Tuesday, March 18, 2014

US 7th Fleet commander visits PN headquarters

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 18): US 7th Fleet commander visits PN headquarters

United States 7th Fleet commander Vice Admiral Robert Thomas paid a visit on Tuesday to the Philippine Navy (PN) headquarters in Naval Station Jose V. Andrada, Roxas Blvd., Manila.

He was received by PN acting flag-officer-in-command Rear Admiral Isabelo H. Gador.

The USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), the flagship of the 7th Fleet, arrived Tuesday at Manila's South Harbor for a goodwill visit until March 22.

The visit highlights the strong historic, community and military connections between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines.

The goodwill visit includes activities such as staff-to-staff talks, sport events, professional exchanges and ship tour.

During the professional exchanges, PN personnel from the Philippine Fleet and Naval Sea Systems Command will be given the chance to study and familiarize with the USS Blue Ridge’s weapons and communications systems.


502nd Infantry Brigade beefs up disaster response capabilities

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19): 502nd Infantry Brigade beefs up disaster response capabilities

The Echague, Isabela-based 502nd Infantry Brigade announced Wednesday the beefing up of its disaster risk reduction capabilities to reduce possible casualty and property damage in times of natural and man-made calamities.

This concept is under the Philippine Army's "Oplan Lifeguard", Col. Reynaldo Labanen, the commanding officer of the unit, said.

Labanen said "Oplan Lifeguard" aims to improve the Army's capability to conduct search and rescue operations in disaster stricken areas.

He added that the 502nd Infantry Brigade has been continuously conducting trainings on disaster risk reduction through collaborative efforts with other stakeholders.

"The military participates in local disaster risk reduction and management council meetings from provincial, city, municipal and barangay as part of civil military operations," Labanen stressed.

His officers and men are also participating in tree planting activities of stakeholders, bloodletting activities and continuously conducting symposia to schools to enlighten the youth on security awareness and disaster preparedness.


PA conducts fun run as 117th founding anniversary nears

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19): PA conducts fun run as 117th founding anniversary nears
With the Philippine Army (PA) about to celebrate its 117th founding anniversary this coming March 22, around 500 soldiers headed by ranking military leaders staged a fun run at their headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on Tuesday morning.

Leading the way were PA commanding general Major Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri and Army chief-of-staff Brig. Gen. Leonardo Rey Guerrero.

The fun run was divided into two categories, 5K and 10K.

The top finishers, both male and female, received medals and P500 cash prize.

The awarding ceremony and a raffle draw was held at the Philippine Army Grandstand after the fun run.

Meanwhile, the Army through the Civil Military Operations Group (CMOG), conducted a two-day Philippine Army Information Caravan at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City last March 15 to 16.

The information caravan featured a Static Display of Army capabilities which drew interest from the public.

The crowd was then entertained by the Army band who performed during the two-night mini concert.


16 teams participate in PA shooting competition

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19): 16 teams participate in PA shooting competition

Sixteen units based at the Philippine Army (PA) headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City and nearby areas are participating in a shooting competition Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, PA spokesperson, said the competition is being held at the Security and Escort Battalion Firing Range.

The teams vying for the championship trophy are from the Office of the Commanding General, Philippine Army; Office of the Vice Commander, PA; Office of the Chief of Staff, PA; Headquarters and Headquarters Support Group; Intelligence Security Group; Army Support Command; 51st Engineering Brigade; 2nd Infantry Division; 7th Infantry Division; Special Operations Command; Mechanized Infantry Division; Training and Doctrine Command; First Scout Ranger Regiment; Special Forces Regiment (Airborne); 5th Infantry Division; and the Office of the Army Sergeant Major.

The shootfest, dubbed as "Think First Fast Team Challenge," is a team competition designed to test the team's overall ability in marksmanship, game planning, and teamwork, as well as their sportsmanship.

Each team is composed of five members which will compete in three categories: the three stages (Stages 1 to 3), the Man vs. Man Shoot Off, and the Team vs. Team Shoot Off.

