Saturday, March 8, 2014

Family claims honor committee had absolved PMA cadet Cudia

From GMA News (Mar 9): Family claims honor committee had absolved PMA cadet Cudia

The family of Philippine Military Academy cadet Aldrin Jeff Cudia said that they have evidence to prove that the honor committee had acquitted him of violating the honor code, according to a Saturday report on GMA News' "Balitanghali"


The Cudia family claimed that they have two sworn statements from sympathetic witnesses that the honor committee absolved Aldrin in an 8-1 vote, but the vote was later overturned.

"Ang sabi po sa akin, siya [si Alvin] ay isang totoong tao, may honor at dignity,” said Aldrin's father, Renato Cudia, who spoke with a witness. “And I asked him, 'Bakit naging guilty? 'Di ba, kung may isang not guilty abswelto na?' He replied, 'chi-namber ako sir.'"

The Cudia family did not provide copies of the sworn statements.

Renato also claimed that some people did not want his son to succeed, though the report did not elaborate on why this was so.

The Cudia patriarch pointed to a “Major Indang”, said to be a tactical officer at the PMA, who was out to get his son. "Si Major Indang, masyado po niyang pinersonal ang anak ko. 'Wag po silang magpadala sa simbuyo ng kanilang damdamin, maalis ang inggit sa kanila, tumayo po sila sa kanilang dapat pagtayuan," said Renato.

Cudia was dismissed from the academy for violating the honor code.

He was supposed to graduate as the salutatorian of his class, Siklab Diwa, on March 16. He was also supposed to receive the Navy Saber for being the top cadet to join the Navy.

Sulu teachers fear for lives after kidnapping

From ABS-CBN (Mar 8): Sulu teachers fear for lives after kidnapping

School teachers on Saturday expressed fear after a colleague was abducted by armed men in Patikul, Sulu this week.

Teacher Alrashid Jahang was abducted last Wednesday and released eight hours later due to "mistaken identity."

"Sabi nila, napagkamalan lang daw nila akong kalaban, kaya daw nila ako dinukot. Pero pinakawalan din nila ako," Jahang said in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN.

Jahang said he was treated well during the 8 hours he was kidnapped.
He also clarified that no ransom was paid for his release.

District supervisor/officer-in-charge of Patikul West Sittie Lina Arajani Asjali, who is also the principal of the Datu Oddin Bahjin Central School, is asking the government to give Sulu teachers "hazard pay" for being in a "critical area."

"Panawagan ko sa mga nakatataas na sana bigyan ng hazard fee ang mga teacher sa Patikul... kasi kritikal talaga sila doon," Asjali said.

Jahang, meantime, said he is not certain whether his abductors belong to a specific group.

"Armado sila, nakamaskara pero di ko sigurado kung Abu Sayyaf sila o hindi", Jahang said.

Even though he was traumatized by his abduction, he will still continue to teach in the same school. However, he wishes that security in Patikul be tightened.

"Nagdulot talaga ng takot pati sa ibang teacher... sana dagdagan pa yung security sa aming mga teacher," he said.

Troops arrest Sayyaf follower

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Mar 8): Troops arrest Sayyaf follower

THE military and police have arrested an alleged Abu Sayyaf member involved in the 2001 Dos Palmas kidnapping, a military official disclosed.

Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela identified the arrested suspect as Kudairik Abdulla alias Abu Assad and Abu Boboy, a follower of Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.

Muyuela said that Abdulla was arrested around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Lampinigan Island, Isabela City, the capital of Basilan province.

Muyuela said that Abdulla has a standing warrant of arrest for kidnapping and serious illegal detention with ransom issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 69 of Pasay City.

Aside from Dos Palmas, Muyuela said that Abdulla is also involved in the 2001 kidnapping of American National Jeffrey Schilling; Tairan attack and kidnapping in 2001; kidnapping of Jehovah’s Witnesses member in 2002; and Tumahubong kidnapping.

She said that Abudlla was turned over to police for custodial debriefing and appropriate disposition.

She said the successful operation that resulted to the arrest of the suspect was made possible through close coordination among the military and police forces “on the ground.”

She said they will continue with the intensified joint pursuit operations to hunt down other criminals in order to reduce criminalities and eventually restore peace and order in Mindanao.

Nur sacks dozens of MNLF commanders in loyalty check

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 9): Nur sacks dozens of MNLF commanders in loyalty check

MORO National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari has sacked dozens of commanders over the past week as the separatist organization staged a loyalty check of its key officials, according to the group’s spokesman Absalom Cerveza.

“We have taken out from the rooster troop commanders who seem to have lost interest in the MNLF organization,” Cerveza said without mentioning the number of people involved while adding that loyalty to Misuari was a primary consideration.

