Saturday, April 5, 2014

Karapatan slams CIDG’s ‘wrongful arrest’ and ‘red-tagging’ of staff member

From the pro-CPP Davao Today (Apr 4): Karapatan slams CIDG’s ‘wrongful arrest’ and ‘red-tagging’ of staff member

Human rights group Karapatan criticized government security elements for attempting to pull out and arrest its staff member during a protest caravan here on Thursday by alleging her as a New People’s Army leader.

Karapatan’s Hanimay Suazo said elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) tried to arrest a female human rights worker based in Compostela Valley, and who they identified only as ‘Ana’ to protect her identity.

The incident happened on Thursday noon when the group accompanied a contingent of farmers from Maco and Mawab towns of Compostela Valley to hold a rally outside the gate of the headquarters of the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command in Panacan on the one year death anniversary of a boy allegedly killed in a military operation.

Ana told Davao Today that the contingent was stopped along Barangay Lasang by police and highway patrol members. As Karapatan members were negotiating with the police, elements of the CIDG approached Ana and handed her a warrant of arrest and told her to go with them to the CIDG.

Surprised, Ana demanded that she read the warrant, and found out that it contained names and aliases of people accused of murder, but could not find her name on it.

The warrant was allegedly against members of the NPA Front Committee 18 leaders.

“I refused to go with the CIDG,” Ana said. “My name was not there, but they insisted I was this alias ‘Evelyn’. They did not even bother to ask for my name or my identification.”

A news footage later that day showed a CIDG personnel bringing out a man who covered his face with a towel, and pointed at people in the caravan as NPA members. The CIDG claimed the man was a rebel returnee.

The intervention of other human rights workers and Bayan spokesperson Sheena Duazo stopped the CIDG from making the arrest.  The police also relented and the protesters proceeded with their rally outside the Eastmincom and went home hours later.

Ana was incensed that the CIDG did not apologize to the people they caused trouble.

“They just told me to just cooperate to avoid any incident. But I told them are you doing your job well?”

Suazo said the CIDG’s move may have been meant to disrupt or at least delay their rally.

She described it as “erroneous arrests” and expressed fear that this may be part of a crackdown on activists and human rights defenders.

She said that government crackdown has tagged activists as communists and had led to arrests or assassinations.

“This could form part of the next phase of Oplan Bayanihan. Here you see the police, CIDG and law enforcers actively attacking human rights defenders and activists to silence them by filing fabricated charges,” Suazo said.

Infra projects in Guihulngan City inaugurated

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 5): Infra projects in Guihulngan City inaugurated

Five million pesos worth of road improvement project is one of infrastructure development programs opened in Guihulngan City recently with Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo leading the inauguration of concreting of road and drainage system projects.

Capitol information officer Adrian Sedillo said Gov. Degamo allocated funds for the road improvement project along the Luz-Linantuyan road since he is aware that the road is very vital for the people in the hinterland barangays of Guihulngan which have been cited to have the presence of armed groups.

Sedillo said the governor highlighted the importance of  Barangay Luz road as it hosts the community primary hospital and Barangay Linantuyan which have been recently taken back by the government forces from the hands of the New People’s Army.

Other government projects such as school buildings, among others, are also being presently implemented in the city.

The governor, on the other hand, is happy with the road concreting along some portions of the Linantuyan road funded by the national government through the Department of Public Works and Highways.

He explained that the Luz-Linatuyan road is considered a national highway but he recognizes the need for the provincial government to provide support as it is a very vital facility in order to bring about various developments in the hinterlands of Guihulngan City.

Other projects that were inaugurated were the 1.5 million-peso drainage system implemented in Barangay Poblacion and the P300 thousand road concreting project in Barangay Tinayunan.

Gov. Degamo said all these projects were made possible in cooperation with the city government of Guihulngan

Expert: Abu Sayyaf unlikely involved in latest kidnapping

From the Star Online (Apr 6): Expert: Abu Sayyaf unlikely involved in latest kidnapping

It is unlikely the Abu Sayyaf militant group is involved in the kidnapping of a Chinese tourist and a Filipina resort worker in Sabah, said an expert in Philippine conflicts.

Dr Shamsuddin L. Taya of Mindanao said ordinary gangsters were probably behind the kidnapping but they were using the notoriety of the Abu Sayyaf to facilitate the ransom negotiations.

“As the Abu Sayyaf no longer has a prominent leader, it is easier for any gangster group to claim link to the outfit,” he said.

Dr Shamsuddin, a visiting senior lecturer at Universiti Utara Malaysia, said this in response to reports claiming that the Abu Sayyaf may be responsible for the abduction of Filipina Marcy Dayawan, 40, and Chinese tourist Gao Huayun, 29, at the Singamata Reef Resort, near Semporna, on Wednesday night.
Dr Shamsuddin said gangsters claiming to be members of Abu Sayyaf were in it either for monetary gain or to serve a political purpose.

He said there was also a possibility the abduction occurred because certain quarters were unhappy with Malaysia for brokering the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari was among those who were not happy with the peace accord, he said.

“Perhaps, there is a connection, I don’t know. But there was also talk about Nur Misuari and the Sulu invasion in Sabah last year,” he said.

Although the Abu Sayyaf is a splinter group of the MNLF, certain quarters use both organisations to suit their agenda.

“They claim to be Abu Sayyaf members when they commit crime for money and they use MNLF for political purposes,” he said.

The possibility of the gangsters working in cahoots with corrupt Filipino police and military personnel for a fast buck should also not be discounted, he said.

