Tuesday, April 15, 2014

4 soldiers wounded in clash with NPA in Compostela Valley

From InterAksyon (Apr 16): 4 soldiers wounded in clash with NPA in Compostela Valley

Four soldiers of the 101st Division Reconnaissance Company were wounded in an encounter with an estimated 30 New People's Army fighters in Barangay Teresa, Maco town, Compostela Valley in Monday afternoon, the military said.

Belated reports from Colonel Elmer Quiros, officer-in-charge of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, said the firefight broke out around 4: 30 p.m. and lasted for an hour and 45 minutes, with the rebels supposedly suffering an undetermined number of casualties after artillery fire was brought to bear on the NPA positions to force them to retreat.

Quiros said the NPA band were responsible for torching the equipment of Apex Mining Corporation at Sitio Sawmill, Barangay Masara, Maco town last April 10.

He claimed rebels attacked the firm because of its refusal to give in to extortion demands but the NPA, in an earlier statement, said the raid on Apex was to punish the company for alleged environmental destruction and the oppression of workers, farmers and indigenous people.

The military said the rebel positions had dug trenches and foxholes that could accommodate more than 60 people.


Sabah police believe photo shows kidnapped tourist still alive

From the Malaya Mail Online (Apr 16): Sabah police believe photo shows kidnapped tourist still alive

Police are confident a Chinese tourist abducted from a Semporna resort here is still alive after her captors sent them a photograph of her, The Star reported on its website today.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib confirmed receiving a photo of Chinese national Gao Huayun, 28, but declined to reveal when the photo was taken or the time it was received.

Gao, 29-year-old Shanghainese, and Marcy Dayawan, a 40-year-old Filipina receptionist from the Singamata Reef Resort near Semporna, were nabbed from the resort on April 2 after a group of gunmen stormed the venue.

Last week, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had confirmed receiving a ransom note demanding RM36.4 million in exchange for the Chinese tourist. The Abu Sayyaf, which is a small band of Filipino militants known for abductions for ransom, are the suspected perpetrators.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen also abducted a Taiwanese tourist last November from Pulau Pom Pom, off Sabah’s east coast, killing her husband during the abduction.


Palace to ‘modify’ Bangsamoro draft law

From the Manila Times (Apr 15): Palace to ‘modify’ Bangsamoro draft law

CONTRARY to reports that the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that was submitted to Malacañang on Monday is already ripe for submission to Congress, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the measure still has to be “modified.”

Describing the document as a “working draft,” the Palace official explained that it still has to pass the scrutiny of government lawyers.

“Only this morning, I sent a text message from the Office of the Executive Secretary regarding the submission yesterday [Monday] of a working draft. By definition, a draft is something that can be supplemented and that can be modified until it is finalized,” Coloma said.

The official was reacting to claims that the submitted draft was lacking in details in terms of policing structure and the Bangsamoro waters. He said though that he was not aware of the missing details but that he would verify it with the Office of the President.

“Even if we knew it, what is most material and what is most important, I believe, is that the legal team will be able to do everything that is necessary to be able to submit the draft bill to the President for his own review and approval,” Coloma pointed out.

Nevertheless, he said he is confident that the Palace review will be done the soonest so that the final version of the bill can be submitted for Congress’ approval.

“The commitment of both panels is to come up with a draft bill that the President will review and certify as urgent to Congress. So this is a joint effort and both sides are doing what is necessary with the sense of urgency to be able to complete the task at hand within the indicative timetable,” Coloma added.

He assured that the government and MILF panels have exercised “due diligence, industry and determination” in order to complete the agreement.

“I think we can say with a reasonable degree of confidence that there is reason to be optimistic that the timetable can be met,” Coloma said.

According to him, the Palace legal team has been monitoring developments in the talks since Day 1 and that the government panel headed by Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer consulted regularly with the same Palace lawyers now reviewing the draft.

“We can be assured that the people that are doing the reviewing are quite familiar with the agreement, and the Bangsamoro Transitory Commission would have referred extensively to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro [CAB] itself,” Coloma said.

Government lawyers, he added, have studied each annex that had been approved to find out how they can come into play in the draft bill. There are four annexes comprising the CAB that was signed on March 27.

“Even when we were in the earlier stage of drafting the Comprehensive Agreement, there was already close coordination on both sides, and the people that are now tasked to review it are quite familiar with the provisions of the agreement, and we would expect them to be familiar with the provisions of the proposed law, which are anyway based on the agreement itself,” Coloma said.

On Monday, the BTC headed by Mohaqer Iqbal submitted the draft measure to the Office of the President and it was Undersecretary Mike Musngi who officially received it.

Palace deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said the measure will be reviewed by the Palace legal team composed of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Benjamin Caguioa, “as well as other legal minds in the executive branch of government.”

She added that the Office of the Solicitor General will also be “lending their help” on the matter.