Cerveza announced the purge after Misuari last month expelled Jimmy Labawan, the group’s former vice chairman, who supposedly misrepresented the MNLF when he claimed to be the group’s official delegate to the so-called tripartite review meeting in Jakarta last year.

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

“We had a series of loyalty check meetings from late last week to early this week,” Cerveza said, adding that most MNLF members reaffirmed their desire to stay in the organization and “prove their loyalty to Nur Misuari.”

He said that the MNLF had a total force of 75,000 fighters scattered in the whole Mindanao region,  500 of which serve as close-in security of Misuari in Jolo, Sulu.
Cerveza said the meetings were divided into separate conferences, two of which discussed what they described as “state forces” and “national security force.”

The biggest group in the meeting came from members in Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat with Cerveza noting that the national force remained intact based on the assessment made.

“We are actually attempting to identify the number of soldiers loyal to Misuari and leaders loyalty to him,” Cerveza said.

At least 30 commanders from the national security force attended the meeting, giving their insights on the organization’s decades of existence as a revolutionary force.

One of the goals of the loyalty check, Cerveza said, was to consolidate, solidify and fortify the ranks of the MNLF.

“At present, I would say that the entire force is solid based on what the commanders and their people had manifested during the series of meetings,” Cerveza said.

He said they will be visiting MNLF camps for an inventory of military armaments and troops in our desire to check the moral of the rank and file.

“We’re just a little bit wary because we are in a situation of no peace and no war,” Cerveza said.

No compromise on dispute — China

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 9): No compromise on dispute — China

Wang rejects 'unreasonable demands from small countries'

China will never accept “unreasonable demands from smaller countries” nor will it make any compromise on territorial and historical issues, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday apparently referring to President Aquino’s insistence for China to recognize United Nations (UN) mediation in the simmering territorial dispute between both countries.

A recent incident in which a Chinese Coast Guard ship sprayed water on Filipino fishermen to drive them off a fishing ground near Scarborough Shoal had sparked new diplomatic friction between both countries.

“On the two issues of principle, history and territory, there’s no room for compromise,” Wang said at a press conference in Beijing.

Wang said his country would vigorously defend its sovereignty, declaring there was “no room for compromise” with Japan over territory or history.

“We will never bully smaller countries yet we will never accept unreasonable demands from smaller countries,” Wang Yi told reporters.

“On issues of territory and sovereignty, China’s position is firm and clear: We will not take anything that isn’t ours, but we will defend every inch of territory that belongs to us.”

China is embroiled in disputes with several of its neighbors including the Philippines and Japan, with tensions centred on rival claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

Beijing asserts that almost all the South China Sea is its territory but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

The dispute with Tokyo is particularly tense given historical animosities between the two countries over Japan’s invasion of China in the 1930s and 40s.

Beijing and Tokyo both claim a small uninhabited archipelago in the East China Sea, administered by Japan as the Senkaku Islands, but which China calls the Diaoyu Islands.

Chinese officials and state media have this year demanded that Japan reflect on its historical aggression and atrocities, in much the same manner as postwar Germany has with its Nazi past.

Wang talked to reporters on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress, China’s communist-controlled legislature.

“If some people in Japan insist on overturning the verdict on its past aggression I don’t believe the international community and all peace loving people in the world will ever tolerate or condone that,” he said.

Tensions between the two have risen markedly since 2012 when Tokyo purchased islands in the chain it did not already own from their private Japanese owners. Beijing has taken an increasingly hard line on the issue ever since.

Ships and aircraft from both countries regularly patrol waters around the contested territory and have on occasion come perilously close to armed clashes.

Some, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have mentioned the dispute within the context of World War I, when European powers Germany and Britain went to war.

Wang, a career diplomat who has served at China’s embassy in Tokyo and speaks Japanese, discounted such a comparison at the press conference.

“I wish to emphasise that 2014 is not 1914, still less 1894,” he said. The latter year marks the start of the First Sino-Japanese War, which ended in victory by Japan in 1895, marking that country’s rise as a regional power after more than two centuries of isolation.

“Instead of using Germany before the First World War as an object lesson, why not use Germany after the Second World War as a role model?” Wang added.

The United States, China and Japan are the world’s three biggest economies, while Tokyo has a security pact with Washington, which is treaty-bound to come to its defence if it is attacked.
Wang became foreign minister in March last year as China completed a once-a-decade leadership transition that saw Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping become state president.

He reiterated Beijing’s calls for dialogue to resolve the issue of the nuclear programme of North Korea, which receives most of its trade and aid from China.

