Sunday, March 9, 2014

More NPA men surrender

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 10): More NPA men surrender

Six more self-confessed members of the New People’s Army, including four in Negros,  surrendered to infantry units of the 3rd Infantry Division in Negros and Panay, within the first two months of this year.

This brought to 50 the number of NPA members who had abandoned the armed struggle in Nergros and Panay since last year, Maj. Rey Tiongson, 3ID spokesman, yesterday said.

On March 6, a certain Sonny Boy Senda, alias Ka Raymund,  who confessed being  a member of Squad 3, Sentro De Grabidad platoon of the South East Front, surrendered to the 79th Infantry Battalion in Siaton, Negros Oriental, military records show.

Two days after, 79IB troopers and about 15 NPA members figured in about 15 minutes of running gunbattle in Brgy. Bahi-an, Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

Tiongson said an M16 armalite rifle with two magazines of ammunition, a back pack containing personal belongings and subversive documents, believed  left behind by fleeing rebels, were recovered at the encounter site.

He said the return of several NPA members to  mainstream society and abandonment of their 44 camps last years are indications of the waning revolutionary organization in the region.

Of the 44 NPA  camps discovered by government troopers, Tiongson said 24 are in Negros and 20 in Panay.

4 killed, 3 wounded as NPA rebels raid police station in Davao del Sur

From InterAksyon (Mar 10): 4 killed, 3 wounded as NPA rebels raid police station in Davao del Sur

At least two policemen and two New People’s Army rebels were killed while three policemen were wounded during an NPA raid before dawn Monday at the police station in Barangay Poblacion, Matanao, Davao del Sur.

Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesman of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), said the rebels raided the police station at around 4:30 a.m.

“Reinforcing troops of the 39th Infantry Battalion encountered the escaping rebels. Initial result is there were two rebel body counts,” Caber said.

He said the rebels who attacked the police station belonged to NPA Front 72 of led by Joan Casamurin alias Joan.

Killed during the raid were Police Officer 1 Manolo Booc and PO3 Danny Moalong.
The wounded were identified as Inspector Renato Uy, PO1 Gilbert Legaspi, and PO1 Sherwin Cadungog.

Caber said the rebels came from KM71 wearing camouflage uniform on board an Elf truck, a jeep, and motorcycles. After the raid, the rebels withdrew toward Barangay Savoy.

The Tactical Operations Group 11 of the Philippine Air Force sent two MG520 attack helicopters to provide air support for the pursuing ground troops.

Two UH-IH helicopters (Huey) were also sent to provide support.

3 NPA rebels surrender in Zamboanga Del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): 3 NPA rebels surrender in Zamboanga Del Sur

Three members of the New People's Army (NPA), tired of the incessant fighting, has voluntarily surrendered to troopers of the 5th Infantry Battalion in Purok 5, Sitio Limamawan, Barangay Sigacad, Bayog, Zamboanga Del Sur Saturday night.

The latter is a sub-unit of the 1st Infantry Division.

Capt. Jefferson Mamamuag, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said these rebels are all members of the NPA under Secom Feliciano Alpha, Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee.

The voluntarily surrender of the three took place around 8:45 p.m.

Mamauag identified them as Jenjen Noay, 18; Denden Noay, 20; and Bryan Noay, 25, all residents of Purok 5, Sitio Limamawan, Barangay Sigacad in Bayog, Zamboanga Del Sur.

The former rebels also surrendered one Springfield rifle, a 7.62-mm single shot homemade rifle and one fragmentation grenade.

44 NPA camps captured in Negros, Panay

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): 44 NPA camps captured in Negros, Panay

With the military's "Bayanihan" strategy now on full steam, the Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division is pleased to announce that 44 New People's Army (NPA) camps in Negros and Panay were captured by its troopers in 2013.

What made this accomplishment more significant is that concerned civilians reported the location of the rebel bases to the military, 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson Major Ray Tiongson said.

He added that the number of NPA camps captured can be broken down into 24 in Negros and 20 in Panay.

Tiongson also said that 44 rebel fighters have also decided to abandon the armed struggle and joined the mainstream society last year.

"While from January to February of this year, six NPA members (4 in Negros and 2 in Panay) left the armed movement and returned to democratic folds of the government," the 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson said.

Last March 6, a certain Sonny Boy Senda, a resident of Barangay Apoloy, Siaton, Negros Oriental and a member of Squad 3, Sentro De Grabidad (SDG) Platoon of the Southeast Front, Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros (SEF, KR-N) decided to turn over himself to the troops of 79IB.

According Senda, he was misled by the NPA leadership in Negros and realized that armed struggle is just adding up to the problems of his province.

The return of several NPA members to democratic folds and the abandonment of their camps are indications of the waning rebel organization in the region.

"According to these former rebels, they have realized that armed struggle is a futile cause and not the solution to our societal problems," Tiongson added.

He added that surrendered rebels have also seen the efforts of the military, the local government units and agencies, civil society organizations, and the citizens who have been working together in the spirit of "bayanihan" in addressing the issues especially in the countryside.

“We remain committed in our efforts to secure the local communities from lawless armed elements and likewise pursue our goal for Negros Oriental and the rest of the region to be free from insurgency. Together with other stakeholders, we will win the peace in the region and move forward for development to thrive in the countryside," 3rd Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad concluded.

