Saturday, April 19, 2014

8ID gains heavily against the NPA rebels during 1st quarter 2014

Just posted to the Samar News (Apr 14): 8ID gains heavily against the NPA rebels during 1st quarter 2014

April 14, 2014

8th Infantry Division army troops

Based from 8ID accomplishment record for the 1st quarter 2014, the NPA rebels suffered blows in all fronts. On manpower, twenty six (26) rebels surrendered, seven (7) were arrested and one (1) was killed during an encounter, for a total of 34 rebels neutralized.

On the part of the 8ID, one (1) soldier was killed in action, while two (2) were wounded in action. On firearms, troops recovered five (5) high powered firearms and fourteen (14) low powered firearms. Government forces incurred no loss during the period.

8ID was also able to hand over five (5) of the twenty six (26) towns of Samar Province and ten (10) of the twenty four (24) towns of Northern Samar Province to their LGUs as Manageable Conflict-Affected and Development-Ready areas (MCADR) which is a manifestation that the NPA rebels have lost their influence in these 15 towns that were handed over.

The provinces of Samar and Northern Samar in their entirety are scheduled to be handed over by 8ID to their respective provincial peace and order councils in June 2014 and December 2014 as MCADR areas.

In their desperate attempt to offset their setbacks and woes the rebels resorted to killing innocent people compounding their violations against people’s rights. During the period, the rebels perpetrated murders against four (4) innocent and hapless civilians. The NPA murdered one (1) former rebel, one (1) civilian, one (1) Cafgu Active Auxilliary or CAA and one (1) Army reservist. These commissions of heinous crimes by the NPA rebels will further alienate them from the people who already resent their extortion activities.

Maj Gen Jet B. Velarmino AFP, Commander of the 8th Infantry Division said: “As the timeline of 8ID to accomplish its mission to create an environment conducive to peace and development for the whole of Eastern Visayas is nearing, we expect strong resistance from the rebels to defend their dwindling strongholds. But the rebels will not be able to stop the inevitable.”

“In the coming months, we will press on with the fight but we welcome peaceful resolution to this armed conflict being waged by the NPA rebels. To pre-empt violence, we invite all stakeholders to get involved in winning the peace by pressuring the rebels to return to the mainstream and to abandon armed struggle. We all need peace for the security and well-being of our people and sustainable development in the region,” he added.

Commentary: They have no fear, much less respect

Excerpt from commentary in the Borneo Post (Apr 20): They have no fear, much less respect

.....A few days after the latest kidnapping off Sabah I heard a very interesting remark made by a radio commentator.

“The Abu Sayyaf is just a bandit group hiding under the name of a great religion and the struggle for independence of their claimed homeland. They treat Sabah like an ATM machine.”

I find the last sentence most intriguing and really on the mark. There has been at least ten kidnappings since 2000 when they netted 21 prisoners. I understand at least a few of the bandits were involved in all the cases. The resorts of Sabah are indeed like an ATM machine to this villainous group – when they need some money they would just sail over to collect some. They have done so successfully at least ten times in the twelve years. Such is lack of fear of the Malaysian forces of deterrence.

There was an interesting and somewhat amusing story that circulated after the 2000 kidnapping in Sipadan. Apparently after the news of their incursion into Sabah and coming away with their prize the leader of the Abu Sayyaf was approached by some of his cousins. Well, in a small place everyone is a cousin, especially when one has come into money.  With a bit of journalistic license I would say it went like this.

“Hi coz, I understand you came into a bit of money from your expedition in Sabah. How about sharing some with your kapatid (relative)?”

“Sorry, no can do but you are free to use the power boats we just bought to do your own thing.”

Apparently someone paid the ransom for the kidnapped Malaysians though our government denied any involvement in the transaction.  It was rumoured that the kidnappers bought a couple fast boats with the proceeds.

The cousins took his word for it and used the boats to attack another island. As luck would have it there was a big storm the week before and the resort suffered some damage. It was closed a while. So with the pirates cousins struck there was no a single tourist. They took off with a few of the resort staff and soon realized that they were of no value. The men were released a few weeks later.

It is said that there are two reasons why those with criminal bend think twice about committing their acts, namely, respect for the law and fear of apprehension and punishment.

There is a prominent Tan Sri who likes to give pious advice that we should educate people to respect the law. Our country is purported to be guided by the teachings of all the great religions and the Abu Sayyaf claims to be Muslim. Well, so much for divine guidance. That leaves only the fear of apprehension and punishment. However, from all the depressing news we have so far it appears that villains don’t have too much fear from this deterrence.

