Saturday, March 22, 2014

Opinion: QUN FAYA QUN: Is it really a declaration of unity?

Opinion piece posted to MindaNews (Mar 21): QUN FAYA QUN: Is it really a declaration of unity?

On March 18, 2014, in commemoration of the 1968 Jabidah Massacre, members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who claim to be “the pioneer members” headed by Vice Chair Abul Khayr Alonto released a one-page “declaration of unity” in the Philippine Daily Inquirer which was signed earlier, on March 3.

The signatories to this declaration are said to be the pioneer members (and hence, mainstream) of the MNLF. This is mainly because of the fact that they belong to the top 90 and top 300 Freedom Fighters or the first two batches of the MNLF that went abroad (i.e. Malaysia and Middle East) for military training.

In the previous months after the Zamboanga Siege of last year, Al Qalam Institute of the Ateneo de Davao University had been monitoring the series of meetings of the MNLF-Misuari faction. A consultative meeting was conducted last October 5 and 6, 2013 in Barangay Waan, Davao City. The said consultative meeting had Vice Chair Jimmy Labawan as the presiding officer and in attendance were Atty. Bong Parcasio, former mayor Omar Solitario, Randy Karon, and MNLF members and officers coming from Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi Tawi areas.

A copy of the minutes of the meeting was distributed to concerned Bangsamoro advocates and Mindanawon peace advocates.

In the minutes of the meeting the following were the key issues that the MNLF discussed: a.) Organizational Leadership, Consolidation/unity; b.) Peace Process (Implementation of Peace Agreement/Tripartite Review) c.) Peace, Development & Security d. Engaging with GPH, Civilian authority, Military.

It was clear among the participants, as reiterated by Vice Chair Jimmy Labawan, that they will not create another faction of the MNLF.

Other meetings were also held attended by officials of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process who were able to hear the sentiments of the MNLF Misuari faction.

Based on the statement of the MNLF Alonto group, it now seems that the MNLF has metamorphosed into several factions. We have the Reformist group of Dimas Pundato; the MNLF Council of 15, the MNLF Misuari group, and the MNLF Mainstream (which may also be divided into Alonto group and Labawan group).

Many groups and peace advocates of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) welcome this “declaration of unity”. It gives us the strong impression that Muslim Filipinos and Bangsamoro people are united in working for peace and development in the region. It also gives hope that peace is within our reach and that the many years of conflict will soon be over.

However, questions remain unanswered. The declaration hints at a grand design of making all sectors, all Muslim Filipinos, and people under the proposed Bangasmoro territory, to get ready for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which is scheduled on March 27, 2014. The CAB is the final peace agreement to be signed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government. It includes the Framework Agreement, the Four Annexes, and the important documents pertaining to water boundaries.

Yet, why use the specific identity-ridden epithet “Moro Malay Muslims in the Philippines” in the entire declaration? Why insist on using the exclusive word “Moro” as an identity marker? How was “Malay” used in conjunction with the more seemingly territorial word “Philippines”?

The Al Qalam Institute has time and again insisted the need to see the different identities and layers of different peoples in Mindanao and specifically in the ARMM which include the indigenous peoples (IPs) and the “settlers”.

We also stress the need to make this proposed “Bangsa” as inclusive as possible, to include not just the Moro but also the indigenous peoples like the Teduray, Manobo and Subanen who trace their genealogy to the same ancestors as the Islamized ethnic groups or “Moro”.

Also, putting all the blame on Nur Misuari does not solve the problems of the Bangsamoro people. It isolates more people who are also peace advocates that belong to the Misuari faction. The 1996 Peace Accord gave us a chance to organize several CSOs and NGOs coming from the MNLF combatants who are now active peace and development advocates in their respective PDCs.

The local and international agencies and nongovernment organizations have an obligation to conduct thorough discernment on the processes that we are applying in the peace agreement with the MILF. We do support the CAB. But we cannot make the peace process a one-shot deal leaving many doubts, wounds open, and a play on politics for the 2016 elections.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Qun Faya Qun means “‘Be! and it is”. When Allah (subhanwatala) thinks of anything that He wants to create, He just says Qun Faya Qun and the things come into existence. Mussolini Lidasan, an Iranun from Maguindanao, is executive director of the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia, based at the Ateneo de Davao University where he is also pursuing his MA Anthropology. For questions/feedback please email:

Kidnappers heed victim’s plea to be freed

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 21): Kidnappers heed victim’s plea to be freed

If the official police account is correct, all it took a 19-year-old college student to regain his freedom was to continuously plead with his abductors for mercy.

Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao police office, said Basil Brice Bernardo, a radio technology student, was freed in the town of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay a few hours after he was abducted outside the Zamboanga City Medical Center here at noon Friday.

“He was allowed to disembark at the Ipil bus terminal and is now at the Ipil Municipal Police Station,” Huesca said.

Huesca said as soon as the victim was taken captive and shoved into their vehicle, Bernardo began to plead with his abductors to let him go.

“He was finally allowed to get off the vehicle in Ipil,” Guesca added.
Huesca said the police were still trying to identify the kidnapper and their motive for abducting Bernardo.

Meanwhile, the Zamboanga City police said it was certain that the Abu Sayyaf was behind two other kidnappings here—those of Zamboanga City teacher Cathy Mae Casipong last December 18, and, Sabrina Ikbala Voon on February 19.

Casipong was freed a week after she was abducted but Voon remains  in captivity. Her abductors were asking P5 million for her freedom, according  her uncle, retired Chief Superintendent Sukarno Ikbala.

“The group who took Voon is also related to the group that abducted Casipong,” said Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro, acting Zamboanga City police chief.

Chief Inspector Arthur Valdez of the Anti-Kidnapping Group said the  gunmen who abducted Casipong and Voon were Abu Sayyaf members based in Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay.

Casimiro said also that the police have established that Vice Mayor Arsina Nanoh of the town of Hadji Mutamad in Basilan had indeed been kidnapped.

He said ransom was demanded from the Nanoh family but he did not know if money had changed hands.

Nanoh was inside a mall here on March 4 when she texted her husband that she was being abducted. The vice mayor was released in Pagadian City the next day but was made to board a plane to Manila, where her husband met her.

Top red leaders fall (Background data on Benito Tiamzon

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 23): Top red leaders fall

Benito Tiamzon, wife, five others nabbed in Cebu

SECURITY forces arrested ranking communist rebel leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon in Carcar City in Cebu, the military confirmed on Saturday.

The security forces, consisting of policemen and military intelligence agents, arrested the Tiamzon couple while they were traveling on board two vehicles with five unidentified companions around 3:15 p.m. at Barangay Aluginsan in Carcar.

Benito Tiamzon
(August 2009 file photo
issued by the AFP)
A text advisory from the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the couple were arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by Regional Trial Court Branch 31 of Laoang, Northern Samar for murder and frustrated murder.

The arrested people were brought the military’s Central Command headquarters for processing and documentation, the advisory added.

Benito is believed to be incumbent chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army while Wilma is believed to be the second in command and head of the CPP’s National Finance Commission.

Alexander Padilla, the government’s chief negotiator in the peace talks with the CPP-NPA’s umbrella National Democratic Front, had claimed that the Tiamzons had effectively ousted Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison and were in control of the communist movement.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin confirmed that the Tiamzon couple were arrested in Carcar City, but declined to disclose other details.