“All along, we have a red line, that is we will never allow war or instability on the Korean peninsula,” he said, adding that “mutual mistrust”, particularly between Pyongyang and Washington, was preventing a resolution.

Wang also stressed the need for discussions in Ukraine, where forces of China’s ally Russia are in effective control of Crimea.

“The priority now is to exercise calm and restraint and to prevent further escalation of the situation,” he said. “The parties should carry out dialogue and consultation to put the issue on the track of a political settlement.”

Despite tensions with the US over issues including mutual suspicions related to defence and cyber security, Wang gave an overall upbeat assessment of ties.

“The Asia-Pacific should be the testing ground of our commitment to build a new model of relations rather than a competitive arena,” he said.

Aquino had demanded an explanation from China over the Scarborough Shoal incident.

Aquino said the foreign department had been asked to file a “diplomatic message”, a day after the incident at the shoal was reported.

“The first step would be a diplomatic message... directed at the People’s Republic of China to ask them to explain what this incident was all about, what their intentions are,” Aquino told reporters, when asked whether a formal protest would be lodged.

Scarborough Shoal is a rocky outcrop, considered a traditional fishing ground by Filipinos, which lies just 220km off the main Philippine island of Luzon. It is about 650km from Hainan island, the nearest major Chinese land mass.
The South China Sea is one of the world’s most important waterways, home to vital shipping lanes and believed to sit atop lucrative mineral deposits.

Both sides engaged in a tense standoff in the area in April 2012, which ended with the Philippines retreating from the shoal.

Aquino acknowledged that Philippine security officials were “not sure at this point in time” whether spraying water cannon at Filipino fishermen was a standard operating procedure by Chinese vessels in the area. “We don’t want to react to a one-off incident,” Aquino said.

Aquino said that as of yesterday there were Filipino fishermen at the shoal “who were not being harassed or intimidated by any entity”.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Emmanuel Bautista said the incident occurred on January 27, although he did not divulge further details and it was not clear whether any Filipinos were hurt.

China refused to directly respond to the allegations, insisting only that it had “indisputable sovereignty” over the area.

China claims most of the South China Sea on historical grounds, including waters near the coasts of its neighbours.

Last year, the Aquino administration asked a United Nations arbitration tribunal to rule on the validity of China’s claim to most of the sea, but Beijing has rejected the process.

CPP: Video -- Maria Malaya greets Filipino women on International Working Women's Day

Propaganda video posted to the CPP Website (Mar 7): Video: Maria Malaya greets Filipino women on International Working Women's Day 


CPP/NDF: Mensahe ng Pagkundena sa Pampulitikang Persekusyon sa Maragondon, Cavite

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Mar 6): Mensahe ng Pagkundena sa Pampulitikang Persekusyon sa Maragondon, Cavite (Message of Condemnation of Political Persecution in Maragondon, Cavite)

Simeon Magdiwang
NDFP Cavite Provincial Chapter
Mariing kinukundena ng National Democratic Front-Cavite ang pampulitikang panunupil ng rehimeng US-Aquino sa Barangay Patungan, Maragondon. Noong madaling araw ng ika-21 ng Pebrero, parang mga aswang na naghasik ng lagim ang mga reaksyunaryong pulis sa tahimik na nayon ng Barangay Patungan.

Sa kanilang kadesperaduhan, pinagtulung-tulungan pa ng mga elemento ng Cavite Provincial Public Safety Company, Special Weapons and Tactics o SWAT, 734th Combat Squadron ng Philippine Air Force, at Maragondon Municipal Police Station ang naturang operasyon. Pinamunuan ito ni Police Chief Inspector Egbert B. Tibayan sa direktang superbisyon ni Police Superintendent Dominic T. Bedia.

Nais pa sanang palihim na arestuhin ng mga reaksyunaryong pulis sina William Castillano, 60 taong gulang, at Lorenzo Obrado, 59 taong gulang, at tatlong iba pang kasapi ng Samahan ng Mangingisda sa Barangay Patungan.

Nagtanim ang mga reaksyunaryong tropa ng gubyernong Aquino ng mga armas at bomba sa bahay ng mga biktima at sinampahan sila ng gawa-gawang kaso na illegal possession of firearms at explosives, kasabay ng pagkakalat ng motibong mga kasapi sila ng New People’s Army.

