Saturday, March 15, 2014

NPA landmines kill 2 soldiers, injure 3 others in North Cotabato town

From GMA News (Mar 15): NPA landmines kill 2 soldiers, injure 3 others in North Cotabato town

Two soldiers were killed in North Cotabato on Saturday after "a series of landmines" exploded near them during a firefight with rebels believed responsible for attacks in Davao del Sur last week.
According to Captain Ernest Carolina, spokesman of the Army's 10th Infantry Division, members of the 1002nd Infantry Brigade sent to go after members of the communist New People's Army engaged the group in a firefight in Magpet town early Saturday morning.
During the firefight, which lasted for an hour, "a series of landmines exploded near the troops," killing the two soldiers and wounding three others.
The NPA attacked military and police outposts in Matanao town in Davao del Sur on March 10, killing 10 government troops. Two suspected rebels were also killed in the fighting.

MILF: Editorial -- ‘No rocky hill for an iron will’

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Mar 16): Editorial: ‘No rocky hill for an iron will’

March 16-22, 2014:: The adage “there is no rocky hill for an iron will” is what pushes the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to work on March 31 as the timeline it commits itself to submit to the Office of the President the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

This was what President Benigno Aquino III wished when the BTC commissioners paid him a courtesy call last January 30.

This indeed is a tall order and the BTC is not balking from this challenge. But BTC has a self-imposed work norm; i.e., never to accept failure unless it has tried. After all, there is no real failure, may be, at most, a partial failure. It isn’t an end game for our hopes and desires.

Yes, the GPH-MILF peace process has been dragged for almost 17 years since 1997. But in all those long years, the MILF has been feeling the heat and sting of working under tight schedules. There has never been a light moment in this engagement.

 The same situation is to be expected once the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) formally assumes power in 2015. One year transition is too short by any standard. Imagine within this span, the BTA has to set up institutions, write the local government code, the administrative code, and the election code for the Bangsamoro. More importantly, it has to provide leadership and unify the Bangsamoro people and rally them towards the vision set forth more than 40 years ago by the late MILF chair Salamat Hashim.

 Can the MILF-led BTA manage to do this in a limited time and succeed? Don’t ask the MILF. As stated, the MILF has accepted all sorts of challenges for the last more than four decades of struggle, and surely, it will also accept this challenge, as it is committed to do so when it signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) on October 15, 2012. It is a commitment that it will abide for better or for worse.

 However, like a conflict situation, a post-conflict is also multi-dimensional phenomenon and cannot be understood in terms of one single factor, as they result from a complex interaction and overlap of various issues such as security, from a state, community and personal perspective;  political/governance;  economic;  social, broadly defined to include ethnographic, cultural, religious; and many others. More seriously, spoilers especially those coming from outside can mount their last-ditch act to disrupt and destroy the gains of the peace process. Of relevance is what is happening in South Sudan right now.

 The real challenge now is whether a partner in the peace process like the MILF can stand up to the challenge given the short transition. The people have the final say.‘no-rocky-hill-for-an-iron-will’

MILF: Consultation on FAB and BBL held at Kabacan, North Cotabato

From the MILF Website (Mar 15): Consultation on FAB and BBL held at Kabacan, North Cotabato

A consultation forum on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was held at the Cafeteria of the University of Southern Mindanao (USM), Kabacan, North Cotabato on March 11, 2014. The affair was jointly sponsored by the Conciliation Resources- Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (CR-PASUC) and USM Main Campus.
The participating audience were members of the academe such as the students, faculty, staff and some retirees of the university. The faculty and staff were led by their President, Dr. Francisco Gil N. Garcia. The students were led by their respective college governors and the retirees, by former USM President, Dr. Kundo Pahm, Sr.

Also present were the President of the USM Faculty Association (USMFA), Prof. Ronald Z. Pascual and the President of the Non-Teaching Staff, Mr. Palot Dandayog. Other key officials of the university present were Vice President for Resource Generations and Entrepreneurship, Dr. Alimen Sencil; Mr. Rasul M. Buisan, Chief of the Administrative Services; the deans of the different colleges; and the directors of the sub-offices of the university.

Following a welcome address by the USM President and the brief introductory message by other USM officials, the speaker of the consultation, Mr. Taher Solaiman, a journalist and an alumnus of the University spoke on the FAB and the BBL. He commenced his presentation by relating the historical background, followed by the legal basis of the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination. He said, the Bangsamoro struggle was a consequence of the long colonial attempts to subjugate the Moros. The legal basis of the struggle for self-determination was a provision of International law which says: “All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right, they can freely determine their political and economic status (not verbatim quotation)”.

He deciphered on the term Bangsamoro in the FAB with three important meanings, namely: an identity, a territory and a government. The Bangsamoro government in the offing is inclusive, for the Bangsamoro Muslims, the IPs, and the Christians. They are treated equal in the eyes of the law of the Bangsamoro. Vested property rights of Muslims, IPs or Christians are recognized and respected. He expounded on the four annexes; such as the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities; the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing; the Annex on Power Sharing; and the Annex on Normalization.