Little is known of Tiamzon, except that he grew up in Marikina City and was once a scholar at the University of the Philippines.

Military sources said, in his youth, Tiamzon was a member of the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan.

He commuted between Manila and Catbalogan, Samar where he rose to become head of the CPP’s Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee.

Tiamzon rose in the communist ranks because he was credited for developing Samar island into an NPA stronghold.

The military also believes Tiamzon was involved in several power struggles within the communist movement and he was frequently allied with the camp opposing Sison.

Sison himself claimed in his autobiography that he and Tiamzon were members of the CPP’s Political Bureau, the party’s executive panel, in 1989.

The other members of the Politburo in 1989 were Tiamzon’s wife, Wilma nee Austria, Ricardo Reyes and Romulo Kintanar.

However, Sison and Tiamzon drifted apart in the succeeding years, when he  supported the moves within the rebel movement to participate in legislative elections, with Tiamzon choosing to maintain the armed struggle.

Military sources also said Sison and Tiamzon backed opposing camps in 2010 when Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo ran for a seat in the House and Tuazon “celebrated” Ocampo’s defeat because it was unpopular with those who espoused armed struggle.

8ID troops encounter NPA three times, seize one NPA camp in Samar

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 23): 8ID troops encounter NPA three times, seize one NPA camp in Samar

Troops of 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, under 87th Infantry Battalion seized one New People’s Army (NPA) camp in Motiong Samar.

87th IB Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Antonio Dolnuan based in Barangay Polangi, Calbiga, Samar reported that recently, his troops encountered NPA two times in Motiong, Samar that resulted to seized one NPA camp that has eleven makeshift bunkers, one multi- purpose hall, one kitchen, three guard house and the recovery of three magazines with ammunition for M16 Armalite rifle.

According to Dolnuan, the first encounter was occurred at Barangay Inalad, Motiong, Samar in the morning of March 13, 2014. They encountered thirty NPA rebels for 45 minutes until rebels withdrew.

The second encounter transpired when pursuing troops caught up with fleeing NPA rebels at 9:30 in the morning of the same day near Barangay Candumacol of the same town, 2.3 kilometers away from the site of the first encounter.

Meanwhile, 63rd Infantry Battalion Lt. Col. Jun Calambuhay reported that on the same day, his troops also encountered ten NPA rebels at Barangay Carolina, Matuguinao, Samar that resulted to the wounding of the right foot of one soldier.

8th ID Commanding General Jet Velarmino salutes his men for preventing the planned crimes and violence against the community by the NPA operating in Samar.

Velarmino assures that the people of Eastern Visayas, together with the troops under his command, will continue their sworn duty to defend their people against the enemy even to the extent of losing limb and life when necessary.

CPP chair, wife captured in Cebu - military (Update)

From InterAksyon (Mar 22): CPP chair, wife captured in Cebu - military (Update)

The couple said to head the Communist Party of the Philippines were captured Saturday afternoon in Carcar, Cebu by the military and police.

A message sent to media by the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Benito Tiamzon, said to be the CPP chairman, and his wife Wilma Austria, who the military says is secretary general of the underground organization, were arrested with five others in a Starex van and a Toyota Innova in Barangay Aluginsan, Carcar around 3:15 p.m.

The arrest of the couple was subsequently confirmed by AFP chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista, who called the operation "another victory for the combined efforts between the AFP, PNP and other stakeholders in pursuit of peace and security."

Reacting to the news, the National Democratic Front condemned what it called the "illegal arrest" of the couple, who it said are "consultants who have fulfilled and are fulfilling highly significant tasks in the peace negotiations" between the government and communist rebels, and demanded their immediate release.

The NDF represents the communist movement in the talks, which have been stalled 2011.

Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the NDF peace negotiating panel, said Austria holds "Document of Identification ND978226 under her real name" and a letter of acknowledgement from then government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III "which states: 'The above named person is entitled to the safety and immunity guarantees asprovided under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) for the duration of the peace negotiations. You are hereby required to facilitate the safe conduct and free passage of the above named person'.”

Tiamzon, on the other hand, holds "Document of Identification ND 978227 under the assumed name 'Crising Banaag'. He is likewise holder of a Letter of Acknowledgment signed by then GRP Negotiating Panel Chairman Silvestre H. Bello III," Jalandoni said.

The arrest of the Tiamzons and their companions involved the Intelligence Service Group of the Philippine Army, ISAFP, the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the Carcar police, the message said.

The Tiamzons were served warrants of arrest for murder and frustrated murder issued by Regional Trial Court branch 31 in Laoang, Samar.
The two were brought to the military’s Central Command headquarters.

The text of the ISAFP message follows:

Ooa 221515H Mar 2014, combined elements of ISG,PA, ISAFP, CIDG, PNP and Carcar City Police Station arrested Wilma Tiamzon and Benito Tiamzon (her husband), Chairman of the CPP/NPA with 5 others in two vehicles (starex van and innova) at vicinity Brgy Aluginsan, Carcar City, Cebu by virtue of warrant of arrest Criminal Case 4702 for Frustrated Murder and CC Nr 4703 for Murder at RTC Branch 31, Laoang, Northern Samar. Arrested persons will be brought initially to CENTCOM Hqs for processing and documentation. Progress report to follow.

MILF: Alliance of Peace Advocates sponsors forum on understanding FAB and BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 20): Alliance of Peace Advocates sponsors forum on understanding FAB and BBL

The Alliance of Peace Advocates, Inc. (ALPA) organized and sponsored a Forum on “Understanding the Framework Agreement (FAB), its Four Annexes and the on-going drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in coordination with the MILF Committee on Information, Upi Municipal Committee on Information.
It was held on March 16 at the town of Upi, Maguindanao. Participants were   leaders and members of MILF political committees and its multi-sector representatives.

The chair of the Secretariat of MILF Central Committee on Information discussed the history of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and MILF that resulted in the signing of the FAB in Malacañang Palace, Manila last October 15, 2012 after 17 years of formal talks.  Recently, both panels have also signed the 4 annexes with the latest on Normalization last January 25 at Kuala Lumpur, Manila.  The drafting of the BBL by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission is underway and trying to catch up with the deadline imposed by the government to submit it to President Benigno Aquino III on the 31st of March.

The FAB also include the four annexes; transitional arrangements and modalities, revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, Power sharing, and normalization that will form the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB). Upon promulgation and enactment of the law by Congress it will be signed by President Aquino and a plebiscite shall be held in the proposed areas of the envisioned Bangsamoro Region that shall replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Upon ratification of the Basic Law, Republic Act. 9054 that created the ARMM is repealed.

The chair of the secretariat further explained that an MILF-led transition government called Bangsamoro Transition Authority BTA) will take over the helm of government in the ARMM, thus Bangsamoro new political entity shall take-off under a ministerial form of government until the May 2016 elections is held where MILF shall participate.

He also explained that the GPH and MILF will build structures that will oversee normalization activities, which includes a phase by phase decommissioning of members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the gradual redeployment of government armed forces within the Bangsamoro, and the implementation of an interim security setup while a Bangsamoro police force for the Bangsamoro is yet to be established.

Such interim security setup will be very relevant in containing threats such as that currently posed by the BIFF as well as planning and carrying out steps to disband private armed groups within the Bangsamoro which is a key aspect of the agreed normalization process.

