Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tiamzons deny owning 7 pets, spending P14K monthly for dogs and cats

From InterAksyon (Apr 12): Tiamzons deny owning 7 pets, spending P14K monthly for dogs and cats

Not P14,000, just P700 monthly for pets that they don't even own.

Top Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon have denied the military's claim that they were spending P14,000 monthly for the food of seven dogs and cats.

Also, the Tiamzons dismissed reports from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that the pets belonged to them.

"The military is used to bloat budgets.  It made it appear that the budget for the pet dogs and cats of the Villaflor couple is P14,000 a month when this only runs to P700 a month financed through their own income," said the Tiamzons in a recent statement released through human rights group Karapatan.

Three of the seven pets - two dogs and a cat, which the military later named Ben, Wilma, and Joma - were with the Tiamzon couple when they were arrested in Cebu on March 22, AFP Central Command spokesperson Lt. Jim Aris Alagao was quoted in news reports as saying.

News reports also quoted the military as saying that the Tiamzons could have spent P14,000 monthly or P2,000 a month for the food of each of their pet dogs and cats, which is four times more than the monthly combat pay received by soldiers.

Also, the Tiamzons assailed the government for the "trumped up case of multiple murder filed against us."

They said the case "was based on inconsistent testimony or pattern of incredible accusations hurled against the central leadership of the Party, on human remains that transferred burial grounds depending on where it would be needed, and where no indisputable examination leading to the identification of alleged victims of murder had been done."

"We cannot help but think that the Supreme Court, Executive and military have conspired to enable them to pursue this fabricated multiple murder case despite its serious defects according to the rules of their own justice system," the couple said.

"Could there be any protection for individuals against trumped up cases when those in power connive?" they said.

"The conspiracy is more glaring than sunlight—when puppies turned out into guns and skeletons kept transferring burial grounds," the couple added.

CPP/NPA: Phelps Dodge punished by NPA in Quirino, Ilocos Sur

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Apr 12): Phelps Dodge punished by NPA in Quirino, Ilocos Sur

Armando Silva
NPA Ilocos Sur Provincial Operations Command (Alfredo Cesar Command)
A large diamond drilling machine of the Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge mining company was totally burned by a unit of the Alfredo Cesar Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Patiacan, Quirino, Ilocos Sur at around 1 AM yesterday to punish the said company for four years of destructive exploration and to support the community’s overwhelming rejection of the extension of the company’s exploration project in a referendum last April 2, 2014.

Phelps Dodge, in partnership with Northern Horizon, has an exploration permit covering 5,870 hectares in Quirino including Brgy. Laylaya of Besao, Mountain Province. Phelps Dodge started exploring in Brgy. Patiacan on July 2010 after four years of machinations to turn the earlier opposition of the people in 2006 and 2009 to an acceptance on a referendum held May 2010. Throughout all this, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has consistently been instrumental to the betrayal of the people’s interests when it supported Phelps Dodge’s maneuverings to get a Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from the people in spite of their repeated rejections.

The destruction of the diamond drilling machine of Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge in Patiacan is the NPA’s act of uniting with the widespread opposition of the people of Patiacan and the entire municipality of Quirino against the ongoing exploration project in Patiacan and sitio Maliten of Barangay Laylaya. The revolutionary movement remains firm in its opposition to large scale mining of foreign and local mining companies like Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge which will only plunder the ancestral lands and natural resources of the people and wreak havoc on their environment, livelihood and communities.

Phelps Dodge, a giant mining company from the US, is one of the world’s largest copper producer which has mining operations and exploration activities in the US, Chile and Australia. It is notorious for its anti-worker policy employing union busting tactics. One of its subsidiaries, Climax Molybdenum, is the world’s largest producer of molydenum. Phelps Dodge has a record of being one of the top US corporate producer of toxic waste and air pollution. In the Philippines, Phelps Dodge owns the companies Makilala which has an exploration project covering 2,719 hectares in Pasil, Kalinga and another large area in the Bicol region; and Malibato which has an exploration application covering more than 11,158 hectares of Mountain Province, Abra and Ilocos Sur.

