Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Boy saved from Abu Sayyaf shot dead

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 6): Boy saved from Abu Sayyaf shot dead

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Ten-year-old Bingol Palaraw was to return to school as a Grade 1 pupil this June, but hopes for a better future ended when he was shot and killed while coming out of the premises of an Arabic school in Tipo-tipo in Basilan province on Monday night.

Palaraw was rescued from being a child soldier of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group last year. Known to people close to him as Boyong, he had always wanted to finish college, according to Lt. Col. CJ Paolo Perez, commander of the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion.

The boy was also looking forward to playing football, Perez said.

Boyong was coming out of the madrasa in Barangay (village) Poblacion in Tipo-tipo around 7 p.m. when a lone man casually approached him and shot him several times with a .45 cal. pistol, the official said.

He died instantly, Perez said. But he could not say if Boyong was executed by the Abu Sayyaf group led by Puruji Indama.

Davao Sur governor, mayors condemn NPA for landmine attacks

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 5): Davao Sur governor, mayors condemn NPA for landmine attacks

DIGOS CITY, Philippines — Davao del Sur Governor Claude Bautista — aided by several mayors — rallied residents here in condemning the use by the New People’s Army of landmines.

Bautista personally led a condemnation rally that started with a protest march to the city plaza.

The protest against the NPA’s use of landmines was staged here following Sunday’s explosion in Bansalan town, which injured four rescuers from the provincial disaster risk reduction management council.

The rescuers were to fetch soldiers wounded in an earlier landmine attack there when the ambulance they were riding in was also hit by a similar attack.

Bautista had immediately condemned the attack and urged the NPA to spare civilians.
On Wednesday, he called on the NPA to stop using landmines, which, he said, could hurt anybody, be they civilians or soldiers.

Hagonoy town Mayor Franco Calida said the use of landmine has been prohibited by international protocols and has been considered a violation of human rights for years.
Calida, who was among the brains behind the anti-communist group Alsa Masa in the Davao region in the 1980s also warned of a possible revival of the now defunct group.

“If I need to revive vigilantism in this part of the province, I’ll do it just to restore peace and order,” Calida said amid applause by a mixed crowd of government employees and students.

Duterte raps rebels for landmine blasts

From the Sun Star-Davao: Duterte raps rebels for landmine blasts

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he condemns the landmine attack against 12 soldiers and five civilians in Bansalan town last Sunday and he wants to hear from the New People’s Army (NPA) about the incident.

“Wala gyud ni tubaga sa NPA (The NPA has not yet issued any word) and I’d like to know nganong nagagamit sila’g landmine (why did they use a landmine). I’d like to hear from the NPA, mag-issue ba sila’g statement or if they would like, I’d go to them,” Duterte said.

The first landmine explosion occurred around 11:18 a.m. at Sitio Balutakay in Barangay Managa, Bansalan, while the 39th Infantry Battalion troops encountered the NPA rebels. At least 12 soldiers were wounded in the attack.

The NPA then set off another landmine as three ambulances of Davao del Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC), Philippine Red Cross-Davao del Sur Chapter, and 39th IB were heading to evacuate the injured troops.

“If the government violates the Geneva Convention, I warn them. If the rebels also violate the Articles of War or the Geneva Convention, I also warn them,” Duterte said.

He said the use of landmine, which he described as a weapon of terrorism, is disturbing.

Duterte said he wants to speak with the rebels because the explosion has been a repeated event for a long time now.

Philippine Army's 1002nd Brigade commander Colonel Marcos Norman Flores Jr. earlier said they are set to file charges for frustrated murder under Revised Penal Code and violation of the International Humanitarian Law against the rebels this week.

"We are now coordinating with the members of the PNP (Philippine National Police) for us to file the charges against Menandro Villanueva and Roberto Rosete and their comrades who were responsible of the attack," Flores said.

Muslim clerics seek Bangsamoro role

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 5): Muslim clerics seek Bangsamoro role

Marawi City – Local ulama (Muslim clerics) are seeking the creation of a Darul Ifta (House of Opinion) for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) towards the succeeding Bangsamoro entity to help dispense just governance under Islamic norms, in harmony with the Philippine Constitution and applicable laws.

The quest topped various aspirations raised by the ulama groups during separate consultations last February 8 here, and in Zamboanga City last February 16 and 17, according to former Lanao del Sur Board Member Saad Amate, an alim (singular of ulama).

“We have repeatedly raised many issues about Muslims in Mindanao, but we never got any attention to the side of Ulama,” Amate, one of the organizers of the consultations, said.

Amate hinted at a reported existence of an ARMM regional Darul Ifta, which he said should be institutionalized for the smooth operation of the proposed Bangsamoro entity, a geo-political region designed to replace the 24-year-old existing system.

He said the ARMM officials and the ulama groups from various institutions, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), had aired “unanimous desire for the creation of a regional Darul Iftah.”

BI deports recently released al-Qaeda terrorist, 43 others

From the Business Mirror (Mar 5): BI deports recently released al-Qaeda terrorist, 43 others

THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) has deported an alleged member of the international terrorist group al-Qaeda along with 43 other undesirable aliens during the first two months of the year.
Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison identified the alleged al-Qaeda member as Agus Dwikarna, an Indonesian.
Dwikarna was deported early last month after serving a 10-year sentence for violation of illegal possession of improvised explosives, grenades and firearms. He was arrested upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) in March 2002.
He was sentenced to a prison term of 10 to 17 years in July 2002 by the Regional Trial Court inPasay City. He was also ordered to pay a fine of P50,000.
Dwikarna was reportedly a member of the Islamic extremist movement in Indonesia that participates in organized riots, teaches assault of public officials and manages groups to overthrow the government.
In view of the heightened security concerns and risks, the Indonesian Embassy issued a passport for Dwikarna. He was fetched by a charter plane with private security escorts from Indonesia when he was deported at the Naia.
Meanwhile, the other deportees were arrested last year by BI operatives for violation of several immigration laws that include overstaying, undocumented, conviction of crimes, and working without visas and permits.
“The successful deportation of these illegal aliens was the result of the marat hearings being conducted by the bureau’s legal division particularly the prosecution and legal assistance unit,” Mison said.
With the BI’s relentless campaign against undesirable aliens, Mison warned foreigners with criminal records that the Philippines is not a “sanctuary” for foreign offenders because all undesirable aliens are being monitored.

Reds: Gear up vs Noy regime’s efforts on Cha-cha

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 6): Reds: Gear up vs Noy regime’s efforts on Cha-cha

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) yesterday called on the Filipino people to gear up against the Aquino regime’s efforts toward Charter change (Cha-cha) which it branded as opening the country’s gates for “recolonization.”

The CPP, in its website, said that President Aquino is exerting all efforts to push Cha-cha, using his allies in the House of Representatives.

“Benigno AquinoI is exerting all-out effort to provide the Cha-cha train full momentum in order to ram through the anti-national provisions that will allow foreign big capitalists to own land and operate their business in the Philippines without restrictions,” said the CPP.