During the open forum, several questions were raised such as, How to deal individual spoilers of peace? Where to keep the arms of the MILF?  How to deal with the “settlers and IPs” who don’t accept the Bangsamoro identity?    Manny McKinley, a member of MILF Information committee advised that patience and understanding must always prevail and not emotions.  

Abdullah P.  Salik Jr. Al Haj, newly appointed Executive Director of ALPA assured the participants that the group will continue bridging the “social divides” among the  multi-ethnic beliefs and understanding of the on-going struggle of the Bangsamoro people.

Salik assured that a series of   dialogue in understanding social divides shall be a priority program of the group.

APA is accredited by the CSO, the Local Government Unit of Upi and member of the civil society organizations of the municipality.

MILF: Academe to hold Islamic Finance Seminar to help craft the Bangsamoro Basic Law

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 19): Academe to hold Islamic Finance Seminar to help craft the Bangsamoro Basic Law

An Ateneo de Davao-based institute will hold the Bangsamoro Islamic Finance Seminar that will serve as a venue for concerned stakeholders to help in the crafting of Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Al Qalam Institute (AQI) for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia will host the activity on March 25-27, 2014 at El Bajada Hotel in Davao City.

Delegates are coming from microfinance organizations, AQI, Peace and Equity Foundation and their partners will be the participants. Two international experts on Islamic finance were invited. 

Mr. Priyonggo Suseno from Universitas Islam Indonesia will discuss the Principles of Islamic Finance and Updates on the Halal Economy.

Kartiko Wibowo, Binama Koperasi Syariah, also from Indonesia, will tackle Baitul Maal Wa Tamwil Practices and Workable Systems in the Community Level.

Atty. Jamil Matalam will provide input on the roles of People’s Organizations and Civil Society Organizations and Challenges in Islamic Finance.

The participants will also undergo series of workshop and the outputs will be presented to the speakers to get their feedback.

The activity is a follow through undertaking after the study tour of microfinance institutions representatives in Jakarta who learned the practice Islamic finance in Indonesia last November which was spearheaded by AQI and supported by PEF.

AQI Director Mussolini S. Lidasan said the outputs of the seminar will be forwarded to the crafters of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

For more than a year already, AQI and PEF have been in the forefront in studying and advocating Halal microfinance with strong belief that it will help alleviate the Bangsamoro people from poverty.

The BTC has been conducting consultations with various stakeholders in Mindanao to gather ideas and recommendations for the inclusive crafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The law crafters, which targets to submit the BBL to Congress by the end of March, look forward for the establishment of Shariah compliant finance system in the Bangsamoro core territory and other Muslims communities in the country.

CPP/Sine Proletaryo: Video -- Monkey Bars

Posted to Sine Proletaryo You Tube Channel (Mar 19): Video: Monkey Bars


Monkey Bars. One of the obstacle courses in NPA training camps. NPA forces under the Pulang Diwata Command (Northeast Mindanao Region) hurdle the obstacle as part of their training as NPA fighters.

CPP/Sine Proletaryo: Video -- NPA School

Just recently posted to the PRWC blog site (Mar 21): Video: NPA School


Low literacy rate is very common in the country. The reactionary government who has, in the first place, the responsibility to give free education to the people, abandon it.

Revolutionary forces see to it that everybody can read and write, especially in the New People's Army.

NPA School is about giving basic literacy lessons among NPA comrades. (Northeast Mindanao Region)

CPP/Ang Bayan: Video -- Celebrate the 45th Anniversary of the New People's Army

Posted to PRWC blog site (Mar 21): Video: Celebrate the 45th Anniversary of the New People's Army [Ang Bayan, March 21, 2014]


On the occasion of the 45-year milestone of the New People's Army (NPA), let us give the highest honors to all fallen Red commanders and fighters of the NPA and heroes and martyrs of the Filipino people's national democratic revolution.

Let us pay tribute as well to all the eminent proletarian revolutionaries who have persisted in four decades of arduous struggle and who continue to help lead and guide the people's democratic revolution as it set its sights on the next higher phase of the people's war.

It is with their sacrifices and selflessness that the Filipino people have achieved great victories in waging their national democratic revolutionary struggle. Let us recall and have their names etched forever in the Filipino people's granite wall memorial which we shall erect at the moment of complete victory of the people's democratic revolution.

CPP/NDF: NDFP condemns illegal arrest of NDFP Consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Mar 22): NDFP condemns illegal arrest of NDFP Consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria

Luis Jalandoni
NDFP Negotiating Panel
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) condemns in the strongest terms the illegal arrest of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria by the Aquino regime’s security forces this afternoon in Carcar, Cebu.

Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria are NDFP Consultants who have fulfilled and are fulfilling highly significant tasks in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP/GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Wilma Austria is holder of NDFP Document of Identification ND978226 under her real name. She is holder of the Letter of Acknowledgment signed by then GRP Negotiating Panel Chairman Silvestre H. Bello III which states: The above named person is entitled to the safety and immunity guarantees asprovided under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) for the duration of the peace negotiations. You are hereby required to facilitate the safe conduct and free passage of the above named person.”

Benito Tiamzon is likewise the holder of NDFP Document of Identification ND 978227 under the assumed name “Crising Banaag”. He is likewise holder of a Letter of Acknowledgment signed by then GRP Negotiating Panel Chairman Silvestre H. Bello III.

The NDFP vigorously demands that Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria be immediately and unconditionally released.

This latest flagrant violation of the JASIG by the Aquino regime, in addition to so many other gross violations of the JASIG, most seriously prejudices the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations.

CPP: Celebrate the 45th anniversary of the NPA

Propaganda statement posted to the PRWC blog site: Celebrate the 45th anniversary of the NPA

Ang Bayan
21 March 2014

At high noon of March 29, 2014, on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the New People's Army (NPA), the NPA commands in the regions, subregions and fronts will fall in formation to parade and salute the flags of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the NPA, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the People's Democratic Government.

As these flags wave high, and before the collective public singing of the Internationale, the Red fighters will give a 21-gun salute to pay the highest honors to all fallen Red commanders and fighters of the NPA and the heroes and martyrs of the national-democratic revolution of the Filipino people. This is likewise a salute to all its commanders and fighters and all revolutionaries who have long been in service to advance the people's war.

Their sacrifices serve as their contributions to the Filipino people's quest to achieve great victories in advancing the national-democratic revolutionary struggle. Let us hail them as exemplars of selfless service to the people for present and future generations of revolutionaries and fighters. Let us remember and etch their names onto the monument to be built by the Filipino people at the moment of victory of the people's democratic revolution.

Let us use the coming 45th anniversary of the NPA's founding to celebrate the people's victories in waging  revolutionary armed struggle, in advancing agrarian revolution to dismantle land monopoly and improve the conditions of the peasant masses and in building the organs of people's democratic government.

From nine automatic rifles upon its founding in 1969, the NPA is well on its way to having 10,000 high-powered firearms. The strength of thousands of NPA Red fighters spread out in more than 110 guerrilla fronts covering significant portions of 71 provinces is amplified several times over by tens of thousands of people's militias and hundreds of thousands of the masses' self-defense forces. The CPP looks forward to the NPA's rapid expansion to 25,000 fighters and the growth in the number of its guerrilla fronts to 200, covering every rural congressional district. This, as guerrilla warfare advances and more weapons are seized from the enemy.