In the open forum, an MNLF member, Datu Saidona Aliman, asked question as to whether the participation of the MNLF on the issue was sought by the GPH or the MILF Peace Panels. Mr. Solaiman said: “No less than the OPAPP Secretary sought the participation of the MNLF to join the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) but it was not accepted by the latter.

The MNLF had already been given full opportunity and chances to govern under the ARMM. A Christian faculty also clarified on why Malaysia is the facilitator of the talks despite territorial issue between it and the GPH exists. “It was former President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo that solicited the facilitation of the talks by Malaysia’”, Mr. Solaiman replied.

Glaring facts became apparent in the workshop presentation when each group presented their fears and recommendations. But reactions of some participants helped in enlightening and satisfying the audience on removing their apprehensions in mind.

MILF: Thirty Three of remaining 39 original foreign-trained MNLF Commanders sign resolution

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 15): Thirty Three of remaining 39 original foreign-trained MNLF Commanders sign resolution

A MATTER OF FACT By Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 10, 2014 - 12:00am
The pioneers of the Bangsamoro struggle, the surviving MNLF FF90 (Freedom Fighters) have recently signed Resolution No. 01-2014, a Resolution of Unity. Out of the 90 brothers who were part of the inception of the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), 39 are left and 33 have resounded themselves through this manifesto calling for peace and justice in Mindanao and elected Datu Abulkhayr Alonto as new chairman of the group to replace Nur Misuari, Sara Soliven De Guzman of Philippine Star reported on March 10. 

With the disappointment the pioneers of the Bangsamoro struggle have with the present situation and Nur Misuari, they saw a need to re-emerge as the Mainstream Original MNLF Members to work for Peace and Development with the signing of the 1976 RP-MNLF Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 GRP-MNLF Peace Accord.  By the way, the MNLF is presumed to have demilitarized but Nur Misuari kept on violating the agreements to the dismay of the Original Freedom Fighters who stayed put in Mindanao and fought the war years, while Nur and others allegedly lived comfortably in the Middle East.

Ms. Soliven De Guzman quoted some statements from the resolution, as follows:

Whereas, we are the Original MNLF Freedom Fighters, the FF’90 of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), with our Military Arm, the MNLF Bangsamoro Army, who in the war years stayed put in Mindanao and fought, in defense of Islam, our people and the Bangsamoro homeland;

Whereas, We hereby reaffirm that the legitimacy of the positions of our brothers, Mr. Nur Misuari and DatuHj. Abul Khayr D. Alonto, as Chairman and Vice Chairman of the MNLF respectively, by virtue of selection, emanated from our group through the MNLF Central Committee, the rightful body to choose their rightful leaders;

Whereas, We are aware of the unfortunate blunders of Mr. Nur Misuari that hauled down the MNLF into an abyss of leadership crisis and its lamentable fragmentation as well as the exodus of able and dedicated Mujahideen (freedom fighters), either into the Philippine Government Bureaucracy, or to private lives of seemingly but definitely unwanted complacency;

Whereas, without the knowledge nor the approval of the Original MNLF Central Committee and their members, Mr. Nur Misuari veered away from the very principle that the group has sworn their lives for, when, among others, he publicly proclaimed Sulu, nearby provinces & the island of Palawan independent from the Philippine Republic with the inclusion of Sabah, Malaysia; and allegedly participated in the “March 2013 Lahad Dato Stand Off” & led “the September 2013 Zamboanga City Siege”, that caused the loss of hundreds of lives and destruction of properties;

Whereas, in pursuance of the inherent & inalienable rights of the Bangsamoro people to self-determination, the restoration of their freedom, independence and sovereignty as a people; the 1976 RP-Tripoli Agreement; and the 1996 GRP-MNLF Peace Accord; it is of historical imperativeness and exigency that we now fill the gap of leadership in the MNLF and concomitantly manifest our support for the 2012 GPH-MILF Framework Agreement for the Bangsamoro and the Transition Commission in the crafting of the Basic Law for the establishment of the Bangsamoro State in Muslim Mindanao;

Wherefore, we hereby serve notice to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) & its 57 Member States; the Government of the Republic of the Philippines; the United Nations (UN); the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the United States of America, Canada & Mexico…; that by virtue of law of succession and the noble covenant of the Original MNLF Central Committee, we have obliged MNLF Vice Chairman Datu Hajji AbulKhayr D. Alonto, to assume the MNLF Chairmanship;

Wherefore, resolve as it is hereby resolved, and by virtue thereof, and having ordained and unanimously elected, Datu Hajji AbulKhayr D. Alonto, of the Triumvirate of 1964 who organized the Youth Wing of the Moro Malay Muslim Movement in the Middle East & the Philippines; a participant in the “1965 Covenant of Jabbal Noor, Makkah Al-Mukarramah of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; and the true founding leader of the MNLF; as the new Chairman of the MNLF Central Committee; he shall immediately assume as such and officially exercise all the powers and authorities inherent thereof;

Wherefore, premises considered, resolve as it is resolved that authority is hereby granted to the Honorable Chairman, Datu Hajji AbulKhayr D. Alonto, to initiate the immediate reconsolidation, reorganization and revitalization of the MNLF in consultation and collaboration with the MNLF Central Committee, the General Secretariat and the Heads of the Higher MNLF Military, Political, Economic, Religious, Social Services, Tribal Communities, Women & Youth Commissions;

This Resolution was done and signed on the 3rd day of RabiulAkhir 1435H corresponding to the 3rd day of February 2014, at theMNLF-LAM ALIF Lama Maradeka, KutaMarawi, Buadi Sa Kayo, Islamic City of Marawi, Mindanao, Philippines.

