Sunday, February 23, 2014

BIFM: (On the MILF-GRP Peace Agreement)

From the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement Facebook page (Feb 23): (On the MILF-GRP Peace Agreement)

Allaah has indeed spoken the #Truth:

“Give to the #Hypocrites the tidings that there is for them a painful torment.

Those who take #Disbelievers for Awliyaa’ (protectors or helpers or friends) instead of #Believers, do they seek honour, power and glory with them? Verily, then to Allaah belongs all #Honour, #Power and #Glory

[al-Nisa’ 4:138-139 – interpretation of the meaning]

Massive peace advocacies held in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato

From the MILF Website (Feb 24): Massive peace advocacies held in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato

The MILF Provincial Committee of Damakling-Buluan 1 and the 109th Base Command of BIAF-Eastern Mindanao Front held series of massive advocacies on the Framework Agreement and the GPH-MILF Peace Process for Moros and indigenous peoples residing in contiguous areas of Maguindanao ,Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato with Prof. Esmael A.Abdula as speaker. Abdula is currently the Chairman of the Campaign and Mass Mobilization, Sub Committee on Information, Committee on Information and member of the Steering Committee of Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI).

Also with Abdula were, the chairman of the Committee on Information Secretariat; the MILF point man to IMT- HRDC and Dir. Moidjoddin Talusob, Executive Director of Kalilintad Development Foundation Inc.  

On January 18, 20014, about 200 participants comprising Bangsamoro youth and community residents attended an advocacy at Barangay Poblacion, Municipality of Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

On January 19, 2014, a Kanduli and Islamic Symposium with the Theme: Moving Forward on one Vision was also held where about 1,000 participants led by the Chairman of the Province Committee of Damakling, MILF Provincial  Committee and municipal and barangay committees with some representing the LGU of Pandag and Buluan, Maguindano. The activity was held at Barangay Lepak, Municipality of Pandag, Maguindanao.

On January 31, 2014 , a Forum on Bangsamoro Framework Agreement with Theme: Bangsamoro Framework Agreement Paving the Way toward Sustainable Peace in Mindanao was sponsored by local NGO’s consisting settlers and indigenous peoples; Columbio Multi Sectoral Ecology Movement (CMEM) Inc.,  in partnership with the Municipal Government of Colombio, Sultan Kudarat. About 500 participants attended led by the Municipal Mayor Hon. Amirh Musali, barangays residents and community leaders from the Bla’an of Colombio. The forum was held at Barangay Poblacion, Columbio, Sultan Kudarat.

On February 2, 2014, an Islamic Symposium and Advocacy on Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) with the Theme: Empowering Bangsamoro Potential Leaders & Communities on the Art of Ministerial Form of Government was also conducted at the Ma’had Ebrahim, Barangay Nasapian. Carmen, North Cotabato where approximately  4,000 participants from SWC- Women’s, MILF Municipal Committee, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), community leaders, and residents of Non-Muslims LGU’s attended.

On February 4, 2014, another Kanduli and Islamic Symposium with the Theme: “Moving Forward with One Vision” was also undertaken at Barangay Datang, Datu Paglas, Maguindanao where about 3,000 participants attended. Attendees were from the 109th Base Command, BIAF Eastern Mindanao Front and from the MILF Municipal and Barangay Committees of Bunawan.  

On February 5, 2014, an Advocacy on Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and its Four Annexes with the Theme: Ministerial Form of Government:  Key for Lasting Peace and Sustainable Development in the Bangsamoro Homeland was also held at Barangay Lumoyon, Datu Paglas, Maguindanao where about 2,000 participants comprising Moro leaders and residents led by the Deputy Commander of 109th Base Command of BIAF Eastern Mindanao Front.

On February 6, 2014, the Koronadal MILF Provincial Committee conducted an Advocacy Meeting and Planning on Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and its Four Annexes at the BDA Multi-Purpose Building, Koronadal where 50 participants from the provincial committee, 12 Sectorial representatives and representatives from the Provincial Standing Committee of MILF Province Committee of Koronadal attended.