Such growth in strength and advance presents the clearest proof of the correctness of the general line of people's democratic revolution through protracted people's war. The revolutionary forces have overcome and achieved victories against the most brutal forms of reaction, including the latest campaigns of suppression and deception unleashed by US imperialism and its puppets.

The countryside continues to blaze with peasant struggles to implement the revolutionary movement's minimum and maximum programs of land reform. For the past four decades and a half, millions have benefited from reduced land rent, higher wages for farm workers, just prices for agricultural products at the farmgate, higher production, land distribution, the adoption of various forms of cooperation and the establishment of communal farms. The NPA has also been able to expand the land available for agrarian revolution by causing the departure, neutralizing or preventing the expansion of destructive mining and logging companies as well as plantations growing crops for export. Thus, it has likewise mitigated destruction to the environment and to agriculture and the depletion of natural resources and preserved these for the people's future.

Hundreds of thousands of people are under the jurisdiction of organs of people's democratic government at the barrio and inter-barrio or municipal level where economic, organizational, defense, educational and health programs are being implemented. The people are mobilized to maintain peace and order against repression and criminality and to prepare for and address natural disasters. The revolutionary mass base is continually being expanded and deepened until the ultimate objective of people's war to advance the people's democratic government wave upon wave is achieved and the people's democratic government becomes capable of supplanting and completely smashing  the reactionary state.

The Filipino people have also achieved notable victories in advancing democratic mass struggles even as they advance the struggle for national and social liberation.

The relentlessly worsening crisis of the ruling system opens up excellent opportunities for the revolutionary movement's further advance. It will not be long before the conjured up illusion of economic development will be shattered and an even bigger crisis of widespread unemployment, soaring prices and more wretched economic conditions among the people will explode.

Let us use the celebration of the NPA's 45th anniversary to prepare for the launching of ever bigger struggles in the future. Let us steel the NPA's determination and raise its capability to intensify guerrilla warfare nationwide to advance people's war towards the strategic stalemate in a few years' time and aim for complete victory in the final stage of the strategic offensive.

More raps filed against NPA member

From the Sun Star-Davao (Mar 22): More raps filed against NPA member

CHARGES have continued to pile up against one of the most wanted New People's Army (AFP), this time for serious illegal detention after he was tagged in the abduction of three Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) personnel in Barangay Tambobong, Baguio District Davao City in 2012.

Facing serious illegal detention charges is NPA's Guerilla Front 54 member Roberto Castillote, who was identified at RTC Branch 16 as alias Ka Bobby.

He was charged for abducting Civilian Active Auxiliaries (CAAs) Artemio Canobas Sitoy, Romeo Bulod Bago and Tony Pandian, all residents of Barangay Tambobong, Baguio District.

Sitoy, in his affidavit, said the abduction happened on December 30, 2012 around 5 p.m. Sitoy was on his way home when he encountered a band of some 70 communist rebels.

Two rebels allegedly held him at gunpoint and took him to Castillote. The respondent told Sitoy to stop working as a Cafgu if he doesn't want any conflict.

Sitoy said he was held for an hour before Castillote ordered his release. In the affidavit, Bago also claimed he was abducted on December 30, 2012.

He was attending a birthday party of his relative when he was forcibly held by around 30 communist rebels under the command of Castillote.

Bago was also told to stop working for the government before he was released.

Pandian, for his part, said he was abducted on December 31, 2012 at 3 p.m. when he also encountered around 70 communist rebels. He tried to avoid them but was caught by two armed rebels. Pandian was about to be brought to Castillote but he managed to escape.

An arraignment was supposedly scheduled last Friday but RTC Branch 16 Judge Emmanuel Carpio postponed it to April 15 as Castillote refused to have the legal services from the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) and preferred lawyer Manuel Quibod to handle his case.

BAYAN: Bayan protests docking of USS Blue Ridge, US access pact

Anti-US/US military propaganda posted to the BAYAN Website (Mar 20): Bayan protests docking of USS Blue Ridge, US access pact

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan condemns in no uncertain terms the docking in Manila of the USS Blue Ridge, the command ship of the US 7th Fleet in the Pacific.

The US Navy affirms the alliance with the Philippines with one hand yet insults and slaps us in the face with the other.

The US Navy is a respondent to our Supreme Court petition regarding the damage wrought by the USS Guardian on the Tubbataha reef in January 17, 2013.

More than a year since the incident, not a single cent has been paid. Not one soldier has been made accountable under Philippine law as the US officers merely got a slap on the wrist.

In light of the US’ continuing refusal to pay damages, every port call by US ships is an affront to our sovereignty. Every port call is an insult to our people.

If the US can act with impunity in Tubbataha, we have every reason to be worried with the ongoing access negotiations which aim to bring more ships and troops in the country for a longer period of time.

The Philippine is merely the US foot stool in the region. The US 7th Fleet Commander tries to sweet talk Filipinos into accepting a one-sided access pact and into forgetting US violations of PH laws.

The port call is not about enduring friendship between the US and the Philippines. It is about the US projecting its power all over Asia, as part of its strategic pivot or rebalancing.

We vow to oppose the new de facto basing agreement as we prepare for an internationally coordinated protest in time for the visit of US president and imperialist chief Barrack Obama.

Army sees well-equipped, respectable force by 2016

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 22): Army sees well-equipped, respectable force by 2016

Marking its 117th founding anniversary yesterday, the Philippine Army said its aims to build a “well-equipped Army that has established a respectable image in Southeast Asia” by 2016.

“Internally, the systems are undergoing improvement and new equipment are in the pipeline,” Army commanding general Maj. Gen. Hernando Iriberri said during yesterday’s Army anniversary celebration.

He said the military expects delivery within the year of M4 rifles, force protection equipment and rocket launchers, and more radio equipment early next year.

At Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduation on March 16, President Benigno S. Aquino III also announced that at least 63,000 new rifles will be distributed to the country’s soldiers in the coming months.

The new weapons, the President said, will replace the units dating back to the Vietnam War years.

In yesterday’s anniversary celebration graced by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, the Army also honored its outstanding soldiers and stakeholders.

The Philippine Army did not only recognize heroes in combat but also those who had exhibited courage and heroism in the conduct of humanitarian and disaster response operations. It also honored civilian entities and organizations for their support and contribution for the attainment of the Army’s goals.

Leading this year’s awardees with the Distinguished Conduct Star, the second highest combat award next to the Medal of Valor, is Capt, Jeson G. Capoquian of the 41st Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Division whose courage and gallantry in combat resulted in the neutralization of eight New People’s Army rebels, the wounding of several others, and the recovery of 13 high-powered firearms during an encounter in Tineh, Abra.

The third highest combat award, the Gold Cross Medal, on the other hand, was awarded to PFC Julie S. Tandoc of the 24th Infantry Battalion, 7th Infantry Division.

PH vows strong defense against China

From the Manila Times (Mar  22): PH vows strong defense against China

The government is committed to defending the country against any foreign aggression and seeks to modernize and fortify its armed forces, Malacanang said on Saturday, following China’s recent posturing in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Deputy Presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said President Benigno Aquino 3rd has pushed for the modernization of the Armed Forces so that the country can have a credible defense.

The Philippines and the United States are nearing an agreement that will allow American troops to share Philippine military bases.