Signatories were members of the FF 90 AB’20, FF 90 CD’21, FF 90 H’14, and top 91 Brother Abdullah (Al) Camlian. It was noted with acceptance and conformity by Datu Hajji Abul Khayr D. Alonto.

Ms. Soliven Der Guzman said in her report that, “In the public hearings and other forums conducted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission that is now in the process of drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law, Ambassador Alonto has been invited as resource person and observer. He and some FF90, FF300 and BG67 are actively participating and contributing to the crafting of the Basic Law.              

At this juncture in the history of the MNLF, all they want is for all sectors to unite in support of the peace process since development cannot prevail in an atmosphere of war.

CPP: CPP denounces Aquino regime for offering US access to military bases

From the CPP Website (Mar 15): CPP denounces Aquino regime for offering US access to military bases

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemns the Aquino regime for selling out Philippine sovereignty in forging a new military agreement with the US government that is set to bolster the presence of US troops in the Philippines by officially granting them the privilege of setting up military facilities in the country.

Negotiations between security and military officials of the Obama and Aquino regimes are being rushed to prepare the treaty tentatively known as the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation in order to have it ready for presentation during the upcoming visit of US President Barack Obama in April.

“The new military treaty is bound to be as perfidious and violative of Philippine sovereignty as all previous agreements such as the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Military Bases Agreement and the Visiting Forces Agreement,” said the CPP.

“For over three years now, the Aquino regime has displayed out and out puppetry to the US military and government that so-called negotiations with its imperialist master can only turn out to be farce.”

In news reports today, negotiators of the Aquino regime said the most recent draft of the military agreement will allow the US military to set up facilities within AFP military camps or bases.

“This agreement is a throwback to the era of US military bases, where thousands of US combat troops, their warships, jetfighters, communication facilities, nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction were stationed within the country, and where the bases were used as launching pads for aggression in defense of US interests,” said the CPP.

“The so-called enhanced cooperation will be bringing back the Military Bases Agreement and worse, allow the US military access to facilities practically all over the country,” pointed out the CPP. “Wherever the AFP is, the US military can be also.

Wherever the AFP is not, the US military can finance the AFP to set up or expand its military camps.”

The CPP cited the Aquino regime’s rush to construct and expand facilities within and around the AFP’s naval bases in Oyster and Ulugan Bays, both in Palawan, in order to address the demand for larger and more modern ports to accomodate the increasing number of US warships docking in the Philippines. “Thus, the funds of the AFP modernization program are essentially being used to upgrade facilities to be used by the US military.”

“Aquino’s Amboy officials are fooling the people when they claim that the servant who prepares the best room for his master can and will demand his master to let him enter the room to look around to make sure that the master will follow his house rules,” said the CPP. “The pretentious master can allow his servant to look around to make him feel as if he actually owns his home, but will not actually allow the servant to scrutinize his luggage.”

“How can the Filipino people ever trust the Philippine military and the puppet Philippine government to defend national sovereignty in the face of its obsequiousness to the US military which supplies its weaponry and provides for its “modernization,” training and indoctrination," said the CPP.

“Negotiations between the US military and the Aquino regime have been going on for close to two years now, yet very scant information as to the details of the draft agreement has been made public. Aquino’s defense and military negotiators must be held responsible for keeping the Filipino people in the dark on a matter of crucial importance as one involving the country’s sovereignty.”

Groups term US access pact ‘unconstitutional’

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 15): Groups term US access pact ‘unconstitutional’

A militant group and a human rights lawyer have branded Manila’s reported deal with Washington which allows American troops access to Philippine military bases as unconstitutional.

“The Philippine government will violate the Constitution and our national sovereignty if it allows the unlimited and unqualified use of Philippine bases and facilities by US forces,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), in a statement, said.

The mode of entering into an access pact through an executive agreement will violate the Constitution, it added.

“The Constitution expressly provides that no military bases will be allowed in the country unless through a treaty ratified by both parties. The route of an executive agreement is meant to fast-track the approval of the pact, skip the rigorous treaty-ratification process, while keeping as much of the details hidden from the public,” the group said.

Bayan said the proposed agreement exposes the so-called Framework Agreement with the US as truly a de facto basing agreement disguised as an access pact.

“The US will gain not only access but also the ability to set up their own facilities within RP facilities. The US forces will also be allowed to preposition weapons and equipment, on top of stationing and indefinite number of troops in the country for an indefinite period of time.”

It also challenged President Aquino to order the full public disclosure of the details of the proposed agreement.

“We will oppose this access agreement in the streets and before the Supreme Court if it is signed. The increase in US troops does not serve national interest. It will not lead to a substantial modernization of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), nor will it help our cause against the incursions made by China.”

Lawyer Edre Olalia, secretary general of National Union of People’s Lawyer’s (NUPL), for his part, noted that the Philippine government’s reported offer of US is presumptively unconstitutional.

