Tuesday, March 25, 2014

WESCOM ready vs leftist group retaliation in Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): WESCOM ready vs leftist group retaliation in Palawan

The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Western Command (WESCOM) is prepared against any retaliation plan of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) following the arrest of husband and wife Benito and Wilma Tiamzon in Cebu City recently.

Speaking to the press in this city, Lt. Cherryl Tindog, spokesperson of the WESCOM, said the military in Palawan “has always been ready” even before the capture of the chairman and secretary general of the Central Committee of the CPP-NPA.

Tindog added the arrest of the Tiamzons “is proof that there is now strong cooperation among the people, the military, and the government to work together to end the armed struggle.”

“This event is something that means not only for the military, but for the people that there is a chance really, for peace,” she said.

She said the arrest of the rebel couple, however, does not mean everyone, particularly the military, should rest easy on their toes.

“History should tell us that they do resort to this (retaliation) tactic. Whenever their organization is hurt by events like this, they re-group, they re-plan and they do everything to retaliate, to discredit the government,” Tindog said.

She added “Palawe├▒os have nothing to be alarmed because the AFP is doing its best to take care of the province against rebel attacks.”

But Tindog also called to the people to be attentive and watchful against people, who are planning to disturb the province’s peace and order situation.

“Instead of being alarmed, we should all be alert because honestly, the rebels are already feeling the effect of the stand of the government that we should all be together for peace. That peace is very important to the people,” she said.


Army 102nd Infantry Brigade sets free surgical operation in Zambo Sibugay

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): Army 102nd Infantry Brigade sets free surgical operation in Zambo Sibugay

The Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade, in partnership with the Maharlika Charity Foundation Inc., will sponsor free surgical operations for indigent children with cleft lip and palate deformities targeting at least 30 beneficiaries.

Capt. Marcel Jumawan, Civil-Military Operations (CMO) officer of 102nd Infantry Brigade, said they are targeting at least 30 children-beneficiaries aged one-year-old and above.

Jumawan however said that the medical team will accommodate all of the patients should the number of children who wanted to avail the free surgical service will exceed the allotted slots of 30.

He said the surgical mission will be held in Ipil, the capital of Zamboanga Sibugay province, but they have yet to finalize the schedule and venue.

“There are 30 slots available and as of this time, we have already listed 28 patients,” Jumawan said.

Jumawan said the 102nd Infantry Brigade is coordinating with the municipal government of Ipil to be fill-up the last two slots “so that the free surgical operation will be scheduled immediately.”


Bomb recovered in Lanao Del Sur; military, police in heightened alert

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): Bomb recovered in Lanao Del Sur; military, police in heightened alert

The military and police in Northern Mindanao were placed under heightened alert following the discovery of two improvised explosives along the highways in Lanao Del Sur Monday afternoon, a military official said on Tuesday.

Capt. Christian Uy, spokesperson of the Army’s Public Affairs Division here, said that the improvised explosives were reportedly recovered along the highways of Nungnugan, Lanao Del Sur Monday afternoon by elements of the 65th Infantry Battalion.

According to Uy, the Army’s 4th Infantry Division received the report but did not have the details of the incident since Lanao Del Sur is no longer part of its area of responsibility.

However, Uy said, the 4th ID considered the report seriously because of the proximity of Lanao Del Sur to the Army division coverage.

The 4th ID covers Northern Mindanao and the Caraga Region while the 1st Infantry Division covers Region 9 that includes Lanao Del Sur and Lanao Del Norte provinces.

With the heightened alert, security patrol has been stepped up in Northern Mindanao, Uy added.

The Cagayan de Oro City police command has also stepped up surveillance and intelligence operations here, Chief Inspector Lemuel Gonda, head of the local police operations said.

Gonda said that the discovery of the explosive device has alarmed the intelligence community. “Everybody in the community is trying to figure out the destination of the explosive device,” he said.

He said that the report described the explosive device as armed with an 81 millimeter mortar and equipped with remote gadget that would trigger with ring from a mobile phone.


Army prepares for possible NPA anniversary attacks

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 26): Army prepares for possible NPA anniversary attacks

The 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) of the Philippine Army (PA) based in Jamindan, Capiz is now intensifying their intelligence efforts and combat operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) to prevent the rebel group from creating atrocities as it marks its 45th founding anniversary on March 29.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

3ID spokesperson Major Ray Tiongson said they will be on red alert status on that day to monitor all the possible movements of the rebels.

“We are on our toes for possible sabotage and other terrorist attacks. The government troops are prepared for NPA attacks anytime,” he said.

Tiongson said the Philippine Army condemns the continued ruthless killings of the NPA and its violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

Last December 30, 2013, Demetrio Capilastique known as “Hugo” was shot dead in Barangay Linaywan, Badiangan, Iloilo by alleged members of the SPARU unit of the NPA.

Capilastique is a ranking leader of the NPA’s rival group Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) here in Panay Island.

On January 26, 2013, a certain Gina Genilan Gestalao alias Neneng, 35 years old, wife of a former RPA-ABB member and a resident of Bulho, San Joaquin, Iloilo, was shot dead by the NPA, hitting her right upper breast and left portion of her eye.

A day before the incident, a ranking leader of the RPA-ABB Joven Tababa was also shot dead by alleged NPA in Tigbauan, Iloilo.

Tababa was with his seven-year-old daughter when he was shot and eventually died on the spot. However, his daughter managed to flee.

“The NPA’s attack on non-combatants is clearly a violation of the CARHRIHL of which the CPP/NPA/NDFP is a signatory,” Tiongson said.

Meanwhile, Major General Aurelio Baladad, Commander of the Army’s 3ID said the unlawful killings and blatant violation of human rights and the International Humanitarian Law of the NPA must be stopped. The democratic government and the Filipino people want a justice system that is not served through killings.

Baladad called for peace by urging NPA to lay down their arms, abandon the armed struggle and join the mainstream society in bringing peace and development especially in the countryside.

“Our Bayanihan efforts to bring peace and development in the countryside will continue. We call on the public to be vigilant and let us work together in addressing the challenges of peace,” Baladad concluded.


4 ex-rebels in Negros Oriental gets P65,000 each financial assistance

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): 4 ex-rebels in Negros Oriental gets P65,000 each financial assistance

The Tanjay City-based 302nd Infantry Brigade announced that P260,000 financial assistance were handed to four ex-rebel fighters who opted to rejoin mainstream society early this year.

According to unit spokesperson Capt. Crescencio C. Gargar, the awarding of the livelihood assistance was held Monday during a short ceremony at community hall of Barangay Tacpao, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

Each former New People's Army (NPA) fighter received P65,000 from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP).