On February 8, 2014, an Advocacy on Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the Four Annexes with the Theme: Ministerial Form of Government: Key for Lasting Peace and Sustainable Development in the Bangsamoro Homeland was also conducted. About 2,000 Moro community leaders and residents attended led by the Deputy Commander of the Inner Defense of 109th Base Command of BIAF-Eastern Mindanao Front at Barangay Malala, Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

On February 9, 2014, the MILF Damakling Provincial Committee, Buluan 2 held a Kanduli and Islamic Symposium with the Theme: Unity Toward Peace, about 4,000 participants led by the Chairman of the Province of Damakling MILF Provincial  Committee and the Deputy Commander on Expeditionary Mission of the 109th Base Command, BIAF Eastern Mindanao Front at  Bulig Daladagan, Municipality of Mangudadatu, Maguindanao.

On February 16, 2014, the Bandar Kutawato Committee, District II held the 2nd Expanded Meeting with Advocacy on Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the Four Annexes where 40 participants from Municipal and Barrio Councils in the 12th Sector of District II at Barrio Campo Muslim, Cotabato City.

NPA, military reminded: Minimize collateral damage

From the Sun Star (Feb 24): NPA, military reminded: Minimize collateral damage

MISAMIS Oriental Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano has appealed to both the New People’s Army (NPA) fighters and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to minimize the collateral damage of the possible conflict that could affect the indigenous peoples in the Caraga Region fearing its possible spillover in the province.

Emano said that the NPA and AFP forces should be mindful to the human population in the areas.

He said both the armed guerrillas and the military should be sensitive to avoid affecting the lives and livelihood of the people on the ground.

Misamis Oriental shares territorial borders with Agusan Del Norte where there exist several mountain trail corridors to the province.

“I am concerned on the strong possibility of displacement of people once the operations start. Definitely, the human exodus will spillover to our province,” Emano said.

In the last quarter of 2013, Higaonons were displaced after the intense clashes between the NPA fighters and military in Lagonglong town in Misamis Oriental.

Forces from the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) and 4th Scout Ranger Battalion (4SRB) have been deployed in Caraga region to quell the growing insurgency in the area.

Upon learning of the deployment, Emano requested he’d be briefed on the extent of the operations so the province can take actions.

He is concerned on the welfare of the people especially the indigenous population in the areas that could be affected by the clashes.

Human rights

Sister Famita Somogod, coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao sub-region, said military operations in the hinterland communities could surely affect the livelihood of the people.

“Working in the rural areas for years, I know how militarization of rural poor communities impact on the lives of the lumads and farmers,” Somogod said.

She added the reinforcement of troops in Caraga region would result to human rights and international humanitarian law violations.

“With the addition of troops, needless to say, violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws are expected to soar,” Somogod said.

She added the military operations would further victimize civilian rural poor populace in areas already punctuated by hunger and illiteracy.

Surgical operations

Captain Christian Uy, spokesman of 4ID, said the military forces deployed in the area would only conduct surgical operations to avoid collateral damage.

“We will be conducting surgical missions that result to zero collateral damage,” Uy said.

Uy said surgical operations mean that the military will launch ‘point-to-point’ offensives on specific areas where Maoist fighters are detected.

He assured there would be no collateral damage on their military missions.

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Ricardo Visaya, commander of 4ID, said the additional forces in the area meant the protection of the indigenous people from being recruited and exploited by the NPA.

He said they would determine and solve specific problems of the indigenous people.
“We will also recommend projects to be funded by Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana) that will improve their (IP) plight,” Visaya said.

Uy added the deployment of forces in Caraga is intended to deter further attacks from the NPA that declared they would launch more punitive actions this year.

Visaya assured the AFP would safeguard especially the economic zones in the region to continue paving the way for prosperity here in Mindanao.

Army offers medical aid to injured NPAs

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 24): Army offers medical aid to injured NPAs

The Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade yesterday offered medical treatment to members of the New People’s Army reported to have been injured, when they harassed a temporary military outpost on Feb. 17 in Sitio Aniya, Brgy. Winaswasan, Calatrava, Negros Occidental.

Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said many of the rebels, who were previously injured in encounter with government forces, had died due to inadequate medical treatment.

One of the rebels who had participated in the harassment of 62nd Infantry Battalion Bayanihan Team Monday last week, was killed during a brief firefight, Aying said.