The proposed deal “is another shameless circumvention and quickie fix over clear and categorical constitutional injunctions against foreign military troops, bases and facilities in the country. It will condone past and inspire future transgressions of our sovereignty, contempt for our legal processes and jurisdiction,” he said in a phone interview.

There was optimism the pact could be secured ahead of US President Barack Obama’s April visit to Manila.

Olalia also charged that “US troops will be upgraded from covert operations, intelligence gathering and so-called ‘port calls’ to practically overt combat, direct command and virtual basing.”

With its military capabilities dwarfed by China’s the Philippines has been looking for more diplomatic and military support from the United States, its former colonial ruler and longtime ally.

A decades-long dispute over rival claims to parts of the South China Sea has sharply worsened over the past two years, with the Philippines accusing China of bullying and violating international laws.

Among the recent flare-ups, Manila accused the Chinese coastguard of firing a water cannon on January 27 at two Filipino fishing boats near a shoal that is within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

The Philippines then said Chinese ships blocked Filipino vessels from bringing food to Filipino marines on another shoal within its territory.

Both outcrops lie many hundreds of kilometers away from the nearest Chinese landmass, but China claims most of the sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its neighbors.

American forces were forced to pull out of major military bases in the Philippines in 1992, ending nearly a century of military presence, amid a rental dispute and rising anti-American sentiment.

But since 2002 several hundred Special Forces troops on short term deployments have training Filipino counterparts who are fighting Islamic militants in Mindanao.

Gov't troops on high alert against diversionary attacks of communist rebels

From the Business World (Mar 14): Gov't troops on high alert against diversionary attacks of communist rebels

KORONADAL -- Government troops remain on high alert for possible diversionary attacks from members of New People’s Army (NPA) following a firefight in Matanao, Davao del Sur and Tulunan, North Cotabato earlier this week.

Last Wednesday, some 40 armed NPA guerillas attacked a military detachment in Barangay Paraiso, Tulunan, North Cotabato, but the outnumbered soldiers of 38th Infantry Battalion were able to defend their camp, said Captain Antonio C. Bulao, spokesperson of 602nd Infantry Brigade.

Earlier on Monday, seven soldiers in Matanao station were killed in an ambush by members of the communist guerrilla group. Two policemen and two civilians were killed too after the firefight.

Mr. Bulao said the rebels used land mines against the responding troops from the 39th Infantry Battalion. The military has been hunting down the rebels in the mountains of Davao del Sur since Monday. The hunt led to the killing of two rebels and the arrest of nine others, Mr. Bulao told local media.

The firefight in Tulunan, North Cotabato lasted 30 minutes with no casualties reported. The incident, according to Mr. Bulao, was an attempt by the rebels to divert the military’s ongoing hunt for rebels in the mountains of Davao del Sur. Tulunan, North Cotabato shares a boundary with Matanao, Davao del Sur.

Mr. Bulao said police stations are the targets of rebel attacks since they cannot take down military detachments which generally have more men. “We have advised police stations to be alert too as we are ready to back them up at all time,” he said.

Ronaldo L. Llanera, chief of the Davao del Sur police, said community police units and barangay peacekeeping forces have been alerted. The whole province is on full alert, he said.'t-troops-on-high-alert-against-diversionary-attacks-of-communist-rebels&id=84759

‘Cheap’ ransom for kidnap victims in Jolo worries Moro, civil-society groups

From the Business Mirror (Mar 15): ‘Cheap’ ransom for kidnap victims in Jolo worries Moro, civil-society groups

