Thursday, May 29, 2014

CRSAFP gets a new commander

Posted to the Ranger Cabunzky Blog (May 27): CRSAFP gets a new commander

Brigadier General Romeo Gan receives the command flag from Lt General Virgilio Domingo, the TDCS, as outgoing commander, BGen Rolando Jungco looks on. (Photo by Lt Col Harold M Cabunoc)

A seasoned civil-military operations officer has assumed command of the AFP's Civil Relations Service during a simple turn over of command ceremony held here at 9:00am today.

Brigadier General Romeo Gan, 53, received the command flag from Lt Gen. Virgilio Domingo, the Deputy Chief of Staff. He is a member of PMA Class of 1983 where the Army chief, Lt Gen Hernando DCA Irriberri belongs.

Gan replaced Brigadier General Rolando Jungco who reached the mandatory retirement age of 56.  He had served in the same unit for ten years in various staff and command positions.

In his acceptance speech, Gan vowed to pursue the plans and programs initiated by Jungco. He also proclaimed the CRS headquarters as a 'No smoking zone'.

A paint artist and a peace advocate, Jungco is credited for the completion of the 'longest peace mural in the world' that can be found along the walls of Camp Aguinaldo.

"After my vacation, I will continue participating in various Bayanihan activities as a civilian and probably, as a military reservist. I will find more walls where I can paint peace murals like what we have in Camp Aguinaldo," he said.

A member of PMA Class of 1982, Jungco thanked his subordinates, peace partners and family members for the support given him during his 16-month stint as CRS commander.

"I want to thank you all who supported me. I and my wife can now dedicate our lives for our 'apostolic duties'," he said.

"Actually, what I meant is that we will take care of our apos (grandchildren) full time during my retirement," he said in jest.

Pivot Pledge Wearing Thin on Hagel Trip as China Sway Rises

From Bloomberg BusinessWeek (May 29): Pivot Pledge Wearing Thin on Hagel Trip as China Sway Rises

President Barack Obama’s emphasis this week on restricting the use of the military abroad risks an unintended consequence: deepening concern about fading U.S. engagement among Asian nations locked in disputes with China.

Obama’s defense chief, Chuck Hagel, leads the U.S. delegation to an annual security conference in Singapore that starts today, two days after Obama said the armed forces can’t be the “primary component of our leadership.” The gathering concludes a week that’s seen China’s fighter jets challenging Japanese planes and the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat after a collision with a Chinese vessel.

The incidents underscored China’s determination under President Xi Jinping to press territorial claims against Japan and the Philippines -- two U.S. allies -- and Vietnam, a former American foe that now welcomes U.S. military visits. While the Obama administration says it’s “rebalancing” toward Asia, Asian governments may seek greater assurances of support.

“U.S. officials will be under considerable pressure to clarify how, if it all, the U.S. would seek to enforce its admonition about China forcing changes in the status quo,” said Daniel Sneider, associate director for research at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University in California. “At what point, others may rightfully ask, do Chinese actions in the South China Sea constitute a threat to that order and what, if anything, would the U.S. do about that?”

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has called for a “stronger voice” from the U.S. against China after clashes between coast guard vessels near an oil rig that China placed in contested waters off Vietnam’s coast. The Philippines, dwarfed militarily by China, has sought support from the U.S. and the United Nations to counter China’s encroachment into shoals off its coast.

Military Solution

The annual Shangri-La security dialogue in Singapore will bring together defense ministers and military leaders from around the globe. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will give the keynote address this evening while China is sending Fu Ying, a former deputy foreign minister, alongside a retinue of People’s Liberation Army officers.

Obama during an April visit to Asia affirmed that U.S. treaty obligations with Japan covered islands in the East China Sea also claimed by China and said U.S. commitments were “iron clad.” But in a speech May 28 during commencement at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, Obama said not every problem “has a military solution.”

Asia ‘Misgivings’

“Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures,” he said.

“President Obama’s West Point speech will not ease misgivings among Asian partners about the U.S. commitment to the region’s security,” said Rory Medcalf, Director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney. “The speech sits uneasily with the idea of a rebalance to Asia. It sends out mixed signals to Asian countries about what really constitutes an American core interest in this region.”

The administration faces distractions in the Middle East and the Ukraine crisis. The exit in stages of the U.S. army from Afghanistan after the longest war in U.S. history, along with budget cuts and the failure to wrap up a U.S.-led Pacific trade pact have further raised doubts about its Asia focus at a time when China is pressing its agenda in the region.

‘No Compromise’

During a visit to Beijing in April, Hagel was told by his counterpart, General Chang Wanquan, that China would make “no compromise, no concessions” in disputes with Japan and the Philippines. Standing alongside Hagel at a briefing, Chang said “the Chinese military can assemble as soon as summoned, fight any battle and win.” China can’t be contained, Chang said, and the Pacific is “huge enough” to hold both countries.

“We urge the United States to take an objective and fair attitude, speak and act cautiously, and avoid contributing to several countries’ provocation,” Ministry of National Defense spokesman Geng Yansheng said at a briefing in Beijing yesterday.

China’s official defense spending, while less than a third of the U.S., is narrowing the gap. Its military budget will rise 12.2 percent this year as Xi seeks a more combat-ready army and a Navy with broader reach throughout the Pacific.

Japan and China Face Off on Asian Security

From the Wall Street Journal (May 29): Japan and China Face Off on Asian Security

China and Japan are expected to set out rival visions for the future of Asia-Pacific security this weekend, as defense ministers and military leaders converge on Singapore for a summit meeting amid heightened tensions over territorial disputes in the East and South China seas.

The Shangri-La Dialogue, which will include speeches by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, is the first major event bringing top U.S., Chinese and other Asian military brass together since China rattled the region in recent weeks by deploying a deep-sea oil-drilling platform in waters claimed by Vietnam.

