Iqbal said they accepted the challenge to submit the draft sooner, on March 31.

According to Malacanang’s website, the President urged the BTC to “draw up soonest the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law so it can be ratified and implemented in time for the 2016 elections.”

During his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22 last year, the President urged Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law “before the end of 2014” so that “we will have ample time to prepare for the election of a new Bangsamoro government come 2016.”

Bangsamoro Transition Commission chair Mohagher Iqbal answers queries from members of the civil society organizations at the Mindanao CSO Leaders Peace Summit at Royal Mandaya Hotel in Davao City on February 11, 2014. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Whether or not the BTC submits on March 31 or April, Congress will still be on recess by then. It has sessions from January 20 to March 14 and will take a break from March 15 to May 4, resume on May 5 and will go on sine die adjournment from June 14 to July 27. The President will deliver his SONA on July 28.

On October 18 last year, the BTC and the Mindanao Civil Society Organization Platform for Peace (MCSOPP) signed a memorandum of agreement on the conduct of “public engagements and consultations from the drafting of the Basic Law up to its enactment.”

Consultations are also being conducted by the government and MILF peace panels, the Bangasamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) and other groups helping in the peace process.

The BTC partnership with MCSOPP, a platform comprising at least 120 groups and networks, aims to “promote transparency, inclusiveness and active participation of the local stakeholders” to generate “massive public support and ownership” of the BBL.

The MOA provides that at least 128 consultations will be conducted at the district level in the proposed core areas of the Bangsamoro and in every municipality included in the target expanded areas, with the consultation design approved by both the BTC and the MCSOPP.

On Thursday, the MCSOPP submitted initial results from the Bawgbug Consulting Team in Sulu, Women Engaged in Action on 1325, Arumanen Manuvu Tribe, Lanao Peace Partnership, North Cotabato Consulting Team, Alliance of Progressive Labor, Mindanao Peoples Caucus/Bantay Ceasefire and SUCCEED (Sustainable Cooperation for Equitable Enterprise Development, Inc.).

The GPH and MILF peace panels signed on January 25 the Annex on Normalization and Bangsamoro Waters and Joint Cooperation.  Normalization annex is the last annex to the FAB.

The GPH and MILF peace panels are finalizing the text of the CAB which will be set for signing this month of February or March.“fast-track-consultations-on-bbl”-btc-chairman-iqbal

BIFM: Poster -- Amiril Umbra Kato

Posted to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement Facebook page (Feb 17): Poster: Amiril Umbra Kato

Making #Supreme the word of #Allah must be realized by all means”
- Amiril Umbra Kato

 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement
Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters

New superintendent aims for world-class PMA

From Solar News (Feb 17): New superintendent aims for world-class PMA

Maj. Gen. Oscar Lopez (inset) is the new PMA superintendent.

Maj. Gen. Oscar Lopez (insert) is the new PMA superintendent.

Fort Del Pilar, Baguio City – The command of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) was formally turned over Saturday afternoon in the presence of top officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Maj. Gen. Oscar Lopez, a cum laude graduate of PMA Dimalupig Class of 1981 and former chief of the AFP Resource Management Office, formally took over as superintendent of the country's premier military school with the retirement of Vice Adm. Edgar Abogado after 37 years in service.
Lopez stressed the importance of keeping the institution at par with international standards as it continues to open its doors to Thai, Singaporean, and South Korean military students through exchange in cadet agreements.
Lopez assumed the post in the presence of Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, AFP chief.
He stressed the importance of continuity in the reforms being instituted by predecessors by following the PMA Roadmap 2028, which seeks to improve the school by improving its facilities, curriculum, and training.
The premier military institution has since embarked on a reform of its programs to become a world-class military academy with the PMA Roadmap 2015 which eventually scaled up into a transformation guide as PMA Roadmap 2028, furthering the revised curriculum and training program in the military institution.
Bautista challenged Lopez to continue the legacy of former PMA superintendents by elevating the level of instruction of PMA graduates. He reminded the new superintendent that a world-class military institution is the foundation of a world-class AFP.
On the other hand, Abogado challenged the PMA Alumni Association Inc. which held its homecoming rites on Saturday morning, to continue in helping improve facilities of the academy as many classes have adopted classrooms, parks, facilities, and lodging quarters.
Lopez has served various positions in the Philippine Army, including command of the 803rd Infantry Brigade based in Northern Samar and the 8th Infantry Batallion based in Northern Samar. He was also chief of the Management and Fiscal Office of the AFP.