The cadaver of Lorfe Bagaforo, alias Trese, vice-squad leader of the Sentro De Grabidad Platoon of the Northern Negros Front, that was positively identified and claimed by his mother, Dormitiya, was found in a sugarcane field in Sitio Guinpungtan, Brgy. Hilub-ang, Calatrava, three days after the incident.

The sad thing, Aying said, is that they (injured rebels) died in the jungles without being accorded proper burial.

Aside from Bagaforo, Aying said they are still confirming reports that two more rebels were killed, and several others injured in the brief and sporadic gunbattle.

Bagaforo, who succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds, was believed to have been hit, when members of the 62IB Bayanihan Team retaliated, when they were fired at by about 16 rebels, Lt. Col. Efren Morados, 62IB commander, said Friday.

Found in the abandoned positions of NPA were heavy traces of bloodstains, a live round of an M-203 grenade launcher, 17 rounds from an M-16 assault rifle, a magazine of an M-14 rifle, 25 empty shells of carbine, a backpack containing subversive document, a PhilHealth identification card of a certain Joseph Jolum, and an ICOM radio battery.

Newly-promoted Capt. Jimrhic Obias, 303rd Civil Military Operations officer, said the harassment of Bayanihan team members came two days after Victor Tapang, a former key leader of the Northern Negros Front, who has a pending arrest warrant for murder, was arrested in Silay City.

The capture of Tapang was followed by the apprehension of Romulo Bitoon, another rebel leader, in Talisay City, also for murder, Obias said.

Aying said he noted that top leaders of the NPA have been discouraging and threatening their members who wish to surrender.

He said they are afraid that they will lose the power and other perks they are enjoying now at the expense of the people, if their group collapses.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf members free 2 DPWH workers after three-hour captivity

From MindaNews (Feb 23): Suspected Abu Sayyaf members free 2 DPWH workers after three-hour captivity

Suspected Abu Sayyaf members held hostage two government personnel in Sulu for at least three hours Saturday, Senior Supt. Abraham Orbito, Sulu police director, said.

Orbito identified the victim as Jimal Adbilla, 30, and Kilder Sakandal, 45, both personnel of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Abdilla, a heavy equipment operator, is a resident of Maimbung municipality while Sakandal, a helper, is from Jolo, the capital town of Sulu.

Orbito said the victims were aboard a truck en route to Jolo when they were flagged down and seized by the suspects at around 3 p.m. Saturday in Barangay Taong, Patikul.

They were freed at around 6:25 p.m. in the place they were earlier seized.

Orbito said the victims told the police were blindfolded and forced to walk around the area for almost three hours until they got near the national road in Barangay Taong, Patikul town, waited for sunset and freed their captives.

2 killed in Mindanao outbreak of violence

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 24): 2 killed in Mindanao outbreak of violence

A policeman and a guerrilla were killed in a gunbattle that broke out when a joint police-military team tried to serve an arrest warrant against a rebel commander in a camp of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLFf) in Sanrangani province, a rebel spokesman said.

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza said fighting erupted when the police Investigation Mobile Unit entered MNLF camp in Barangay Daliao, Maasin last Tuesday to serve a warrant on Tikboy Maguid, a rebel commander.

“I condemn the raid by the police in one of our camps in Maasin,” Cerveza said.

When the police team arrived at the camp they were confronted by three rebels on duty and shots were fired. The rebels withdrew during the fighting and vacated the camp.

When the fighting subsided, the police operatives entered and searched the camp but failed to find Maguid.

Cerveza said the police raided the camp without definite information that Maguid was inside and without proper coordination with MNLF leaders in the area and their action jeopardized “what little peace remained in Mindanao.”

He said the attack was an attempt to demolish the MNLF through military action and he accused Undersecretary Jose Lorena of Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for defending the raiding team.

“I deplore the statement of Usec Lorena, who said the action was valaid because they were looking for firearms,” Cerveza said.