In what is described as the largest transaction in the history of the metals and mining industry, Phelps Dodge was acquired by Freeport McMoran, another giant mining company from the US on March 14, 2007. Prior to the merger, Freeport McMoran was one of the world’s largest producer of copper and gold. Since 1973, Freeport has operated the world’s largest gold mine in Indonesia’s Papua province. The company was the world’s largest gold producer in 1982. In 1989, it started mining operations in Grasberg, Indonesia, which has the world’s largest gold ore reserve and has one of the world’s largest copper reserve. The Grasberg mining operation has caused massive destruction to 28 square kilometers of rainforest and polluted rivers and a lake with acid mine drainage.

Phelps Dodge attempted to start an exploration activity in Patiacan in 2006 but was met by strong opposition from the elders and the community. Since then, the company deployed a local personnel, Engineer Davis Labawig from Agawa, Besao, Mountain Province, to implement a “social acceptability” program, which in other words, would mean a program to deceive the people into accepting the exploration project. For five straight years since 2006, Engineer Labawig spent most of his time in barangays Patiacan and Lamag, Quirino employing deceptive tactics such as holding continuous consultations with the community elders at the dap-ay while offering them drinks and dog meat to feast on.

The first referendum in Patiacan was held on the 1st quarter of 2009 where the people’s opposition to the exploration project prevailed. The company continued to falsely persuade the people through Engineer Labawig for more than a year until a second referendum approved by the NCIP throught the bending of rules was held on May 2010. Phelps Dodge was able to get a yes vote for a two year contract and a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with three conditions (concreting of the road to the barangay, scholarships for the children of Patiacan and employment for the people of Patiacan) was signed between the company and the indigenous people’s organization created by the NCIP in Patiacan. Exploration activities immediately ensued on July 2010. The people of Patiacan complained that the company did not comply with all the conditions they demanded from the company which were stipulated in the MOA. Not all the projects promised by the company were implemented. Only a few people from the community were employed. Only then did the people realize that they were deceived by Phelps Dodge.
That is why on the April 2012 referendum for the extension of the exploration project for another two years, majority of the people registered their NO vote. But again, the company employed their dirty tactics by offering millions more of funds, more projects and bigger employment for the community people. With the help of the NCIP, they again manipulated the process and were able to hold another referendum five months later where they were able to regain the YES vote which gave them the permission to continue with their exploration activities for another two years. And again, most of the commitments of the company were not implemented.

From the start, the people of Patiacan knew that exploration is the first step to actual mining that would eventually lead to the destruction of their lands, livelihood and environment. But they were mislead by the company’s offers of so-called “benefits” from the project and the NCIP’s favorable presentation of the company. After four years of exploration, the people have had enough of the company’s and NCIP’s deceptive tactics. They have also witnessed how their unity as a community was undermined by the company’s and NCIP’s manipulations. Thus, on the April 2, 2014 referendum for another extention of the company’s exploration activities, the people overwhelmingly registered their strong opposition.

Patiacan is not alone in its opposition to Phelps Dodge. A petition strongly opposing Phelps Dodge’s exploration activities was signed by more than 1,000 individuals coming from other barangays of Quirino on 2012. Much earlier, Brgy. Lamag had rejected the company and consistently held on to this position since 2006. The people of Quirino knew that a large scale mining activity in Patiacan would spell catastrophy to the entire municipality. They had learned this from their experience with Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) which is the oldest and one of the largest mining companies operating in the Philippines. LCMC’s more than 70 years of mining had resulted to incalculable destruction of the land and livelihood of the people of Mankayan, Benguet as well as towns along the Abra River like Quirino where the mining company has been dumping its mine waste for decades.

On April 25, 2013, a unit of the Jennifer “Maria” Carino Command of the NPA in Benguet also burned the drilling machine of LCMC at Colalo in Mankayan. This drilling operation was to serve the company’s plan to set up Tailings Dam 5B which would be used for its expansion project of mining operations in Mankayan and parts of Tadian, Mountain Province. If expansion of mining in the area ensues, it would mean further devastation of hundreds more of hectares of agricultural lands, forests and other parts of the ancestral lands of the indigenous people of Mankayan and Tadian.
LCMC partnered with Goldfields, a large South African based mining company which also has mining operations in Africa, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia, to set up the Far Southeast Gold Resources Inc (FSEGRI) and started drilling operations in Tabio, Mankayan on 2012 despite the people’s strong opposition. The people put up barricades that remained for over a year that forced the FSEGRI to pull-out from the area.

Oppose NCIP’s manipulations of the FPIC process to favor large mining companies!

 Fight against the imperialist plunder of the people’s ancestral lands and resources!

 Advance the people’s national democratic revolution to achieve genuine land reform, national industrialization and genuine progress for the people!