BIFF member dead, companion nabbed in Carmen

From the Philippine Star (Feb 17): BIFF member dead, companion nabbed in Carmen

Security forces on Monday shot dead a suspected member of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and arrested another following the bandits' bungled attempt to bomb a checkpoint in Carmen town in the province.

Investigators identified the slain bandit as Tangtang Tahir, 30, who died on the spot from gunshot wounds sustained in a shootout with soldiers and policemen manning the checkpoint.

Tahir and his cashiered cohort, Nano Ampit, were riding a motorcycle together when soldiers and policemen, guarding a strategic stretch of a road  in Barangay Gen. Luna in Carmen, stopped them for a routine check.

Tahir, however, pulled out from his pocket a fragmentation grenade, which he hurled at the approaching checkpoint guards.

The built-in blasting contraption of the grenade failed to explode, providing the soldiers and policemen the chance to open fire at the duo, both armed with handguns.

Ampit voluntarily turned himself in after he saw the bloodied Tahir, who was hit in different parts of his body, fell and died from gunshot wounds.

Ampit is now being interrogated by investigators of the Carmen municipal police.

Local officials said Tahir and Ampit were wanted for their extortion activities in the municipality.

Misuari kicks out ‘mutinous’ deputy

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 17): Misuari kicks out ‘mutinous’ deputy

Chairman Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front on Saturday expelled his deputy for misrepresenting Misuari in a recent negotiations with the Aquino administration.

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza said Jimmy Labawan, formerly vice chair, was ordered by Misuari ejected from the organization for improper conduct and insubordination.

Labawan represented himself as the official delegate of the MNLF to the scheduled GRP-MNLF talks in Jakarta in connection with the stalled review of the 1996 final peace accord between the government and the Misuari group.

Cerveza said Misuari has appointed Rolando Olamip, chairman of the MNLF in Davao City, as the new vice chairman of the MNLF.

Cerveza said “as of now he (Olamip) has not been given by Misuari any marching orders.”

“Labawan’s action is perceived to be a form of mutiny because he allowed himself to be used by the government to undermine the authority and the privilege that only belongs to Misuari,” Cerveza said.

Cerveza said Labawan, who actively took part in past peace negotiations in the 1970s, along with Randy Karon and Pendie Colano emerged as the new MNLF cluster that would represent the MNLF to the resumption of peace negotiations with the government.

Cerveza said the formation of the new cluster was an apparent attempt by the government to create a divide and rule tactics aimed to confuse and weaken the entire organization.

“Labawan is not authorized to attend the supposed meeting since it is only Misuari who is the official titular head of the MNLF who can engage the government in any negotiations,” Cerveza said that Labawan’s move appeared to be part of a government strategy to oust Misuari who remains at large.

“The sole purpose of it is to eventually unseat Misuari as chairman of the MNLF because he is facing a case,” Cerveza said.

Labawan’s group was to include Randy Karon and Pendie Colano and others as MNLF representatives to the upcoming peace negotiations with the government in local and international engagement.

“It is the plan by the government because they think Misuari will not be in the position to negotiate because of his case that’s why a new group was formed,” the spokesman said.

“They are coming up with a resolution asking the government to represent the MNLF to attend the Jakarta meeting if there would be talks,” Cerveza added.

However, Cerveza noted that the new MNLF group would have no international bearing to the peace talks since it is Misuari who is duly recognized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jakarta that brokered the Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF culminating in 1976.

“Misuari is the legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people and the MNLF under Misuari as the permanent observer member to the OIC,” he emphasized.

NPA rebels injure 5 soldiers in Abra ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 17): NPA rebels injure 5 soldiers in Abra ambush

A band of armed men suspected to be members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) ambushed Philippine Army (PA) soldiers in patrol in Barangay Lenneng, Baay-Licuan, Abra at around 9 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 16, 2014), injuring five of them, three of them seriously, according to the report of the civil military group based in that province.

The ambush site is a hinterland area some 35 kilometers northeast of the capital town of Bangued.

Army Captain Regie Go, civil military operations officer of the 41st infantry battalion of the PA based in Abra reported here that three of the injured soldiers are still confined at the Abra Provincial Hospital, while two others were already discharged.

Go said the identities of the injured soldiers cannot be disclosed for the meantime until after the notification of their relatives.

Army soldiers are still in hot pursuit operations against the rebels who staged the ambush. The incident was an isolated case as there were no similar incidents in the past 13 months.

The ambush site was near the place where the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) guerillas under the command of certain “Ka Angat”, one of the trusted lieutenants of the late Father Conrado Balweg, was ambushed by the NPA in 1989. “Ka Angat” and four other CPLA guerillas died in that encounter.

The place is believed to be one of the places in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) where there are remnants of the subversive movement of the Communist Part of the Philippines.

61 cops complete intelligence course

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 18): 61 cops complete intelligence course

To strengthen intelligence gathering of the men in the Philippine National Police (PNP), 61 uniformed men of the Ilocos Norte PNP went through a three-month or equivalent to 480-hours special schooling on intelligence course held for the first time at the Takuat Training Center in San Nicolas town here.

The schooling of commissioned and non-commissioned police officers is usually conducted in Camp Crame but this time, the provincial government of Ilocos Norte funded the police intelligence training worth approximately P500,000 and invited speakers from Camp Crame instead.

In a joint closing ceremony of Police Intelligence Officers Course Class 2013-68 and Police Intelligence Course Class 20134-112 on Feb. 17 held at the Plaza del Norte in Laoag City, Governor Imee Marcos hopes the intelligence-trained men and women will apply their newly-acquired knowledge and skills in the pursuit of preventing crimes and ensure peace and order in the province.

Among the skills developed include both written and oral intelligent analysis of situations and on-field demonstrations of lessons learned.

Prior to that, the selected participants underwent qualifying examinations, neuro-psychiatric tests, and other qualifying examinations.

Cops intensify manhunt vs Maguindanao bombers after fall of its leader

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 18): Cops intensify manhunt vs Maguindanao bombers after fall of its leader
Police in Maguindanao have intensified its manhunt against accomplishes of Maguindanao's most wanted man involved in the 2007 deadly bombing in Gen. Santos City who was killed Monday after resisting arrest, authorities said Tuesday.

On Monday, police shot dead Yusop Kusain after he opened fire on members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and police special forces serving arrest warrant for his alleged involvement in the bombing at a tuna canning plant in Gen. Santos City.

Kusain tossed a hand grenade and shot it out with lawmen forcing the police to return fire, killing him instantly in a remote village in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

Quoting report from Maguindanao police office, Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes, police regional director in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said two policemen were wounded when Kusain, alias Commander TMX, fight it out with lawmen.

Four people were killed in 2007 when Kusain, allegedly led a team of bombers mulcting a tuna canning factory, set off an improvised explosive device.

Kusain who has links with regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, was also linked to several bombings in Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Koronadal City and Tacurong City with bus firms, malls and public transport terminals as targets.

The wounded police commandos were rushed to a hospital in North Cotabato.

Police believed Kusain's companions are still hiding in Maguindanao and possibly in the company of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a militant group operating in Maguindanao.

Solon seeks P10-M reward for informants of terrorism

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 17): Solon seeks P10-M reward for informants of terrorism

A lawmaker has proposed the grant of not more than P10 million as a reward for any person who shares vital information leading to the prevention or resolution of grave crimes and those that threaten public order.

Rep. Samuel Pagdilao Jr. (Party-list, ACT-CIS) said the P10-million reward could still go higher provided it is authorized by the President and upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Justice.

This provision is embodied under House Bill 3507 or the “Community Informant Incentive Act,” which seeks the creation of the Community Informant Incentive Program for the purpose of paying rewards, incentives and other benefits to informants of certain crimes committed under the Revised Penal Code and other special laws.

Pagdilao, author of the bill, said the program is designed to encourage the public to assist law enforcement agencies by sharing vital information necessary for the prevention and resolution of crimes.

“Although not always reported by the media, the use of information supplied by community members as informants is everywhere in our criminal justice system,” Pagdilao said.

At present, Pagdilao said there are only two laws that provide a reward system for information helpful to the solution of crimes and both are limited in scope.

“First is Republic Act 6981 also known as the Witness Protection and Security Program” which is applicable only to two kinds of prospective witnesses—those that witnessed or has knowledge of the commission of any crime and those that participated in the commission of the crime and desires to be a state witness,” he said.

Pagdilao said the second law, Presidential Decree (PD) 171 or “Providing for Rewards and Incentives to Government Witnesses and Informants and other purposes” provides rewards and incentives to government witnesses and informants.

“However, PD 1731 only covers crimes against National Security or Public Order or organized/syndicated crime. It does not cover other crimes punishable by reclusion perpetua or higher or those classified under special laws as capitals offense or punishable by life imprisonment or higher.” Pagdilao explained.

Under the bill, the Secretary of Justice may pay or give benefits or other incentives to any person who furnishes information leading to the arrest or conviction of any person for the commission of an act of terrorism against the Republic of the Philippines as defined under Section 3 of RA 9372 or the “Human Security Act of 2007.”

Also a reward awaits any person who shares information leading to the arrest or conviction of any person committing any of the unlawful acts enumerated in Section 4, Article 11 of RA 9165 otherwise known as the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” among others.

The measure provides that the Secretary of Justice may pay a reward or give benefits under this Act in the form of money, education and livelihood assistance, or other incentives including immunity from criminal prosecution.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz fitted with 'Bushmaster' auto cannons soon

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 17): BRP Ramon Alcaraz fitted with 'Bushmaster' auto cannons soon

The Philippine Navy (PN) announced that installation of the two Mark 38 Model 2 25mm "Bushmaster" for the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) is dependent on the availability of the U.S. Coast Guard armament team who will install the weapons.

The American team is expected to arrive before March, Navy officials said.

The weapons are already here and just waiting for technical team to install and calibrate the two Mark 38 Model 2 25mm automatic cannons.

The decision to seek U.S. Coast Guard aid in installing these automatic cannons came in wake of the high cost of having the guns installed by a private shipyard.

The guns were supposed to be installed before BRP Ramon Alcaraz's Nov. 22 commissioning but the cost of having it done here was just to expensive for the Navy.

PN officials hope that the weapons will be active before the end of March.

The weapon was commissioned by the U.S. Navy following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000. It was designed to counter high-speed maneuvering surface targets and will be installed in almost all U.S. surface ships by 2015.

The remotely controlled chain gun system can fire as many as 180 25m rounds per minute at targets as far as two kilometers.

Military says: Search operations for Misuari still ongoing

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 17): Military says: Search operations for Misuari still ongoing

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade based in Jolo, Sulu, said on Monday the search operations for fugitive Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari are still ongoing.

Misuari is wanted for instigating the Zamboanga City siege last September which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people and destruction of billions of pesos worth of private and public properties.

"(We have) some information on Misuari's (location) but we are continuously validating (to determine) his exact location," Cenabre said.

He likened Misuari to a rat always in hiding in the wake of reports that the MNLF founding chairman had been spotted in Sulu.

He said that the continuing search operations for Misuari are part of the military's various peace and security missions.

2 troop-carrying 'Huey' helicopters now pursuing rebel group in Abra

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 17): 2 troop-carrying 'Huey' helicopters now pursuing rebel group in Abra

Two "Huey" helicopters carrying troops were deployed Monday morning to help the 5th Infantry Division in pursuing the New People's Army (NPA) rebels who fired at a security patrol in Barangay Lenneng, Licuan-Baay town, Abra Sunday night, wounding five soldiers.

One of those hurt is an officer, 1st Civil Relations Group commander Major Emmanuel Garcia said.

"Pursuit operations (are) now ongoing. Frustrated murder cases will be filed as soon as the NPA remnants are identified," he added.

The encounter took place at around 9 p.m. Sunday, Garcia said, adding that the wounded soldiers are all members of the 41st Infantry Battalion, a field unit of the 5th Infantry Division.

The firefight took place during a security patrol deployed in the wake of reports that heavily-armed NPA rebels were seen in the area.

Garcia said that three of the wounded military personnel are now in stable condition at a local hospital.

302nd Infantry Brigade personnel get free medical checkup

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 18): 302nd Infantry Brigade personnel get free medical checkup

As part of its commitment to ensure that all of its active duty personnel are fit for duty, the Negros Oriental-based 302nd Infantry Brigade conducted a free medical examination which benefited 181 of its troopers and auxiliaries.

In a belated reports, Capt. Crescencio Gargar, the unit's public information officer, said that the activity was conducted over the weekend at their headquarters in Camp Leon Kilat, Tanjay City.

He said that the medical teams were aided by contingents from Negros Oriental and Pharmaceuticals and Health Association of the Philippines who donated assorted medicines.

Services extended to the soldiers were free medical consultation and dental services, minor surgical operation, blood tests and blood pressure examination.

The reservists from 703rd Community Defense Company provided massage and haircuts to military personnel.

CPP/Sine Proletaryo: Video -- Istatus: FMSR

Propaganda video posted to the CPP Website (Feb 16): Video: Istatus: FSMR (Far South Mindanao Region)


Sine Proletaryo presents "Istatus:FSMR". Istatus:FSMR is the fourth in a series of video features which present the situation and victories achieved by the CPP in the different regions, as well as the challenges confronting the revolutionary forces in further advancing the people's war. Istatus:FSMR presents an interview with Ka Efren, spokesman of the National Democratic Front in Far Southern Mindanao Region.

[Video: Istatus: FSMR]

NPA Manobo rebel in Agusan surrenders with 2 rifles

From InterAksyon (Feb 17): NPA Manobo rebel in Agusan surrenders with 2 rifles

Former NPA rebel Marlon Iligan hands over two rifles to 29th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Adonis Orio after his surrender at the battalion headquarters last Saturday. PHOTO FROM THE 29TH INFANTRY BATTALION

Marlon Iligan, 29, of the Manobo tribe, has returned to the fold of the law after several years of being an active member of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Bancasi, Butuan City, Agusan del Norte.

Lieutenant Colonel Adonis Ariel Orio, commander of the 29th Infantry Battalion, said Iligan also surrendered to him two assault rifles, an AR-18 (Armalite) and an M4 Bushmaster.

“Iligan was used to be a member of the Sentro de Grabidad 21 of Guerilla Front 21, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee,” Orio said.

He said Iligan will receive monetary support from the firearms remuneration program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the AFP Guns for Peace Program.

“This money that shall be given to him is not a reward but a financial support intended for his new life when he gets back to his family and reintegrated in their community,” Orio said without letting on how much money Iligan will receive.

Military checking on reports of 2 foreign terrorists spotted in Maguindanao

From InterAksyon (Feb 17): Military checking on reports of 2 foreign terrorists spotted in Maguindanao

The 6th Infantry Division is checking on information that two foreign terrorists have been spotted in Maguindanao.

While the information is being verified, members of the 6th ID are on alert, said information chief Major Dante Gania.

According to the information, two Malaysians, both highly trained in the manufacture of bombs, are now hiding in the province and are poised to sow terror any time.

The two may join the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which split with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which recently concluded its peace talks with the Philippine government.

In connection with these, checkpoints have been set up in various parts of the province and government forces have been deployed in and out of Maguindanao, said Gania.

The authorities have not stopped trying to run after BIFF officials.

At the same time, some BIFF forces have been spotted in the boundary of North Cotabato and Maguindanao, according to sources.