“The President’s position has always been to strengthen our Armed Forces so we can have a minimum credible defense posture. The President walks the talk in the sense that he funds the modernization program of the Armed Forces,” Valte said in a radio interview.

The Philippines has just purchased a squadron of FA-50 fighter-trainer jets that can deliver short-range missiles.

Valte, however, clarified that the acquisition of new military equipment should not be viewed as a direct response to China’s intimidation.

“The purchase was done in accordance with our Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Plan. With or without conflict [on the West Philippine Sea], we seek to modernize our Armed Forces,” she said.

In his speech during graduation rites at the Philippine Military Academy on March 16, the President announced that the government would purchase 63,000 new rifles for soldiers. The AFP will also soon have modern boats and combat utility helicopters.

Early this month, the Philippines filed a protest against China for driving out Filipino fishermen from the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal by using water cannons.

Top communist leaders caught

From the Manila Times (Mar 22): Top communist leaders caught

Benito Tiamzon

Benito Tiamzon
Authorities on Saturday arrested ranking communist rebel leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon in Carcar City in Cebu.

They are believed to have assumed the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) from CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison.

Benito Tiamzon is among the high-profile fugitives being hunted by the government, which has offered a P2 million reward for his capture. He and his wife Wilma are wanted for murder and frustrated murder.

Earlier this week, President Benigno Aquino 3rd hinted that one such fugitive was about to be caught.

Real estate magnate Delfin Lee, who also belonged to that most wanted list, was arrested in Manila on March 6.

Still at large are former Army general Jovito Palparan, former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother Mario, and Ruben Ecleo Jr.

The Tiamzons were arrested with five others by a combined team from the Army and Philippine National Police.

The couple’s companions were not identified.

The group was aboard two cars, a Starex and an Innova, in Barangay Aluginsan, Carcar, when they were caught, the reports said.

3rd ID helping typhoon hit areas

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 22): 3rd ID helping typhoon hit areas

The 3rd Infantry Division is marking the 117th founding anniversary of the Philippine Army today, with the installation of water system facilities in typhoon-affected areas of northern Negros, and the repair of damaged schools in Capiz.

Maj. Rey Tiongson, 3ID spokesman, said yesterday that they will hold simultaneous repairs of school facilities that had been damaged by super typhoon Yolanda in Tapaz and Maayon towns in Capiz.

Earlier, Army soldiers stationed in Negros and Panay, who are supervised by the 3ID, donated P378,300 to typhoon victims in Region 6.

Tiongson said Army personnel, in tandem with the private sector, will work under the spirit of “Bayanihan” in the installation of water systems in Brgy.General Luna, Toboso, Brgy. Winaswasan in Calatrava, and Brgy. Malasibog in Escalante City, all in Negros Occidental.

Bloodletting and other related-health activities will also be initiated by the 3ID in Western Visayas, in collaboration with the Philippine National Red Cross.

The 47th Infantry Battalion, in partnership with the National Grid Corporation, and a child labor educational task force, initiated a feeding and gift-giving programs in Brgy. Tiling, Cauayan, that benefitted 250 school children.

The 62nd Infantry Battalion also held a medical and dental mission on March 21, that benefitted residents of Brgy Dian-ay, Escalante City, in partnership with the provincial government of Negros Occidental.

These activities are in support to the efforts of the government to bring services to the people, especially those affected by the typhoon, Tiongson said.

Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad,3ID commander, said in a statement he issued, that the Philippine Army in Western Visayas remains committed to its mandate to serve the people through peace and development programs under the Bayanihan.

Arrested Bayan sec-gen filing raps against police

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 22): Arrested Bayan sec-gen filing raps against police

The secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan will file charges against policemen who arrested him Wednesday and those who failed to serve him the subpoena from the court for his maltreatment charges.

Christian Tuayon, and several progressive organizations in Negros Occidental, said yesterday in a press conference at the Negros Press Club that they condemn the continued arrests of their members.

Tuayon said they want to sue those who neglected their duty that resulted in his arrest on Wednesday, which caused his about 29 hours detention at the Police Station 2.

He also said they cannot disclose yet the names of those they had found with lapses, and are still preparing the charges to file against them.

He claimed that the officer who served him the bench warrant at the Hall of Justice in Bacolod, and arrested him afterwards, had not told him his rights, and that they did not present him immediately in court.

Station 2 chief, Senior Insp. Jovil Sedel, meanwhile told the DAILY STAR that the document given to them to be served to Tuayon was a “warrant of arrest”.

They temporarily detained him at their lock-up cell while waiting for the action to be taken by his lawyer, who was still filing the motion for reconsideration then, Sedel added.

Kilusang Mayo Uno-Negros leader Ronald Ian Evidente, who was at the press conference, said that a person arrested by virtue of a bench warrant, should be presented to the court that has jurisdiction over his case, so he can manifest that he will attend future hearings, not jail him.

Tuayon’s lawyer, Cesar Beloria Sr., had filed a motion to quash the warrant of arrest and a motion for reconsideration before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities Branch 1.

Tuayon was released Thursday afternoon, after Beloria filed a motion to put out bail, which was granted by the court, Tuayon said.

He was released after he posted bail of P500 and also paid the P500 processing fee.

The bench warrant issued by Branch 1 presiding judge Jose Paolo Ariola of the MTCC was for Tuayon’s failure to attend a hearing on the maltreatment charges filed against him by Police Officer 1 Albert Villahermoso, a member of the 6th Regional Public Safety Battalion, reports said.

Top communist rebel leaders nabbed in Cebu

From Rappler (Mar 22): Top communist rebel leaders nabbed in Cebu

Two top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) were arrested in Cebu on Saturday, March 22, over standing murder and frustrated murder charges, police and military sources confirmed to Rappler.

Intelligence reports received by Rappler said combined forces of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines nabbed Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma Tiamzon of the CPP-National People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

The Tiamzon couple were arrested along with 5 others at Barangay Aluginsan, Carcar City, while the group was on board a Starex van and a Toyota Innova.

They were brought to the Armed Forces of the Philippines central command headquarters in Lapu-Lapu for processing and documentation.

Subject of surveillance

As of 2010, Benito Tiamzon was the chairman of the CPP, based on police and military intelligence data. But he was believed to have lost control of the leadership after the 2010 presidential elections over squabbles regarding the movement's involvement in that election, veteran intelligence officers told Rappler.

 The Tiamzon couple are facing charges of frustrated murder and murder before the Regional Trial Court Branch 31 in Laoang, Northern Samar.

A senior government source told Rappler the Tiamzons have been the subject of intense surveillance since the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international codename Haiyan), when they were monitored in Leyte.

"They have been in and out of Leyte since December, at the height of relief operations for Yolanda," the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

Hardliner position

Tiamzon, as senior party leader, was known to have taken a hardline position vis a vis the peace process with the Aquino government.

Last year, Sison had expressed willingness to modify some of the conditions set by the CPP and the NDF, paving the way for some progress in the talks and backchannel negotiations between Sison and Secretary Ronald Llamas, the president's political adviser. (READ: Joma wants peace, the 'ground' doesn't - Padilla)

But in the latter part of 2013, the NDF again reverted to its conditions – such as land reform – leading to the collapse of the process. This was reportedly caused by Tiamzon's insistence on these conditions.