“The CPP calls on all patriotic and democratic forces to gear-up to do battle with the Aquino regime in order to put a stop to its US-designed Cha-cha train,” it added.

The CPP, at the same time, expressed fears that Aquino would utilize the illegal “pork barrel” to fuel the constitutional amendments.

“Beyond doubt, the speed which the Cha-cha train has reached can only have been achieved with the pork barrel fuel provided by Aquino to his favored allies in congress,” said the CPP.

The House of Representatives, led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., a close ally of the President, has been pushing for constitutional amendments, supposedly to update economic provisions of the charter particularly the restriction on foreign ownership of land and business.

“The proposal to amend the constitution is nothing but a return to the parity rights amendment of 1946 which the US government had inserted in the Philippine Constitution of 1935,” said the CPP.

“After a century of plundering the Philippines, American big capitalists continue to drool over the remaining forest, mineral and water resources in the Philippines and demand that they be allowed unrestricted rights to profit from our country’s wealth,” it added.

“If successful in pushing for Cha-cha, the Aquino regime will have opened the gates for the virtual recolonization of the Philippines, as the Cha-cha would allow foreign big capitalists, especially US big capital, to control the local economy and, by dint of the size and dominance of their capital, to control the Philippine government,” the CPP also said.

Gov’t peace panel condemns NPA landmine attacks

From the Philippine Star (Mar 6): Gov’t peace panel condemns NPA landmine attacks

The government peace panel has condemned the series of landmine attacks perpetrated by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Davao del Sur.

“The attack by the NPA on a convoy of ambulances in the town of Bansalan using improvised explosive devices constitutes a clear-cut violation of international humanitarian laws, “ the government panel said.

The government peace panel said the protection accorded to medical personnel, especially those belonging to the Red Cross, their vehicles and installations, is one of the cornerstones of International Humanitarian Law.

“It is only under very specific circumstances that such personnel, buildings or vehicles may lose such protection, namely when they take direct part in or used in direct support of the armed hostilities,” the government panel led by Alexander Padilla said.

Abu Sayyaf asks P5-M for cosmetic dealer's release

From the Philippine Star (Mar 5): Abu Sayyaf asks P5-M for cosmetic dealer's release

The bandit Abu Sayyaf Group based in Basilan province has demanded P5-million ransom in exchange for the release of a young cosmetic dealer abducted two weeks ago in this city.

City police director Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro said that the investigators have identified one of the six abductors of Sabrina Ikbala-Voon, 28, last February 19 in Barangay Mercedes.

Casimiro said that the kidnappers contacted Voon's family a few days ago and demanded P5 million for the release of the victim.

The police official did not say if the kidnappers have set a deadline for the delivery of the ransom money.

Meanwhile, he said police investigators identified one of Voon's kidnappers through a fake driver's license recovered from the van used by the gunmen as their getaway vehicle.

The fake driver's license is named under a certain Rey Cuevas Santos, which is presumably also a fake identity.

Casimiro said that the investigators were able to establish that the picture used by the suspect in the fake license was authentic as he was positively identified by several witnesses as one of Voon's abductors.

Through rigorous cross-checking, the police investigators were able to identify the man as Abdulhassan Yusop Sanajalul alias Bulet of Barangay Lower Sinangkapan, Tuburan town, Basilan.

He said Sanajalul used the fake driver's license to rent the van.

Philippine activists slam 'hypocritical' US rights report

From UCANews (Mar 3): Philippine activists slam 'hypocritical' US rights report

Washington helps to fund military abuses, says Karapatan

Human rights group Karapatan said on Monday that a report from the US on human rights abuses in the Philippines is "hypocritical." It also claimed that the US is responsible for abuses in the country.

"The US government foments human rights abuses in the Philippines by filling up the military war chest of the Aquino government," said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.

Her remarks came in response to a report by the US State Department, released last week, which criticized the Philippines for failing to stamp out extrajudicial killings.

"The [Philippine] government continued to investigate and prosecute only a limited number of reported human rights abuses and concerns about impunity persisted," the report noted.

The report further noted that the "most significant human rights problems continued to be extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances undertaken by security forces".

The report also criticized the "dysfunctional criminal justice system" in the country, "notable for poor cooperation between police and investigators, few prosecutions and lengthy procedural delays," along with "widespread official corruption and abuse of power".

The Philippines Commission on Human Rights admitted in a statement that there were indeed few convictions for extrajudicial killings during the Aquino administration, but added that there have been "improvements".

The presidential palace on Saturday said it is taking note of the US criticism. "We'll have the national government agencies go through it and address particular areas of concern, focusing on what can be done to further our efforts," said Abigail Valte, Aquino's spokesperson.

Palabay took note of the "prompt response" of the Aquino government to the US report "while practically ignoring the killings that have been going on since Aquino’s presidency. She noted how the government "immediately dismissed documented human rights violations perpetrated by state forces as 'communist propaganda'."

From July 2010 to December 2013, Karapatan documented 169 victims of extrajudicial killings. In the first six weeks of 2014, Karapatan has documented six more victims.

She said impunity in the Philippines persists "precisely because of US backing," adding that the US$40 million US military aid to the Philippines is used to implement "Operation Plan Bayanihan [Cooperation]," a program aimed at ending a 45-year-old insurgency led by the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army.

The State Department report came out two months after US Secretary of State John Kerry pledged $40 million of military aid to the Philippines.

"The US government is trying to soften its image among Filipinos and also in the international community as it prepares for an increased and permanent presence in the Philippines for its vaunted Asian pivot," Palabay said.

The "pivot" is an initiative of the Obama administration that is meant to be a strategic "re-balancing" of US interests from Europe and the Middle East toward East Asia.

Talks have been ongoing between the US and the Philippines for the latter to resume hosting military forces in former US military bases in the country.

DILG, OPPAP to hold planning workshop, assessment on Local Peace & Dev’t in Surigao Norte

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 3): DILG, OPPAP to hold planning workshop, assessment on Local Peace & Dev’t in Surigao Norte

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) here and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPPAP) will conduct a two-day planning workshop and assessment in mainstreaming peace and development, and local governance project on March 4 to 5, 2014 at Parkway Hotel, Surigao City.

The workshop aims to update the status of the peace process with the CPP/NPA/NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army/National Democratic Front), revisit and update the existing conflict analysis of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) and locate it within the broad frame of the peace process, identify gaps and peacebuilding needs based on the conflict analysis as well as resources to address these gaps which include a validation of previously identified interventions that remain unfunded, and to propose enhancements to existing PAMANA implementing structures process.

The activity also envisions to integrate the Peace and Development Agenda within the Provincial Peace and Order Council’s (PPOC’s) Peace and Order and Public Safety (POPS) Plan.