CPP/NPA: Apex Mining, St. Augustine Mines grossly violated revolutionary policies on environment

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Apr 12): Apex Mining, St. Augustine Mines grossly violated revolutionary policies on environment

Daniel Ibarra
NPA ComVal-Davao Gulf Sub-region Sub-regional Command
Earlier today (April 12) at 9am, the New People’s Army discharged command detonated explosives against the reinforcing troops belonging to the 9thInfantry Battalion-AFP at Masara Apex Tenement Complex. This latest NPA offensive was a follow-up to an earlier successful tactical offensive when Red fighters under the 6th Pulang Bagani Company and the Guerrilla Front 27 Operations Command, and Guerrilla Front 2 Operations Command-NPA imposed punitive sanction against the US-owned St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd., and Malaysia-owned Apex mining, two biggest foreign mining firms in Southern Mindanao on April 7 and 10, respectively. The companies grossly and repeatedly violated regulations of the People’s Democratic Government with regards to environmental protection, workers’ welfare and people’s livelihood.

Destroyed at five Apex mining tunnels in Masara, Maco town, Compostela Valley, were the following: Level 840-2 units truck, 2 units drifter, 2 units loader and 1 unit mixer machine; Maligaya tunnel- 2 units drifter, 1 unit shortcrate machine hornet; Barabadan tunnel- 1 unit truck, 1 unit loader; Level 400- 1 unit Toyota Fortuner, 1 unit pick-up; Motor pool- 1 unit pick up, 1 unit underground loader, 1 unit boom truck and 1 unit selfloading.
Destroyed at the St. Augustine mines in Pantukan town were several portable drills.

The NPA sanction against the Apex Mining, co-owned by the country’s fourth richest Filipino and among the biggest campaign contributors to GPH Pres. Benigno Aquino, Enrique Razon, was imposed due to the following specific violations:

a. Failure to stop expansion of underground and open-pit mining operations despite warnings issued in April and October 2013
b. Expansion of mining operations in reserved forest areas in Maco that were defined by the organs of political power in the area’s guerrilla base
c. Failure to address and indemnify casualties after two landslides that also wiped out Barangay Mainit, Maco. The Apex Mining Corporation has caused widespread ecological destruction and the massive displacement of peasant and Lumad families since the 1970s. The already damaged soil has caused landslides and flash floods even with minimal monsoon rains and storms.
d. Low wages at P301 daily, retrenchment and threat of retrenchment of its mining workers by June this year
e. Failure to comply with its responsibility to rehabilitate streams and bridges in Maco as part of the reparation deal it signed with 91 families in Barangay Tagbarus, Elizalde, Panibasan, Panangan and Malamudao, who were affected by Supertyphoon Pablo in December 4, 2012.
f. Company’s active role in funding and backing the 9th Infantry Battalion’s counter-revolutionary operations against the NPA that has led to the death of civilian, Wilmar Bargas and arbitrary violation of human rights of residents and small-scale miners.
Maco Vice Mayor Voltaire Rimando is wrong in saying that the NPA sanction against Apex would force the firm’s closure and lead to the dislocation of hundreds of workers and residents. His concern for Apex workers is sham and inconsistent with his previous hands-off stance for victims of human rights abuses, militarization and environmental disaster. In truth, he is anxious that any sanction against the Apex would adversely result to a potential loss of his 1 percent dole-out and kickback that is channeled through opportunist tribal leaders of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. Even then, if Apex ceases its mining operations and withdraw from the area, the poor miners and their families would be in a better condition to freely maximize the natural resources on their own, without exploitation and oppression.

With regards to St. Augustine mining in Pantukan town, it wantonly violated revolutionary policies when they operated outside of their tenements, and due to setting up of military outposts, conducting regular seizure and check-up of things brought in and out by small-scale miners, controlling of movement of civilians, and aggressive psychological warfare against tribal leaders through dole-out projects.

The people’s army is ever resolute in pursuing environmental protection in the light of the US-Aquino regime’s wanton destruction and plunder of our natural resources. It is steadfast to train its guns against the people’s biggest enemy, evade entrapment and master self-preservation while inflicting body and head blows amid relentless brigade-sized combat operations of the fascist AFP.