New set of international peace monitors to arrive in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): New set of international peace monitors to arrive in Mindanao

The current members of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in the implementation of the government and Moro rebel ceasefire agreement are to end their tour of duty Wednesday and a new set of peace observers will replace them, officials said.

The tour of duty of the current IMT, led by Malaysian military officers, will end on March 12, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said in a statement.

It said that IMT Mission 9 will replace the current group whose mandate will end on March 12, 2014.

Tasked to monitor the implementation of GPH-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ceasefire agreement, civilian protection component, rehabilitation and development, and socio-economic agreements between the government and the MILF, the IMT contributed a lot in eliminating unnecessary skirmishes between government forces and Moro rebels.

The tour of duty of IMT expires in March but both peace panels agreed to extend its mission until March 2015.

In a statement, the OPAPP said both the government and MILF peace panels agreed to merge IMT sites 4 and 5.

IMT Site 4 is based in General Santos City and covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani and Davao del Sur.

IMT Site 5, on the other hand, is based in Davao City and covers the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Speaking for the MILF, Von Al Haq said the peace panels also agreed to reduce the number of IMT members to 36, with Malaysia still having the highest number of peace monitors.

“Both peace panels agreed to reduce the current 60 member IMT to just 36 personnel and 14 will be Malaysians, Indonesia and Brunei will have nine observers each, Japan and Norway with two each,” he said.

Mohaqher Iqbal, chief MILF negotiator, repeatedly lauded the IMT personnel for devoting time and energy “so that the ceasefire agreement is fully and effectively implemented.”Al Haq said he was both sad and happy with the departure of IMT-8.

He said he was sad the team is leaving but at the same time happy since it was during the tour of duty of IMT-8 that both the government and the MILF have signed the Bangsamoro Framework and Agreement (FAB) and the four annexes.

Iqbal, on the other hand, said the MILF leadership remains hopeful the Comprehensive Peace Agreement will be signed within the next few days.

Malacanang had said the agreement is expected to be signed before the end of March as stipulated in the road map to peace in Mindanao of President Aquino.

The talks that began in 1997 was aimed at ending four decades of armed conflict in southern Philippines which, according to Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, the first Mindanao Cardinal, was borne out of mistrust and poverty among its people.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which Iqbal chairs, is also winding up its tasks of drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will create a new Bangsamoro government in Mindanao, replacing the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Army, PNP arrest 9 NPAs after attack on Davao Sur town police office

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): Army, PNP arrest 9 NPAs after attack on Davao Sur town police office

Police and military authorities here announced the arrest of nine suspected members of the communist New Peoples Army (NPA) who raided the police station of Matanao town in Davao del Sur that left two cops dead and three others hurt.

Senior Superintendent Ronaldo Llanera, Davao Sur police provincial director, said the nine were among the more than 50 NPAs, led by Felix Armodia, alias Commander Jing, who attack the Matanao police station around 4:00 a.m. Monday. A shootout ensured until the rebels fled as Army and police reinforcement arrived.

”They are now undergoing tactical interrogation, we have arrested them in Barangay Saboy, also in Matanao,” Llanera told reporters.

Llanera said the attack in Matanao was a diversionary tactic to divert the attention of the military conducting operations against the communist guerrillas following the encounter and land mining of 39th Infantry Battalion troops in nearby Bansalan, also in Davao del Sur.

“We raised our alert level, this could be diversionary tactics because of the military offensive in nearby Bansalan town,” Llanera said.

Llanera withheld the identities of the slain policemen unless their next of kin are fully informed.

Quoting reports from Matanao PNP, Llanera said about 50 rebels on board a jeepney, forward truck and Elf-type truck arrived shortly before 4:00 a.m.

Policemen, although outnumbered, managed to return fire, triggering a gun battle that lasted for about an hour until the rebels fled.

Llanera could not say whether the attackers also suffered fatalities.

Commander Jing is the secretary of Front 72 of the rebels’ Far South Mindanao Regional command.

(Update) 2 cops, 2 NPA rebels killed in Davao del Sur clashes

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): (Update) 2 cops, 2 NPA rebels killed in Davao del Sur clashes

Two policemen and two New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed during separate encounters between government troops and communist band in Davao del Sur province Monday morning.

Reports reaching Camp Crame showed that undetermined number of NPA rebels attacked the Matanao Municipal Police Station (MPS) in Barangay Poblacion, Matanao town at around 4:30 a.m.

Initial reports said that two policemen –PO1 Manolo Booc and PO3 Danny Moalong – were killed during the attack.

Three other policemen, identified as Insp. Renato Uy, PO1 Sherwin Cadungog and PO1 Gilbert Legaspi, were wounded.

While withdrawing towars Barangay Savoy also in Matanao town, the NPA rebels clashed with elements of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion (IB) along Sitio Tagaytay.

Initial reports showed that two NPA rebels were killed during the clash. Their bodies were recovered along with two pickup trucks.

Police tagged members of the NPA’s Front Committee-72 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee as responsible in the attack against the municipal police station.

Pursuit operations are now ongoing against the NPA band.

PHOTO | New panel members for talks on Increased Rotational Presence of American troops in PH

From InterAksyon (Mar 10): PHOTO | New panel members for talks on Increased Rotational Presence of American troops in PH

New panel members on the negotiations for Increased Rotational Presence of American troops in the Philippines, as of 9 March 2014.