MILF: IMT’s exit call on MILF’s 2nd Vice Chairman drew thousands in Camp Bushra

From the MILF Website (Mar 6): IMT’s exit call on MILF’s 2nd Vice Chairman drew thousands in Camp Bushra

Camp Bushra Somiorang, Butig, Lanao del Sur, 28 February 2014. The exit call of the 8th Mission of the International Monitoring Team (IMT-8) headed by MGen Dato’ Fadzil bin Mokhtar on Alim Ali Solaiman, 2nd Vice Chairman of the Central Committee, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), drew an estimated crowd of not less than ten thousand MILF members, supporters and sympathizers at the hallowed ground of Alim Abdulazis Mimbantas Memorial Center, Camp Bushra Somiorang, Butig, Lanao del Sur. 

This area, which is popularly known as the Satellite Office because of the presence of a satellite office of the MILF Peace Panel, serves as an administrative sub-camp of Camp Bushra where the top leadership of the MILF in the Ranaw Region receives local and foreign dignitaries and visitors.

The 8th Mission of the IMT arrived in Cotabato City last March 2013 and will be completing its one-year tour of duty in March 14, 2014. From its original number of 60 members, the IMT-8 will be replaced by its successor, the IMT-9, comprising of only 36 members. The reduced number of the team comprising the IMT-9 underscores the significant success of IMT’s monitoring and peacekeeping mission since it started its work in 2002.

The IMT is composed of both military and civilian contingents from Malaysia, as the leading contingent, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan and Europe. Libya was part of the original countries contributing to the IMT. The International Monitoring Team is a product of the Security Aspect of the GPH-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 22 June 2001 and is mandated to monitor the status of the ceasefire agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF. 

The province of Lanao del Sur was in a festive mood as main streets were teeming with streamers, tarpaulins, native flags and flaglets welcoming the visiting IMT members. A military honor was rendered by the 103rd Base Command of the BIAF-MILF in honor of the visitors that was followed by a military exhibition drill and a courtesy call on the 2nd Vice Chairman of the MILF Central Committee. 

During the reception, Alim Ali Solaiman expressed the unending gratitude of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people for the unwavering support and unselfish sacrifices of the IMT members who have chosen to leave the comfort of their own homes and native countries in order to support the joint effort of the Philippine government and the MILF to give a chance to a meaningful and sustainable peace by way of a political settlement of the armed conflict in Mindanao.

“I am saddened, on one hand, by the fact that our brothers in the IMT-8 are finally leaving us. But I am also happy, on the other hand, to say that this team is the most lucky because it is during their tour of duty that the historic Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its four annexes were signed,” Alim Ali Solaiman said.

In his response message, MGen Dato’ Fadzil bin Mokhtar became very emotional and was not able to hold his tears. “I’m sorry that I became very emotional because I realized the untold sufferings and sacrifices you’ve gone through for several decades before reaching the present stage of your struggle for freedom and self-determination. We are very happy and proud that we became part of your struggle and even in our own small ways, we were able to contribute to the attainment of genuine peace that will hopefully lead to prosperity and development in the upcoming Bangsamoro political entity,” the IMT Head of Mission said. 

urther said: “The prospect of peace and development is within reach. I hope that the officers and men of the BIAF will continue to demonstrate their sincerity and commitment to honor the agreements between the GPH and MILF peace panels. The signing of the agreement is meaningless if this is not translated into action. There are huge challenges ahead, but no challenge is large enough that you cannot overcome. I hope to return in 2016 and I am eager to see the Bangsamoro in a better situation under a new prosperous Bangsamoro government.”  

The historic occasion was highlighted by the awarding of certificates of commendation, recognition and appreciation and the giving of tokens to all deserving members of the visiting IMT.
The IMT exit call was preceded few hours by a courtesy call of some officers of AFP’s 103rd Brigade assigned in Kampo Ranaw, Marawi City headed by Col. Macasero on MILF’s 2nd Vice Chairman and the officers of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces in the Northeastern and Northwestern Mindanao Fronts.’s-exit-call-on-milf’s-2nd-vice-chairman-drew-thousands-in-camp-bushra

MILF: 1st Parang Municipal peace Assembly and Advocacy on the peace process held

From the MILF Website (Mar 6): 1st Parang Municipal peace Assembly and Advocacy on the peace process held

The 1st Municipal Assembly and Peace Advocacy for Arabic school students and residents was conducted on March 1 at the Dr. Bong Tomawis Municipal Gymnasium at Parang, Maguindanao jointly sponsored by the Municipal Assembly for Islamic Call for Peace and Development headed by Ustads Usman Tarusan and Suwara Padangpadang (Radio Communication Network.) to apprise and enlighten the youth and students on the progress of the GPH-MILF Peace Process. 

Prof. Esmael Abdula was the guest speaker who delved on the peace process, the FAB and its four annexes.  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) at the same time the institute’s training officer. Also with Abdula were the Municipal Chairman and Vice Chairman of Committee on Da’wah, the Staff of the Provincial Information Committee, members of the Iranun Provincial Committee on Information and the officers and members of Suwara Padangpadang.  

About 900 participants  comprising youth and students, members of the Suwara Padangpadang and asatidz or Arabic school teachers from different Mahad and Madaris attended the activity many of them shouted “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar” several times. 

Prof. Abdula stressed, “if you wish to help achieve peace and see a rising Bangsamoro Government, let us register and vote yes during the 2015 plebiscite.” 

By voting yes, we can start rebuilding our devastated communities and live in peace and progress. There is a popular saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”. Abdula ended his presentation and an open forum ensued where some participants made queries and clarifications. All their concerns were intelligently answered by Abdula.


U.S. eyes enhancing naval presence in Japan

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): U.S. eyes enhancing naval presence in Japan

The United States is seeking to enhance its naval presence in Japan and its overall military presence in Southeast Asia, according to a quadrennial defense policy report released Tuesday.

The plan is part of continued U.S. commitment to the Asia-Pacific region against the backdrop of China's rising maritime presence. The Defense Department also warned the risk of conflict amid tension over sovereignty and natural resources in the area.

"We will continue our contributions to the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to preserve peace and stability in a region that is increasingly central to U.S. political, economic, and security interests," the Quadrennial Defense Review said.

ASEAN defense chiefs reiterate call for COC in South China Sea

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): ASEAN defense chiefs reiterate call for COC in South China Sea

Military chiefs of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Wednesday jointly reiterated the importance of having a legally binding Code of Conduct to ease tensions in the South China Sea.

The military chiefs gathering for the three-day informal meeting starting Tuesday in Myanmar's administrative capital Naypyitaw said in a joint statement Wednesday that "the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea is crucial to maritime security and to a stable security environment in the region."

The chiefs are in Naypyitaw for the 11th ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Informal Meeting, to discuss regional security challenges, particularly nontraditional ones.

China's increasingly assertive claim to most of the disputed sea -- which has some of the world's busiest shipping routes and is believed to be rich in oil and gas -- overlaps claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

China has long maintained that territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea, which it claims almost in its entirety, should be resolved bilaterally among claimant states.

