Wednesday, March 19, 2014

DND to buy P67.6-M worth of 5.56mm bullets

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 20): DND to buy P67.6-M worth of 5.56mm bullets

The Department of National Defense (DND) said it has allocated P67.6 million for the acquisition of 13 million pieces of 5.56mm M855 bullets.

The bullet is used by various models of the M-16 automatic rifles currently in service with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The fund for the bidding will be sourced from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2014.

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

The winning bidder must also be capable of delivering the items within 180 calendar days of the opening of the letter of credit.

The pre-bid conference will be held on March 27, to be followed by the bid opening on April 15, both at the DND Bid and Awards Committee Conference Room, DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

AFP vows to unmask killers of bishop’s brod

From the Philippine Star (Mar 20): AFP vows to unmask killers of bishop’s brod

The military has vowed to unmask those behind the killing of a younger brother of Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla in Oton, Iloilo last Saturday.

Maj. Ray Tiongson, spokesman of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, also denied that the military had a hand in the gun-slaying of Romeo Capalla, 65, in front of the Oton public market.

“We are conducting our own investigation to help unmask the real perpetrators behind this crime,” said a senior military official, adding that the killing of Capalla, a former New People’s Army leader in Panay, could be related to a financial squabble with his former colleagues.

Capalla’s death came after a series of killings in Western Visayas of key leaders of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, a breakaway communist group which has forged a peace pact with the national government.

Zambo-based kidnap gang leader nabbed in Paranaque

From the Philippine Star (Mar 19): Zambo-based kidnap gang leader nabbed in Paranaque

Security forces on Wednesday arrested the alleged leader of a notorious kidnap-for-ransom group and his four followers in an operation in Parañaque City.

Chief Inspector Alexander Lorenzo, chief of the police's Philippine Center for Transnational Crime in Western Mindanao, identified the suspected kidnap gang leader as Mamay Aburi.

Lorenzo said the suspects were arrested by joint elements of the police and the military in a safehouse along Antonio Avenue at around noon Wednesday

The suspects were arrested by virtue of a warrant on the charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Lorenzo said Aburi was able to elude arrest during a raid at his safehouse in Barangay Tenan, Ipil town, Zamboanga Sibugay last March 8. Two of Aburi's other followers were captured in the raid.

He said Aburi's group is based in Zamboanga City and is believed to be involved in a series of kidnapping, including that of Australian national Warren Richard Rodwell, who is married to a Filipina.

Rodwell was released on April 2013 after his family paid a huge ransom to the kidnappers. He was kidnapped on December 2012.

Lorenzo said that aside from Rodwell, Aburi’s group was also responsible in the kidnapping of public school teacher Cathy Mae Casipong, 23, who was abducted last December 18, in waters off an island east of this city and released only on March 11 in Ipil town.

Casipong was supposed to be released by the group three days earlier, but the raid on their safehouse last March 8 delayed it.

Lorenzo said military and police intelligence operatives have been tracking down Aburi's group.

He said they received information that the group went to Metro Manila to elude the intensified hunt against them.

“It seems the groups were using Manila as their R&R (rest and recreation)," he said.

Talks on Misuari replacement draw mixed reactions

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 19): Talks on Misuari replacement draw mixed reactions

The evolving issues regarding the replacement of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding Chairman Nur Misuari, and the alleged formation of a new group has drawn mixed reactions from the various leaders and sectors in Mindanao.

It was gathered that Datu Hadji Abul Khayr Alonto, who was said to be the legitimate vice chairman of the MNLF, had been declared as the new chairman of the Central Committee of the MNLF, replacing Misuari.

Reports reaching the Manila Bulletin said that 33 out of the 39 surviving MNLF pioneer fighters signed Resolution No. 01-2014, signifying the election of Alonto as the new chairman of the group.

The resolution, which was reportedly signed last February 3 in Marawi City, also expressed support to the ongoing talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) regarding the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), and the Transition Commission.

The Manila Bulletin received an emailed copy of the resolution, where
Alonto’s group criticized Misuari for committing blunders that led to leadership crisis within the ranks of the MNLF.

The resolution further said that Misuari “veered away from the very principle that the group has sworn their lives for, when, among others, he publicly proclaimed Sulu, nearby provinces, and the island of Palawan independent from the Philippine Republic with the inclusion of Sabah, Malaysia.”

Alonto’s group added that Misuari participated in the March 2013 Lahad Dato Standoff, and led the September 2013 Zamboanga City Siege that caused the loss of lives and destruction of properties.