Hanoi labeled the move as dangerous and provocative, and several other countries have also expressed misgivings over the deployment, which China describes as part of its normal activities within its own sovereign territory.

Mr. Hagel's speech on Saturday is expected to deal directly with the disputes in the South China Sea, threats from North Korea, and yet again attempt to reassure American allies that Washington's commitment to the region is real.

In a briefing aboard a military plane while traveling to Singapore, Mr. Hagel said he would confront Beijing over areas "where the we think China is overplaying its hand" including the maritime disputes and cyber attacks.

"The only way to deal with those differences is to be direct and upfront, " he said. "We will talk about tensions and what is going on in specific terms."

In a curtain-raising speech on Friday night, Mr. Abe is expected to set out what some Japanese media have termed the "Abe Doctrine"--a vision of a Japan that is more proactive in defense affairs, and that works with multinational partners, including the U.S., to bolster regional security and prosperity.

Japan has already foreshadowed this approach by deepening its security relations with Southeast Asian countries during Mr. Abe's tenure.

Mr. Abe is expected to urge the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China to agree on a code of conduct for maritime activities now under negotiation between the two parties, Japanese officials say. The prime minister may also discuss helping Asian nations confronting China to beef up their maritime security capabilities.

Tokyo has already pledged patrol ships to the Philippines and is currently studying a similar plan for Vietnam. In an interview last week, Mr. Abe said he wants to accelerate the process involving Vietnam.

The prime minister's pitch for a more muscular Japan has already won support from allies such as the U.S. and the Philippines, while drawing criticism from China and South Korea, which are wary of seeing the pacifist country remilitarize.

Mr. Abe hopes to win greater international backing for the idea by convincing the assembled defense leaders that Japan remains committed to peace as it seeks to increase its ability to support that peace, in particular by revising the interpretation of its pacifist constitution.

He is also expected to deliver a bruising critique of Beijing's handling of its territorial disputes, following a near-miss between Chinese and Japanese military aircraft last weekend near disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

China's Ministry of Defense confirmed on Thursday that its delegation, led by Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong, the Chinese military's deputy chief of general staff, would update the Dialogue on President Xi Jinping's "new Asian security concept," a regional security approach that rivals the one Mr. Abe envisions.

Mr. Xi's concept emphasizes Asian countries solving Asian problems--potentially cutting out the U.S.--while Mr. Abe's proposed framework is "more inclusive" and seeks to draw in partners from outside Asia, said Tim Huxley, executive director of the International Institute of Strategic Studies-Asia, a think tank and the organizer of the event.

The state-run China Daily has described the summit as a "face-off" between Beijing and Tokyo.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will also address the summit, which provides an annual platform for world leaders to mull over Asia's security challenges.

U.S. officials have been at pains recently to reassure its allies in Asia that it will continue playing a leading role in guaranteeing regional security, underscored by the Obama administration's "pivot" strategy of redirecting more military, diplomatic and economic assets to the Asian-Pacific region.

While noting that China's delegation wasn't as high-level as it has been in the past, Mr. Huxley said that Fu Ying, who chairs China's foreign affairs committee, would be part of Beijing's team in attendance. Ms. Fu, a former vice minister for foreign affairs, has a tough-talking reputation and is expected to deliver a robust defense of China's position.

The summit is also expected to address regional headaches ranging from the recent coup in Thailand to North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Still, "the overarching theme will be the evolving regional balance--how the region relates to a China that is increasingly combative and assertive," Mr. Huxley said.

China is likely to face pushback not only from Japan, but also from other territorial rivals, notably Vietnam and the Philippines.

Sino-Philippine ties have been in the deep freeze ever since Manila launched an arbitration case at the U.N. earlier this year to challenge what it regards as Beijing's illegal claims to almost the entire South China Sea.

The Chinese government has refused to participate in the proceedings at The Hague.

Defence needs more money and broader strategy to deal with China's emergence as regional power: think tank

From the Australia Broadcast Corporation (May 30): Defence needs more money and broader strategy to deal with China's emergence as regional power: think tank

Australia is being urged to develop a wider air and maritime strategy to deal with rising tensions in the region

Australia is being urged to develop a wider air and maritime strategy to deal with rising tensions in the region

A key Australian defence think tank has suggested more money and a broader strategy is needed to cope with emerging regional tensions.
This week has seen another flare up in the South China Sea, with Vietnam and China trading accusations over the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat not far from where China has controversially parked an oil rig in the disputed area.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Mark Thomson says the speed of deterioration is significant.

"Instability in the last few weeks has gotten worse frankly due to probing by China on a whole range of different fronts that are causing concern for many people right around the region," he said.

"We are entering a period of uncertainty and a period of risk. We are in a situation where almost every week a new event is occurring.

"A fishing vessel is being put down into the bottom of the ocean, someone is trying to seize an island here or there. Sooner or later one of these is going to go wrong and we are going to find ourselves in a crisis."

Mr Thomson was speaking to the ABC after the release of the ASPI 2014 Defence Budget Brief in Canberra.

"People in the business have been worried about this for a while. The classic story always is when you have an emergent power at some point, that emergent power is going to challenge the existing order," he said.

"What I think has surprised people is how quickly it has come on and the intensity we have seen particularly in the last six months or so."

Australia needs to plan for air, maritime operations

In the federal budget, while the rest of Australia had to endure cuts, defence received a 6 per cent funding boost.

In his annual report on the defence budget, Mr Thomson conducts the most extensive independent examination available on Australia's defence spending.

He says Australia may have to spend more in the future to meet its strategic needs.

"I think it remains to be seen how serious a deterioration in the security environment we might need to hedge against in the years ahead," he said.

"We need to consider two questions - we need to consider if we are spending enough and we need to consider if we are spending the money on the right sort of capabilities for the challenges that lie ahead."