Bago pa ang pangyayaring ito, kaparehong kaso na rin ng pag-aresto at pagsasampa ng gawa-gawang kaso ng illegal possession of firearms ang ginawa ng mga reaksyunaryong pulis sa pinalalabas na kasapi umano ng NPA sa Barangay Patungan.
Isang desperadong hakbang ng rehimeng US-Aquino ang naturang pampulitikang persekusyon at pag-uugnay ng ligal na demokratikong kilusang masa sa NPA sapagkat layunin ng reaksyonaryong gubyerno na bigyang katwiran ang kanilang marahas na atake sa mamamayan, paghahasik ng lagim at pagtatanim ng takot sa mga komunidad kung saan tumitining ang pakikibaka ng mamamayan.

Indikasyon ito ng lumalakas na kilusang masa sa isang panig, at pagkakalantad ng pagtatanggol ng reaksyunaryong gubyernong Aquino sa mga panginoong maylupa, dambuhalang depeloper at komprador-burges, sa kabilang panig.

Malaking bahagi o katumbas ng 602 ektarya ng Brgy. Patungan ay nasasakupan ng Hacienda Looc na nais idebelop ng Manila Soutcoast Development Corporation at SM Investment Corporation, mga negosyong pinagmamay-arian ng dambuhalang komprador-burges na si Henry Sy. Balak ni Sy na idebelop ang erya para tayuan ng mga pribadong negosyo at high-class na resort at iba pang libangan ng mayayaman.
Samantalang may ilang bahagi naman ang barangay na kinakamkam ng mga panginoong maylupa na sina Leonides Virata at Panlilio, na kamakailan ay naging marahas ang atake sa mga mangingisda sa barangay dahil sa pagtatambak nila ng mga security guards sa mga pasukan at labasan ng barangay. Ipinagbawal nila ang pagtatayo ng mga kongkretong bahay sa barangay at kinokontrol ang paglaba-masok ng mga tao at kalakal dito.

Bahagi ng sistematikong plano ng rehimeng US-Aquino ang pagtatambal ng taktika ng pananakot at panunupil kasabay ng pagpapatupad nito ng 12 kontra-mamamayang proyekto sa payong ng National Reclamation Plan sa lalawigan. Kabuhayan at paninirahan ng halos 30,000 pamilya ng maralitang lungsod at maliit na mangingisda ang wawasakin ng naturang proyekto. Ngunit titiyaking ng rehimeng US-Aquino hindi magiging hadlang ang mamamayan sa pagpipyesta nila ng mga amo nitong dambuhalang dayuhang pribadong negosyo at lokal na kumprador-burges sa yaman ng lalawigan.

Kasuklam-suklam ang ganitong mga pagyurak ng reaksyunaryong hukbong sandatahan ng rehimeng Aquino sa karapatang pantao na nagpapatunay na walang pinag-iba ang kasalukuyang rehimen sa nagdaang rehimen – pare-pareho silang pasista, kontra-mamamayan at makadayuhan. Ang “tuwid na daan” ni Aquino ay walang iba kundi ang madugong daan maghahatid sa sambayanan tungo sa mas malalim na karalitaan.
Kung tunay na tapat sa kanyang pinamumunuan ang kasalukuyang lokal na gubyerno sa pamumuno ni Jonvic Remulla at Ramon Revilla III, hindi naman dapat nila isasantabi ang ganitong kaso ng paglabag sa karapatang-pantao. Kung ganap na hinuhubaran ng ganitong paglabag sa karapatang pantao ang ilusyon ng dilaw na demokrasya, dapat na ipakita ng lokal na gubyerno ang kaibahan nito kay Aquino.

Kung gayon, hindi dapat natin ipagtaka kung paparami nang paparami ang sumasapi sa Bagong Hukbong Bayan at sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa gitna ng ganitong pagsikil sa karapatang pantao. Hindi dapat ipagtaka kung namumulat ang taumbayan sa tunay na kulay ng estadong neokolonyal ng rehimeng US-Aquino—na isang marahas na makinarya lamang ito ng naghaharing uri upang protektahan ang makauring interes nito.

Huwag nating hayaang tumimo sa ating diwa ang takot, at ibayong ibaling ang ating pangamba sa higit na katapangang harapin ang mga atake ng reaksyon. Patunayan nating kailanma’y hindi kayang maapula ng rehimeng US-Aquino ang ating nag-aapoy na pakikibaka laban sa pangangamkam sa ating lugar panirahan at kabuhayan.

Panahon na upang agawin ng uring api at pinagsasamantalahan ang pampulitikang kapangyarihan, durugin ang hasyenderong estado ng pangkating US-Aquino at itindig ang gubyernong bayan na tunay na maglilingkod sa uring anakpawis.

Kung kaya, nananawagan kami sa aming mga kababayang Kabitenyo na isanib ang ating lakas sa kilusang masang nagsusulong pambansa-demokratikong rebolusyon. Ipagpapatuloy nito ang nabalam na rebolusyong ng Katipunan—isang rebolusyong maghahatid ng ganap na pagbabagong panlipunang mayroong tunay na kalayaan at demokrasya.