PH unperturbed by China warning not to challenge naval blockade

From Malaya (Mar 19): PH unperturbed by China warning not to challenge naval blockade

THE government is unperturbed by China’s warning against a Philippine plan to challenge a naval blockade it has put up at the disputed Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, implied that the military will push through with its plan to send civilian ships to re-supply Marines staying at the rusting BRP Sierra Madre that ran aground at the shoal in 1999.
Last March 9, Chinese Coast Guard ships drove away from the Ayungin Shoal, also called Second Thomas Shoal and referred to by China as Ren’ai Reef, two civilian ships charted by the Philippine Navy to bring supplies like food and water to the Marines. The Chinese said the vessels were carrying construction materials.
A day after the incident, gallons of drinking water were air-dropped to the area using a Navy plane. According to sources, civilian ships would be contracted anew to ferry supplies to the troops at the Ayungin Shoal.
“We reiterate that that (Ayungin shoal) is within our EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” security official said. The country’s EEZ extends to about 200 miles from the country’s shoreline. Ayungin is some 105 nautical miles from Palawan.
“It is but our duty to provide (supplies) for our own troops. These are Filipino settlements,” the official also said, referring to Ayungin and eight other areas occupied by Filipino troops in the disputed region.
Told that Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei warned the Philippines that it should be ready to accept the consequence of its act of challenging their blockade, the security official said: “Just ignore them.”
The Aquino government maintained that Ayungin Shoal is part of the Philippines’ continental shelf and all actions being taken by the country are in accordance with international law and the administration’s policy of resolving the territorial dispute through peaceful and diplomatic means, said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.  
Ayungin is part of the Spratly Islands, a chain of islands and islets in the West Philippine Sea believed to be rich in oil and mineral deposits. 
The Spratly Islands are being claimed in part or in whole by the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
Philippines and China are also disputing ownership of Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal off Zambales. Chinese Coast Guard ships gained control of the shoal following a standoff with Philippine vessels in April 2012.
Ayungin is one of several possible maritime flashpoints that could prompt the United States to intervene in defense of Asian allies troubled by increasingly assertive Chinese maritime claims.
The commander of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet and its flagship are in Manila.
Vice Adm. Robert Thomas paid a call on acting Philippine Navy chief Rear Adm. Isabelo Gador yesterday, a day after his arrival.
Philippine Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr, Gregory Gerald Fabic did not give details of discussions between Thomas and Gador.
The 7th Fleet’s flagship, the USS Blue Ridge, arrived at the South Harbor in Manila for a goodwill visit until Saturday.
Fabic said the goodwill visit highlights “the strong historic, community and military connections” between the US and Philippine military.
“The goodwill visit will include activities such as staff-to-staff talks, sport events, professional exchanges and ship tour,” said Fabic.
During professional exchanges, Fabic said Philippine Navy personnel “will be given the chance to study and familiarize with the USS Blue Ridge’s weapons and communications systems.”
The USS Blue Ridge has visited the country several times.
“The US Navy’s frequent visits manifest their firm commitment to strengthen military ties with the PH as it pushes for a rebalance to Asia-Pacific region,” said Fabic.

Op/Ed: Not for all the tea in China

Opinion piece in the Business Mirror (Mar 18): Not for all the tea in China

IT is not foolish to think that a head-on collision with the People’s Republic of China will force the Philippines to its knees. That is something we cannot deny. Our military is in such a state of disrepair that it would seem ridiculous to face China now. And even if our armed forces are in good condition, chances are they will be crushed the moment they reach disputed waters, because, if the Chinese so chooses, for whatever silly reason they may have, they could squash us like ants with a push of a button.
The military fleet responsible for asserting China’s claims to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is the South Sea Fleet. Although it is the last of China’s three naval fleets to be modernized, its campaign to upgrade highlighted some of the latest in sea-attack capabilities.
According to a paper by Felix K. Chang, titled “Transforming the Philippines’s Defense Architecture: How to Create a Credible and Sustainable Maritime Deterrent,” the South Sea Fleet has more than enough capability for any faceoff on and around the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea.
“In the last decade,” Chang writes, “its subsurface force added two Shang-class nuclear attack submarines, as well as four Kilo-class, three Song-class and the first of the newest Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines. Meanwhile, its surface fleet added a Luhai-class, two Luyang I-class, and two Luyang II-class destroyers, as well as four Jiangwei II-class and two Jiangkai-class frigates to its inventory. And it expanded its amphibious-lift capacity with two Yuzhao-class landing platform docks and an assortment of new-build landing ship tanks, landing ship medium, and landing craft utilities, which can better support the sort of ship-to-shore missions needed in the Spratly [or Kalayaan Group of] Islands.”
Obviously, a possible faceoff with the Goliath that is China doesn’t bode well for the Philippines. The Armed Forces of the Philippines’s 2012 to 2018 Capability Upgrade Program only went so far as to get two Hamilton-class cutters from the United States that were once fitted with RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-submarine warfare equipment. All they have today are an air-search radar system, a helicopter pad and one Phalanx close-in weapons system for anti-air defense. Anything a tad sharper than that would cost the country an arm and a limb.
It is clear in Chang’s assessment, however, that a good buying strategy might garner for the Philippines a bit of an edge. Going conventional, like off-the-cuff purchase of ships and jets, should take second fiddle to a more “unconventional” approach to upgrading our defense capabilities. “Arms procurement must not only adhere to a coherent and comprehensive external defense concept, but also fully consider whether [or not] the operational lifetime costs of those arms can be maintained [with a] long-term budget,” he writes. There are less costly alternatives in the market.
Chang advises to use Kalayaan and Palawan province’s strategic location to our advantage. New lower-cost, lower-maintenance technologies for coastal defense, like the US’s RGM-84L Harpoon and RGM-109B Tomahawk; India’s BrahMos; and Russia’s P-800 Yakhont, might just put the Chinese naval forces at bay. Their rapid deployment along Palawan’s coastal network makes these technologies hard to pinpoint without going deep into Philippine air space.
The idea, Chang says, is to look for alternatives, to not go hastily into a buying spree every time the budget allows; it must be part of the overall strategy. Not for all the tea in China will the Philippines surrender its claims and honor, that’s certain. But let us never forget that having brains to go with strategic might is more than half the battle won.