Who are the new members of the panel negotiating the Increased Rotational Presence of American soldiers in the Philippines?

Photo from the panel shows that the new members are, from left, Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya, Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, United States Ambassador Eric John, Brigadier General Joaquin Malavet, and Mr. Ben Ogle.

Wounded NPA leader dies despite soldiers’ efforts to save him

From the Philippine Star (Mar 10): Wounded NPA leader dies despite soldiers’ efforts to save him

A wounded New People’s Army (NPA) leader died in a military ambulance while being rushed to the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Station Hospital at Camp Panacan here late Friday night.

According to the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, the NPA leader, Eleazar Romero, sustained multiple gunshot wounds in an encounter with men of the 60th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Tagmailan, New Sibunga, Nabunturan, Compostela Valley earlier that day.

Two soldiers were also wounded in the encounter, which resulted from clashes starting Thursday morning when CAFGU auxiliaries from the Palo Patrol Base of the 72nd IB responded to information on an NPA armed group in Barangay Limbaan in New Corella, Davao del Norte.

A blocking group of the 60th IB encountered the NPA band in Barangay Del Monte, also in New Corella town.

In the noon of the following day, another 60th IB group encountered the same NPA band composed of 12 men.

Last Friday night, 60th IB troops scouring the site of the last encounter in New Sibunga, Nabunturan, Compostela Valley found the wounded Romero.

Romero had been an NPA guerrilla for eight years and was the leader of the armed propaganda group.

The 60th IB troops were unable to call for a helicopter evacuation of Romero and their two wounded colleagues because of the conditions, forcing an evacuation by foot.

“We applied all the first aid techniques we know and had to carry him (Romero) for three hours until we could reach the nearest road where he could be evacuated by ambulance together with our two wounded,” a 60th IB member said.

However, Romero was pronounced dead on arrival at the Camp Panacan Station Hospital.

Lt. Col. Roberto Bunagan, 60th IB commander, commended his men for taking “extraordinary care” in following the rules of engagement.

“Thanks to valuable information from the area, we were able to track down the armed group, and my men were even able to take measures so that there would be no civilians put to danger,“ he said.

MILF: Institute of Bangsamoro Studies

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 9): Institute of Bangsamoro Studies

Submission of policy papers

The Institute of Bangsamoro Studies (IBS) invites academe, think tanks, CSOs, other organizations and individuals nationwide to become part of the crafting of Bangsamoro Basic Law which is being drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in order to establish the Bangsamoro Government, by submitting policy papers on any or all of the following issues.

1. Determination of the formula for the annual block grant for the Bangsamoro

2. Determination of the amount for the special development fund for rehabilitation and development of the Bangamoro

3. Mechanism and details of Bangsamoro  participation in Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) operating in the Bangsamoro

4. Allocation of power and jurisdictions for transportations and communications

5. Mechanisms and areas of cooperation and coordination on customs, tariff and quarantine for operation of ecozones and free ports in the Bangsamoro

6. Shari’ah based and/or Shari’ah compliant financial and banking institutions in the Bangsamoro.

7. Inventory of powers in the GRP-MNLF 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA), RA 9054, tripartite review process of the 1996 FPA, and proposed amendments to RA 9054 by ARMM-Regional Legislative Assembly that maybe considered for inclusion in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law

Although participation in the policy advisory is on a no-fee basis yet it is an opportunity to share ideas for consideration of the BTC.

The policy papers submitted should be double spaced, 5 pages maximum (A4), font 12 times new roman, excluding the appendices. Policy papers shall be submitted to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   on or before March 18, 2014.

Received policy notes within the time frame will be forwarded to the BTC.

For inquiries regarding submission of policy papers and for those who are interested to attend (limited slots) RTDs on the above-mentioned topics, you may call numbers (0939)3022718  (0939)3022718/(0906)9600787 (0906)9600787 or e-mail

MILF: Iqbal -- Sajahatra is Trust

From the MILF Website (Mar 9): Iqbal: Sajahatra is Trust

MILF Chief Peace Negotiator and Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Chairman Mohagher Iqbal urged the recipients of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program to take with utmost care and responsibility the latter because it is the concrete symbol of trust that the MILF and GPH have achieved.
During the service presentation ceremony held at the grounds of the Bangsamoro Leadership & Management Institute (BLMI) on March 4, Iqbal described the Sajahatra as the product of the mutual trust enjoyed by both parties which took “too long, to be exact 17 years.”  
Hence, he emphasized, that “it is but morally upright and for every practical reason that we value and nurture this partnership between the government and the MILF.”

Iqbal characterized the Sajahatra program as “President Aquino’s concrete, socio-economic initiative aimed to uplift the health, education and livelihood conditions of MILF communities.”

“The MILF agreed to this project with the firm belief that this project is in support of the peace process and not in any way similar to the previous government initiatives which were solely counter-insurgency measures,” Iqbal told the crowd made up mostly of MILF beneficiaries and concerned government agencies.

He went on to declare that Sajahatra Bangsamoro is “not the kind of thing that we dreaded before.”

Iqbal was joined by his counterpart GPH Chief Peace Negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF Central Committee Secretary Muhammad Ameen who welcomed everybody to the sprawling compound of BLMI, just few kilometers away from the heart of the MILF’s Camp Darapanan.

