Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bishop’s brod slain; sugar mill burned

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 17): Bishop’s brod slain; sugar mill burned

ROMEO Capalla
Romeo Capalla was returning to his sport utility van after fetching his mother-in-law at the public market of Oton town, 7 kilometers from here, on Saturday night when two men approached him from behind.

Suddenly, the men drew their handguns, pointed these near Capalla’s nape and fired. Capalla, 65, died before reaching Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo City.

The victim, a younger brother of Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, was a former political detainee during the Marcos dictatorship and had joined the underground movement before his imprisonment.

He was also former manager and chairman of the board of the nongovernment Panay Fair Trade Center (PFTC), which helps farmers and women organizations produce and sell natural and organic products for local and international markets.

About an hour after Capalla was gunned down at 6:30 p.m., unidentified men burned a truck, bagasse and a portion of a building of a muscovado sugar mill operated by a farmers’ organization being serviced by the PFTC in Barangay (village) Dabong,  Janiuay town, Iloilo province.

“We were listening to radio reports on the shooting of (Capalla) when residents raised alarms after they saw the fire,” said Margarita Estrada-Panganiban, manager of the mill owned by the Katilingban sang mga Mangunguma sa Dabong (Kamada).

Police were still determining if the Capalla’s killing and the fire were related. The fire destroyed or damaged about P200,000 worth of property, according to the Bureau of Fire Protection in Janiuay.

Insp. Feliz Alianza, Janiuay police chief, said at least four people doused the equipment and building with gasoline before setting these on fire.

Insp. Jigger Gimeno, Oton police chief, said Capalla’s assailants fled on two motorcycles with at least two other persons believed to be lookouts and headed toward the neighboring town of Tigbauan in southern Iloilo.

Investigators have yet to determine the identities of the assailants and their motive.
Two militant human rights groups—Karapatan and the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda)—blamed hit squads of the military for the attacks, pointing out that Capalla had always been tagged as a ranking commander of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

“First they harassed him by filing trumped-up charges. They were unsuccessful. So now they killed him,” said Reylan Vergara, Karapatan-Panay secretary general.

Maj. Ray Tiongson, spokesperson of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, described the allegations as “preposterous.”

“We condemn his killing and we are not in any way involved. He and his family deserve justice and we will help the police in their investigation,” Tiongson told the Inquirer.

Policemen and soldiers arrested Capalla in August 2005 in Barangay San Antonio in Oton, 11 km south of Iloilo City.

He was detained for 32 days on charges of allegedly taking part in an attack of NPA rebels on a field office of a construction firm in Guimbal town, also in Iloilo, in 2004.

The Regional Trial Court Branch 67 in Guimbal ordered Capalla’s release on Sept. 5, 2005, for lack of evidence.

In seeking the dismissal of the case against Capalla, his colleagues at the PFTC pointed out that he had been working with the center since 1994 and had been the firm’s manager since 2001.

Fortunato Pelaez, Selda vice chair for the Visayas, said Capalla surfaced after the
Edsa I revolution in 1986 and had been helping farmers’ organizations.

Capalla is the 11th victim of extrajudicial killing this year, according to Karapatan.

The group said it had documented 169 victims of extrajudicial killings from July 2010 to December 2013.

Ex-cop held for links to int’l drug syndicate

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar): Ex-cop held for links to int’l drug syndicate
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines —Lawmen on Thursday arrested a former policeman on charges of involvement in an international drug syndicate that reportedly supports extremist groups in western Mindanao.

The suspect, identified as Pon Mohammad Mansul, was collared by policemen and agents of the National Bureau of Investigation during a raid in Barangay (village) Las Piñas, the city police reported.

The police described Mansul as an operative of East Asia Drug Syndicate, which allegedly provides financial support to rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf.

His activities allegedly covered this city and the neighboring areas of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces.

House leaders back bases access pact

From the Philippine Star (Mar 17): House leaders back bases access pact

Leaders of the House of Representatives are supporting the new security agreement being forged between the Philippines and the US, saying it could serve as a credible deterrent against China’s increasing aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea.

Deputy Speaker and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao and Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna welcomed news that the Philippines and the US have moved closer to signing an agreement that would increase the “rotational presence” of American troops in the country.

Aggabao cited the strong presence of US troops in South Korea as “a strong counterfoil to North Korean aggression” that is preventing Pyongyang from launching attacks.

He said the presence of US forces in Japan has also deterred China from taking control of the disputed Senkaku Islands.

“The American presence is a credible deterrent,” Aggabao said. “While I don’t espouse the grant of any basing rights for Americans in our country, not just yet, there is no question their increased rotational presence in the country is the next best thing to daunt the Chinese.”

Tugna said the planned increase of deployment of US troops in the country is timely in light of the recent disturbing incidents in the West Philippine Sea where two Filipino vessels were driven out of Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) by a Chinese coast guard vessel, and similar aggressive acts against Filipino fishermen in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

“For me, our country should continue with the agreement as it would help in training our armed forces to protect our territory against intrusion of other countries. This will also help in protecting against internal conflicts in our country,” Tugna said.

Parañaque City Rep Gustavo Tambunting said the agreement must be closely scrutinized by Congress to make sure there are no violations of the Constitution and there would be no ambiguities that will give rise to problems in the future.

“There will be a violation of the Constitution if an unlimited and unqualified use of Philippine territory or bases is allowed to the US military,” Tambunting pointed out.

 “We must make sure there is no room in this agreement for multiple interpretations by both sides.”

Sensitive issue

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, however, said the government should prioritize diplomatic approaches and consider the negative implications of allowing more US forces in the country, which could further strain relations with China.

“This is very sensitive, it has the possibility of being misinterpreted by the Chinese as part of an effort to encircle them and may further degrade our already deteriorating relations with China and other countries in the ASEAN,” De la Cruz said.

Senators led by Senate President Franklin Drilon called on the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to brief Congress on the new security deal.

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara echoed the call of Drilon and warned about going against the Constitution in view of the supposed enhanced security agreement between the Philippines and the US.

“I think Senate President Drilon is right when he sees the need to ask for a briefing from the DND and the DFA to determine what the new agreement with the US really is all about,” Angara said.

A briefing for the senators is necessary to clear all doubts about the agreement, at least before it is signed by the two parties, Angara said.

He said he has not seen the details of the actual agreement since it is still in the negotiating stage.

“Even the SP (Senate President) and Miriam (Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago) have not seen it,” he said.

Santiago earlier said any agreement on an enhanced military cooperation between the Philippines and the US is a treaty by nature requiring ratification of the Senate.