The shooting competition is one of the activities lined up to commemorate the 117th founding anniversary of the PA on March 22.

It aims to promote excellence in pistol marksmanship and strengthen the bond, foster camaraderie, and esprit d'corps among the officers and men of the Army.


MILF: Sangir, IPs in Davao del Sur attend GPH-MILF Peace Process orientation

From the MILF Website (Mar 19): Sangir, IPs in Davao del Sur attend GPH-MILF Peace Process orientation

More than a hundred Sangir, Manobo, Blaan and Kaagan from Sangir District in Davao del Sur were oriented on the GPH-MILF Peace Process during a peace advocacy gathering in Jose Abad Santos (JAS), Davao del Sur on March 15, 2014.
Sugoda Buayan Provincial Political Committee Vice-Chairman Osmena Salisipan explained the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and recent development in the peace process.

The activity also provided a venue for the participants who came from six Barangays of JAS to know the programs of Bangsamoro Development Agency and Sajahatra Bangsamoro.

Mohalikin D. Piang, BDA SouthMin Regional Manager tackled the different programs being implemented by BDA in conflict affected communities in Southern Philippines.
He said the BDA has been existing for more than a decade and has been engaging with development partners in reaching out beneficiaries regardless of tribal affiliation and beliefs.

Salisipan said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is now fast tracking the crafting of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). “Once the BBL will be ratified in Congress, it will pave way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government in the core territory,” he explained.

He further discussed the FAB Annexes on Wealth Sharing, Power Sharing and Normalization.
The participants expressed their willingness to be reached out by BDA projects through BDA SouthMin Regional Management Office considering the proximity.
Mohamad Hamdan Macabangin, Sajahatra Coordinator for SouthMin, related the Sajahatra Bangsamoro component projects which include livelihood support, healthcare and educational assistance.

Piang advised the participants to make a resolution addressed to the MILF Central Committee to consider the idea because under the MILF political set-up, Sangir District in under the Davao Provincial Political Committee and BDA Davao Regional Management Office.

MILF: BTC, Peace Panels hold consultation in Lanao

From the MILF Website (Mar 18): BTC, Peace Panels hold consultation in Lanao

Marawi City --- More than thirty thousand individuals from all walks of life trooped to the provincial gymnasium of Lanao del Sur March 11 to be part of the public consultation jointly conducted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and the negotiating peace panels of the MILF and GPH.

In what has been the most attended and longest consultation held thus far by the BTC, the public gathering lasted for five hours.  37 representatives of various sectors were allowed to address the commissioners and peace panel members.

MILF Peace Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal, who also chairs the BTC, assured the very large crowd that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) is to be signed within the coming few days.

Describing the CAB as the “greatest hope for real peace,” Iqbal said that they have come to the Maranao people to ask for their blessing and support before they “commit the future and destiny of our people to that Agreement.”

With the help of a translator, Iqbal told the Maranaos that the MILF and the GPH panels have an “over-arching commitment to finally answer the Bangsamoro Question, and to ensure that it will be on a path to economic security, stability and success for the future generations of the Bangsamoro.”

He said that “the establishment of the new Bangsamoro political entity will pave the way for good governance and will result in a stronger, better-resourced government suited to the way of life of the Bangsamoro.”

OPAPP Sec. Teresita Deles, who spoke in Tagalog in her opening message, said that the joint consultation brought the message that the “roadmap…. is almost fulfilled.”   

“The time has come for the Bangsamoro to be at par with other places in the Philippines and Southeast Asia because of the expected investments that would drive its economy,” Deles confidently proclaimed.

She also urged the people that when CAB is already signed they should open their hearts and minds in seeking and understanding the good life that would be ushered in by the Bangsamoro.  

GPH Peace Panel Chief Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer went into details of explaining the basic features of the prospective Bangsamoro.

For one, she said, the Bangsamoro would be different from the present-day ARMM in terms of structure of governance, the former being ministerial in form.