NOLCOM inks MOA with PIA Region 3 for partnership in DevComm

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 18): NOLCOM inks MOA with PIA Region 3 for partnership in DevComm

Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recently inked a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Region 3 for partnership in development communication.

Under the MOA; which was signed by NOLCOM Commander Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. and PIA Regional Director William Beltran with NOLCOM Chief of Staff Colonel Jesus Sarsagat, PIA Regional Planning Officer Carlo Lorenzo Datu and PIA Tarlac Information Center Manager Lorie Gene Cruz as witnesses; both parties shall work on an advocacy campaign that would lead to better community relations of the AFP unified command and contribute to a lasting insurgency-free Central Luzon.
“The MOA ascertains that NOLCOM and PIA will be partners forever. Partners in giving people the right information. Partners in defeating all kinds of enemy. Partners, who assure that by establishing alliance, government will always be in a good position,” Catapang said.

With this partnership, PIA shall assist 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.

Part of the agreement also is for 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 the agency within the premises of its headquarters and shall actively take part in the different national information drives and advocacy activities of the government.

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 III,” Beltran said.

What happened in the Jabidah massacre 46 years ago? Groups stage rally to remember

From InterAksyon (Mar 18): What happened in the Jabidah massacre 46 years ago? Groups stage rally to remember

What happened in the Jabidah massacre 46 years ago? Progressive groups here are scheduled to hold a protest rally Tuesday to commemorate the bloody event that is believed to have started the modern Moro insurgencies in Mindanao.

Among the leading groups that will lead the rally in Tantawan Park this morning are Suara Bangsamoro, Liga ng Kabataang Moro, and Kawagib. They are calling for justice for the victims of the massacre, said Jerome Aba, spokesman of Suara Bangsamoro-Cotabato.

Last week, officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao formally remembered the cold-blooded murder of 14 to 68 Moros recruited to the Armed Forces of the Philippines to reclaim Sabah. The late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos ordered the covert training of the Moro recruits, who were allegedly killed trying to escape their training camp in Corregidor Island.

Muslim Mindanao Act 671 declared today as Bangsamoro Day, a holiday for the entire region. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is also said to celebrate its founding day today.

Employees of the Regional Governor Compound, led by ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, also had a Walk for Peace to remember the Moro martyrs.
Hataman will be in Corregidor for a commemorative activity there.

Abdulrab Rasul Sayyaf - man who brought bin Laden to Afghanistan

From RFI (Mar 17): Abdulrab Rasul Sayyaf - man who brought bin Laden to Afghanistan

Abdulrab Rasul Sayyaf

Abdulrab Rasul Sayyaf
Open access/ANBI
Abdulrab Rasul Sayyaf, 68, a former anti-Soviet mojahedin, leads the Dawat party and is an MP for Kabul.
Sayyaf is the man who first invited Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan.
Although he is a hard-line Islamist - the Philippine rebel group Abu Sayyaf was named after him - at one point Karzai was reported to be backing him.
He has opposed women's rights and helped pass an amnesty for war crimes through the Wolesi Jirga.
Winning the support of former Herat governor and ex-water and energy minister Ismail Khan should boost his vote.
Running mates:
  • First vice-president, Mohammad Ismail Khan;
  • Second vice-president, Abdul Wahab Urfan.

MILF unprepared for elections, says former peace negotiator

From MindaNews (Mar 19): MILF unprepared for elections, says former peace negotiator

A former member of the government peace panel in talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Wednesday expressed apprehensions it might be premature to hold an early plebiscite and elections for the Bangsamoro.

“The MILF is not ready yet to plunge into some political exercise,” Jesus Dureza, peace panel member during the Arroyo administration, said in a statement to MindaNews.

“Kagi (Ebrahim Al Haj) Murad and the MILF are not yet prepared politically. They need more time to ripen. They will stand no chance at all if pitted against the savvy and long entrenched politicians,” he warned.

Murad is the chair of the MILF.

“MILF should not ever think that they will get the political positions in the new Bangsamoro entity in a silver platter in an open election. It is also a mistake for the MILF to rely totally on President Aquino to win the public vote. He will be a lameduck president by then, just like all others,” Dureza further cautioned.

Dureza, also the former secretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), said “the short preparation for the holding of the plebiscite (2015) and the elections (2016) may be fatal.”

“They may have succeeded in getting an agreement. But it may not work on the ground as envisioned. If there is still time, that transition period should be further extended. But all is not lost if no changes are made before the March 27 signing. Congress is still empowered to move the periods when it acts on the proposed organic law to implement the agreement. There is still a way,” he added.

Dureza’s statement came a week after OPAPP Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles announced the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro will be signed on March 27, and the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be submitted to the President on March 31.