“And every time there is a clampdown on purported Abu Sayyaf followers, some officials get a promotion,” he said.

Dr Shamsuddin also said the United States would benefit from keeping the so-called notorious Abu Sayyaf group “alive” to justify the return of their naval base in the region.

Esscom suspects someone harboured kidnappers and guided them to resort

From the Star Online (Apr 6): Esscom suspects someone harboured kidnappers and guided them to resort

The authorities are looking into the possibility that Abu Sayyaf gunmen slipped into Semporna and blended with the local Filipino community for at least a week before they struck at the Singamata Reef Resort.

The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) also believes the gunmen had “inside help” getting to the resort and knowing when to strike.

Four resort workers – a man and three women – have been detained to help in the investigations.

Esscom director-general Datuk Mohammad Mentek said the command was focusing on how the seven men got past the high security in Semporna waters to reach the resort, which was about five minutes from the mainland.
“We received information on March 26 that suspected gunmen on five boats were trying to enter Semporna.

“But when security forces moved into the area, they saw four boats fleeing back into international waters. They did not see a fifth boat.

“We have set up a team to investigate whether a fifth boat of intruders had entered and blended with the local coastal community,” he told The Star yesterday.

Mohammad said investigations so far indicated that the gunmen might have links with some of the resort workers as they were able to enter the area without any problem.

“There is a specific route to the resort and you must know the area for you to go in. If they had taken a wrong turn they would have been caught in fishing nets. They needed to be guided into the resort personally,” he said.

The intruders also struck immediately after General Operation Force personnel left the resort area to carry out patrols, he said, adding that there was reason to believe that “inside help” was used in the raid.

The gunmen grabbed Filipina resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, from her room before seizing Chinese tourist Gao Huayun, 29, who was standing on the veranda outside her room during the five-minute raid at 10.30pm on Wednesday.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib confirmed that two of those detained were Marcy’s relatives but declined to reveal how they were related.

Fifteen other resort workers have been detained for not having any valid travel documents. The resort operators may be charged in court for hiring illegals.

MILF: Basilan police stops caravan for GPH – MILF Bangsamoro Peace Deal

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 5): Basilan police stops caravan for GPH – MILF Bangsamoro Peace Deal

A peace caravan of more than a hundred of vehicles organized in Basilan by civil society organizations in time during the signing of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was prevented by the Police from entering the City of Isabela, Basilan.
Tony Sakkalahul, Regional Manager of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) for  ZamBas Region, who spearheaded the peace caravan in collaboration with youth and professional sectors, Chambers of Commerce, MILF political and civil committees, expressed the disappointment and dismay of the group of the disapproval of the police.

Accordingly, Isabela City Mayor Cherrylyn Santos did not approve the permission requested for the peace caravan.

Clad in full battle gear, the police instead formed a barricade to block the entry of the peace caravan into Isabela City.

“The participants from the different organizations who voluntarily joined the activity to manifest their support and gratitude to both the GPH and the MILF for striking the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) denounced the unpeaceful act by the police and the local government of Isabela for not allowing a peace caravan to be undertaken by the civil society groups,” Sakkalahul stressed.

“We were unhappy and dismayed upon knowing that the request for such activity was vehemently denied by the City’s Chief executive-Mayor Charrylyn Santos,” he said.

In an interview with Chavacano TV patrol reporter from Zamboanga (R.J. Rosalado) at the assembly place, he lamented “we are surprised by the decision of the City Mayor by not allowing us to enter the city proper because our activity is for peace and in support of the program of President Aquino. We are unarmed and in fact request and coordination letters were already sent properly 3 days prior to the scheduled activity. The communication was addressed to the offices of the City mayor, the City Police, the PNP ARMM provincial Command, the Army Special Forces and the Traffic Management Command but still the peace caravan was rejected.

The police barricades for a peaceful activity and assembly is a wanton violation and  curtailment of basic rights of the people to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as enshrined in the constitution, said Prof. Ahmad Al-Amin, an organizer representing the Autonomous Muslim Chamber of Commerce in Basilan.

However, the motorcade and simple program upon the facilitation and kind assistance from the PNP ARMM Provincial Command, decided to re-route its passage to the BDA office at Geras Village within the outskirts of Isabela instead of travelling around city proper to avoid unnecessary confrontation with the city police. A short program and Thanksgiving (DUWAA SALAMAT) where successfully held at the BDA Function Hall.

Aleem Kaiser A. Totoh, an spiritual adviser of the group gave a word of wisdom prior to the closing prayer (duwa-a), where he advised the participants to be patient and persevere for the Almighty Allah is the exalter and a master of all judgement of his owned creatures. He narrated the challenges and sad experiences of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) when he tried to enter Makkah Al Mukarrama from Madina during his propagation period.  He likewise extended thanks and appreciation to the participants and the PNP ARMM provincial Command through Chief Inspector Bartolome for their efforts in providing security to the motorcades.–-milf-bangsamoro-peace-deal

The passion of a soldier

From the Sun Star-Davao (Apr 4): The passion of a soldier

TO MAKE a positive impact on others is an achievement that one could not attain without enthusiasm, determination, and concern –– it’s living the purpose-driven life.

This is how Captain Ernest Dominguez Carolina, officer of the Public Affairs of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division (ID), defined his achievement in his 12 years of service.

For Carolina, serving the public will always be on top of his priorities aside from his loved ones. To contribute for the common good is a dream come true, he said.

“[As a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines] to create something for the benefit of the greater number of people would mean so much for me. The ties I have built with other people… masasabi ko talagang walang katumbas,” Carolina said.