Angara noted the existing defense agreements with the US like the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty.

“We want to see what are the details of this new agreement and if there is a need for the concurrence of the Senate,” he said.

On the issue of allowing US troops to construct bases in the existing military bases in the country, Angara said Article 18 of the Constitution provides the need for Senate approval in terms of permanent basing by foreign troops in the country.

Asked if the Senate should just believe Malacañang if the increased US military presence would be under an executive agreement, Angara maintained Congress should at least be notified.

“We believe in them (Malacañang). But who will be made accountable if it turns out to be a flawed agreement? As an independent branch of the government, we need to know the details. Whether it’s an executive agreement or a treaty, it should have a solid legal footing,” he said. Malacañang insisted that there is no need for the Senate to ratify the agreement since it “merely implements the general provisions” of the two countries’ past defense agreements.

Under Philippine laws, all treaties would have to go through the Senate for concurrence before they take effect.

Philippine officials involved in the negotiations have given assurance that the agreement on enhanced defense cooperation would comply with the provisions of the 1987 Constitution and existing laws.

Repeated assurance

Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office repeated the assurances given by the Philippine panel in their latest round of talks with their US counterparts in Washington recently.

“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,” he 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,” Coloma added.

He said the US panel agreed to the inclusion of provisions on environment and safety, and opportunities for potential Philippine suppliers of goods, products and services.

Defense Undersecretary Pio Batino, chairman of the Philippine panel negotiating the defense cooperation deal with the US, said there is a requirement that the presence of US troops in the Philippine military bases would be temporary.

Batino led the panel in assuring the pubic the new deal on enhanced defense cooperation would comply with the Constitution and existing laws.

Batino added the agreement does not need to be ratified by the Senate because it is just an implementing document of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Defense department spokesman Peter Galvez explained the proposed deal on enhanced security cooperation with the US will merely implement previously ratified agreements.

“We respectfully reiterate that the proposed agreement on enhanced defense cooperation with the US is an implementation of previously ratified agreements namely the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Galvez said.

If an agreement is just an implementation of a treaty, Galvez said it would not require the ratification of the Senate.

Galvez also defended the proposed access deal from critics who claim that it violates the Philippines’ sovereignty. He said the negotiations are guided by the Constitution.

“There is no sovereignty issue here. Everything will be within the Constitution and existing laws,” the defense official said.

Militant groups have branded the negotiations as illegal and have accused the Aquino administration of selling off the country’s sovereignty to the US.

The new security deal is being negotiated by the two allies amid mounting concern over China’s increasing assertiveness in the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Talks on a proposed deal on enhanced defense cooperation between Manila and Washington hit an impasse late last year due to the failure of both sides to reach a consensus on American facilities to be set up in the country.

Under the draft accord, the Philippines will allow US forces joint use of facilities in several military bases like in Manila, Clark, Palawan, Cebu, Nueva Ecija and La Union.

But the use by US forces of civilian airfields and ports, like Subic Freeport Bay, Laoag and Davao international airports, is not allowed.

‘Camp sharing,’ not bases, for US troops

From the Manila Times (Mar 16): ‘Camp sharing,’ not bases, for US troops
American servicemen will not be allowed to build separate and distinct bases in the country but will “share” camps with the Philippine military, Malacañang said on Sunday.

“The proposed agreement will allow the sharing of defined areas within certain AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] facilities with elements of the US [United States] military on a rotational basis within parameters consistent with the Philippine Constitution and laws,” Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

“They will not put up a military base,” he stressed.

Coloma echoed the statement of the Philippine panel led by Defense Undersecretary Pio Batino, who met with his US counterpart last week to hammer out the enhanced defense cooperation agreement.

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

He said Batino was able to relay to US officials the government’s position emphasizing primacy of the Philippine Constitution, which bans the establishment of US bases in the country.

“Undersecretary 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,” Coloma pointed out.

The quartering for US troops has yet to be discussed.

Coloma said the agreement will strengthen links between the two countries in terms of defense, security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

“The aspects of humanitarian assistance and disaster response are very important. We witnessed how the US government stood ready to help us in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda. They sent modern equipment and their participation in emergency response was huge,” the Palace official stressed.

No concurrence

Some senators allied with the administration on Sunday said they see no need for Senate concurrence on the enhanced defense cooperation agreement, but it would be better for Malacañang to brief the Senate first.

Sen. Sonny Angara, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said the Senate, as an independent branch of the government, would also want to know the agreement’s specific provisions governing US troop presence in the country.

Angara said he agrees with Senate President Franklin Drilon that a briefing from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defense will enable lawmakers to determine if there is really no necessity for Senate concurrence.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma recently said the Enhanced Defense Cooperation doesn’t need the approval of the Senate because it is just an offshoot of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Angara made it clear that he is not against the agreement but he insisted that the Senate will not readily accept Malacañang’s stance that the pact needs no ratification from the Senate.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th believes the pact is not a new treaty but a part of the VFA and MDT and as such does not require the Senate’s imprimatur.

“It is my understanding that there is no new concept being introduced in the new agreement,” Trillanes, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, told The Manila Times.

Those who question the legality of the agreement can always raise the matter with the Supreme Court.

Earlier, Sen. Miriam Santiago said the new agreement needs Senate concurrence because it is classified as a treaty, not an executive agreement.

She noted that the government cannot claim that the pact is an offshoot of an earlier agreement because allowing foreign troops and war equipment into the country is not “a minor case of details” but “a major subject in itself”.

Santiago, who heads the Senate foreign relations committee, said it would be better if Malacañang allows the Senate to review the contents of the agreement.

Like Santiago, Sen. Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito believes all treaties and agreement requires the Senate concurrence.

Military acquiring 12 more fighter jets, other weapons

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 17): Military acquiring 12 more fighter jets, other weapons

The government is finalizing the purchase of more aircraft and weapons for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to boost its capacity to guard the nation’s territory and conduct search and rescue operations.

At the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduation rites in Baguio City, President Aquino announced that the government is set to purchase 12 lead-in fighter trainer jets for “territorial defense operation.”

The FA-50 trainer jets would reportedly be acquired from South Korea for P18.9 billion as part of the Armed Forces modernization program. The contract is expected to be signed this month.

At least 63,000 new rifles will likewise be distributed to the country’s soldiers in the coming months, the President said.  The new weapons, Aquino said, will replace the units dating back to the Vietnam War years.

“With these new weapons, we can finally retire the weapons used by our soldiers before the Siklab-Diwa class was born,” he said in Filipino.