The BBL is being drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, a body created through an executive order in December 2012 with eight members from the MIF and seven from the government. It is headed by MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal.

After Congress passes the BBL and Aquino signs it, the law will be submitted to a plebiscite in areas proposed for inclusion in the Bangsamoro that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The plebiscite will take place in the Bangsamoro core territory which includes the current ARMM provinces and Marawi City; the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; the six municipalities in Lanao del Norte that voted for inclusion in the ARMM in the 2001 plebiscite (Baloi, Munai, Pantar, Nunungan, Tagaloan, and Tangkal); and the barangays in the six municipalities of North Cotabato province that likewise voted for inclusion in 2001 (Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap).

Other contiguous areas where the local government unit approves a resolution for inclusion or at least 10 percent of the qualified voters sign a petition may also join the plebiscite.

‘US help to Philippines Unclos-based’

From the Business Mirror (Mar 19): ‘US help to Philippines Unclos-based’

THE commander of the USS Blue Ridge, a control and command ship of the US 7th Fleet, on Wednesday said the US would rely on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) as its benchmark in providing help to the Philippines.
“Once again the code of conduct... however it may turn out toward the efforts by all the Asean nations to try to reach agreement...especially as they are packaged in Unclos, that’s our benchmark,” the USS Blue Ridge commander, Cmdr.Robert Thomas, said.
Thomas was replying to a question on how the 7th Fleet could provide help to the Philippines in the ongoing dispute between the Philippines and China on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
China claims practically the whole of the South China Sea, where the Philippines-claimed area has been renamed WPS.
World Affairs, an official publication of the American Peace Society, said as far as the “jurisprudence evidence” is concerned, the vast majority of international legal experts have concluded that China’s claim to historic title over the South China Sea, implying full sovereign authority and consent for other states to transit, is invalid.
The Unclos provides that all the natural resources of a country’s continental shelf, extending 200 nautical miles, shall belong to that country.
The Blue Ridge is in Manila for a routine port call and four-day goodwill visit to highlight the strong historic, community and military alliance between the US and the Philippines.
It has 19 Filipino-American sailors onboard.
“We will continue to stand by our allies, we have five treaty alliances in this theater, over 60 years of alliance with the Philippines, not only in cultural perspective, but also shared interests.”
Thomas said the United States will continue to cooperate in international waters, continue to encourage freedom of access to all, encourage dialogue, encourage the rule of law.

Homicide raps to be filed vs PH coast guard personnel over Taiwan fisherman's death - DOJ

From InterAksyon (Mar 18): Homicide raps to be filed vs PH coast guard personnel over Taiwan fisherman's death - DOJ

After nearly a year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday finally said it would soon file homicide and obstruction of justice charges against eight personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard who figured in a confrontation with a Taiwanese fishing vessel off Balintang Channel leading to the death of Taiwanese fisherman, Hong Shi Cheng.

Accordign to the DOJ, there is probable cause to charge Commanding Officer Arnold Enriquez Dela Cruz, Seaman 1st Class (SN1) Edrando Quiapo Aguila, SN1 Mhelvin Aguilar Bendo II. SN1 Andy Gibb Ronario Golfo, SN1 Sunny Galang Masangcay, SN1 Henry Baco Solomon, SN2 Nicky Renold Aurelio and Petty Officer 2 Richard Fernandez Corpuz with homicide for the death of the Taiwanese fisherman.

“The respondents all acted in unison with the common purpose of firing at the Guang Da Xing 28 (the Taiwanese fishing vessel) to force it to submit to MCS-3001’s inspection (the vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources which was manned by the said Coast Guard personnel)," stated the department's 79-page resolution.

"Conspiracy was established by the National Bureau of Investigation when it presented the fact that orders were given and the orders were obeyed and efficiently implemented with fatal consequences,” the resolution said.

It added that there is no evidence to show that the Guang Da Xing posed a grave danger to the MCS 3001 and its respondents before and during the sea chase, adding that the DOJ found the self-defense claim of the respondents flimsy.

But the DOJ said the resolution should not be construed as a license for Taiwanese fishermen to illegally enter the country’s territorial water and poach marine resources there.

Aside from the homicide charges, the DOJ also said obstruction charges would be filed against Dela Cruz and Bendo for their role in the preparation and submission of a falsified monthly gunner report on May 11, 2013.

But the DOJ junked another obstruction charges against Dela Cruz, SN1 Ramirez, Bendo and Lt. Junior Grade Martin Bernabe in relation to the deletion of video clips of the incident.

The homicide charges will be filed before the trial court of Batanes while the obstruction cases will be at the Cagayan municipal court.

US Pacific commander emphasizes Philippine alliance, amid China row

From InterAksyon (Mar 19): US Pacific commander emphasizes Philippine alliance, amid China row

File photo of USS Blue Ridge.

The US Pacific commander Tuesday emphasized the Philippines' importance as a military ally, as Filipino forces were involved in an increasingly tense standoff with Chinese ships in the South China Sea.

"Our 62-year alliance with the Philippines remains key to our efforts to ensure the stability and prosperity of the Western Pacific," Rear Admiral Robert Thomas told reporters in Manila.