Being a soldier is not an easy life, yet he never entertained thoughts of quitting. The passion to serve is there, and that is what keeps him going.

Born on March 1, 1983 in Metro Manila, Carolina completed his Bachelor of Science in Management degree from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 2006 with commendations.

After he graduated from PMA, he was assigned as one of the platoon leaders of the Philippine Army’s 25th Infantry Battalion in Monkayo, Compostela Valley from 2006-2010.

From 2010–2012, Carolina served as company commander of the same battalion in Montevista. He was also designated as an officer of Civil Military Operation of 25th Infantry Battalion in Compostela town for one year.

It was in 2013 when Carolina was assigned to the Public Affairs of the 10th Infantry Division.

“I stand by my principle as a person. For me, it is very important to generate good attitude and good heart as much as possible, because it’s through goodness and pure heart that we would able to attain harmony within ourselves and with others,” Carolina said.

Despite his hectic schedule, Carolina said he still finds time to communicate and bond with his loved ones. Despite work load, he makes it a point to manage his time well.

AFP: Normal monitoring, no new standoff at Ayungin Shoal

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 5): AFP: Normal monitoring, no new standoff at Ayungin Shoal

The military on Friday denied a supposed standoff between the Filipino garrison on the BRP Sierra Madre and Chinese coast guards at the disputed Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) off Palawan province on Thursday night.

“It is not true. Things are normal there now,” said Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, public affairs chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Zagala said at least two Chinese Coast Guard vessels were sighted in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal on Thursday night.

Twitter abuzz

Chinese Coast Guard vessels in the area number between two to four at any given time, but at times increase to seven.

“It appeared to be their normal routine monitoring,” Zagala said.

He added that the AFP Western Command and the Naval Forces West, in charge of the country’s territorial defense, “are both on white alert, which means everything is normal.”

Twitter was abuzz on Thursday night about the alleged standoff at the shoal, but the posts did not give details about the incident.

The government grounded the BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to mark Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea after China seized the nearby Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef) four years earlier.

Territorial dispute

The Philippines and China are locked in a territorial dispute over Ayungin Shoal, a rich fishing ground with atolls and reefs believed to be sitting atop vast oil and gas reserves.

While Ayungin Shoal is 200 kilometers from Palawan, and 1,100 kilometers from the nearest Chinese landmass, China insists that it is part of its territory.

China claims 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea, including waters close to the shores of its neighbors.

BIFF leaders invited in Maguindanao's peace banquet

From the Philippine Star (Apr 5): BIFF leaders invited in Maguindanao's peace banquet

The guns of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have been silent since February, something the military and local officials want to continue to forestall conflicts while efforts to establish the Bangsamoro political entity are underway.

Despite the fragile peace in towns where the BIFF operates, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, which has jurisdiction over flashpoint areas in Central Mindanao, remain on heightened alert, anticipating possible attacks amid the continuing public euphoria over the March 27 signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB).

The CAB, the final peace deal between the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), aims to establish an MILF-led Bangsamoro political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao(ARMM) before the 2016 ARMM elections.

The spokesman of BIFF, Abu Misry Mama, told reporters that their silence does not mean they have recognized and accepted the on-going GPH-MILF peace overture.

He said the BIFF remains firm in its rejection of the peace efforts, which only aims to grant self governance to Muslims in Mindanao under the international right-to-self-determination (RSD) doctrine.

Mama said they will continue to fight for Moro independence even after the GPH and MILF panels have bilaterally established the Bangsamoro political entity under Philippine sovereignty.

Ramil Dilangalen, appointed deputy governor of Maguindanao, said BIFF leaders have been invited to the provincial government’s April 6 “Peace-tahan kanduli” which local executives, representatives from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and members of the GPH and MILF panels are to attend.

He said the purpose of the kanduli, which means thanksgiving banquet in the Maguindanaon vernacular, is to celebrate the signing of the CAB last month.

Dilangalen has clarified, however, that their invitation to the BIFF does not mean that the provincial government condones the group.

“Whenever we reach out to the group for its leaders to feel that we want peace through diplomatic initiatives, we are not condoning them, but merely protecting the tens and thousands of Maguindanao residents from getting trapped in conflicts. It’s the interest of innocent hapless non-Moro combatants that we are condoning and protecting,” Dilangalen said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles has confirmed her attendance to the kanduli, to be held in Buluan town in the second district of the province.

Deles will lead, along with Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, the provincial government’s distribution of farm animals, including water buffaloes and ducklings, and oil palm and rubber tree seedlings to thousands of Moro farmers during the day-long event.

One of the activities Deles will help launch is the grant of college scholarships to a thousand children of Moro peasants by the provincial government under its Maguindanao Program for Educational Assistance and Community Empowerment, which currently has more than 4,000 beneficiaries.

A big number of the incoming MagPEACE scholars are either children of active MILF guerillas, or are related both by blood and by affinity to members of the BIFF.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of 6th ID, said there is nothing wrong with involving the BIFF in the peace kanduli in Buluan and distributing to them farm animals and other agricultural inputs.

Hermoso said there is nothing illegal either with providing scholarship assistance to children of BIFF and MILF members.

“Our civil-military humanitarian thrusts, in fact, do not discriminate any group. We must all bear in mind that peace-building in Mindanao must not be an exclusive initiative. It must be inclusive and should involve all sectors, regardless of revolutionary ideals and identities and regardless of sectarian statures,” Hermoso said.