Ferrer cited the benefits of having a legislative assembly under a ministerial form. “It is truly representative since many sectors stand the chance of being elected into it and it is also more accountable since the chief minister would be under the close scrutiny of the assembly, and not the other way around as obtains in the present system,” she elaborated. 

Iqbal and Ferrer ended the 5-hour consultation with the reassurance that the positions, recommendations and sentiments of the audience were all duly noted.

Recommendations gathered include the creation of Shariah and tribal courts, strengthening the roles of women and youth, clear programs for agriculture and business, the retention of the phrase Muslim Mindanao, further institutionalization of sultanates, the immediate formation of Joint Peace and Security Teams, among others.

A day earlier, the BTC paid a courtesy call to Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong, Jr. A meeting of the BTC with a majority of the province’s 39 municipal mayors was also arranged by the governor in his office.

The Office of the Provincial Governor played as gracious host to the conduct of the joint public consultation.


MILF: Maguindanao conducts public consultation on Bangsamoro Basic Law

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 18): Maguindanao conducts public consultation on Bangsamoro Basic Law

The Province of Maguindanao organized a provincial-wide consultation on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) last March 13, 2014 at Buluan, the seat of the provincial government.
The event was organized by the provincial government in partnership with the Mindanao Civil Society Platform for Peace (MCSOPP) who is in the forefront of advocacy work for the GPH-MILF Peace Process and helps the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in conducting public engagements.

Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu of Maguindano personally submitted the “8 Point Development Agenda” that the provincial government wanted to be included in the crafting of the BBL such as Restoration of Peace and Order, Transparency, Accountability and Participative Governance, Poverty Reduction Program, Infrastructure Development, Parallel Support to Madaris and Secular Education, Accessible Quality Health Services, Environment Management Program and Revenue Generation.

The governor believes that these development agenda are very essentials issues to be considered in the drafting of the BBL.

“We must always remember that whatever class of people you are, we must unite and support this. This is for the betterment of all of us.” Mangudadatu said.

“Let us promote the spirit of peace for the vigorous and progressive Bangsamoro government.” he added.

After the workshop conducted based from the five categories such as Territory and Government, Justice and Election System, Economy and Natural Resources, Basic Rights and Security and Education the copy of the outputs were handed by the some member of LGUs together with the members of MCSOPP to Governor Mangudadatu then he handed it to Chairman Iqbal for recognition.

In his speech Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the BTC said that the product of every consultation will be considered significant in the crafting of the BBL.

“Feedbacks, suggestions and recommendations that will be submitted to the BTC are very important for possible inclusion in the drafting of the BBL.” Iqbal said.

He also believes that decades-old conflict caused the people to suffer and the existence of the unremitting poverty mostly in the Bangsamoro area.

“War is the mother of poverty.” he added.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) is soon to sign. All of these developments are clear manifestation of the sincere commitment of the both parties in their quest for genuine and lasting peace in Mindanao.

MILF: BTC got big Yes in Lanao del Sur

From the MILF Website (Mar 17): BTC got big Yes in Lanao del Sur

Marawi City- In what is Said to be one of the Biggest gathering of the Meranaw People in the only Islamic City of the Philippines, People from all walks of life stormed the Provincial Capitol Gymnasium at Marawi City on Tuesday March 11, 2014 to attend the Joint Public Consultation of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to Show their support and approval on the crafting and passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government in 2016.

The Government lead by Sec. Teresita Deles and GPH Peace panel Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Members of the GPH Panel Team graced the said Consultation.

The BTC lead by Chairman Mohagher Iqbal were overwhelmed by the Huge Turn-out of the said Consultation, majority of the BTC Commissioners were present.

No less than the Lanao Del Sur Governor Mamintal "Bombit" Adiong jr. gave the welcome address, Mayors of various towns in Lanao del Sur and other LGU Officials were also Present.