Patalsikin ang pasista at pahirap na rehimeng US-Aquino!
Mabuhay ang sambayanang nakikibaka!
Mabuhay ang demorkratikong rebolusyong bayan!

CPP/NDF: Revolution is the only enduring path towards the genuine liberation of women

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Mar 8): Revolution is the only enduring path towards the genuine liberation of women

Jorge Madlos (Ka Oris)
NDFP Mindanao Chapter
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Mindanao gives praise to all toiling Filipino women on the celebration of International Women’s Day, saluting revolutionary women in particular for their perseverance in consistently carrying forward the struggle for genuine women’s liberation along the line of the national democratic revolution.

The exploitation and oppression of women continues to intensify under the present semi-feudal and semi-colonial system, which is perpetuated by US imperialism and its local lackeys whose current handpicked head of state, Benigno Aquino III, treats women like objects. Filipino women suffer greatly under a social order that perpetuates women as passive, inferior, decorative members of society and domestic slaves, given only tokenistic recognition of their rights, unheeding to the struggles of their sector.

In the Mindanao countryside, empowered women play an active role in the campaigns to advance the minimum program of the revolutionary agrarian reform, securing some economic gains for the communities and women position in the budding revolutionary local organs of political power. Women Communist Party members are highly dedicated in their service to the people’s revolution. They occupy leadership positions in guerrilla fronts, platoon committees of the New People’s Army and revolutionary mass organizations. Brave women Red commanders and fighters have excelled in many tactical offensives launched by the NPA.

The aggressive expansion of large-scale plantations in Mindanao, such as those owned by agri-giants Dole, Del Monte and Sumifru, aggravate the suffering of women peasants and agricultural workers. In the face of widespread people’s resistance, however, these multinationals are hindered from their usual operations of exploitation and expansion. These profit-hungry monopolies rely on naked fascism to rid themselves of these hindrances. But, women peasants have shown extraordinary daring in the fight against massive land grabbing, militarization and environmental destruction. They are the inspiration of women commanders and Red fighters who have participated in NPA punitive actions against these companies.

Women workers suffer even more by receiving inhuman wages and labouring under extremely poor conditions. In urban areas, more and more women are unemployed and forced to leave their children and families behind in search of better-paying albeit demeaning jobs overseas. Thousands of youths are compelled to stop their schooling because of the Aquino III regime’s utter disregard for their wellbeing by grossly misusing the budget supposedly allotted for basic social services especially for education, pushing women youth to the brink of hopelessness and misfortune. As it is, many Filipino families suffer from hunger, destitution, and are often veered towards criminality and other forms of anti-social activities.

Women and children in areas hit by supertyphoons, such as the recent typhoons Sendong, Pablo and Yolanda, are predisposed to hunger and deprived of shelter and sources of livelihood. Up to now, aid for relief and rehabilitation from the reactionary government remain meagre; the lives of millions in typhoon-hit areas have not recovered an inch ever since the tragedy. Similarly, hundreds of women and their children continue to reap the dire effects of the reactionary state’s militarist handling of last year’s Zamboanga siege. Due to government neglect, the evacuees have continue to have no homes to return to; a number have died of illnesses in the evacuation area, and, as reports have it, some have fallen victim to rape and other forms of crime and harassment.

Bangsamoro women, for their part, must be critical of recently signed Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the MILF and the GPH because, contrary to what has been declared by the Aquino III government, this so-called peace pact cannot guarantee their liberation from the traditional bondage feudal exploitation, oppression and chauvinism. They must never allow the reactionary government to render worthless the gains of the armed struggle of the Moro people, which they have waged for decades for the realization of their right to self-determination.

The US-Aquino regime is without doubt anti-people and anti-women. The interests of its own class and its imperialist master shamelessly take precedence over the interests of its own people. The policies and programs of Aquino III’s administration only serve to aggravate the exploitation and oppression of the Filipino people, most especially women. It is only necessary therefore to strengthen efforts at arousing and organizing millions of women for an organized struggle in the assertion of their rights and welfare.

The national democratic revolution on the other hand fully recognizes the rights of women and struggles for their genuine liberation. And to achieve them, armed revolution has been recognized as the only enduring path. Many Filipino women have responded to the call of the revolution and organized themselves into the MAKIBAKA, an allied revolutionary organization of women in the NDFP.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we call upon all women and the people in general to join the growing movement for the ouster of Benigno Aquino III. Amplify the call: Oust Aquino III now!