Wilma Tiamzon was also arrested during the Ramos administration but managed to escape from jail.

Military watching possible spoilers of Mindanao peace accord signing

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 22): Military watching possible spoilers of Mindanao peace accord signing

The military is keeping a close watch on possible spoilers of the signing next Thursday of the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Saturday.

“We want to make sure that there would be no untoward incidents,” Gazmin said on the sidelines of the celebration of the 117th anniversary of the Philippine Army at Fort Bonifacio. “We know that there are those who do not want this to proceed, that there are disgruntled MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) members, there is the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), so we are on guard. We want to make sure nothing will affect the signing.”

The government and the MILF are scheduled to sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27 at Malacañang Palace with over a thousand guest in attendance.

President Benigno Aquino  and MILF chair Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim will witness the signing of the peace agreement that would mark the end of the decades-long secessionist war in Mindanao.

The guns have been silent for the past three years in Central Mindanao as the government and the MILF hammered out a final peace agreement.
A peace deal was reached on January 25 in Kuala Lumpur after the government and the MILF negotiating panels agreed on the normalization annex, the last of the four documents that make up the CAB.

The normalization annex deals with the security aspect of the new autonomous region, which includes “putting beyond use” the firearms of the MILF fighters in phases.

Asked when the government would declare that the war with the MILF is over, Gazmin said it would be when all the provisions in the peace agreement have been implemented and the MILF leadership has informed all its fighters on the ground that there is now a peace deal between the two parties.

Both the government and the MILF acknowledge that much work has still to be done after the peace agreement is signed on March 27.

A Bangsamoro Basic Law has to be passed by Congress, followed by a plebiscite approving the creation of the new Bangsamoro autonomous region, and a transition period until members of the Bangsamoro legislative assembly would be elected in 2016.

A third party monitoring team composed of international and domestic groups would monitor the implementation of all agreements.

It is only when all the agreements have been implemented that an Exit Agreement terminating the peace negotiation would be crafted and signed by both the government and MILF.

At Saturday’s anniversary celebration, Army chief Maj. Gen. Hernando Iriberri paid tribute to awardees of the Medal of Valor.

One of them was Sgt. Claudio Forrosuelo, who died in the  war against the MILF in 2000. His daughter, 2nd Lt. Precious Jewel Forrosuelo, was eight years old when he was killed.

She and her mother attended Saturday’s  ceremonies along with other Medal of Valor awardees.

The younger Forrosuelo is a member of the Siklab Diwa Class of 2014 of the Philippine Military Academy and made history as the first child of a Valor awardee who graduated from the country’s top military school.

“The courage in combat exemplified by my father can be the same courage which can be manifested through moral integrity and by standing firm on upright principles. This is a challenge not only for me, but for all members of the Siklab-Diwa class, to prove what we have learned in the Academy for four years and that we are molded to be leaders and servants of our nation,” Forrosuelo said in a statement distributed by the Army.

Abducted student recovered in Zamboanga Sibugay

From ABS-CBN (Mar 22): Abducted student recovered in Zamboanga Sibugay

Authorities from Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay have recovered a radiologic technologist intern, apparently the son of a lawyer, who was reportedly abducted outside the premises of the Zamboanga City Medical Center on Friday morning.

Inspector Raul Clavecillas, chief of police of Ipil Municipal Police Station, identified the victim as Basil Brice Bernardo, 19.

According to a report, Bernardo was abducted by more or less five armed men and was transported to Ipil on board a white van.

However, there was no information made available by authorities on how he was released by his alleged abductors.

He was recovered around 3 p.m. of the same date, and was taken to the Ipil police station for further investigation.

Clavecillas said that they can't confirm yet as to the motive of the incident.

BRP Sierra Madre remains as PHL outpost in Ayungin Shoal despite sorry state

From GMA News (Mar 22): BRP Sierra Madre remains as PHL outpost in Ayungin Shoal despite sorry state

The government has spoken: the Philippine Navy's BRP Sierra Madre will remain as the country's an outpost on the Ayungin Shoal, despite the sorry state of the grounded vessel, which has been in the disputed area since 1999.

According to a file video shown by GMA News' late night program “Saksi” on Thursday, the Sierra Madre, was looking battered, rusty and seemingly unfit to be a war ship, as early as 2002.

[Video: 2002 News Report on the BRP Sierra Madre]

It was in August of 2002 when a few chosen journalists, including GMA News' Cesar Apolinario, were first allowed to visit the grounded ship.

“Matapos ang tatlong taong pananatili sa Ayungin Shoal, nang bisitahin namin ito noong 2002, kapansin-pansin ang mga pagbabago sa barko. Sa deck unti-unti na itong kinakalawang, kapansin-pansin ang pagkalat ng kalawang sa iba pang bahagi ng barko,” Apolinario reported.

“Malayong malayo kumpara sa gusali at high-tech na mga kagamitan ng China sa Mischief Reef... sa BRP Sierra Madre, lumang baterya ang gamit at maliit na satellite dish para sa linya ng telepono,” Apolinario added.

In a video recently taken of BRP Sierra Madre by GMA News, the old vessel looks almost entirely covered in rust.

“Labing isang taon matapos ang pagbisita namin sa BRP Sierra Madre, eto na ang itsura ng barko, puno ng kalawang, tadtad ng butas at tila hindi na maisasabak sa giyera,” Apolinario reported.

According to some Navy personnel interviewed by Apolinario in 2002, the grounding of BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal in 1999 was an accident.

However, just recently, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement that the vessel was purposely placed on Ayungin Shoal to serve as a permanent military outpost in response to a structure built by China on Mischief Reef in 1995.

It was the first time that the Philippine government has openly admitted that the vessel was placed intentionally on the shoal to thwart Chinese incursions.

In the same statement, the DFA said the government was not inclined to pull out the old ship despite a contradictory claim by Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Qin Gang, that the Philippines had agreed to to do so.

"A Philippine ship illegally 'grounded' on the Ren'ai Reef of China's Nansha Islands in 1999, with the excuse of 'malfunction.' China made representations right away to the Philippine side who then made unequivocal commitment to towing away the ship," Qin said in a statement.

The Ayungin Shoal (also known as Second Thomas Reef) and the Mischief Reef (claimed by the Philippine as Panganiban Reef) both lie in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine government claims that Ayungin Shoal and Mischief Reef both lie within the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the country under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

On March 9, Chinese Coast Guard blocked and expelled two Philippine civilian vessels contracted by the Philippine Navy to bring supply to its seven-man team stationed in BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal.

The expulsion incident came days after Chinese Coast Guard attacked fishermen in Bajo De Masinloc also known as Panatag Shoal with water canon last January 27. Chinese government claimed that the Filipino fishermen “provoked” the Chinese Coast Guard.

Both incidents prompted Philippine government to file separate diplomatic protests against China before the UN international tribunal.

AFP intensifies offensives as NPA anniversary nears

From GMA News (Mar 22): AFP intensifies offensives as NPA anniversary nears

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has  raised the alarm on possible hostilities by the New People’s Army as the Communist Party of the Philippines’ armed wing approaches its founding anniversary, a military official said on Saturday.

In a text message to GMA News Online, Armed Forces public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said they have intensified "combat operations in all areas of interest against [the communist rebels] to prevent them from launching attacks and for [government troops] to dictate on the momentum of the focused military operations."