He sailed to the Philippine capital on Tuesday aboard his command ship, the USS Blue Ridge, days after the latest of a series of hostile encounters between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea.

China said its coastguard on March 9 blocked two Philippine-flagged vessels approaching Second Thomas Shoal, which is guarded by a small group of Filipino marines but is also claimed by China.

The Philippine military evaded the blockade by airdropping supplies to the troops.

The shoal is part of the Spratlys, a chain of islets and reefs that sit near key shipping lanes, are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and are also believed to lie atop huge oil and gas reserves.

They are around 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the western Philippine island of Palawan and about 1,100 kilometers from the nearest major Chinese land mass.

China claims most of the South China Sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its neighbors.

The Philippines grounded an old navy ship at Second Thomas Shoal in 1999, four years after China built structures on a nearby Filipino-claimed reef. Filipino troops have kept a presence on the ship ever since.

On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei warned that China "will never allow any form of occupation" of the Second Thomas Shoal.

He repeated an allegation, denied by Manila, that the Philippine vessels were bringing construction materials there on March 9.

"China watches closely and is highly vigilant on further possible provocations in the South China Sea by the Philippines and it must bear all the consequences arising therefrom," Hong said.

Asked what the US 7th Fleet would do to help the Filipino marines, Thomas said he did not wish to address "hypothetical" scenarios, but then highlighted his country's 1951 mutual defense pact with Manila.

"And so without going into the hypotheticals, what I would offer is that the 7th Fleet is going to support this alliance. Period," he said.

The pact binds each country to come to the other's aid if its armed forces or ships are attacked in the Pacific.

MNLF faction maintains Misuari still leader, disowns '€˜new chairman' Alonto

From InterAksyon (Mar 19): MNLF faction maintains Misuari still leader, disowns '€˜new chairman' Alonto

The faction of the Moro National Liberation Front that has remained loyal to Nur Misuari said the movement’s founding chairman remained its leader, as they disowned Abul Khayr Alonto.

Alonto had been described as the “new” MNLF chairman in a “resolution of unity” issued by 33 of the 39 surviving founders of the organization.

Interestingly, the resolution was posted on, the website of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which split from the MNLF and is now set to sign a peace agreement with the government.

The MNLF, under Misuari, entered into its own peace pact with government in 1996.

Since then, however, it has also suffered a split, with the major breakaway faction led by former Cotabato City mayor Muslimin Sema.

Sema’s faction, called the Council of 15, has voiced support for the MILF-government peace agreement, which the Misuari faction has rejected.

The agreement would dissolve the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, created through the 1996 pact and of which Misuari was once governor, and replace it with a new political entity to be called Bangsamoro.

In a kanduli, or thanksgiving ceremony, to mark the 46th anniversary of the MNLF at Camp Datu Umama Malang in Malatimom, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, the organization’s Central Mindanao chief of staff, Alkhudz Simpal said they would never recognize any other leader by Misuari.

Around 1,000 MNLF members attended the anniversary.

Simpal accused the government of using Alonto to mislead MNLF members and further drive a wedge into their organization.

Army in Panay Island on red alert for NPA anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19): Army in Panay Island on red alert for NPA anniversary

Philippine Army units in Panay island are on red alert status in anticipation of the 45th anniversary of the New People's Army (NPA) on March 29.

In an interview, Brigadier General Arnold Quiapo of the 301st Infantry Brigade based in Dingle town said that the Army is closely coordinating with the Philippine National Police (PNP) in safeguarding the public and securing peace in Iloilo, Capiz, Antique, and Aklan provinces.

Law enforcers are also tasked to secure installations such as police stations, government offices and city and municipal halls while patrols will be undertaken to monitor insurgent activities, he said.

Some of the recent attacks on public and private facilities and "liquidations" of individuals were linked to the NPA's anniversary celebration. Activity of the insurgent group heightens in the days leading to the celebration.

"We have learned recently the there were many attacks in the past weeks," the Army official said, "We are preparing for any future attacks. But I don't think they will be successful."

Quiapo has called on the NPA to abandon the armed struggle, noting that the economy has improved despite the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda last year.

"We can see that the government is doing good," he said, adding that 70 percent of the Armed Forces is engaged in developmental projects while the remaining 30 percent is focused on combat operations.

Quiapo is also urging citizens in rebel-infested areas to cooperate with the Army in maintaining peace and order.

DSWD’s Kalahi-CIDSS named Best Public Sector Project

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19): DSWD’s Kalahi-CIDSS named Best Public Sector Project

The Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) won in the 4th Best Public Sector Project Awards in Region 6.

The Awards has four objectives namely to identify and recognize good practices in the public sector, enhance the public image of government, identify good practices for possible replication in other areas, and develop social accountability, transparency and good governance.

Conceptualized by the Regional Development Council (RDC), it is composed of governors of the six provinces in Western Visayas, 16 mayors, 18 representatives of the private sector, and 22 regional directors of national government agencies.

DSWD-Field Office 6 was chosen by the Board of Judges as the winner in the National Government Agencies category for its entry entitled “Ang Banas Padulong sa Kauswagan.”