Speaking to reporters at a press briefing Wednesday at the venue, the host to the event, Myanmar Commander-in-Chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hling stressed the importance of peaceful means in resolving the dispute.

Min Aung Hling also hinted at Myanmar's support for China's position, saying the dispute should be settled among the claimant countries.

"The Myanmar military believes that the South China Sea dispute should be settled peacefully, only among the countries that are involved with the matter, in a bilateral or in a multilateral manner," he said.

"We would always welcome and support every friendly and peaceful effort to resolve the issue with means acceptable to the nations involved," he added.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Bangsamoro development plan launched in Davao City

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): Bangsamoro development plan launched in Davao City

The peace process between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) took another step forward Wednesday when the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP) was formally launched at the Waterfront Insular Hotel here.

Dr. Saffrullah Dipatuan, Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) chairman and BDP Project Steering Committee chairman, said the BDP will set the economic direction of the Bangsamoro, the new political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“The BDP will identify investments and programs to promote inclusive growth, stability and help create jobs in the Bangsamoro from 2014 to 2020,” Dipatuan said at the launching.

BDP core planning team leader Windel Diangcalan said they are targeting to finish the draft of the BDP by the end of May this year.

He said the BDP is a six-year development plan with two phases covering 2014-2019. Phase 1 will cover the transitional development plan and smooth transition from the current ARMM to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and Phase 2 will deal with the medium term development plan from 2016 to 2019.

“It is on the second phase where investments will be identified,” he said.

Dipatuan said the development plan will reflect the goals of the Bangsamoro people, indigenous people and other sectors in Mindanao.

He assured that not only the interest of the MILF and Bangsamoro people will be the basis of the BDP but will also include the interests and needs of the other sectors in Mindanao particularly the indigenous people.

“We are not only getting inputs from Bangsamoro but also from IPs (Indigenous Peoples) and other settler communities included in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) to achieve an inclusive growth for the Bangsamoro,” Dipatuan said.

The planning process for the formulation of the BDP is supported by the national government.

GPH peace panel member Undersecretary Yasmin Busran-Lao said the principle of including the needs and interests of the indigenous people in the BDP is embodied and signed in all the four annexes in the agreement.

Meanwhile, Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo said, “there is a need to capture the sentiments of the beneficiary communities in the plan, making sure that the process and final output is as transparent and inclusive as possible the plan needs to make sure no one is left behind”.

Dipatuan, however, said the investments will only be identified upon the completion of the BDP as these should address the needs of the beneficiaries.

He also clarified that the implementation of the investments and development projects will only commence once a final peace agreement is achieved.

Philippine Navy holds annual recruitment in Cebu March 10 to 18

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): Philippine Navy holds annual recruitment in Cebu March 10 to 18

The Naval Forces Central (Navforcen) will hold its Visayan Mobile Recruitment from March 10 to 18 at the University of Cebu Main Campus on Sanciangko Street corner OsmeƱa Boulevard here.

The mobile recruitment is a chance for interested applicants to process their application without going to Manila.

Processing of requirements will be done in the first three days at the Navforcen Personnel Office.

The requirements include original and photocopy of birth certificate, two pieces 2x2 colored ID pictures, NBI clearance, and application form.

The National Officers Candidate Course applicants must bring Transcript of Records while the Basic Seamanship Course, Form 137 and Tesda certificate from any vocational school.

Ensign Jaypee Abuan of Public Affairs Office said the naval forces has recently opened doors to non-college graduates specifically those who have undergone trainings with NC II certification from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).

Applicants for the NOCC must be aged 21 to 28 years old and a graduate of any four or five years bachelors degree preferably Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Information Technology, Electronics and Communications Engineering, Computer Science, Accountancy, Marine Engineering, Maritime Transportation, Civil Engineering and Naval Architecture.

For the enlisted personnel, applicants must be aged 18 to 23 years old and must have at least 72 college units or has obtained NC II certificates on electronics and communications, aviation, aircraft maintenance, electricians, mariners, welders, plumbers, mechanics (gas, diesel turbine) as well as heavy equipment operations.

Abuan said applicants in Cebu may also visit their headquarters in Naval Base Rafael Ramos, Barangay Looc, Lapu-Lapu City or via official Facebook page, “Navforcen PN” or the Cebu City Naval Reserve Center Eastern Visayas at Pier 3, Arellano Boulevard, Cebu City.

For those in Bohol province, they may reach the 514th NROTC Unit at PMI College Bohol, CPG Ave., Tagbilaran City, while those in Siquijor province, interested applicants may drop by 563rd NROTC Unit at Siquijor State College, Larena, Siquijor.

Police, Army blame NPA in burning of North Cotabato hauler truck

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): Police, Army blame NPA in burning of North Cotabato hauler truck
Police authorities in North Cotabato have blamed the communist New Peoples’ Army (NPA) for the burning on Tuesday of a 10-wheeler truck near a sand quarry in Matalam, North Cotabato.

Chief Inspector Elias Colonia, Matalam police chief, said the NPAs had been mulcting a construction firm doing infrastructure project in remote villages. The firm rejected the rebels' extortion activities.

According to Colonia, four men brandishing assault rifles casually approached the truck parked along a road in Barangay Estado at 2 p.m., ordered its driver to leave, and burned the vehicle using kerosene.

Before fleeing, the armed men divested of his wristwatch, mobile phone, and other personal belongings.

Quoting witnesses, Colonia said gunmen were last seen fleeing towards Barangay Esperanza, President Roxas town, a known community infiltrated by NPA guerrillas.

Colonia said investigators have been receiving feedback from barangay folks that four men that set the truck on fire were members of the NPA.

Initial cost of damage was pegged at P1.3 million.

Colonel Nilo Vinluan, 57th Infantry Battalion chief, said the NPAs had been mulcting multi-national firms, construction companies and even a town mayor in North Cotabato as the revolutionary movement had lost mass base support.

Last week, the rebels set off a land mine on a convoy of Mayor Jaime Mahimpit of President Roxas after the town executive ignored a demand of P1 million by NPAs for them not to harass a road construction project.

Mahimpit escaped unhurt but three of his escorts were hurt.

Vinluan said the people in communities where the NPAs operate should stop supporting the movement “because they are no longer working for the people but for their own interest.”

Hinterlands of President Roxas, Makilala and Magpet, all in North Cotabato are known NPA infiltrated communities. In nearby Bansalan, Davao del Sur, four emergency workers were hurt when the NPA set off a landmine on a passing ambulance carrying wounded civilians following an NPA-military clash last week.

Following the series of atrocities blamed on the NPAs, both Colonia and Vinluan have appealed to the general public to report to authorities sightings of suspected NPAs in their areas to avoid violence.

Vinluan said the Army will stay in areas where there are still terrorist threats despite calls by militant groups and suspected NPA supporters for military pull out.