"This increase of operational tempo is inherent in every command as we deny the enemy from their terroristic acts against our people," he added.

Last week, at least four suspected NPA rebels, two of whom are allegedly high-ranking officers, were captured by the military after a firefight in Sorsogon.

Captain Bethany Cadungan, spokesperson for the Army's 903rd Infantry Brigade, said Elias Florentino Pura, Rodrigo Lasar, William Doroja, and one alias "Ino" were captured after around 10 minutes of fighting.

Lt. Col. Medel Aguilar, 9th Infantry Division spokesman, said Pura surrendered and yielded an M653 baby armalite rifle. The military also seized a cal. 45 pistol, two improvised explosive devices, a hand grenade, a laptop, and backpacks containing personal belongings.

Pura is the secretary of Larangan 1, Komprob (Komiteng Probinsya) Sorsogon while Ino is the finance officer of the NPA in Sorsogon, the military said. He is also reportedly the finance officer of the Bicol regional party committee.

Colonel Joselito Kakilala, commander of the 903rd Infantry Brigade, said the operation was launched to preempt plans by the NPA to launch attacks to mark the its 45th anniversary on March 29.

21-gun salute

Meanwhile, in a statement, the CPP said they will mark NPA's 45th anniversary with a 21-gun salute in their respective "territories."

It said the 21-gun salute is for "the heroes of the New People’s Army and the people’s democratic revolution."

"At high noon, prior to the general public singing of the Internationale, NPA commands and people’s militia units in formation will give a 21-gun salute. Depending on prevailing military and security conditions, different NPA commands and people’s militias can modify this plan by either extending, abbreviating or rendering an alternative gun salute," it said in a statement.

It added all NPA commands will parade the flags of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the NPA, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the People’s Democratic Government.

"Let us prepare to wave bigger struggles as we set our sights to achieving greater victories in the coming years," it said.

The CPP lauded the "eminent proletarian revolutionaries" who it said continue to help lead and guide the revolution as it sets its sights on the "next higher phase of the people’s war."

It said the 45th anniversary of the NPA should "celebrate the people’s victories in waging revolutionary armed struggle, carrying out agrarian revolution to smash land monopolies and improve the conditions of the peasant masses and building the organs of the people’s democratic government from the ground up."

PAF wants more sophisticated fighter planes, but will make do with FA-50

From GMA News (Mar 22): PAF wants more sophisticated fighter planes, but will make do with FA-50

After the Philippines sealed deals to purchase FA-50 fighter-trainers and eight Bell 412 helicopters  to boost its defense capability, a Philippine Air Force official on Saturday said they would have wanted more sophisticated fighters.

However, PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Okol, in a phone interview with GMA News Online, said they will make do with the 12 brand-new FA-50 from South Korea and eight helicopters from Canada.

But he stressed PAF still needs Multi-Role Fighters or "real fighters" for the country's defense.

Okol said a Multi-Role Fighter has swing-role capabilities, "it can swing air-to-air, air-to-surface, air-to-maritime," and with its attack capabilities, enemies who will try to infiltrate the country will be "mangled up."

He also noted that while President Benigno Aquino III, who is also the Armed Forces of the Philippines Commander-in-Chief, is aware of what is needed, the acquisition of brand-new FA-50 fighters "is already a good start [in] good direction."

"Kung anong ibbiigay sa atin ngayon, we make do what is given," he said, noting that FA-50 fighters can "carry missiles, intercept aircrafts, deliver bombs, perform maritime strikes...."

Defense vs China?

Okol was quick to deny that the planned acquisition of fighter jets and helicopters is solely due to the "creeping expansion" of China in the West Philippine Sea.

"[The purchases are] for homeland defense against all external threats. It's just a start of our capability upgrade," he said.

Asked when will the country's defense attain "minimum capability," he said it will be by 2023. "Dahan-dahan nating ia-attain ito," he added.

On Friday, Fernando Manalo, undersecretary of defense for finance, munitions, installations and materiel, said the Philippines would acquire 12 brand-new FA-50 fighter-trainers and eight Bell 412 helicopters under a government-to-government deal.

"This is significant because we need to give our armed forces the minimum capability to perform its mission and responsibility," Manalo told reporters after completing negotiations with the two companies.

Korean Aerospace Industries Ltd. got the contract for the fighter-trainers worth P18.9 billion while Canadian Commercial Corporation, which is licensed to market Bell helicopters, promised to deliver its first craft next year.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Friday warned that China was determined to change the status quo in the disputed waters, taking control of the Scarborough Shoal and forcing Manila to remove a transport ship that ran aground in the Second Thomas Shoal.

CPP-NPA-NDF leaders arrested by AFP, PNP forces

From GMA News (Mar 22): CPP-NPA-NDF leaders arrested by AFP, PNP forces

The couple leading the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front alliance was purportedly captured by combined forces on Saturday night.

According to a tweet by Reuters reporter Manuel Mogato, forces from both the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) have captured Benito and Wilma Tiamzon in an operation in Cebu.

Benito is included in the "Big Five" fugitive list, wherein he is listed with fellow NPA leader Jorge Madlos. He and Madlos are wanted for supposedly participating in high-profile violent incidents, including attacks on three mining firms in 2011.

The Tiamzon's capture follows the arrest of Delfin Lee, who is accused of using fake documents to take billion-peso loans for "ghost" borrowers. Last Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III foreshadowed another arrest during his visit to the Pinoy Music Summit, though he did not divulge specific details.

However, according to another tweet by Mogato, this is not the arrest Aquino was referring to in his statement.

6 top communist officials captured in Cebu

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 22): 6 top communist officials captured in Cebu

Wilma Tiamzon, a member of the central committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, was arrested by government security forces in Carcar, Cebu, along with six other top communist officials Saturday afternoon.

A highly placed military source told the Inquirer the authorities were ascertaining if one of the three men arrested with Tiamzon was her husband, Benito Tiamzon, chairman of the CPP-NPA.

“We are still establishing if it is indeed Benito Tiamzon,” the source said, requesting anonymity for lack of authority to speak to the media.

If indeed it was Benito Tiamzon who fell into government hands, “it would be a big blow to them (communist rebels) because he is the chair of the CPP-NPA,” the official said.

According to the source, the three men and three women arrested with Tiamzon were also members of the CPP central committee.

The source said the group was in two vehicles when they were arrested around 3:10 p.m. by a team of soldiers and police.

They did not resist arrest, the source said.

The source declined to say where the group was being held, citing security reasons.

The source said finding Tiamzon and possibly her husband too had been “a long operation.”

Saturday was the 117th anniversary of the Philippine Army,  which has been at the forefront of the war against the communist insurgency since the end of World War II.

The Army anniversary celebrations was held in the morning at the Army Headquarters at Fort Bonifacio, with all high-ranking security officials in attendance,  led by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.

Army chief Maj. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, in his speech, referred to the significant gains of the Army in their internal security operations.

Little did anyone know, or it could be that top security officials were simply tight-lipped, that the government would catch the two biggest personalities of the CPP-NPA.

Benito and Wilma Tiamzon have long been considered more influential than Jose Ma. Sison, the founder of the Maoist-inspired CPP and National Democratic Front, which took over the communist insurgency following the decline of the Marxist-oriented Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, whose fighting arm was the Hukbong Mapaglaya Bayan or the Huks.