Such is the brazenness of these criminals that they appear to thumb up their noses, stick out their tongues, blow raspberry at our police force and authorities. In the case of incidents off Sabah they are shaking their fists in open defiance. In spite of this effrontery there does not seem to be much effective response from our authorities and law enforcement agencies. If this were a football match the score would have been: villains and pirates -10; Malaysia – 0.

The PM once said that the fight against crime is a war. Well, let’s hope that we are bringing out our “A” team and our “A” game to the battle. Because as of this moment the baddies don’t have fear let alone respect of our laws.

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PMA sets silent drill exhibitions

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Apr 19): PMA sets silent drill exhibitions

THE 3rd class cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 2017 is holding series of silent drill exhibitions starting Monday, April 21, in Zamboanga City, a military official said.

Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela said the silent drill exhibitions are part of the PMA’s annual Southern Cruise for calendar year 2014.

Muyuela said the silent drill exhibitions will showcase the finest movements in military marching and formation.

The schedules of silent drills are as follows: Paseo del Mar, April 21; Naval Forces Western Mindanao headquarters, April 22; and, Westmincom headquarters, April 23.

Muyuela said the main highlight of the Southern Cruise is to promote PMA in the different areas in order to recruit the best, brightest and the fittest applicants for the military service.

Muyuela said the cadets will also be oriented in the different Armed Forces of the Philippines units that will help them choose among the branch of service they will serve--the Army, the Navy or the Air Force--after graduating from the academy.

“This is a continuing activity, after the successful conduct of the Southern Cruises for PMA classes 2014 and 2015 in the past two years--a revival after 20 years,” she added.

She said that Zamboanga City is one of the ports of call selected to include Davao City, Cebu City, Cavite, Corregidor Island and Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

MILF: Bangsamoro of Koronadal Province oriented on Sharia and parliamentary governance

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 19): Bangsamoro of Koronadal Province oriented on Sharia and parliamentary governance

To get glimpse of how the Bangsamoro government will run, almost four hundred Bangsamoro people from Koronadal Province attended a seminar on Shariah (Islamic jurisprudence) and parliamentary system of governance.
In the learning activity entitled “Empowering Bangsamoro Political Leaders and Communities” held on April 11, 2014 at the Community Learning Center in Barangay Koronadal Proper in Polomolok, South Cotabato, the participants were also oriented on the electoral systems for Bangsamoro government.

The resource persons discussed the set-up of the newly created political party of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Sheikh Abdulsalam D. Alabat, a Shariah expert and member of the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) Steering Committee, discussed the following the definition of Shariah, Politics in Islam, Relevant Provisions in the Holy Qur’an, Key Concepts, and the Aim of the Political Party.

He related a verse from the Holy Qur’an which states: "Let there arise out of you a bond of people calling to the Goodness and enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil; and those are the ones who will attain success“

The resource person explained that the first order is for the establishment of a group that has a bond binding its members and an Amir or leader whose obedience is obligatory.

“And the second order is to conduct actions calling to the Goodness and Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil,” he elaborated.

Alabat stressed that the political party aims for the establishment of good and forbidding what evil.

He said that in today’s situation, “All the Ma’ruf (goodness) have been removed due to the  absence of Islam, and Almost all the Munkar (evil) exist due to the absence of the state that implements Islam.

Alabat explained that in the ministerial form of government which the Bangsamoro will adopt once the basic law is ratified, the voters elect the legislature where the chief executive or the chief minister is drawn.

“The members of the cabinet are usually selected by the chief minister with approval from the legislative,” he said.

Koronadal Province is a political set-up under the MILF which is composed of towns of Tantangan, Tampakan, Polomolok, Tupi and Koronadal City.

The key officers of the MILF Political Committee and line agencies coming from the provincial, municipal and barangay levels attended the gathering.

MILF: MILF Officials attend “Ka-PEACEtahan ng Maguindanao”

From the MILF Website (Apr 19): MILF Officials attend “Ka-PEACEtahan ng Maguindanao”

Several high-ranking officials of the MILF graced the grand kanduli (thanksgiving feast) sponsored by the Provincial Government of Maguindanao last April 6 at the town of Buluan.
Also dubbed as “Ka-PEACEtahan ng Maguindanao”, the occasion was dedicated to the March 27, 2014 signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) at Kalayaan Ground, MalacaƱang Palace, Manila.