“Ang Banas Padulong sa Kauswagan” (The Path to Progress) is a documentary on the barangay trail with foot bridge project in the island-barangay of Macatunao, Northern Iloilo.

It highlighted the collaborative effort of the community and the LGU of Concepcion, with the supervision of the Regional Project Management Office, in the construction of the P1.1 million-worth project.

The project now directly serves 200 households within Macatunao. Some 149 households from other sitios and neighboring barangays also benefit from the community project.

Its implementation was led by Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee chairperson Vivian Dolor.

Dolor’s sacrifices, as well as that of her fellow volunteers, to implement the barangay trail with foot bridge subsequently inspired development workers and various groups in getting involved in community-driven development (CDD), the development strategy utilized by Kalahi-CIDSS.

The DSWD will receive a trophy and a cash prize of P50,000 for winning the award.

The awarding ceremony is set on April 1 with Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad as guest of honor.

Kalahi-CIDSS uses the community-driven development (CDD) strategy to empower citizens through various trainings and activities to capacitate them to identify and solve community concerns that affect their local poverty situation.

USAID expresses readiness to support initiatives of Gov. Alvarez for Palawan development

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19): USAID expresses readiness to support initiatives of Gov. Alvarez for Palawan development

The provincial government of Palawan is elated over the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) assurance of support toward development initiatives of Governor Jose Alvarez.

Provincial information officer Gil Acosta said Tuesday the assurance of support was given by USAID Mission Director Gloria D. Steele in a visit to Puerto Princesa, Palawan on March 13 to 14.

Acosta quoted Steele as saying that the USAID is starting to reach out to other provinces and is willing to strike partnerships with those who are concerned with helping themselves.

She said that they “want to make sure that the US taxpayers’ money goes to good causes, and that they go to good people and to places deserving of the resources.”

For the past 20 years, USAID has been focusing on assisting Mindanao, but this time, it is looking at the potentials of other provinces and is now working with Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Batangas City, and Palawan.

For Palawan, the USAID will reportedly focus on development projects in energy, agriculture and tourism.

Recently, a USAID-funded project for hybrid renewable energy was inaugurated in Green Island in the municipality of Roxas, northern Palawan.

In the area of agriculture that will also spur livelihood opportunities, Acosta said the provincial government struck an agreement with Rocky Mountain Arabica Coffee Company for the development of a coffee plantation, and Kennemer Foods International for cacao plantation in Southern Palawan.

The target municipalities are Aborlan, Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, Quezon and Rizal.

Another area of partnership with USAID, he stated, is the Joint Energy Development Advisory Group (JEDAG), which aims to address the power shortage in Puerto Princesa and the province.

The provincial information officer said Alvarez thinks of the visit as the start of a new relationship with USAID.

“The provincial government of Palawan is in a catch-up mode to address poverty in the province,” Acosta quoted the governor as saying.

He added that in the last 15 years, government officials have not done enough to address poverty but in the next two and a half years of Alvarez’s current term, he assured the USAID officials that his administration will do its best to do what has not been done while hoping that whoever will take over next will continue what he has set out to do based on a 10-year program crafted by his administration.

Governor Alvarez said that the assistance of the USAID to Palawan can do much to awaken the people from a long slumber, reiterating that the province has been lagging behind by 30 years compared to provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao.

But endowed with the fire and fervor, something concrete can be done to address poverty and bring the Palaweños to the mainstream of society.

“The governor said that helping Palaweños overcome poverty is a fulfilling mission and with the support of the USAID, this will be a mission possible,” said Acosta.

Governor Alvarez is said to have told Steele that one of the strategies of his administration to address poverty is the development and strengthening of the tourism industry in northern Palawan, and the further development of the agricultural potentials of southern Palawan.

To go hand-in-hand, southern Palawan will supply the agricultural requirements of the tourism destinations from Puerto Princesa to northern Palawan.

Another key strategy is the cultural, tourism and economic linkages with Malaysia. Impressed with the 2 1/2 M tourist arrivals in Kota Kinabalu alone, the Palawan administration is optimistic that with the opening of air linkages between Palawan and Kota Kinabalu via MASWings that will soon have daily flights from its current thrice a week flights, this will bring in more tourists to the province.

The governor, Acosta related, also sees the emergence of employment opportunities for Palawan workforce in its neighbor. “There is now a shortage of manpower in Malaysia. By the third year of the governor’s term, we will have about 20,000 graduates, who are beneficiaries of our education program, who will be ready to take on jobs in Malaysia and also in the tourism destinations in northern Palawan,” he said.

DSWD attends to needs of families displaced by NPA-Army clash in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19): DSWD attends to needs of families displaced by NPA-Army clash in North Cotabato

The municipal social welfare office of the local government of Magpet, North Cotabato is now attending to the needs of more than 100 families who fled their homes following the ambush by suspected communist guerrillas against the Army and the subsequent military operations.

Antonia Fernnadez, Magpet social welfare chief, said two remote villages are affected by the armed conflict which began Sunday after New Peoples Army (NPA) guerrillas set off landmines on soldiers pursuing them in the village of Manobisa, Magpet.