NPA rebels gun down alleged military informer in Masbate

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 22): NPA rebels gun down alleged military informer in Masbate

A 42-year-old driver of “habal-habal” (a colorum for-hire motorcycle) was gunned down by young-looking members of the New People's Army (NPA) SPARU Unit on Friday morning in Barangay Curvada, Cataingan, Masbate, a top police official here said Saturday.

Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, Philippine National Police Bicol regional police director, identified the victim as Wilnon Mollejon, 42, married and resident of Barangay Osmeña, Cataingan.

The incident happened at about 7:30 a.m. Friday while Mollejon was driving his motorcycle with a back-seat passenger who was going to his piggery when the suspects blocked their way, asked passenger Antonio Mangubat to alight and shot the victim on his head and body.

Deona said the rebels suspected Mollejon of being a police and military informer on the activities of the NPA.

After the shooting, the suspects casually walked away from the scene, leaving Mollejon’s lifeless body sprawled on the road.

The victim’s passenger immediately asked the help of authorities, who recovered empty shells of a .45-caliber pistol and a 9mm-caliber handgun believed to have been used by the rebels.

Daughter of Medal of Valor awardee joins PA

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 22): Daughter of Medal of Valor awardee joins PA

Not many people are aware of it but 2nd Lt. Precious Jewel Forrosuelo, one of the 119 members of PMA Class of 2014 who opted to join the Philippine Army after their March 16 graduation, is the daughter of a Medal of Valor awardee who posthumously received the nation's highest military decoration for bravery in Matanog, Maguindanao in 2000.

Incidentally, she is also the first child of Medal of Valor awardee to have graduated from the the PMA.

Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, Army spokesperson, said Jewel's father was Technical Sgt. Claudio Forrosuelo, a member of the 8th Scout Ranger Company, 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion, First Scout Ranger Regiment.

The older Forrosuelo led his team on a daring tactical assault against 500 then Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in Matanog, Maguindanao on May 3, 2000.

This took place during the Estrada administration's all out war against the MILF.

Despite being outnumbered and without reinforcement, they were able to gain ground and prevented the MILF from enveloping the troops, allowing his team to escape the kill zone.

Sgt. Forrosuelo, however, was killed by the overwhelming enemy fire.

At the time of her father's death, Jewel was only eight year's old.

"A child at a tender age of 8, and the youngest of two children, she could not yet comprehend what was happening back then. She felt the impact of her father's death in the years that came by," Detoyato added.

For the young Jewel, entering the military service was not in the list of her wants and dreams.

It was only upon her graduation from high school that she entertained such an idea and decided to enroll at the most prestigious leadership school in the country, the PMA.

Life in the Academy was not easy for her.

Jewel had to endure the grueling physical activities and the equally demanding academics.

For someone who never thought of becoming a soldier, Jewel now has a clear vision of what she wanted to be, and every day at the Academy, she works hard to achieve that dream.

"Expectations were high and the pressure is even greater because they think of me as someone as strong and brave as my father," the newly commissioned 2nd Lt. Forrosuelo said.

When faced with difficult circumstances and feeling demoralized, she drew strength and inspiration from her late father.

"The thought of my father's sacrifice not only for our family, but for the whole nation uplift me and provided me the motivation to carry on," she added.

"People usually ask me why of all the privileges and ensured life brought about by my father's achievement, I still chose to join the profession of arms that also caused my father's death," Jewel narrates.

She added that she has so much respect for the soldiers who have the dedication to serve.

"I slowly realized why my father preferred to stay in the service and even sacrificed his own life. It is because we have this certain pride among ourselves that this profession is the best way of demonstrating our love for our country which should be every Filipino's duty," she added.

The younger Forrosuelo added that it would not be easy to continue the legacy of her father's heroism.

"The courage in combat exemplified by my father can be the same courage which can be manifested through moral integrity and by standing firm on upright principles. This is a challenge not only for me, but for all members of the (PMA)'Siklab-Diwa' Class (of 2014) to prove what we have learned in the Academy for four years and that we are molded to be leaders and servants of our nation," she concluded.

PA fetes deserving personnel, civilian stakeholders during 117th anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 22): PA fetes deserving personnel, civilian stakeholders during 117th anniversary

As part of the Philippine Army's celebration of its 117th anniversary, deserving personnel and civilian stakeholders were awarded and feted at the PA Headquarters Grandstand in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Saturday morning.

Defense Secretary and former PA Commander Voltaire T. Gazmin led this year's celebration.

Leading this year's awardees with the Distinguished Conduct Star, the second highest combat award next to the Medal of Valor, is Capt. Jeson G. Capoquian of the 41st Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Division.

His courage and gallantry in combat resulted in the neutralization of eight New People's Army (NPA) rebels, the wounding of several others, and the recovery of 13 high-powered firearms during an encounter in Barangay Caganaya, Tineg, Abra.

The third highest combat award, the Gold Cross Medal, on the other hand, was awarded to Pfc. Julie S. Tandoc of the 24th Infantry Battalion, 7th Infantry Division.

He was feted for his gallantry in action displayed during an encounter against NPA rebels at Sitio Dinapil, Barangay Mambog, Botolan, Zambales that resulted in the death of two NPA fighters, wounding of one, and the recovery of two M-14 rifles, two M-16 rifles, one homemade shotgun, one hand grenade, and two rifle grenades.

Col. Joselito E. Kakilala, commander of the 903rd Infantry Brigade, 9th Infantry Division; 1st Lt Ron Michael M. Soriano, Security and Escort Battalion; Technical Sgt. Sundy L. Macalintal, Army Support Command (ASCOM); Cpl. Albert A. Peran, Explosive and Ordnance Department, ASCOM; and Cpl. Jashier D. Cachero of the 10th Infantry Division received the Bronze Cross Medal, the fourth highest combat award.

The Military Merit Medal was awarded to Capt. Joseph C Buencamino of the Civil Military Operations Group.

The PA also lauded Army personnel who contributed significantly in the Army's peace and development initiatives.

Lt. Col. Noel T. Baluyan of the 24th Infantry Battalion received the Distinguished Service Star; while Staff Sgt. Randolf E. Bilhera of the 51st Engineering Brigade was conferred with the Gawad sa Kaunlaran.

A Command Plaque was also given to Major Von Albert M. Sumergido and Major Leah L. Santiago.

T/Sgt. Arnulfo M. Cruzat of the 85th Infantry Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division was hailed as the Best Enlisted Personnel of the year, while CAA David H. Paj-dio from Isabela province was named the CAA of the Year.

Meanwhile, the Army also recognized model ROTC Cadets and Reservists.

Among the model ROTC Cadets of the year were Cadet Col. Arvin P. Dizon and Cadet Major Roseanne Realubin.

Major Melencio D. Sagun of the Army Reserve Command was named Model Reservist of the Year.

Merly A. Carganilla and Dr. Shiela L. Liboon were the Philippine Army Model Supervisor and Model Employee of the year, respectively.

The PA also recognized its civilian partners. Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao, the chairman of the Philippine Army Multi-Sectoral Board, received a Command Plaque.

Father Marciano “Rocky” G. Evangelista, the president and founder of Tuloy Foundation Inc., Dr. Joy S. Sanico, and the 2GO Express Inc. also received a Command Plaque in recognition of their invaluable support in the pursuit for peace and delivery of much needed services to the residents of calamity-stricken areas in the country.