We also call on more women to join the ranks of women cadres and revolutionaries in the countryside as their great contribution to further the advancement of the women struggle for liberation and the attainment of the eventual victory of the people’s war towards socialism.

NPA rebels gun down suspected military asset

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): NPA rebels gun down suspected military asset

New People's Army (NPA) members gunned down a "habal-habal" (motorcycle-for-hire) driver who was on his way home with his wife in Barangay San Vicente, Cawayan, Masbate, at about 8:00 p.m. Friday.

A police report identified the victim who died on the spot as Vicente Maquilan, 35, a resident of the village.

It said Maquilan and wife Maricel were on their way home when the suspects armed with M-16 armalite rifles stopped them, asked Maricel to step down from the motorcycle and executed the victim, who sustained gunshot wounds on his head and body.

The communist dissidents casually walked away from the crime scene, leaving Maquilan’s dead body sprawled on the road shoulder.

Maricel immediately asked for help from the residents of the place to bring the victim’s body to the Cawayan Rural Health Unit for autopsy.

Police said the NPA rebels suspected Maquilan of being a military and police asset who allegedly supplied information on the activities of the rebel in their area.

His wife, however, denied the accusation, adding that Maquilan was just a simple habal-habal driver from where he got his income for the expenses of his family, especially for their young children.

Army troopers nabbed 2 lawless elements in Zamboanga Sibugay operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): Army troopers nabbed 2 lawless elements in Zamboanga Sibugay operations

Troopers from the 44th Infantry Battalion and the local police have arrested two brigands during operations in Barangay Tenan, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay Saturday morning.

Capt. Jefferson Mamauag, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, identified the arrested lawless elements as Hajer Dunggan and Alvin Prontosa, both members of the band headed by one Mamay Aburi.

He added that the suspects were nabbed around 5: 30 a.m.

Government forces conducted the joint law enforcement operation by virtue of Warrant of Arrest case number I-5472 and 5473.

Aburi’s group is notorious for kidnapping, extortion and piracy in Zamboanga Sibugay.

The group was responsible for the kidnapping of Alexa Dela Cruz of Barangay Kima, Payao last Jan. 11.

Recovered from the suspects were one M-16 automatic rifle, an M-14, one Garand rifle, two fragmentation grenades, one commercial detonating cord, assorted ammunition and three motorized pump boats.

Three other members of the group escaped and evaded arrest.

The suspects were turned-over to the Police Provincial Office in Ipil for investigation and appropriate filling of the case.

US guided missile cruiser visiting Manila Sunday

From InterAksyon (Mar 8): US guided missile cruiser visiting Manila Sunday

The guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens (US Embassy handout)

An American guided missile cruiser is arriving in Manila Sunday as the Philippine and US governments reach the last stage of negotiations to craft a framework agreement allowing the increased rotational presence of American forces in the country amid the maritime dispute between Manila and Beijing.

USS Cowpens (CG 63), a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, will arrive in Manila on Sunday, March 9, for a routine port call that highlights the strong historic, community, and military connections between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines,” a statement released Saturday,” a statement from the US Embassy in Manila said.

“This visit will allow the ship to replenish supplies as well as give the crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation. While in Manila, the sailors of the USS Cowpens are eager to enjoy the city and strengthen their understanding of a country with strong historical ties to the United States and the US Navy,” the statement added.

The cruiser of the US Pacific Fleet is commanded by Captain Gregory W. Gombert with a crew of approximately 360 sailors, of whom about 20 are Filipino-Americans.

US naval warships including aircraft carriers have been frequenting the country since China renewed its excessive territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea in 2011.

In April 2012, a standoff between the Philippines and China occurred at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc off Zambales. The area is well within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the country but which China is trying to grab using its so-called nine-dash-line claim over the South China Sea.

Since then China has virtually roped off Panatag and continues to reject diplomatic protests by Manila.

The Philippine government had no recourse but to challenge the legality of China’s nine-dash line before an international tribunal for arbitration where it filed a complaint in January 2013.

China has also intruded into and maintains a rotational presence in Ayungin Reef, part of the Kalayaan Island Group municipality in Palawan. The Philippine Marines had for decades hosted a detachment there.

Palace welcomes outcome of PHL-US dialogue on bilateral relations

From InterAksyon (Mar 9): Palace welcomes outcome of PHL-US dialogue on bilateral relations

The outcome of the 4th Philippines-United States Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) held from March 6 to 7 in Washington, D.C. was welcomed by Malacanang Saturday.

The dialogue reaffirmed the two countries’ close consultation and exchange of views on bilateral, regional, and global issues.