The Government has committed over time to increasing defence spending equal to 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), and a white paper will be delivered next year.

"The things that we should be looking at in this current white paper are the sort of capabilities that give Australia options in what is fundamentally an air and maritime environment of the Asia-Pacific," Mr Thomson said.

"So we are talking about submarines, we are talking about maritime patrol aircraft, we are talking about combat aircraft like the F-35 [Joint Strike Fighter]. The white paper will need to respond to the environment as it is changing around us.

"I think many things that we have put in the forefront of our defence planning in the past, like the ability to do defence stabilisation operations in the near region, they will remain. But we are going to have to add to that serious considerations for more serious developments."

The ABC asked Defence Minister David Johnston to comment on Mr Thomson's views about the defence budget, but he is travelling to Singapore and unavailable for interview.

A spokesman for the minister said Senator Johnston stood by the current defence budget. The Minister's office supplied the ABC with the statement below:
The Government has been acknowledging these challenges for a long time now, and our principles of no more cuts to Defence as well as the commencement of our promise to climb to 2 per cent of GDP within a decade. Funding has gone from just under 1.6 per cent of GDP to 1.8 in this budget, in spite of the difficult economic climate. 
The task for the Government to restore Defence spending is monumental, particularly as Labor left Government with $123 billion of projected deficits over the Forward Estimates and government debt heading for $667 billion within the decade. We have brought forward $1.5 billion in spending from 2017-18, with an increase of $500 million in 2013-14 to purchase vital capability, and a further $1 billion distributed across 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. 
Having come under consistent attack from the previous Government, the Defence budget required urgent resourcing to maintain capability and readiness. 
This has been acknowledged for many years by ASPI in its annual additions of "The Cost of Defence". In our first budget we have taken on the task of repairing the damage in Defence capability which has been hollowed out, and I believe ASPI acknowledges this fact in this analysis. 
Responsiveness to civil and natural disasters has been a demanding and consistent task for Defence, and our neighbourhood has come to rely upon our capacity to be responsive when they need us. Helping our neighbourhood in time of need is in our national interest and I think our Defence personnel do this exceptionally well 
I don't believe the capability and readiness to help our neighbours’ needs to be mutually exclusive to our national security objectives. The Government will ensure the delivery of Defence capability to meet fast moving security challenges faced by Australia.

Duterte: There was animosity between slain mayor, NPA

From the Sun Star-Davao (May 29): Duterte: There was animosity between slain mayor, NPA

DAVAO City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he believes there was "animosity" between slain Laak, Compostela Valley Mayor Reynaldo Navarro and the New People's Army (NPA).

"Talagang may alitan na sila. I was really trying hard to just come up with a reconciliation sana but I could feel the animosity in the room," Duterte said in an interview.

He said he would not want to ride on whatever the NPA was accusing Navarro of.

The NPA tagged the slain mayor as part of the Big 4 Logging Lords, but this was denied by Navarro.

"I could almost touch the animosity brewing around in that room kaya sabi ko, hindi naman I am not surprised, but I am sad na yun na nga ang dinatnan niya. It had to end that way," he said.

Duterte said he was able to meet Navarro during one of the meetings he presided between the government and the sympathizers of the NPA.

CPP/NPA-SMROC: Navarro’s track record did not make him a legitimate military target

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (May 29): Navarro’s track record did not make him a legitimate military target
Rigoberto Sanchez
NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command (Merardo Arce Command)
The New People’s Army Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command condemns the killing of Mayor Reynaldo Navarro and offers condolences with his family and colleagues in Laak, Compostela Valley.

While Navarro was part of the Big 4 in Agusan-Comval-Davao del Norte forests, the NPA has not considered him an enemy that warrants a standing order or a recipient of a death sentence. Navarro’s track record did not make him a legitimate military target, thus, no revolutionary punishment was executed against him.

As a long-time politician whose area covers territories of the People’s Democratic Government in Compostela Valley, Navarro has cooperated with comrades and in many ways have demonstrated actions that point to his recognition of the revolutionary cause.

In the last few years, however, his business interest in logging and agribusiness expansion has increased. Comrades have repeatedly warned him of his increasing anti-people activities. Navarro had merely ignored these warnings, thus, forcing the NPA Comval-North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command to caution him publicly against wanton logging, militarization and the attendant human rights abuses that occur during these operations. In the midst of these warnings, there are no strong grounds showing Navarro’s grave offenses against the revolutionary movement that would necessitate the People’s Democratic Government to hand down the maximum penalty of capital punishment.

In accusing the NPA of Navarro’s ambush, the 10th Infantry Division-Eastern Mindanao Command-AFP shows that it is poised to agitate and conscript Navarro’s Lumad supporters and followers to become its new lackeys and bandits under the Oplan Bayanihan counterrevolutionary campaign. The masses in Laak should see to this latest anti-people machination and must struggle against fascism.

455 soldiers arrive in Negros

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 29): 455 soldiers arrive in Negros

Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, chief of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, based in Panay Island, said the arrival of the government troops in Negros Oriental yesterday is just a temporary set up, and has no negative connotation about the insurgency problem.

About 455 officers and men of the 20th IB arrived on board the Philippine Navy's ship, BRP Dagupan City, with the battalion's equipment, transportation and other logistics.

Baladad said the deployment of the troops is to prevent a vacuum once the 79th Infantry Battalion soldiers leave for a three-month excellence training at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija in July.

Baladad led military, police and civilian officials in receiving the officers and men of the 20th IB, headed by Lt. Col. Miguel Ceballos, at arrival honors at the Dumaguete port yesterday morning.

Present were Provincial Administrator Richard Enojo, representing Gov. Roel Degamo, Vice Gov. Edward Mark Macias, 302 nd Brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, and other Army and local government officials.