Combat Choppers

The President said the government also plans to procure an additional eight combat utility helicopters “that will fly our skies for search and rescue and disaster relief missions by 2016.”

Public bidding for the purchase of two twin-engine naval anti-submarine helicopters will also start soon, according to the President.

The imminent purchase of military equipment will be on top of the new modern ships, eight Sokol helicopters, three Navy helicopters and other vessels already being used by the Armed Forces, the President said.

Aquino assured that the government will continue to equip the AFP with better weapons and vessels as well as improve their benefits.

Housing for Soldiers

Apart from the modernization program, the President said the government is also pursuing the housing program for the country’s soldiers.

To date, Aquino said around 54,449 affordable housing units have been constructed for the members of the uniformed forces.

With Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense working together, Aquino said a livelihood program for active and retired soldiers is underway.

Under this project, the lands in three military camps, namely Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Camp Kibaritan in Bukidnon, and Camp Peralta in Capiz would be open for plantation for bamboo, coffee, cacao and palm oil.

Aquino said these programs seeking to improve the welfare of soldiers are in appreciation for their sacrifices to defend the country from threats.

Contract Signing

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the Philippines will sign this week the contract for the acquisition of 12 lead-in fighter trainer jets from South Korea and combat helicopters from Canada.

He also revealed that bidding for two anti-submarine helicopters for the Navy will start soon.

“Starting Monday, within the week magkakaroon tayo ng pirmahan ng contract, yun FA-50  with the South Korean government saka yun combat utility helicopters with Canada,” said Gazmin.

The government will be spending P18.9 billion for the acquisition of the 12 fighter jets from Korea to boost the Air Force’s defense capabilities.

“We are considering it as not just an ordinary lead in fighter because it can deliver short range missile and there is a potential for these to be classified as beyond the short range fighter aircraft,” said  Defense Undersecretary for Finance Fernando Manalo in February.

Gazmin said once the contract is signed, the PAF could receive its first F/A-50s within 18 months time.

Light Combat Aircraft

The F/A-50 is a light combat aircraft equipped with state-of-the-art systems and weapons. It can fly at a maximum speed of Mach 1.5 or one and half times the speed of sound. It has a wide range of weapon systems aboard, allowing it to counter multiple threats.

F/A-50s are capable of being fitted with air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 “Sidewinder” air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles, aside from light automatic cannons.

Aside from the FA-50s and the combat utility helicopters, the military will also soon have its first anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters.

The government is allotting P5.4-billion budget  for the two ASW helicopters.

Navy spokesman Lt. Cdr. Gregory Fabic said the two ASW helicopters are primarily ship-based helicopters with mission essential equipment.

“They will enhance our maritime security that could be rapidly deployed to safeguard our nation’s rich maritime resources,” said Fabic.

AFP to buy anti-submarine helicopters from SoKor

From the Business Mirror (Mar 16): AFP to buy anti-submarine helicopters from SoKor

THE military will be acquiring helicopters for anti-submarine warfare as the Department of National Defense is expected to sign the contract next week for the delivery of the 12 lead-in fighter jets from South Korea.
Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin said they are set to sign also next week for the delivery of two combat utility helicopters from Canada.
The acquisition of anti-submarine helicopters was disclosed on Sunday by President Aquino during the graduation ceremony at the Philippine Military Academy.
Gazmin said the anti-submarine helicopters are new in the armaments of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), as he himself was also not familiar with the assets. “I’ll refer you to the technical people,” he told reporters when asked about the choppers.
He added that the bidding process for the assets has yet to begin.
On the fighter jets, Gazmin said the signing of the contract for the delivery of a squadron of FA-50 from the Korea Aerospace Industries will take place next week, with the first jet expected to be delivered next year.
The jets should boost the air power of the AFP, which no longer has a jet fighter, as the last of its F-5s is no longer in its service. 

Peace deal won’t deter secession bid — MNLF

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 17): Peace deal won’t deter secession bid — MNLF

The scheduled signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) this month will not stop the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from pursuing an independent Islamic state in Mindanao through its Bangsamoro Republic.

The MNLF, through spokesman lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, stressed yesterday that the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), which paved the way for the CAB, runs counter to the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) between the government and the MNLF signed in 1996.

Fontanilla also reiterated the MNLF’s stand that the FPA was not fully implemented despite the termination of the tripartite review.

 “For the MNLF, the closure of the tripartite review revert back to their quest for independence,” Fontanilla said.

He said that the MNLF wants a third party, which it suggests to be Egypt representing the powerful Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), to go through the process, including discussion among the three parties before diplomatic disengagement may be considered in accordance with international tradition.

“The OIC is facilitating negotiation on the matter,” Fontanilla said.

Asked if the MNLF will continue its quest for Bangsamoro Republic, Fontanilla replied “yes through legal means, within the purview of the god given right to self determination.”

He said the Aquino government succumbed to pressure in implementing the FAB signed in Malacanang on Oct. 15, 2012.

“The government was pressured by their desire to implement the framework. The FPA runs counter to framework hence they have to terminate the review,” Fontanilla told The Tribune.

“It’s not fully implemented — no regional security force, no wealth sharing no government representation,” he pointed out.

On Friday, Secretary Teresita Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) announced that the CAB between the GPH and the MILF will be signed on March 27 at a still undisclosed venue.

Deles said that preparations are now ongoing for the signing.

Fontanilla said that the MNLF considers the scheduled signing as a non-issue.

“The signing is a non-issue because the coverage of the struggle for independence is the entire Mindanao. It will be a positive development if there are areas which are near independence that will prepare them for eventual independence,” said Fontanilla.

“In the hearts and minds of our people in the area covered, their aim is to separate from the Philippines. It’s just a step or terminal for freedom and independence,” he added.

The MNLF spokesman emphasized that both MNLF and MILF members are wanting independence from the national government.

“The people — both MNLF and MILF, only entered into compromise, yet in their hearts is the quest for independence,” he said.

MNLF founding Chairman Nur Misuari declared independence from the Philippine government in August last year and established the Bangsamoro Republic with him as the leader.

In September, more than 300 MNLF supporters of Misuari laid siege in Zamboanga City after they were prevented from raising the MNLF flag at the city hall.

PH-US bases access deal to respect Philippine sovereignty, Palace says

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 14): PH-US bases access deal to respect Philippine sovereignty, Palace says

Malacañang emphasized on Sunday that the Philippines' granting of access to United States' military shall respect the former’s sovereignty amid issues raised by different quarters on the possible near-conclusion of the enhanced defense cooperation between the two countries.