Health, education and livelihood

Sajahatra was launched on February 11, 2013 by no less than President Aquino and MILF Chairman Al haj Murad Ebrahim in the same venue. Its Term of Reference was signed exactly two months thereafter.

The program aims to uplift the health, education and livelihood conditions of priority Bangsamoro communities and targeted individual beneficiaries through quick-gestation, high-impact and social protection-type projects.

As of February 2014, PhilHealth insurance cards were already distributed to 1,689 beneficiaries who can use it for emergency cases. 639 students are enrolled as scholars in various state colleges and universities. Dep-Ed is processing funds for 30 madaris for various educational purposes.

Football: Building a better world

From MindaNews (Mar 8): Football: Building a better world

Football. To others, it is a mere sport of kicking a ball into goal posts. But for Sharifa Mae Jumar, it was a window of opportunity.

Malaking tulong po ito para sa akin (This is a big help for me),” she said.

Sharifa is a shy high school student in her fourth year at the Western Mindanao State University and an avid fan of football. Through her passion and through the efforts of the Football For Peace Program (FFP), she has been able to reach milestones she never thought she could reach before.

“Nag start ako maglaro nung second year palang ako sa Jolo (I started playing during my second year in Jolo),” Sharifa explained when asked about her first encounter with the FFP.

And from then on, Sharifa became one of the many, including those from poor communities in Sulu, who have had their lives softened by the FFP, which has come a long way from a sports clinic to a powerful instrument in shaping amity among the youth and their communities.

Football for Peace
Every great idea has its humble beginnings.

“It all started one afternoon,” began Lt. Colonel Stephen Cabanlet of the Marine Batallion Landing Team 3, “Kami mga football enthusiasts, naglalaro kami, pampalipas oras (We football enthusiasts were playing to pass the time).”

“That afternoon, may mga batang interesado sa ginagawa namin (there were children who showed interest in the game),” he continued. “So what we did was we invited them.”

Cabanlet explained that while playing football with the children that afternoon, he saw how these children simply wanted to learn. He realized they needed to teach the children. “Sabi ko, mas magandang mataniman sila ng values (I said that it’s better to instill values in them).”

They started with simple football clinics in different schools. But they wanted to reach out more. With the help of other Marines, the Philippine Marine Corps Football for Peace was instituted.

More than meets the eye

Although it started with football, the program ultimately evolved into a higher form of advocacy and played a part in literacy training in the form of four other sub-programs.

“The FFP is not only for playing football,” Cabanlet articulated. “It has four sub-programs. First the “Character Development Program” where we teach discipline, values of friendship, sportsmanship and camaraderie.”

“Second is the sports program. We have been invited to join national and hopefully, international, tournaments,“ he added.

Just recently, the FFP concluded a two-day tournament held at the Edwin Andrews Air Base last February 15-16 with over 550 participants.

The third is the educational program, which includes scholarships, educational trips and tutorials for the children, he said. The literacy rate in the region (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) where Sharifa used to study was lagging behind compared to other regions in the country.

The last is the mentorship program, Cabanlet said, noting that the program shows children what life is like in the Marine Corps.

“For us marines, our trademark is our being disciplined soldiers. We show them how we live as marines,” he said.

Not just the children

The FFP has not only left a mark on the children but also to their families as well.

The students, the children and perhaps the communities involved have become somewhat like family to the marines, said Lt. Caesar Gandeza, a previous director of the program.

“Initially, nakukuha lang namin ang atensyon ng mga bata. After a while, pati na rin yun teachers and parents (Initially, we caught the attention of the children and then the teachers and parents),” he imparted. “Habang tumatagal na nagtuturo kame sa mga bata, minsan yun mga matatanda, mga father nila, ate, kuya, sumasama na rin sila.
Naging malapit yun mga magulang nila sa amin through the children na tinuruan namin (As we teach the children, their older folk, father, their older sisters and brothers joined along the way. We became close to the parents of the children we’re teaching).”

When asked how long he could keep up with the FFP, Gandeza responded: “As long as nandito yun passion for football and passion for helping, and there will be children willing to give you their time, ipagpatuloy parin namin to (As long as the passion for football and helping others remain, and there are children willing to give their time, we will continue this).”
Gandeza believed that his rewarding experience in the program “is not something to boast about but something that makes you happy.”

Hope for the Future

Sharifa is currently setting her sights on playing as varsity for Far Eastern University. When asked if she was ready, she smiled a genuine smile and timidly said “Sana po.”

The road ahead of her is bright and full of promise, all because compassion and soccer started walking hand in hand together. The FFP is set to continue on helping the people Jose Rizal would call the “Pag-asa ng Bayan” (hope of the nation).

Lt. Col. Cabanlet perfectly summarizes the main encouragement of the “Football for Peace Program” with a single statement: “Magkaisa tayo para sa peace and development (Let us unite for peace and development).” (Althea Sanson/PIO-USAID-ENGAGE)

(This article by Althea Sanson, 1st Year Mass Communications student of Western Mindanao State University, was awarded the Best Peace Journalism Story by the Public Information Office of the City Government of Zamboanga and the USAID ENGAGE Project in a recently concluded Peace Journalism Training and Internship, held from February 22 to March 7 in Zamboanga City. Sanson bested 14 other college students who participated in the internship program.)