   Representative from various sectors and organizations Were Given time to address their support and Concerns to the BTC and to the National Government.

Because of the huge Turn-out and limited capacity of the venue thousands of attendees were not able to enter the Provincial Gymnasium to witness the  consultation.

  Moro Activist Agakhan M. Sharief rallied the people Outside the Gymnasium in what is described as Dramatic and Spontaneous Rally. The Crowd Mostly Youth were Chanting "ALLAH IS GREAT" and Long Live Bangsamoro!

MILF Senior Peace Panel and BTC Commissioner Maulana M. Alonto went outside the gymnasium and Boarded a on top of a 6x6 Army Truck that served as stage to thank and witness the Crowd outside.

Engr. Imran Malomalo of Bangsamoro Movement for Peace Advocacy put their estimate of the crowd at 30,000.

MNLF: Chairman Misuari's Message on the Celebration of the 46th Anniversary of the Bangsamoro Freedom Day

From the MNLF Website (Mar 18): Chairman Misuari's Message on the Celebration of the 46th Anniversary of the Bangsamoro Freedom Day

On behalf of the MNLF Central Committee leaders, freedom fighters in the war zone of Mindanao and the oppressed Bangsamoro people, we are again appealing to the conscious humanity of nations, particularly the 57-state Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), United Nations (UN), European Union (EU) and all Peace Advocate and Humanitarian Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) to join us even only with silent prayers and moral suport in the celebration of our Bangsamoro Freedom Day on this auspicious day of March 18, 2014 (16 Jamadil Awal 1435H). Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!


Has Nur Misuari been replaced as MNLF chairman?

From InterAksyon (Mar 18): Has Nur Misuari been replaced as MNLF chairman?

Has Moro rebel leader Nur Misuari been replaced as chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)? According to a story posted on the Zamboanga Today website Monday, Datu Hadji Abul Khayr Alonto, “the legitimate MNLF vice chairman,” succeeds Misuari as the new chairman of the MNLF Central Committee.

However, the MNLF website on Tuesday, carried a message from Misuari on the 46th year of the Jabidah massacre. He signed it as chairman of the Central Committee of the MNLF.

In its story, Zamboanga Today cited luwaran.com, the website of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which split from the MNLF and now set to sign its own comprehensive peace agreement with the Philippine government.

“The pioneers of the Bangsamoro struggle, the surviving MNLF FF90 (Freedom Fighters) have recently signed Resolution No. 01-2014, a Resolution of Unity,” the report said.

The resolution noted that of the 90 original MNLF founders, only “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.”

“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,” the resolution read.

The resolution was also an expression of MNLF’s support for the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement for the Bangsamoro and for the Transition Commission which is crafting of the Basic Law for the establishment of the Bangsamoro State in Muslim Mindanao.

According to the report, the resolution was crafted and signed on the 3 February 2014, at the “MNLF-LAM ALIF Lama Maradeka, Kuta Marawi, Buadi Sa Kayo, Islamic City of Marawi.” Members of the “FF 90 AB’20, FF 90 CD’21, FF 90 H’14, and top 91 Brother Abdullah (Al) Camlian” signed it.

Who is Alonto?

Alonto is said to be a leading figure in the Top 90 batch of the MNLF.

According to the report, “Alonto of the Triumvirate of 1964” organized the Youth Wing of the Moro Malay Muslim Movement in the Middle East and the Philippines. As founding leader of the MNLF, Alonto also participated in the 1965 Covenant of Jabbal Noor, Makkah Al-Mukarramah of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The same report said Alonto signed the resolution “in conformity with and acceptance of his selection.” It did not say if Misuari signed it as well.

Misuari criticized

The resolution also mentioned Misuari’s “unfortunate blunders (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.”

“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’ and led ‘the September 2013 Zamboanga City Siege’ that caused the loss of hundreds of lives and destruction of properties,” the resolution read.

The same resolution granted Alonto the authority “to initiate the immediate reconsolidation, reorganization,n 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, and Youth Commissions.”