In that ambush, two Scout Ranger soldiers were killed and three others were hurt when land mines were set off by the rebels in Sitio Timodos, Barangay Manobisa.

Fernandez said 96 families have fled from Sitio Manobisa and seeking shelter at the multipurpose building in the village center. About 60 other families from Sitio Salingsing also fled and stayed at multipurpose building of nearby Barangay Amabel.

The evacuees decided to flee as they heard regular gun burst from both the rebels and the military.

Fernandez said the town social welfare office had already distributed relief good packs to affected families.

She said the town's health office also sent health workers to attend to the health needs of the affected families,especially the children.

Lt. Colonel Nilo Vinluan, 57th Infantry Battalion commander, said pursuit operation against the members of NPA Front 53, was on going following the ambush.

The rebels were part of the NPA team that attacked the police station in Matanao, Davao del Sur that left two cops dead and the subsequent ambush they staged against pursuing elements of the 39th Infantry Battalion.

After the Matanao incident, the NPAs moved to North Cotabato, the military said.

Former RPA-ABB rebels continue to promote new advocacy as forest guards

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19): Former RPA-ABB rebels continue to promote new advocacy as forest guards

Ninety-five former members of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPM-P/RPA/ABB) Tabara Paduano Group will continue to serve as deputized forest guards of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) until December this year.

The DENR renewed the contracts of the former rebels starting this March.

The RPA-ABB is now known as the Kapatiran sa Progresong Panlipunan.

Edgardo Rostata, community environment and natural resources officer of Cadiz City, said the forest guards will engage in forest protection and law enforcement operations, as well as forestry-related activities, in coordination with the concerned local government units.

Twenty-two forest guards are assigned in northern Negros, of which 12 are newly-hired and 10 whose contracts have been renewed.

Other former rebels are assigned in areas under the jurisdictions of the CENR Offices of Bacolod and Kabankalan.

The DENR hired the services of 95 former rebels to protect the remaining forest cover and natural resources in Negros, Panay, Cebu and Bukidnon.

The move is part of the peace process between the national government and RPM-P/RPA/ABB.

Forty-three of the 95 former rebels were employed by DENR to help the agency in their forest protection program and related activities

The activity is also a prelude to the closure of the peace process agreement between the government and the RPM-P/RPA/ABB.

Before their deployment, Rostata said the forest guards were briefed on their duties and responsibilities, forest laws, rules and regulations, and procedures for apprehending violators.

SOLCOM troops thwart another NPA attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19): SOLCOM troops thwart another NPA attack

Soldiers belonging to the Bravo Company (“B”Coy) of the 76th Infantry Brigade (7IB) thwarted another attack by the New People’s Army (NPA) at the vicinity of Sitio Agsigang, Barangay Mananao, Paluan in Occidental Mindoro recently.

Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) Commander Lt. General Caesar Ronnie F. Ordoyo said on Tuesday the terrorists’ attack at the cell site and the harassment on government’s troops are clear manifestations on the NPA’s desperate attempt to cling on to their unlawful cause to overthrow the government.

Lt. Gen. Ordoyo disclosed that SOLCOM has been intensifying its military operations against the NPA in the area to preempt them from launching attacks particularly on helpless communities.

The dissidents were believed to be a merged group of Sangay sa Platoon (SPN) PLAGUER and CALOY of the Yam-Ay guerrilla front of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee (STRPC).

Reports reaching the SOLCOM headquarters here said the NPA rebels fired at the troops who were on a regular patrol, but scampered in different directions after SOLCOM troops engaged them in a 10-minute firefight.

Government troops recovered an ICOM radio, long magazine for AK-47, 27 rounds of AK-47ammunitions, two cellphone chargers, 20 meter-wire clip as detonator, a pouch for binocular, bond paper written with code names, 14 SIM cards for cellphones, a memory card and P620 cash.

No casualty on the government side was reported while the enemy obtained an undetermined number of casualties.

Ranking NPA leader in South Quezon surrenders to Solcom troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19): Ranking NPA leader in South Quezon surrenders to Solcom troops

A ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in South Quezon surrendered to soldiers of the 74th Infantry Battalion under the command of 201st Infantry Brigade chief Brig. General Alex Capiña at its headquarters on Wednesday afternoon.

Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) Commander Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie F. Ordoyo identified the rebel returnee as Arjie Bulalaque alias “Jared” who was former finance officer of the Berto Platoon of the NPA’s guerilla unit and staff member of Anak-Pawis since 2010.

Bulalaque, in an interview, admitted he voluntarily surrendered to government troops and abandoned the CPP-NPA movement after learning most of his comrades including his brother Arnel yielded to government authorities.

Speaking in Filipino during the custodial debriefing, Bulalaque divulged “many of my comrades including my brother and kin have surrendered. So, I have to give up also since the NPA failed its promise to give me land for free.”

The top NPA leader also revealed he belongs to a revolutionary family in Quezon with his father known as “Ka Black”, a hardcore rebel who later died due to illness.

Bulalaque recalled how his father never received any medication and support from the NPA organization while he was active.

Also, his brother Arnel was recruited by the NPA at an early age but he had abandoned the rebel movement in November last year.

Arnel is now qualified as a recipient of the livelihood incentives from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) under its Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

OPAPP’s CLIP provides interventions to address the physical, psychological, intellectual, social and economic development needs of former rebels.

Lt. Gen. Ordoyo said Bulalaque will receive P50,000 as livelihood cash assistance from OPPAP and monetary incentives in exchange for his guns under the “Gun for Peace Program” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Ordoyo remarked that “the increasing number of NPA leaders’ surrender to the government only manifests their continuing quest to lead normal lives in a safe and peaceful community.”

The Solcom chief added that rebels returning to the fold of law can now pursue livelihood and become productive members of the society and partners for economic development under the social integration program.

CHR asks PNP and AFP: Observe proper protocol in apprehension, invitation for questioning of persons

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19): CHR asks PNP and AFP: Observe proper protocol in apprehension, invitation for questioning of persons

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Negros Oriental has appealed to members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly the Philippine Army, to ensure that proper protocol is followed during the arrest of a suspect or the invitation of a person to the police station for questioning.

Dr. Jesus Cañete, Ph.D., lone special investigator of the CHR-Negros Oriental, noted that in a number of instances, protocols were breached by either the police or military, which could mean possible human rights violations by persons of authority.

Cañete was referring to suspects in either criminal or insurgency-related cases who either voluntarily surrendered or are apprehended in the mountains and are brought to the police station for proper disposition.

He disclosed that some police personnel had admitted that when a suspect or a person of interest was turned over to them, they simply write it down as a police blotter entry and release that person without further information.

“I am concerned with the process being adopted by the PNP and the Philippine Army when bringing a person to the police station without taking an affidavit and not complying with requirements under the law,” said Cañete.

If a person is detained without having gone through the proper procedures, “we (CHR) will be holding the police responsible” if anything happens to that person while in their custody, Cañete further said.

The police cannot simply just receive a person that was handed over to them by the military, the barangay tanod (village patrols) or any law enforcer for that matter without narration of facts behind that person’s arrest or his being brought to the police station, the CHR chief went on to say.

“We have to be very careful with this. Otherwise, the police or other law enforcers can be charged with arbitrary detention or unlawful arrest”, Cañete added.

Dr. Cañete raised this concern during Monday’s meeting of the Provincial Peace and Order Council and the Bantay Bayanihan, attended by key officials of the PNP, Philippine Army, provincial government, government agencies and offices, and non-government organizations, among others.

AFP forms special board to look into the Cudia case

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19): AFP forms special board to look into the Cudia case

To ensure that all angles and issues are looked into the case of ex-Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadet Aldrin Jeff Cudia, who was dismissed from the ranks after being found guilty of violating the lying provisions about the "Honor Code", the Armed Forces announced that it has formed a special investigation board to look into the case.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, said the board is composed of five members and chaired by Major Gen. Crisologo Naybe, AFP deputy chief-of-staff for communications, electronics, and information systems.

He added that the board was created to look into the issues raised by Cudia and his family during his meeting with President Benigno S. Aquino III and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin last March 15.

Zagala said that the team is now in Baguio studying the appeal made by the Cudia camp.

"Although the Cudia family has yet to submit their written appeal, upon the instruction of the President, the board has already started its investigation so that a basis can be determine on whether an investigation is needed," he stressed in Filipino.

The AFP public affairs chief added that the special investigation board is different from the one that the PMA utilized in looking into Cudia's first appeal.

Zagala was referring to the Cadet Review and Appeals Board which earlier upheld the ruling and verdict of the "Honor Committee" which ordered Cudia dismissed from the PMA after being found of lying.

He added that the board is composed of staff officers, designed by AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, for the purpose.

Zagala also pointed out the investigation of the board has no time limit.

PA to celebrate 117th anniversary on March 22

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19): PA to celebrate 117th anniversary on March 22

The Philippine Army will celebrate its 117th founding anniversary on March 22 by highlighting its crucial role in nation-building, as well as the Filipino soldiers' courage and heroism in combat and humanitarian and disaster response efforts.

The Army Day celebration, with the theme "Serving the People, Securing the Land," will be graced by the Secretary of the National Defense and former PA Commander Voltaire T. Gazmin.

From March 17 to 22, the Philippine Army Museum is open to the public as part of the Army's gesture to bring itself closer to the people. During this time, entrance is for free.

As per tradition, the PA will commemorate the Tejeros Convention through a wreath-laying ceremony on March 20 at the Casa Hacienda in Barangay Tejeros, Rosario, Cavite, the same place where the Tejeros Convention was held 117 years ago.

A wreath-laying ceremony will also be conducted at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers (TUKS) at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City on March 21 to honor the soldiers who died fighting for peace.

The main event is on March 22, which will be highlighted by a simultaneous flag-raising ceremony by all units of the Army and awarding of selected PA personnel and units.

The PA will also be awarded with the Army Governance Pathway (AGP) Status during the anniversary celebration as a manifestation of the progress of the Army Transformation Roadmap.

A static display on the different Army capabilities will also be set up at the Headquarters Philippine Army Grandstand to highlight the progress of the Army Capability Upgrade.