Citing the statements already made by representatives of the Philippine negotiating panel at the end of the sixth round of talks held last week in Washington, D.C., Presidential Communications Operations Office secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. assured that such will be the case once the agreement is finalized.

“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.

This fresh round (of talks) has clearly shown the shared commitment of both parties to enhance cooperation in defense, security and related fields, including humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

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

Coloma said the aspects of humanitarian assistance and disaster response in this agreement are significant given the country’s experiences following the onslaught of super typhoon "Yolanda" (Haiyan) last year.

“Mahalaga po ‘yung aspeto ng humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Nakita po natin ito noong tayo ay tinamaan ng super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ at naging hayag po ang suporta ng Estados Unidos sa pamamagitan ng pagpapadala ng mga modernong kagamitan na malaki ang naiambag sa pagtugon sa emergency situation,” he said.

Quoting Defense Undersecretary Pio Batino, who heads the Philippines’ negotiating panel, Coloma said the agreement remains “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.”

One month before the expected visit of US President Barack Obama to the country, this latest development on the PH-US military cooperation deal was met with criticisms, especially from Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Santiago, according to reports, said the deal has to be approved by the Senate first because “it cannot be classified as an executive agreement but as a treaty to which the Philippine Senate must give its concurrence.”

Coloma, meanwhile, said that while he respects the opinion of the senator, it is appropriate that she and other critics of the agreement wait for the completion of the deal first to have a better grasp of all the issues at hand.

“Ang aking panukala ay hintayin na lamang natin na maging pinal at matapos nang ganap (ang pag-uusap) dahil ongoing pa naman, hindi pa naman po completed, at hindi pa finalized. Hintayin po natin ang magiging final and complete form nitong kasunduang ito para po masuri ang mga isyung tinatalakay sa kasalukuyan,” he said.

CPP/Ang Bayan: AFP kills wounded Red fighter in Quezon

From the English language edition of Ang Bayan posted to the CPP Website (Mar 7): AFP kills wounded Red fighter in Quezon

Fascist soldiers mercilessly tortured and killed a wounded Red fighter of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Quezon. An anti-mining datu was slain in Agusan del Norte and two peasants were killed in Albay. In Isabela, a peasant leader struggling against landgrabbing was abducted. In Cavite and North Cotabato, several civilians were illegally detained. And in Abra, the military interrogated civilians in a remote village and ransacked their houses.

Quezon. Troops of the 201st Brigade heinously killed a Red fighter rendered hors de combat on March 1.

At around 10 a.m. that day, fighting ensued between a unit of the Apolonio Mendoza Command (NPA-Quezon) and fascist troops of the 201st Brigade in Barangay Sto. Niño Ibaba, Lopez. Ka Brando (Roberto Campaner) was slightly wounded in this firefight and captured.

No less than the village officials of Barangay Sto. Niño Ibaba said the soldiers even showed them the wounded Ka Brando before bringing him to hospital. He did not have any serious wounds and they were sure that he would survive as long as he would receive prompt medical attention.

But on the afternoon of that day, Ka Brando’s family and human rights advocates found him dead at the Magsaysay Hospital in Lopez town. An autopsy revealed that he had nine gunshot wounds. The most serious were two wounds to the chest and one fatal wound in the head that caused one of his eyes to pop out. Ka Brando also had several bruises to the body—indicating that he was tortured before being killed.

Agusan del Norte. Rolando Ambungan, a Higaonon datu was shot to death in Sitio Balakalan, Barangay Lumbuyan, Buenavista on the night of January 31. At around 7 p.m., Eddie Ampiawan (alias “Commander Bawang”) and two masked men arrived at his house. Commander Bawang shot Ambungan with an M14 rifle. Wounded in the shooting was the datu’s nephew Janmar Sulhayan. Datu Ambungan had long been opposed to the operations of a mining company in their community.

Albay. Armed state agents killed Rosauro Rayteran and his son Rasty in Barangay San Pascual, Libon on February 6.

Isabela. Unidentified armed men abducted Romulo dela Cruz on February 28 in San Manuel town. Dela Cruz is the leader of Agbiag-Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon iti Isabela, a progressive peasant organization.

Dela Cruz was then with his 21-year old son when the motorcycle they were riding was blocked. He was dragged and forced into a waiting van in Barangay Nueva Era. His assailants posed as agents of the National Bureau of Investigation and passed by the local office of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Dela Cruz is among those fighting landgrabbing in Roxas, a town adjacent to San Manuel.

Cavite. Five activist fisherfolk were arrested by the police in Sitio Patungan, Barangay Mercedes, Maragondon on February 28 and accused of being members of the New People’s Army.

The five were identified as William Castilano, Lorenzo Obrado, Joselito Agner, Basilio Agner and Rogelio Monzales. They are all members of the Haligi ng Batangueñong Anakdagat (Habagat). They were arrested by troops of the Cavite Provincial Safety Company and PNP-SWAT of Cavite. The policemen barged into the houses of the fisherfolk leaders and planted assorted firearms to justify their arrest.

The Pambansang Lakas ng Pamamalakaya sa Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) condemned the arrest. Habagat is the provincial chapter of PAMALAKAYA.

Abra. Forces under the 41st IB Bravo Coy indiscriminately ransacked houses in Barangay Lenneng, Baay-Licuan on February 19. Led by a 1Lieutenant De los Santos, the soldiers subjected the residents to interrogation without a court order.

Among the houses ransacked was that of the Lenneng village chair. Data from his computer were also copied, due to the military’s suspicions that it was being used by the NPA. The fascists did the same in Sitio Kileng of the same village.

Soldiers detained Freddie Ligiw, a miner from Sitio Patong of Barangay Sucao on February 22. He was also interrogated and forced to guide to soldiers on the way to Mt. Inuman. He was detained near his piggery, while other soldiers searched Ligiw’s house and confiscated a shotgun usually used by the villagers for hunting.

The military released Ligiw at 8 p.m.

North Cotabato. Troops of the 39th IB arrested 11 Lumad who were hunting on February 9 and detained them for more than two hours in a forested area of Barangay Batasan, Makilala town.

Interrogated and threatened were Elorde Panggilan, Denis Panggilan, Dexter Panggilan, Ariel Panggilan, Randy Emban, Lodring Emban, Ryan Baclao, Jonel de Guzman, Wowie de Guzman, Henry Ando and Roel de Vera. They were released only after villagers led by barangay officials protested and negotiated with the fascist soldiers.