Misuari message on Jabidah 46th year

In the MNLF website, Misuari issued a statement on the commemoration of the 46th year of the Jabidah massacre, widely believed to have started the modern-day Moro uprisings in Mindanao.

“On behalf of the MNLF Central Committee leaders, freedom fighters in the war zone of Mindanao and the oppressed Bangsamoro people, we are again appealing to the conscious humanity of nations… join us even only with silent prayers and moral suport in the celebration of our Bangsamoro Freedom Day on this auspicious day of March 18, 2014 (16 Jamadil Awal 1435H),” the message read.

Misuari directed the appeal to the 57-state Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the United Nations, the European Union, and all peace advocates and humanitarian non-government organizations.

In 1968, scores of Moro recruits training under the Philippine military to retake Sabah from Malaysia were killed in Corregidor Island. They were allegedly killed for trying to escape the island. The late President Ferdinand Marcos allegedly ordered their training.


Bangsamoro leaders want Noy to highlight ‘Jabidah Massacre’

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 19): Bangsamoro leaders want Noy to highlight ‘Jabidah Massacre’

Ranking leaders of the Bangsamoro people yesterday urged the Aquino government to commemorate the Jabidah Massacre to show the world that it is sincere in achieving peace with Muslims in Mindanao.

According to Anak Mindanao partylist Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman, the Jabidah Massacre, which happened 46 years ago yesterday,  triggered the Muslim’s bid for self-rule.

“We are united to establish the One Bangsamoro through the peace talks being pushed by the government and MILF. Let us not forget the Jabidah Massacre that ignited the Moro rebellion and recognition for self-rule,” Turabin-Hataman said yesterday.

Hataman went to Corregidor island where the incident, known as the Jabidah Massacre, where it is claimed to have happened.

The victims were said to be Muslims recruited by the government in a covert operation hatched by the Marcos government to reclaim the island of Sabah from Malaysia.

Those who were claimed to have been massacred were the recruits who tried to escape during  training.

Called “Operation Mer-deka” it started during the time of President Diosdado

Macapagal until the time of  President Ferdinand Marcos. It was meant to foment dissent in the island that fell into the hands of Malaysia in 1963.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman said the Jabidah massacre should always be remembered as the beginning of Moro uprising in the country which the Aquino administration is putting an end through the peace talks.

He underscored the importance for Congress to fast track the enactment of the law for the creation of Bangsamoro so that lives of Muslims killed in the Jabidah massacre will not put to waste. Some say, including President Aquino’s father, Ninoy, the Jabidah massacre never happened.

“Let us remember the Jabidah massacre as precursor to the Moro rebellion leading to the recognition of Moro’s bid for self-rule. The incident fanned the flames of the uprising and this is now being addressed peacefully by the Aquino administration through peace talks,” the ARMM governor said, recalling that 2014 is the sixth year that AMIN led the commemoration of the Jabidah massacre.

The incident ushered in the births of the Mindanao Independence Movement in 1969 and subsequently, that of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), from where the MILF splintered from in the early 1980s.

Ironically however, while the father of the incumbent president, now the late Sen, Ninoy Aquino is being credited for exposing the so-called “Jabidah massacre”  which the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) exploited to the hilt to rally Muslims to its secessionist cause, a report from columnist, former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao said hat this was stated by Ninoy  to  seek “a stop to the  clandestine plan of his archenemy president Ferdinand Marcos to train and send Muslim commandos to Sabah to organize a revolt against Malaysia, the first step for the Philippines to take over the territory.”

A Wikipedia  entry stated:  “Sources differ regarding the details, with the number of victims ranging from 14 to 68, and some sources assert that the massacre is a myth.”

The “some sources” it referred to consist solely of University of the Philippines anthropologist Arnold Molina Azurin who investigated the episode intensively in his book, Beyond the Cult of Dissidence.