DND allocates P438,620,000 M for 12 units of 155mm towed howitzers

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): DND allocates P438,620,000 M for 12 units of 155mm towed howitzers
In a bid to increase the offensive firepower capability of the Army, the Department of National Defense (DND) announced that it is allocating P438,620,000 million to acquire 12 units of 155mm towed howitzers.

The money will be sourced from the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program Funds.

The contract also includes 240 rounds of ammunition and integrated logistic support.

Interested bidders are required to have completed a similar project within the last five years.

Pre-bid conference will be held on March 11 at the DND bidding and awards committee at the DND building in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Bidders are required to be the manufacturers of the weapons themselves.

As of this posting, the PA is known to operate 10 units of these heavy guns.

Army officers said these field pieces have a maximum range of 14,600 meters.

These guns have a "kill zone" of 50 meters and "casualty zone" of 100 meters.

The former refers to a spot, once hit directly by a 155mm shell, will mean the obliteration or death of living thing in that spot.

While latter refers to the place, once hit, will mean the wounding or incapacitating of all living things in that particular area.

Having these weapons at hand ensures that the PA has the capability to provide massive fire support to its troops in the field if needed.

The 155mm field gun is the heaviest and most powerful weapon of the PA.

All artillery weapons are placed under the supervision and control of the Army Artillery Regiment.

The PA, as of this writing, boast of operating 273 artillery pieces.

This number does not include artillery pieces owned by the Philippine Marine Corps.

Around 10 of these weapons are the heavy 155mm howitzers with the remaining guns consisting of various models of the 105mm howitzer, an artillery piece capable of being towed or tracked into combat.

11 troopers wounded in Bansalan town NPA landmine attack feted

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): 11 troopers wounded in Bansalan town NPA landmine attack feted

The Davao City-based 10th Infantry Division on Wednesday has recognized the bravery of the 11 troopers of the 39th Infantry Battalion who were wounded by a rebel landmine attack in Barangay Managa, Bansalan town, Davao Del Sur last March 2.

The troops were conducting security operations against New People's Army (NPA) fighters conducting extortion and harassment missions in the said locality when the rebels treacherously detonated landmine, according to 10th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Ernesto Carolina.

"(The wounded soldiers) were recognized for their bravery while recovering in the Camp Panacan Station Hospital. The 10th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Ariel B. Bernardo visited the troops to award them an initial 'Wounded Personnel Medal' and exchange stories about what was a successful raid conducted on an encampment of the NPA’s 'Front 51' group," he added.

In the encounter, the 39th Infantry Battalion troopers successfully penetrated through the NPA encampment’s first defense perimeter despite the latter being well-pitched defensively.

“What they did there was a daring feat considering that the NPA had a prepared defense complete with landmines,” Bernardo said.

In the said encounter, four of the rebels were killed and numerous others were wounded.

Army still the service of choice for PMA Class of 2014

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): Army still the service of choice for PMA Class of 2014

Around 119 graduates out of the 223 members of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) "Siklab Diwa" Class of 2014 will be joining the Army once they graduate this March 16.

The PMA personnel were received by PA chief Major Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri during a reception dinner in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, Army spokesperson Lt. Noel Detoyato said.

The group was led by the Class Baron, Cadet First Class Clint Achilles G. Ramos, who hails from Cebu City.

A ceremonial turn-over of Army battle dress attire and .45 caliber pistol was also held.

Detoyato said the event was attended by staff and senior officers of the PA.

These 119 incoming officers will beef up the Army’s personnel and operational capabilities as it continues to pursue its mandate of serving the people and securing the land.

Another 56 will be joining the Philippine Navy (PN), officials said.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, Navy spokesperson, said that these incoming officers were received by PN flag-officer-in-charge Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano during a reception dinner Tuesday at Naval Station Jose Andrada on Roxas Boulevard, Manila.

Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol, PAF spokeperson said another 47 will be joining the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

Col. Okol said that these new officers were meet by Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalina Dela Cruz during a reception dinner at Villamor Air Force in Pasay City, also on Tuesday.

47 new PAF cadets to benefit from new air assets

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): 47 new PAF cadets to benefit from new air assets

Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino Dela Cruz told the 47 graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) "Siklab Diwa" Class of 2014, who are poised to join the flying service shortly after their March 16 graduation, that they will be coming at an opportune time.

This is because the PAF will soon be receiving modern air assets like the South Korean F/A-50 "Golden Eagle" jet aircraft, of which 12, are expected to be in service within the next two years.

Dela Cruz made this announcement during the reception dinner for the incoming 47 PMA Class of 2014 graduates last March 3.

The new officers were headed Cadet 1st Class Jheorge M. Llona who will be graduating at top of his class of 223 cadets on March 16.

Dela Cruz also encouraged them to work hard while in the service to have a successful career in the Air Force.

Llona responded by thanking the PAF chief for hosting and joining them in dinner.

The cadets also received their initial items of uniform, service firearm and their first month salary during the dinner.

Kidnapping surges in Mindanao as Abu Sayyaf seizes another teacher in Sulu

From InterAksyon (Mar 6): Kidnapping surges in Mindanao as Abu Sayyaf seizes another teacher in Sulu

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) seized another teacher Wednesday afternoon in Sitio Baunoh, Barangay Liang, Patikul, Sulu, the sixth kidnap victim in three days.

Capt. Ryan Lacuesta, Civil Military Officer of the 2nd Marine Brigade, said Alrashud Jahang was abducted about 4 p.m. by 10 Abu Sayyaf bandits led by Aljini Mundoc alias Ninok Sapari.

Jahang, a teacher of the Taglibi Elementary School, “was riding a motorcycle going to Jolo town from Barangay Taglibi when flagged down by the group of Ninok and forcibly taken. The Marines and police immediately launched hot pursuit operations,” Lacuesta said.

Last Tuesday, Hadji Mutamad, Basulan Vice Mayor Arsina Nanoh was kidnapped by still unidentified suspects in Zamboanga City. The 20-year-old local chief executive remained missing.

The Police Regional Office 9 (PRO9) said Nanoh’s husband, Alnajil, reported to the Police Station 11 the abduction of his wife. Per his account, at around 12:15 p.m. he and his wife together with some friends went to Mindpro Mall on La Purisima Street to go shopping. At around 12:57 p.m., the group went out of the mall and boarded their private vehicle.

When they reached the exit gate of Mindpro Mall parking lot, the vice mayor told her husband that her friend had called her and asked her to proceed to Mindpro Mall. She then alighted from their vehicle and told her husband to just wait for her call to pick her up. When Alnajil reached their storage room at Tres Marias RT Lim Boulevard, he received a text message from somebody using his wife’s mobile phone that they had abducted her, PRO9 spokesman Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca said.

“According to Alnajil, the alleged abductors told him that they were waiting for their boss as they would just inform him what they wanted.  Alnajil went back to Mindpro Mall to locate his wife but to no avail and this prompted him to report the said incident to the authorities,” he added.