The livelihood assistance aims to ensure their successful integration to the community and to improve their socio-economic status.


BRP Ramon Alcaraz to get 'Bushmaster' armament fitting before end of 2014

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): BRP Ramon Alcaraz to get 'Bushmaster' armament fitting before end of 2014

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the country's second Hamilton-class cutter in service, will be fitted with her Mark 38 Model 2 "Bushmaster" 25mm automatic cannons before the end of 2014.

This was disclosed by Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic in an interview with the Philippines News Agency.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz will be getting two such weapons which will be mounted on her port (left) and starboard (right) side and will act as the ship's secondary armament.

Fabic declined to comment on the exact fitting date as this depends on the arrival of the US Coast Guard team.

The decision to seek US Coast Guard aid in installing these automatic cannons came in wake of the high cost of having the guns installed by a private shipyard.

The guns were supposed to be installed before BRP Ramon Alcaraz's Nov. 22 commissioning but the cost of having it done here was too expensive for the Navy.

The weapon, commissioned by the US Navy following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, was designed to counter high-speed maneuvering surface targets and will be installed in almost all US surface ships by 2015.

The remotely controlled chain gun system can fire as many as 180 25m rounds per minute at targets as far as two kilometers.


New model for security arrangement needed - PHL panel chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): New model for security arrangement needed - PHL panel chief

Philippine panel head Defense undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino on Tuesday said there was a need to find a “new model for our security arrangement".

He made this statement during the second day of the 7th round of negotiations for Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement held at the Department of National Defense Building in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

During Tuesday's meeting, both panels renewed their commitment to strengthen individual and collective defense capabilities and reaffirming respect for Philippine sovereignty.

Batino added that in finding such a new security arrangement model, there was a need to ensure that “our constitutional requirements are fully observed.”

For his part, Ambassador Eric John, United States negotiating panel chair, said that he looked forward to “further talks and reaching an agreement that helps strengthen further our individual and collective defense capabilities,” even as he recognized and reaffirmed the importance of respecting Philippine sovereignty.

“The other issue we agreed on at the outset of this (negotiation) was the respect for the sovereignty of the Philippines. And that’s a message that you made very clear the very first round and that’s the message all of us took to back to Washington,” he added.

“And it is in the best spirit of respect for sovereignty and respect for long-standing partnership that we entered into these negotiations,” John said further.

Meanwhile, Batino said that he also looks forward to “productive discussions” in the spirit of equality and common respect, a genuine interest to promote mutuality of benefits and support each other’s goals and “jointly contribute to the peace and stability of our region.”

This fresh round of negotiations follows the sixth round held earlier this month in Washington, D.C. where both panels both panels went through the entire draft agreement and reached consensus on many provisions, including on the proposed accord’s preamble, purpose and scope, definition of terms, ownership of constructed infrastructure, coordination on security, contracting procedures, and resolution of disputes.

Batino emphasized that, as in the preceding six rounds, the Philippine negotiating panel is guided by the principles of full respect for Philippine sovereignty, non-permanence of US troops and no US basing in the Philippines, mutuality of benefits and respect for the Philippine Constitution, including the prohibition against nuclear weapons.”

The other members of the Philippine negotiating panel are Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre, Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and Defense Assistant Secretary for Strategic Assessments Raymund Jose Quilop.


Palace dares the arrested rebels: Prove firearms & explosives were planted

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): Palace dares the arrested rebels: Prove firearms & explosives were planted

Malacanang on Tuesday dared Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) head Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma to prove that the firearms and explosives seized from them at the time of their arrest were planted.

The arresting authorities reported that they confiscated four firearms and two hand grenades from the Tiamzon couple during their arrest last Saturday together with five other CPP-NPA members in Cebu.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a Palace media briefing that planting of evidence is against the law.

“Hindi iyan patakaran ng pamahalaan at kailangan nila iyang patunayan sa pamamagitan ng kongkretong ebidensiya kapag nilitis ang kaso,” Coloma said.

Meanwhile, the Tiamzon couple’s lawyer, Rachelle Pastores, said that the couple had only three puppies and four cats and not weapons.

While the couple claimed that their arrest was a violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) rejected it.

OPAPP said that the rendering of the JASIG is inoperative for those using aliases -- among them the Tiamzon couple -- and those who are not directly involved in the peace process.


48 rebels surrender to Army units in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): 48 rebels surrender to Army units in Bukidnon

Forty- eight New People's Army (NPA) fighters surrendered to the Army 8th and 68th Infantry Battalions in Maramag town, Bukidnon last March 22 and 24.

Philippine Army (PA) spokesperson Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato said that an initial 43 surrendered last Saturday coinciding with the Army's 117th founding anniversary.

These rebels belonged to the NPA’s Guerilla Front 6, North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCRMC), operating in the areas of Bukidnon.

The group also turned over 36 assorted firearms which include M-14 carbines, M-16 automatic rifles, M-1 Garands, .45 pistols, and homemade shotguns.

On March 24, an additional five former NPA rebels also yielded to the same Army units.

They also surrendered seven assorted firearms.

Detoyato said that these rebels are now undergoing custodial debriefing at the headquarters of the 8th Infantry Battalion in South Poblacion, Maramag, Bukidnon.

The PA believes that the Armed Forces’ Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) "Bayanihan" continues to gain headway with the surrender of the 48 former rebels.

All Army operations were guided by the IPSP Bayanihan which advocates for the whole-of-nation approach in achieving peace.

Detoyato said the surrender can also be attributed to the effective collaboration among various stakeholders like the local government units and officials who support the Army’s campaign for peace.


High ranking NPA member in region 8 surrenders to 34IB

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 24): High ranking NPA member in region 8 surrenders to 34IB

Some members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in region 8 continues to signified their intention to return to the folds of the government as another NPA and member of the Communication staff of Santiago Salas, spokesperson in Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee surrendered to the 34th Infantry Battalion on March 19, 2014.

Certain aka “Marivic”, a member of the communication staff of Salas surrendered to Lt Col Rodrigo Ilustrisimo, Commanding officer of the 34th Infantry Battalion.

Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO) Chief Captain Amado Gutierrez said that despite of numerous encounters happened in Samar area recently, Marivic is the 24th member of NPA surrendered to 8 ID based on the record of this headquarters, from January 2014 to date.

Six already received firearm’ remuneration under the AFP Guns for Peace Program, while the rest who have not yet received their benefits under the government programs enumerated are still processing their claims.

Marivic narrated that her reason for leaving the rebel movement was due to hardship of living a life that is always on the run.  In addition, she said that she was not taken care of by the rebel organization when she suffered a serious illness.