The troops will overlap with the 79th IB for about two months, to allow for familiarization and acclimatization, Baladad said, adding that the 79 h IB will return to Negros Oriental in October.

The 20th IB, belongs to the 803rd Brigade of the 8th Infantry Division in Samar, and had completed the excellence training in Fort Magsaysay.

Baladad admitted the need to strengthen security measures in the boundaries of the Negros provinces and cited the recent encounter in Sto. Niño, Tanjay City, where four suspected New People's Army rebels were killed.

The presence of the 20th IB will help maintain the peaceful atmosphere conducive to development, Baladad also said.

7ID hosts 1st Sta. Rosa Youth Leadership Summit

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 29): 7ID hosts 1st Sta. Rosa Youth Leadership Summit

FORT MAGSASAY, Nueva Ecija -- Army 7th Infantry Division (7ID), through the 1st Civil Military Operations Company of the 7th Civil Military Operations Battalion, played host this week to the 1st Youth Leadership Summit of the municipality of Sta. Rosa.

“Around 100 youngsters coming from the different barangays of the municipality attended the summit which was held in our headquarters in Fort Magsaysay,” 7ID Public Affairs Officer Captain Mark Anthony Ruelos disclosed.

The four-day activity emphasized the role of youth in nation-building and served as a platform for the discussion of issues such as environmental protection, drug abuse, human rights, and spiritual values.

“There were also problem-solving exercises that were meant to test teamwork,” Ruelos added.

AFP disowns 3 convicted Filipino ‘spies’ in Qatar

From the Daily Tribune (May 30): AFP disowns 3 convicted Filipino ‘spies’ in Qatar

The three Filipinos convicted of espionage in Qatar are not connected to any government intelligence unit, a ranking security official told The Tribune.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said that based on initial checking, the three, whose identities remained kept from the public, are private citizens and not members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The source said that immediately after the reported conviction of the three for espionage charges in Qatar, the military, in close coordination with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), immediately launched investigation.

“We are conducting our own investigation on the case together with DFA and NBI,” the official told The Tribune.

“The three Filipinos are private citizens and they are not members of the AFP, hence, they are not connected whatsoever to the military organization,” he added.

The DFA confirmed the conviction of the three Filipinos but no further details were issued as it vowed continued assistance to them.

The DFA, through its spokesman Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, denied the government is engaged in espionage.

Reports from Doha News stated that the Filipinos were charged with leaking information about weaponry, aircraft, maintenance and servicing records between 2009 and 2010 to intelligence officials in the Philippines.

It said the man who received the death penalty worked at a major state-run Qatari company and spied for a “state security force” in the Philippines, while Qatar Air Force employed the other two as technicians.

The main defendant had reportedly given copies of projects tenders to companies, as well as classified information about Qatar Air Force base to Filipino officials, the Doha News said, citing a source close to the case.

One of the three was sentenced to death while the two others were slapped with life imprisonment.

The security official said the government is now concerned that the fate of the three overseas Filipino workers might affect other OFWs in the Middle East.

“Our main concern now is how to assist these Filipinos legally in appealing their case. Their fate might have an effect to the other OFWs working in Arab countries,” said the official.

CA upholds dismissal of 10 Navy officers in Pestano case

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (May 29): CA upholds dismissal of 10 Navy officers in Pestano case

The 10 Navy officers implicated in the death of Ensign Philip Andrew Pestano in September 1995 have been dismissed from the service on orders of the Court of Appeals (CA).

Affirming with finality the 2011 order of the Office of the Ombudsman, the CA’s former ninth division denied the motion for reconsideration of the 10 for their failure to present new arguments to warrant the reversal of the ruling.

“After carefully considering the grounds raised in the subject motion, we find that the reasons and the arguments in support thereof have been aptly treated, discussed and passed upon in the subject decision,” read the CA ruling.

“The additional arguments proffered therein constitute no cogent or compelling reason to modify, much less reverse it.”

The resolution was promulgated last May 20 but released only yesterday.

The 10 dismissed officer are Navy Capt. Ricardo Ordoñez; Commanders Reynaldo Lopez and Alfrederick Alba; Lt. Commanders Luidegar Casis, Joselito Colico and Ruben Roque; Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Sandy Miranda; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Welmenio Aquino; Petty Officer 1st Class Carlito Amoroso and Petty Officer 2nd Class Mil Leonor Igacasan.

The Navy officers said the Office of the Ombudsman’s first joint resolution, dated June 15, 2009 had already absolved them.

However, the CA gave weight to the position of the Office of the Ombudsman that the Navy officers could not be considered absolved as the 2009 resolution did not make any findings that they are innocent of the charges.

“As correctly observed by the Ombudsman, the dismissal in the June 15, 2009 resolution was based on insufficiency of evidence to establish that murder from which petitioners’ administrative liability may arise, had been committed,” read the CA decision.

“It did not make any pronouncement that petitioners were innocent of the charges or that they acted in accordance with law.”

The CA did not give merit to the contention of the Navy officers that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’ order did not state clearly the facts and law on which it was based and did not cite any legal basis for their dismissal from the service.

Associate Justice Jose Reyes wrote the decision. Associate Justices Mario Lopez and Socorro Inting concurred.

Records of the case showed that BRP Bacolod City left Tawi-Tawi on Sept. 20, 1995. Before the ship reached Navy headquarters in Manila, Pestaño was found dead inside his cabin with a single gunshot wound on his right temple.

He purportedly left a suicide note to his family.

Based on investigations of the Senate and the Armed Forces, Pestaño did not commit suicide.

It was also discovered that Pestaño had known of illegal activities in the Bacolod City, which posed as a possible motive to have him killed.

Investigations showed that the ship carried undocumented lumber from then Tawi-Tawi Gov. Gerry Matba for then Vice Adm. Pio Carranza.

Before his death, Pestaño reportedly confronted Ordonez, his immediate superior, about the shipment.