DUE to the news blackout on the “mysterious, alarming, rampant daily kidnapping in Jolo, Sulu,” concerned groups including Moro, civil-society organizations (CSOs) and human-rights bodies called for a news conference on Friday in Davao City, where they bared and condemned  the kidnappings made by yet unknown groups to ordinary civilians since February.
“This alarming kidnapping spree started on February 17 with the kidnapping of Salinas couple whose whereabouts are still unknown up to this day. Since their kidnapping, more than 50 persons were already kidnapped in Sulu. In some cases where the victims are ordinary persons, the kidnappers are asking for a ransom of P3,000 only,” said Warina Sushil Jukuy, western Mindanao coordinator of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (Pahra).
She said there has been news blackout on “this very alarming, unstoppable kidnapping spree with the armed kidnappers victimizing not only Christians.  Now, the kidnappers in Jolo, Sulu, are victimizing ordinary Muslims. One Samal woman was kidnapped and raped. Ordinary teachers, ordinary Badjaos, Samals are being kidnapped.”
“Kidnapping there is like eating your breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s happening three times a day,” Jukuy told reporters.
“In the history of Sulu, this is the first time that kidnappings like these are happening. The kidnappers are on a rampage. There’s a complete breakdown of law and order in the province now,” she said.
Marie Claire Salinas, 48, and her husband Bonifacio Salinas, 50, were snatched from their house by still-unidentified armed men at around 5:30 a.m. on February 17.
“They are longtime residents in Jolo with their families living in the area for about 70 years already,” Jukuy said.
She also said on Friday, a group of “1,000 rising” Muslims and people of Jolo themselves held an indignation rally in Jolo to “protest kidnappings and impunity in the province of Sulu.”
Phara and about 40 other CSOs led by the Mindanao Peoples Caucus have loudly appealed to President Aquino as commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippine to step in now and stop the rash of kidnappings in Jolo.
They also scored what they called the “ineffective posture and inaction” of Gov. Abdusakur Tan of Sulu and police and military officials in the province “for doing nothing and for only guarding officials and not ordinary citizens.”
“Is there an unseen hand at work in the sudden rash of kidnappings?” Jukuy asked.
The groups demanding for the immediate stop of the kidnappings through strong military and police action said there could be four speculations on the motive of the kidnapping spree: machination by the military, a destabilization project considering the recent Bangsamoro agreement, demonizing of Islam as kidnappers wear tasbih (prayer beads), and made by “drug addicts who abound in Jolo, Sulu.”
The groups also castigated the “suspicious release of Abu Sayyaf member Sali Said from the intensive care area of Camp Bagong Diwa” which they called “a classic example of how the provincial government of Sulu protects hardcore Abu Sayyaf kidnappers.”
They also hit “the persecution of Sulu’s human-rights defender Cocoy Tulawie” who continues to languish in jail after he was arrested in January 2012 in Davao City on what they called “fabricated charges” on his alleged involvement in the attempt to kill Tan in 2009.
The Regional Human Rights Commission (RHRC) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao joined with the groups calling for a stop to the rash of kidnapping and the end of impunity reigning in the province.
“The Philippine National Police and the regional and local government units must reassert their authority in Sulu to restore peace and order now. We cannot accept the present situation, we cannot ignore the lawlessness, and we cannot stand the deafening silence of our leaders and authorities,” RHRC said in a statement signed by its Chairman Almagar Latiph.

Davao favors village watchmen than Alsa Masa vigilantes—gov

From the Business Mirror (Mar 15): Davao favors village watchmen than Alsa Masa vigilantes—gov

The plan to organize armed vigilante groups in Davao del Sur was shelved in favor of the more acceptable civilian-headed security task force, the governor said.

Gov. Claude Bautista clarified on Friday that the plan to organize an Alsa Masa-type vigilante group in the villages of the province was actually proposed by the mayor of the town of Matanao, where the New People’s Army (NPA) raided its police station at dawn on Monday and killed two policemen on duty.
The proposal was put forward during a supposed closed-door meeting a day after the NPA attack, and was quickly endorsed by Mayor Franco Calida of Hagonoy town.
Calida was the brains behind the Alsa Masa vigilante group in Davao City in the middle of the 1980s to counter the increasing presence of the liquidation teams of the NPA assassination squads called Sparrow Units.
“The proposal was adapted by the League of Mayors of the province as a probable action to thwart any and further guerrillas attacks on government and military installations in the area,” Bautista said, to clarify reports linking him to the proposal.
The proposal was replaced, however, with the activation of Task Force Davao del Sur, and endorsed by the mayors during the same meeting that Bautista convened to address the two NPA operations in a span of one week.
The NPA ambushed an Army patrol a week earlier in a mountain village of Bansalan town. The NPA exploded a landmine that night as the Army attempted to retrieve its 11 wounded soldiers. The blast injured civilian rescuers however as they rode on a Red Cross vehicle and a city ambulance in an Army convoy.
Bautista said the task force would no longer organize vigilantes and arm them. Instead, he said, the task force would tap the barangay tanod and civilian militia members as the village first line of security. “The task force is headed by the provincial governor and the police and the military units would be placed directly under the authority of the provincial governor,” he said. “It is a civilian organization.”
Neither would the existing barangay tanod and militia members be given weapons. “The existing structure in the barangays would remain; only this time, half of these groups in all the areas would be placed directly under orders of the task force,” he said.
He said the police and the Army were still doing the inventory of these barangay tanod.
Bautista was here in Davao City to witness the opening of a new music radio station which he own. Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte also attended the launching, and when interviewed for reaction on the Alsa Masa plan, said he did not favor it. “This would only create animosity among the residents and to pose peace and order problems later,” he said, citing the experience of the city.
“As the presence of the NPAs waned, these civilians used their guns and power to create problems when they turned holdupmen, carjackers, robbers and thieves,” he said.
“I would suggest that the government talk to the NPAs,” he said.
Bautista said the establishment of the task force should not be misunderstood as cutting off communication lines with the NPA. “As we don’t know which unit or who among their leaders and units are responsible for the attack, we have to organize this security task force,” he said.

DND: Humanitarian assistance, troop training among boons of PHL-US deal

From GMA News (Mar 15): DND: Humanitarian assistance, troop training among boons of PHL-US deal

The Philippines stands to gain from a proposed security deal with the US which gives them access to Philippine military bases, the Department of National Defense said Saturday.
“Humanitarian assistance and joint exercises are among those we can expect,” DND spokesman Peter Galvez told GMA News Online via text on Saturday.
Galvez explained that joint military exercises with US troops would “enhance their (Philippine troops) readiness.”
He added the security deal may also bring economic benefits for the Philippines.
“A possible example would be the provision of catering services,” Galvez said.
Although the government believes the country will benefit from allowing US troops access to Armed Forces of the Philippines facilities, Galvez reiterated that there will be no US bases in the Philippines.
Last Friday, the defense department announced that the US and Philippine panels agreed on security arrangements during the sixth round of talks held in Washington last week.
The Philippines agreed to allow US access to its military bases amid mounting concern over China's increasing assertiveness in disputed waters in the South China Sea, a part of which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea.
“The proposed agreement will allow the sharing of defined areas within certain AFP facilities with elements of the US military,” DND Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said.
Batino added that negotiations on the deal are 80 percent done. US military access to the Philippines is currently limited to annual joint exercises and port visits.
Both countries hope to finalize the deal before US President Barack Obama visits the Philippines in April.