The 6th ID, Hermoso said, will reiterate during the kanduli the appeal of its commander, Major Gen. Romel Gapuz, for the BIFF’s chieftain, Amiril Ombra Kato, to avail himself of free treatment for his hypertension, which had caused his paralysis, at the Camp Siongco Hospital.

The offer was first made by the now retired Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo when he was still 6th ID commander, after Kato, a Saudi-trained cleric, suffered a stroke after a long walk in the BIFF’s lair at the tri-boundary of Maguindanao’s adjoining Talayan, Datu Saudi and South Upi towns.

Hermoso said the 6th ID is elated with the fragile peace now in supposedly hostile areas where BIFF members reside.

“Credit would have to go first and foremost to the provincial government of Maguindanao, the joint GPH and MILF ceasefire committee, and all other foreign and local groups supporting the implementation of the GPH-MILF ceasefire in Maguindanao and surrounding provinces,” Hermoso said.

CHR: Army-NPA clash legitimate

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 5): CHR: Army-NPA clash legitimate

Commission on Human Rights investigator Jesus Cañete yesterday said the encounter between the Army and members of the New People's Army in Pamplona town Thursday was legitimate.

He said the troops of the 79th Infantry (Masaligan) Battalion observed and exercised due consideration and safety to all civilians in the house where five armed NPA members were staying in Sitio Makasakasa, Barangay Balayong, Pamplona.

The 79 th IB was informed of the presence of the armed men and troops were sent to the sitio to negotiate for their surrender, but the rebels reportedly fired at them. A firefight ensued that resulted in the death of two NPA members, and the capture of another who was injured.

The two remaining combatants were able to evade arrest, but are believed to be wounded due to the presence of bloodstains in the encounter site, the military said.

Military reports had earlier identified those slain only as “Ka Andoy” and “Ka Jury”, and the injured as Jessie Dacaldacal, squad leader of the NPAs operating in Sta. Catalina and the boundaries of Pamplona, Negros Oriental. He was given first-aid treatment by the operating troops and then brought to a hospital in Dumaguete, the military added.

Cañete said he went to the site after the firefight, and secured the house and its premise against the possible contamination of evidence.

Recovered at the encounter site were four armalite rifles with grenade launchers, one armalite rifle with an attached M203 tube, subversive documents with high intelligence value, and personal belongings.

The items were presented at a press conference yesterday at the Capitol in Dumaguate City, with officials of the 79 th and 302 nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Brgy. 4, Siaton town in Negros Oriental.
Provincial Administrator Richard Enojo commended the soldiers for their relentless campaign against insurgency in the province.

Lt. Col. Harold Anthony Pascua, acting commanding officer of the 79 th IB, said in a statement that the situation in Pamplona is already peaceful. “The peace and order in Balayong and adjacent barangays is back to normal. Our troops are still in the area to secure the community against the fleeing rebels,” he added.

Major General Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 3 rd Infantry Division, said, “We condole and extend our deepest sympathy to the families of the slain NPA members. It was tragic that they have taken arms against the peace-loving people of Negros despite being given the chance to lay down their arms peacefully. There is another way to push their cause but not through violence.”

Abducted school principal says captors want MNLF rebels freed

From the Philippine Star (Apr 4): Abducted school principal says captors want MNLF rebels freed

A former captive school principal said her abductors staged her kidnapping as a reprisal to  of the  government's refusal to free the Basilan-based batch of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), who surrendered at the height of the siege in this city in September.

Benita Enriquez Latonio, 60, principal of Manggal Elementary School in Sumisip town, Basilan, was freed late Thursday afternoon at sitio Mompol, Barangay Libug by her captors identified to be member of the Abu Sayyaf group led by Juhaibel Alamsirul alias Abu Kik after holding her captive for three days.

Latonio was with a group of teachers on board a public utility jeepney when she was abducted Monday.

Latonio said her abductors are seeking the release of the Basilan MNLF group  as the latter did not directly participate in the 23-day attempt of the MNLF to take over Zamboanga City.

At least 24 of the MNLF rebels, who came from Basilan, were supposed to reinforce the Sulu-based MNLF group led by Habier Malik, but decided to surrender following a negotiation with former city police chief Senior Superintendent Jose Chiquito Malayo.

Those who surrendered, however, were detained along with close to 300 others who were captured and charged with rebellion and violation of humanitarian law, genocide and other crimes against humanity along with MNLF founder Nur Misuari who remains at large.

Latonio said her abductors claimed there was a promise  to  release  the Basilan MNLF group in exchange for their peaceful surrender and the release of Malayo whom they held in the initial stage of the negotiation.

Meanwhile, Latonio said she was fed and treated well by her captors during the three days of her captivity.

“I was not harmed and they treated me well. They said the abduction was in reprisal of the promise to release the MNLF Basilan group,” she said in an interview over a local radio station.

PMA launches foster family program in Puerto Princesa City

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): PMA launches foster family program in Puerto Princesa City

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) will be launching a foster family program in this city to provide a "home-away-from-home" to cadet wards on April 7 as part its Southern Cruise 2014.

The Cadet Corps Armed Forces of the Philippines will seal a partnership with the city government with a pledge of commitment of member-host parents to help their cadet wards in their social and cultural development, and to bring the people of Puerto Princesa closer to the military.

Western Command Civil Military Office chief Lt. Col. Emmanuel A. Canilla said Friday that the program complements what they have inside the Academy that provides well-rounded exposure for the cadets to become future leaders of the country.

Canilla said the host parents program upholds its tradition to provide a transition of adjustment serving as a family other than the biological parents and siblings of the cadets.