Palace dares solon: Prove reward for Tiamzon couple's arrest was skimmed

From GMA News (Apr 12): Palace dares solon: Prove reward for Tiamzon couple's arrest was skimmed

Malacañang on Saturday challenged a lawmaker to substantiate his claims that some government officials may have pocketed part of the reward money for the capture of top officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte questioned the basis of Bayan Muna Rep. Isagani Zarate in claiming Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II may have kept part of the money.

"We don't know what the basis is for that and I have not seen the good congressman make any statement (kung) ano ang basehan at ano ba yan," Valte said on government-run dzRB radio.

"We're certain that is not true," she added.

A report on Manila Standard Today had quoted Zarate as saying the two secretaries may have kept almost half of the reward money for the arrest of Wilma and Benito Tiamzon.

Zarate claimed documents from the Defense and Interior Departments showed the bounty for the Tiamzon couple was pegged at P10 million each, or P20 million total.

But he claimed the Armed Forces of the Philippines "understated" the amount and said the reward collected was P11.52 million, or P5.6 million per head.

Zarate said Gazmin and Roxas have been quiet about the AFP’s understated funds for reward money.

"This involves a total of P41.45 million, of which amount, the AFP claimed to have collected only some P22.4 million. So where is the rest of the reward money?” he said.

Palace denies AFP, PNP pocketed bounty for Tiamzons arrest

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 12): Palace denies AFP, PNP pocketed bounty for Tiamzons arrest
Malacañang on Saturday challenged a lawmaker to prove his claim that some officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) pocketed part of the reward money for the arrest of communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon in Cebu last March.

“You know, we don’t know what the basis is for that and I have not seen the good congressman make any statement kung saan po niya—ano ho ‘yung basehan at ano po ba ‘yan but, we are certain that it is not true,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on radio.

(You know, we don’t know what the basis is for that and I have not seen the good congressman make any statement on where he got the basis of his claim, but we are certain that it is not true.)

Valte was reacting to the statement of Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate who claimed that top officials of the AFP and PNP pocketed part of the reward of the informant that led to the arrest of the Tiamzons.

The accusation by Zarate came in the wake of the misdeclaration by the Armed Forces of the reward money imposed on arrested communist leaders.

AFP spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala earlier said that the reward on the heads of the two communist leaders was P11.2 million, but later corrected that it was P20 million.

“Secretary Gazmin and Roxas, as well as the AFP, should account for the total amount actually released as the two officials have been quiet about the AFP’s understated funds for reward money that they had collected. This involves a total of P41.45 million, of which amount, the AFP claimed to have collected only some P22.4 million. So where is the rest of the reward money?” Zarate said in a statement Friday.

“You know, I am quite sure that can be clarified, but you know, to say na binulsa (pocketed) is an entirely different thing and he better be prepared to prove that. Otherwise, he is just blowing smoke,” Valte said.

PH-US defense deal constitutional, not for Obama visit

From Rappler (Apr 12): PH-US defense deal constitutional, not for Obama visit

Malacañang says the Enhanced Defense Cooperation is not being rushed for the visit of US President Barack Obama

Malacañang believes the Enhanced Defense Cooperation (EDC), which will allow the increased presence of American troops in the country, is constitutional and is not being rushed for US President Barack Obama's visit.

In a radio interview on Saturday, April 12, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Philippine negotiating panel is undertaking consultations and "would be the best individuals to brief our legislators on what has already least on the draft key provisions."

"The panel has always been cognizant of the concerns that have been raised by the President (Aquino) and everytime they go through a round of negotiation, they consult with the President, and the President reiterates the need to do it within the 1987 Constitution. It should be within the existing framework that we have," Valte said.

Earlier, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said the agreement that would give the Americans wider access to the Philippine military bases should undergo Senate ratification.

But Malacañang said the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries were already ratified by the Senate.

Obama visit

Malacanang also clarified the agreement is not intended to be signed during Obama's visit to the country from April 28 to 29.

The negotiating panel's preparation of a draft agreement for submission to President Benigno Aquino III, following the conclusion of the 8th round of talks on Friday, raised speculations that the deal could be ready in time for the Obama visit.

Valte said there is no deadline to finish the agreement, and that the instructions of the President were simply to make sure that everything is laid out well and that nothing is forgotten.

"Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said the draft provisions and the key points would be submitted for internal review for the Philippine side and, of course, consultations will also continue," Valte said.