Huesca said the Nanoh couple are engaged in the buy-and-sell of gold jewelries as their family business.

In an earlier case, on March 3 two children, their driver and maid were seized by five armed men believed to be Abu bandits on Scott Road in Barangay Alat, Jolo on March 3.

The incident happened around 7 a.m. while the victims were on their way to school.
The victims were identified as Mohammad Zaher Naim, 10, his cousin Raiza Karanain, 8, their 18-year-old maid Almalyn Abuhail, and family driver Saddam Amlih.

The victims were riding a family vehicle when flagged down by five armed men and forcibly taken at gunpoint on a Tamaraw jeep. The jeep sped towards the direction of Barangay Anuling in Patikul town, Lacuesta said.

On February 19, six armed men kidnapped a businesswoman from her home and escaped on board a van in Barangay Mercedez, Zamboanga City.

The victim, 28-year-old cosmetics dealer Sabrina Ikbala Voon, was seized at gunpoint from her residence on Pohoc Drive and loaded to a waiting van with plate GPH-581 at around 9 p.m. 

Follow-up operations by soldiers and policemen recovered the gateway vehicle at Sitio Duncaan, Gapuh, Barangay Talabaan, also in the city.

On Feb. 16, six armed men believed to be Abu bandits kidnapped the couple Bonifacio and Claire Salinas in Barangay San Raymundo, Jolo.

The victims, working with the Jolo Water District, arrived at 4:30 a.m. from Zamboanga City via M/V Danica Joy vessel. They hired a tricycle going to their residence on 10th Street when seized by at least six unidentified armed men at past 5:30 a.m.

The kidnappers with their two victims sped towards Barangay Anuling in Patikul town.

On January 27, eight heavily armed men believed to be Abu bandits took a couple -- both school supervisors -- on their way home on board their white Toyota Fortuner at Barangay Diplo, Kumalarang, Zamboanga del Sur.

Rudy and Tessie Luna of the Kumalarang Central Elementary School were stopped at gunpoint. “The armed men commandeered their vehicle and brought them to Sitio Dacun, Barangay Picanan. Our pursuing troops composed of policemen and soldiers recovered in said place the abandoned vehicle of the victims.”

Fortunately, he said, Tessie escaped from the kidnappers.

Earlier abductions

On December 18, 2013, teacher Cathy Casipong, 23, was abducted by a group of armed men in Sitio Paraitan, Barangay Limaong, Zamboanga City. She remains captive up to this time.

On January 23, 2009, Freires Quizon, Janette de los Reyes, and Rafael Mayonado, all teachers of the Landang Gua Elementary School in Zamboanga City, were kidnapped by armed men in Siacol Island. The kidnappers released them on May 27, 2009 after their families paid for “board and lodging”.

On March 13, 2009, a group of armed men kidnapped Noemi Mandi, Jocelyn Inion and Jocelyn Enriquez, all teachers of Bangkaw-bangkaw Elementary School in Zamboanga Sibugay. They were released by the Abu Sayyaf on September 23, 2009 after their families paid “board and lodging.”

On October 19, 2009, the ASG abducted Gabriel Canizares, principal of the Kanague Elementary School in Sulu. His decapitated head was found in an isolated lot in Jolo town on November 9, 2009 after his family failed to pay ransom.

Last Feb. 20, Filipino-Algerian sisters Nadjoua Abdel Bansil and Linda Bansil escaped from their captors and were recovered by government forces at around 5 p.m. in Sitio Kantatang, Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul, Sulu.

The Bansil sisters who are filmmakers spent eight months in captivity. Abu bandits abducted them on June 22, 2013 in Sitio Baunoh, Barangay Bangkal, Liang, Patikul by the group of Ninok and Ben Saudi.

The bandits demanded P50-million ransom for their safe release.

The sisters were in Sulu to shoot an Indie film entitled “Coffee Armalite” which they were supposed to use as entry for the Cinemalaya Film Festival.

On December 20, government forces recovered in Talipao, Sulu a Taiwanese woman abducted on November 15, 2013 by unidentified armed men in Sabah, Malaysia.

Evelyn Chang was rescued by responding soldiers and policemen at around 3:55 p.m. in the vicinity of Sitio Karija Anil, Barangay Liban.

Chang was reported abducted at Pulao in Pulong-Pulong, Sampurna by a group of armed men and then escaped toward Sulu.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said last Dec. 5 that at least 17 kidnap victims including foreigners were still being held by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan.

He revealed this after the release of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani of Pan-Arab Al-Arabiya news channel based in Dubai.

Police said Atyani was found at around 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 4, 2013, walking alone along the road in Barangay Igasan, Patikul, Sulu.

In June 2011, Atyani and two Filipino buddies went missing after leaving their hotel rooms in Jolo. Later they were reported to have been kidnapped by the bandits.

In February this year, Atyani’s Filipino buddies were recovered safe and unharmed after they escaped from their guards during skirmishes between soldiers and bandits.

Gazmin then said he and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Sec. Manuel Roxas III were planning to convene Sulu’s council to deal with kidnap-for-ransom cases especially high-profile cases involving local and foreign personalities.
He said a new strategy is necessary to curb kidnapping in the south.

“We will just have to craft some operation that will be able to address the deficiency of the current operation against them (bandits),” Gazmin said, without giving further details.

Random kidnappings reflect 'abnormal' peace and order in Basilan, Sulu - ARMM gov

From InterAksyon (Mar 6): Random kidnappings reflect 'abnormal' peace and order in Basilan, Sulu - ARMM gov

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman in command conference, 27 February 2014. DENNIS ARCON

“Abnormal” is how Governor Mujiv Hataman described the peace and order situation in the island provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) following the spate of kidnappings in Basilan and Sulu.

He said the situation is alarming as the kidnappers seem to pick their targets at random.

Among those kidnapped in the past several days were a politician, teachers, a small-scale entrepreneur, young people, and foreign tourists.

However, Hataman said he is hopeful that police authorities will be able to control the situation.

ARMM officials are set to call for a security cluster meeting with security authorities to act on the kidnappings.

It is said that most of the kidnappings were perpetrated by members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Philippines captures Sayyaf man linked to kidnappings of 3 US citizens, 17 Filipinos

From the Mindanao Examiner blog spot (Mar 5): Philippines captures Sayyaf man linked to kidnappings of 3 US citizens, 17 Filipinos

Philippine law enforcement and intelligence agencies have arrested Wednesday a member of the notorious Abu Sayyaf group implicated in the 2001 kidnapping of three US citizens and 17 other Filipino holiday makers in the posh Dos Palmas resort in Palawan province.

Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, a regional police spokesman, said Kudairik Abdulla alias Abu Saad, was arrested in hide hideout on Lampinigan Island off Basilan province.

“His arrest is covered by a warrant in relation to the Dos Palmas kidnapping,” he said.