‘De facto basing agreement’
Also on Saturday, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) denounced the proposed agreement, saying giving US troops "unlimited and unqualified use of Philippine bases and facilities" violates the Constitution and Philippine sovereignty.

Bayan scored the proposed agreement for allowing the US to use Philippine military bases and to build their own facilities inside. It also said the agreement will allow an "indefinite number of troops in the country for an indefinite period of time."
Although the government has said the agreement will not allow the US to set up its own military bases, Bayan said "the pact has all the features of a de facto basing agreement."

It added the proposed deal will not bring about a "substantial" modernization of the AFP nor will it "help our cause against the incursions made by China."
Bayan said it will oppose the agreement through street protests and by petitioning the Supreme Court if the deal is signed. 

Soldiers prepare for NPA retaliation after bungled attack

From the Philippine Star (Mar 15): Soldiers prepare for NPA retaliation after bungled attack

The military is bracing up for possible retaliations by the New People’s Army (NPA) following its bungled attack at dawn Thursday of an Army detachment in Tulunan town that left four rebels wounded.

Some 50 NPA members belonging to the Front 72 first surrounded the joint Army-militia detachment in Barangay Paraiso in Tulunan and opened fire with assault rifles, but failed to breach through its fences when soldiers and militiamen returned fire.

The government combatants assigned at the detachment managed to maneuver to the left and right flanks of the attackers, wounding four of them in the ensuing firefight.

Captain Tony Bulao, spokesman of the Army’s 602nd Brigade, said the soldiers and militiamen guarding the detachment had prevented the rebels from closing in using assault rifles and shoulder-fire 40 MM grenades.

Barangay folks have confirmed that four NPA members were wounded in the incident.

Bulao, however, said they do not have actual body count of enemy casualties.

Bulao said units of the 602nd Brigade in areas where the NPA operates have been ordered to guard against possible retaliations by rebel groups.

The bungled attempt by the NPA to take over the detachment in Tulunan came about a week after combatants of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion seized improvised explosives in a raid at a hideout of rebels fabricating roadside bombs in Barangay New Sebu in President Roxas town, also in North Cotabato.

New NDF spokesperson

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 15): New NDF spokesperson

CAMARINES SUR, Philippines—Almost a year after its spokesperson in Bicol province died in a clash with government soldiers, the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Bicol formally introduced its new spokesperson in the region on social media and its official blog on Thursday.

The NDF-Bicol new public information officer, a woman this time named Ka Maria Roja Banua, introduced herself on Facebook and the NDF blog to formally start her role as the new voice of the underground organization in Bicol.

Although still unreachable by phone, Banua said in her statement that she would carry on “the late Ka Greg BaƱares’ deferred task.”

It's final: Cudia not graduating March 16

From Rappler (Mar 15): It's final: Cudia not graduating March 16

It's final: Cadet First Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia, the honor student who was dismissed for supposedly lying, is not graduating from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) on Sunday, March 16.

"The final recommendation of the CRAB is to deny the appeal of Cadet Cudia. It deliberated on the 3 counts for which his appeal was based upon," PMA Commandant Colonel Rozzano Briguez announced on Saturday, March 15.

"Cadet Cudia will not march tomorrow. Cadet Cudia will not march tomorrow," Briguez added. "This year, categorically, he cannot graduate."

President Benigno Aquino III has the power to overturn CRAB's decision. But the PMA said that, even if the Commander-in-Chief decides to reinstall Cudia at the PMA, the cadet still won't be allowed to graduate with the Siklab Diwa class tomorrow because he failed to complete his academic requirements even before he was investigated for Honor Code violation.

"Technically, the President may not approve the administrative separation because he is the commander in chief of the Armed Forces fo the Philippines," Briguez said.

As of Saturday, Superintendent Major General Oscar Lopez was finalizing the report that will be submitted to the President. This is the 3rd time that PMA is upholding the dismissal of Cudia after the powerful Honor Committee declared him guilty of lying, a violation of the PMA Honor Code.

Cudia supposedly lied when he claimed that his first class was dismissed late so he came to his next class about two minutes late.

[Video: PMA Commandant Colonel Rozzano Briguez announces ruling on Cadet Jeff Cudia]

In his appeal, Cudia presented a new evidence to show alleged mistrial. One of the 9 voting members of the Honor Committee was supposedly forced to change his "not guilty" vote to make it a unanimous 9-0. Navy Commander Junjie Tabuada, head of the naval warfare, executed an affidavit detailing his supposed conversation with a certain Cadet Lagura.