Philippine Army officers' tests in Panay

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 9): Philippine Army officers' tests in Panay

The Philippine Recruitment Center for Visayas has good news for those desirous of building a career in the Philippine Army.

Maj. Rey Tiongson, Division Public Office chief of the Philippine Army, has reported that a battery of tests for applicants who wish to become future military officers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been set in Panay Island this month of March.

The test will consist of two batches, the Officers Candidate Course and the Officer preparatory Course.

For Iloilo province, the examinations are on March 10, and the venue will be at Iloilo City Lone District Gerry Trenas' Conference Room on Iznart Street, Iloilo City. On March 12 at the San Lorenzo Events Center in Roxas City, Capiz; and, March 13 in Kalibo, Aklan.

Tiongson said that anyone who desires to take part in the mental exercise has to be a natural-born Filipino, single and a graduate of a 4-5 year college degree, stands at least 5 feet tall, physically, mentally, and psychologically fit, and has not been accused of any crime.

To hurdle the tests, applicants have to score 100 points or more in the aptitude test.

270 evacuees return home following clash between NPA and Army troopers in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 9): 270 evacuees return home following clash between NPA and Army troopers in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental

Some 270 individuals from the villages of Bahian and Pal-iw in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental on Sunday returned to their respective homes after fleeing on Saturday following an encounter between suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and Philippine Army troopers in the area.

Lt. Col. Harold Anthony Pascua, commander of the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, confirmed that these individuals had left their homes to seek safer ground on Saturday after one platoon of 79th IB soldiers led by 1Lt. Julambre Haber clashed with some 15 NPA members at Sitio Pag-inuman in Barangay Bahian.

The soldiers were on combat patrol around 1:30 p.m. Saturday when they chance upon the armed group with whom they exchanged gunfire for about 45 minutes. A running gun battle followed as the soldiers pursued the suspected rebels who left behind one M-16 armalite rifle and some personal belongings, said Lt. Col. Pascua.

Pascua said his men were acting to text messages and information from concerned citizens who said they sighted in the vicinity of their sub-village unidentified armed men wielding high-powered firearms and asking for food.

Residents in the area fled to avoid being caught in the crossfire and spent the night at the barangay halls of Pal-iw and Bahian, Lt. Col. Pascua confirmed.

Gov. Roel Degamo, after learning of the evacuation, sent rice to the residents who, on Sunday morning, voluntarily returned to their homes after the fighting had subsided.

Lt. Col. Pascua assured that no civilians were injured or abused while there were no collateral damages during the encounter between government troops and rebel forces.

Two UH-1H helicopter gunships deployed Sunday morning to for troop insertion and delivery of supplies in the mountainous areas of Tanjay City as soldiers continue with their pursuit operations against the NPA rebels.

Pascua revealed that his battalion has intensified combat operations against the NPA as the military is beating a deadline to clear the province of Negros Oriental from insurgency by June this year.

The Army battalion commander appealed to the “remnants” of the NPA to lay down their arms and return peacefully to the folds of the law as he reiterated his previous warning of relentless operations against the rebels.

Lt. Col. Pascua has assured that the military is in constant communication with the village officials to ensure that civilians’ rights are not violated.

“We will ensure that the rules of engagement are properly observed by our troops in the area”, Pascua said.

Meanwhile, a would-be NPA surrenderee was stabbed dead by a “mentally-ill” neighbor prior to his scheduled surrender to government authorities.

A certain Nomer Senda, 28 years old, a resident of Barangay Apoloy in Siaton, Negros Oriental, was stabbed on his neck by a certain Artemio Macatiguib causing his instantaneous death Saturday, said Lt. Col. Pascua.

A police report reaching the Philippine Army showed that Senda and Macatiguig were both staying at the house of a certain Enriquita Manugas in Sitio Olong-olong, Barangay Apoloy, when the stabbing incident happened.

The perpetrator is believed to be suffering from lucid intervals and mental illness. He voluntarily surrendered to Army troops stationed at the detachment in Sitio Quadra, Barangay Mantiquil in Siaton.

According to the 79th IB periodic situation report, the victim is a member of squad 3, Sentro De Grabidad Platoon, South East Front Komiteng Rehiyon- Negros of the New People’s Army (NPA) known as @Russel/Borneo.

He was planning to surrender this week via Governor Roel Degamo and was a prospective beneficiary of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) which is offered by the local government of Negros Oriental, Lt. Col. Pascua disclosed.

2 PN MPACs now helping search for missing Malaysia Airlines

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): 2 PN MPACs now helping search for missing Malaysia Airlines

Two Philippine Navy (PN) MPACs (multi-purpose attack craft) have joined in the ongoing search for the Malaysia Airlines plane which went missing Saturday.

This was revealed by Western Command spokesperson 1st Lt. Cheryl Tindog.

These are in addition to the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, BRP Apolinario Mabini, BRP Emilio Jacinto, one Fokker plane, and Islander aircraft which are being used in the search since Saturday, she said.

Tindog said the two planes flew this morning while the ships remain at sea, but there are still no sightings of the Malaysian aircraft.

"Fishermen were advised via radio that this particular Malaysian plane is missing and they can contact us if they see it," Tindog said.

"We will be searching until the national government tells us what to do next," she said.