Former RPA head now a congressman

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 29): Former RPA head now a congressman


Stephen Paduano (Carapali Lualhati) takes his oath as Abang Lingkod partylist representative before House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte (left) as his wife, Lalaine, looks on.

Negros Occidental now has another representative in Congress.

Stephen Paduano, alias Carapali Lualhati , former national commander of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB), finally took his oath as Abang Lingkod partylist representative before House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte yesterday.
Paduano was proclaimed congressman after the Supreme Court rejected the Commission on Elections motion for reconsideration and ruled with finality that Abang Lingkod was a winner in the May 2013 polls, Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3 rd District), who joined the oath- taking rites yesterday, said.
Abang Lingkod, a sectoral organization representing farmers and fisherfolk, obtained 260,215 votes during the May elections, entitling it to a seat in the House of Representatives.
The Comelec on May 10, 2013, had cancelled the registration of AB, and disallowed its participation in the May 13 elections of the same year.
The SC, in a decision promulgated October 22, reversed and set aside the Comelec ruling, saying it gravely abused its discretion when it insisted on requiring AB to provide its track record even if that is no longer required.
Upholding the cancellation of AB's registration, even if it was able to obtain sufficient number of votes for a legislative seat, would serve no purpose other than to subvert the will of the electorate who voted to give it the privilege to represent them in the House of Representatives, the SC also said.
The Comelec filed a motion for reconsideration and refused to proclaim AB a winner, but the SC, on the last week of February this year, upheld its ruling with finality, Paduano said.
The Comelec thereafter issued a certificate of proclamation that resulted in his oathtaking yesterday, Paduano added.
Paduano, 49, who is from Negros Occidental, joined the New People's Army in 1982, and rose through the ranks. When his group split from the NPA in 1997, they formed the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas with the RPA-ABB as its armed wing, which has since entered into a peace agreement with the government.
Paduano resigned as RPA-ABB national commander in June 2012 to campaign for the AB partylist group, of which he was first nominee.
As congressman he will work for the interest of the peasant farmers and fisherfolk whom his partylist group represents, Paduano said.
He said Benitez has promised him membership in the House Committee on Urban Planning and Housing, which he chairs.
But he also hopes to become a member of the committees on agriculture, agrarian reform, and peace and reconciliation to look out for the groups he represents, Paduano said.
Benitez said Paduano's joining Congress will mean more sectoral representation for Western Visayas.

Local officials admit rampant warrantless arrests in Basilan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 29): Local officials admit rampant warrantless arrests in Basilan

Local authorities here have acknowledged that the rampant violation of human rights in Basilan, including the warrantless arrests of criminal suspects that eventually lead to their disappearance, could even overshadow the kidnappings done by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf.

Local officials say the uncoordinated and even warrantless arrests of criminal suspects by police and military agents from outside of Basilan has become one of the most frequent human rights violations by government men, that it prompted the creation of a Human Rights Monitoring Center here by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government.

Commissioner Alikhan Abuat of the Regional Human Rights Commission (RHRC) said Basilan was chosen because “(it) is very special to us and there are lot of human rights cases here to attend to.”

“A lot of warrantless arrests took place here, mainly mistaken identities,” he said.

Edylynn Santiago, head of the sub-office of the RHRC for Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, said they have been documenting arrests by outsiders – meaning, government agents belonging to units outside of those deployed in Basilan.

Tahira Ismael, Basilan administrator, said based on the documented cases, the most frequent violation by state forces has been “illegal or warrantless arrest.”

“It’s like kidnapping already and the ones behind them are our own government forces, the police or military with the help of their assets,” she said.

Ismael revealed that many of those taken in were “innocent and poor civilians who are simple farmers, fishermen and drivers.”

In some cases, those picked up illegally disappeared, she said.

Ismael cited the case of 30-year-old Ben Yasser of Upper Mahayahay village in Isabela City as an example.

She said after being reportedly arrested by joint operatives of the military and police on May 23, Yasser’s location simply became unknown; to date, his family has not been able to determine where he has been brought to.

The family of fisherman Kudairit Abdulla, whom Ismael said, “was snatched from his own home in Lampinigan island in Isabela City by armed men using military speedboat last March 4” was more lucky though.

She said after more than a month of search, the family learned that Abdulla was brought to the government’s facility in Taguig – where Abu Sayyaf suspects were also being held.

“If we are to compare kidnapping and the manner by which state forces commit violation, it (the latter) is much more serious. In kidnapping, at least we know where the victims were possibly brought to and we know the captors are really bad people,” Ismael said.

She said even the local government was at a loss how to address these arrests because in all of the cases, the operating units failed to coordinate with their local counterparts.

“In the cases of some of the missing persons, no trace at all,” Ismael said.
Senior Supt Mario Dapilloza, Basilan police director, said the police would only learn much later that some people had been taken in.

“Those who are committing these are not from the local police forces or military units based here. Commonly, these are done by security forces outside Basilan and they operate without proper coordination,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said he was not aware of “warrantless arrests” or “kidnapping perpetrated by soldiers.”

He maintained that the military would carry out lawful procedures and make arrests covered by court-issued warrants.

Tree-planting bring Christian, Moro farmers together in North Cotabato

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 29): Tree-planting bring Christian, Moro farmers together in North Cotabato

A simple tree-planting activity has been seen to help ease religious tensions among farming communities in strife-torn North Cotabato, officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said Wednesday.

The DAR, with local officials of Midsayap town in North Cotabato, recently led the planting of some 1,200 mahogany seedlings in the agrarian reform communities (ARCs) of Tumbras, Rajah Buayan, Tugal, Nabalawag, Kapinpilan, and Sambulawan, in support of the government’s National Greening Program.