Leading the MILF delegation were First Vice-Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar, Chief Negotiator and BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal, Shari’ah Chairman Ustadz Khalifa Nando and Central Committee Secretary Muhammad Ameen.

Iqbal gave an update on the CAB as well as the current drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law which, he said, has two main concerns: “the higher interests of the GPH and MILF to have peace and development in the Bangsamoro” and that “the basic law must be based on the CAB.”

Jaafar, on the other hand, said they came to “be in solidarity with the good intentions of Governor Mangudadatu in holding a kanduli over the signing of the CAB.” He expressed hope that the CAB would be successful so that through it the Bangsamoro would finally have their long-desired government.

He appealed for genuine unity and support from all sectors, especially from the MNLF with “whom they have started the struggle with and hopefully to complete it with them as well.”

Muhammad Ameen read the message of MILF Chairman Al haj Murad Ebrahim who described the event as a “demonstration of the sincere commitment of the provincial government to support the CAB.” He congratulated the Province of Maguindanao for being chosen as the venue of the 1st International Sports for Peace and Development. He also extended appreciation over the various programs of the provincial government such as the distribution of mallard ducks, working animals, tilapia fingerlings, oil palm and rubber seedlings, and scholarship grants.

“These would also be among the priorities that the Bangsamoro would undertake once it is finally established,” the MILF chief said in his prepared message.

The “Ka-PEACEtahan ng Maguindanao” was well attended by national and local officials. OPAPP Sec. Teresita Deles was the keynote speaker. Also seen were Congressman Sajid Mangudadatu of the 2nd District of Maguindanao, military commanders from nearby brigades and several municipal mayors.“ka-peacetahan-ng-maguindanao

NUPL opposes US-Ph Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 19): NUPL opposes US-Ph Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation

Delegates to the 18th Assembly of International Association of Democratic Lawyers have expressed their support to the call of Filipino lawyers for opposition to the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation that will be formalized soon by the United States and the Philippine governments.

This developed as Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares has warned that the Philippine government could be held accountable under international law should the US use its military facilities in the Philippines to commit aggression in other countries.

Colmenares, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), said delegates to the international lawyers convention in Brussels, Belgium have joined the NUPL in condemning the AEDC as part of US plans to re-establish military bases in the Philippines.

“Many delegates believe that this new basing agreement and the US pivot in Asia will threaten the peace and stability of the region” said Edre U. Olalia, Secretary General of the NUPL.

However, Olalia did not state whether or not a formal written statement was issued by delegates to the IADL.

A draft of the proposed enhanced defense cooperation pact has been submitted for review by President Benigno Aquino III.

Filipinos concerned over China’s continuous acts of bullying over contested territories in the West Philippine sea have speculated that the defense deal will contain provisions that would lead to the modernization of the Philippines outmoded defense equipment.

However, left-leaning Filipinos have rejected the defense pact as part of the US plan to extend military might over the Philipines.

“Support from many lawyers groups worldwide is important in the battle against this attempt by the US for economic and political hegemony in Asia. We will continue to gather as many support from peace advocates and lawyers groups against the latest US initiative to escalate its presence in the Philippines,” he said.

Colmenares recalled that during the IADL discussions, certain legal luminaries from various countries stressed that the “crime of aggression does not only attach to the US but also the country that allows the use of its territory to attack other countries”

“While we condemn China’s aggressive acts in the West Philippine Sea, we will not tolerate aggressive acts of the US which will subject the Filipino people to retaliatory attacks by the many enemies of the US,” said Colmenares, who is a member of the House minority bloc.

4 officials gun for PAF

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 20): 4 officials gun for PAF

The change of command of the Philippine Air Force is set on April 25 at the Fernando Air Base in Lipa City, Batangas.

PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said there are four candidates for the top PAF post but no official announcement has yet been released on who will replace retiring PAF chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz.

Military sources said Armed Forces’ Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs (J5) Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Delagado will be appointed as the next commanding general of PAF.

Delgado declined to comment on his reported appointment to PAF but confirmed there were four candidates including him for the position.

Dela Cruz’ retirement will soon be followed by the retirement of several other generals, such as Navy chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano on May 1, AFP Vice chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Alan Luga on May 12,  AFP-Civil Relations Service chief Brig. Gen. Rolando Jungco on May 26, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on July 20; Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda on August 17, Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rainer Cruz on Sept. 6 and Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Caesar Ordoyo on Sept. 8.