But Briguez said the cadet issued a denial. The CRAB also recommended a separate investigation on Tabuada for "conduct unbecoming of an officer," a violation of the articles of war.

Briguez also explained that there was nothing with the honor committee holding a second vote to change the 8-1 not guilty vote to a 9-0 unanimous guilty vote.

"If you have a voting of 7-2 or 8-1, they go automatically into an executive session which is termed chambering. It is like an additional explanation [to discuss their vote]," said Briguez.

It is apparently a new procedure adopted as early as the 1990s.

He said the Honor Committee also cannot be accused of not getting the side of Costales, the instructor who asked Cudia to wait for the grades of the class and inadvertently caused him to be late in his next class.

A mother's appeal

Cudia's mother, Filipina, is not giving up. Up to the last minute, she appealed to the President to allow her son to graduate on Sunday.

"Mahal na Pangulo, nananawagan po ako sa inyo. Humihingi po kami ng awa na sana po ipagkaloob mo pa ang hustisya sa anak ko. Mahal na Pangulo, wala po talaga siya ginawang kasalanan. 'Yung Honor Committee po ang gumawa ng mali," she said.

(Beloved Presient, I'm appealing to you. We're asking for compassion, for you to extend justice to my son. Beloved President, he really did not do anything wrong. It's the honor committee that committed a mistake.)

"Gusto ko po bukas makasabay niya kaklase niya maka-graduate siya. Pinaghirapan niya 'yun," she added. (My desire is for him to be graduate tomorrow together with his classmates. He worked hard for that.)

Cudia's appeal has led the Armed Forces leadership to order a review of PMA's honor system, and has reached President Benigno Aquino III.

[Video: Cadet Cudia's last minute appeal to President Aquino]

Another witness?

Inspite of Lagura's denial, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) released a report on Friday, March 14, recommending that Cudia be allowed to graduate with his classmates on Sunday. (VIDEO: CHR probes PMA cadet dismissal, examines honor systemli)

The CHR spoke of another witness, a member of the Honor Committee, who supported Tabuada's claim. Briguez said this was not in the appeal of Cudia, however.

The Honor Committee is a powerful group inside the academy that is composed entirely of PMA students. They investigate and rule on reports of alleged violations of the PMA Honor Code, which orders cadets not to lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those among them who do.

PMA spokesperson Major Lynette Flores, in an earlier interview on radio, dismissed allegations that the academy was being "harsh" on Cudia for imposing a grave penalty for such a "small" offense. She said Cudia had been investigated twice before this case, on allegations of cheating.

Live Blog: 2014 PMA Graduation

From Rappler (Mar 15): Live Blog: 2014 PMA Graduation

LONG GREY LINE. Philippine Military Academy's Siklab Diwa batch graduates on March 16, 2014. Photo from Newsbreak Archives

LONG GREY LINE. Philippine Military Academy's Siklab Diwa batch graduates on March 16, 2014. Photo from Newsbreak Archives

Rappler Carmela Fonbuena is in Baguio City to cover the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduation on Sunday, March 16.
She also follows developments in the appeal of dismissed Cadet First Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia, who was declared guilty of violating the PMA Honor Code and has not been allowed to graduate.
President Aquino is guest of honor and Speaker on Sunday.
Follow her tweets here:

PMA Graduation

2 soldiers killed in North Cotabato clash

From Rappler (Mar 15): 2 soldiers killed in North Cotabato clash

CLASHES. At least 2 soldiers are killed and 3 wounded in a firefight with rebels.

Two soldiers were killed while 3 others were wounded in a firefight with communist rebels in North Cotabato on Saturday, March 15.

The clash came days after Leftist rebels also attacked a military detachment and the police headquarters in Matanao, Davao del Sur.

Captain Ernest Carolina, spokesperson of the military's 10th Infantry Division, said troops under the 1002nd Brigade were conducting pursuit operations against members of the New People's Army (NPA) who attacked Matanao.

They encountered an undetermined number of rebels in Sitio Timodos, Barangay Manobisa, in the town of Magpet at around 9:55 am.

A fierce firefight ensued and lasted for an hour, Carolina said.

The operating state security forces sustained casualties after several explosives were detonated by the rebels while the soldiers were maneuvering.

The Office of the President has recently condemned the use of explosives by the NPA but the communist movement asserted that they have not violated any international protocols in waging a guerrilla warfare. (READ: Landmines: A poor man's weapon)

PMA valedictorian asks civilians: Respect honor system

From Rappler (Mar 15): PMA valedictorian asks civilians: Respect honor system

MILITARY MATTER. The class topnotcher of Philippine Military Academy's Siklab Diwa batch hopes the public will accept the decision on Cadet Cudia. File photo by Dave Leprozo Jr/ Rappler

MILITARY MATTER. The class topnotcher of Philippine Military Academy's Siklab Diwa batch hopes the public will accept the decision on Cadet Cudia. File photo by Dave Leprozo Jr/ Rappler

BAGUIO CITY, PhilippinesThe valedictorian of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Siklab Diwa Class of 2014 is asking civilians to respect the academy's honor system.

"I believe in our honor system. I support our honor system. We respect and support the decision of the honor comittee," Cadet First Class Jheorge Llona on Saturday, March 15, told reporters who sought his comment on the controversial dismissal of his classmate, Cadet First Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia.