“We are hopeful that this program will also strengthen the cooperation and camaraderie of Muslim and Christian agrarian reform beneficiaries to attain peace and development in their respective communities,” Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer II Marion Abella said in a news release.
North Cotabato is a known hotbed of Moro insurgency, where conflict often arises between Muslim and Christian groups.

Besides promoting peace, Abella said the tree-growing program also sought  to mitigate the effects of climate change, which has been greatly affecting the livelihood of the farmers.

The National Greening Program is a government initiative to plant some 1.5 billion trees covering about 1.5-million hectares nationwide “to promote resource conservation and protection, productivity enhancement, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and poverty reduction.”

Abella added that the DAR was encouraging other ARBs (agrarian reform beneficiaries) to sustain the program “because in the coming years the trees will grow to boost the natural resources in their areas.”

ARBs who participated in the tree-growing program were also given the privilege to name a tree after themselves.

Municipal Agrarian Reform Program Officer Felerma Gimenez said the idea of having the trees named after them gave the ARBs a sense of pride and responsibility in the trees they had planted.

“We are hoping that the collective efforts of ARBs planting tree will also be radiated to other ARCs in the province in the next months to come,” Gimenez said.

More bombs found in North Cotabato

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 29): More bombs found in North Cotabato

Two more improvised explosive devices have been discovered and disposed of in North Cotabato this week, bringing to eight the number of bombs found in the province since New People’s Army rebels attacked the police station in the town of President Roxas last May 20.

The latest find was on Wednesday when civilians noticed a piece of PVC pipe fitted with wires on a bridge in President Roxas, said the town’s mayor,  Jaime Mahimpit. The pipe was packed with gunpowder and pieces of metal.

Mahimpit said the IED was similar to two explosives that were defused near a military detachment in Barangay (village) Greenhills, also in President  Roxas, on Thursday last week, two days after suspected New Peoples’ Army rebels tried but failed to overrun the town’s police station.

“But we are not sure if the NPA was behind the explosive that was found Wednesday,” Mahimpit said.

He said the bomb, whose discovery caused a  traffic jam as authorities prevented motorists from using the bridge for a while, was properly disposed of by bomb experts.

On Tuesday evening, another explosive was found by civilians, who immediately notified the authorities, near a videoke bar in Pikit town.

Superintendent Danilo Peralta, North Cotabato police director, said two men were seen in the area prior to the discovery of the explosive, which was fitted with a cellphone as triggering device.

On Saturday, four explosives were also recovered in Makilala town. The IEDs were planted on the road leading to Barangay Luna Sur.

Colonel Nilo Vinluan, commander of the 57th Infantry Battalion, said the military was sure the Makilala explosives were planted by the NPA.

Vinluan said the insurgents might have wanted to retaliate for the deaths of five of their comrades who were killed in May 20 NPA attack on the police station in President Roxas.

Obama warns against ‘aggression’ in South China Sea

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 29): Obama warns against ‘aggression’ in South China Sea

President Barack Obama warned Wednesday that the United States was ready to respond to China’s “aggression” toward its neighbors at sea but said Washington should lead by example by ratifying a key treaty.

In a wide-ranging speech on foreign policy to US military cadets at West Point, Obama said that the United States should shun isolationism and that its military must be prepared for crises.

“Regional aggression that goes unchecked—whether it’s southern Ukraine, or the South China Sea, or anywhere else in the world—will ultimately impact our allies, and could draw in our military,” Obama said.

But Obama emphasized caution on any decision to use force and said: “American influence is always stronger when we lead by example.”

“We can’t try to resolve the problems in the South China Sea when we have refused to make sure that the Law of the Sea Convention is ratified by the United States—despite the fact that our top military leaders say that the treaty advances our national security,” Obama said, not naming China directly as he diverted from his prepared text.

“That’s not leadership; that’s retreat. That’s not strength; that’s weakness,” Obama said.

Senators of the rival Republican Party have refused to ratify the treaty, saying that the UN convention would override US sovereignty.

Tensions have been rising for months between China and its neighbors at sea, with Vietnam on Tuesday accusing Beijing of ramming and sinking one of its fishing boats in the South China Sea.

Japan and the Philippines also have tense disputes at sea with China.

Japanese commentators have voiced concern that the US failure to prevent Russia from annexing Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March sent the wrong signal to China.

In another reference to policy toward Asia, Obama again cited the democratic reforms in Myanmar as a success story.

The administration upon entering office in 2009 opened a dialogue with the then military-ruled nation earlier known as Burma, whose relations have improved with the United States have improved dramatically.

“Progress there could be reversed. But if Burma succeeds, we will have gained a new partner without having fired a shot,” Obama said.

Myanmar has freed political prisoners, eased censorship and welcomed foreign investors, but human rights groups have voiced alarm over violence against the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.

Abu Sayyaf frees Filipino businesswoman from jungle

From the Philippine Star (May 29): Abu Sayyaf frees Filipino businesswoman from jungle

Abu Sayyaf militants freed a businesswoman Wednesday by abandoning her near an airport in the southern Philippines after holding her in the jungle for more than three months, officials said.

The Abu Sayyaf gunmen left Sugar Diane Esperanza Buenviaje near the Jolo airport in Sulu, a predominantly Muslim province where the militants have held several foreign and Filipino kidnap victims in their jungle strongholds for years, police Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr. said.

Police escorted Buenviaje to southern Zamboanga city where she was to be checked by doctors and possibly undergo questioning by anti-kidnapping authorities.

Gunmen seized Buenviaje, who owns a construction supplies store on Mapun island in Tawi Tawi province, near Sulu, in February and took her away in a motorboat. Authorities suspect Buenviaje may have been taken by the same Abu Sayyaf militants responsible for last month's kidnapping of a Chinese tourist and a Filipino hotel worker from eastern Malaysia.