Albay in PH-US exercise

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 20): Leyte, Albay in PH-US exercise

AROUND 5,500 Filipino and American soldiers will participate in this year’s Balikatan exercises starting on May 5 in various venues in the country, including a series of humanitarian and civic assistance activities in Tacloban City in Leyte and Legazpi City and Guinobatan town in Albay.

Capt. Annalea Cazcarro, spokesman of the Balikatan exercises, said at least 2,500 American soldiers will arrive in the country for the annual large-scale training activity which starts on May 5.

Cazcarro said field training exercises will be held at the Naval Station San Miguel in San Antonio town in the province of Zambales.

Other training venues for this year’s Balikatan exercises are Fort Magsaysay, Clark Air Base, and Marine Base Ternate which are all in northern Philippines.

She said staff exercises focusing on humanitarian assistance and disaster response would be held in the western Philippine city of Puerto Princesa.

Balikatan 2014 (BK14) organizers have earlier booked about 400 hotel rooms in Legazpi for their civil military operations 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 had 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.

2 militiamen wounded in Zamboanga del Norte attack

From GMA News (Apr 19): 2 militiamen wounded in Zamboanga del Norte attack 

At least two members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit were injured after armed men attacked a detachment of the Army's 20th Special Force Detachment in Zamboanga del Norte Friday night, a radio report said Saturday.

Bombo Radyo cited a report from detachment patrol base commander Cpl. Jelmer Haraji showing the attack occurred at Barangay Pange in Siayan town at about 7:30 p.m. Friday.

It identified the wounded CAFGU personnel as Marcial Sinto Seguyo, 50, and Jhunny Seguyo Fabillar.

The two were wounded in the knees by bullets from an M-16 rifle.

An initial investigation showed the two CAFGUs were returning to camp after getting the batteries for their handheld radio sets when armed men attacked the detachment.

This triggered a fire fight that lasted several minutes, after which the attackers fled toward Barangay Labangon in Dumingag town in Zamboanga del Sur.

As of posting time, GMA News Online was trying to contact the military to confirm the report.

Indigenous aspiration in Bangsamoro

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 20): Indigenous aspiration in Bangsamoro

THE “WALIYAN” (main ritualist) is the man garbed in an all-white outfit with headgear. PHOTO COURTESY OF INITIATIVES FOR INTERNATIONAL DIALOGUES
DAVAO CITY, Philippines–Before sunrise on Wednesday, the “waliyan,” priests of the Erumanen Manuvu indigenous communities in Bukidnon province and Carmen town, North Cotabato province, held a synchronized ritual to implore the gods that their appeal to President Aquino for respect of their rights will finally be heard in the Bangsamoro governance setup.

In the ritual called “pined redsa ne pengeni ngeni,” Datu Al Saliling of the Erumanen Manuvu in Eruman, Carmen, voiced out the anxiety felt by indigenous peoples (IP) that in the proposed Bangsamoro territory, their rights to the land—where their identity as a people begins and ends—would be glossed over.

“We are not rejecting the peace pact between the government and  MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). In fact, we are supporting it,” Saliling said. “But as much as possible, we should not be part of the Bangsamoro identity because we have quite an identity of our own.”

The indigenous peoples want recognition of their territorial rights to be put in writing in the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which will be passed by the Congress.

Their experiences in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which will be supplanted by the Bangsamoro, made them wary over the fate of their ancestral domain. Since the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (Ipra), or Republic Act No. 8371, was signed into law in October 1997, no certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) has been issued in the ARMM despite applications filed by the Teduray, Lambangian, Dulangan Manobo and Erumanen Manuvu.

Saliling said the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) had failed to issue any CADT in the ARMM in the last 17 years because all of the tribal concerns in the region were handled by the Office for Southern Cultural Communities (OSCC), an agency under the ARMM. Unlike the NCIP, the OSCC has no mandate to issue the titles.

It was only after the NCIP came up with an en banc resolution in January that the legalities over the issuance of CADTs were resolved, and the Teduray, Lambangian and Dulangan Manobo tribes in Central Mindanao started delineation proceedings over their ancestral domain claim, covering an area of 201,850 hectares, in the ARMM.

But Timuay Alim Bandara, head of an ancestral domain claimant organization in Central Mindanao, said his people were at the beginning of a long process that would include social preparation and actual land survey.

 “We’re still at the first stage of a three-stage process, the fastest of which will take about an entire year to finish,” he said.

Bandara remained hopeful despite funding problems and an OSCC statement questioning the NCIP move that the latter had overlapped its jurisdiction in the ARMM.

