Monday, May 5, 2014

Army agrees to pullout in Davao Norte

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 6): Army agrees to pullout in Davao Norte

After top military officers agreed to pull out soldiers from barangay (village) halls and civilian facilities in Talaingod, Davao del Norte province, over 1,000 Talaingod Manobo people returned to their town over the weekend after fleeing from counterinsurgency operations in March.

A militant human rights group, however, expressed concern for the safety of the “lumad” or indigenous people and suggested that a hot line be installed for them to report abuses.

“We enjoin the public to keep in touch and be aware of what is happening in Talaingod,” said Prof. Aya Ragrario of Defend Talaingod, Save Pantaron Range Alliance.

The military withdrawal from 11 sitios in Barangay Palma Gil came after a meeting among the evacuees, officials of the Eastern Mindanao Command and Davao Del Norte Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario on April 29. Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte facilitated the meeting.

However, Lt. Col. Jake Obligado, chief of civil-military operations of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said the immediate clearing of troops did not mean that they were barred from going to the sitios. “That is our mandate; no one can prevent us from going there,” he said after the dialogue.

The Talaingod Manobo people moved out of harm’s way as soldiers reportedly conducted air strikes during an intensified offensive against communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

Paquibato situation

A similar humanitarian problem has risen in the city’s Paquibato District but Duterte opposes a military withdrawal. “I will not allow the pullout of government troops because that is their job—to go where the communists are,” the mayor said.

But Duterte asked the soldiers to stop conducting a community “census,” questioning residents about their family members, organizational affiliations and whereabouts, and to leave barangay halls, day-care centers and other civilian facilities.

“I will ask them to stop questioning everybody, which is already scaring people in the communities,” he said. “If they want information, I’ll ask them to coordinate with the barangay captains instead.”

But the local leaders also have their grievances against the soldiers.

Celso Bughaw, barangay chair of Lumiad, told Duterte during a dialogue that the soldiers had told him that he owed his position to the NPA.

Aida Seira, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in the area and Paquibato District Peasant Alliance, said her husband, who has been working in Singapore, had been suspected of having joined the rebels because he was no longer seen in the community.

What Went Before: On and off talks with the communist rebels

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 6): What Went Before: On and off talks with the communist rebels
In the last 27 years, the government and the communist rebels have been holding peace talks on and off, with negotiations getting suspended several times.

On April 1, Luis Jalandoni, chair of the peace panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), said that the communist insurgents had long been calling for the resumption of peace talks, contrary to statements attributed to government peace negotiator Alex Padilla that the rebels revived calls for a return to the negotiating table only after the arrest of spouses Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma Austria, alleged top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Jalandoni, in an e-mail statement, said he and Padilla met on Feb. 27 and Padilla at that time knew that the insurgents wanted to resume the talks. The Tiamzons and five other alleged members of the CPP central committee were arrested three weeks later in Carcar City, south of Cebu City.

CPP reversal

The insurgents’ recent call for the resumption of peace talks was a reversal of their statement in December last year.

Last Dec. 26, the CPP, on its 45th anniversary, declared it would no longer pursue the negotiations because of the Aquino administration’s “unwillingness to negotiate a just peace.”

“It has no choice but to wait for the next regime to engage in serious negotiations,” the CPP said.

Reds ‘killed’ talks

Despite the party’s declaration that it would not be returning to the negotiating table during the Aquino administration, the government said late last year that it remained committed to forging peace with the communist insurgents.

According to Jose Ma. Sison, self-exiled founder of the CPP, it was the Aquino administration that decided to terminate peace negotiations, but government peace process adviser Teresita Deles said it was the NDFP, the political arm of the CPP, that “killed” the talks because of its insistence on preconditions before negotiations could resume.

In February 2011, the two parties met in Norway but failed to reach a settlement, particularly on such issues as the release of detained communist insurgents and the declaration of a longer ceasefire. The peace process has not moved since then.

In October 2010, the Aquino administration expressed desire to revive the negotiations with the formation of a new panel to talk with the NDFP and the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the CPP.

Past failures

During the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the peace talks also broke down.

In June 2001, the government unilaterally suspended the negotiations in protest against the assassination, allegedly by the NPA, of Cagayan Rep. Rodolfo Aguinaldo and Quezon Rep. Marcial Punzalan.

In 2002, then Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jose Mabanta said a faction led by Tiamzon, who heads the NPA, opposed peace talks with the government, adding that the leadership struggle was blocking the resumption of peace talks.

In 2004, negotiations were scuttled anew with the NDFP accusing the Arroyo administration of “sabotaging” the talks by pressing for the insurgents’ surrender upon signing of a final peace agreement.

Terrorist tag

Jalandoni said in a 2005 interview that the government wanted the NDFP to sign a “prolonged ceasefire” before the talks resumed, as well as a final peace agreement that would mean the surrender of the NPA.

He also accused the government of being behind the listing of the NDFP as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union in 2002, and of using the terrorist tag to force it to sign the agreement.

Jalandoni said the NDFP would rather wait for a new administration than resume talks with the “crumbling” Arroyo administration.

In June 2006, Arroyo declared an all-out war on the communist rebels and set aside P1 billion for the military and the police to crush the insurgency.

In early 2007, Jalandoni said Norway was again willing to host exploratory peace talks in Oslo, but the Philippine government insisted that the NDFP first agree to a ceasefire before talks could resume.

In July that year, both Jalandoni and Sison rejected a proposal for a three-year ceasefire as a condition for resuming the talks. This aimed to “crush” the communist insurgency without dealing with the roots of the conflict, they said.

Reds’ conditions
Sison said formal t
alks could resume only after the government did the following: stop extrajudicial killings, abductions, tortures, mass displacement of people and other human rights violations; stop the terrorist blacklisting of the CPP, NDFP and the NPA; and indemnify victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime.

In 2008, the government negotiating panel asked the NDFP to agree to a ceasefire as a condition but was rejected anew. The NDFP feared that as soon as it approved a prolonged ceasefire, the Arroyo administration would deem all previously signed agreements superseded, and surrender negotiations would take the place of substantive talks on basic reforms.

Rebels claim to hold soldier in Davao del Norte

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 6): Rebels claim to hold soldier in Davao del Norte
Communist guerrillas claimed Tuesday to have in their custody a soldier they linked to illegal logging and drugs.

Aris Francisco, the New People’s Army spokesperson in the north Davao and south Agusan areas, said Cpl.  Rogelio Rosales of the 60th Infantry Battalion was helping transport illegally cut logs when he was “arrested” by NPA guerrillas in Barangay (village) Florida in Kapalong, Davao del Norte, last Saturday.

“A sachet of shabu drugs was also found in his possession, proof that soldiers who are coddling big loggers in the province were also into the illegal drugs trade,” Francisco said.

He said the soldier was working for some politicians and retired police officers who make up the so-called Big Four syndicate involved in the illegal cutting of trees in the provinces of Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur.