CPP/Ang Bayan: People’s militia municipal command formed

From the English language edition of Ang Bayan posted to the CPP Website (Mar 7): People’s militia municipal command formed

The Milisyang Bayan Municipal Command (MBMC) or the people’s militia command at the municipal level was successfully formed in a guerrilla front in Subregion 4 of the Southern Mindanao Region on December 21-22. (The MBMC is also known as the MCU or Militia Coordinating Unit in other regions).

The establishment was accomplished through a conference attended by unit commands of seven people’s militia platoons in a cluster of barangays in the guerrilla front. The conference drafted a one-year program of action.

Part of the conference program involved discussions on the context and significance of raising the level of their organization. Building the MBMC falls within the overall call to raise people’s war to a higher level. These were all tackled in more detail during discussions regarding the military situation in the area and the defense of the guerrilla base.

The decision to form the MBMC was arrived at after an assessment of the people’s militia’s level of development. The militia members already comprise a battalion and self-defense units had already been established in each sub-village or sitio in eight barangays. These units could be actively mobilized for military operations, monitoring enemy movements and other tasks. In ten surrounding villages, militia units had either already been formed or are in the process of being built. Political education has already been conducted in all people’s militia units, with some having attended military training.

The leading Party committee in the area pointed out the need for the people’s militia to coordinate at the level of the village cluster or municipality. There are situations where militia units need to cooperate in order to effectively perform their tasks in advancing guerrilla warfare.

The people’s militia’s greater tasks highlight the mass character of guerrilla warfare. The MBMC also serves as a partner of fulltime guerrilla units in the coordinated, systematic and organized mobilization of every militia unit.

The delegates enthusiastically asked questions and aired their views as they discussed the orientation, structure, rights and duties of the MBMC. As an operations command at the municipal level, the MBMC’s basic task is to mobilize and coordinate the people’s militia and self-defense units. The members of the MBMC are leaders of militia units in their respective villages.

The MBMC is directly under the Party section or subsection in the locality. Like the NPA, it abides by the Party’s absolute leadership. It is also under the NPA front operations command. The MBMC is likewise under the jurisdiction of the Municipal Revolutionary Committee through the latter’s Subcommittee on Defense.

After the actual establishment, the delegates discussed and ratified the MBMC’s one-year program, which includes the conduct of special trainings for the people’s militia on sniping and the use of explosives as well as the regular Basic Politico-Military Training. A medical training has also been scheduled to provide medical officers for every militia squad. The MBMC immediately set the date of the trainings and the designated number of attendees from every unit.

The conference took note of the economic needs of the families of militia members and addressed the problem of rice and other food supplies. They agreed that their communal farms must have an area of at least two hectares. Idle plots and land donated by allies would be converted to communal farms. They will also be planting trees.

The conference ended with speeches from the newly appointed members of the unit command of the MBMC, who all affirmed their readiness to take on their duties. They called on all their comrades to rev up their collective action.

CPP/Ang Bayan: 18 harassment operations launched in NEMR

From the English language edition of Ang Bayan posted to the CPP Website (Mar 7): 18 harassment operations launched in NEMR

Units of the New People’s Army (NPA) disrupted the operations of newly arrived troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Northeastern Mindanao Region (NEMR) by launching 18 harassment operations beginning in the last week of January.

From January 29 to March 3, the reactionary troops of the 29th, 13th and 30th IBs, the 41st Division Reconnaissance Coy (DRC), 9th SF of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion, 2nd Scout Rangers Battalion (SRB) and the paramilitary Bagani Force suffered 16 dead and 11 wounded.

Of note were harassment operations by Red fighters in Cayle, Tago City, Surigao del Sur on January 29 which killed six elements of the 36th IB. In another NPA attack on the 41st DRC in Maraiging, Jabonga, Surigao del Norte on March 2, two soldiers were killed.

The NPA stepped up its harassment operations from January 27 to March 3 after the 2nd SRB which had been sent to Maguindanao in November was sent back to NEMR.

This was followed by the deployment of the 2nd Special Forces and the 41st DRC which had come from the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom). These battalions were assigned to the region to reinforce the security personnel of big mining companies operating mainly in Surigao del Norte.

CPP/Ang Bayan: NPA launches series of tactical offensives in NCotabato

From the English language edition of Ang Bayan posted to the CPP Website (Mar 7): NPA launches series of tactical offensives in NCotabato

The Mt. Apo Subregional Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) launched a series of offensives in North Cotabato in February, killing nine enemy elements and wounding nine others.

On February 18, the NPA used command-detonated explosives (CDX) on a detachment of the 39th IB in Sitio Jansig, Barangay Old Bulatukan, Makilala at around 3:30 a.m. The Red fighters were also able to seize an M14 rifle, several backpacks, vests and medical equipment. On the other hand, a guerrilla was martyred and two other Red fighters were wounded.

On February 27, at around 3 p.m., an NPA unit ambushed a convoy composed of troops from the 57th IB and the Philippine National Police escorting Mayor Jaime Mahimpit through Barangay Datu Inda, President Roxas, North Cotabato. Wounded in the CDX explosion were three policemen, including their team leader.

Ka Isabel Fermiza, Mt. Apo Subregional Command spokesperson, clarified in a statement that Mayor Mahimpit was not the target of this particular tactical offensive.

The ambush’s objective was to stop the 57th IB from continuing with its intensifying military operations in the towns of President Roxas, Magpet and Arakan. The military operations began after the 39th IB took over the 57th IB’s area of operations in early January.

In related news, four soldiers from the 49th IB were wounded in a harassment operation launched by an NPA team under the Norben Gruta Command at noon of February 13 in Barangay Patalunan, Ragay, Camarines Sur.

In a report from Ka Diego Magtanggol, spokesperson of the Norben Gruta Command of West Camarines Sur, the NPA team carefully closed in and opened fire on the resting soldiers. The exchange of fire lasted a few minutes, after which the Red fighters were able to maneuver for a safe retreat.

Meanwhile, the Merardo Arce Command (NPA-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command) apologized to the civilians who were inadvertently wounded in an NPA ambush on the 39th IB on the night of March 2 in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

The four civilians were aboard an ambulance embedded in a military convoy that was on its way to collect 11 soldiers wounded in an NPA ambush earlier that day in nearby Barangay Managa. Aside from the wounded, 13 other soldiers were killed in the previous ambush.

According to Merardo Arce Command spokesperson Ka Rigoberto Sanchez, the Red fighters failed to note the ambulance’s presence within the military convoy because the 39th IB ordered it not to use its headlights or sirens.