It was co-chaired by Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Evan Garcia and Undersecretary of National Defense Pio Lorenzo F. Batino for the Philippines.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Russel and Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Kelly Magsamen co-chaired for the United States.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message to reporters covering the Palace that the result of the dialogue further strengthened the bilateral relations of both countries.

“The outcome of the dialogue affirms the principles underpinning the strategic partnership between the two countries and bodes well on the further strengthening of bilateral relations,” Coloma said.

According to a media note from the U.S. Department of State website, during the dialogue, the United States reiterated its sympathies over the tragic loss of life and devastation caused by typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) in the Philippines last November.

The Philippines, on the other hand, expressed its deep appreciation for the assistance given by the U.S. in the aftermath of the storm.

Both countries also reaffirmed their commitment to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, discussed actions that would further invigorate and expand their partnership in the spirit of the November 2011 Manila Declaration, and decided to expand cooperation in the areas of maritime domain awareness, disaster response preparedness, law enforcement, and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

They welcomed the current negotiations on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and expressed optimism for a successful conclusion.

Concern over recent developments in the South China Sea was also expressed by both countries, where the importance of upholding peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded lawful commerce, and freedom of navigation and overflight was raised.

Many other topics were brought up during the dialogue, including the U.S. assistance under the Global Security Contingency Fund, which focuses on Philippine maritime security, law enforcement, and counter-terrorism training and capacity building, support for the United Nations peacekeeping operations, among other topics.

PHL military sends search planes, boats to help locate missing Malaysian plane

From InterAksyon (Mar 8): PHL military sends search planes, boats to help locate missing Malaysian plane

Officers of the Western Command in Palawan map out plans to join search and rescue operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. (AFP/Western Command handout)

The commander of the West Philippine Sea (WPS) has sent search-and-rescue plane and naval assets to help locate the Boeing B777-200 aircraft of Malaysian Airlines with 227 passengers and 12 crew that went missing two hours after takeoff and possibly crashed into the sea.

Lt. Gen. Roy Deveratruda, commander of the Western Command (Westcom), said he sent assets for search-and-rescue operations as reports from abroad said the plane’s last contact came as it flew over the South China Sea, near Vietnam’s air space.

Vietnamese, Chinese and Malaysian authorities are all conducting their own searches.
Beijing-bound Flight MH 370 departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.21 a.m. (1621 GMT Friday) and had been expected to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. (2230 GMT) the same day.

The aircraft lost contact at around 2:40 a.m. and is believed to be between Vietnam and WPS.

Deveraturda said the BRP Del Pilar (PF 15), BRP Jacinto (PS 35), and BRP Mabini (PS 36) along with a surveillance plane have been dispatched for search operations in the WPS, including the sea lanes of Palawan.

PH 'won't rush' pact on increased US presence for Obama visit

From Interaksyon (Mar 9): PH 'won't rush' pact on increased US presence for Obama visit

The Philippines said Saturday it would not rush to complete a defense accord with the United States just so it can be sealed by the time President Barack Obama visits next month.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said there was no timetable to complete the agreement on the increased rotational presence of US troops and equipment in the Philippines.

The agreement, which the two close allies have been discussing for several years, is seen as part of a Philippine effort to counter China's aggressive moves to back its claims to most of the South China Sea, which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

Asked by reporters if the accord would be completed before Obama's visit, Coloma said, "the government's priority is not with a timetable or with rushing something."

"In our view, it is not deadlines but the quality and content of the agreement that is more worthy of attention," he added.

Coloma also hailed the just-concluded Philippine-US bilateral strategic dialogue in Washington where both sides expressed concern for "recent developments" in the West Philippine Sea as well as the need to respect international law and freedom of navigation in those waters.

"The outcome of the dialogue affirms the principles underpinning the strategic partnership between the two countries," he said.

Many observers believed the agreement would be completed ahead of Obama's visit to the Philippines as part of an Asian tour in April.

The Philippines has been hoping for increased US assistance for its poorly equipped military amid growing territorial tensions with China.

China claims virtually all of the West Philippines Sea, a major shipping lane that is also a rich fishing ground and is believed to sit on vast mineral resources.

The Philippines along with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam all have competing claims to parts of the strategic sea.

Security forces capture 2 kidnappers in Zamboanga province

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Mar 8): Security forces capture 2 kidnappers in Zamboanga province

Philippine soldiers and policemen captured two members of a notorious kidnap for ransom syndicate during a raid Saturday in the southern province of Zamboanga Sibugay.

Capt. Jefferson Mamauag, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, said Hajer Dunggan and Alvin Prontosa were captured in their hideout in Tinan village in Ipil town, but three others managed to escape and are being hunted down by authorities.

He said security forces led by Lt. Col. Yegor Rey Barroquillo, commander of the 44th Infantry Battalion, also seized three automatic rifles and two fragmentation grenades, including munitions and detonating cord and three motorized pump boats the gang is using in their illegal activities.

Mamauag said the captured men were also involved in the kidnapping of five-year old Alexa Dela Cruz in January this year in Payao town. The child was released unharmed the next month.

“The group is notorious for kidnapping, extortion and piracy in Zamboanga Sibugay province,” he said, adding the gang was again planning to strike in Pagadian City.

Maj. Gen. Felicito Virgilio Trinidad, the division commander, commended troops and policemen for the capture of the kidnappers.

Sulu peace council tackles security issues in province

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Mar 9): Sulu peace council tackles security issues in province

Various sectors and civil society organizations have thrown their support to the efforts of the provincial government and local authorities to address to the peace and order situation in Sulu.

Sulu Vice Governor presided over the meeting of the Provincial Peace and Order Council where different issues and recommendations and other measures to curtail activities of criminal groups have been discussed, according to the Sulu Area Coordination Center. 

It said some of the immediate actions that are being considered are to increase police visibility and security checkpoints and the installation of closed circuit televisions in various towns in the province.

The meeting was attended by different town mayors and representatives of various government agencies and law enforcement units, including the business and religious sectors.

Emotional appeal

One resident of Sulu even used Facebook to appeal and plead to fellow Tausug for cooperation and unity in view of the spate of abductions in the province.

In her emotional post, she said: “The distressing events that have unfolded over the past few days are intolerable. Sulu is our home. The Tausug people are our brothers and sisters. We are a family and family members are supposed to take care of each other. From one private citizen who is deprived of my freedom to enjoy the beauty of my province because of negative elements that are threatening my sense of security, I plead to my fellow Tausugs to galvanize in unity to thwart the wrong doers.”

“Let us be vigilant. Let us look after one another. Let us help the local government, in our own little way, with their efforts to bring back the peace that some are trying to steal away from us. Let us not be selfish and think only of ourselves. Let us refuse to live in fear. Let us fight for our right to have a good life. If we work hand in hand, barbarity can never dominate us. Again, Sulu is our home. Let us protect and defend it with our very own life. This province belongs to the majority and not to the very few whose only aim is to wreak havoc. The majority wants peace and that is what should prevail. No amount of bullet can surpass the power of prayers. So tonight let us pray for everyone's safety. As cliché as it may sound but this too shall pass,” she said.

Evil acts

Authorities have also appealed to the public to cooperate and be vigilant in their day to day activities. “Please report to authorities any suspicious persons or activities in your community. Your cooperation in crime prevention is very important,” the Sulu Area Coordination Center said.

“The relentless barrage of evil acts by lawless and dubious elements against peace-loving communities of Sulu can never cow the Tausug residents and their authorities to stoop down to mimic their ill-fated ways. Some call for oppressive interventions, in clear endorsement to imitate their preferred style, as a mean for reprisal against those criminals. But Sulu's leadership and its network of allies for peace and development will never ever deviate from the rule of law and respect for human rights that is the better option.”

“The nemeses are the culprits, not the authorities, no matter deficiencies may have been committed by those in the front line. Help them to be stronger and more effective, not help lawless to strike them down. All are in agreement that more solid actions must be taken, though the current leadership has never been remiss in the collective resolve to combat lawlessness,” the coordinating body said.

The Sulu Area Coordination Center - built during the time of then Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan - is where various agencies converge to address issues, resolve conflicts and find the best solution to current problems besetting the province. It is headed by local government officials and the military and police as members.
It was is a facility established as a proactive, reactive, and post conflict mechanism to address various concerns at regional and local levels of governance and to solve problems of coordination and response.

The Sulu Area Coordinating Center also functions both as a system and as a council for planning, integrating, directing, supervising, and implementing line-up government programs and projects particularly on political, socioeconomic, cultural, religious, development, security and information issues.
The province has a total of 20 Area Coordinating Centers – one for each of Sulu’s 19 towns and the central headquarters in Patikul town.

Anti-kidnapping task force

Just in February, police authorities said it up a Special Anti-Kidnapping Task Force to address the threats of kidnappings and abductions in Sulu.

Gov. Totoh Tan Tan said the creation of the anti-kidnapping task force by the police is long overdue “if we take into consideration the spate of incidences in the province, but nevertheless, as they say, better late than never.”

Tan has previously said that many kidnapped victims were taken from other provinces and cities only to bring and hide them in Sulu, dragging the province to a situation that gives a bad impression to the local peace and order situation.