12 dead as Philippine rebel clashes end – military

From Rappler (Apr 12): 12 dead as Philippine rebel clashes end – military

Abu Sayyaf leaders Puruji Indama and Isnilon Hapilon, who were being targeted by the military operation, have not been captured and are on the run

The death toll in fighting between Muslim rebels and soldiers in the southern Philippines has risen to 12, officials in the area said Saturday, April 12, after the prolonged shootout had ended.

Government forces launched the operation Friday to capture two top leaders of the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) blamed for beheadings and kidnappings, but failed to apprehend any of them.

"Puruji Indama and Isnilon Hapilon are on the run," Brigadier-General Carlito Galvez, the military commander for Basilan island, told reporters.

The military operation against the ASG was launched in response to the recent extortion and kidnapping incidents that had been reported. The primary objective of the operation was to arrest Indama, according to Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, public information officer of the military's Western Mindanao Command.

ASG members were said to be occupying school buildings in Barangay Baguindan and reportedly extorting from people involved in the ongoing construction of the Magkawa-Albarka Road, Muyuela said.

Galvez said the last firefight between about 80 gunmen and soldiers ceased in Basilan, around 900 kilometers (560 miles) south of the Philippine capital Manilaon Friday night, but the operation was ongoing.

Captain Jefferson Mamauag, a local Philippine army spokesman, said 7 Abu Sayyaf fighters had been killed, with authorities now searching for their burial sites.

Two soldiers were shot dead and 28 others were wounded by grenade blasts, Mamauag added, correcting an earlier military report that put their casualties at two dead and 29 wounded.

And he said 3 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the main Muslim guerrilla force in the region, were also killed Friday, their bodies as yet unrecovered.

MILF fighting alongside gov't

The MILF militants were fighting alongside Philippine troops, according to Alton Angeles, municipal planning officer of the town where most of the fighting occurred, under their top Basilan leader, Hamza Sapanton.

Indama, Abu Sayyaf's chief, has a bounty of P3.3 million (US$74,500) on his head and has been blamed for holding foreigners for ransom in the south over the years. He is notorious for beheading and mutilating victims.

Hapilon is under a $5 million bounty set by the US government, which accuses him of kidnapping a group of holidaymakers, including 3 Americans, on the western island of Palawan in May 2001.

Two were killed in captivity, one of them beheaded, while a third, the wife of one of the men murdered, was rescued by Philippine forces 13 months later.

The Abu Sayyaf is a self-styled Islamic militant group set up in the 1990s with seed money from the late Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, and has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in the country's history, including bombings.

MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar said the rebel leadership had yet to receive any report of MILF casualties.

"It's possible people got killed because there was a firefight," Jaafar told AFP by telephone.

He said the MILF has a long-standing arrangement with the government to help government forces pursue kidnappers.

This was part of confidence-building measures that led to a peace treaty last month that would see the MILF end more than 40 years of fighting and take the reins of power in a planned autonomous region.

The military said its operation was unrelated to the search for a Chinese tourist and a Filipina worker kidnapped allegedly by the Abu Sayyaf at a Malaysian dive resort on April 2.

GPH panel holds first consultation on Bangsamoro outside Manila and Mindanao, calls on people's support

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Apr 12): GPH panel holds first consultation on Bangsamoro outside Manila and Mindanao, calls on people's support

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) in talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) engaged Bicolanos in this city in its first ever consultation on the Bangsamoro outside Metro Manila and Mindanao after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

“At the end of the day, the meaning of (the peace process) is what it is to the ordinary child in Mindanao. And that is a chance to go to school, a chance to have equal opportunity with other citizens of the Philippines. And not to be discriminated upon based on ethnicity or religion,” said Coronel-Ferrer.

The chief government negotiator also dispelled challenges to the constitutionality of the agreement that provides for autonomous self-governance in parts of Mindanao where more than 90 percent of the population are Muslims. “It is very clear that what we are putting in place is not a separate entity (but an) arrangement that would allow the Muslims and the Bangsamoro a unique place in our society.”

“The word ‘substate’ has been demonized when in fact it has no legal meaning on which to judge constitutionality,” she said. “At the same time, it can only mean being part of a whole, that is, a unit within the state, which is none other than the Philippine state.”

The GPH panel chair ensured that the principles of inclusivity, transparency, and constitutionality were followed in the process of formulating the CAB which they signed with the MILF last March 27 in Malacañang.

Coronel-Ferrer was joined by GPH panel member Senen Bacani and lawyer Anna Tarhata Basman in the forum organized by the Ateneo de Naga University Center for Good Governance, through Ateneo de Naga president Father Primitivo Viray and Ateneo de Naga High School batch 1975.

“It is not only the people of Mindanao who will benefit from the success of the Bangsamoro,” said panel member Bacani. “We are calling on the people of Naga to rally behind the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) as this is expected to usher in shared prosperity and security not just in Mindanao but also in this region and the rest of the country.”

The GPH peace panel continues to attend and organize consultations in various communities to give updates and address questions and concerns on the agreement.

On April 9, the government chief negotiator met in Davao City with leaders of the Catholic clergy in Mindanao, led by Archbishops Antonio Ledesma and Romulo Valles, and with the Women Engaged in Action on UN Security Resolution 1325.  

Last month, GPH panel member Yasmin Busran-Lao engaged stakeholders in Zambales in a forum held at the Travelers Hotel in Subic Bay and organized by the Cooperative Development Authority.

Rebels ambush troops in Philippines, own up attacks on mining firms

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Apr 12): Rebels ambush troops in Philippines, own up attacks on mining firms

The New People’s Army on Saturday ambushed government troops in the southern Philippine province of Compostela Valley where the communist rebel group earlier attacked two mining firms it accused of destroying the environment.

Daniel Ibarra, a rebel spokesman, said the latest NPA offensive was a follow-up to an earlier attack on the US-owned St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd., and the Malaysia-owned Apex Mining on April 7 and 10.

Ibarra said a still undetermined number of government soldiers were either killed or wounded in the NPA attack that targeted the 9th Infantry Battalion deployed at the Apex tenement complex in the village of Masara in Maco town.

He said the two mining companies “grossly and repeatedly violated regulations of the People’s Democratic Government with regards to environmental protection, workers’ welfare and people’s livelihood.”

He said rebel forces destroyed mining tunnels, trucks and heavy equipment of Apex Mining, including portable drills owned by St. Augustine mines in Pantukan town.

Tribesmen have longed complained against the intrusion of huge mining firms in their ancestral domain and sought help from the rebels to stop the destruction of their lands and exploitation of their natural resources.

Army Captain Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, the regional military chief, has ordered troops to pursue the attackers. He said the rebels have been extorting money from mining firms and even civilians to raise money for terror attacks in the region.

The NPA, which has been fighting for decades now for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country, has warned mining firms to stop its operations in Mindanao or face assault.

BTC vows to submit draft basic law for Bangsamoro gov't to President Aquino April 13

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 13): BTC vows to submit draft basic law for Bangsamoro gov't to President Aquino April 13

The Bangsamoro Basic Law which will serve as the legal basis of the creation of Bangsamoro government in Mindanao is set to submitted to Congress by next week, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) said Saturday.

Mohaqher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator and BTC chair, said the draft basic law is almost complete after a series of consultations, draft preparations, revisions, rewriting and finalization.

The BTC is composed of sectoral representatives from the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) created by President Aquino after the signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement in October 2012.

Since then, it conducted consultations with all sectors in Mindanao and other parts of the country. It completed the draft this week for submission to Congress.

With the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro after 17 years of peace talks between Manila and the MILF, the biggest Muslim rebel group in southern Philippines, the basic law is the remaining ingredient that would complete the peace process.

The BBL, once approved by Congress and signed into law by President Aquino, will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). But it must have the concurrence of the inhabitants of the ARMM, the core of new political entity, through a plebiscite to be held in 2015 and the eventual election of new leaders in May 2016 simultaneous with the national and local elections.

”We set March 31 as deadline for the completion of the draft and we failed to beat that but a week’s delay does not matter as long as we came up with a comprehensive draft for Congress’ scrutiny,” Iqbal said in a radio interview.

According to Bobby Benito, executive director of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center, the BTC will submit the draft law to President Aquino on Monday with peace advocates in Mindanao holding a peace caravan for the send off.

The BTC will hand carry the draft to Malacanang and present to President Aquino, who expectedly, will certify the draft as urgent before sending it to Congress.

Malacañang: No deadline for signing of U.S. troops IRP

From the Philippine Star (Apr 12): Malacañang: No deadline for signing of U.S. troops IRP

There is no deadline for the signing of the U.S. troops increased rotational presence (IRP) agreement, Malacanang maintained Saturday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte raised the issue to dispel speculations that the government was rushing the agreement signing in time for U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines this month.