“To protect the remaining forest cover, campaign for reforestation, stop abusive large-scale logging, and secure the livelihood of the masses through sustainable communal farming, the NPA Subregional Command strongly enforces its total log ban policy,” Francsico said.

The capture of the soldier was announced after the NPA freed 39 miners seized in Compostela Valley over the weekend.

Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy said all the hostages were small-scale gold miners operating between the towns of Maragusan and Mabini.

Uy said the NPA used the civilians as human shields to escape a military operation in the gold-rich mountains near the two towns.

Authorities arrest NPA top leader in Pasig

From the Sun Star (May 6): Authorities arrest NPA top leader in Pasig

A TOP leader of the New People's Army (NPA) was arrested by the police and military in Pasig City Tuesday, a radio report said.

The arrested NPA leader was identified as Sandy Malaca, who is facing a double murder case, a Bombo Radyo report said.

The police said Malaca, known also as Kumander Jamay, is the suspect in the killing of two troopers last February 9, 2007 in Barangay Inuyanan, Bula town in Camarines Sur province.

Lahad Datu: Gunmen flee with Chinese national to southern Philippines

From the Star Online (May 6): Lahad Datu: Gunmen flee with Chinese national to southern Philippines

KOTA KINABALU: Five gunmen in military fatigues holding a fish farm manager from China are believed to have fled to southern Philippines after firing shots at pursuing Malaysian security forces.

It was learned that the five men armed with M.16 rifles in a fibreglass white speedboat made its way into the Wonderful Terrace Sdn Bhd fish farm when the guard questioned their presence in the area at about 11.45am on Tuesday.

However, the armed men ordered the guard to get inside the boat and during the commotion, Chinese manager Yang Zailin, 34, from Guangzou, came out to investigate at the farm, but was snatched by the gunmen.

The gunmen then forced the guard to jump out of the boat and they sped off towards international waters.
On being alerted, Malaysian security forces intercepted the gunmen near the Malaysian border island but the gunmen managed to flee into a reef area before crossing into the southern Philippines.

According to some officials, the gunmen fired several rounds at the pursing Malaysian security forces stationed in the area.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib, who earlier this morning briefed Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman on the latest incident, is expected to hold press conference later Tuesday.

It was earlier reported that the Chinese national was believed to have been kidnapped from the fish farm in Lahad Datu’s Silam, hardly 24-hours after pirates robbed fishermen in waters off Tanjung Labian.

This is the second kidnapping in nearly a month.

On April 2, Chinese tourist Gao Hua Yuan, 29, and resort worker Marcy Darawan, 40, were snatched from the Singamata Reef Resort in Semporna.

The two are being held by their gunmen demanding ransoms in southern Philippines.

Another kidnap in Sabah

From the Free Malaysia Today (May 6): Another kidnap in Sabah

A Chinese national is believed to have been kidnapped from a fish farm in Silam, Sabah.

PETALING JAYA: Barely 24-hours after pirates robbed fishermen in the waters off Tanjung Labuan, a Chinese national is believed to have been kidnapped from a fish farm in Lahad Datu’s Silam, Sabah.

News reports claim that gunmen grabbed the Chinese national, identified as Yang Zailin, who is a manager of Wonderful Terrace Sdn Bhd, a company operating a fish farm in the area, at about 2.45am on Tuesday.

No further details were available as senior police and Esscom officials were at the scene and conducting follow up operations.

It is believed that the gunmen had fled towards the southern Philippines.

Last month, kidnappers grabbed a Chinese tourist and a Filipino worker from a Sabah island resort.

Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipina resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, were taken from the Singamata Reef Resort in a late-night raid by a group of gunmen.

The kidnappers based in the southern Philippines had demanded more than US$11 million in ransom for the Chinese tourist.

The area off eastern Sabah is famed for its world-class scuba diving but also notorious for its lawlessness and kidnappings blamed on bandits from the Muslim southern Philippines.

The Philippine military said last week that the Abu Sayyaf, a small band of Islamic militants infamous for their ‘kidnappings for ransom’, are the prime suspects.

NPA releases remaining hostages in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 5): NPA releases remaining hostages in Compostela Valley


[Video: NPA releases remaining hostages in Compostela Valley]

New People’s Army guerrillas in Compostela Valley released three more hostages Monday after they freed 36 others Sunday.

The 39 are villagers from Mahayahay in Compostela Valley  who were seized by insurgents last Saturday, the military said.

Those released Monday  are three male adults, Major General Domingo Tutaan, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, said.  
Major General Domingo Tutaan. RYAN LEAGOGO/

Lieutenant Colonel Michael Logico, commander of the Philippine Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion, said that the three men were released after his troops surrounded the area where the rebels held them as hostages in Barangay (village) Maragusan.

Tutaan said that 20 guerrillas, 12 of them males and eight females, seized the 39 villagers  who are mostly small-scale miners last Saturday.
Of the 39, four are children with ages four months old to three years old, while two are female adults.

“The NPA is hiding under the cloaks of the civilians,” Tutaan said.

“Civilians are not combatants, these NPA do not have any regard for human law.”

Local officials, quoting victims’ account of the events, said the hostages were made to sign a logbook and were asked to carry wounded NPA rebels and the rebels’ personal belongings.

They said rebels probably used the miners as human shields to hold off the attack by the military’s 66th IB.

Joma Sison: I’m still willing to talk to Aquino

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 6): Joma Sison: I’m still willing to talk to Aquino

HONG KONG—Despite the arrest of two top communist leaders, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Ma. Sison on Sunday said he remained willing to meet with President Aquino to help jump-start the stalled peace talks with leftist insurgents.

Speaking through Skype to a forum in this Chinese special administrative region, Sison said the peace panels of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) could also meet “any time.”

“If President Aquino is willing to meet with me, I’m also willing to meet with him,” Sison told his audience, most of whom were domestic workers who filled the auditorium of the Duke of Windsor Social Service Building in Wan Chai district.

“The meeting, if it will [take place], should be helpful to the resumption of the peace negotiations. But I think the negotiating panels of both sides can very well meet any time,” he added.

In Manila, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said “any serious proposal toward resuming peace talks should be coursed through our third-party facilitator and not through the media.”

Deles was referring to Norway, which is brokering the peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP.

It was the second time that Sison spoke about his willingness to meet with President Aquino to revive peace talks with the communist insurgents following the administration’s successful peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim secessionist insurgent group in Mindanao.

The government and the MILF signed a permanent peace agreement on March 27, ending more than four decades of conflict that had cost more than 150,000 lives.

Tiamzons arrested

Earlier in March, Benito Tiamzon, the alleged CPP chair and head of the New People’s Army (NPA), and his wife, Wilma Austria, alleged CPP secretary general, and five other alleged communist insurgents were arrested by the military in Cebu province. The government has brought illegal weapons and multiple murder charges against them.

In 2012, Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas  proposed that Sison and Aquino meet in Vietnam but that did not push through.
“Ka Joma as founding chair of the CPP was willing to go if it would help the peace negotiations,” Luis Jalandoni, NDFP peace panel chair, told the same forum in Hong Kong.