Cops arrested fishermen, not NPAs; evidence planted

From the Business Mirror (Feb 23): Cops arrested fishermen, not NPAs; evidence planted

THE Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the five men arrested by police in Sitio Patungan, Barangay Mercedes in Maragondon, Cavite, on Friday were not members of the New People’s Army (NPA) but an organization of small fishermen based in Batangas.
Pamalakaya Vice Chairman Salvador France said William Castilano, Lorenzo Obrado, Joselito Agner, Basilio Agner and Rogelio Monzales are members of the Haligi ng Batanguenong Anakdagat (Habagat), the provincial chapter of Pamalakaya.
France said the five were arrested by the police on suspicion that they were members of the NPA operating at the boundary of Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas, and Maragondon, Cavite.
Pamalakaya is asking Cavite Gov. Jovic Remulla and Cavite Vice Gov. Jolo Revilla to work for the release of the suspects.
The five were arrested by members of the Cavite Provincial Safety Company and the PNP-SWAT in the province.  Armed with a search warrant allegedly signed by Judge Lerio Castigador, the policemen, headed by Senior Insp. Angelito Camaho Burgos of Cavite Provincial Public Safety Company, PO1 King Relan Manio Pia and PO1 Lester Laurence Bendo Gabog, barged into the houses of five Pamalakaya leaders and started searching for “illegal” firearms and explosives allegedly kept by these leaders in their respective households.
The search, according to a PNP report, yielded different types of firearms such as M-16, armalite, carbin, .45 caliber pistol and grenade which the arresting team said were violations of Republic Act 10591.
The “discovery” of the illegal firearms was used by the police to arrest the suspects.
But France maintained that the evidence was planted to make it appear that the search warrant is true and merits the arrest of the Habagat leaders.
“We appeal to the governor and the vice governor to lead their colleagues in the provincial government to correct this grave mistake of the police and do appropriate action against those who effected the illegal arrest and detention of five Pamalakaya leaders,” France said. 

USCG, DOTC-OTS assure protection of maritime commerce between PHL,US

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23): USCG, DOTC-OTS assure protection of maritime commerce between PHL,US

In a mutual effort to ensure the protection of maritime commerce and to continue the unfettered access of vessels between the Philippines and the United States’ economies, the US Coast Guard (USCG) in partnership with the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) Philippines recently organized a Threat Vulnerability and Risk (TVR) Assessment Seminar-Workshop.

The OTS said the workshop tackled the need for port facility management, operational and security personnel involved in International Ship & Port Facility Security (ISPS) code implementation or post security governance.

Government officials responsible for conducting port security audits and inspections to ensure compliance with ISPS code were also invited to attend.

The US Coast Guard International Port Facility Security Program facilitators – LCDR Justin Moyer, LCDR Robert Webb, LCDR Brian Behler and LDCR Nathan Philips – were all commissioned officers or career civilian employees currently designated as post security specialists.

The objective of this workshop was to provide participants a clear understanding on the importance of Security Assessment as a foundation in the effective implementation of the Maritime Security Measures in port facilities and on board ships as noted in paragraphs 2.8.25 to 2.8.33 and 2.9.14 of the ISPS Code.

To achieve this objective, the OTA said various learning methodology were used. A thorough theoretical knowledge on maritime security was presented focusing on the preparation of Port Facility Security Assessment (PFSA) concentrating on Threat, Vulnerability and Risk Assessment (TVR) criteria.

In order to find significance on the theoretical lectures mentioned above, the facilitators conducted practical sessions to reinforce learning not only on risk and vulnerability, but security, as well.

During the practical sessions, participants were required to demonstrate their proficiency in the conduct of port facility security assessment (PFSA) and port facility security plan (PFSP) following the six phases of maritime security assessments framework as a guide.

Due process observed in Cadet Cudia's case, says PMA spokesperson

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23): Due process observed in Cadet Cudia's case, says PMA spokesperson

The "Honor Code" violations case of Cadet Jeff Aldrin Cudia has been reviewed extensively by the proper authorities before the issue has become a hot topic in the social media, Philippine Military Academy (PMA) spokesperson Major Agnes Lynnette Flores said Sunday.

She made this statement after noting that the officer-in-charge of the "Honor Committee" along with the PMA legal team reviewed the verdict for possible lapses or errors.

The "Honor Committee" is composed of six senior cadets and three junior ones.

After this check, the group then forwarded the case folder to the Commandant of the Corps of Cadets who then submitted it to then PMA Superintendent, Vice Admiral Edgar Abogado, for final review.

Flores said that all verdicts or decisions of the "Honor Committee" are subject for automatic review to ensure that due process is observed.