Sanchez said that they wound immediately provide assistance to the wounded civilians.

News Analysis: Lawmakers question legality of bases access deal with US

From the Philippine Star (Mar 16): News Analysis: Lawmakers question legality of bases access deal with US

While government officials have said that the security agreement that would allow the United States to have access to Philippine military bases is almost a done deal, top congressional leaders here have questioned its legality.

On Friday, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, who heads Philippine panel in the negotiations with the US side, said that the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation (AEDC) between Manila and Washington is "80 percent" done.

Both sides hoped that the final draft of the pact could be signed during the scheduled visit to Manila of US President Barack Obama next month.

The US used to have military bases in the country until the Philippine Senate in 1992 voted to end their lease contracts due to strong anti-American sentiment.

But the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that went into force in 1999 allowed US troops to return to the Philippines for joint military exercises, and thousands of American soldiers regularly visit the country during war games.

Negotiations for AEDC began in August last year. If approved, the deal would allow larger numbers of US troops to have temporary access to Philippine military camps and bring in aircraft, ships and humanitarian equipment.

The Philippine military facilities that would be opened to American forces are in Manila, Pampanga, Zambales, Palawan, Cebu, Nueva Ecija and La Union.

Since 2002, hundreds of US troops have already been deployed in the Southern Philippines to provide counterterrorism training to Filipino soldiers.

The Philippine negotiators did not say whether there will be any limit to the number of US troops or their length of stay in the Philippines.

According to Batino, the agreement would be legally binding and would not require ratification by the Philippine Senate, adding that passing on the deal to the Senate for ratification would delay the actual US deployment.

But on Saturday Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said the proposed accord is a treaty by nature and should require Senate ratification.

Santiago said that any agreement involving the posting of troops and war equipment in another sovereign state is a treaty.

She said that while the President is authorized to negotiate or even approve an agreement, such deal "should only be limited to a topic connected to a prior treaty."

According to Santiago, it would be incorrect for the government to invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty of the l950s as a "prior treaty" since allowing foreign troops and equipment on Philippine soil "is a major subject in itself."

"So it cannot be classified as an executive agreement but as a treaty to which the Philippine Senate must give its concurrence," Santiago said.

Representative Rodolfo Biazon, a former chief of the Philippine military, echoed Santiago's stand, citing three conditions for a treaty to be ratified by the Senate.

"These are if the treaty or agreement is political in nature, if it is a permanent, or if it would require a change in national policy. If any of these exists, then the Senate approval is a must, " Biazon said.

Militant lawmakers in the House of Representatives also questioned the wisdom of giving access to the Americans to Philippine military bases.

In a statement on Saturday, Bayan Muna (Country First) Representative Neri Colmenares said that the Filipino people decided to remove the American military bases in l992 not only because their presence violated our sovereignty but also because they were "magnets from attack" from many enemies of the United States.

"The presence of US troops here will increase the tension in the region and threaten its stability. We do not want to become another Iraq where US troops remained even when Saddam Hussein has long been dead," Colmenares said.

Carlos Zarate, also a Bayan-Muna representative, said that the agreement was "deceptive and lopsided... imposed by the US to advance its... interests as it pivots its military might in Asia."

"The US has a lot of enemies around the world and we can be embroiled in war if there is an attack against the US because we are bound under the Mutual Defense Tready (MDT) to help in cases of attacks against them," Zarate said.

He said that instead of another basing agreement with the US, the Philippines should scrap the MDT and the VFA.

Military: Kidnap groups in Zamboanga using 'spotters'

From the Philippine Star (Mar 15): Military: Kidnap groups in Zamboanga using 'spotters'

The military confirmed that Zamboanga City remains a target for kidnappings with the presence of ‘spotters' for kidnap-for-ransom groups based from Zamboanga Sibugay, Basilan and Sulu province.

Col. Andrelino Colina, commander of the anti-terror Task Force Zamboanga (TFZ), said they have already laid the security measures to run after and counter the kidnapping plot of different groups.

“Aside from those who were based in this city, there are also other kidnap-for-ransom groups from Zamboanga Sibugay, Basilan and Sulu who have their spotters operating here,” Colina disclosed after measures implemented to track down the spotters.

The official said the police and military forces have adopted security for teachers assigned with the critical areas, liked island and far flung villages.

Colina said military troopers were deployed to secure schools in the islands off this city while police will escort the teachers on their way to the island aboard motorboats.

Colina said they want to ensure kidnapping on teachers going to the island will not be repeated following the release of public school teacher Cathy Mae Casipong last Tuesday after she was abducted last Dec. 18 while on her way to the island school supposedly to throw a Christmas party for the students.

The military commander said intelligence units have been mobilized also to track down the spotters.

Colina said they have yet to trace the whereabouts of cosmetics dealer Sabrina Ikbala Voon, 28, who was forcibly taken from their residence last Feb. 19 in Barangay Mercedes east of this city.

The police and military have still no idea on the exact whereabouts of the victim but her captors have reportedly communicated with the family and demanded P5-million ransom.

The police have already identified one of the suspects who is linked with the Abu Sayyaf group and case of kidnapping with serious illegal detention and ransom was already filed before a local court here.

2 dead, 3 hurt in NPA clash in Cotabato

From ABS-CBN (Mar 16): 2 dead, 3 hurt in NPA clash in Cotabato

Two soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines 1002nd Brigade died, while three other soldiers were wounded in an encounter with members of New People's Army (NPA) Guerilla Front Committee 54 in the outskirts of Sitio Timodos, Brgy. Manonisa, Magpet, North Cotabato at about 9:55 a.m. on Saturday.

According to 57th Infantry Battalion commander Col. Nilo Vinluan, at least six members of the NPA were wounded or killed during the one-hour fire fight based on the blood stains found in the area of encounter.

The members of the NPA Guerilla Front Committee 54 were being pursued by the Army because of their alleged involvement in the Matan-ao, Davao del Sur attack last week.

Despite the casualties from the government side, Vinluan vowed to continue pursuit operations against the rebels.

The Army has yet to release the names of the two dead soldiers as their relatives have yet to be informed.

'Honor Code' a commitment among PMA cadets

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 16): 'Honor Code' a commitment among PMA cadets

Outsiders may find it trivial or obsolete but for former and new cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), the "Honor Code" is a commitment that defines the desirable values they must possess to remain part of the Cadet Corps.

This was disclosed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala Sunday.