Indefinite ceasefire

Jalandoni said the proposal was for Sison to meet with Aquino in Hanoi, similar to the meeting between the President and MILF chair Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo that led to 17 months of talks and a final peace agreement.

“But the talks regarding this did not prosper because the Aquino representatives wanted to have a unilateral, indefinite and simultaneous ceasefire leading to a permanent ceasefire without any guarantees for reforms like land reform and national industrialization,” Jalandoni said.

He said that the Norwegian government and peace advocates like former Sen. Wigberto “Bobby” Tañada had proposed that “informal talks” resume this month but Malacañang had yet to respond.

Jalandoni said the “informal talks” in Oslo might have to be reset to June.
“It was the proposal of the NDFP side supported by the  Norwegian government and personalities like former Sen. Bobby Tañada to have informal talks in Oslo [last month or this month],” he said.

“The possibility now of informal talks has been pushed to June as a better time.

But so far, the Aquino administration has not responded favorably to this proposal,” he added.

NDFP issues

Jalandoni said among the issues the NDFP  wanted to raise with the Philippine government were the arrests of the Tiamzons, Hacienda Luisita, the rehabilitation of coconut farmers affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) and the new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) with the United States.

“The Aquino administration has so far not responded. In fact, it has acted with negative action like the signing of the [Edca] and the arrest of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria,” he said.

“If the Aquino regime continues to remain deaf to the calls for peace negotiations with the NDFP, then the NDFP has no choice but to wait for the next administration,” Jalandoni added.

‘Unsinkable carrier’

Sison denounced the Edca as a “treasonous” deal with the United States that would turn the Philippines into the Americans’ “unsinkable aircraft carrier” in the western Pacific.

“It is a very deceptive kind of agreement. It speaks of rotating troops but these are rotating permanently,” Sison said.

“Practically, the entire country has been turned into an unsinkable aircraft carrier of the US, posing challenges to neighboring countries,” he added.

Gov’t Forces Foil NPA Plans in Negros

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (May 5): Gov’t Forces Foil NPA Plans in Negros

Government forces under the 11th Infantry "Lapu-Lapu" Battalion of the Army repelled the New People’s Army’s (NPA) atrocious plans when they clashed with the rebel group shortly before 9 a.m. Friday at Barangay Amontay in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental.

Government troops were on community security patrol in the barangay when they received reports from the residents of the presence of lawless elements (LLEs) who were reportedly threatening and intimidating civilians to give in to their extortion demands.

While responding to the report, the troops were fired upon by about four LLEs believed to be members of CPP-NPA’s Sentro de Grabidad, Laragang Gerilya 1 of Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros (SDG, LG1, KR-N).

The troops fired back and firefight ensued for twenty (20) twenty minutes.
The encounter resulted to the recovery of one (1) Cal .357 revolver pistol with six (6) live ammunition, homemade shotgun with one (1) magazine and two (2) live ammunition and one (1) backpack containing subversive documents of high intelligence value.

No reported casualty on the government forces while the NPA believed to have some wounded as the pursuing troopers saw bloodstains along the LLEs’ route of withdrawal.

"We acknowledge the efforts of the residents of Binalbagan, Negros Occidental for providing us the report and for ensuring that their community is away from any threat and intimidation of these lawless elements," Brigadier General Francisco Patrimonio, Commander of 302nd Brigade said in a statement.

Meanwhile, last April 30, 2014, troops of Alpha Company, 12th CAFGU Battalion while on community peace and security patrol also repelled NPA atrocious plans when they encountered more or less seven (7) lawless armed elements of the CPP-NPA’s Larangang Gerilya 1, Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros (LG1, KR-N) at Sitio Bulabog 2, Brgy Tanlad, Tayasan, Negros Oriental.

The twenty (20) seconds encounter resulted to the recovery of one (1) Cal .45 and one (1) magazine loaded with six (6) live ammunition.

A firefight ensued for about 20 minutes.

IN PAMPLONA. Last April 3, 2014, troops of 79IB neutralized the remnant forces of the CPP-NPA in Negros Oriental when they figured in an encounter at Sitio Makasakasa, Brgy Balayong, Pamplona, Negros Oriental after receiving report from the civilians on the presence of lawless elements.

The encounter resulted to the recovery of six high powered firearms consist of five M16 Rifles, one attached with M203 grenade launcher, subversive documents and personal belonging.

Two NPA members were killed in the encounter while one firefight ensued for 20 minutes.

The encounter resulted to wounded Jessie Dacaldacal, Squad Leader of Squad 2 and Vice Commanding Officer of Sentro de Grabidad (SDG) Platoon, Southeast Front, Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros (SEF, KR-N) was captured by the troops.

Meanwhile, a certain Maribeth Lascunia recently gave up to the troops of 79IB after she was convinced by the soldiers to abandon the armed struggle and live peacefully with her family.

Lascunia alias Raylin/Antonina was the Head, Technical of the NPA’s Southeast Front (SEF), KR-N who was wounded in her left arm during the encounter on April 3. She was given proper medical attention by the "Masaligan" troopers on her sustained wound and ensured of her safety and security.

Lascunia is now on the process of availing the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the provincial government of Negros Oriental for former rebels.

BGen Patrimonio stressed that "These encounters were the result of reports coming from civilians in the communities about the presence of lawless armed elements who are extorting food and supplies and disturbing the peace and development situation in the countryside. The Army here in Negros is on top of the situation as this conflict especially here in Negros Oriental is manageable and on the favor of the government."

The province of Negros Oriental will be declared as manageable conflict-affected and development-ready province on May 7, 2014 after the CPP-NPA is rendered insignificant.

Likewise, the sustained peace and security operations of the 302nd Brigade with the active support of Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (NOPPO) and the uninterrupted economic development activities spearheaded by the Provincial Government of Negros Oriental has successfully denied the recovery and further expansion efforts of the CPP-NPA in the province.

"We respond to the desire of the people of Negros to live in a peaceful community away from communist affectation and once and for all attain just and lasting peace towards a speedy development of the two provinces in Negros Island," Major General Aurelio Baladad, 3ID Commander said in a statement.

Baladad also stressed that "We remain committed to secure the communities from lawless armed elements and further intensify our peace and security operations. Together with other stakeholders in the spirit of Bayanihan, we will pursue our goal for Western Visayas to be free from insurgency."

"We call on the other members of the CPP-NPA to lay down their arms, abandon the armed struggle and live peacefully together with their families," Baladad added.

Farmer ‘Abducted’ by Soldiers Escapes

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (May 5): Farmer ‘Abducted’ by Soldiers Escapes

A farmer who was "abducted by suspected assets of the 47th IB accompanied and instigated by soldiers," has escaped from his safehouse-detention center in Kabankalan City.