Military detachments and fishermen in the disputed Kalayaan (Spratly) islands group were also asked to be on the look out for the missing airplane, Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said.

UPDATE:PHL, US concludes sixth round of IRP talks - DND

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 9): UPDATE:PHL, US concludes sixth round of IRP talks - DND

The Department of National Defense (DND) on Sunday announced that the Philippines and United States negotiating panels have concluded their sixth round of negotiations in Washington regarding the Framework Agreement for the Increased Rotational Presence (IRP) which would deepen defense cooperation between the two treaty allies.

The IRP will allow the sharing of defined areas within certain Armed Forces of the Philippines facilities with elements of the US military on a rotational basis within parameters consistent with the Constitution and laws.

DND spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez said both panels went through the entire draft agreement and reached consensus on many provisions, including on the proposed accord’s preamble, purpose and scope, definition of terms, ownership of constructed infrastructure, coordination on security, contracting procedures, and resolution of disputes.

He added that both parties will meet again in Manila in late March to work on remaining issues.

The Agreed Minutes of the sixth round described the discussions as “substantive and productive” and that “significant progress was made.”

“This fresh round has clearly shown the shared commitment of both parties to enhance cooperation in defense, security and related fields, including humanitarian assistance and disaster response. The further exchanges of views have helped pave the way for the formulation of mutually agreeable language,” DND undersecretary and chair of the Philippine negotiating panel Pio Lorenzo Batino.

After the reconstitution of the Philippine negotiating panel and before the fifth round of talks last January 30-31, the Philippine side presented a full draft text which more comprehensively articulated the Philippines’ positions which are consistent with the Philippine Constitution and relevant laws as well as informed by the country’s historical experiences.

At the instance of the Philippine panel, the United States agreed to the inclusion of provisions on environment and safety, and opportunities for potential Philippine suppliers of goods, products and services.

Batino emphasized that, as in the preceding five rounds, the Philippine negotiating panel is guided by the principles of full respect for Philippine sovereignty, non-permanence of US troops and no US basing in the Philippines, mutuality of benefits and respect for the Philippine Constitution, including the prohibition against nuclear weapons.”

The other members of the Philippine negotiating panel are Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre, Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya, Justice Department undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and DND assistant secretary for strategic assessments Raymund Jose Quilop.

Philippines has right to defend its territory like China

From Rappler (Mar 9): Philippines has right to defend its territory like China

The Philippines also has the right to defend every inch of its territory, President Benigno Aquino III's spokesman said on Sunday, March 9, after China made a similar warning.

Spokesman Herminio Coloma's remarks came after China's foreign minister Wang Yi said on Saturday, March 8, his country would vigorously defend its sovereignty against "unreasonable demands from smaller countries."

Although he was referring to Japan, which has its own territorial dispute with China, his remarks could also cover China's other territorial dispute with the Philippines and other countries over parts of the South China Sea.

"It is the right of every country to defend its national territory. That is also the principle we are following," Coloma told reporters, commenting on the Chinese minister's remarks.

Coloma added that the Philippines was basing its position on the principles of international law like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.

The Philippines and China, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam are all claimants to parts of the South China Sea, a major sea lane and rich fishing ground which is believed to sit on vast mineral deposits.

The Philippines has also expressed growing concern at the increased aggressiveness of the Chinese in pressing their claim to almost all of the waters, even up to the coasts of its neighbors.

The Philippine government has sought UN arbitration under UNCLOS to settle the dispute but China has rejected the move.

In February, the Philippines lodged a protest after the Chinese coastguard allegedly attacked Filipino fishermen off a disputed South China Sea shoal with water cannon on January 27. Beijing rejected the protest.

CHR probes PMA cadet dismissal, examines honor system

From Rappler (Mar 9): CHR probes PMA cadet dismissal, examines honor system

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has intervened. It is now investigating if the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) violated the human rights of Cadet First Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia when he was dismissed because he supposedly lied in explaining the reason for his tardiness in class.

While she will not make conclusions for now, CHR chairman Loretta Rosales told Rappler she was shocked by the details of the case. "I am just as shocked as everybody else that a salutatorian, a bright boy, should not be allowed to graduate because he lied. When you look into the lie, I think it was just that he may not have been able to explain himself as accurately as he should have," Rosales told Rappler in an interview Sunday, March 9. (READ: Did PMA cadet Cudia lie? Document shows details)

The CHR will investigate if his right to be heard and his right to due process was violated. "If you are going to accuse him of anything, he was not being very accurate. He said they were dismissed late. That was not accurate. The class was dismissed on time but a few of them were asked to stay a little bit longer because the teacher had to talk to them about their grades," she said.

He also has a right to education, Rosales added. "His performance in education, as best as possible, should not be compromised and undermined by an ambiguity in the interpretation of his explanation. My goodness, are you going to sacrifice his ranking as salutatorian – which is important to him whether he continues in the military or whether he continues outside later on?

The chances of Cudia to graduate with his classmates on Sunday, March 16, is now slim, according to sources. He was unable to join the on-the-job training, one of the academic requirements of the PMA. He was also not among the 223 cadets who were welcomed by the major services last week. (READ: No Cudia in welcome dinners for PMA 'Siklab Diwa' Class of 2014 and Cudia's name not on PMA graduating cadets list?)