“For starters, the Jabidah issue broke out after Cavite governor Delfin Montano, one of Marcos’ most vociferous critic, had one Jibin Arula file charges at the Cavite Court of First Instance against major Eduardo Martelino and 10 other army officers and soldiers whom he alleged were involved in the purported atrocity. Arula would be the sole person ever to allege that he witnessed the massacre, Tiglao wrot quoting the speech of Ninoy.

Arula claimed that with about a dozen of his fellow Muslim trainees, he was ordered to line up at the airstrip in Corregidor in the wee hours of March 18, 1968, and then shot by their trainers. He claimed that he was hit in the leg, so he managed to run, hide in the bushes, and then escape to the sea to be rescued hours later by fishermen.

The allegations became the burning issue, with the two major newspapers at that time, both stridently anti-Marcos, The Manila Times and The Manila Chronicle, portraying Arula as a hero. A congressional investigation was undertaken, which months later would turn out to be inconclusive,” Tiglao stated in his column.

Then congressman Rashid Lucman of Lanao del Sur claimed that the massacre was motivated by Marcos’ greed to claim Sabah for his personal property. Lucman months later would organize the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization, the MNLF’s precursor, and get Malaysia to secretly train its recruits. Aquino though didn’t jump in to demonize Marcos over the alleged massacre. He did not only go to Jolo and Tawi-tawi to seek out the alleged victims’ relatives but interviewed Arula himself. Aquino in his speech concluded: “After interviewing the self-asserted massacre survivor, Jibin Arula, doubt nagged me that there had indeed been a massacre,” were the words of Ninoy Aquino in his privilege speech.

“Arula must have made a dash for his life, thinking that they had been brought to the airstrip for the ‘slaughter.’ Told to halt by his escorts, he kept running. His escorts shot him in the leg to force him to stop. He kept going—and the rest is his story. But what happened to his eleven companions? Were they really  “massacred?’”

Aquino went on with his speech, the column recounted Ninoy’s words.  “Some say that when the firing started with Arula, his companions ducked. So that Arula was correct when he said that he saw his companions fall to the ground. But were they shot? Or did they duck because of the firing?”

The alleged “slaughter” Aquino referred to was Arula’s claim that he had suspected that 24 recruits who left two days earlier, whom their military superiors said were being brought to Sulu to be deployed to Sabah, were actually killed. But Aquino pointed out: “Meanwhile, in Jolo yesterday, I met the first batch of 24 recruits aboard RP- 68. This group was earlier reported missing— or, even worse, believed ‘ massacred’ . . . William Patarasa, 16 years old [ one of the recruits] denied knowledge of any massacre.”

Aquino in his speech elaborated his view: “This morning, The Manila Times, in its banner headline, quoted me as saying that I believed there was no massacre on Corregidor. And I submit it was not a hasty conclusion, but one borne out by careful deductions.”

What were these deductions? According to Aquino:

• “What would have been the motive for the ‘massacre’? Some quarters have advanced the theory that the trainees were liquidated in order to silence them. But then, 24 boys have already shown up in Jolo safe and healthy. To release 24 men who can spill the beans and liquidate the remaining 24 ‘to seal’ their lips would defy logic.”

• “Arula’s fears, which in his place may be considered valid, may not be supported by the recent turn of events. Twenty-four recruits have turned up.”

Aquino emphasized that only a rigorous investigation of Arula’s allegations would arrive at the truth. He asked the military to “produce the eleven recruits” the lone survivor allegedly killed.

But if the eleven merely resigned and like the first twenty four returned to Sulu, or even deployed to Sabah, could the military have traced them and asked them to testify? Indeed, one of the strangest aspects of the alleged “massacre” was that through 45 years, there hasn’t even one victim’s relative who has surfaced to condemn the purported killing.”

Nolcom strengthens development communication linkages

From the Business Mirror (Mar 18): Nolcom strengthens development communication linkages

The Armed Forces’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) recently signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Region 3 for partnership in development communication.