“There is no deadline, because the instruction of (President Benigno S. Aquino III) is to make sure that everything is laid out well and nothing would be left out,” Valte said in Filipino over state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

Valte said that according to Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino the draft provisions and the key points will be submitted for internal review for the Philippine side. Consultations will meanwhile, continue.

“This will have to be presented to the President before the next step, we will wait for that,” Valte said.

The Malacanang official also said that the panel is cognizant in making sure the agreement conforms to the concerns raised by President Aquino.

She said the agreement, according to the President, should conform with the 1987 Constitution and is under the framework of the existing Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Meanwhile, she shrugged off speculations that the U.S. troops IRP was an action to step up to China’s aggressive actions towards claims to parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Valte said that the significance of the agreement was to “look what it can do to help our country as well as the United States.”

“We tend to look at this in a holistic manner and not in view of particular issues,” she said saying that the goal was to increase strategic partnership with the United States.

AFP: No need to put units on 'red alert' for Holy Week

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): AFP: No need to put units on 'red alert' for Holy Week

With the country's observation of Holy Week to go full blast starting this Palm Sunday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Saturday announced that there is no need to put its forces in "red alert" for the annual holiday.

"There are no plans for that now," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

"However, area commanders may do so depending on the (security) situation," he added.

The Philippine Army (PA) earlier announced that it will be aiding the police in its security efforts for Holy Week.

This is to ensure the peaceful conduct and conclusion of Holy Week which is expected to start this April 13 (Palm Sunday) and end on Easter Sunday (April 20).

This was disclosed by Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato.

"We will support and provide troops to the Philippine National Police (PNP)'s ongoing security efforts," he added.

"Mechanism for coordination of the support are already emplaced," Detoyato stressed.

He declined to mention these coordination measures for security reasons.

Update: Basilan clash death toll rises to 12

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): Update: Basilan clash death toll rises to 12

The death toll in Friday morning's clash with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) brigands and military units at the boundaries of Unkaya Pukan and Tipo-Tipo towns, Basilan has now climbed to 12.

Capt. Jefferson Mamauag, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said that this can be broken down into 10 for the brigands and two for government security forces.

Wounded in the encounter were 28 soldiers with the ASG sustaining an undetermined number of injured.

The wounded troopers are now being treated at Camp Navarro Station Hospital in Zamboanga City.

The firefight broke out around 2:25 a.m. after the military encountered ASG men under Puruji Indama, Isnilon Hapilon and Nur Hassan Jamiri in Sitio Pansul, Barangay Silangkum, Tipo-Tipo town.

Mamauag said that they are still waiting for reports on ground units involved in the fighting regarding the identities of the slain brigands.

Joint elements of the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion, Joint Special Operations Unit 2 (JSOU2), and 18th Infantry Battalion were conducting operations to arrest Indama when they engaged the al Qaeda-linked Islamic militants.

The operation was launched in response to reports Indama's group threatened and tried to extort P5 million from the contractor of the ongoing Magkawa-Al Barka Road project in the province.

The ASG commander has also been blamed for numerous kidnappings for ransom and terrorist attacks in the Southern Philippines.

Among their victims include former Australian Army soldier Warren Rodwell who was seized December 2011 and released in March 2013.

The military also believed that Indama commanded the beheading of 10 Marines in Basilan in 2007, an ASG attack on Isabela City in April 2010 that left 13 people dead, and the ambush and killing of 19 Amy Special Forces troops in Al-Barka in October 2011.

13 NPA rebels surrender in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): 13 NPA rebels surrender in Compostela Valley

Around 13 New People's Army (NPA) fighters voluntarily surrendered to the 66th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Cabinuangan, New Bataan town, Compostela Valley Saturday morning.

Six of the former rebels are from the Front Committee 15 while the other seven are from the Front Committee 20 all of NPA-Southern Mindanao Regional Committee.

Among them are two females.

The surrenderees were operating from Cateel town, Davao Oriental.

66th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Michael Logico said that the surrenderees are now undergoing custodial debriefing and documentation so that they can avail of the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) for them to start a new peaceful life.

Upon questioning, the former rebels said that they decided to surrender after suffering unbearable hardships in the mountain, missing their family and loved ones and wanting a new life.

Logico said the surrendering rebels were warmly received by this men and even provided the latter with hot meals.

“We welcome your decision to return to the folds of the law, rest assured that all of you will be treated humanely and your rights will be upheld at all times," he concluded.