"Basically ( the 'Honor Code') develops the atmosphere of trust, sincerity, and truthfulness among the cadets," he added.

He also stressed that the spirit of the "Honor Code"enables the cadets to absorb the code as a set of basic and fundamental ethical and moral principles and not just a long list of prohibited acts they could memorize.

"It is this absorption that allows the cadets to identify and assess misconduct beyond technical and legal procedures," Zagala stressed.

He added that this same spirit gives the cadets integrity to do the right thing even though no one is looking, as well as develop them to become trustworthy leaders.

63K new rifles to be issued to AFP next month --President Aquino

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 16): 63K new rifles to be issued to AFP next month --President Aquino

About 63, 000 new rifles will be issued out for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) next month, President Benigno S. Aquino III said during the graduation rites of this year’s Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadets at Fort Del Pilar, Baguio City.

During the event, President Aquino said that it was only about time for new guns to be issued since the ones the AFP were currently using were the same ones used during the Vietnam War in the 1950s.

“Tingnan na lang po natin ang mga ripleng ginagamit ng ating kasundaluhan; panahon pa raw ng Vietnam War ang marami sa mga ito,” President Aquino said.

“Ang good news: 63,000 na riple para sa Sandatahang Lakas ang inaasahan nating mapasakamay na ninyo sa mga susunod na buwan,” he added.

President Aquino in his speech mentioned that aside from new guns, the AFP can expect modern boats, sokol combat utility helicopters, navy helicopters and other new vehicles in the future.

He also said that they are also set to purchase 12 lead-in fighter trainer aircrafts for territorial defense operation and targeted to patrol the eight utility helicopters which will be used for search and rescue and disaster-relief missions in 2016.

Bidding for the twin-engine naval anti-submarine helicopter is also about to begin.

Aside from modernization of the military, the President said that they can also expect more housing projects.

He said that at present, about 54,449 affordable houses have been constructed for members of the military.

With the collective efforts of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of National Defense, livelihood programs are also being improved for retirees.

Attackers identify themselves as NPAs - Nueva Ecija police

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 15): Attackers identify themselves as NPAs - Nueva Ecija police

The killers of a former rebel who succumbed to 18 gunshot wounds in a shooting on Sunday in Barangay Macabaclay here have identified themselves as New People’s Army (NPA) members, a witness told probers.

The witness who rushed, along with his family to the crime scene after hearing successive gunshots, said two of the suspects on board a single motorcycle told them not to interfere.

“Do not interfere, " the 49 - year-old farm worker quoted one of the suspects as saying. “We are NPAs,” the suspect reportedly added.

The victim, Renato Saddoy, 49, married and a farmer was an NPA member in 1980s and an active member of the militant Alab Katipunan at the time of the assault, police said.

The suspects reportedly used cal. 45 pistols, based on the empty shells lifted from the crime scene by the operatives.

SPO1 Adrian Sioson, investigator said, said the witness first saw the four suspects at about 7:30 a.m. passed by in front of his house riding in tandem on board two motorcycles along the feeder road from Barangay Santor, in this town.

All of the suspects have their faces covered with t-shirts, a normal get-up of onion farmers and traders in the area.

“After few minutes he (witness) and his family left on board their tricycle, passed by and saw the four suspects sitting on their parked motorcycles,” Sioson said.

They have also met on the way the victim, driving a hand tractor, a farm implement, towards the direction of the suspects.

Soon, they heard the gunshots prompting them to return until they found the victims body and were told by the suspects to keep themselves away from the incident.

The victim’s wife Jinky told police she would cooperate in the investigation after the victim is interred.

Army intensifies manhunt vs. NPAs in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 16): Army intensifies manhunt vs. NPAs in North Cotabato

The military in a remote town in North Cotabato have launched manhunt operations against a band of communist guerrillas who ambush an Army convoy on Saturday that left two soldiers and two rebels killed, the Army here said.

Lt. Colonel Nilo Vinluan, 57th Infantry Battalion, said government troops pursuing members of the New People's Army who attacked an Army detachment in Tulunan, North Cotabato clashed with government forces in Sitio (sub-village) Timodos, Barangay (village) Manobisa, Magpet, also in North Cotabato at 10:00 a.m. Saturday.

Vinluan said the band of NPA guerrillas was part of those who attacked a police station in Matanao, Davao del Sur last Monday.

Another group of NPAs also tried but failed to overrun an Army and para-military base in Barangay Paraiso, Tulunan, North Cotabato.

Undermanned but determined, elements of the 38th Infantry battalion with militiamen foiled the attempt of the rebels after a 30-minute firefight that left two guerrillas wounded and taken by their comrades, Vinluan said.

In the Magpet incident Saturday, the guerillas used land mines to disable Army maneuver operations.

The 1002nd Infantry Brigade has sent reinforcement to North Cotabato to augment Army Special Forces battalion and 57th IB in hunting down the rebels.

Before the skirmishes in Magpet, 57th IB troopers, led by Vinluan, captured an NPA bomb making factory in the adjacent town of President Roxas.

Vinluan said the Army recovered part of the loot amount the NPA took from an Army convoy they ambushed in October last year in Tulunan, North Cotabato.

In that incident, the rebels took P2.1 million cash intended for honorarium of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit assigned in Tulunan. Nine soldiers were also killed in that incident.

No evacuation of civilians was reported in the Magpet military operation as it was being done in the mountains near Mt. Apo which is thickly forested.

NPA rebels bomb Globe cell site in Masbate City

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 16): NPA rebels bomb Globe cell site in Masbate City

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City -- New People's Army (NPA) bombed the Globe Telecom Cell Site in Barangay Malinta, Masbate City, at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

Nobody was hurt and no property was damaged, a police report said.

The bombing happened while security guard Artvin Tumbaga was not around.

Barangay tanod (volunteer village watchman) Wero Mondares said he was suddenly awakened by a loud explosion and after several minutes, he heard footsteps of persons hurriedly passing by his residence.

The suspects fled towards the direction of Barangay Sinalongan of the same city.

Police recovered three improvised explosive devices in the scene of the bombing, some 15 meters away from the wall of compound.

Investigators theorized that the rebels were asking for revolutionary tax which the company did not grant, as nobody was injured nor any property damaged inside the compound of the cell site.

Hamilton-class cutters beefs up PN's helicopter carrying capability

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 16): Hamilton-class cutters beefs up PN's helicopter carrying capability

The Philippine Navy (PN)'s capability to deploy and carry helicopters for shipboard service was greatly boosted by the arrival and commissioning of two Hamilton-class cutters.