Cudia was supposed to graduate salutatorian and top of the Navy class, which would have entitled him to be the recipient of the Navy saber.

Questions on confidentiality

Cudia's family sought the help of CHR regional office in Baguio City. Regional director Harold Kub-aron reported to Rosales last week the developments in the investigation.

The local CHR office invited last week the personalities involved in the case including Cudia's professor and the members of the Honor Committee. But it was the PMA lawyers from the Judge Advocate General's Office (JAGO) who faced CHR and sought to reset the invitation to Tuesday, March 11.

Kub-aron told Rappler the CHR required the PMA to allow the cadets to talk to CHR. "We will investigate the human rights aspect, the due process," he said. Cudia has submitted his affidavit to the CHR.

Rosales also raised questions about the poweful Honor Committee and its confidential proceedings.

"I understand it is made up of students. Students are fine but they don't have a lot of experience. They are idealistic but these are the questions I will ask. When it comes to the wisdom in considering the ramifications [of their actions], it's not black and whilte. There is a lot of gray there. Did he lie? Or was he just inaccurate?"

Rosales said transparency is also very important in a democratic society. "You can only know if something is correct if there is a check and balance.... When you talk about the integrity of the process, we are talking about transparency. Hindi mo dapat itinatago 'yan. Otherwise, kulto ang labas mo diyan," she said. (It's not supposed to be hidden. Otherwise, we'd end up with a cult.)

The PMA command ordered Cudia's dismissal following a decision by the PMA Honor Committee – a body composed entirely of students – to declare him guilty of violating the academy Honor Code when he supposedly lied about the reason he was late in one class.

The PMA Honor Code implores cadets not to lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those among them who do so. Cudia was expected to "resign honorably" like other cadets declared guilty of violating the code.

Waging war

But Cudia proved different. He has waged a war against the powerful Honor Committee, which he said violated the code themselves. He filed a written appeal but the honor committee refused to re-open the case. (READ: PMA cadet fights back, gets support)

The posts of Cudia's family on Facebook became viral, giving the public a rare glimpse into otherwise confidential proceedings at the academy. The public outcry prompted Armed Forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista to order a re-investigation of the case.

But a week before the graduation on March 16, PMA is not done with its probe because Cudia has yet to submit his appeal, according to military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala.

Zagala said Cudia sought to extend his deadline to submit his appeal 3 times. On March 4, when it was expected by the PMA, he supposedly asked for another 15-day extension. (READ: Cudia faces PMA appeals board)

"This review is an opportunity for him to state his case. More than sympathy for him, we seek fairness and to find out the truth," said Zagala.

The list of honor students is scheduled to be released Monday morning, March 10.

Review honor system

Rosales said CHR cannot guarantee that the commission can help Cudia graduate on March 16, but she vowed that the CHR will look into the academy's PMA honor system to see if there's a need to reform it.

The AFP is currently undergoing a "transformation" from its past record of human rights violations. Against this backdrop, Rosales said it is important to look into the internal processes of the academy.

"The PMA is the one that molds the consciousness and the mindset of the future military officers. They are vital. They are crucial. What they learned in the academy will guide their behavior when they are no longer with the PMA," Rosales said.

"The PMA is an educational institution. It will determine the difference between whether or not the AFP can in fact evolve and transform itself from the opressive behavior and fascistic practices of the past dictatorship," she said. Rosales is a former political detainee under the Marcos dictatorship.

Rosales appealed to General Bautista to instruct PMA Superintendent Major General Oscar Lopez to cooperate with the CHR.

"Please open the institution for fair and just investigation. The most important thing is to be able to come with the truth and provide access to justice for one who feels he was wronged," she said.

Rosales reminded the general of the La Breza Declaration they signed last year. They committed to ensure that the military follows standards and laws on human rights.

At the end of its probe, Rosales said CHR will come up with a report that will specify possible recommendations to reform the PMA honor system.

PH presents to US 'full draft text' of military bases access deal

From Rappler (Mar 9): PH presents to US 'full draft text' of military bases access deal

The Philippine panel negotiating a new military-to-military agreement with the US has presented to the Americans a "full draft text" a month before the scheduled visit of US President Barack Obama to Manila.

"The Philippine side presented a full draft text which more comprehensively articulated the Philippines’ positions which are consistent with the Philippine Constitution and relevant laws as well as informed by the country’s historical experiences," according to a statement of the Department of National Defense (DND) on Sunday, March 9.

The draft text was presented during Round 5 of talks in January following a shake-up in the Philippine panel. (READ: Problems in the PH-US bases access deal?)

The statement said the 2 panels have since made progress in the following areas: preamble, purpose and scope, definition of terms, ownership of constructed infrastructure, coordination of security, contracting procedures, and resolution of disputes.

New title: Enhanced Defense Cooperation

The title of the draft agreement was also revised from "Increased Rotational Presence" (IRP) to "Enhanced Defense Cooperation."

"The proposed agreement will allow the sharing of defined areas within certain AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) facilities with elements of the US military on a rotational basis within parameters consistent with the Philippine Constitution and laws," said the DND statement.

There is no word if the 2 panels have settled contentious issues such as the access of Filipino troops to facilities that the US will build in Philippine bases and the length of time the American troops will be given "temporary" access to the bases. (READ: PH to press 'equal access' to US facilities in bases deal and PH, US haggling over length of stay of troops)

Typical military agreements between the US and another country last for 20 years. The Philippine panel earlier said it is looking for a "much shorter" timeframe.