Cudia was found guilty of the "Honor Committee" of lying and ordered dismissed from the Cadet Corps.

The PMA "Honor Code" considers lying, cheating, and stealing its three top offenses.

And with the orders of Armed Forces chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista to re-investigate Cudia's case, the case folder of the latter is now undergoing review by senior officers in the PMA.

No time frame was given on when the review will be concluded.

And should any lapses in the handling of the matter be found, the senior officers will then return the case to the "Honor Committee" for re-investigation.

The PMA earlier stated that all trainees of the institution are duty bound to adhere to the said precepts.

"The development of character and integrity among the cadets is a fundamental objective of the PMA," Flores stressed.

She added that the "Honor Code" and the "Honor System" are among the primary instruments in attaining this objective.

Flores said this is a unique system, which molds all the cadets to develop themselves into upright leaders of tomorrow.

"Members of the Cadet Corps, Armed Forces of the Philippines (CCAFP) are bound by the 'Honor Code' which they swore to uphold. The essence of the 'Honor Code' is that the cadets do not lie, cheat, steal nor tolerate among them those who do. The 'Honor Code' is absolute and it does not distinguish between the degree of the offense committed. Once they lied, cheated, stole or tolerated the commission of these offenses, there is only one punishment – separation," the PMA public affairs office chief stressed.

"Cadet Cudia’s case is not an issue about being late in class.While it started as a violation of the regulations, which is coming to class late, the findings of the preliminary investigation conducted revealed a possibility of Cadet Cudia violating the 'Honor Code' which led to the opening of formal investigation by the 'Honor Committee'. While the Academy recognizes his academic performance, this does not exempt him from strict observance of the Code," she pointed out.

"As the breeding ground for future leaders of the AFP, PMA will continue to uphold the tenets of the 'Honor Code' which have been emplaced for generations. This code takes its roots within the heart and continues to live on long after each cadet graduates from the Philippine Military Academy. This binds the Cadet Corps with its alumni or the members of the long gray line," Flores stated.

And while saddened by the turn of events, she stressed that the PMA cannot be selective in its application of the "Honor Code".

"We are deeply saddened in seeing such great talent go. But the PMA, and the Cadet Corps, in particular cannot be selective in its application of the Code regardless of a cadet’s academic performance and even personal circumstances," she concluded.

Army troopers, cops kill 1, arrests 3 in Basilan anti-drug operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23): Army troopers, cops kill 1, arrests 3 in Basilan anti-drug operations

Troopers from the 1st Infantry Division together with local police and anti-drug operatives shot and killed a suspected drug pusher and arrested three others during operations in Valderosa Street, Purok 2, Barangay La Piedad, Isabela City, Basilan Saturday morning.

A 45-minute firefight took place shortly after authorities conducted the drug bust around 6: 30 a.m.

Two government operatives were also reported wounded in the incident.

Capt. Jefferson Mamauag, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, identified the fatality as Abi Eisma Jaji and the arrested suspects Rasid Robinson Saly, Jose Ramon Dayrit and Diane Martin.

Recovered from their possession were two. 45 caliber pistol, one homemade sub-machine gun KG-9 Ingram, several sachets of drugs and drug paraphernalias.

Wounded on government forces were identified as PO2s Esra Senicula Mariano and Jesseben Ferrer Santua who were immediately brought to a local hospital for immediate treatment.

Mamauag said the 1st Infantry Division will continue to support the government anti-drug operations through the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council.

AFP junior officers stress they strictly uphold Honor Code

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23): AFP junior officers stress they strictly uphold Honor Code

Two junior officers of the country’s premier military institution said they strongly uphold the “Honor Code” to the fullest.

Major Angelo Guzman, former public information officer of the Philippine Army’s 9th Infantry Division based in the Bicol region and now assistant chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s Public Affairs Office, said Cadet Aldrin Jeff Cudia violated their sacred pact Honor Code — the pillar of the institution which guides them to do right.

“It guides us to do right, it is as important as life itself. He violated the Honor Code System, that’s it,” he said Sunday.