[Video: PMA Honor Code: PMA Valedictorian seeks understanding of outsiders]

Cudia is supposed to graduate No. 3 and top of the Navy class. The honor would have entitled him to be the recipient of the Navy saber. But the PMA on Saturday junked Cudia's new appeal.

The criticism arose from people's lack of understanding of the PMA honor system, Llona said.

"The civilians do not understand the honor system very well. It is probably why that is how they feel over the dismissal of Cadet Cudia," he said. (READ: Fast Facts: The Philippine Military Academy)

The PMA honor code implores cadets not to lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those among them who do so. Cudia was accused of lying about the reason for his coming late to one class.

Llona has a message to the Filipino people: "Sana po respetuhin po ang decision ng higher command, ng ating mahal na Pangulo. Fully military po siya. Kung ano po ang decision nila, sana po tanggapin ng buong puso," he said.

(Let's please respect the decision of the higher command, of our beloved President. This is a fully military matter. Whatever their decision is, I hope we will accept it whole-heartedly.)

Palace: No need for Senate OK on PH-US military deal

From Rappler (Mar 15): Palace: No need for Senate OK on PH-US military deal

Despite the stand of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, an expert on constitutional and international law, MalacaƱang on Saturday, March 15, said the Philippines' military deal with the United States does not need the approval of the Senate.

Santiago earlier said the agreement, which would allow the US military wider and prolonged access to Philippine bases, should be considered a treaty to avoid violating the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

The senator, who heads the chamber's foreign relations committee, added: "The Senate is going to screen [the deal] because we always fight in the Senate for our power to concur with any ratification made by the President. That will become a constitutional issue. That case will be automatically elevated to the Supreme Court."

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Benjamin Caguioa disagreed. He said in a statement released through Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr: "It is the Philippine panel's position that the agreement on enhanced defense cooperation merely implements the general provisions of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement."

Caguioa added, "These two treaties have been concurred in by the Philippine Senate in separate instances. Thus there is no need for Senate ratification for this implementing Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation."

In 1951, Manila signed a Mutual Defense Treaty with Washington, which states that the two countries shall separately and jointly develop capacity to resist an armed attack.

But Santiago said the bases access deal cannot be considered an implementing document of the treaty.

The Philippine panel asserted the agreement abides by the Constitution. The two sides will hold another round of talks in Manila on March 25 ahead of the visit of US President Barack Obama in late April.

Cops hunt down gunmen in North Cotabato ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 15): Cops hunt down gunmen in North Cotabato ambush

Police authorities in North Cotabato have launched a province-wide manhunt against two men who shot and seriously wounded an engineer working for a government irrigation project in the province.

Supt. Danilo Peralta, North Cotabato police provincial director, has directed the PNP in Pikit, North Cotabato to also intensify manhunt against two men riding tandem on a motorbike who shot 50-year-old Engr. Akmad Adam Pangilamen of Masulot Construction.

Pangilamen of Limbo, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao was riding in tandem with Mustapha Galay, 31 of Barangay Tapodoc, Aleosan, North Cotabato from Pikit to Midsayap town when shot by the suspects.

Both sustained gunshot wounds in the legs and neck, according to Senior Inspector Mautin Pangandiman, Pikit police chief.

The shooting happened in Barangay Langayen, Pikit, at 8:50 a.m. Friday.

Both are now recuperating at a hospital in nearby Midsayap town, police said.

"The shooting could be borne out of personal grudge between Engr. Pangilamen and the suspects," Pangandiman said.

The victim is working with Masulot construction company which is subcontracting with the government on the Malitubog-Maridagao irrigation project that supplies water to about 16,000 hectares of farmland in North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

Helping the police in the manhunt are members of the 7th Infantry Battalion based in Pikit.

Alert North Cotabato cops arrest man with hand grenade

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 15): Alert North Cotabato cops arrest man with hand grenade

Policemen on the lookout for a kidnapping suspect instead arrested a man with a hand grenade on Friday, authorities said.

Elements of the Kabacan Police Station and the 7th Infantry Battalion conducting checkpoints along the national highway following intelligence reports a kidnapping suspect was to pass by flagged down a motorcycle with two men on board.

Supt. Jordane Maribojo, Kabacan police chief, said the suspect, Kadil Sultan Dandang of Barangay Kuyapon, Kabacan yielded a fragmentation grenade.

"He was acting suspiciously and when frisked, a live hand grenade was taken from his pocket," Maribojo said.

Maribojo said the arrest of Dandang was done in connection with "Operation Kapkap Bakal," a campaign against the proliferation of loose firearms.

According to Maribojo, Dandang is included in the watch list of persons believed to be involved in kidnapping, carnapping, robbery-holdup and extortion activities in the town.

Maribojo said at least a dozen persons have been arrested for possessing loose firearms, illegal drugs, carnapped motorbikes and other illegal activities.

He said the "Oplan Kapkap Bakal" will be intensified following the rash of shooting and grenade attacks in Kabacan poblacion.

Maribojo appealed to the public to help the police in containing criminality that already claimed the lives of innocent civilians.

Since January, at least 10 grenade-throwing incidents had been reported in Kabacan.