Two military officials in charge of monitoring kidnappings in the south said gunmen led by Abu Sayyaf commander Alhabsi Misaya kidnapped Buenviaje and released her after receiving an unspecified amount of ransom. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Cruz said he was not aware that ransom was paid in exchange for Buenviaje's freedom.

Misaya and his men are believed to be holding the Chinese tourist and Filipino hotel receptionist in Sulu jungles after seizing them from the Singamata Reef Resort in the Semporna district of Malaysia's Sabah state, the two officials said.

The kidnappings are a reminder of the threats still posed by the Abu Sayyaf, which has endured years of U.S.-backed Philippine military offensives.

The Abu Sayyaf, which has been linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network, has carried out kidnappings for ransom in the region before, alarming nearby countries like Malaysia. In 2000, Abu Sayyaf gunmen snatched 21 European tourists and Malaysian and Filipino workers from Malaysia's Sipadan diving resort and brought them to the southern Philippines, where they eventually were released in exchange for large ransom payments.

In November, suspected Abu Sayyaf militants killed a Taiwanese tourist and kidnapped his wife from a resort in Semporna. She was released a month later in Sulu, about 950 kilometers (590 miles) south of Manila.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen still hold several captives in Sulu, including two European bird watchers who were abducted two years ago.

Army operatives defuse roadside bomb

From the Philippine Star (May 29): Army operatives defuse roadside bomb

Army ordnance operatives promptly deactivated on Wednesday a powerful roadside bomb found along a busy thoroughfare in President Roxas town in North Cotabato.

Mayor Jaime Mahimpit, presiding chairman of the President Roxas municipal peace and order council, said they are convinced the New People’s Army (NPA) was responsible for the foiled bombing attempt.

Four NPAs were killed when a band of about a hundred rebels tried, but failed to take over the President Roxas town hall two weeks ago.

Policemen on duty managed to prevent the rebels from getting close to the town hall, killing four of them and forcing the hasty retreat of others carrying more than a dozen wounded companions.

Mahimpit said the roadside bomb deactivated by Army explosives experts was first found by vigilant passersby, who immediately reported what they discovered to the local police.

Mahimpit said the improvised explosive, placed at one side of the highway, was fashioned from a Claymor mine packed with highly explosive charges placed inside cut plastic pipes sealed with rubberized roofing sealant.

The bomb was attached to an improvised blasting mechanism that can be activated from a distance using a mobile phone.

12 homemade bombs found separately in North Cotabato

From InterAksyon (May 29): 12 homemade bombs found separately in North Cotabato

File photo of homemade bomb from the Philippine military

A dozen homemade bombs were found separately in North Cotabato over the last couple of days.

The other night, a homemade bomb was found in front of the Video K Hauz in Barangay Poblacion in the town of Pikit.

The bomb was made from a 60-millimeter mortar, a 9-volt battery, and a cellphone triggering device, said Pikit chief of police Inspector Pangandian Mautin.

Residents quickly told the police about the bomb, which was de-fused by the explosives and ordnance team.

On Wednesday, another homemade bomb was found in Barangay Labujo, President Roxas at past 4 p.m.

It was found by a bridge near a police station that was recently attacked, 57th IB Commanding Officer Col. Nilo Vinluan said.

The bomb was made of PVC pipe, cut-up steel, with nails and gunpowder.
Vinluan believes this was made by New People’s Army rebels.

Last week, three homemade bombs were also found in Pikit. Police believed all three were planted by the same group.

Also last week, seven more homemade bombs were found in the towns of Makilala and President Roxas.

As Asia frets over China, Abe likely to get warmer welcome for lifting ban on Japan military

Posted to InterAksyon (May 29): As Asia frets over China, Abe likely to get warmer welcome for lifting ban on Japan military

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's message of a bigger global security role for Japan when he speaks at a regional forum this week is likely to find a receptive audience as concerns grow in Asia about China -- although some will refrain from clapping too loud for fear of offending Beijing.

While Japan has a festering dispute with China over islands in the sea between the two Asian economic giants, tensions have also spiked between Beijing and several Southeast Asian nations over rival claims to the oil and gas-rich South China Sea.

Abe is to deliver the keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue on Friday, a forum for defense and security experts from Asia, including the Association of South East Asian Nations, the United States and Australia.

The conservative prime minister is expected to explain his stepped-up push to lift a ban that has kept Japan's military from fighting overseas since World War Two.

Despite harsh memories of Japan's wartime occupation of much of Southeast Asia, several countries in the region may be in favor because of China's increasing assertiveness.

"The ASEAN countries which have disputes with China will support him," said Malcolm Cook, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

"Japan can be much more forthright on its criticism of China than ASEAN as a grouping can be."

Some of the most trenchant criticism of China has come from the Philippines and more recently, Vietnam.

Earlier this month, China parked a huge oilrig in waters that are also claimed by Vietnam, and scores of ships from the two countries have been squaring off in its vicinity.

On Tuesday, a Vietnamese fishing boat sank, prompting Hanoi and Beijing to trade barbs over who was to blame.

China has also angered the Philippines with reclamation work on a disputed island and the building of what appears to be an airstrip.

"We welcome Japan's contribution to the enhancement of security and stability in the region, including its plan to play a larger security role in the region," a senior Philippine defense official said.


Other countries such as Malaysia, however, remain wary of angering China because of deep economic ties. Smaller nations in China's immediate neighborhood, like Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos, are also unlikely to show solidarity with Japan.

Abe's speech is also expected to stress respect for the rule of law and opposition to changing the status quo by force -- typically Japanese code for criticizing Beijing.

Chinese delegates at the dialogue, led by the tough and articulate former deputy foreign minister Fu Ying, are expected to make the case that Japan, not China, threatens regional security, because of Abe's efforts to stretch the limits of Japan's post-war, pacifist constitution and bolster the military.

"China has elevated its representation at the dialogue, which has always been weaker than the other major players. I’m sure the decision to invite Abe played a role in that,” Cook said.