US: No pressure on PH to sign enhanced defense pact

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Apr 15): US: No pressure on PH to sign enhanced defense pact

While encouraged by the ''positive'' outcome of the eighth and possibly last round of negotiations with the Philippines for enhanced defense cooperation, the United States is urging Manila not to be pressured into signing an agreement by the April 28 visit of US President Barack Obama, diplomatic sources said yesterday.

Sources also ruled out a connection between Obama’s visit and the enhanced defense deal or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s upgrade of the Philippines’ commercial aviation industry status to Category 1.

“These two are not related. It is a technical matter. If the Philippines did not comply it would not have gotten (Category 1),” a source said.

“That is not the case,” another source confirmed. “They have been coming here for the last six years… and there is technical assistance to CAAP. It has nothing to do with the visit. It just so happened. It is a coincidence.”

But they agreed that under current circumstances, it would be good for the Philippines and the US to sign an enhanced defense partnership.

Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, chairman of the Philippine negotiating panel, earlier stressed that a deal would reflect full respect for Philippine sovereignty, as well as guarantee non-permanence of US troops and a prohibition against weapons of mass destruction.

Last week, the FAA restored the Category 1 rating for the Philippine aviation industry six years after it was downgraded to Category 2 due to safety concerns.

With the Category 1 upgrade, Philippine flag carriers can now operate normally and expand their operations in the US.

Still for review

At Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. also stressed the FAA upgrade should not be tied with the enhanced defense cooperation agreement being finalized.

In a press briefing yesterday, Coloma said details of an accord on increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines would be made public to dispel suspicion that the US had dangled the proverbial carrot to have the deal approved.

“If the agreement has been finalized, then the next step would be for that agreement to be submitted for review by the President, because that is an executive agreement. Definitely, it will have to be reviewed and finally approved by the President,” Coloma said.

Coloma reiterated the agreement was not being rushed in time for the visit of Obama on April 28 to 29.

Aside from the upcoming visit, the US Department of Agriculture announced it was considering importing more mangoes from the Philippines after the FAA upgrade.

“We are aware that the Federal Aviation (Administration) of the US, as with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), had already previously noted some concerns regarding aviation safety. And those concerns were duly addressed by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, resulting in the favorable outcome that was announced to us last week, so that is what it is all about,” Coloma said.

“If in another front we get good news, then we welcome that news with total appreciation, and we hope that it will result… in even more beneficial outcomes to our farmers and to our industry,” Coloma pointed out.

“Let us be aware that there is an entire spectrum of relationships in the international field – both multilateral and bilateral,” he added.

While citing “many interdependencies,” Coloma said the aviation issue came way ahead of the talks on enhanced defense cooperation and should be appreciated differently.

Meanwhile, militant fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said it would be “treacherous” for the government to allow greater American troop presence in the country through an enhanced defense deal with the US.

In a statement, Pamalakaya vice chairman Salvador France said the government had begun construction of a P500-million “mini naval base” for the US military in Oyster Bay in Palawan even before a pact on enhanced defense cooperation could be signed.

The group called the deal “a wholesale sellout of national sovereignty” that “should be challenged in the parliament of the streets, in the court of public opinion and other venues including but not limited to the halls of Philippine Congress and Supreme Court.”

The group noted that in October 2013, Philippine Navy Commodore Joseph Rostum Peña said the “mini-Subic Naval Base” being set up in Palawan could accommodate the navy’s two frigates, both former US Coast Guard cutters.


Albay hosts anew Balikatan 2014

From Malaya (Apr 15): Albay hosts anew Balikatan 2014

Albay hosts again the Philippines-United States annual joint military exercises this year, Balikatan, with a month-long series of humanitarian and civic assistance (HCA) activities in this city and in Guinobatan town, from April 21 to May 22. 
Balikatan 2014 (BK14) organizers have booked about 400 hotel rooms for the purpose, for a full month period, representing about 60% of high-end quality room capacity in the province. The event is the fifth similar PHL-US military-related activities which Albay has hosted since 2007. 
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said BK14 lends support to the provincial and local government units community outreach initiatives, enhances the program’s interoperability between the participants and local stakeholders, promote the BK14 Exercises and further enhance PHL-US bilateral relations.
Salceda said BK14 civic assistance activities will include Engineering Civic Assistance Program (ENCAP), Cooperative Healthcare (MED/VET) engagements, and Civil Military Operations and Community relations activities in Legazpi City. Guinobatan and several other nearby towns.
BK14 activities, held simultaneously in other parts of the country, involve some 5,500 US and Filipino military personnel. In Albay, some 400 US soldiers will participate in the HCA.
For this year, BK14 will hold three ENCAPs in Guinobatan. In Barangay Malobago, it will construct a barangat health center and two classrooms at the Malobago Elementary School, aside from the repairs of the school’s sanitary, water and electrical facilities. In Barangay Mercedes it will also construct one classroom and repair other facilities.
In Legazpi City, ENCAP activities include the construction of public toilet and water facilities in Barangay Pawa, and repair of the Tamaoyan Elementary School in Barangay Tamaoyan and its sanitary, water and electrical facilities. 
BK14’s Coopeerative health engagement includes health symposia with professional health workers in at least five barangays of Legazpi City and Guinobatan town where AFP and US soldiers are already deployed.
Balikatan is a long-standing joint military activity between the US and the Philippines. It is a process of continuous learning and enhancement the inter-operability of their respective mi8litary units which also serve to further strengthen the relationship between the two countries.
Salceda said BK14 activities include a series of field trainings Naval Station in San Miguel, San Antonio in Zambales; Puerto Princesa City in Palawan; Fort Magsaysay.


Rebels dispute report all they got from mayor’s home were shotguns

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 15): Rebels dispute report all they got from mayor’s home were shotguns
Communist rebels said they got more than just shotguns in Sunday’s raid on the house of Mayor James Joyce of the municipality of Jose Abad Santos in Davao Davao Occidental, which they said proved that the local executive was a warlord.

In a press statement on Monday, the National Democratic Front’s Far South Mindanao Command said guerrillas of the Alex Ababa Command of the New People’s Army who carried out the raid on Joyce’s house in Barangay (village) Culaman in Jose Abad Santos carted away high-powered firearms that included Armalite rifles and a grenade launcher.

Contrary to the police report that the raiders had taken 16 homemade shotguns, the local NDF spokesman Efren Aksasato said the guerrillas actually took four shotguns from Joyce’s “goons” along with an M203 grenade launcher, an M-16 Armalite rifle, two .30-caliber Carbine rifles, two M-14 rifles and a .38-caliber handgun and assorted ammunition.

“The attack was planned to punish Joyce, who is a political warlord and counter-revolutionary,” Aksasato said in the statement.

He said the mayor’s private army was being used against civilians with the blessing of the military.

Joyce also faces criminal charges such as land grabbing and murder in a revolutionary court, he said.

Joyce could not be reached for comment but a military report said the mayor’s guards were “peace and development volunteers.”

Joyce’s ownership of a large number of firearms caught the attention of the National Bureau of Investigation and Joyce men yield high-powered firearms such as AK47s during a raid on Aug. 12, 2012.

The mayor was subsequently sued for illegal possession of firearms but the charges were dismissed by prosecutors after he presented documents showing his ownership of the weapons was legal.


MILF fumes over ‘disturbed’ honeymoon

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 15): MILF fumes over ‘disturbed’ honeymoon

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Tuesday accused the military in Basilan for “disturbing” their “honeymoon period” with Malacañang after its operations against the Abu Sayyaf supposedly killed some of their members.

“That’s why my message to the military in Basilan is please do not disturb the honeymoon period between the MILF and Malacañang because after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, there is a honeymoon period,” MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Ghadzali Jaafar told reporters.

The government sealed a peace deal with MILF late last month, ending the decades-old armed conflict in Mindanao. On Monday, the government received the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a product of the peace negotiations between the two.

The military launched operations in Basilan against the Abu Sayyaf on Friday. Reports said that 18 were killed from the ASG while two soldiers died.

But Jaafar said he received reports that four members of the MILF were killed from the operations.

“The report that I’m getting is that our men in that area were affected directly although the target was not them….So we think dapat malaman ang dahilan bakit nagkaganun because probably someone committed a mistake again and dapat hindi ito maulit,” he said.

Jaafar said the issue has already reached the International Monitoring Team, but added that the MILF is also conducting its own investigation.

The IMT is tasked to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF.

Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista, meanwhile, said those MILF that joined the series of clashes were there in “personal capacity” as some of those involved were their relatives.

“We are in touch with the MILF. There were persons who joined in their personal capacity because they were relatives,” he told reporters.


Group asks AFP, PNP to surface Tiamzons' gardener

From the Philippine Star (Apr 15): Group asks AFP, PNP to surface Tiamzons' gardener

Rights group Karapatan on Tuesday urged the police and military to surface the stay-in gardener of communist leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria who were arrested last March 22 in Cebu.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said Gary Aguilar Santos has been missing for 22 days now after the Tiamsons' arrest in a rented house in Cebu
Palabay said Rex and Lorraine Villaflor, companions of the Tiamzons when they were arrested in Cebu, alerted Karapatan when there was no news of Santos’ whereabouts after the raid by the Philippine National Police at the rented house of the couple on March 22.

Santos, 48, was hired as gardener by the Villaflors, the couple who leased the house to the Tiamzons, Palabay said.

Santos was left at the house when Tiamzon, Austria, the Villaflor couple, and three others-- Joesi Napa, Joel Enano and Arlene Panea-- were arrested on March 22.

"Tiamzon, Austria and the Villaflor couple are deeply concerned with Gary's fate.  Santos might be tortured for tactical interrogation, which the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP are notorious for. We demand from the government authorities to surface Santos," Palabay said.

According to Lorraine Villafor, her last communication with Santos was on March 22 at around 4 p.m., a few hours after their arrest.

Palabay said Karapatan-Central Visayas had several attempts to locate Santos but to no avail.

On March 26, Karapatan-Central Visayas inquired at the PNP-San Fernando about the results of their search at the rented house.

Karapatan team also went to the house in Sitio Boloc-boloc, where one of the caretakers reported no one was seen inside the house since March 22.

On April 1, Karapatan-Cebu again inquired at the PNP San Fernando if Santos is in police custody. The police, however, denied they have Santos.


MILF to probe Basilan clash which killed 4 of its members

From the Philippine Star (Apr 15): MILF to probe Basilan clash which killed 4 of its members

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will look into last week’s clash in Basilan, which reportedly claimed the lives of some of its members.

MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said he had received reports stating that their members were affected by the military raid that targeted the Abu Sayyaf.

“Our surprise is that why they (MILF troops) were hit when they are far from the target of the raid,” Jaafar told Solar News.

“We think we should know the reason why it happened because probably, someone committed a mistake again,” he added.

When asked whether the MILF is conducting an investigation on the matter, Jaafar said yes.

He said such incidents should not happen again, noting that the Philippine government and the MILF have just signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
“We do not want this agreement to be disturbed by such unwanted incident initiated by the military men of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Basilan,” Jaafar said.
Citing field reports, Jaafar said about four MILF members were killed due to the military offensive.

He said the matter has been brought to the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the ceasefire committees.

“Let’s wait for the result (of the probe). It’s now in the hands of IMT. Let’s give them a chance,” Jaafar said in Filipino.

Security forces in Basilan stepped up offensives against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan last week after receiving information about the bandits’ extortion activities.

Military officials claim that the encounters left as much as 18 Abu Sayyaf terrorists and two soldiers dead.

A total of 14 bandits and 31 soldiers, including three Army officers, were injured during the clash.

Security sources previously said that some MILF commanders had been dragged into the encounters as most of the Abu Sayyaf bandits targeted by soldiers are their relatives.

Last Monday, Armed Forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. denied that the  MILF was involved in the clashes.

Tutaan said the armed men who had aided the terrorists might have been former MILF members who are now involved in criminal activities.


NegOr to be declared ‘conflict-manageable’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 5): NegOr to be declared ‘conflict-manageable’

Negros Oriental will be declared as “Conflict-Manageable and Development Ready Province" at the Perdices Memorial Coliseum in Dumaguete City on May 7, a government press release said.

Col. Cristopher Estella, 302nd Infantry Brigade deputy commander, said the forces of the New Peoples’ Army continue to dwindle because of the Oplan Bayanihan and military combat operations.

He said the military has reduced the level of the enemy’s capabilities to threaten the stability of the government, and it should now be up to civil authorities to ensure the safety and well-being ofNegrenses.

He added that, based on military parameters, the NPA support system has been greatly reduced in the hinterland barangays, and the residents themselves are the ones informing the military of the presence of unidentified armed men in their areas.

Expected to sign the joint declaration are Gov. Roel Degamo, Major General Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Chief Supt. Danilo Constantino, director of the Police Regional Office-7.

Estella said more bayanihan team and combat focus operations will be conducted by the Army in Negros Oriental.

He added that the Army will intensify its efforts to collaborate with the local government units, government and non-government organizations,and the communities in pursuit of the goal of the province to become insurgent-free, the press release added.


CPP/NDF: Despotikong mayor-agalong militar gisilotan sa NPA-FSMR

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Apr 14): Despotikong mayor-agalong militar gisilotan sa NPA-FSMR

Ka Efren Aksasato
NDFP Far South Mindanao Chapter
Mainitong nagtimbaya ang NDF-FSMR sa mga Pulang manggugubat ug kumander sa Alex Ababa Command – Front 71 sa New People’s Army sa malampusong pagdisarma sa pribadong armadong pundok ni mayor James “Jimmy” Joyce Jr. sa Jose Abad Santos, Davao Occidental.

Nahitabo ang naasoy nga aksyong militar alas sais sa buntag niadtong Abril 13, adlawng Domingo sa mismong panimalay ni Jimmy Joyce sa Sitio Bago, Brgy. Colaman sakop sa munisipalidad sa Jose Abad Santos. Epektibong nalingla sa mga Pulang manggugubat nga nagpakanang sundalo sa AFP ang mga goons ni Joyce hinungdan nga wala na sila nakasukol. Nasakmit sa NPA ang usa ka M203 grenade launcher, usa ka M16 rifle, duha ka caliber .30 Carbine, duha ka M14 rifle, upat ka 12 gauge shotgun, usa ka caliber .38 handgun, ug lain-laing matang sa mga bala.

Ang pagdisarma sa grupo sa pulitiko-warlord-agalong yutaan nga si Joyce usa ka aksyong pagsilot tungod sa iyang kontrarebolusyonaryong mga krimen ug lantarang pakigkunsabo sa AFP aron aktibong gukoron ang rebolusyonaryong kalihukan.
 Nagtiner sab siya og private army nga gigamit sa iyang mga kriminal nga aktibidad ug sa pagpamitol sa mga sibilyan.

Si Joyce nag-atubang sab og lain-laing kasong kriminal nga gisang-at diha sa rebolusyonaryong Hukumang Bayan. Lakip niini nga mga kaso ang pagpangilog og yuta sa mga mag-uuma, pagpamatay og mga sibilyan, mga kasong paglugos, ug pagtulak og iligal nga droga.

Niadtong miaging tuig, gidisarmahan sa Philippine National Police – Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) si Joyce, apan giabswelto ang kaso batok kaniya lambigit sa iligal nga paggunit og mga armas ug nakuha niya’g balik ang mga naembargong pusil.

Ang pagdisarma sa NPA kay Joyce nahimong malampuson pinaagi sa madasigong pagtabang ug paningkamot sa mga masa nga dugay nang naghandom nga masilotan ang bangis nga mayor. Inisyal nga kadaugan pa lamang kini sa katawhan sa Jose Abad Santos nga taas nga panahon nang nag-antos sa teroristang paghari ni Joyce, ug dugay na nga nagpangayo og tinuod nga hustisya alang sa ilang makaluluoy ug dinaugdaug nga kahimtang.

Ang rebolusyonaryong kalihukan kanunay nga nagabarug alang sa interes ug kaayohan sa katawhan, ug walay pagduha-duha kining mopahamtang og silot sa mga tawo o entidad nga may bug-at nga utang ngadto sa katawhan.

Ang malampusong pagdisarma usa ka dakung pagpamatuod sa pagpakyas sa Oplan Bayanihan ug gipakita niini nga taliwa sa gipanghambog sa GPH nga bug-os ang paningkamot niining pukanon ang rebolusyonaryong kalihukan, labaw pang nagkainutil ug himulag ang ilang mga lakang.


MILF slams military for disrupting peace

From Rappler (Apr 15): MILF slams military for disrupting peace

2 weeks after it signed a peace pact with the government, the MILF pushes for a probe into a military attack against its members in Basilan

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) denounced the killing of 4 of its members in a military operation in Basilan just 2 weeks after a peace deal was signed to end their decades-old conflict.

"Four of our members were martyred," MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar told reporters on Tuesday, April 15.

Government forces launched the operation Friday, April 11 to capture two top leaders of the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) blamed for beheadings and kidnappings. The military claimed 18 ASG and MILF were killed. MILF members were supposedly "acting on their own" to help ASG members who are also their relatives.

"We know that the MILF has irregular forces and it's hard to control their people. Some of them are relatives of ASG members. They help their in their individual capacities," Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista told reporters in Zamboanga City Tuesday.

Watch this video below.

 [Video: MILF slams military for disrupting peace

'Honeymoon period'

Jaafar is not convinced, however. He cautioned the military against disturbing the "honeymoon period" that the government and the MILF are enjoying after the signing of the peace deal.

"We do not want this agreement to be disturbed by such unwanted incidents initiated by the military," Jaafar said.

The MILF has asked an international committee monitoring the ceasefire between the Philippines and the rebel group to investigate who was to blame for Friday's violence, Jaafar said.

Jaafar said the attack may have been a result of poor military intelligence. "I believe it's (attack inside MILF territory) intentional. But did the military know it was the MILF they were attacking? The military should have conducted surveillance, gathered intelligence first. That is basic," he said.

Jaafar said the "mistake" should not happen again.

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 Puruji Indama, according to Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, public information officer of the military's Western Mindanao Command.

The incident highlights the work that needs to be done to complete the peace deal. The military and the MILF, jointly, are supposed to be in charge of the security situation in Muslim-dominated areas until the envisioned Bangsamoro Police Force is set up. (READ: Real peace means the guns will have to go away)

On Monday, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) submitted to Malacañang an incomplete draft of the proposed Bangsamoro political entity.

The submission sets the stage for the second phase of the peace process, which is an equally difficult one: congressional approval of a planned political structure that aims to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and a plebiscite after to determine which towns or provinces would be under its control.


MILF not involved in Basilan encounter -- AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 15): MILF not involved in Basilan encounter -- AFP chief

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista, on Tuesday said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was not present in the encounter between military units and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits in the boundaries of Unkaya Pukan and Tipo-Tipo towns, Basilan which resulted in the death of 18 brigands and 2 soldiers last Friday.

However, he admitted there are some members of the MILF who appear to have been involved in an individual capacity.

"There is no participation of the MILF in the Tipo-Tipo (clash) but only individual participation. The mechanism is working during the (encounter), they agreed to support the operation," he pointed out in an interview.

"Now we know (for a fact) that the MILF has irregular forces which they have difficulty in controlling and sometimes these people are related to the ASG and are joining in the latter's fight in their individual capacity," Bautista stressed.

He stated that they have informed the MILF leadership about this and are letting them handle the issue.


118 new soldiers join 7th Infantry Division

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 15): 118 new soldiers join 7th Infantry Division

Around 118 new soldiers have joined the roster of the Nueva Ecija-based 7th Infantry Division.

This was announced Tuesday by 7th Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Glorioso V. Miranda.

These troopers graduated from the Army's Basic Military Training last April 11.

Their training started in Aug. 16, 2013 at Division Training School and the Scout Ranger Orientation Course at First Scout Ranger Regiment in San Miguel, Bulacan.

Col. Ronald C. Villanueva, 7th Infantry Division chief-of-staff, gave his inspirational message to the new graduates during the graduation ceremony and entrustment of firearms of Candidate Soldiers Course Class 326-13.

“By ceremonially entrusting the Armed Forces firearms, our stakeholders remind the new privates of the supremacy of civilian rule over the military.I would like to remind Candidate Soldier Course Class 326-13 that what you have worked hard and earned, is only the beginning of your long service. Remember to be honorable at all times and to put primacy on service above self," he concluded.


Rebels told to observe Holy Week, lay down down their arms

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 15): Rebels told to observe Holy Week, lay down down their arms
The Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division this Tuesday has urged the remaining rebels in their area to observe Holy Week with their families and lay down their arms and rejoin mainstream society.

"(Rather than fight and shed blood), They (remaining New People's Army fighters) must spend the time with their families, embrace peace and turn their backs from violence and arm struggle. This will also serve as their chance to spend a week of peace, freedom and tranquility in our democratic country particularly in this region," said 3rd Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad.

“In the spirit of peace, we call on them to stop deliberate offensive operations against the people. Your Army here in Western Visayas will continue to secure and protect the public, maintain its vigilance and intensify further its security operations in various parts of the region particularly in the countryside and places frequented by tourist as majority of the Filipino population observes the Holy Week," he added.

Baladad said that his ground commanders are continuously conducting assessment of the security conditions in their respective localities and can make the necessary security adjustments to ensure the safety of the people in the locality for the week-long commemoration of the Lenten season.

He also said that the 3rd Infantry Division is in close coordination with law enforcement agencies particularly the Philippine National Police in securing vital installations and populated areas of the region.

"The Army and the PNP through the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Centers at the regional down to the municipal level will conduct joint security operations to ensure the peaceful observance of the Holy Week," Baladad concluded.


AFP's Central Command denies holding Tiamzon couple's gardener captive

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 15): AFP's Central Command denies holding Tiamzon couple's gardener captive

The Cebu City-based Central Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Tuesday denied claims made by supporters of the Tiamzon couple that they are illegally detaining a gardener working for the Tiamzons.

“Being the protector of the Filipino people, the AFP and the PNP (Philippine National Police) uphold human rights and strictly adhere to International Humanitarian Law (IHL)," Central Command head Major Gen. John S. Bonafos said.

He issued this statement in reaction to militant group Karapatan’s accusation that a certain Gary Aguilar Santos is being held captive by the AFP and PNP troops since the arrest of the Tiamzons last March 22 in Barangay Zaragosa, Aloguinsan, Cebu.

“We cannot confirm nor deny that there really is a Mr. Gary Aguilar Santos because he was not with the Tiamzons during the actual arrest and neither was he there at the safe house during the raid. What Karapatan is accusing us is completely false and baseless.

It is worthy to note that in late 2010, all AFP units were ordered to set up a human rights office to ensure better adherence to respect of human rights among the members of our organization. Since then, we have been religiously upholding, protecting and promoting human rights and adherence to IHL,” he added.

In a separate interview, Navy Lt. Jim Aris V. Alagao, Central Command spokesperson, said that militant groups are looking at the wrong target when it comes to perpetrators of serious illegal detention and other human rights abuses.

"If there is a group notorious for torture and extra-judicial killings (and other human rights abuses), it is the New People's Army which is led by the Tiamzon couple who at the moment is facing multiple charges of murder, frustrated murder and multiple murder," Alagao said in Filipino.


Former foes vow joint moves vs ‘spoilers’ of peace

From MindaNews (Apr 15): Former foes vow joint moves vs ‘spoilers’ of peace

The Army, police and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Sunday vowed to work together to thwart efforts by so-called spoilers to sabotage the peace process in Mindanao.

In a kanduli or thanksgiving celebration inside the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, 6th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz said he and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim had agreed to flesh out the details of their joint effort.

Gapuz, who was joined by officers under his command and Maguindanao police director Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson, admitted that anybody, “even soldiers,” can be “spoilers”.

After a short program, Gapuz briefly talked with Murad and other MILF commanders inside the MILF leader’s office where they agreed to work together against those who may try to sabotage the gains of the peace process.

MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar clarified however that they are willing to talk to groups considered to be potential spoilers.

At the same time Jaafar warned the public to be wary of “black propaganda” like the reported defection of four MILF brigade commanders to the Moro National Liberation.

The reports, he said, cited a certain Ustadz Pindi of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), who is based in Glan, Sarangani.

Saying many lives had been lost in the war, Jaafar appealed to media to observe responsible reporting and to “please get our side also if there are issues like that.”

In a media briefing Murad said he is hoping for an early implementation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which will usher in a Moro sub-state in the South that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

On Monday the Bangsamoro Transition Commission submitted the partial draft of the BBL to President Aquino for him to review before endorsing it to Congress as a priority bill.

Jaafar said they have also started to organize a political party which they currently call the United Bangsamoro Justice Party. But he said he could not give further details until everything is finalized.

Asked if the traditional politicians could be their allies too, he said everybody is welcome.

First time

Gapuz said it was his first time to visit Camp Darapanan last Sunday, and that he could feel the warm welcome from the MILF community and its leaders.

“We are all brothers and sisters, it feels good that we can visit each other’s place just like a government service officer and talk issues on progress and stability,” he said.

MILF fighters lined the road in a show of military pomp as Gapuz’ convoy approached the rebel camp.


For Shariff Aguak Mayor Zahara Upam Ampatuan, whose family belongs to a MILF clan, the kanduli on Sunday that brought former enemies together was a dream come true.

Kanduli is a Maguindanaon term for thanksgiving banquet, and usually takes place on weddings, victory gatherings, burial anniversaries and celebrations after settling disputes.

In 2012, even before the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, Ampatuan initiated a rally where government troops, police and MILF members showed support to the peace process.

“It’s the women’s power to bring men at war into peace, that’s a mother’s instinct to her children. This kanduli gathering of meeting with former nemesis is a joint-effort we made with the wife of Chairman Murad,” she said.

In Buluan, Maguindanao last week, Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu sponsored a “kanduli” for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Grilled tilapia and bangus and roasted beef were served to the visitors.

“We don’t want to go back to the past, where violence dominates in this land. We are all products of war, we saw a lot of sufferings and shattered dreams. I hope this event will bridge [us] to a reality of our aspirations for the next generation to have a better Bangsamoro”, Mangudadatu said.

The event was attended by some 100 MILF commanders led by MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, Jaafar and Secretary Teresita Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Deles in her speech said support from the ground especially from the local government units will be crucial to the success of the signed agreement.


GRUMBLINGS | PNPA alumni planning moves to protest 'unfair' postings - sources

From InterAksyon (Apr 15): GRUMBLINGS | PNPA alumni planning moves to protest 'unfair' postings - sources

Alumni of the Philippine National Police Academy have been discussing possible how best to protest what they perceive to be discrimination in the system of promotions and assignments that tend to favor graduates of the Philippine Military Academy.

The PNPA graduates are likely to receive support from two groups of officers who do not come from either of the academies -- the Association of Police Lateral Entrants or APOLE, and the Police ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) Graduates for Integrity, Morality and Order or PRIMO.

A police office privy to the goings on, who spoke on condition he not be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said presidents of PNPA classes from 1983 to 1992, most of whom hold the ranks of superintendent and senior superintendent, have been meeting discretely to discuss what to do even as they continue to appeal to the PNP leadership to level the playing field in promotions and assignments.

There are currently more than 300 PMA graduates serving in the PNP, with Class 1992 the last batch. These officers were absorbed from the defunct Philippine Constabulary when the PNP was created.

In contrast, there are at least 3,600 PNPA graduates, most of whom, according to the source, occupy “not so juicy posts” compared to their former military counterparts.

On Monday, President Benigno Aquino III presided over a command conference in Camp Crame during which one of the concerns raised were the grievances of the PNPA alumni.

Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP public information officer, said the police leadership is now findings ways to make promotions and assignments more equitable between graduates of the two academies.

“This is now being discussed, being studied so we can make it more equitable and of course proportionate,” Sindac said.

Explaining their support for the PNPA alumni, members of APOLE and PRIMO said they could empathize with the grumbling officers because they, too, feel treated as “second-class” citizens in the service.

Another concern, they said, is that the PNP Senior Officers Placement and Promotions Board is currently made up only of PMA graduates “who oftentimes act favorably to the graduates of their school” even if there are PNPA alumni “who have complied with qualification standards such as eligibility, education, training and time-in-grade.”

“Any imagined or real derogatory record thrown by the Chief PNP and members of the SOPPB against any PNPA applicant is enough to disqualify them,” they added.

The APOLE and PRIMO members also observed that, whenever there is a deadlock, the PNP hierarchy tends to appoint PMA graduates as officers-in-charge, often for longer than the normal two years for such temporary appointments.


Tubbataha grounding: SC assailed over 'inaction' on petition for writ of kalikasan

From InterAksyon (Apr 15): Tubbataha grounding: SC assailed over 'inaction' on petition for writ of kalikasan

An environmental activist group on Tuesday criticized the Supreme Court for its alleged "inaction" on the petition for a writ of kalikasan in connection with the January 17, 2013 grounding of a U.S. Navy minesweeper on Tubbataha Reef. 

The Supreme Court has allowed the Tubbataha grounding case to languish in court, severely hampering efforts to significantly rehabilitate the 2,345 square-meter scar caused by the USS Guardian in the world heritage site," said Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) campaign coordinator Leon Dulce in a statement.

"We condemn this inaction as it has also set a precedent for impunity by US forces towards our people and the environment by demonstrating that such environmental crimes will only be met by a lax, if not negligent, court,” added Dulce.

On April 17, 2013, environmentalists, Catholic bishops, lawyers, and activists filed a petition asking the high tribunal to order the government to file criminal, civil, and administrative charges against individuals responsible for the grounding of the minesweeper. Among the respondents are US Navy officials Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, and USS Guardian commanding officer Mark Rice.

The petitioners also asked the high court to give the Philippine government primary and exclusive jurisdiction over the respondents and declare as unconstitutional Articles V and VI of the Visiting Forces Agreement that extend immunity to American servicemen.

Kalikasan-PNE questioned the one-year delay of the high court's ruling on the petition as the high tribunal's rules of procedure for environmental cases only "requires a judgment to be rendered within 60 days from the time the petition was submitted for decision."

“The SC’s treatment of the case is highly irregular, as we never even heard of any explanation from the SC on why it has delayed the decision on our Writ of Kalikasan and subsequent petitions way beyond the 60-day deadline," said Dulce.

"It defeats the purpose of having a timely intervention in a concern that threatens our right to a balanced and healthful ecology when these legal remedies are impeded for no concrete and acceptable reason at all,” he said.

"What’s even more irregular is the fact that Supreme Court allows the U.S. government's continuing snub on their order to reply on Writ of Kalikasan petition on Tubbataha... This clearly shows the US government's disrespect to our justice system and its  indifference on how we assert our sovereignty,” added Dulce.


PMA Class 2017 visits Eastern Mindanao Command

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Apr 14): PMA Class 2017 visits Eastern Mindanao Command

More than 200 cadets, support staff and faculty members of the Philippine Military Academy visited Monday the Eastern Mindanao Command in the southern city of Davao, officials said.

Officials said the visit is part of the “Southern Cruise” and educational tour of the Class 2017 cadets to various military units in the country to provide them a better appreciation of the organization that they will belong after graduation.

The visit also promotes PMA in Davao region, especially to those who are interested to become part of the prestigious academy in Baguio City in northern Philippines.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, welcomed the cadets headed by PMA Superintendent Maj. Gen. Oscar Lopez. Cruz, who belongs to PMA Class 1980, also spoke with the cadets and told them to live up to the honor code of the institution. “The Honor Code must be a way of life even outside the PMA walls,” Cruz said.


MILF rebels fight alongside Abu Sayyaf in Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Apr 15): MILF rebels fight alongside Abu Sayyaf in Philippines

A military medical team in Zamboanga City assists a soldier wounded in fighting in Basilan province in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Library File)

Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels have aided the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf in fighting Philippine government forces in the troubled province of Basilan in the Muslim autonomous region.

Military chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said they have reports that MILF rebels fought alongside Abu Sayyaf militants that killed two army soldiers and wounded 29 more in the towns of Tipo-Tipo and Ungkaya Pukan.

Fierce fighting erupted last Friday after troops stormed an Abu Sayyaf lair and clashed with about 60 militants whose group has been blamed in the spate of terrorism and kidnappings for ransom in Basilan and other parts of the southern Philippines.

“We were running after the ASG, yun MILF kinausap sila through our mechanisms that we are going to launch enforcement operations and they supported that.  Kung saan ay mayroon silang mga members that they cannot control, may mga kamag-anak sila sa Abu Sayyaf (and) they probably joined (the fighting) in their individual capacity (and) not as MILF (organization), as relatives...naguusap yun MILF and AFP so it’s very clear yun,” Bautista told reporters while visiting wounded troops in Zamboanga City.

Bautista defended the MILF, which has recently signed a peace deal with Manila, saying the country’s largest Muslim rebel group had no participation in the clashes, although some of its members who have relatives with the Abu Sayyaf were involved.

“There is no participation of the MILF in the operations. May usapan tayo with the MILF and it is working and kausap natin yun mga commander nila during the operations and they support our operations. Ngayon alam naman natin na ang MILF ay irregular force yan, minsan mayroong kamag-anak ang ASG doon, Ganoon ang nangyari,” he said.

Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan, who accompanied Bautista, said they are still verifying reports that as many as 32 rebels were killed and wounded in the fighting. “We are checking this report that at least 18 rebels were killed and 14 others were wounded in the clashes. All these (reports) came from the grounds,” Tutaan told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Despite the massive military assault, the militants escaped, but the military said the operation against the Abu Sayyaf will not stop.

The army said the offensive targeted Abu Sayyaf leaders Puruji Indama, Nurhasan Jamiri and Isnilon Hapilon, but there were no reports whether they had been killed. Some 200 soldiers had taken part in the offensive.