Another PMA graduate, Major Arvin Alexander Buan, deputy commander of the Tactical Operations Group Bicol-Philippine Air Force (TOG5-PAF), said the Honor Code is an inviolable covenant and as such any violation committed by a cadet is a paramount grave offense which is not allowed by the academy.

Buan said that when a cadet is found guilty of not living up to the sanctity of the Honor Code he or she is given a chance or choice to resign as an honorable act rather than to stay in the institution or take the dose of his own medicine.

Guzman, who belongs to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Masikhay Class 1999, defended the Honor Code System, saying it is an unbending accord of the cadets and cadettes.

On his Facebook wall, Guzman also expressed his thoughts as member of the cavaliers.

“I am a PMAyer...I have the balls to face the consequences of all my words and actions,” the military junior officer said.

When asked on his comment regarding the euro military generals facing plunder cases and other high crimes for not living up to the standards of the PMA’s honor code, Guzman timidly said others forget the sacred covenant.

“Others forget. It’s a big organization, We are also a mirror of the society na kung saan may mabait, may otherwise...pero how I wish every graduate will hold on to their pledge to protect and serve the country and the people as well as to practice the Honor Code even after graduation,” he added.

The rosy future of Cudia, who is supposed to be the PMA class salutatorian this year and is the top cadet to join the elite unit of Philippine Navy, has been wasted after he violated the revered and incontestable Honor Code of the academy, Guzman said.

Cudia was suspended for this violation and not for being two-minute late, for which he has already served the punishment.

“A cadet found guilty of violating the Honor Code is equivalent to one losing his face. So, you’re given a choice to resign as this is a more honorable act rather than to stay. If you choose to stay in the institution, you must suffer the consequences of your action,” Buan said.

The Honor Code, according to him, is not only the pillar of the cadets but a binding principle among the officers’ corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Cotabato, Maguindanao on alert after arrest of top MILF commander

From GMA News (Feb 23): Cotabato, Maguindanao on alert after arrest of top MILF commander

Security forces in Cotabato City and nearby communities in Maguindanao have been put on alert after a top leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was arrested before dusk on Sunday.
Commander Wahid Tundok, chief of the MILF 118th Base Command was arrested by police and Marines at a checkpoint along Matampay Bridge on the strength of a warrant for his arrest on arson and multiple murder charges.
The police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao served the warrant on Tundok.
While searching the black Toyota Hilux pickup truck that Tundok and around seven escorts were in, police found two high-powered firearms that they immediately confiscated.
Tundok was brought to the headquarters of the Army's 6th Infantry Division in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao instead of the CIDG because of heightened tension with Tundok's followers.
"We are just doing our job in law enforcement. I'm just following orders,” said Police Superintendent Jovit Culaway, head of CIDG-ARMM.
But the arrest, and the possible backlash, has alarmed civil society groups like the Bangsamoro Consortium of Just Peace (BCJP).
"We are afraid of the repercussions, the retaliation of the top commander’s followers and the sense of mistrust since they are confident of the peace process mechanisms”, he said.
Tundok came from a meeting at Camp Darapanan, the main MILF camp, in Sultan Kudarat town, and was headed back to his own camp when stopped by authorities.

8 US lawmakers visit Yolanda-hit Leyte village

From the Philippine Star (Feb 22): 8 US lawmakers visit Yolanda-hit Leyte village

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg and eight American lawmakers visited the village of San Jose here yesterday to see for themselves how the World Food Program (WFP) and its partners were distributing US aid and how this was impacting on the lives of survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

The US lawmakers were Ed Royce of California, Steve Chabot of Oklahoma, Brad Sherman of California, Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, Randy Weber of Texas, Joseph Kennedy of Minnesota, and Luke Messer of Indiana.

Royce said he was particularly interested in how the amendment he recently introduced to the US law governing foreign relief aid was helping the Yolanda victims.

Dan Suther of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said the amendment helped a lot, as it allowed them to locally purchase food like biscuits and rice for immediate distribution.

Royce told The STAR that the amendment now allows the USAID and its partner NGOs to buy supplies locally or from neighboring countries.

Before, he said, all goods had to come from the US, thus delaying emergency relief efforts.

Sherman said the US courses its relief assistance through the USAID, which, in turn, funds humanitarian NGOs like WFP to deliver relief aid to the affected families. For the Yolanda relief effort, the US Congress allotted $83 million, he said.

Residents happily greeted and thanked the US delegation for the relief aid. They were also given the second tranche of rice assistance at 10 kilos per head, aside from food packs. Big families went home with sacks of rice.

The WFP reportedly got $25 million of the $83 million that the US Congress released for emergency and rehabilitation efforts in the Philippines.

Praveen Agrawal, WFP country director, said they were already in Leyte a day after Yolanda hit. “We were on the first flight in, a C-130,” he said, adding that they closely monitored the situation although the extent of the destruction was beyond what they imagined.

Among the WFP’s interventions in the communities it was serving in partnership with other NGOs like The Samaritan’s Purse was to distribute food and shelter kits and extend medical service. It also “topped up” the subsidy to recipients of the government’s conditional cash transfer program by P2,600 for December and January as a form of cash assistance to the victims.

AFP: No let-up vs kidnappings in W. Mindanao

From the Philippine Star (Feb 24): AFP: No let-up vs kidnappings in W. Mindanao

There will be “no let-up” in efforts against the spate of kidnappings in the region following the recovery last Thursday of two Filipino-Algerian sisters who had been held captive by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu for eight months.

“This operation is continuous and there will be no let-up to neutralize the kidnapping groups,” said Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief.

“The operation is a total effort which led us to the successful operation (on Thursday) and we hope to do this with the other kidnap victims as well,” Guerrero said, referring to the recovery of siblings Nadjoua and Linda Bansil, both independent filmmakers.

Earlier, Marines and the Barangay Peace Action Team, a village pro-government militia, had encountered Abu Sayyaf militants in Patikul, Sulu, killing eight and wounding a dozen others.

Guerrero said they have sought the cooperation of locals and that their operations have avoided collateral damage and ensured the safety of the kidnap victims.

“The local government plays a big role, if they will not report to us the presence of the Abu Sayyaf, (not even a thousand patrols would yield anything),” Guerrero said.

“So our effort is to close in on the critical area, then let the local government come in for the other efforts; it could be negotiation or pressure so that we can end this problem of kidnappings,” he said.

At least 10 kidnap victims are still being held in the region: four in Sulu, two in Basilan, two in this city, and a couple seized in Zamboanga del Sur.

PMA alum caught in ATM scam fired from PSG

From Rappler (Feb 24): PMA alum caught in ATM scam fired from PSG

No second chance for the Presidential Security Group (PSG) member detained by police for possessing a scanner in from of an ATM machine.

On Sunday, February 23, MalacaƱang said Raphael Malacay Marcial of the PSG, who is also a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduate of Class 2008 and a navy officer, was relieved following the incident.

"All PSG members and government employees are expected to be law abiding citizens at all times. They must face the consequences of their actions in accordance with the law," said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma.

He said PSG group commander Commodore Raul Ubando issued a relief order to Marcial, who is undergoing inquest proceedings at the Manila fiscal’s office.

Depending on the findings of the office, Coloma said the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the PSG will mete out appropriate disciplinary actions.

Marcial, who is being accused of violating the e-Commerce law, was taken under police custody after he was caught near the Eastwest Bank ATM machine possessing a scanner, which he allegedly used to copy ATM cards.

Marcia's misdemeanor calls yet more negative attention to the PMA which has been under the spotlight in recent days for its controversial dealing with cadet Aldrin Jeff Cudia, who was set to graduate with honors but was dismissed from the Academy for allegedly being two minutes late for class. (READ: PMA cadet fights back)

AFP Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista has since ordered an investigation into the matter.

VIDEO | Cadet Aldrin Jeff Cudia in trouble anew with PMA Honor Committee

From InterAksyon (Feb 23): VIDEO | Cadet Aldrin Jeff Cudia in trouble anew with PMA Honor Committee

His dismissal from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) may be under a reinvestigation, but controversial cadet Aldrin Jeff Cudia is in trouble again with the Honor Committee: taking his case to social media in violation of the confidentiality rule for committee proceedings.

Cudia’s sister had used her FaceBook account to let people know of his extraordinary case---a cadet who was to graduate salutatorian being expelled, after a secret proceedings by his peers in the academy’s Honor Committee, for allegedly violating the cadets’ code by lying on the reason for a 2-minute tardiness that earned him a demerit.  The account went viral after the FB disclosure, prompting an uproar, even as reactions were split.
The latest developments in video story by James Beltran.

[Video report]

Palace on PSG member's arrest: Be ready to face the consequences

From InterAksyon (Feb 24): Palace on PSG member's arrest: Be ready to face the consequences

Malacanang on Sunday warned a newly-arrested Presidential Security Group (PSG) member to be ready to face the charges for violating the law.

Reports showed that Raphael Malacay Marcial, a graduate of Philippine Military Academy-Class of 2008 was caught withdrawing cash from an automated teller machine (ATM) using a cloned card.

Marcial was withdrawing at the ATM booth of Eastwest Bank on Chino Roces Avenue Extension in Barangay Magallanes.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in an interview on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan that nobody will be spared from the law.

“All PSG members and government employees are expected to be law abiding citizens at all times,” Coloma said.

“They must face the consequences of their actions in accordance to the law,” he added.

The PCOO chief said that after speaking with PSG Chief Raul Obando, he was told that Marcial will undergo an inquest at the fiscal’s office in Manila.

Meanwhile, PSG assured that Marcial will also receive legal rights. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will also enforce appropriate disciplinary actions.

2 abducted construction men freed by Sayyafs

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Feb 23): 2 abducted construction men freed by Sayyafs

Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen have freed two construction workers they seized in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, officials said Sunday.

Officials said Jimal Abdilla, 30, and Kilder Sakandal, 45, were released safely in the village of Liang in Patikul town – the same area where gunmen abducted them on Saturday.
Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita, the provincial police chief, said the duo was blindfolded by their captors and eventually freed.

“We are investigating the abduction. The two men are now reunited with their families,” Orbita told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The duo was driving a truck heading to Jolo town when gunmen flagged down the vehicle at the village and seized them. The abduction occurred despite the presence of a marine base in the town.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the abduction of the two men, who are both construction workers in Sulu.

No PMA clique in AFP, says chief of staff

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 23): No PMA clique in AFP, says chief of staff

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Saturday belied the claim of retired Air Force chief Antonio Sotelo that a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) clique controlled the military leadership.

“That’s a misconception,” Bautista told the Inquirer in a text message. “The source of [one’s] commission is not among the criteria for [the] selection of officers to key positions.”

The source of commission refers to the school or training facility through which the officers passed. These include the PMA, which offers a four-year course; the Officer Candidate School (OCS), which offers a one-year course that requires applicants to have a baccalaureate degree; foreign service academies and reserve officer pools.

The 81-year-old former Air Force chief, one of the heroes of the Edsa I People Power revolution, lamented in a recent interview the “elitism of the PMA” in the armed forces. Sotelo, who is not a product of the PMA, pointed out that the AFP chief of staff and the service commanders of the Air Force, Navy and Army were all PMA graduates.

There has been palpable rivalry between PMA and OCS graduates over the past decades.

Bautista is a member of PMA Class ’81.

AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the military “respects General Sotelo’s views as a senior leader.”

Sotelo was an Air Force colonel when he defected on Feb. 23, 1986, defying the orders of then President Ferdinand Marcos to disable the helicopters under the control of the military rebels led by then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then Constabulary chief Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos. His move was a turning point in the four-day revolt. Sotelo eventually rose to become chief of the Air Force.

But he agreed with Bautista that an officer’s service record rather than the school or source of one’s commission was the key qualification for a leadership position.

“The AFP—whatever source of commission you are, whether PMA, OCS local and abroad, foreign service academies, and reserve officers who underwent direct commission—provides a level-playing field that is performance-based,” Zagala said.

Zagala is a member of OCS ‘94.

He described the AFP as a “tough organization” where officers and men should “prove themselves constantly.”

“The career path of an officer is always guided by the respective major service. However, an individual officer will be the one to track his or her own career (whether or not the officer makes it to a position of leadership).

On his own, he or she must have a service reputation, and a service reputation is the most important part of any officer’s career. If it is good, he or she will be trusted with sensitive positions. One’s service reputation is what molds an officer, not the source of commission,” Zagala said.

Critics of the AFP system, however, have also decried the inroads of politics and personal connections in the promotion process.