She added that her decision to join the mainstream of the society were the programs of the government that benefit rebels like her who wish to surrender.

Gutierrez said that former rebels are entitled to avail of the AFP Guns for Peace Program, from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process’ Comprehensive Local Integration Program or CLIP and the Local Social Integration Program of Local Government Units. The benefits from these programs are enough for a former rebel to start a new life.  

“For more than 44 years since the founding of New People’s Army on March 29, 1969, the armed struggle the NPA waged has not solved any of our problems, rather it caused more,” 8 ID Commanding General Major General Jet Velarmino expressed.    

The commanding general added that it is heartening that aka “Marivic” acknowledged the futility of staying inside the rebel movement and took advantage of the government's integration programs for former rebels.

“Her decision provides her an opportunity to return to her family and live a peaceful, normal and productive life,” he said.


Changes in US-Phl defense pact's implementation sought

From the Philippine Star (Mar 24): Changes in US-Phl defense pact's implementation sought

The seventh round of talks on a deal granting the US greater access to Philippine bases started on Monday with an official citing the need for changes in the implementation of the defense pact between the two countries.

Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, chairman of the Philippine negotiating panel, said a new model for engagement is needed due to changes in the security environment.

“For the Philippines, our internal environment has changed as well, and we need to find a new model for our security engagement,” Batino said in his opening statement delivered in Camp Aguinaldo.

“Thus, we are very mindful of the need to make adjustments in the implementation of the MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty), to ensure that our constitutional requirements are fully observed,” he added.

The Philippines and US signed the MDT in 1951 "to declare publicly and formally their sense of unity and their common determination to defend themselves against external armed attack.”

The treaty also aims to “to strengthen their present efforts for collective defense for the preservation of peace and security.”

Under the treaty, the US and the Philippines, separately or jointly, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attacks.

The Philippines agreed to provide the US greater access to its military bases to achieve “minimum credible defense” in the face of China’s aggressive acts in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Batino noted that changes have also taken place in the US as it seeks to rebalance to Asia.

“Over the past 60 years, this partnership has evolved, and we are challenged to continue to find ways to ensure that our alliance remains responsive to the changing regional security environment,” he said.

Batino said the proposed deal on enhanced defense cooperation would reaffirm the two countries’ shared commitment to their enduring alliance.

“As we seek to build a minimum credible defense posture, we are leveraging our long history of partnership to meet both traditional and emerging challenges and extend our areas of cooperation to new grounds, like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” he added.

For his part, Ambassador Eric John, chairman of the US negotiating panel, said the proposed agreement proves the “vibrancy” of the MDT.

“It’s something that can be strengthened through further implementing steps that we’re taking here with this agreement,” John said.

Militants reject access deal

The seventh round of negotiations was greeted with protests by militant groups who claim that the agreement will violate the Philippines’ sovereignty.

Members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) held a protest in front of Camp Aguinaldo to oppose what they described as a “de facto basing agreement for US troops.”

“The Philippine government will violate the Constitution and our national sovereignty if it allows the unlimited and unqualified use of Philippine bases and facilities by US forces,” Bayan secretary-general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said.

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

Officials have repeatedly claimed that the agreement would not violate the constitution.

Bayan believes Philippine access to the US facilities will not be guaranteed under the new agreement.

“We are challenging the Philippine government to make public the draft it submitted to the US. We challenge Aquino to order the full public disclosure of the details of this agreement. This executive agreement for de facto basing is illegal,” Reyes said.

Despite China’s efforts to seize Philippine-owned territories, Bayan believes the US is “the biggest bully on the planet.”

“The Aquino regime is trying to sell the line that we need US bases to counter the threat of China. Aquino is telling the people we need to welcome the bigger bully to fend off another bully,” Reyes said.


NPA owns up to slay of agent

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 25): NPA owns up to slay of agent

The communist New People’s Army (NPA) has claimed responsibility for the killing of an agent of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Sorsogon City on Saturday.

Ka Samuel Guerrero, spokesperson of the NPA’s Celso Minquez Command in Sorsogon, said in an online statement on Monday that the agent, Arnel Estrellado, was killed on charges of protecting drug pushers in the Bicol region.

Estrellado, 39, misused his influence with the PDEA, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the Philippine National Police to shield drug pushers and syndicates from lawmen for a commission, Guerrero said.

The agent was shot five times in different parts of the body by two men riding on a motorcycle outside the canteen he operated in Barangay (village) Tugos. He died shortly after he was brought to a hospital, said Supt. Aarne Oliquino, police chief of Sorsogon City.

Estrellado had served as assistant provincial officer of PDEA-Sorsogon and conducted community campaigns against drug use among the youth and students in Sorsogon, according to Cotton Yuson, regional spokesperson of the PDEA. He was transferred to Camarines Norte province on March 1.

He was off duty and was in his home in Sorsogon City when he was killed, Yuson said.


CPP head ‘was here for R&R’

From the Sun Star-Cebu (Mar 25): CPP head ‘was here for R&R’

COMMUNIST leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria had been staying in Cebu for two months and probably chose the province for rest, a police official said yesterday.

Chief Supt. Danilo Constantino, director of Police Regional Office (PRO) 7, said the rebels wouldn’t conduct armed activities in places they consider as “white areas”, such as Cebu.

“Parang itong R&R area nila. Dito sila nagsasagawa ng pagpupulong (They came here to rest. They also held their meetings here),” he told reporters.

GMA 7 Cebu’s Balitang Bisdak reported that the local police found yesterday the alleged hideout of the leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in an interior portion of Barangay Sangat, San Fernando.

According to the report, some residents nearby said the couple kept to themselves and rented a house in Sitio Boloc-Boloc for P20,000 a month. They were also seen in Carcar City on several occasions.

Like the military’s Central Command, the Police Regional Office raised its alert status after the couple’s arrest, which happened a week before the 45th anniversary of the NPA, the Communist Party’s armed wing.

Police were told to strengthen the security measures in police stations.

Cebu remains insurgency-free despite the arrest of the CPP-NPA’s top officials, Gov. Hilario Davide III and the head of the military’s Central Command assured yesterday.

“I’d like to think so and I believe so, that Cebu is insurgency-free,” said Davide.


He also directed Cebu Provincial Police Director Noel Gillamac and the Central Command to continue monitoring the presence of rebel and criminal elements in Cebu.

Gillamac told him in a visit yesterday that the couple was just here on R&R and that there was no reported recruitment being done, nor any reported sightings of NPA fighters.

The Central Command chief, Major Gen. John Bonafos, who also visited and briefed the governor yesterday, agreed with the observation.