He said Abdulla is the brother of an Abu Sayyaf terrorist Bong Abdulla who was killed along with over a dozen others during a botched jail break in a police detention facility in Bicutan in Taguig City in 2005.

Huesca said Abdulla, who is married to a niece of Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron, is being interrogated by authorities. Abdulla’s father, Nasirun, is a close associate of another notorious terror leader Khair Mundos, who is long wanted by the US.

Mundos, who has links with the al-Qaeda, was arrested in 2004 in Mindanao, but escaped from his detention center in Kidapawan City in 2007. Washington has offered $500,000 reward for his capture.

Abdulla is being linked to the kidnapping of California man Guillermo Sobero and Kansas missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham and the Filipinos.

The Abu Sayyaf beheaded Sobero in Basilan a month after the kidnapping while Martin Burnham was shot and killed the next year in a US-led military rescue operation in nearby Zamboanga del Norte province.

Gracia Burnham was rescued by Filipino troops, but she was also wounded. Some of the Filipino hostages were also killed and wounded by the Abu Sayyaf during their captivity.

The Burnham couple was celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary party on May 27, 2001 at Dos Palmas when the Abu Sayyaf attacked the resort. Since her rescue, Gracia Burnham has written two books, 'In the Presence of My Enemies' and 'To Fly Again' and now works a popular church speaker.

Abducted municipal vice mayor in Philippines is freed

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Mar 5): Abducted municipal vice mayor in Philippines is freed

A Philippine municipal vice mayor abducted in Zamboanga City has been reportedly freed, but details of her release are still unclear.

Reports said Arsina Kahing Nanoh, the vice mayor of a small town in Basilan province called Hadji Muhtamad, has been reunited with her family. It was not immediately known whether authorities had been informed or aware of her release, or helped in regaining her freedom.

The news of Nanoh’s release broke out late Wednesday after one of her closest friends posted it on Facebook.

Police said Nanoh was taken Tuesday from the Mindpro Mall while shopping with her husband Alnajil. The husband told police that he just left his 20-year old wife for a while and she disappeared.

Nanoh was allegedly forced by unidentified men out of the shopping mall unnoticed by the guards and into a waiting vehicle where other men were waiting.

Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, a regional police spokesman, said Nanoh's husband reported the abduction to the authorities after he received a call from her wife's cell phone saying she has been abducted by unidentified men.

It was unknown whether the abductors have demanded ransom for the safe release of the politician.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the abduction. Nanoh is a member of the political opposition party United Nationalists Alliance. There was no immediate statement either from her political party or family about the abduction.

Just last month, kidnappers disguised as policemen also seized a young mother, Sabrina Ikbala Voon, from her house in the village of Mercedes and dragged her to a waiting get-away van.

The kidnappers have reportedly demanded P5 million from her family in exchange for the woman's safe release. The 22-year old Voon, a native of Sulu province, was kidnapped on February 19 and police said it filed criminal charges against one of her captors Abdul Hassan Yusop.

Local police chief Angelito Casimiro said the 28-year old kidnapper has been identified through his photo on a falsified driver’s license he used to hire the van from a local car rental company. Casimiro said Yusop, who used the name Rey Santos in his identification card, is a native of Tuburan town in Basilan province, just several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City.

It was not immediately known whether Yusop is a member of the Abu Sayyaf group operating in Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for both kidnappings, but authorities had previously blamed these to the Abu Sayyaf, a small but the most notorious rebel group tagged by the authorities as behind the spate of ransom kidnappings and terrorism in the southern Philippines.

Muslim teacher seized by Sayyaf

From the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 6): Muslim teacher seized by Sayyaf

A Muslim teacher was seized Wednesday by Abu Sayyaf rebels in the southern Philippine town of Patikul, officials said.

Officials said Alrashid Jahang was travelling on a motorcycle in the village of Taglibi when intercepted by Abu Sayyaf gunmen led by Aljini Mundoc alias Ninok Sapari.

Jahang, who teaches at the local elementary school, was heading to Jolo town when taken by the rebels.

Mundoc was also linked to the kidnapping last year of two Muslim sisters Linda and Nadjoua Bansil - who are both filmmakers - in Patikul town. The sisters were with members of the Sulu Sultanate when Mundoc seized the duo while doing a documentary of Muslim coffee farmers in the area.

Sapari was implicated too to the 2012 kidnapping of a health worker Rosalyn Kiram, 54, also in Patikul town. There was no immediate statement from the town mayor Kabir Hayudini about the series of kidnappings in his area.

Just recently, police said suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen clad in white robes or kandura have seized three students of a private school and their family driver in the town of Jolo.

Police said the victims – two children and a teenager – were in a car driven by Saddam Amlih, 24, on their way to Notre Dame School when a jeep used by the gunmen blocked their path on General Arolas Street in the village of Alat and forcibly took them.

The mayor of Jolo, Hussin Amin, also did not give any statement about the latest abduction. Authorities have largely blamed Abu Sayyaf rebels for the spate of ransom kidnappings in the area.

U.S. Ambassador Goldberg in Subic, gets 'introduced' to BRP Alcaraz

From InterAksyon (Mar 5): U.S. Ambassador Goldberg in Subic, gets 'introduced' to BRP Alcaraz

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg tours the BRP Ramon Alcaraz at Subic Bay, with Capt. Ernesto Baldovino. HANDOUT PHOTO FROM U.S. EMBASSY IN MANILA

SUBIC BAY, Philippines - U.S. Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg concluded a successful trip to Subic Bay and Olongapo on Monday (March 3, 2014), holding meetings with Mayor Rolen C. Paulino, and other city officials, visiting the Subic Bay Freeport Zone and touring the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16). one of two former US Coast Guard cutters now being used by the Philippines to boost maritime patrols.

At meetings with Mayor Paulino,  Police Chief Supt.Raul Petrasanta, and Col. Pedrito Delos Reyes,   Goldberg discussed local concerns and how the Embassy and local governments can work together to address important issues. He thanked the Philippine government for dedicating valuable resources to combat human trafficking and for its support for increasing the number of U.S. troop visits to Olongapo and expanding the Liberty Area for visiting U.S. sailors.

Goldberg toured the Subic Bay Freeport Zone with Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chairman Roberto Garcia and met with Subic Bay Chamber of Commerce President Rose Baldeo.

Garcia noted to Goldberg that 2013 was a record year for new investments in the Freeport and for SBMA profits.

The ambassador also visited the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), one of two former USCG Hamilton-class cutters acquired by the Philippine Navy from the United States in 2013. This visit served as an introduction to these vessels, which now represent the bulk of sea-based combat power for the Philippine Navy. The ambassador noted that this U.S.-Philippine partnership is a positive contribution to Philippine maritime security.

NPA apologizes for wounding of rescue personnel in Davao Sur ambush

From InterAksyon (Mar 5): NPA apologizes for wounding of rescue personnel in Davao Sur ambush

The New People’s Army apologized Wednesday for the wounding of four emergency response personnel on March 2 when a command-detonated explosive set off during an ambush hit an ambulance accompanying a military convoy in Davao del Sur province.

The NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Command, in a statement released by its spokesman Rigoberto Sanchez, expressed “deep regret” and said it “has already ordered necessary assistance to be extended to” ambulance driver Genaro Doronio Dumayas, nurse Bonita dela Cruz, and rescue workers Arnel Comandante Veloroso and Alberto Simbajon Cabual of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.

“We take responsibility for this act as we take cognizance of the fact that the medical staff and mobile medical units should not have been made target of any attack and whose protection and/or safety is guaranteed under international humanitarian law,” the rebel command said.

“We have also ordered for a full investigation and if complete data and evidence warrant, promise to undertake appropriate measures and impose disciplinary actions against the responsible NPA unit,” it added.

The statement said that fighters of the Mt. Apo Subregional Command had laid an ambush for troops of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Managa, Bansalan town the evening of March 2 but “failed to distinguish the ambulance from its target, the two military trucks.”

The rebels said the ambulance, which had been used “to collect the military casualties following its defeat earlier that day at 11:00 am, when the Red fighters ambushed them in sitio Bagsak, Barangay Managa,” was “inconspicuous in as far as it did not discharge its siren, nor was it using any headlights, as per orders from the 39th Infantry Battalion.”

They said the actual target of the explosion was the second of the two Army vehicles but, “regrettably, the blast affected the ambulance which was closely following the 6x6 truck.”

The rebels also assured local government authorities “that civilian and/or medical volunteers are not targets of attack and should not be punished in the course of their neutral and humanitarian duties” and promised to “review policies and procedures governing its tactical military operations to strengthen this resolve.”

At the same time, they urged “civilian authorities, the medical and rescue individuals and institutions to refrain from carrying out other tasks that grants advantageous positions to the enemy and adversely forces the Red fighters to assume (an) active defense.”

They also urged that medical transports “should have fixed distinctive signs recognizable at a distance like siren and appropriate lighting to prevent breach of their protective status whenever they enter areas of armed conflict.”

The NPA claimed to have killed two lieutenants and 12 other soldiers and wounded 11 others, while suffering one wounded.

Philippines Paves Way for Transition to Peaceful South

From the Voice of America (Mar 3): Philippines Paves Way for Transition to Peaceful South

The Philippines is expected to sign a permanent peace pact soon with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group. Officials have one month to craft a measure for an autonomous region, to be called Bangsamoro, in the Muslim majority southern Philippines. The pact would end decades of fighting that has cost more than 120,000 lives.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission must submit its first draft of the proposed agreement to the Office of the President by March 31. After that, the proposal has to make its way through Congress before legislators go on summer break.

The whole process is on a tight schedule that needs to be completed in time for the 2016 elections.

“The battle has now shifted to a more constructive engagement with Congress and other branches of government to realize that what are the essential elements in those agreements would be translated into law. It’s practically a new form of engagement, which is unfamiliar to me, especially,” said Mohagher Iqbal, head of the transition commission.

For 40 years, Iqbal, a ranking member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), fought the Philippine government for Muslims’ right to self-determination.  He became chief peace negotiator more than 10 years ago and now chairs the transition commission of former rebels, government officials and civil society that will draft the law to create a new self-governing region called “Bangsamoro.”
The proposed measure would define Bangsamoro’s powers and structure. The new region is expected to have a parliamentary form of government with the ability to raise its own revenues and form its own law enforcement, among other powers. The central Philippines government would handle national defense, currency and postal services.

The next steps will be a “huge challenge,” according to Rommel Banlaoi, the executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.

“Congress is the main battleground now because there are members of Congress who have expressed their reservations on the proposed Bangsamoro Government and at the same time there were also apprehensions on the part of other stakeholders that the agreement is giving the MILF so much power already,” said Banlaoi.

Banlaoi pointed to the Philippine Congress’ history of lengthy debates, which sometimes can run on for years. Furthermore, he said, some local officials also have apprehensions about losing their power base with a new structure in place.  He said another challenge is the Muslim factions opposed to the agreement that have been resorting to violence.

The proposed region essentially supersedes an existing autonomous region that was formed under a 1996 pact signed by a smaller rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front.

The ideal scenario is for Congress to pass the agreement by the end of the year, so that residents of the proposed region can decide in a referendum in 2015 whether they want to be part of the new entity. Once its borders are defined, they will elect leaders during the 2016 national elections. That is also when Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s term ends.

In a speech this week, Presidential Peace Advisor Teresita Deles said the peace process has strong support, but she also highlighted some of the difficulties ahead.

“We expect rigid scrutiny of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress. We shall fight for the bill with utmost transparency and professionalism, and with only the national interest in mind. In this, we have the full support of the national leadership,” said Deles.

Rommel Banlaoi warned that in the rush to have a bill signed, some parts might be “watered down”. Iqbal said the Basic Law will be “flexible” because the fine details are supposed to be woven into legislation to be created by the new Bangsomoro parliament.

Abus seize town exec in Zambo

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 5): Abus seize town exec in Zambo

A local official from a town in Basilan province was abducted by suspected members of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group at a commercial center in Zamboanga City Tuesday afternoon.

Initial police reports said that Arcina Nano, vice mayor of Hadji Motamad town in Basilan, was snatched by armed men believed to be ASG elements at the Minpro mall in Zamboanga City.

Nano was at the mall shopping with his wife, whose identity is being withheld by the police for security reasons, when the incident happened.

A police official who refused to be named said that the couple was on board their vehicle and was about to leave the establishment when Nano’s wife received a call from an unidentified caller instructing her to go back inside the mall for a still undetermined reason.

The vice mayor’s wife decided to return inside the mall, leaving her husband at the parking area.

As she proceeded back to the mall, she received a second call. The caller told her that his group had kidnapped her husband.

Later, the wife received a third call advising her not to report the incident to police authorities or to the media.

“Doon sa tawag na na-receive ng asawa ni Nano ng mga pinaniniwalaang may hawak sa Basilan vice mayor, nakiusap sila na wag magsumbong sa police at wag iparating ang nangyari sa media,” the source said.

The police said the suspects threatened to kill the vice mayor if she refuses to listen to their instructions and told her that they should resolve the matter quietly.

The police are now conducting an investigation into the kidnapping incident while manhunt operations had been launched to rescue the victim.

Soldier killed

From Tempo (Mar 4): Soldier killed

LEGAZPI CITY, Albay – An Army man was killed in a late afternoon encounter with insurgents during an outreach mission in a remote barangay in Guinobatan town, Albay.

While the Army’s Bayanihan Team was conducting a meeting with local residents at around 5 p.m. last Saturday, Private First Class Fidel Fontanilla Magat, Jr., a member of the Philippine Army’s 901st Infantry Brigade, was shot dead by suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Purok 2, Barangay Mapaco.

According to residents, an unspecified number of armed men indiscriminately fired at the group, killing Magat instantly.