In an interview with newly-elected Kilusang Magbubukid-Negros Chapter, secretary-general Felipe Levy Gelle, he declared in the interview with "Tungkaron Ta Ini," radio program over radio station DYRL and in NDB/NNF interview, that a few days after Benny Catipan was abducted by the suspects commanded and directed by officers of the 47th IB which is operating in Southern Negros and part of Central Negros abducted Benny Catipan was able to escape from his safehouse-informal-detention center because the key to his handcuff attached to the chain which held him was on and left when he would be eating his meals and the soldiers usually unchain him.

One time at a still unspecified date during his detention as if he were an animal, he unlocked his handcuff attached to the chain, and escaped from 47th IB illegal detention safehouse.

During the time he was chained and subjected to intense tactical interrogation, the soldiers repeatedly asked him where the rebels, the NPAs "camp" was located. But he also repeatedly denied he knew its location because he simply did not know.

Catipan then proceeded to his house in Bunsad, Buenavista Village to inform his family he had escaped and since then has gone into hiding, Gelle said.

Today, sectoral groups including KM-Negros along with the human rights alliance, Karapatan-Negros will carry out a Factfinding Mission (FFM) to formally determine Catipan’s abduction case including several other complaints of human rights violations in Southern Negros and parts of Central Negros, Gelle added.

Meanwhile, Gelle announced that they are on the way to consolidating and strengthening KMP-Negros which formally held an assembly last week with over 100 farmers all over the island in attendance.

Aside from his elected secretary-general, others chosen by the assembly were Emmanuel Correjado, KMP-Negros chair; Alex Agraviador, vice-chairman; Nancy Vingno, treasurer, Rodrigo Herrere, auditor while a council with representatives from various chapters island-wide and in various districts were also chosen. Two were chosen from the Bago-Murcia district; La Castellana and Magallona towns, including Himamaylan City, two for the far south district and Northern Negros; two from Negros Oriental representing Dumaguete City and Guihulngan town and who come from the farmer’s group, KAUGMAON.

The assembly also approved resolutions against landgrabbing and for the implementation of a genuine agrarian reform program with a House of Representatives bill, number 252 now pending, Gelle declared.*

‘PHL needs US to counter China’

From the Business Mirror (May 5): ‘PHL needs US to counter China’

A MEMBER of the House of Representatives is supportive of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) that the country recently signed with the United States, given the country’s current tiff with China over territorial issues.
Liberal Party Rep. Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa said the House is looking at the agreement, which allows the rotation of a bigger number of US troops into the country, based on need, and not out of legal question as being raised by some members of the Senate, particularly Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
“I definitely support this agreement because as chairman of the national defense committee, I am not only representing interest of the people in Muntinlupa. I am representing an interest, national in scope, and that is security of this country,” Biazon said.
Biazon was at the Armed Forces General Headquarters in Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Monday, to witness the formal opening of the Philippines-US Exercise Balikatan 2014 involving more than 5, 000 Filipino and American troops. The war games and accompanying civic action activities will last for nearly two weeks and will be held in different areas around the country.
The Philippines and the US signed the Edca on Monday last week. The agreement will pave the way for the country’s hosting of a bigger number of US soldiers and their equipment and other materiel in selected military camps and bases.
Officials justified the signing of the agreement, saying it was an assurance against China’s aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) or even from a possible attack by Beijing.
Biazon, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces and a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1961, agreed that there may be differences in view among the legislators over the agreement, but he said he was looking at it based on the need and not out of constitutionality. “The concern of the Senate is the constitutionality of the agreement, in reference to the power of the Senate to ratify any agreement, however, to me, as chairman of the defense committee in the House of Representatives, I am going to take a look at it on the question of need,” Biazon said.
“I consider the acts of China in blocking our resupply [ship to Ayungin Shoal], in driving our fishermen [from Bajo de Masinloc], as acts that put to risk the lives of our fishermen... that put to risk the lives of our soldiers in Ayungin Shoal,” he added.
Biazon added that the agreement “does not in any way violate the Constitution or even need a ratification by the Senate. “There had been debates in the past about the need for any agreement whether you call it executive or international agreement to be ratified by the senate. At this point, I do not think there is a need to ratify,” he said.
“The records of proceedings of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 is very clear. If an agreement will contain, one, the issue of political in nature, if the agreement is permanent or if the agreement requires changes in existing policies. Definitely, any one of that will require any agreement to be ratified by the Senate,” he added.
Biazon said the Edca is not also permanent, having a coverage period of only 10 years, and it does not even change of the existing policies. “This [Edca] is designed only to enhance the three existing treaties between the Philippines and the United States,” he said.

NDF assails secrecy in drafting Edca, says sovereignty violated

From the Business Mirror (May 5): NDF assails secrecy in drafting Edca, says sovereignty violated

The National Executive Committee of the National Democratic Front (NEC-NDF) has described the recently-approved Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) as “a flagrant trampling of Philippines sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
In an official statement, the NEC- NDF said the manner of negotiations between the Philippines and the US was sub rosa, with the people not knowing that Filipino negotiators were doing and even Congress not being apprised about a so-called agreement that runs afoul of the Senate decision in September 1991 to kick the US military bases out of Philippines territory.
“Negotiated in secrecy, preventing the Filipino people from knowing its contents until after it was signed during the visit of US President Barack Obama on April 28, 2014, the Edca allows US military and civilian personnel and contractors and all kinds of materiel unimpeded entry and use of so-called Agreed Locations rent-free anywhere in the country,” NEC-NDF said.
“To cite a few provisions of the Edca to show the indecent extent of privilege given to the US, Article IV, Number 3 of Edca: Equipment, Supplies and Materiel, provides, ‘The prepositioned materiel shall be for the exclusive use of US. The US forces shall have control over the access to and disposition of such prepositioned materiel and shall have the unencumbered right to remove such prepositioned materiel at any time from the territory of the Philippines,’” it added.
Furthermore, Number 4 of the same Article 4 stipulates: “US forces and US contractors [companies and firms, and their employees, under contract or subcontract to or on behalf of the US Department of Defense] shall have unimpeded access to Agreed Locations for all matters relating to the prepositioning and storage of defense equipment, supplies and materiel, including delivery, management, inspection, use, maintenance, and removal of such equipment, supplies and materiel.”
From such provisions in Edca, the NDF said, “It is clear that the US forces can undertake numerous activities which can amount to using the Philippines as a launching pad for US wars of aggression.”
NDF said it will oppose Edca, adding that “the NDF program firmly upholds the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines. It is resolutely against the US bases and calls for the abrogation of unequal agreements such as US-RP Military Assistance Agreement, the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement and Mutual Logistics Support Agreement. The NDF program declares that no foreign power shall be allowed to set up military bases on Philippines soil or use Philippines territory as a launching pad for military operations abroad.”

Opinion: More to Jolo than just kidnapping

Opinion column from the Star Online (May 5): More to Jolo than just kidnapping

The world thinks that the Tausugs (Suluks) are barbarians. There are 500,000 Tausugs and the 1,000 who are with the Abu Sayyaf give them a bad name.