“Patunay lang ito na effective at maganda ang ginagawa naming program (This proves that our program is effective),” said Bonafos.

Bonafos said the CPP-NPA chairman probably chose Cebu because of its strategic location and because they thought they could move more freely without being monitored.

“Sadyang kampante sila. Akala nila hindi sila makikila at walang magrereport (They let their guard down. They probably thought no one would recognize or report them),” Bonafos said.

‘Oplan Pagtugis’

Governor Davide admitted he was surprised by the arrest.

Interviewed separately, PRO 7 Chief Constantino said the police are also checking the background of three people from Cebu who were with the couple when they got arrested in the mountain barangay of Zaragosa, Aloguinsan last Saturday afternoon.

They were identified as Nona Castillo of Consolacion town; Jeosi Nepa of Lapu-Lapu City; and Arlene Panea of Mactan.

Benito, 63, and Wilma, 61, were reportedly based in Eastern Visayas before.

Their arrest was carried out following a meeting between the PNP and Intelligence Unit officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Crame last March 21, in line with the PNP’s “Oplan Pagtugis.”

On March 22, elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group from Metro Manila, the Philippine Army and Carcar City Police were told to conduct a checkpoint.


The authorities had received intelligence information that the Tiamzons being on board of a gray Hyundai Starex van (with license plate MDN-171), with a security back-up vehicle, a black Toyota Innova (YGY-897).

However, the convoy drove past the checkpoint in Barangay Valencia, Carcar.
The team caught up with them in Barangay Zaragoza, Aloguinsan, where they managed to overtake and block the convoy.

“Immediately, after the occupants of the two vehicles were neutralized, CIDG detectives approached and opened the door of the gray Hyundai Starex van and were able to identify two of the top ranking CPP personalities inside,” one of the arresting team’s affidavit stated.

“While the CIDG detectives were affecting the arrest of the Tiamzon couple, the black Toyota Innova behind the Hyundai Starex van tried to maneuver back to escape from the law enforcers presence but was timely blocked,” the affidavit added.


AFP condemns attack to its peace team in Ifugao

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 24): AFP condemns attack to its peace team in Ifugao

The Armed  Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has condemned the atrocity  committed to its Peace and Development Team (PDT) by alleged  rebel  group in barangay Camandag in this municipality last week.

Lt. Col. Eddie Pilapil, commanding officer of 54th Infantry Battalion (IB),  said  the enemy intends to disrupt the soldiers’ activity to deny the people of Camandag the peace the long desired.  The Army he said is  always ready to prevent the NPA  from  terrorizing the people of said place.

Captain Ian Ricablanca, commanding officer  of the Alpha company , 54th IB, reported that the troops who were conducting peace and development operations were resting  when attacked by  NPA remnants at round 11:00PM  of  March 21.

The duty sentinel immediately sensed the attackers and  prevented them to maneuver. “The sentinel sustained injury in his lower extremities while the enemies immediately withdraw after one minute firefight,” Ricablanca  said.


US panel: Enhanced defense pact will respect PHL sovereignty

From GMA News (Mar 24): US panel: Enhanced defense pact will respect PHL sovereignty

A panel from the United States assured its Filipino counterparts Monday that the US will respect the sovereignty of the Philippines in an enhanced defense agreement the two countries are in negotiations for.

“The other issue that we agreed on at the outset of this was the respect for the sovereignty of the Philippines,” Ambassador Eric John, chairman of the US negotiating panel, said in a speech at the start of the 7th round of discussions.

“That’s a message that you made clear the very first round and that’s the message all of us took back to Washington and it is [in] the best spirit of respect for sovereignty and respect for [our] long-standing partnership that we entered into these negotiations,” he added.

The proposed agreement will allow an increased rotational deployment of US troops, ships, aircraft and humanitarian equipment to the Philippines.

Under the proposal, the Philippines will allow the sharing of well-defined areas within certain Armed Forces of the Philippines facilities with elements of the US military.

The US troops will also be allowed to construct facilities such as billeting or housing for additional military elements and hangars in existing Philippine Air Force bases where they can put their rescue helicopters.

Ambassador Eduardo Malaya, a member of the Philippine panel, earlier said there will be no "base within a base" as Filipino authorities will have access to the areas provided to US troops.

He said a military base is a facility where there is extraterritoriality and exclusivity, which will not happen under the new defense pact.

The panels are expected to finalize the language in the pact on access for Filipino authorities and on the sharing of responsibilities with respect to securing the facilities.

The Philippine panel expects to include a provision that will allow a review of the agreement every five years.

The panels will also discuss the duration of the agreement.

Ambassador John said the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US can be strengthened “through further implementing steps that we’re taking here with this agreement.”

In his opening statement, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, head of the Philippine negotiating panel, said “we are very mindful of the need to make adjustments in the implementation of the MDT, to ensure that our constitutional requirements are fully observed.”

He said the Philippine panel expects that the agreement will not just bolster the countries' collective security, but will also add another dimension to their economic interaction.

“We hope to make significant progress at this round, not because of any perceived deadline, but because it is in our mutual interest to do so,” he said.

The enhanced defense pact being negotiated by the US and the Philippines is expected to boost the latter's external defense capability amid an aggressive claim by China over parts of the South China Sea that the Philippines considers its territory.

The Philippines recently filed a diplomatic protest against China — the second in two weeks — for preventing two vessels carrying supplies and personnel from going to Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea..

Before that, Manila accused China of harassing a group of fishermen off the Scarborough Shoal, another Philippine-claimed feature in the South China Sea now controlled by China after a standoff in 2012.

The US had military bases in the Philippines until 1991, when the Senate voted against ratifying an extension of the Philippines-US Bases Treaty.

Despite this, the two countries have been military allies and have jointly held the Balikatan military exercises every year.

According to a fact sheet from the US Embassy in Manila, the US also advises and assists "Philippine Security Forces to defeat Violent Extremist Organizations and neutralize enemy safe havens" through the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines.

US troops under the task force are only in the Philippines temporarily and only participate in "non-combat advisory operations."


Molding ‘corrupt’ military officers not PMA’s role

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Mar 25): Molding ‘corrupt’ military officers not PMA’s role

IT IS not the fault of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) that some ranking officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are involved in corruption issues, said PMA fresh graduate 2nd Lieutenant Liza Dango in a press conference at the Cagayan de Oro City Tourism Office Monday.

Dango said the PMA’s intent in training young men and women is to turn them into military officers with integrity who will uphold the academy’s honor system.

Committing illegal acts like corruption, she said, is an individual choice, adding, “It’s not about PMA not producing well-rounded military officers.”