As host parents, they act as guardians who monitor their cadet wards while in the “City in a Forest”, guide and provide them the moral support and help develop the characters of the future officers and uphold good values for love of God, righteousness, respect, humility and integrity.

Cadet wards, on the other hand, act the way sons or daughters relate with their parents.

Also, Canilla said they are encouraging qualified Palaweños to apply to enjoy the benefits of being a PMA cadet. This visit program was last made in 1991 due to some adjustments of their curriculum of instruction.

The cadets, involving 219 incoming third class cadets of PMA Class 2017, will also conduct an orientation tour about the AFP unit in Puerto Princesa City, information drives in chosen schools in Palawan and a silent drill exhibition which will be held at the Ramon V. Mitra Sports Complex on April 9 at 9 a.m.. It will be open to the public.

Duterte calls NPA attention on taxation in far-flung communities

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): Duterte calls NPA attention on taxation in far-flung communities

City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte expressed his disgust over the revolutionary taxation system being imposed by the New People’s Army (NPA) on Dabawenyos especially those in the boondocks.

“I understand that collecting taxes from the citizens is your way of supporting a revolutionary cause,” Duterte said even as he admitted that he was one of those who received the NPA’s solicitation form last Christmas. The form indicated that he was being assessed for a certain amount by the revolutionary movement.

Duterte chided the NPA and said he has no qualms paying the revolutionary taxes for as long as they will give him a receipt and the collector should collect it directly from his house since he also wants to collect something from them.

Despite his obvious dismay over the NPAs taxation scheme, Duterte said he wants the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) to get on with the peace talks.

“Whether we like it or not Jalandoni, Sison and the Tiamzons will always be important personas in the NDF and we have to talk to them,” he said.

Wilma Tiamzon, Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) and her husband, Benito who is chairman of the CPP-NPA, were arrested by the authorities in Cebu a few weeks ago.

“You can kill a person but you cannot kill an ideology,” Duterte said.
“What is the use of arresting the Tiamzon’s and putting them behind bars when the war in the boondocks continues,” he added.

Former Government Peace Panel Chairman Silvestre H. Bello III himself confirmed that Wilma Tiamzon is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and should be released based on International Humanitarian Law.

Businessmen headed by Mindanao Business Council (MBC) Chairperson Vicente T. Lao have already called the attention of the authorities regarding the tax collection and extortion activities of the NPA.

He said the continued extortion activities of the NPAs has endangered business investments in the city and unless the military can solve this, then businesses can opt to pull their investments and put these somewhere else.

Vicente Lao Construction had four burnings in three months last year and some of these involved the burning of construction materials in broad daylight.

Lao earlier said the NPA’s active extortion activities in the area are meant to destabilize the government.

He said peace and security comes at a price and the business sector is paying the price now.

“We need money to finance our operations, he said, but if the NPA activities continue then how can they operate efficiently?” he asked.

NOLCOM declares Bulacan “peaceful and ready for development”

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): NOLCOM declares Bulacan “peaceful and ready for development”

The Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has declared Bulacan as a peaceful and progressive province that is ready for more growth and development.

In validating this declaration, NOLCOM awarded a plaque of recognition to Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado during its 27th founding anniversary held Tuesday at Camp Servillano A. Aquino, San Miguel, Tarlac City.

Alvarado was recognized for his active cooperation to the NoLCom’s Internal Peace and Security Operations that gives security to the Philippines, particularly the Central Luzon region.

The governor said that the province is always ready to help and cooperate in the projects of the AFP to protect and secure the Filipinos.

"The province of Bulacan is always ready to help the projects and goals of our military and police forces especially if the security and peace of our nation is concerned," Alvarado said.

The governor thanked NOLCOM and the Philippine National Police for their internal security measures that is keeping Bulacan a peaceful province and a magnet for investors and other business prospects.

He said that a peaceful environment is needed to further spur economic growth and stability in the province.

NoLCom Chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang said he is thankful for the cooperation of the local government units (LGUs) to accomplish their goals in securing the people against criminals, terrorism and even during disasters and calamities.

“The end of war against terrorists does not rest on military alone but to the concerted efforts from the local government units, different private sectors down to the grassroots level of society,” Catapang said.

Army's 5ID commander vows to involve stakeholders in preserving peace and security for development

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): Army's 5ID commander vows to involve stakeholders in preserving peace and security for development

CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, GAMU, ISABELA -- The newly-installed army division commander of the 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, vowed to involve all stakeholders to maintain and preserve peace and security in its area of operations.

Major General Benito Antonio De Leon made the pledge during the turn over of command inside the Camp here on Friday, April 4, 2014.

De Leon said the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) – Bayanihan will be his guide in the maintenance of peace and security in the area of operations of the 5th Infantry Division.

He said there are three operational guides to maintain peace and security under the IPSP as follows: conduct focused military operations to ensure that only the armed threat groups are the targets, and to do so, the military must always uphold and protect the rights of the citizenry as enshrined in the constitution by following the established rules of engagement and adhering to human rights, the international humanitarian law and the rule of law.

De Leon said the second guide is to pursue intensified stakeholders engagement by securing, building and supporting appropriate cooperative and collaborative arrangement with counterpart sectors to best attain mission or help attain the respective mandates and objectives by regularly attending to peace and order councils, actively engaging the media and establishment of PNP-AFP action centers.

He said the third is the conduct of peace and development activities that involve community impact projects or help prepare and secure the area for development to take place.

The turn over of command was attended by military and police officials, local officials and other government agencies from Cordillera Administrative Region and Region 2.

De Leon vowed to cooperate with all stakeholders in two regions to pursue peace and development efforts of the government.

PA conducts Cyber Security Forum

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4): PA conducts Cyber Security Forum

Recognizing the need to strengthen its cyber effort, the Army conducted a one-day Cyber Security Forum at the Philippine Army Officers Club House, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Friday.

The forum was attended by Information System Officers (ISO), Information System Non-Commissioned Officers (ISNCOs), and selected civilian employees of all general staff and post/tenant units inside Headquarters Philippine Army.

Signal staff officers from other major services also participated in the activity.

Experts on cyber security and lecturers from the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group provided participants with the latest updates and trends on dealing with cyber threats and crimes.

Among the topics discussed were the Invisible Threats to National Security, the Cybercrime Prevention Act and Cybercrime in the Philippines, Resiliency in Cyberspace, and Cyber Security Organizational Capability.

The whole-day activity, which is comprised of lectures and presentations, aims to educate Army personnel on cyber security.

This is the second forum on Cyber Security organized by the PA. The first one was held last April 30, 2013.

AFP joins nation in commemoration of Veterans Week

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): AFP joins nation in commemoration of Veterans Week

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) remembers the gallantry and sacrifices of the Filipino veterans as it joins the week-long commemoration of the Araw ng Kagitingan and the Philippine Veterans Week, which formally started Saturday morning.

Army commander Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri led the Sunrise Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers (TUKS), Libingan ng mga Bayani at about 6 a.m., signaling the commencement of the Philippine Veterans Week.

Senior military officers, other members of the military, Philippine National Police, World War II Veteran and Post War Veteran Leaders, members of the sons and daughters of the VFP, representatives from the youth sectors, Boy Scout and Girl Scout of the Philippines, representatives from the different government agencies and non-government organizations were present during the activity.

A wreath laying ceremony was also conducted at the TUKS with Defense undersecretary Honorio S. Acuesta leading the ceremony representing Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin.

Meanwhile, a brigade-size parading contingent, composed of personnel from the Army, Navy (Fleet and Marines) and Air Force, tendered a testimonial review in honor of the veterans at the Hunters ROTC Guerilla Parade Ground.

The veterans and their widows, guests and visitors gathered at the Headquarters Philippine Army Grandstand for the review.

Vice President Jejomar Binay graced the event with chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista.

Bautista warmly welcomed the participants. Outstanding Filipino veterans during the World War II were also recognized and conferred with awards.

NPA conducts another landmine attack - report

From InterAksyon (Apr 5): NPA conducts another landmine attack - report

The New People’s Army conducted another landmine attack against a convoy carrying civilians in Davao Del Norte on Friday, April 4, the military said.

The landmine exploded at around 2:30 p.m. at Sitio Opao, Brgy Palma Gil in Talaingod town and targeted a convoy of police personnel and ABS-CBN correspondent Clair Cornelio. The convoy had just just come from a relief operation at Sitio Nasilaban of the same barangay.

No one was hurt in the attack, said a press statement from Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP Public Affairs Office chief. Police and military elements are scouring the area to hunt down the perpetrators of the landmine explosion.

The AFP has repeatedly condemned the rebel group’s rampant use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as landmines that also puts civilians in danger. Early this year, the rebels also exploded a landmine that wounded five civilian medical personnel in Davao Del Sur, the AFP said.

Reds burn vehicles and lab, seize weapons in attack on mining firm

From InterAksyon (Apr 5): Reds burn vehicles and lab, seize weapons in attack on mining firm

A soldier of the 402nd Infantry Brigade takes photos of vehicles burned by New People's Army guerrillas who attacked a mining firm in the town of Tubay, Agusan del Norte. (photo by Erwin Mascarinas,

Communist rebels torched attacked a mining firm in Agusan del Norte province early Saturday morning, torching several vehicles and a laboratory, and seizing several weapons, the military said.

The New People’s Army fighters overpowered the guards at Phil Alstron in Purok 4, Barangay Tagmamarkay in Tubay town around 1 a.m., 1st Lieutenant Joe Patrick Martinez, civil-military operations officer of the 402nd Infantry Brigade, said.

Martinez said the rebels torched four dump trucks, a motorcycle and the mining firm’s laboratory, and shot up two bulldozers.

They also seized three shotguns, seven pistols, “a handheld global positioning system, a camera, two laptops and four Motorola handheld radios,” the officer said.

Superintendent Martin Gamba, spokesman of Police Regional Office 13, said the initial investigation by the Regional Public Safety Battalion indicated that up to a hundred guerrillas, believed to belong to NPA Guerrilla Front 21 under the command of a certain “Dodi,” were behind the raid.

One of the mining firm’s personnel, who asked not to be named, said: “It was very dark that we never noticed them (rebels) coming. They overpowered our guards and even tied up some of them. We were all so afraid but we were relieved that they never harmed anyone. They just opened fired on the machinery and burned the dump trucks and managed to take several of the firearms.”

Residents near the mining firm claimed they were fast asleep and did not hear the gunfire.

Sipadan raiders behind latest abductions in Sabah

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Apr 5): Sipadan raiders behind latest abductions in Sabah

Malaysia has tagged an Abu Sayyaf group linked to previous kidnappings for ransom in Sabah as behind the latest raid and abduction of a Chinese tourist and a Filipino worker on one of the island’s resorts.

At least 7 gunmen raided the Singamata Adventures and Reef Resort in the town of Semporna in Sabah on April 2 and seized a 29-year old Chinese holidaymaker Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipino resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40. 

Director-General Datuk Mohammad Mentek, of the Eastern Sabah Security Command, said the two victims are being held by Abu Sayyaf rebels who were also involved in the 2000 kidnappings of 21 mostly European holidaymakers and Asian workers at the Pulau Sipadan resort; and also in the kidnapping in November of a Taiwanese woman on Pom Pom Island, according to a report by Malaysia’s online newspaper The Star. 

“We believe that this particular ‘kidnap for ransom’ group is active and aggressive in the southern Philippines,” Mohammad said, adding that the local Filipino community in Semporna might have provided information to the gunmen.

He said 15 foreign employees of the resort have been detained for working without valid documents.

Police also said that four employees were also arrested on suspicion they were involved or have provided information to the raiders. Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib confirmed that three women and a man aged between 20 and 50 have been arrested for questioning.

Police authorities in southern Philippines said there have been no sightings of the Abu Sayyaf raiders and their hostages. “We have no reports that the Abu Sayyaf tagged in the raid in Sabah have landed in Sulu, but we are continuously monitoring the situation on the ground,” Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita, the Sulu police chief, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The navy also deployed small boats to patrol the long coastline of the archipelago. 

“We are exerting efforts to search and locate the kidnapped victims in probable areas in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi where they could have been brought. Naval Task Force 62 is now conducting extensive search while other units in the area have been in high alert,” marine Captain Maria Rowena Myuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said.

Citing an intelligence report, a Philippine army spokesman, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, has told reporters in Manila that the abductors have landed in Simunul Island off Tawi-Tawi province, but subsequent military operations in the area have yielded negative reports on the presence of the gunmen or their hostages.

The Abu Sayyaf under Radullan Sahiron was largely blamed for the daring raid on the posh Pulau Sipadan resort in 2000 where they kidnapped 21 people and ransomed them off to Malaysia and Libya for at least $25 million. 

In November, the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped a Taiwanese tourist Chang An Wei, 58, after killing her husband Hsu Li Min, 57, in a daring cross-border raid in Sabah’s Pom Pom Island. The woman was eventually released a month later near the village of Liban in Talipao town in Sulu after paying ransom. The Abu Sayyaf has resorted to ransom kidnappings to raise money for the purchase weapons and fund terror attacks in the Philippines.

NPA rebels raid mining firm in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Apr 5): NPA rebels raid mining firm in Southern Philippines

Google map of Tubay town in Agusan del Norte province in southern Philippines

New People’s Army rebels on Saturday raided a mining firm in the southern Philippine province of Agusan del Norte, reports said.

Reports said the rebels swooped down on Philippine Alstron Mining Company on the village of Tamamarkay in Tubay town and overpowered the security guards without firing a single shot before they torched several trucks and other heavy equipment.

The rebels also seized at least 6 shot guns and short firearms from the company’s security arsenal. There were no reports of casualties.

Communist rebels have owned up to daring and deadly attacks on police and military targets in the southern Philippines that killed at least a dozen people.

The raid came following threats made by the NPA on mining firms operating in the southern Philippines.

Just last month, rebel forces attacked a police base and government troops in Davao del Sur’s Matanao as punishment for their “reign of terror” against indigenous tribes and other communities opposing mining operations in the province.

Dencio Madrigal, a spokesman for the NPA-Valentine Palamine Command, said the deadly attacks were a punishment for police and military units protecting Glencore Xstrata. He accused the mining firm of exploiting nearly 100,000 hectares of ancestral lands of indigenous Lumad Blaans tribes, and peasants in the region.

Jorge Madlos, a regional rebel spokesman, also warned mining firms and fruit plantations in the region, saying military operations in Mindanao have escalated and have become more extensive with the aim to thwart the ever growing and widespread people’s protest against destructive mining operations and plantations owned by imperialists, the big comprador bourgeois and big landlords.

Madlos said among their targets are Russell Mines and Minerals, Apex Mining Corp. and Philco in southern Mindanao; Dolefil, Del Monte and Sumifru plantations in northern Mindanao; TVI Resource Development Philippines in western Mindanao whose operations inside the ancestral domain of indigenous Subanen and Moro tribes are being opposed by villagers.

NPA and Moro rebels had previously attacked TVI Resources in Zamboanga province.

“If one recalls, more than 400 families were forced to evacuate their ancestral lands because of TVI and the ruthless military operations that ensued to protect it in Buug, Zamboanga del Sur. In order to defend the people’s human rights and general wellbeing, the NPA launched tactical offensives against TVI as well as against units of the AFP-PNP-CAFGU protecting it, such as the ambush on February 2012 that hit elements of the army intelligence group operating on the behest of TVI and the imposition of the local government to allow TVI mining operations on Subanen ancestral lands is one of the bases the NPA raided on April 9, 2012 the PNP station in Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur,” Madlos said.

NPA rebels also intercepted a group of army soldiers who were using a borrowed truck from TVI and disarmed them in Diplahan town in Zamboanga Sibugay province two years ago. The rebels also burned the truck before releasing the soldiers.

“In view of these events, the NDFP in Mindanao calls upon the Lumad and Moro peoples, peasants and workers, religious and other sectors to further strengthen their unity and their courage to oppose the interests of imperialist mines and plantations, which are exceedingly damaging to Mindanao, to its people and to the environment. We call upon the units of the NPA in Mindanao to be ever more daring in their defense of people’s interests against the greed and rapacity of the local ruling classes and their imperialist master,” Madlos said.

TVI Resource Development Philippines has repeatedly denied all accusations against them. It recently ended its gold mining operation in Mount Canatuan in Zamboanga del Norte’s Siocon town after several years of operations and now has a gold-silver project in the town of Bayog in Zamboanga del Sur province and a nickel plant in Agusan del Norte province.

Palace hopes Santiago-Ferrer meeting could thresh out legality issue of Bangsamoro peace pact

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): Palace hopes Santiago-Ferrer meeting could thresh out legality issue of Bangsamoro peace pact

The Palace said it hopes Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago could meet government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer to discuss the legality of the newly signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

While Senator Santiago said she supports the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, she’s worried about its constitutionality. The senator also said she wanted to ensure the CAB could pass the constitutionality test which is why she is questioning its legality.

“Mabuti po ‘yon kasi maganda din na nagkaroon sila ng ganitong exchange because the government is always open to explain ‘yung contents of the agreement,” Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday.

“Kahit noong Framework Agreement pa lang nag-ikot po talaga ‘yung ating panel sa mga civil society organizations, sa members of the academe, sa ating mga legislators para ipakita nila talaga ‘yung nilalaman,” she added.

She said the Palace hopes the meeting to push through so that the executive branch could explain the processes in coming up with an agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Although a lot of people support peace in Mindanao, the Palace official said she hopes the Supreme Court will uphold its constitutionality if ever there’s a legal challenge.

The Philippine government and the MILF signed last week the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Malacanang. The peace pact aims to bring an end to several decades of conflict in Mindanao that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.

Valiant stand of PHL, US forces against Japanese in WWII highlights value of freedom

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): Valiant stand of PHL, US forces against Japanese in WWII highlights value of freedom

With the official opening of Veterans Week with the sunrise and wreath-laying ceremonies at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Saturday, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that remembering the valiant stand made by Filipino and American forces against the Japanese invaders highlight how much the two allies value freedom.

In his speech delivered by DND undersecretary Honorio Azcueta, Gazmin said the annals of World War II and the defense of Bataan and Corregidor are replete with rich memories on the epic struggle of both Filipino and American soldiers in the defense of freedom and liberty.

"It relates the tale of their courage and bravery against the foreign invaders and the enemies of territorial sovereighty and desecrators of human freedom and dignity," the DND chief emphasized.

"It was a revelation of the heroism of the Philippine Scouts and the United States Army Forces in the Far East who bravely fought against the formidable might of the Japanese Imperial Army," he added.

The DND chief said that in that war theater, the deep friendship of the two real allies, the Filipino and American soldiers, was affirmed.

"Together they shed their sweat, their tears, and their blood in the defense of freedom and liberty in our beloved native land," Gazmin stressed.

During that conflict, Filipino and American soldiers, despite overwhelming odds, displaced the tenacity of the will of the badly beaten but unbowed soldiers.

"Captured from the shelter of Malinta Tunnel in Corregidor, their ordeal progressed into the infamous 'Death March', where they endured the worst punishment from the ruthless enemy," the DND chief pointed out.

"They were physically vanquished but never spiritually conquered. One of the survivors of that 97-kilometer march was a USAFFE artillery by the name of Capt. Segundo Gazmin, Sr. Incidentally, he is my father and it is in equal manner that I humbly share the wounded feelings of the sons and daughters of his comrade-veterans," he added.

And by remembering the sacrifices of these brave men, Gazmin said that the country should take time to thank the courage, valor, patriotism of the Filipino and American soldiers who have fought heroically, despite the long odds, in defense of the Philippines.

"From their heroic deeds, we became the beneficiaries of their legacy. So that until this day we continue to live under the blessing of peace, freedom, and democracy. We must thank them for their supreme sacrifice of their lives, their ultimate offering of their deep love of our country and the highest ideals of freedom, liberty and democracy," Gazmin concluded.

Gov't is always open to explain contents of Bangsamoro peace pact -- Palace official

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): Gov't is always open to explain contents of Bangsamoro peace pact -- Palace official

Following Sen. Miriam Santiago’s statement that there may be consequences to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), Malacanang on Saturday reiterated its desire to engage the senator in discussions with the Government Peace Panel Chair Miriam Colonel-Ferrer.

Sen. Santiago earlier said the peace pact was unconstitutional because it turns the Bangsamoro as a substate instead of a mere autonomous region, however clarified that she was not out to “scuttle” the CAB the senator.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte in an interview on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan said that the “government is always open to explain the contents of the agreement.”

“Kahit nung framework agreement pa lang nag-ikot po ang angating panel sa mga civil society organizations, members of academe, members of legislators para ipakita ang nilalalaman,” Valte said.

(“Even when we only had the framework agreement at that time, our panel visited civil society organizations, members of academe, members of to show them its contents,” Valte said.)

“Hopefully, matuloy ang pag-uusap (nilang dalawa),” she added.

(“Hopefully, discussions between Sen. Santiago and Chair Ferrer push through,” she added.)

Valte meanwhile said that even if the Bangsamoro Basic Law undergoes challenges at the Supreme Court, the government has full hopes that the law’s constitutionality will be upheld.

WesMin Command still tracking down abduction victims from Malaysian dive resort

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): WesMin Command still tracking down abduction victims from Malaysian dive resort

The Western Mindanao Command is still searching for the Chinese tourist and Filipino hotel staff snatched by suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits in a Malaysian dive resort this week.

Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, Western Mindanao Command chief, said that they are yet to establish the location of the hostages and the group behind the abduction.

"So we cannot categorically state that a particular group is holding the two victims in a specified place," he added.

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Jesus C. Millan, the Naval Forces Western Mindanao chief, on the other hand, said they have intensified maritime patrols in the area to check on suspicious watercraft.