HOW safe is Jolo?” I asked Dr Raden Ikbala, a 49-year-old Tausug, who leads an anti-kidnapping NGO in Jolo island, on the night before I flew to the Phi­lippines’ cross-border kidnap capital.

We were having dinner in a restaurant in Zamboanga City in mainland Mindanao and about 195km from Jolo island.

“You will have two policemen escorting you when you are in Jolo,” he said.
“Is that enough?” I said, as I was a bit apprehensive of revisiting Jolo island.
In 2000, I visited it several times and my memory of the island is that of terror and delicious seafood.

I’ve travelled to the hinterland twice to interview the kidnappers and hostages of the Sipadan abductions. I’ve also followed a military convoy when three Malaysians were held hostage after they were abducted from Pandanan island off Semporna.

“I’ll call to ask for more escorts for you,” said Dr Ikbala, one of the organisers of the Bangsa Sug Against Kidnapping and Other Crimes (Bassakao).

“I think two is ok,” said my pseudo-macho alter ego.

Still worried, since there were unverified reports that locals were kidnapped in Jolo town every other day in February and March, I said, “but how about the spate of kidnappings?”

“When the police are visible in Jolo town, there is no more kidnappings,” he said.

The next morning, with apprehension, I took a 40-minute flight from Zamboanga City to Jolo island. I was to be on the island for three days to write about the business of cross-border kidnappings.

At the departure hall, I observed the passengers.

“Mama, why no hotdog on a stick?” a kid whined to her middle-class mother wearing a headscarf. And my heart was relieved that there was a middle-class community in Jolo, which is in Sulu, the poorest province in the Philippines.

At the Jolo airport, my 32-year-old facilatator, Noenyrie H. Asiri, greeted me with his crew and two policemen.

I was impressed with my security escort. They looked like they were part of SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team. Aejan Hussam was armed with an M16 with a grenade launcher and a 9mm Taurus pistol and Ahmed Shinoda carried a shotgun (he preferred it, as it was suitable for short-range gunbattles).

First stop was the Jolo fish market as my facilatator was still fixing my appointments. There I was introduced to a brother of Sultan Esmail Kiram, who is one of the claimants of the throne of the Sulu Sultanate.

Actually, as Noenyrie joked, you could easily bump into a Sultan of Sulu in Jolo town as almost every other day someone installs himself as a sultan.
“Is it safe in Jolo?” I asked Shinoda, my security escort.

“You are safe with us,” he said. “If you have a policeman with you, they will not kidnap you. Even kidnappers are afraid to die.”

“What happens if I don’t have a security escort?” I said.

“By now the Abu Sayyaf spotters would have already informed someone in the mountains that there is a potential target in Jolo town,” said Shinoda, a 30-year-old Tausug.

“How about outside Jolo town?” I said.

“Outside of Jolo town we can’t assure you of your safety. There they have bigger arms and if we were to go there we have to go in a big team,” he said.

“There” is the stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf. It is in the hinterland of Jolo island where most of the hostages kidnapped in Semporna and around southern Philippines are held.

I bought freshly caught tuna and lapu lapu from the fish market and had it cooked for lunch. It was one of the most delicious simple dishes that I ever had. But I noticed my “entourage” was not too impressed with my lunch.

Later I found out that they were rather bored with fish as they ate it every day.

“Only rich people eat meat every day,” a photographer told me. “Fish is cheap here. About 30 peso (RM2.20) for a whole fish.”

That night I treated them to a meat dinner.

The dinner conversation was on how the world viewed Jolo island and its mostly Tausug population (who are called Suluks in Sabah).

“The world thinks that the Tausugs are barbarians. There are maybe 500,000 Tausugs and the 1,000 who are with the Abu Sayyaf give us a bad name. There are good things happening in Sulu but the media does not highlight them,” said Aejan, a 33-year-old Tausug policeman.

“Probably that is what most Ma­­laysians think of Jolo,” I told them. “They think it is a lawless place as there are many kidnappings here. Their impression is fair as even lo­­cals are afraid they would be kidnapped in Jolo town.”

In my two nights in Jolo town, my impression of the locals changed. They are like you and me. They are into taking selfies and some are into graphic sex chat on Facebook messaging.

However, Jolo town is not your ordinary town.

When the Philippines marines go grocery shopping here, they are armed to the teeth.   
I saw a marine with grenades strapped on one man’s body. It was kind of overkill for someone going shopping, I thought.

It’s a normal sight as after all there is a terrorist group involved in the business of kidnapping in the hinterland.

Next week: Life in Jolo where kidnappers and police play a game of cat and mouse. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

MILF: Bangsamoro peace rally appeals for passage of BBL by Philippine Congress without delay

Posted to the MILF Website (May 5): Bangsamoro peace rally appeals for passage of BBL by Philippine Congress without delay

Warmth support of peace advocates and people of all walks-of-life in their clamor for early enactment of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was manifested by hundreds of thousands of participants that joined peace rallies held all over Mindanao on Sunday, May 4 and today, May 5 at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City. 
“The rallies were primarily a collective call to the members of the two Chambers of Congress to deliberate and act favorably on the draft BBL so that finally, progress and lasting peace can be attained in the region”, said a representative of the Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP).

Professor Raby Angkal, MAP spokesman said that if congress will not pass the BBL as crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) it will be a big loss for the country in terms of political and economic aspects and so frustrating and traumatic for the Bangsamoro people.

“We strongly appeal to the House of Representatives and Senate to immediately deliberate on the draft BBL and pass it as enabling act for Bangsamoro otherwise it’s a great loss for the Philippine government… this is of national interest,” Angkal said.

“It is high time we move together; together, we support the BBL; and together, let us urge Congress not to delay the passage of the BBL,” he said.

Angkal said further, “This is a long awaited dream of hundreds of thousands of people in Mindanao in today’s gathering”. “This symbolizes the unity of the people in Mindanao”, Angkal continued saying

Cotabato City Vice Mayor Hadji Abdullah Andang, in his speech at the Cotabato City Plaza recalled the past history of the town that once became a witnessed to the sufferings of the Moro people during the arrival of the colonizers but were able to defend their freedom through the leadership of Sultan Kudarat—a Moro great and just warrior.

“…Cotabato City though it is not part of ARMM but this time the people decided to join the Bangsamoro Government,” he stressed.

Former and incumbent Moro politicians, traditional and religious leaders in Lanao, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Pagadian, Cotabato City, Jolo and Isabela City who are sympathetic to the GPH-MILF peace process were in attendance in different venues and expressed their full support to the BBL and the upcoming Bangsamoro government.

Mayor Bai Zahara Upahm Ampatuan of Shariff Aguak municipality said that even if she was not invited she attended in the peace gathering saying, “I am a Bangsamoro, therefore, I must attend here,” she said.

“The BBL is not only for the Muslims, it is for the Christians and IPs as well,” one speaker said.