Dango, the salutatorian of the PMA “Siklab Diwa” class of 2014, led the 12 of the 14 PMA graduates from Cagayan de Oro in their official visit to the City Hall to attend the flag-raising ceremony Monday.

For his part, Dango’s colleague Ensign Greg Philip Monsalud said: “The Filipino people should not worry about [military officials committing corruption] as there are still officers who are doing their best to serve our country.”

Cudia’s dismissal ‘justified’

However, the new graduates were all one in saying that PMA cadet Aldrin Cudia’s controversial dismissal from the military school is justified.

As Cudia’s situation had been reviewed by the PMA committee handling cases of such nature, the academy’s commandant, and even by President Benigno Aquino III himself, Monsalud said the decision to exclude Cudia from the roster of graduates is just reasonable.

“He (Cudia) violated the honor code,” Monsalud added.

“I feel sorry for him. Bisa’g unsa ‘mi ka-close, we still have to abide by the honor code,” Monsalud said, referring to Cudia, his former roommate at the academy.

“He’s (Cudia) good at academics and he deserves to be on top if he did not violate the honor code,” he added.

After Cudia was dismissed, Monsalud said he was forced to finish their thesis and term papers.

Monsalud and his batch were surprised that Cudia made an appeal, although he said they had no idea what is the deeper reason for his dismissal.

He explained that after it is proven that the cadet has committed an honor offense, he will be put in a holding center where he will be prevented from communicating with other cadets.

Monsalud added that Cudia’s case was not the first, as there were already cadets kicked out of the academy for violation of the honor code in the past.

In cases like these, those who were dismissed from the PMA will be blacklisted and could no longer go back to the academy, but they were still given a chance to seek employment.

He said military officials can help a dismissed cadet land corporate jobs or work within the armed forces but as a civilian employee.

Longtime dream

Dango, in a separate interview, said she did not find it hard to hurdle the challenges in the academy since it was her dream to enter the military service.

She remembered the premises inside the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division headquarters at Camp Evangelista in Barangay Patag as her playground while growing up.

She said her father Generoso, who’s a retired soldier, became her inspiration in joining the military.

“My father played a big role in my decision to join the PMA,” Dango said.

Waiting for assignments

Monsalud, who is the number 9th in his class, will be joining the Philippine Navy, while Dango will be with the Philippine Army (PA).

Joining Dango in the Philippine Army are 2nd Lieutenant Jasper Angelo Martinito, 2nd Lieutenant Martin Famador, 2nd Lieutenant Adam Ajie Acenas, 2nd Lieutenant Herobem Alabado, 2nd Lieutenant Niko Pendejito, and 2nd Lieutenant Eljuhn Aboc.

Those who will join Monsalud as they report to the Philippine Navy are Ensign Lelanie Veluz, Ensign Jillrex Narciso and Ensign Melman Itaas.

Second Lieutenant Anthony Feril will be with the Philippine Air Force, while 2nd Lieutenant Armando Carillo will join the Philippine Navy’s Marine Corps.

Other PMA graduates from Northern Mindanao are Ensign Lieutenant Archie Dumloan, from Initao, Misamis; 2nd Lieutenant Darl Lennon Papas, from Lugait,
Misamis Oriental; Ensign Dalton John Lagura, from Don Carlos; Ensign Feliciano Aguaviva, from Malaybalay City; 2nd Lieutenant Paul Ryan Acebeque, Valencity City; and Ensign Bladimir Corpuz, from Malaybalay City, all from the province of Bukidnon.

Most of the PMA graduates come from Cagayan de Oro City’s first congressional district.

Pendijito, Martinito, Acenas, and Narciso are from Barangay Patag. Famador and Itaas come from Barangay Carmen.

Dango is a resident of Barangay Bulua, while Veluz, Aboc and Feril are from Barangay Lumbia. Carillo and Alabado come from Barangay Iponan.

Salido is from Xavier Heights, while Monsalud comes from Puntod.

Of the 14, four -- Martinito, Dango, Alabado, and Veluz -- had either studied or graduated at Xavier University.

To know what unit they will be assigned, Dango said they have to report to the PA headquarters first.

“Our assignment will depend on our higher-ups,” Monsalud added.


Some 500 MILF members to attend signing of final Bangsamoro pact: Deles

From InterAksyon (Mar 26): Some 500 MILF members to attend signing of final Bangsamoro pact: Deles

The officers corps stand in formation during graduation rites at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat province February 18, 2014. BERNARD TESTA/InterAksyon.com

Around 500 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are set to attend the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in Malacanang on Thursday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said on Tuesday.

In a Palace media briefing, Deles also assured that the government’s security forces are aware of the possibilities and are ready for all contingencies.

Meanwhile, government peace panel chairman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said that the signing will also be done in the presence of more than 1,000 people at the Palace grounds.

She further said that the signing will demonstrate how the event is important for all Filipinos and not just those of the Bangsamoro or the people of Mindanao.

“Under this government, those who are left out are those who want to be left out,” Deles said, referring to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA)'s umbrella organization National Democratic Front (NDF).

“...The door remains open to all fronts that (for) one to work together with government, it is still a call to partnership,” Deles said.

“It is still a call to partnership to all groups and we will continue to proceed up to the last day of this agreement to bring that message across,” she added.


Soldiers in Central Mindanao happy with scheduled March 27 signing of Bangsamoro peace pact

From InterAksyon (Mar 26): Soldiers in Central Mindanao happy with scheduled March 27 signing of Bangsamoro peace pact

MILF uniform patches, 11 March 2014. BERNARD TESTA/InterAksyon.com

Officers and staff of the 6th Infantry Division have expressed elation over the upcoming historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro on March 27.

The agreement, said 6th ID spokesman Col. Dickson Hermoso, will put an end to the fighting in Central Mindanao.

Soldiers are among those who seek peace in the island of Mindanao, he said, as they put their lives on the line every time there is fighting.

During the past several years, a number of 6th ID soldiers have laid their lives in fighting between the military and elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Movement.

High alert

6th ID troops on the ground will nonetheless be in their respective areas of responsibility in case of violent expressions of opposition to the signing.

In a related development, high-ranking officials of the 6th ID are expected to attend the signing in Malacanang on Wednesday.

Wide-screen television sets have been set up in different parts of Mindanao, including in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, City Plaza in Cotabato, ARMM Compound, and in centers of the five ARMM provinces, so that residents may witness the signing.

A peace concert and numerous celebrations are scheduled in Mindanao tomorrow.


CONFIRMED | Malaysian PM Najib attending GPH-MILF peace pact signing

From InterAksyon (Mar 25): CONFIRMED | Malaysian PM Najib attending GPH-MILF peace pact signing

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will attend the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on March 27, Thursday, in Malacanang.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose confirmed Najib’s attendance, ending speculation on whether the Malaysian premier would make it to the signing because of the continuing search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

Government chief negotiator Miriam Ferrer said the DFA will make any further announcements about the schedule of Najib, who will reportedly make a “fly-in, fly-out” visit.

Malaysia has served as third-party facilitator of the peace talks since 2001.

The CAB will bring together all the major agreements signed by the government and MILF, including the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the four annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, transitional arrangements and normalization.

The agreeement will be signed by Ferrer and MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. Malaysian third party facilitator Ghafar Tengku will sign as witness.


Mole who helped in arrest of Tiamzons to get P11.2-M reward, says AFP source

From InterAksyon (Mar 25): Mole who helped in arrest of Tiamzons to get P11.2-M reward, says AFP source

PNP/PIO photos of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon

After the military was criticized last year by a human rights group for allegedly engaging in an "organized racket" through its rewards system for hooded informants, a source from the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Tuesday said the AFP was able to capture Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon through the help of a mole.

The informant, who had allegedly tipped off the military about the Tiamzon couple's whereabouts, also came from the CPP-NPA and would receive a reward of at least P11.2 million,  according to a ranking military official privy to the capture of the Tiamzons but who requested anonymity.

“Taga kanila din, sa loob din ng organization nila [The mole is from their own organization],” the military official said.

Ang tawag natin diyan, actually, ay action agent…Alpha-Alpha [We call such mole an action agent...an Alpha-Alpha],” the official added.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala of the AFP's Public Information Office confirmed about the existence of an informant that led to the arrest of the Tiamzons and five others in Barangay Zaragoza in Aloguinsan, Cebu on Saturday, March 22.

Zagala also confirmed about the reward money that the mole would receive -- P11. 2 million or P5.6 million each for the capture of Benito, said to be the chairman of the CPP-NPA, and Wilma, the party's suspected secretary-general.

Hindi ko pa na-update ano but at least 5.6 million…each [I haven't updated it but at least P5.6 million...each [I haven't updated but at least P5.6 million...each]," said Zabala.

“But we have to check with the valuation board…to see the updated amount,” he added.

The military was put in a bad light last year over its rewards system wherein hooded informants received money in front of cameras. Human rights group Karapatan branded it as an “organized racket” of unscrupulous military and police officials.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said an example of such racket was the case involving security guard Rolly Mira Panesa.

[READ RELATED STORY: Man mistaken for CPP officer severely tortured]

The military claimed that Panesa was CPP-NPA member Danilo Benjamin Mendoza.
On August 12, 2013, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista awarded to a tipster P5.6 million for the supposed capture of the said CPP-NPA member.

Several days later, the Court of Appeals Fifth Division ruled that the case of Panesa was a “mistaken identity" as Panesa and Mendoza were not the same person. The court ordered authorities to release Panesa from jail.


Communist rebels vow more attacks in Philippines following capture of leaders

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Mar 25): Communist rebels vow more attacks in Philippines following capture of leaders

New People’s Army rebels have vowed to intensify its offensives in the Philippines following the capture of two top leaders of the communist group in Cebu province.

Security forces captured Benito Tiamzon, the chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and his wife Wilma Austria, who is the current CPP secretary-general, after long surveillance operations involving elite teams of policemen and soldiers.

“The capture of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria only emboldens the New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao to further intensify the people’s war in the region. The US-Aquino regime is daydreaming when it says the arrest spells the demise of the revolutionary movement.  The NPA-SMR is ever resolute to advance the guerrilla war to a higher stage because the roots of armed conflict are firmly embedded in a region heavily militarized by the fascist AFP troops,” a rebel spokesman in Mindanao, Rigoberto Sanchez, said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Sanchez said instead of dismantling pork barrel and corruption and providing genuine relief for disaster victims, and ending the poverty of the Filipino masses, the Aquino regime, backed by Washington, has embarked its relentless aggressive war in the countryside.

“Under its counterrevolutionary policy Oplan Bayanihan, it deployed its vast resources and manpower to militarize the peasant villages and open it for further imperialist plunders,” he said.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has protested the arrest of the two rebel leader, saying they are consultants to the peace talks with the Aquino government and that both are covered with immunity from arrest. Five other people who were with the couple were also arrested and detained on various criminal charges.

NDFP spokesman Jorge Madlos said in spite of the capture of the two leaders, the rebel group’s “democratic revolution” will advance in the country.

“The arrest of Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria Tiamzon and five others, will not deter the People’s Democratic Revolution from continuing to advance nor will it dampen the resolve of the entire revolutionary forces to carry forward the interests of the people and the Revolution.  Beyond having to frustrate the objectives of the brutal Oplan Bayanihan in its first three years, the Revolutionary movement is more than ever intent on frustrating the last three years of its implementation, because of the people’s continuing struggle against exploitation and oppression in the midst of an ever worsening crisis gripping the entire country and the world,” he said in a separate statement.

“While revolutionary forces in Mindanao are once again faced with the challenge of thwarting renewed attacks of the Oplan Bayanihan, which deployed three new additional AFP brigades against the NPA in Mindanao, only presents itself as an opportune time for other regions in the Visayas and Luzon to advance further,” he added.

He said the capture of the Tiamzons will further result in more intensified operations against government and military and police targets across the country. He said even the capture in the past of top rebel leaders did not deter the NPA from expanding its forces and aggressively launching offensives against the government, what more now that rebels are scattered all over the country.

“With these as precedence, there is absolutely no basis for the people’s revolutionary struggle to cease from advancing on account solely of the Tiamzon couple’s capture.  The primary basis for the Revolutionary movement’s continuing and unstoppable advance does not rely solely on its leaders, but derives impetus with the ever worsening state of exploitation and oppression by imperialists and its local ruling classes towards the vast masses,” Madlos said.

“The principal reason for either the regression or advance of the revolutionary movement in the face of the continuing grave social crisis in the country is whether or not the movement follows the correct political line, and not because of certain personalities in its leadership.  This means that if the revolutionary movement resolutely stands for the general interests of the vast majority of the people, particularly for their aspiration to attain genuine agrarian reform, national industrialization, genuine right to self-determination, democracy and social benefits, the people’s revolution will continue, and continue to struggle until socialism shall have been established,” he said.

Peace talks between the NDFP and the Aquino government stalled following demands by rebels to free all political prisoners in the country, among others.

Peace negotiations up to rebels

But President Benigno Aquino said the resumption of peace talks with communist rebels will only depend on their “willingness” to return to the negotiating table.

Aquino also dismissed that the arrest of the Tiamzon couple will have an effect on the stalled peace talks with the communist groups.

“Well, they have walked out to the CPP-NPA and they have walked out of the peace talks, if you remember correctly. Does it have an impact? I don’t think so. It really depends on their willingness to go back to the bargaining table,” Aquino said.

He said the arrest of the Tiamzon couple is a “serious blow” to the CPP-NPA and “it shows you also the competency of our security forces.”

Aquino said the government should deal with “root causes” of insurgency problem to be able to stamp it out.“That’s why we are focused on empowering our people, especially in trying to move them out of poverty in the various interventions that we have been doing from education, to health, to livelihood, to housing, to disaster preparedness and so on and so forth,” he said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima also defended the arrest of the Tiamzons, saying that they were not covered by any immunity because of the stalled  peace talks.

The NPA, armed wing of the CPP and the NDFP, has been fighting the democratic government for many decades now in an effort to put up a communist state in the country.


After declaring self new chieftain of MNLF, Alonto now throws support to Philippine peace process

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Mar 24): After declaring self new chieftain of MNLF, Alonto now throws support to Philippine peace process

A screen shot of self-proclaimed Moro National Liberation Front chairman Abul Kayr Alonto during a television interview March 24, 2014 on PTV 4.

Weeks after he declared himself new chieftain of the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front, Abul Kayr Alonto, whose faction claimed to have replaced Nur Misuari, has publicly thrown his support to the peace process between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which has been fighting for decades for self-determination in the restive southern region of the Philippines.

Alonto, who was among the original founding members of the MNLF, also urged Muslims to support the Bangsamoro agreement between the Aquino government and the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.

Speaking on a government television, Alonto said his group is all-out in supporting the peace process and also urged Congress to approve the new political entity called Bangsamoro which shall replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which is composed of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao.

Moro people should unite

“The Moro people want to set their house in order but how can they set their house in order when the very key to their own hands is not in their own hands. And the sad part is that the people who want to govern them do not even speak the language that the people to be governed speak. Ito na po ang key and I believe the taught by my grandfather was saying that the key is not in their hands, the key now is the framework basic law that we look forward to that will be approved by Congress or through Constitutional amendment, please do so, let’s do it so that we can unite and spare the future generation of a war of aggression,” Alonto said.

“I will look forward that when the establishment of this government we can have a full fiscal autonomy we can budget what we need, all these revenues coming from our resources just to catch up with the nation must be used for a free education, free health and free shelter para po ang inyong kawawang sambayanang Moro sa timogan Pilipinas ay magkaroon ng pagkakataon to set their house in order and establish a place in the sun for their children and children to be,” he added.

MNLF still loyal to Misuari

But majority of the MNLF is still loyal to Misuari, although he was deposed in 2000 by his senior officials headed by his Foreign Affairs chief Parouk Hussin - who along with veteran rebel leaders headed by Muslimen Sema, the front’s secretary general – who made up the so-called Council of 15.

Hussin, who eventually became governor of the Muslim autonomous region, was also deposed several years later after the Council of 15, disgruntled at his leadership, put back Misuari as head of the MNLF in 2007.

But Sema and majority of the MNLF leaders ousted Misuari again in 2008 for lack of trust and confidence. Sema’s group previously appointed Misuari as chairman emeritus, but he rejected the position and insisted he is the sole chairman of the MNLF. Sema has not issued any public statement about Alonto’s declaration.

Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region and Sema’s group accused him of being an incompetent leader.

And despite the peace accord, Misuari said there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted. Under the peace agreement, Manila would have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the South, and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.

And in November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the Muslim autonomous region, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines where he was jailed and eventually released by then President Gloria Arroyo in exchange for his support to her election bid and her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004.

But Misuari's fall had severely affected the MNLF which is now heavily divided and rift among its leaders is becoming more apparent. Misuari also ran thrice for governor in Sulu province even while under detention, but lost.

In September 2013, Misuari’s group again launched deadly attacks in Zamboanga City that sparked three weeks of deadly street battles that killed and wounded over 400 people, and left over 130,000 without homes following the burning of several Muslim villages. Misuari remains in hiding following the attacks.

Divide and conquer

But Misuari’s leaders and allies have accused the Aquino government, particularly peace adviser Teresita Deles as behind the rift among MNLF leaders.

Deles, who heads the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, also served under Arroyo and Reynaldo Reyes, a key supporter of Misuari, also accused her as behind Alonto’s move to grab the leadership of the MNLF.

“OPAPP Secretary Deles, who served also under the Arroyo regime, had a hand on creating the so-called 15-member MNLF-EC (Executive Committee) group under (Cotabato City) ex-Vice Mayor Muslimen Sema to divide both the MNLF leadership and freedom fighters and to discredit MNLF Chair Nur Misuari. Now she is again creating another MNLF group using MNLF surrenderees-turned-politicians headed by Abul Khayr Alonto to neutralise Chairman Misuari and to be used by the Aquino regime to deceive both the Filipino and Bangsamoro communities as well as humanity that the new version autonomous government labelled Bangsamoro is the key to 'just and lasting peace' in Mindanao,” Reyes told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Logically, how can it be the solution to the Mindanao war when the Aquino regime is only negotiating with one splintered group of the MNLF? Can OPPAP hide the truth and hoodwink the people that the mainstream MNLF under Chair Misuari and BIFM (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement) under Ustaj Umbra Amiril Katu are not now waging the freedom struggle of the oppressed Bangsamoro people of Filipino-colonised Mindanao to regain complete independence and national self-determination?” he asked.

There was no immediate statement either from the Aquino government or Deles about the accusations, but Manila and the MILF are set to sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27 at the Presidential Palace after 17 long years of arduous negotiations.


We will, We shall, Sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro: Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Mar 25): We will, We shall, Sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro: Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer

ON MARCH 27, we will, we shall, sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. There is no turning back. Only moving decisively forward. The peace train is on track. Its design is complete. Most of its elements are in place. Although it had a slow start, it eventually picked up speed.

In the last 18 months from the historic signing of the FAB on October 15, 2012, we have produced: four Annexes, one Addendum, five Terms of Reference  for our five mechanisms (TPMT, ICP, IDB, TJRC, JNC), renewed our TORs for the IMT and AHJAG. And now the CAB.

What we will sign: the short 5-page, 12 point text that will formalize the CAB. What the CAB is: puts together all signed agreements – FAB, Annexes and addendum, also the very first, very important Ceasefire Agreement of 1997, Agreement on Peace signed in 2001 in Tripoli which laid down the agenda for the talks, the Declaration of Continuity of Negotiations in June 2010 which picked up the pieces from the failed MOA-AD of 2008.