This was disclosed by PN spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic in an interview with the PNA.

"With the arrival of the our Hamilton-class cutters (BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) in 2011 and BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-16) in 2013, our ability to carry and deploy helicopters for shipboard is greatly boosted," he said in Filipino.

Helicopter carrying capabilities, prior the arrival of the two Hamilton class cutters was confined to the Bacolod City class logistic supports vessels which was commissioned in 1993.

Fabic said that flight decks of the Hamilton-class cutters are very ideal for basing and operating the three AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters acquired and commissioned last December.

It is slated to receive two more, the armed versions, by the third quarter of 2014.

Fabic also pointed out that the AW-109s and its pilots are doing very well on their flight deck landing and deck handling exercises.

AW-109 crewmen and flight deck crews of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar are conducting these maneuvers as of this posting.

The PN spokesperson earlier said that that BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and its embarked AW-109 is helping in the search of the Malaysia Airlines plane which went missing last March 8.

"They (pilots and flight crews) are still conducting flight deck landings and training even if they are helping in the search of the missing Malaysian aircraft," he added.

Fabic declined to comment on where the exact location of the Filipino frigate is but stated it is somewhere along the West Philippine Sea.

Fabic said that this is the first time that BRP Gregorio Del Pilar worked with the AW-109 which it is assigned helicopter.

"The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar is operating with BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36) and BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35) along with one Norman Britten 'Islander' aircraft and the Air Force's Fokker F-27 'Friendship' plane," the PN spokesperson said.

Philippine search efforts for the missing Malaysian aircraft is still ongoing ai this posting.

DND chief says Cadet Cudia will not graduate Sunday but case to be investigated by AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 16): DND chief says Cadet Cudia will not graduate Sunday but case to be investigated by AFP chief

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Saturday announced that Cadet First Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia will not be graduating this Sunday.

Cudia is the cadet who was ordered dismissed from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) after being found guilty of violating the provisions about lying in the school's "Honor Code".

However, Cudia's case was elevated to the Chief-of-Staff Armed Forces of the Philippines (CSAFP).

"The President and I met with the family of Cadet First Class Cudia and heard them out. They had appeals, requests, and also raised some issues. We made sure that they were given the opportunity to air their side. At the end of which, we recommended that they formalize their appeal, requests, and other concerns in writing," Gazmin stressed.

"It was agreed that Cadet First Class Cudia will not graduate Sunday, without prejudice to whatever will be the result of their new appeal, which is now elevated to the CSAFP whom the President directed to investigate," the DND chief added.

DND to acquire 50 metric tons of propellant powder

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 16): DND to acquire 50 metric tons of propellant powder

The Department of National Defense (DND) announced that it will be acquiring 50 metric tons of propellant powder for the use of the Government Arsenal in Limay, Bataan.

The above-mentioned material fill the interior of an ammunition cartridge or the chamber of a gun or cannon, leading to the expulsion of a bullet or shell.

The budget for this program is P50 million and will be sourced from the General Appropriations Act of 2014.

Interested bidders must have completed a similar project within the last five years.

And winners must be able to deliver the items within 180 calendar days of the opening of the letter of credit.

Pre-bid conference will be on March 20 at the DND bidding and awards committee conference room, basement, right wing, DND building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

PMA head defends honor code, system

From Rappler (Mar 16): PMA head defends honor code, system

CLASS 2014. President Aquino presides over the graduatiion ceremony at Fort del Pilar in Baguio City. Screengrab from PTV livestream

CLASS 2014. President Aquino presides over the graduatiion ceremony at Fort del Pilar in Baguio City. Screengrab from PTV livestream

The superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy on Sunday, March 16, defended its honor system as Class 2014 graduated amid controversies surrounding the Honor Code.

Major General Oscar Lopez, PMA superintendent, told graduating class Siklab Diwa that "honor is an essential part of happiness," and that the academy's rigid honor system and its honor code "are instruments towards this goal."

As of posting, each graduate was getting his diploma. President Benigno Aquino III is expected to deliver a speech in a few minutes.

The class is graduating without one member, cadet Jeff Cudia who was expelled by the PMA Honor Committee, composed entirely of PMA cadets, for lying in his explanation of why he had come late in one class last year. Cudia has appealed the decision, accusing committee members of ganging up on him.

The Cudia case exploded in social media, prompting a reinvestigation that eventually upheld the committee's decision.

In a last-ditch effort to make him graduate, Cudia and his family sought a meeting with President Benigno Aquino III and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Saturday, March 15, at The Mansion, the presidential residence in the summer capital.

Aquino could only promise Cudia yet another reinvestigation to be handled this time by Armed Forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista.

Cudia not joining PMA graduation as PNoy hands probe over to AFP chief

From InterAksyon (Mar 15): Cudia not joining PMA graduation as PNoy hands probe over to AFP chief

Aldrin Cudia will not be joining the graduation ceremonies of Philippine Military Academy “Sikab Diwa” Class of 2014 on Sunday as President Benigno Aquino III left the fate of the cadet first class hanging, deciding to hand the case back to Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista.

This was the agreement reached between Cudia’s family and Aquino during their meeting in Baguio City Saturday afternoon, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

In a statement Saturday evening, Gazmin said he and Aquino had met with Cudia’s family “and heard them out” earlier in the day.

“They had appeals, requests and also raised some issues,” Gazmin said. “We made sure that they were given every opportunity to air their side.”

The Defense chief said that, at the end of the meeting, “we recommended that they (Cudias) formalize their appeals, requests and other concerns in writing.”

“It was agreed that Cadet First Class Cudia will not graduate tomorrow, without prejudice to whatever will be the result of their new appeal, which is now elevated to (Bautista), whom the President directed to investigate,” Gazmin added.

Cudia was supposed to graduate with honors.

However, he was found guilty of violating the PMA Honor Code for allegedly lying about why he was late for a class and was recommended for dismissal by the school’s honors committee.

Cudia and his family have protested the decision, claiming there was an anomaly in the vote of the honors committee. They claimed that the committee had changed the original 8-1 vote to make it unanimous, a requirement for a decision to dismiss a cadet.

The PMA review board upheld the honors committee decision and endorsed this to Bautista who, in turn, submitted this to the Office of the President.

PMA cadets are presidential appointees.

Earlier Saturday, ABS Professionals party-list Representative Catalina Leonen-Pizarro visited Cudia and said the cadet was hopeful Aquino would rule in his favor but that "he would accept whatever the decision would be."