Abe has made clear that he wants to re-interpret the constitution's pacifist Article 9 to enable Japan to exercise its right of collective self-defense, or militarily aiding a friendly country under attack. Previous governments have said Japan has the right under international law but that exercising it exceeds the bounds of the war-renouncing Article 9.

Abe said on Thursday he hoped for a decision in time to reflect the change in an update of US-Japan defense cooperation guidelines the allies want to finish by year-end.

"It is desirable that (the cabinet) will make a decision in time for that," Kyodo news agency quoted him as telling a parliamentary panel debating the proposed shift.

Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party is trying to persuade its more dovish coalition partner to agree to the historic policy change, which surveys show a majority of Japanese voters oppose.

"At this time, he has to keep saying it's about the defense of Japan and our citizens, but in Singapore, he should be saying it's about regional security," said Narushige Michishita at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo.

EDCA panel confident SC will find pact constitutional

From InterAksyon (May 29): EDCA panel confident SC will find pact constitutional

The government panel that negotiated the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States welcomed the filing of petitions against the pact and saying it was confident the Supreme Court would uphold its constitutionality.

"It is the right of every Filipino to raise questions and seek clarification on the EDCA. We welcome the filing of the cases and see this as an opportunity to allay the apprehension of those who doubt the EDCA's constitutionality,” a statement from the panel, headed by Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, said.

“The panel is confident that the EDCA will pass the scrutiny of the Supreme Court," the statement added.

Two petitions have been filed before the high court challenging the EDCA’s constitutionality.

The first was filed Monday by former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada, former University of the Philippines president Dr. Francisco “Dodong” Nemenzo Jr, former UP College of Law dean Pacifico Agabin, Sr. Mary John Mananzan, lawyer Steve Salonga, son of former Senate President Jovito Salonga, lawyers Harry Roque, Evalyn Ursua and Edre Olalia, Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, Dr. Roland Simbulan, and former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino.

The second petition was filed the next day by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, director Joel Lamangan, nationalist Renato Constantino Jr., and representatives from the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives -- Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna, Luzviminda Ilagan and Emi de Jesus of Gabriela Womens Party, Antonio Tiono of ACT Teachers, Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis and Terry Ridon of Kabataan.
Critics of the EDCA, which allows the increased presence of American forces and allows their free use of Philippine facilities, say it violates the constitutional prohibition against the presence of both foreign military troops and bases.

Philippine rebels deny hand in mayor’s ambush

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (May 29): Philippine rebels deny hand in mayor’s ambush

    Mayor Reynaldo Navarro
The communist New People’s Army denied Thursday any involvement in the assassination of a town mayor in the southern Philippines following military accusations that it was behind the murder.

Mayor Reynaldo Navarro, of Laak town in Compostela Valley, was killed in an ambush by motorcycle gunmen on May 28 while travelling in the village of Sagayen in Asuncion town in Davao del Norte province.

Two of the ambushers were also killed by Navarro’s two police escorts who had been wounded in the exchanged of fire. The mayor’s driver and two of his police escorts – PO3 Glen Ochoco and PO1 Rey Leones, and driver Timitilito Pacano were wounded in the ambush, but two of the attackers had been killed in the exchanged of fire that also injured two civilians – Crispolo Patajo, Sr  and Paquito Tonocante, according to Capt. Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, adding two automatic rifles were recovered from the slain gunmen.

The NPA accused Navarro along with two other active police officers and a retired policeman for their alleged involvement in illegal logging activities in Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur and Davao del Norte.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the 10th Infantry Division was quick to blame the NPA for the killing.

Rigoberto Sanchez, a rebel spokesman, said the NPA was not involved in the ambush and condemned the killing of Navarro.

“In accusing the NPA of Navarro’s ambush, the 10th Infantry Division-Eastern Mindanao Command shows that it is poised to agitate and conscript Navarro’s Lumad supporters and followers to become its new lackeys and bandits under the Oplan Bayanihan counterrevolutionary campaign. The masses in Laak should see to this latest anti-people machination and must struggle against fascism,” Sanchez said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

“While Navarro was part of the Big 4 in Agusan-Comval-Davao del Norte forests, the NPA has not considered him an enemy that warrants a standing order or a recipient of a death sentence. Navarro’s track record did not make him a legitimate military target, thus, no revolutionary punishment was executed against him,” he said.

Sanchez said despite strong NPA warnings on Navarro to stop his illegal logging there are no grounds for them to kill the politician, saying, he had supported the rebel cause in the past.

“As a long-time politician whose area covers territories of the People’s Democratic Government in Compostela Valley, Navarro cooperated with comrades and in many ways have demonstrated actions that point to his recognition of the revolutionary cause. In the last few years, however, his business interest in logging and agribusiness expansion has increased. Comrades have repeatedly warned him of his increasing anti-people activities.”

“In the midst of these warnings, there are no strong grounds showing Navarro’s grave offenses against the revolutionary movement that would necessitate the People’s Democratic Government to hand down the maximum penalty of capital punishment,” Sanchez said.

Just this month, rebels captured a government soldier, Corporal Rogelio Rosales, of the 60thInfantry Battalion, for protecting illegal logging in Davao del Norte’s Kapalong town. He was eventually freed to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who negotiated with the NPA for the safe release of the soldier.

Rosales, who yielded illegal drugs during his capture, was eventually removed by military service after he admitted using drugs during a routine debriefing shortly after his release.

Last month, the NPA arrested Sergeant Jeric Bucio Curay, a member of the 72nd Infantry Battalion, at a rebel checkpoint in Laak town. He was released also to Duterte two weeks later.

The rebels, who are fighting for a separate state in the country, also threatened to attack mining companies in Mindanao, especially those engage in open-pit and destructive mining practices, and those that encroach in ancestral domain of indigenous communities in the southern region.