The MOA was signed by Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., Nolcom chief, and William Beltran, PIA regional director, and was witnessed by the Nolcom’s chief of staff, Col. Jesus Sarsagat, PIA Regional Planning Officer Carlo Lorenzo Datu and PIA Tarlac Information Center Manager Lorie Gene Cruz.
Under the agreement, both parties committed themselves to work on an advocacy campaign that would lead to better community relations of the command and contribute to a lasting insurgency-free Central Luzon.
Catapang noted that with the MOA, Nolcom and PIA will be partners forever that will be giving people the right information; defeating all kinds of enemy; and assures that by establishing an alliance, the government will always be in a good position.
On the other hand, Beltran explained that, “From the very beginning, we have seen how Nolcom recognized the role of information in their mission and advocacy of making Central Luzon an insurgency-free area. With this MOA formally signed and agreed upon, we believe this will solidify our partnership in the attainment of our worthwhile vision of establishing an informed and empowered Region 3.”
 With the partnership, PIA will help Nolcom in crafting a sound communication plan; production of developmental news; production of information, education and communication materials; and render support in its activities and social media needs.
 In addition, part of the agreement tasked the PIA to provide “text blast” service on matters pertaining to announcements, activities and campaigns on peace and order and disaster preparedness, as well as upgrade the skills of planning and public affairs officers in all of its Air Force, Army and Naval units through the conduct of workshops.
On the other hand, Nolcom shall designate an information officer who shall coordinate with the PIA.
The command shall also provide an office space for the Tarlac Information Center of  PIA within the premises of its headquarters and shall actively take part in the different national information drives and advocacy activities of the government.

Military to maintain supplying Marines on Ayungin Shoal

From the Business Mirror (Mar 18): Military to maintain supplying Marines on Ayungin Shoal

THE military will push through with its plans to resupply the Marines stationed at the Ayungin Shoal, despite warnings by China for the country to abandon the area.
A security official said it is the duty of the Armed Forces to sustain the soldiers deployed on the shoal, which is a part of the country’s territory, by providing them with food and water.
“It is but our duty to provide for own troops…these are Filipino settlements,” said the official, adding, “it is the right [thing to do], we reiterate that that is within our exclusive economic zone.”
The official said the military is strictly adhering to the Code of Conduct among claimants in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), and the resupply of the Filipino troops is not a violation of the code.
China, according to a Reuters report, had warned the Philippines that it will not tolerate the latter’s occupation of the shoal as it asked that it leave the area.
Earlier, Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked a civilian vessel that was on its way to resupply the soldiers stationed on the grounded BRP Sierra Madre in the shoal.
The World War II-vintage BRP Sierra Madre, a landing ship tank (LST) was deliberately ran aground the shoal almost 10 years ago to make the country’s presence on the shoal permanent.
It has since been manned by Marines who were rotated every six months.
China said the civilian ship that was tapped by the Philippine Navy to deliver the provisions, was carrying construction materials, claims that were denied by another security official.
The incident prompted the government to lodge a diplomatic protest against China, and for the military to air drop water for the stationed troops.
The official said the civilian vessel, aside from carrying food and water, carries small things that would make the soldiers stay within the grounded vessel habitable.
He also said there is already a need to replace or rotate the troops at the grounded vessel because the last time they were rotated was in November last year.

Philippines assures respect for sovereignty in new US defense deal

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Mar 18): Philippines assures respect for sovereignty in new US defense deal

Manila has guaranteed that a new defense cooperation between the Philippines and the United States is consistent with the country's Constitution and laws.
Both countries are currently negotiating a new treaty that would allow more access to US military forces in the country and raising new threats of attacks from communist rebels who are waging a secessionist war for decades now.

The treaty is expected to be completed soon, according to a Philippine government spokesman Herminio Coloma.

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,” Coloma said.

“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,” he added.

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 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.”

Senator Miriam Santiago, who heads the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said the deal has to be approved first 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 said 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.

President Barack Obama is expected tovisit the Philippines in April.