 In Jolo, Sulu and Davao City, some leaders and members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) also participated in the peace rally according to MAP secretariat. 

 In western Mindanao, Zamboanga City officials revoked the permit-to-rally previously granted to rallyists that included delegates from Zamboanga Sibugay to be held at Plaza Pershing on Sunday, May 4.

“This is very frustrating for a civilize government denying people to peacefully assemble and curtailing their freedom of expression,” Hadji Mursid Mascud of MAP said.

MindaNews quoted Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar telling reporters that ‘security risk’ was the reason for the cancellation of the permit.

“As mayor of the city, I am accountable to the people and so my decisions will have to be for the greater interest of the majority. I cannot take the risk of allowing the rally given the situation we have gone through in the September siege. The security of the people is paramount,” she told a press briefing Sunday morning.

MAP reported to that an SMS reached the MAP Media Committee from Zamboanga City’s participant to the rally saying: “…In the name of peace, nobody could stop us from seeking peace and development in Mindanao and the entire region”.

A community leader in Zamboanga Sibugay also opined through that the cancellation of their permit to rally will not in any way affect the GPH-MILF peace agreement but rather would intensify the Moro peoples’ quest for a comprehensive, peaceful and lasting solution to the Mindanao question.

In the MAP press statement stated that they do not want the negotiation to fail.

“We want the conflict that brings untold suffering and miseries to the people of Mindanao be put to stop immediately…failure of the negotiations or even by prolonging it further will open the opportunities for the spoilers of peace to strengthen their ranks”, it added.

The MAP reported that when the participants from Zamboanga peninsula who were not permitted to hold their peaceful rally in Zamboanga City moved to Isabela City, Basilan and joined the rally in downtown area.

MAP spearheaded the mass actions for peace which they called “The Peoples’ Popular Ratification of the Bngsamoro Basic Law” which was positively responded by hundreds of thousands of people.

Prof. Abdulmanan Gayak, MAP chair thanked all people in Mindanao, various sectors and peace groups, IDPs, politicians, the MNLF members, CSOs, NGOs, and who participated in the gathering; supported the call for Congress to pass the basic law; and members of the media who covered the affairs throughout Mindanao.

The MAP secretariat and its media committee released the figures of participants in convergent areas who have registered starting 9:00pm of Sunday. To wit:

Bangolo, Marawi City (20,300); Baloi, Lanao del (25,901); Pagadian City (11,210); Cotabato City Plaza (70,959);  Pikit, North Cotabato (38,856); Round Ball, Tacurong City (75,500); Oval Plaza, General Santos City (25,785); Rizal Park, Davao City (5,484); Isabela City, Basilan (8,004); Marina Plaza, Jolo Sulu (5,731); and Bongao Tawi-tawi (2,736).

Angkal told reporters that this figure will still increase in other areas such as Tacurong City and Pikit, North Cotabato. “…because this record is tabulated as of 9:00pm yesterday,” he said.

Meantime, today, the MAP is holding a Press Conference at Bacolod Chicken Inasal, Quezon City Memorial Circle at 11:00am-1:00pm. The MAP through its deputy spokesman Bobby Benito and will be assisted by Imam Baser Marangit of BANGSA, Datuan Magon of the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD).

Benito said that, “After the presscon, a mass rally will follow in front of Batasan Complex main gate, in Quezon  City during the opening session of the Congress.”

“Thousands of Moro Metro Manila residents and peace networks in the National Capital Region are expected to attend in support to the call for the passage of BBL,” he told

MILF: Simultaneous Rallies call for Passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law without Diminution

Posted to the MILF Website (May 5): Simultaneous Rallies call for Passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law without Diminution

Yesterday May 4, 2014 is a day of simultaneous rallies in Mindanao by the Bangsamoro people and other people of the island urging the Congress of the Philippines to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) without diminution.
The rallies are spearheaded by the Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP) under its President, Dr. Abdulmanan Gayak. In Pikit, North Cotabato alone, there is mammoth crowd recorded at more than thirty thousand people attended the gathering. But many did not registered their names.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is a draft organic law by the 15-man commissioners appointed by the President of the Philippines. Eight of them were recommended by the Central Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Their main task was the crafting of the aforesaid basic law which was done. It was submitted to the Office of the President of the Philippines so that it may catch up the forthcoming session of Congress on May 5, 2014 and be one of its foremost agenda.

The Bangsamoro people comprising the Muslims and the non-Muslim native inhabitants of Mindanao, and other people of the island demonstrated their sentiments to the Philippine Congress on this eve of their session.

Enactment of the law is a sign of sincerity on the part of the Government of the Philippines to deliver the content of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) to the Bangsamoro People. It is a proof of its faithful compliance to the letter and spirit of the agreement it had signed.

Speakers led by Radioman Amay Samrod and North Cotabato Board Member Mohammad “Kelly” Antao shared the same sentiments in their speeches.

CPP/NPA-Ilocos Sur: Mercenary 50th IB ambushed twice by the NPA

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (May 3): Mercenary 50th IB ambushed twice by the NPA

Armando Silva
NPA Ilocos Sur Provincial Operations Command (Alfredo Cesar Command)
Separate troops of the 50th IB have been successively ambushed by two units of the Alfredo Cesar Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) – Ilocos Sur last May 1 and 2. A total of seven Philippine Army troopers were killed while at least eight were wounded in the two ambushes.

On May 1, three troops of the 50th IB were killed while two were wounded when they were ambushed in Remedios, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur, less than a kilometer away from the battalion headquarters of the said Philippine Army unit. And on May 2, reinforcing troops also of the 50th IB were again ambushed in barangay Malideg, Quirino, Ilocos Sur, about two kilometers from the battalion headquarters. Four were killed while at least six were seriously wounded. In both ambushes, the NPA units were able to withdraw safely without any casualties.These successful punitive actions are part of the CPP-NPA’s campaign to render justice for the countless victims of human rights violations committed by the 50th IB and to punish the said battalion for its utter subservience to the interest of large scale and destructive corporate mining.

The 50th IB is notorious for its heinous crimes committed against the people and the revolutionary movement. Since it was deployed in Ilocos Sur in 2001 and later redeployed to encompass parts of Abra, Mt. Province and Benguet, numerous civilians and activists became victims of illegal arrest and detention, torture and various forms of harassment and intimidation and sexual abuse of women. For more than a decade, the 50th IB has continuously wreaked havoc on the lives, properties and livelihood of the people in the said provinces.

Since 2005 to 2011, villages in Tubo, Abra were subjected to yearly arbitrary aerial bombings and strafings. Operating troops headed by Lt. Avila mutilated and beheaded the corpse of Ka Cholo who died in a battle in 2008. Recently, two women were raped by 50th IB troops stationed in barangay Dilong, Tubo.

In Cervantes alone, nine innocent civilians from sitio Maipit, barangay Comillas Sur were arbirarily accused as NPAs or supporters and illegally arrested in 2009. They were brought to the 5th ID headquarters in Gamu, Isabela and were subjected to continuous interrogation and mental and psychological torture for weeks. In 2011, seven civilians were illegally arrested in different barangays after a battle that ensued between the NPA and the 50th IB in Remedios, Cervantes. They were also accused as NPAs and detained for several months. Troops of the 50th IB mutilated the corpse of Benny ‘Ka Likot’ Aguilar who died in a second battle in sitio Bulaga, barangay Aluling, which they later displayed in a basketball court in the town plaza to terrorize the people.

The 50th IB has also been evidently serving as security force for a likewise notorious mining firm, the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC). Since 2008, the Charlie Company of the said battalion has been stationed right within the compound of LCMC in Mankayan, Benguet. From then on, they continuously harassed anti-mining activists and communities who strongly opposed the expansion of Lepanto’s mining operations within Mankayan. And since January this year, the 50th IB has positioned its battalion headquarters on Cayos ridge at the boundary of the towns of Quirino and Cervantes, adjacent to Mankayan. This is deemed as a move to ensure further security for LCMC as Quirino and Cervantes have long been protesting the adverse effects of Lepanto’s destructive mining operation in their area. For decades, LCMC has been continuously dumping tons of highly toxic mine waste into the Abra river which flows through Quirino and Cervantes and numerous other towns of Abra and Ilocos Sur. These affected towns have been demanding LCMC to stop its mining operation due to the incalculable damage it has done to the environment and livelihood of more than one hundred thousand people living in Mankayan and along the Abra River.

Other large scale mining interests in the area are also protected by the 50th IB, particularly the Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge mining exploration project in barangay Patiacan, Quirino and the South Ocean Mineral Processing Plant in barangay Patungcaleo, also in Quirino. The people of Quirino have been protesting the operations of these mining firms.

In accordance with its policy to uphold and defend human rights and fight against corporate large scale mining and other destructive capitalist business interests, the NPA has not only implemented punitive actions against the 50th IB but also against the above mentioned mining firms. Last May 2013, a drilling machine of LCMC that was to be utilized for its expansion plan, was burned by a unit of the NPA-Benguet in Colalo, Mankayan. And on April 11 this year, another drilling machine, this time of Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge, was also burned by a unit of the NPA-Ilocos Sur in Patiacan, Quirino.

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

 Punish the 50th IB and other AFP and PNP troops who serve to protect destructive large scale mining!

 Advance the national democratic armed revolution to achieve justice and genuine progress for the people!

CPP: CPP denounces arrival of 3,000 US troops for Balikatan exercises

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (May 5): CPP denounces arrival of 3,000 US troops for Balikatan exercises

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today denounced the arrival of up to 3,000 US combat troops in the Philippines that are set to participate in the 30th Balikatan joint military exercises with the Philippine armed forces.

US troops and AFP soldiers are set to conduct livefire exercises, amphibious maneuvers and joint combat exercises over the course of the next 10 days in Pampanga, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija. A smaller contingent of American soldiers have also been deployed in Albay to conduct so-called “civic assistance activities” but are mostly intended to further strengthen US spy facilities in the area.

“The Balikatan military exercises has long served as a cover for the US military to deploy its troops in the Philippines, familiarize with the terrain, build its communications infrastructure, conduct intelligence gathering operations, deploy its war materiél, train the local armed forces to support US naval and aerial maneuvers and allow US troops to be embedded in local counter-guerrilla combat operations.”

“Claims that Balikatan exercises are geared towards strengthening capabilities for humanitarian and disaster response is a deceptive pretext for what in fact is the bigger objective of strengthening US military presence in the Philippines to serve the US pivot in Asia which aim to deploy as much as 60% of its overseas naval forces in the region,” added the CPP.

“The arrival of thousands of US troops and their warships and jetfighters highlight the continuing gross violation of Philippine national sovereignty and trampling of the country’s territorial integrity by the US military,” said the CPP.

“This year’s Balikatan exercises is doubly reprehensible as it is being conducted just a week after the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agrement (EDCA) last April 28 which has provoked widespread uproad for giving the US military unlimited rights to station its troops, equipment, vehicles and weapons in so-called Agreed Locations in the Philippines.”

“The CPP enjoins the Filipino people to expose and demand an end to the annual Balikatan exercises which has allowed the US to establish its foothold in the Philippines and impose its hegemony in the country and the Asia-Pacific.”

“The EDCA and the Balikatan exercises only serve the interests of the US military to further entrench itself in the Philippines and make use of the country as its base for its effort to control the trade routes in Asia, contain the growth of China and pressure any country to accede to the US economic and political agenda.”

“The puppet Aquino regime must be held responsible for the outright surrender of Philippine sovereignty in its effort to please its imperialist master in exchange for continuing political support.”

NDF to make EDCA an issue if peace talks resume

From InterAksyon (May 4): NDF to make EDCA an issue if peace talks resume

Communist rebels intend to bring up the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement as a major issue “at the first opportunity, if there should be informal or formal talks with the Aquino regime.”

Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the National Democratic Front’s peace negotiating committee, said Jose Ma. Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, told a forum in Hong Kong on Sunday that the EDCA, which allows increased US military presence in the country and the use of Philippine facilities by the Americans, is “a flagrant violation of Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity” that “tramples on a guiding principle of the peace negotiations as declared in The Hague Joint Declaration.”

“The EDCA is a treasonous agreement. It is worse than the Visiting Forces Agreement.” Sison said, according to Jalandoni.

“The EDCA makes the entire Philippines an unsinkable aircraft carrier of the US posing challenges to neighboring countries," he added.

Peace talks between the communists and the government have been stalled since 2011, with the main bone of contention being the continued detention of captured rebels the NDF says are consultants of its peace panel and therefore, protected from arrest and prosecution under the Joint Agreement on Immunity and Security Guarantees.

Civilians' support leads to arrest of North Cotabato grenade thrower

From the Philippine News Agency (May 5): Civilians' support leads to arrest of North Cotabato grenade thrower

Public support to local police authorities was proven effective here after police nabbed a man suspected of throwing hand grenades at a roadside department store over the weekend.

Superintendent Jordine Maribojo, chief of the Kabacan municipal police, said the arrest of the suspect identified as 23-year-old Abdulhamad Gulam Hamid was made possible with "people's participation."

Maribojo said Hamid who hails from Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, was arrested by police after several civilians tipped off his location shortly after he tossed a hand grenade in front of COSTAR RTW store along USM Avenue here.

"I would like to commend the people for their support, it led us to arrest the suspect," he said.

He said Hamid was seen by civilians driving a tricycle and tossed the grenade then sped away at past 9 p.m.

But civilians helped the police in tracking him down.

When arrested, Hamid yielded another hand grenade hidden in his motorcycle.

According to Maribojo, Hamid may have planned to dispose the grenades at a nearby village celebrating its foundation day with nightly activities.

"But due to the presence of police and village watchmen, he changed his plan and tossed the grenade at a roadside," he said. Nobody was hurt in the blast.

Maribojo urged the civilians to continue supporting the police in the campaign against criminality to ensure public safety.

Army’s 1st Infantry Division celebrates 78th founding anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (May 5): Army’s 1st Infantry Division celebrates 78th founding anniversary

The Army’s 1st Infantry Division has lined up a series of activities to commemorate its 78th founding anniversary.

1st Infantry Division Public Affairs Officer Capt. Jefferson Mamauag however said the celebration will kick off on Wednesday, May 7, instead of Monday, May 5, since they are pre-occupied with other important undertakings of the command.

Mamauag said the celebration will kick off with the anniversary parade to be followed by a program at 10 a.m. Wednesday to be held at the Tabak Grandstand at Kuta Major Cesar Sang-an in Pulacan in the nearby town of Labangan.

An Anniversary Night is scheduled in the evening of May 7 at the command’s old parade ground.

Mamauag said they will also conduct the Squad Challenge that will kick off at 5 a.m. Thursday signalling that start of the month-long activities of the command’s anniversary.

Mamauag said the participants of the Squad Challenge are from different battalions under 1st Infantry Division.

He said the competition is aimed at testing the participants’ individual and collective competence as a squad and promote teamwork, leadership and cohesion.

Solcom welcomes new rebel returnee

From the Philippine News Agency (May 5): Solcom welcomes new rebel returnee

CAMP GUILLERMO NAKAR, Lucena City -– The Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) here welcomed another communist rebel who decided to abandon the outlawed and armed struggle and surrendered to government authorities.

In a report released Monday to the PNA here, Solcom commander Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie F. Ordoyo named the New People’s Army member as Dennis Callao also known as "Rolex", a prominent leader in the underground movement.

Lt. Gen. Ordoyo said Callao is a former Squad Leader of Komiteng Probinsya (KOMPROB) of Albay.

He divulged that the rebel voluntarily surrendered without firearms to the Bayanihan Team of the 2nd Infantry Battalion last week at Sitio Gayong, Barangay Sto. Niño, Bacon District in Sorsogon.

Ordoyo explained that under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the rebel returnee is entitled to receive Php50,000 as livelihood assistance and Php15,000 for immediate assistance.

Lt. Ordoyo expressed the increasing number of surrenderees only manifests the general sentiments of the rebels who now prefer safe and peaceful community and living normal lives.

“The continuing surrender of the rebels illustrates their organization has gradually disintegrated and has weakened the communist movement due to the members’ aspirations to live in peace and reject violence,” Lt. Gen. Ordoyo remarked.

He sounded his call on the dissidents and rebel groups to return to the government’s fold, lead peaceful lives and support the country’s growth and development efforts.

Sultan Kudarat mayor survives assassination attempt

From the Philippine News Agency (May 5): Sultan Kudarat mayor survives assassination attempt

A town mayor in Sultan Kudarat province survived an assassination attempt using improvised explosive device Monday in Lebak town, officials said.

Supt. Rex dela Rosa, Sultan Kudarat police provincial director, said Mayor Dionisio Besana of Lebak had just arrived at the town hall with his police escorts when an improvised explosive device fashioned from 81 mm mortar attached to a parked motorcycle went off.

He identified the wounded escort as a certain PO1 Bansuela.

Dela Rosa said the mayor is now safe and recuperating at a private hospital in Poblacion Salaman, Lebak, Sultan Kudarat.

Police backed by Philippine Marines are now conducting pursuit operations against the perpetrators.

The Lebak PNP has been placed on heightened alert following the incident.

Investigation on the ownership of the motorcycle was on going with the Land Transportation Office.

No one has claimed responsibility.

Korean Army completes repair of 28 public structures in Leyte towns

From the Philippine News Agency (May 5): Korean Army completes repair of 28 public structures in Leyte towns

The Korea Armed Forces Joint Support Group (Araw Force) has already completed the repair and rehabilitation of 28 public structures from three Leyte towns since they kicked off with their humanitarian support in December last year.

The structures include 17 elementary schools, two hospitals, nine other government facilities like police stations, fire stations, courthouses and offices of the Association of Barangay Captains (ABCs).

Repair of nine other projects are ongoing while they target to work on 57 more projects until the end of their stay in December this year.

The repair and rehab of these government facilities is jointly done with the Engineering Brigade of the Philippine Army.

The accomplishment was presented by the military contingent of Korea during the recent visit of the commanding officer of Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. Jet B. Velarmino to the former’s base at Candahug, Palo in Leyte.

Aside from repair, they also conducted fumigation at 235 barangays, treated 11,168 medical and 1,686 dental patients at the towns of Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa and Dulag, all of Leyte province.

In addition, the ROK contingent effected the removal of 16,600 tons of debris from the thoroughfares of the towns of Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa and Dulag and conducted 637 sorties delivering 9,310,000 liters of potable water in various communities in the said towns.

The ROK contingent also initiated a vocational training seminar for heavy equipment operation and Korean language classes in coordination with the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) where they catered to interested civilians and military personnel.

The first batch of trainees will graduate on Friday while the next batch will open on Monday.

The military contingent was sent by the South Korean government to the Philippines to help rebuild Eastern Visayas communities that suffered from the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda.

They arrived in the region last December 28 and since then they started helping three towns in the province of Leyte in the rebuilding and rehabilitation effort of public structures.

They are working in Tanauan, Tolosa and Palo, but they also extended assistance to residents in the towns of Carigara and Dagami whom they learned to be members of Filipino Army contingents sent to South Korea during the Korean War.

“I would like to express gratitude in behalf of the people of Eastern Visayas for the repairs, rehabilitations and reconstruction efforts that greatly uplifted the well-being of the communities affected by the super typhoon," he added.

He also expressed his condolences for the deaths of hundreds of South Korean students due to a cruise ship tragedy that happened in April.

Abu Sayyaf bandit involved in 2002 kidnapping nabbed in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (May 5): Abu Sayyaf bandit involved in 2002 kidnapping nabbed in Zamboanga City

Combined police and military operatives arrested an alleged Abu Sayyaf bandit involved in the kidnapping of six members of the Jehovah’s Witness in 2002 in the province of Sulu, an official announced Monday.

Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) Spokesman Senior Insp. Joseph Ortega has identified the arrested Abu Sayyaf bandit as a certain Abu Ondil.

Ortega said Ondil was arrested around 5:00 p.m. Sunday along the highway in front of Acapulco Beach Resort in Barangay Sinunuc, west of this city.

Ortega said that Ondil was involved in the kidnapping of six members--two males and four females-- of the Jehovah’s Witness in August of 2002 in Sulu.

The victims were on a door-to-door sale of cosmetic products in the municipality of Patikul at that time when they were seized by the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

The bandits beheaded the male victims a day after they were seized while the other four were released several months later.

Ortega said that Ondil has standing warrants of arrest for six counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention issued by a Pasig City Court.

He said the suspect was taken to the Regional Intelligence Unit-9 at Camp Batalla, in this city for documentation and proper disposition.