Timuay Macapantao Manamba, chair of the NCIP provincial delineation team, said his office intended to finish the delineation proceedings as fast as it could. He said that for the first time in 17 years, the NCIP finally showed the political will to implement the Ipra within the ARMM.

Earlier, indigenous peoples living in areas covered by the proposed Bangsamoro had asked the President why the Ipra, or the law that ensures the recognition and protection of IP rights in the country, was not mentioned in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and other documents signed in the peace pact with MILF.

Leaders of the Teduray, Lambangian, Dulangan and other tribes appealed to the President in a letter to interfere in what they called the “problematic” implementation of the Ipra in the ARMM.

“We believe that our rights won’t be significantly entrenched in the BBL  since the Ipra, which is supposed to be a national law and thereby set as the minimum standard for any legal reforms, has obviously been put aside,” they said.

Their assertion of their territories within the proposed Bangsamoro area is only an affirmation of their kinship to Mamalu, the ancestor of the Tedurays and other non-Islamized tribes, they said. Mamalu  made a sacred pact over the delineation of their land with Tabunaway, his brother, who had converted into Islam and became an ancestor of the Islamized tribes of Central Mindanao.

That pact  also allowed them to live in peace and harmony in the land.
“The sacred pact was made and sealed by the highest form of ritual called the ‘safa,’” Timuay Bandara said.

“Although they (MILF and the government) actually signed the peace pact, we are actually already living it, day after day, for years,” Saliling said.

In their open letter to the President, the IP leaders said the government and MILF talks also touched on their very own ancestral domains, natural resources and people.

“When this latter phase all started, something we felt was already missing and wrong,” the letter said. “The framework and final agreements may have answered consensus points for the Moro people, but it raised a lot of crucial questions for us indigenous peoples.”

By not including the Ipra in the agreement, they said, the government seemed to have “surrendered our rights to a political entity, which has yet to prove its mantle to govern.”

“Isn’t it that by empowering and providing us our rights to govern our own territory, exercise our culture, and recognizing that we are distinct peoples part of the overall peace process?” they asked. “But where are we in the entire picture? Are we talking about a different peace in the Bangsamoro?”

3 kidnappers captured in Sibugay raid

From the Philippine Star (Apr 20): 3 kidnappers captured in Sibugay raid

Police arrested an alleged sub-leader and two members of a syndicate tagged in the kidnapping of two foreign missionaries, in a recent raid in Zamboanga Sibugay, officials reported yesterday.

Abral Abdusalam, the alleged sub-leader, and his companions – Rating Hadjirul and Kismir Hadjirul, alias Mamoy – were arrested at their safehouse in Barangay Timbang-Timbang, Alicia town on Monday, said Senior Inspector Joseph Ortega, spokesman for the Region 9 police.

Abdusalam and his brother Waning were said to be responsible for the kidnapping of Fr. Giancarlo Bossi and Fr. Michael Sinnott in 2007 and 2009, respectively.

Bossi was snatched in Payao town, Zamboanga Sibugay while Sinnott in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur.

Aside from the two priests, the suspects were said to be responsible for the kidnapping of three public school teachers in Naga town in Zamboanga Sibugay.

Authorities said Abdusalam has a standing arrest warrant for kidnapping with ransom and serious illegal detention.

The raiding team recovered an M16 rifle, a fragmentation grenade, military and police uniforms, and mobile phones from the suspects.

Ortega said the suspects have pending warrants for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Kidnapped engineer released in Sulu

From Rappler (Apr 19): Kidnapped engineer released in Sulu

Bonnie Salinas and his wife were abducted by 5 unidentified armed men in Jolo last February 16

An engineer who was kidnapped along with his wife in Jolo, Sulu in February was released on Sunday evening, April 19.

Bonifacio "Bonnie" Salinas, an engineer working for the Jolo Water District, is now with his family after he was freed by his captors at around 8 pm, according to police.

His wife, Claire, was released ahead of him – on March 21.

The couple were abducted by 5 unidentified armed men in Kasalamatan Village, Brgy San Raymundo in Jolo last February 16, the police said.

An Inquirer report at the time of the abduction quoted 2nd Marine Brigade spokersperson Capt Ryan Lacuesta as saying that members of the Abu Sayyaf Group were allegedly behind it.