The CAB text to be signed: Reiterates the principles of the negotiation, namely: recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people, their aspiration for meaningful autonomy through a democratic process; aim of finding a solution to the Bangsamoro Question with honor, justice and dignity; aim to end the fighting between the government and the MILD and promote peace and stability; recognition of the responsibilities of the Parties to protect and enhance the rights of the Bangsamoro people and all other inhabitants, correct historical injustice, and equitably diffuse wealth and political power.

Reiterates commitment to all signed documents. Thanks all those who played important roles in the process. Provides the principles: Mutual respect for the right to one’s identity, continue with dialogues and consultations, leading to the establishment of a BM government that will protect individual and collective rights, and be truly democratic, accountable and representative of the diversity of its populace, and for the parties to abide by the modalities and mechanisms provided, and most important, to ensure the integrity of the whole process.

The whole negotiating panels of the GPH and the MILF will sign the document. On GPH end, the signatories would be: myself; panel members Senen Bacani, Yasmin Busran-Lao, Mehol Sadain; panel consultants Zenonida Brosas and Jose Luis Martin Gascon.

On the MILF end, the signatories would be: Mohager Iqbal, Datu Michael Mastura, Maulana “Bobby” Alonto, Abhoud Syed Lingga, Abdulla Camlian and Datu Antonio Kinoc.

The Malaysian Facilitator, Tengku Dato’ Abdul Ghafar Tengku Mohamed will also sign as witness. The signing will be done in the presence of Teresita Quintos-Deles, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and the Dato Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Hj Abdul Razak.

It will be done in the presence of more than 1,000 people before the Palace grounds. The sealing of the comprehensive agreement is important not only for the Bangsamoro, the people of Mindanao and all other Filipino citizens who have all to gain as one country pursuing its unfinished task of nation-building.

It is also our global contribution to the pursuit of peace in our immediate neighborhood, the Southeast Asia region, and the rest of the world. The last momentous agreement of this kind was those sealed in Aceh, Indonesia between the Republic of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement in 2005.

Many other countries continue to face similar troubles. Our experience, our mechanisms, our approaches have become a rich source of inspiration to these countries that remain challenged by their respective domestic conflicts.

Moreover, our document would be unique in that it would be the first such agreement to be signed by a woman, not only as one of two chief signatories to a comprehensive agreement, but also because not only one but a total of three women – one half of the 6-person negotiating team of the GPH, and about one-fourth of the total number of signatories – would be signing it. Happy women’s month to everyone.

The point, however, is not simply because you have women in Track 1, but that this agreement is also a partnership in many ways: a partnership between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine government, between and among peoples of different faiths and ethnicity, and between men and women. And together, we can make it all happen. Together, we can make peace, not war.

That said, the historic signing is but a short station stop in this difficult but rewarding journey to build peace, development and meaningful autonomy for the Bangsamoro and the other people in the parts of Mindanao that will fall under the autonomous government. We cannot rest, we shall be moving on, full speed ahead, towards full implementation.


Army detachment in Capiz attacked anew by enemy

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 24): Army detachment in Capiz attacked anew by enemy

Armed groups believed to be members of the New People's Army (NPA) rebels launched an attack anew on the Philippine Army detachment of the 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB) based in Barangay Abangay Tapaz, Capiz.

Belated military reports reaching here said the raining bullets unleashed by the enemy before day break on Friday has surprised the army soldiers who were at their patrol base at that time.

Government forces engaged the attackers in almost 10-minute firefight forcing the enemy to withdraw sensing the superior firepower of soldiers.

The troops recovered empty shells of M14 and M16 armalite rifles believed to have came from the NPA rebels in their renewed armed attack against the army detachment in the hinterland town of Tapaz, Capiz.

The recent attack came on the eve of the PA’s anniversary celebration last Saturday.

The government forces immediately conducted hot pursuit operation against the fleeing rebel insurgents to flush them out of their mountain lairs in the hinterlands of Tapaz.

It was learned that the army detachment in Tapaz has been under enemy attack for the second time early this month.

The first incident was reported early Tuesday morning of March 11 where a group of 15 armed NPA rebels also launched an attack against the army detachment in Brgy. Abangay. Tapaz.

The rebels charged the army detachment with heavy firepower for almost 10 minutes as evidenced of empty cartridges of M14 armalite rifle later recovered in the enemy position.

Simultaneous with the enemy atrocity in Brgy. Abangay, two other army detachments in Brgy. Daan Sur, also in Tapaz and Brgy. Agcalaga located in the adjoining Calinog, Iloilo also came under armed attack from the rebel groups.

The attacks on the Calinog military facility was perpetrated by some 20 to 30 rebel insurgents who fired a volley of gun fires toward the army position in Agcalaga wee hours on Tuesday morning of March 11.

1Lt. Mary Jane Domga, 61IB spokesperson, however, said the rebels failed on their plan to run over the detachment as government forces led by S/Sgt. Niel Porras and his eight men offered stiff resistance to enemy attackers.

Fortunately, no casualties or injuries were reported during the recent armed skirmish as the enemies were later seen retreating towards adjoining Brgy. Garangan, Calinog before day break.

Domga said the recent attacks launched against the army detachments might be a show of strong protests on the part of the NPA rebels over the transfer of the army’s 61IB headquarters from Brgy. Libot, Calinog, Iloilo to Brgy. Lagdungan, Tapaz, Capiz.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Army in Panay Island was on red alert in anticipation for the enemy’s atrocity in time of their founding anniversary come March 29.

As this developed, military authorities here is closelycoordinating with the Philippine National Police to deter any planned atrocities to be launched by the enemy in the region.

Possible enemy targets like army and PNP stations, government offices and big business facilities are among the major installations being monitored and secured by law enforcers.


Philippine troops foil bombing ahead of peace deal signing with MILF rebels

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Mar 25): Philippine troops foil bombing ahead of peace deal signing with MILF rebels

Security forces have disarmed a powerful bomb, ahead of the signing of the peace agreement between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, at a highway in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, officials said Tuesday.

Officials said patrolling soldiers headed by Lt. Louie Kent Heredia, of the 65th Infantry Battalion, discovered the explosives in the village of Gadungan. The explosives were assembled from two 81mm mortar bombs and a cooking gas cylinder attached to a cell phone that served as its detonator. 

Members of the army’s 35th Explosive Ordnance Disposal recovered the bomb after safely disarming it, officials said.

It was not immediately known who was behind the foiled bombing, but its discovery came ahead of the signing of the peace deal on March 27.

Several rebel groups are opposing the peace talks between the Aquino government and the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim group fighting for self-determination in the restive region of Mindanao.