Philippine panel chairman Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said: "This fresh round has clearly shown the shared commitment of both parties to enhance cooperation in defense, security and related fields, including humanitarian assistance and disaster response. The further exchanges of views have helped pave the way for the formulation of mutually agreeable language.”

The US supposedly agreed to the "inclusion of provisions on environment and safety, and opportunities for potential Philippine suppliers of goods, products and services."

Obama's visit

Inspite of statements that the agreement will not be rushed, talk is rife that its signing will happen during Obama's visit in April. Both panels are scheduled to hold another round of talks in late March in Manila. (READ: PH won't rush defense accord for Obama visit)

In a recent interview with journalists, US ambassador Philip Goldberg said: "We want to conclude the agreement as soon as we can. There are still some details to work out. We have made progress in the agreement. We want to conclude it as quickly as possible. I won't set the date."

Batino earlier told Rappler that the deal is intended to be an executive agreement that will not need Senate ratification. Goldberg however has said this issue is what both sides will continue to tackle.

"Those are issues that, as [Armed Forces chief] General Emmanuel bautista said, are part of the negotiation. Let me just remind that we have a Mutual Defense Treaty. We have a Visiting Forces Agreement. We currently have these agreements for cooperation. Regardless of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation, we have a very strong military to military relationship. We have ongoing exercises and humanitarian assistance," Goldberg said.

The Philippines has sought the assistance of the US, a treaty ally, against the backdrop of rising tension with China over maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Tension continues to escalate as the Philippines accused the Chinese Coast Guard of using water cannons against Filipino fishermen in January in an attempt to drive them away from the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough). (READ: PH protests China 'water cannon' incident)

The shoal that is located within the country's 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone has been practically occupied by the Chinese Coast Guard following a tense standoff in 2012 when the Philippines withdrew its ships.

China is making its claim based on a 9-dash-line map, which the US categorically said it does not recognize. The Philipines has a pending arbitration case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). (READ: What's at stake in our case vs China)

The Philippines is also acquiring critical assets to improve minimum credible defense in the West Philippine Sea.

Filipino family murdered, buried in shallow grave

From the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 9): Filipino family murdered, buried in shallow grave

A father and his two sons who were reported missing had been found dead and buried in a shallow grave in the northern Filipino province of Abra.

The trio – Rogelio Ligiw, 68; his sons Eddie, 35, and Freddie, 30 – were reported missing since March 1 until the discovery recently of the mass grave by soldiers and locals in the village of Mugao in the town of Licuan-Baay.

The military has quickly blamed the murder of the trio to the communist rebel group New People’s Army, saying Freddie Ligiw was a former guerrilla who surrendered to the government in March 2011. And that he was murdered by the rebels along with his father and brother for betraying the communist movement.

The 41st Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Danilo Domingo said the three men disappeared after a group of rebels were sighted in the village. Josephine CariƱo, the village leader, also reported the disappearance of the father and his two sons to the police.

“The discovery of the mass grave was brought about by the trust and confidence of the populace to the army and the police. This is a clear manifestation of Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan that all people are responsible in achieving peace. This only shows that the army and the police are the true protector of the people in Licuan-Baay, Abra,” a military statement said.

But the League of Filipino Students and the youth group Anakbayan to which Freddie Ligiw - also known as Fermin - was a member, has accused the 41st Infantry Battalion of murdering him and his family and condemned the brutal killings.

“He (Freddie Ligiw) along with his father and elder brother was gagged, tied-up, killed, and then buried in a shallow grave where they were discovered,” Jho Abueg, of the League of Filipino Students, said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Abueg said Freddie Ligiw was supposed to give a testimony on how the military forcibly used him as a guide and more likely, as a shield, by government troops in their operations against the NPA.

“Given the recent attacks in the mainstream media by members of the Philippine military against Anakbayan, there is clearly only one group in the entire country with an interest in assassinating its members and the progressive youth. Under Oplan Bayanihan, the U.S-Aquino regime continues to perpetuate heinous crimes such as this.”

“President Aquino is desperate in quelling the growing discontent and rage of the people bought about by his pro-elite, pro-foreign, and anti-people policies. Aquino's PR stunts and cheap media gimmicks to fool the youth and the people are not working anymore. This is precisely the reason why, just like his predecessors, Aquino is more than willing to employ violence and rely on the mercenary traditions of the Armed Forces to shut his critics,” Abueg said.

Diego Wadagan, a spokesperson for the NPA in Abra province, alleged that government soldiers had illegally detained and interrogated Freddie Ligiw, a small scale miner, on February 22 and was forced to guide the soldiers to Mount Inuman and held captive near their swidden farm, while other troops illegally searched his thatched hut where soldiers confiscated a shotgun commonly used by locals for hunting before being freed later in the night.

Wadagan said government troops also searched other houses in the area and violated the rights of innocent villagers.

“These incidents unmasked the never-changing true character of the Armed Forces’ counter-insurgency or internal security operations. Illegal searches, interrogation, detention, and intimidation are acts concomitant with AFP operations, that terrorize the populace and are clear violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws, which are condoned by the reactionary civilian government officials,” he said.