Japan, US pledge to boost ASEAN's marine surveillance capabilities

Posted to InterAksyon (Apr 19): Japan, US pledge to boost ASEAN's marine surveillance capabilities

Japan and the United States will pledge to jointly help Southeast Asian nations boost their marine surveillance capabilities, a newspaper said Saturday, as tensions over territorial disputes in the region simmer.

US President Barak Obama will discuss the issue with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit to Japan next week. A deal is expected to be included in the joint statement signed by both leaders and issued after the summit meeting, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

Under the planned accord, the two countries are expected to offer patrol vessels to members of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), the mass-circulation daily said, citing unnamed sources.

They will also agree to train ASEAN coastguards and help the countries develop an information-sharing system against pirates and suspicious ships in the region, the newspaper said.

The Japan-US initiative is aimed at helping ASEAN members not only take effective measures against pirates and natural disasters but also boost their deterrence capacity against China's assertive claim to disputed territories, it added.

"Improving ASEAN's ocean surveillance capability will benefit Japan and the United States," a Japanese government official said, according to Yomiuri.

China and Japan are at loggerheads over the ownership of a string of islands in the East China Sea, while Beijing is also in dispute with several nations over territory in the South China Sea, which it claims almost in its entirety.

Philippine chief peace negotiator urges MILF to help secure release of kidnap victims

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Apr 19): Philippine chief peace negotiator urges MILF to help secure release of kidnap victims

Philippine government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer on Saturday asked the assistance of all sectors including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to give kidnap victims their best Easter gift ever: freedom from captivity.

“This year alone, 23 kidnapping cases were recorded in Basilan, Sulu, Zamboanga and Lanao provinces involving around 30 victims,” she said. “Let us join hands in redeeming them from a most terrible fate of being held hostage.”

“In the last three years, there were nearly 100 cases of abductions of children as young as a year old, students, businessmen, foreigners, journalists, senior citizens, barangay officials, and teachers. Many of these kidnap victims are still in captivity while some have been killed,” Ferrer said.

On April 11, military operations were undertaken in Barangay Silangkum and Baguindan in Tipo-Tipo town in Basilan against the Abu Sayyaf Group, believed responsible for the recent abduction of a 21-year old female from Zamboanga City. The same bandit group has been extorting money from the contractor building the circumferential road in the province.

MILF-ASG connections

According to AFP reports, nine ASG members were killed during the firefight. Among them was a certain Nur Espital, who had been identified as a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Three other alleged MILF members, including a certain Imamul Mande, were wounded.

Said MILF members are connected by affinity to Puruji Indama, the top leader of the ASG and one of the most wanted men in the country, said Ferrer, citing reports from the government’s ceasefire mechanisms. Puruji is charged with several cases of murder and kidnappings.

The four casualties affiliated with the MILF  closed ranks with their family members in the ASG during the firefight.

Stop impunity

“As an organization that signed the peace agreement, the MILF must not tolerate the criminal acts of any of their individual members” said Ferrer. “They must do their part in arresting the impunity long enjoyed by these unscrupulous individuals.”

She said the MILF leadership should ask their supporters who are intricately involved with the ASG to choose between war and peace.

“They should expel from their ranks those who reject peace and are directly or indirectly abetting the hostage-taking and preventing development to set in,” she said. “The peace process should not be used to shield criminals from their accountability for their crimes against innocent civilians.”

Renewed commitment

Tipo-Tipo has been the site of many horrendous encounters between government forces and armed groups. Many lives have been lost on all sides. Several infrastructure projects are ongoing in the area but these have been hampered by the volatile situation.

A meeting among the ceasefire bodies and the Ad-Hoc Joint Action Group tasked to coordinate criminal interdiction is reportedly scheduled to be held after the Lenten holidays.

“We expect both parties to renew their commitment and to come up with concrete operational guidelines that would allow them to effectively work together in securing the people’s safety and well-being in Basilan and elsewhere in Mindanao,” said Ferrer.

The MILF, the country's largest Muslim rebel group, has recently signed a peace deal with Manila.

2 army militias wounded in Zambo Norte clash

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Apr 19): 2 army militias wounded in Zambo Norte clash

Two pro-government militias were wounded in a clash with a group of armed men in Zamboanga del Norte’s Siayan town, police said Saturday.

Police said Marcial Seguyo and Jhunny Fabillar, were shot in the legs during the firefight in the village of Pange. The duo was returning to their detachment when gunmen attacked them and sparking a brief fire fight.

Both militias, who are assigned with the 20th Special Force CAA Detachment, were brought to their base and given first aid before being evacuated to hospital.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack.