Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Can The Mindanao Peace Process End With A Success Story? – Analysis

From the Eurasia Review (Jul 2): Can The Mindanao Peace Process End With A Success Story? – Analysis (By Selcuk Colakoglu)

Hardly a day passes without a hot conflict breaking out in various parts of our globe. The Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine are the latest examples of conflict zones where disputes between different ethnic and religious groups have culminated in hot conflict. Under such circumstances, the successful peace process between the Filipino government and the Muslim minority in the Philippines shines out. In this respect, the question of whether the ongoing peace process in Mindanao, the southernmost major island in the Philippines, can be concluded successfully, and whether such an experience can serve as a source of inspiration for conflicting parties all around the world, is a truly important one.

In addition to this question, the state of affairs concerning the Mindanao peace process and future prospects were discussed in detail at a panel meeting organized by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 26-27, 2014. The conference was entitled “III. Istanbul Conference on Mediation”, the third leg of a conference series on the theory and practice of mediation all around the world with each panel focusing on a key case. The Mindanao peace process was presented as a successful case in which mediation delivered results by the panelists, a number of whom were themselves leading the process. Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the Chair of the Government of the Philippines Peace Panel; Mohaqher Iqbal, the Chair of the Negotiation Panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); Tengku Dato Ab Ghaffar Bin Tengku Mohamed, the Chief Facilitator for the Government of Malaysia in Mindanao Peace Process; and Sayyid Qasim El-Masry, the Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for Peace in Southern Philippines, discussed the peace process from the day it was initiated up to now.

Progress in the process

The Mindanao issue and the consequent peace process go back a long way in the modern history of the Philippines. Initial armed conflicts in the region began after the Mindanao National Liberation Front (MNLF) was founded in 1968, and continued in low-intensity until 1996. While peace talks were occasionally arranged between the Filipino government and MNLF in the course of these three decades, the most salient step in this regard was taken in 1976 when the Tripoli Agreement was signed through the agency of Libya. Clashes continued afterwards, laying the groundwork for the Final Peace Agreement signed in 1996. However, a splinter rebel group called the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was not satisfied with the accord because they aspired to attain full independence. Hence MILF broke away from MNLF, gradually evolving into the most powerful armed group representing the Muslim minority of Mindanao. Peace negotiations were conducted through two distinct channels, one involving MNLF and the other addressing MILF, as of 1996.

The international community has always provided assistance to constructive efforts aimed at the resolution of the Mindanao conflict, and there has been no direct or indirect intervention by foreign actors trying to undermine the process. Regional organizations such as ASEAN and the OIC, as well as neighboring countries and great powers have been actively supporting the peace process. It was especially Malaysia and Indonesia, two Muslim-majority countries neighboring the Philippines, which after 1968 made significant contributions aimed at securing an environment of constructive dialogue between Manila and the Muslims of Mindanao. In such a fashion, despite some interruptions, significant steps were taken in accordance with the institutionalization and internationalization of the Mindanao peace process after 1996. Malaysia became a country facilitator in 2001. The International Monitoring Team (IMT), comprised of Malaysia, Libya, Brunei, Japan, Norway, and the EU was established in 2005. Finally, the first combined mediation initiative was seen with the participation of both states and NGOs in 2009. It was called the International Contact Group (ICG), and it included Japan, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey alongside four international NGOs (Muhammadiyah-Indonesia, The Asia Foundation-US, the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue- Switzerland, and Conciliation Resources-UK). As a result of such international mediation efforts, Manila and MILF signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in October 2012.

The roadmap and implementation schedule

An elaborate roadmap and schedule were put together for the smooth implementation of the Mindanao peace process. The Framework Agreement of 2012 formed the backbone of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro which was signed on March 27, 2014. Political, security-related, and socio-economic measures are being formulated thanks to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which is expected to become fully effective by 2016. By this time authorities believe the resolution process will be completed in every respect, and all practical deficiencies will be remedied. In essence, attaining peace in exchange for allowing some degree of autonomy to the Bangsamoro region is the aim of all parties involved. Presently, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is being established for handling the transition process in question. As for the question regarding what constitutes the most critical ingredient of the peace process: it is the disarmament of MILF fighters one by one.
Despite all its complexity, and diversity of related mechanisms, the political consensus-building phase of the Mindanao peace process was successfully completed thanks to the constructive assistance and participation of the international community. The implementation phase that we are currently passing through can also achieve success in the case that all parties involved continue with their constructive assistance and maintain their positive attitudes.


That said, there are still risks which need to be mentioned with regard to the Mindanao peace process. First of all, the process preceding the agreement in 2012 was a product of an initiative undertaken by President Benigno Aquino III himself. It is uncertain whether Manila will continue to back the peace process if the government changes hands. There are examples in the country’s past indicating that the process could be halted if a new government and president were to come to power and suspend relevant policies. However, experts are of the opinion that it will be difficult for any government in Manila to draw back in defiance of all international efforts and attention focused on the issue, unless MILF backs out.

Another uncertainty with regard to the peace process is whether different attitudes can emerge among various Muslim armed groups. As there are different factions within MNLF and MILF, there are also other independent groups. Indeed, split from MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) already declared that it does not recognize the 2012 agreement. MILF, Manila, and international parties involved all indicate that the Muslim population in Mindanao craves peace and stability after decades of conflict, therefore groups which can inhibit the peace process do not rest on a popular base as their arguments more or less lack public legitimacy. Moreover, they believe marginal groups such as BIFF and Abu Sayyaf will gradually dissolve over time.

Future expectations

Within a global context where regional conflicts and clashes are mostly entangled in a Gordian knot, the need to hear success stories is dire. The Mindanao peace process provides us with a success story that we can all make an inference from, as it demonstrates that progress and gains can be made through hard work. If the Mindanao peace process can be successfully concluded, such an experience will inspire efforts aimed at resolving similar tensions within ASEAN countries. In this way, beyond economic integration, the process of political and social integration among ASEAN members will be catalyzed in a manner resembling that of the past experience of the EU. The Mindanao peace process will furthermore motivate the international community to make an endeavor to overcome similar conflicts through dialogue and negotiation.

As U.S. Winds Down Counterterrorism Task Force in the Philippines, Challenges Remain

From the World Politics Review (Jul 2): As U.S. Winds Down Counterterrorism Task Force in the Philippines, Challenges Remain

Photo: Members of the Armed Forces Philippines (AFP) participate in live-fire exercise while receiving training with the U. S. Army Special Forces, Zamboanga, Philippines, Mar. 21, 2003 (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Edward G. Martens).

In remarks at the U.S. Embassy in Manila early last month, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg praised the elite counterterrorism unit sent to advise the Philippine military after the attacks of 9/11, known as the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-P), as having “gained the trust and earned the respect of our host nation partners.” The unit, he pointed out, was also the “first element of the U.S. Armed Forces to deploy” to areas affected by last November’s typhoon.

But after more than a decade in the Philippines, the United States is phasing out the task force. A smaller group of U.S. Army Special Forces advisers will remain in the country to assist the Philippine military.

David Maxwell of Georgetown University, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces colonel who commanded the unit from 2006 to 2007, says in a phone interview that the transition to “steady state operations” is a sign of a “mature alliance” and enhanced capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. “We can rely on normal mechanisms to provide training, advice and assistance,” he adds.

Renato DeCastro, a professor of international studies at De La Salle University in Manila, agrees that there is “wide satisfaction” in the Philippines with the task force’s performance. But “it is time to move on,” he says in an email, reflecting the shift in alliance priorities “from counterterrorism and counterinsurgency to territorial defense and maritime security.”    

The task force and other U.S. counterterrorism efforts launched by the George W. Bush administration are credited with a number of successes in the Philippines, including degrading militant groups like the al-Qaida-affiliate Abu Sayyef and helping the Philippines reach a landmark peace deal with the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front in May after decades of conflict. Philippine security forces conducted these operations themselves, without the direct involvement of U.S. combat troops.

Maxwell points to a number of more structural accomplishments resulting from U.S.-Philippines security cooperation. These include intelligence sharing, improved targeting practices and enhanced capabilities of the Philippine military, such as the ability to conduct helicopter operations at night using night-vision gear.

The Philippine military was also able to use “effective civic action programs” to change conditions on the ground and provide better access to contested areas, he adds.

Maxwell cautions, however, against regarding the U.S. experience in the Philippines as a model for global counterterror efforts. “We can’t just pick this up and apply it somewhere else,” he says. He stresses that the task force’s operations relied extensively on the capacity and willingness of the Philippines as a partner, and that U.S. assistance was preceded by a thorough assessment by U.S. Army Special Forces, which “informed the strategy that is being executed to this day.”

Furthermore, Maxwell adds, the task force was never seen as permanent, even if the United States saw “off the bat” that it would take over 10 years to have an effect.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned. Maxwell says he is “heartened” by the Obama administration’s decision to deploy Special Forces into Iraq to conduct an assessment of how to help Iraqi security forces battle militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This will give policymakers a sense of what U.S. assistance to Iraq can actually achieve, and reproduces a key element of the mission in the Philippines.

But even as one chapter of U.S.-Philippines security cooperation comes to a close, the relationship will remain a priority for the Obama administration as it tries to keep its rebalancing plan—the strategic “pivot” of military assets and attention to Asia—on track.

In April, the United States and the Philippines signed the Enhanced Cooperation Defense Agreement. According to the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs, the agreement will strengthen the Philippine military, maritime security and disaster response through better infrastructure and planning for disaster response missions.

Given domestic sensitivities about the long-term stationing of American troops in the country, the Philippine government emphasized that any U.S. presence would not be permanent. Indeed, DeCastro says that the task force’s light, rotational presence “provided a model of the type of American strategic footprint” that will be implemented under the new defense agreement.

Despite successes over the last decade, however, the Philippines is still exposed to complex internal and external threats. As Lt. Cmdr. Mark Munson observed in an article at War on the Rocks, although membership in Abu Sayyaf is down to 300 from around 1,200 in 2002, “violence in the southern Philippines has cycled up and down over the last decade,” despite the killing and capture of numerous high value targets.

Decastro says that the Philippines is satisfied with the level of “material and technical assistance” from the United States as its military shifts from internal to territorial defense. But new threats are on the horizon: He warns that there is “an underlying concern” about the strength of U.S. promises “in the face of Chinese maritime expansionism in the South China Sea.”

Insurgents attack aid programs to undermine the government, Stanford scholar says

From Stanford/News (Jul 2): Insurgents attack aid programs to undermine the government, Stanford scholar says

Research by Joseph Felter shows that insurgents try to derail government-delivered aid programs in poor areas because they fear successful programs will boost the government's credibility. Preventive measures include providing greater security around aid projects and limiting advance knowledge about them.

Joseph Felter

Joseph Felter, a retired Army colonel and researcher at the Hoover Institution and Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation, found that development aid backfires when insurgents attack it as a way to discredit government.

Insurgents sabotage government-sponsored aid programs in poor areas because they fear those programs, if successful, will increase the government's support among the people, new Stanford research shows.

A research paper, published in the American Economic Review, involved an analysis of a large community-driven development program in the Philippines. In 2012, the World Bank supported more than 400 of these projects in 94 countries with about $30 billion in aid.

Conventional wisdom assumes that development aid is a tool to help reduce civil conflict. But some aid projects may actually exacerbate the violence, the research showed.

In an interview, Joseph Felter, a senior research scholar at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation, said, "A 'winning hearts-and-minds' strategy for disbursing development aid may lead to an increase in insurgent attacks in the world's poorest areas. The study's takeaway is not to stop aid delivery, but to appreciate and plan for the possibility of unintended consequences."

Felter co-wrote the article, "Aid Under Fire: Development Projects and Civil Conflict," along with Benjamin Crost of the University of Colorado-Denver and Patrick Johnston of the RAND Corporation.

Their research relied on conflict data from the Philippines military from between 2002 and 2006 that allowed them to precisely estimate how the implementation of aid affected violence levels in ongoing insurgencies against the government.

Spotlight on the Philippines

These issues are particularly important in poor and conflict-ridden countries like the Philippines, Felter said. The Philippines is home to some of the most protracted insurgencies in the world. Islamic separatist groups struggle for an independent Muslim state; a communist group continues to wage a classic Maoist revolutionary war; and the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group conducts kidnappings and terrorist attacks.

The aid program Felter and his colleagues studied was the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive Integrated Delivery of Social Service – or KALAHI-CIDSS – the largest of its kind in the Philippines. Through it, poor communities receive projects to address their most pressing needs. According to Felter, this typically involved funding for projects like roads, schools, health clinics and other infrastructure.

"This is government funding for projects that citizens in these areas have expressly asked for," Felter said.

The researchers noted that community-driven development projects, also known as "CDD" projects, are popular because evidence suggests they enhance social cohesion among citizens. But sometimes they draw the wrong kind of attention from anti-government groups, as the research illustrated.

Felter and his colleagues found an increase of 110-185 percent in insurgent attacks in communities where aid projects commenced, the authors wrote. If this effect is extrapolated across all of the Philippines' municipalities, the authors estimate that the program resulted in between 550 and 930 additional casualties during three years.

"Taken together, this detailed evidence sheds new light on the mechanisms that link aid and conflict, which may eventually help design more effective aid interventions that alleviate poverty without exacerbating conflict," they wrote.

When the insurgent groups destroy such a project, it has the effect of weakening the perception that the government can actually deliver on community projects, the scholars wrote. For example, the communist rebels in the Philippines have issued public statements denouncing the KALAHI-CIDSS program as "counterrevolutionary and anti-development." If a successful aid program shifts the balance of power in favor of the government, it reduces insurgents' bargaining power and their political leverage.

As a result, insurgents tended to engage in conflict in the earlier stages of a project in order to keep it from succeeding, according to the research. In fact, conflict increased when municipalities were in the early or "social preparation" stages of publicizing an aid program, Felter and his colleagues wrote.

Sometimes rebel groups divert aid to fund their own operations – aid shipments are often stolen or "taxed" by these groups, according to the paper.

The next step

What can be done to prevent attacks?

"Greater security around the aid projects and limiting advance knowledge of the particular projects are good measures to start with," Felter said.

He noted that governments and aid organizations need to be discreet in how they identify aid projects and their locations, and how they disburse the aid itself. More research on this issue needs to be done, Felter said.

"One lesson is not to give insurgents too long a lead time to plan attacks," he said.

Unfortunately, as the researchers noted, poverty and violence are often linked: "The estimated one-and-a-half billion people living in conflict-affected countries are substantially more likely to be undernourished, less likely to have access to clean water and education, and face higher rates of childhood mortality."

Continued progress – in the form of international aid – is urged toward eradicating poverty. "To help achieve this, governments and multilateral donor organizations are increasingly directing development aid to conflict-affected countries worldwide," Felter and his co-authors pointed out.

Felter, also a research fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, retired from the U.S. Army as a colonel in 2012 following a career as a Special Forces and foreign area officer. He has conducted foreign internal defense and security assistance missions across East and Southeast Asia and has participated in combat deployments to Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010-11, he commanded the International Security and Assistance Force Counter Insurgency Advisory and Assistance Team in Afghanistan.

"I saw this dynamic [insurgent attacks on aid projects] firsthand in Afghanistan and Iraq. This research paper confirms it," Felter said.

He devoted much of his Stanford doctoral dissertation and his work at CISAC and Hoover to build what he hopes will be the largest and most detailed micro-conflict database – the Empirical Studies of Conflict – ever assembled.

Felter said there is only so much that the military can do to win over people in areas ravaged by war and conflict.

"The military can 'lease' hearts and minds by creating a safe environment for aid projects," he said, "but ultimately it's up to the government to win them over."

Report: Suspected Malaysian militants hiding in PHL?

From GMA News (Jul 3): Report: Suspected Malaysian militants hiding in PHL?

Malaysian authorities suspect at least five militants with ties to terrorist groups like Isil and the Abu Sayyaf may have gone into hiding in the Philippines, a Malaysian news site reported Thursday.

A report on Malaysia's The Star Online quoted Royal Malaysian Police Inspector-General Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar as saying the five are believed to be "hiding in southern Philippines."

Khalid urged the public to call the nearest police station or the Bukit Aman Counter Terrorism Division at 03-2266 7010 or 011-2104 6850, or e-mail them at

The report said the group is suepcted to have recruited four Malaysians and sent them to Syria last March 5.

Now being tracked down by police are:

former lecturer Dr. Mahmud Ahmad and stationery shop owner Mohd Najib Husen, believed to be leaders in the local militant group training and sending members to fight in Syria and Iraq. The two were also suspected of arranging meetings between foreign and local militant leaders, supposedly to set up a "Daulah Islamiyah Asia Tenggara" (South-East Asia Islamiyah network).

 - former Selayang Municipal Council employee Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, 39, a spiritual leader.

 - Darul Islam Sabah members Mohd Amin Baco, 31, and Jeknal Adil, 30, both from Tawau.

Police manhunt for UM lecturer, 4 others in terrorism dragnet

From the Malay Mail posted to the Malaysian Chronicle (Jul 2): Police manhunt for UM lecturer, 4 others in terrorism dragnet       

KUALA LUMPUR - Police are seeking an Islamic studies lecturer with Universiti Malaya (UM) and a staffer with the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) among five Malaysians suspected of recruiting members for militant Islamic groups in conflict-riddled Syria and the Philippines.

Profiles of the five men, complete with their pictures, were released in a wanted poster by Bukit Aman’s counter-terrorism unit.

Inspector-general of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said three of the suspects are believed to be serving the Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant (ISIL) while the other two are members of Darul Islam Sabah, a group now affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf terrorist sect based in South Philippines.

Among those identified as ISIL recruiters is Dr Mahmud Ahmad, otherwise known as Abu Hanadzalah, a lecturer attached with Universiti Malaya’s (UM) Academy of Islamic Studies faculty.

Also linked to ISIL is Mohd Najib Husen - who also goes by the name of Abraham - the operator of a photocopy and stationaries shop in UM, and Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee or Abu Nur, a secretariat staff with the Selayang city council.

Linked to the Darul Islam Sabah group, meanwhile, were Mohd Amin Baco and Jeknal Adil, both from Tawau, Sabah.

The following photos have been added from the Malaysian Police Facebook page:

University lecturer among Islamic State recruiters in M'sia

From Channel News Asia (Jul 2): University lecturer among Islamic State recruiters in M'sia

Malaysian police have released five photos of wanted Malaysian militants believed to be hiding in the southern Philippines. Among them -- a lecturer from the University of Malaya, Dr Mahmud Ahmad, also known as Abu Handzalah.

[Video News Report]
Among the wanted Malaysian militants -- a lecturer from the University of Malaya, Dr Mahmud Ahmad, also known as Abu Handzalah; Mohd Najib Husen, a.k.a Abraham, who runs a stationery shop in the same university; and municipal council worker Muhd Joraimee, also known as Abu Nur.

The three are said to have been involved in recruiting for militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- now known simply as the Islamic State.

Another two suspects, Jeknal Adil and Mohd Amin Baco, were members of Darul Islam Sabah -- a homegrown militant group linked to the Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine off-shoot of the terror network Al Qaeda.

The police believe the men are hiding in the southern Philippines.

As Malaysia steps up its fight against terror, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has warned of a rise in militancy, especially in the Sulu strait, that may threaten regional stability.

He said: "I look at it with even more urgency now because of the developments globally (such as) what is happening in Iraq.

"We have been preoccupied with kidnapping, we've been preoccupied with smuggling, but nobody has looked at it in the context of militancy -- and that is the role of the military. We in Southeast Asia, we in ASEAN cannot take it for granted.''

Iraqi militant group the Islamic State's recent call to set up a caliphate in the Middle East has revived calls by Southeast Asian militant groups of a caliphate in the region.

It is an idea that had been championed previously by regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah.
However, some terror experts said that is unlikely to gain traction with home-grown terror groupings, which are mostly small, inexperienced and disorganised.
Dr Zakaria Ahmad, associate professor at Help University, said: "Over 40 groups have been identified and the police have been keeping a close eye on them. It's important to remember that these groups are not integrated -- they're very sporadic... They're not linked."
But that may change, with more Malaysians reportedly being recruited, and are now training and fighting alongside militants in Iraq and Syria. The government fears that local groups may link up with regional terror networks, as they have done in the past, and pose a real threat to national security.

MILF: MPC urges President Aquino to make public the BTC signed version of BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Jul 2): MPC urges President Aquino to make public the BTC signed version of BBL

In a press statement issued on July 1, 2014, the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) along with kindred civil society organizations and grassroots communities in Mindanao strongly urged President Benigno Aquino III to release to the public the signed BTC version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the comments thereon by Malacañang legal team. 

 “Invoking the acclaimed government policy on transparency and inclusiveness, it is high time that the draft BBL must be released to the public so that all stakeholders for peace will be assured that this remains faithful, compliant and consistent with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro”.

 “Unhealthy speculations are running high about the fate of the peace roadmap agreed upon by both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in a bid to settle over four decades of Moro rebellion in Mindanao. The longer these speculations persist, the greater the chance of eroding the public’s trust on the GPH-MILF peace process. To be successful, the peace agreement that the parties forged through a 17-year negotiation must earn the widest public acclaim”.

“We are therefore alarmed that the parties are seemingly doing nothing to stave off the erosion of public confidence on the viability of their political settlement. We would like to emphasize here that the biggest stakeholders of the peace process are Mindanao’s grassroots communities and peoples who have suffered the most during the long periods of war. Let us not fail their expectations of finally enjoying normalcy in their lives by showing our resolve to defend the gains of the peace process, particularly the integrity of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)”.

“These unhealthy speculations are bred by the continuing unavailability to public scrutiny of the Bangsamoro Basic Law drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). We note that it has been more than two months since the BTC submitted the full text of the draft Basic Law to the Office of the President. And until today, the public is yet to know the contents of this historic document”.

 “When enacted, the Basic Law will serve as charter of the new autonomous entity in Mindanao that expectedly embodies the attributes of meaningful self-governance for the Moro people. As such, it will be among the principal measures that will make the letter and spirit of the CAB come to life”.

“In the process of writing the Basic Law, the BTC asked the public, especially the grassroots communities and sectors, to provide inputs and share their thoughts and sentiments. With the Basic Law now drafted by the BTC, the public deserves to know how much of their hopes and dreams for a fresh social order are embodied in that instrument. In light of this, we appeal to President Aquino to reveal to the public the full text of the Bangsamoro Basic Law”.

“We feel that enough time has passed for a thorough review of the BTC draft; it is also about time to give the public, especially the Bangsamoro constituency, the opportunity to examine the document. In the spirit of transparency which is the avowed policy of the administration of President Aquino, we urge the BTC to release to the public the text of the Basic Law it drafted”.

In conclusion, the MPC said,

“We also urge the Office of the President to immediately release its comments to the BTC’s draft Basic Law even before a ‘revised’ draft is submitted to Congress by July 28. All these processes must be transparent to all stakeholders in Mindanao and the country. We trust that President Aquino heed this appeal in the greater interest of transparency and of maintaining public trust and confidence in the peace process”.

MILF: Madaris-Dep-Ed ALIVE Teachers hold orientation in Sulu

Posted to the MILF Website (Jul 3): Madaris-Dep-Ed ALIVE Teachers hold orientation in Sulu

June 27, 2014, the Madaris-ALIVE Teachers program of the Department of Education held orientation fused with advocacy on the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Bangsamoro Basic Law at the conference hall of the Dep-Ed in island province of Sulu.
“A Religious community is a peaceful society”. This is how the organizers considered the activity attended by 150 madaris teachers from different schools in various municipalities of Sulu.

The ALIVE teachers program is one of the Dep-Ed programs handling Arabic subjects in secondary and elementary school levels.

Resource speakers who discussed their respective topics were Tuan Yahya Titong on Monitoring and Evaluation system; Dr. Farouk B. Yonus, OIC, SDS Division of Sulu on the significance aspect of M & E System. Other speakers include Tuan Abdulmotalib K. Ismi, Division Alive Coordinator and Hadji Nurl H. Tingkasan, BTC on the Air Radio Anchor at DXMM, Jolo, on the significance and understanding of FAB and its annexes, the CAB and BBL.

MILF: Basilan LGU’s hold dialogue with MILF Polcom and BIAF

From the MILF Website (Jul 2): Basilan LGU’s hold dialogue with MILF Polcom and BIAF

Basilan local government officials headed by Gov. Jum Jainuddin Akbar, members of the provincial Board, municipal mayors, vice mayors, ABC Federation Presidents from different municipalities of the province held special dialogue with MILF-Yakan Political Committee (YCC),   representatives from the 114th Base Command- Western Mindanao Front Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) at SP Hall, Basilan Provincial Capitol, Isabela City on June 19, 2014.
The meeting was called for by the provincial governor after Yakan City Committee officers made a courtesy call to him as part of the committees’ program of letting people understand the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) and the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law in the light of various concerns raised by different sectors.

The lady governor said that, “The peoples’ concerns need to be ironed out by both parties and the YCC is the right entity to  disseminate accurate information to the grass-roots level so that before the plebiscite comes local inhabitants are aware of what vote to cast”.

She strongly appealed to the local government officials and stakeholders to help inform the people in the ground on the importance of this peace agreement, she added.
BTC Commissioner Pedrito Eisma, was invited to discussed the salient points of the BBL. Com. Eisma, member of the Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC) nominated by the government explained that there is nothing to worry about the BBL because it is confined within the perimeter of the GPH-MILF agreement such as the FAB, its annexes, the CAB and most specially within the bounds of the 1987 constitution.

He assured the participants that when Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) replaces the ARMM in July 2015, all privileges and powers already enjoyed by the local government officials will not be affected but may even be augmented by special funds from foreign donor institutions.

He said that one thing I like in the proposed ministerial form of government for Bangsamoro is that every sector, the settlers, women, IPs and the youth have their seats in the Bangsamoro Parliament.

During the open forum, questions and clarifications from the mayors were all responded well by Commissioner Eisma. Senior Basilan Board Member Candu Muarip, erstwhile MNLF commander appealed to both the MILF and the MNLF to merge their strength for the CAB and BBL so that the Moro people can finally achieve the fruits of their struggle.  Board Member Muarip emotionally advised MILF-BIAF members and LGU officials to unite and unify their strength for the success of this agreement.

“Believe it or not this will be the last chance for the Bangsamoro people to regain their identity and freedom”.

In his remarks, Mayors League President Alih Sali of Akbar municipality assured that Basilan mayors are fully supportive to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and that Yes votes will win in all municipalities of Basilan.

Governor Akbar and Mayor Sali expressed their thanks and appreciations to the organizers led by Provincial Administrator Tahira Ismael Sansawi for the success of the dialogue. The program was made in close coordination with the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) headed by Mr. Tony Sakkalahul, ZamBas Regional Manager and staff.’s-hold-dialogue-with-milf-polcom-and-biaf

‘Raw report says car bomb to be used in Davao City’

From the Philippine Star (Jul 2): ‘Raw report says car bomb to be used in Davao City’

An unverified intelligence report that a car bomb will be used to sow terror in Davao City prompted President Aquino to inform Mayor Rodrigo Duterte about the serious threat.

“The reports stated – and I emphasize ‘the raw report’ – that this terrorist who is a bomb-maker had sent a bomb or a bomb-laden vehicle to Davao City to further a terrorist attack,” he told journalists during the 67th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Air Force at Clark Freeport, Pampanga yesterday.

“So we are not discounting any possibility but we want to err on the side of caution and that’s why we informed the good mayor that there is such a report and we emphasized it is raw,” Aquino said.

“There was and there is an ongoing operation against this very long sought-after terrorist with international links,” he said.

He was apparently referring to Abdul Basit Usman who was said to have been killed in a drone attack in Afghanistan but who was recently reported to be still alive.

“The mayor, as head of the Peace and Order Council for Davao City, should be made aware of pertinent information so that he has the wherewithal to adequately prepare his community for it,” Aquino added.

He said both the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police are “actively determining the validity of the report and (undertaking) continuing operations against this known terrorist.”

Local execs deny presence of foreign-trained bomber in Mindanao

From the Philippine Star (Jul 2): Local execs deny presence of foreign-trained bomber in Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Moro and Christian local executives in Central Mindanao do not believe there is a foreign-trained “mad bomber” named Basit Usman roaming around, planning to bomb high-value targets.

Some mayors in the adjoining Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces were irked by insinuations that Usman is again hiding in Central Mindanao after being reported on Jan. 22, 2010 by the British Broadcasting Corporation as "killed" in a United States drone strike on the mountain ranges separating the South and North Waziristan tribal regions at the Pakistani-Afghan border.

Usman was even reported by the military as "wounded" in an encounter last month with combined combatants of the Army's 45th Infantry Battalion and the 1st Mechanized Brigade in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Community leaders, among them clerics, refuted the report, confirming that Usman was nowhere in the scene of the encounter, and that he was even virtually unknown to villagers.

Usman, said to have undergone training on fabrication of improvised explosives in Peshawar, Pakistan and in Kandahar, Afghanistan during the late 1980s, is reportedly just waiting for an opportunity to strike at selected targets in Mindanao.

“Imposibleng nandito siya sa Central Mindanao na di malalaman ng mga barangay officials. Malalaman at malalaman din. Napakahirap paniwalaang nandito siya. Nai-report na siyang napatay ng noong 2010 sa Pakistan,” said a local executive, who asked not to be identified.

The police and the military in Mindanao have been asserting since last week that Usman is hiding somewhere in the region, training recruits while planning to perpetrate bombings once he would have the chance.

Members of the local business communities are worried of the impact to the region’s business climate of what is for them a “wild report” about Usman’s alleged presence in Central Mindanao.

“That is something that the government and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) ought to jointly validate and address,” said a Chinese grains trader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The government and the MILF, under the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, are to mutually cooperate in addressing peace and security issues in potential flashpoint areas in Mindanao.

A Moro human rights lawyer had told The Star there is a need for the national government to investigate deeper on the real persona of Usman, an ethnic Maguindanaon.

“I’ve handled human rights cases that stemmed from bombings, cases that permeated in Metro Manila, and in different parts of Mindanao and the name of Basit Usman was mentioned in so many of those cases,” the lawyer said.

Usman, said to have ties with the Taliban, first hogged the headlines about a decade ago when he was arrested by policemen somewhere in Sarangani province, as a suspect in deadly bomb attacks in Central Mindanao.

He was detained in a police detachment in a coastal town in Sarangani, where his custodians even utilized him both as a cook and an errand. He eventually escaped about a year after his arrest, while doing on a marketing chore.

Usman was last reported to have pulled off about a dozen more attacks in Mindanao, before the BBC reported he was killed in a US drone attack on June 14, 2010 at the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

'Discharged personnel giving ammo to Abu Sayyaf'

From the Philippine Star (Jul 2): 'Discharged personnel giving ammo to Abu Sayyaf'

A security official said some dismissed men in uniforms were providing ammunition support to the Abu Sayyaf, a small but violent militant group blamed for deadly bombings and attacks in southern Philippines.

Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro, city police director, said they have received information about the participation of discharged men from the security forces in aiding the militants.

Casimiro, who used to work with the intelligence operation, believed those dismissed personnel could be relatives of the militants.

“May mga dismissed na mga men in uniforms that we have been monitoring helping in the acquisition of ammunition (for the Abu Sayyaf and other criminal syndicates). That is one of the areas we are looking at,” Casimiro said.

He said they have already coordinated with the hierarchy of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to track down those who were dismissed and suspected to be supplying support to the militants.

He said some of the ammunition of the Abu Sayyaf and lost command groups were taken from the encounters which the group engaged against the government forces in Zamboanga peninsula and in the island provinces of Basilan and Sulu.

“We believed they (dismissed men in uniforms) were relatives or have blood ties with some members of the Abu Sayyaf group,” Casimiro added.

A senior military official also reported earlier that the Abu Sayyaf militants are sourcing out their ammunitions and weapons from various sources.

Lt. Gen. Rustrico Guerrero, chief of Western Mindanao Command, made this observation noting the indirect fire tactics of the Abu Sayyaf group by firing heavy volley of rifle grenades.

Meanwhile, Casimiro revealed that the sprouting numbers of Abu Sayyaf cells operating the kidnap for ransom syndicate are children of the killed Abu Sayyaf leaders and members.

“They belonged to cell groups that operate in Basilan, Sulu and in Zamboanga peninsula,” Casimiro said.

He said the sprouting of the terror cells have triggered the government security forces to intensify the security that already led to the arrest late last month at least four suspects in separate law enforcement operations in this city.

2 NPA rebels surrender, 2 others nabbed in Zamboanga del Norte

From the Philippine Star (Jul 2): 2 NPA rebels surrender, 2 others nabbed in Zamboanga del Norte

Two communist insurgents voluntarily surrendered with their firearms while two others were captured in a town of Zamboanga del Norte.

The military said the two young New People’s Army (NPA) members identified as Jerry Lumangcag, 19, and his cousin Arnel Lumangcag, 25, both natives of Misamis Oriental, gave up to avail themselves of the government’s ‘balik-baril’ and livelihood programs for rebel returnees.

Lt. Col. Alvin Luzon, commander of the 53rd Infantry Battalion, said the two surrendered two Ak-47 rifle after they were convinced by the peaceful campaign program launched Tuesday by his forces at Guipos town.

As the rebels surrendered their firearms they will be compensated under the balik-baril program and be granted  livelihood assistance as part of the integration into the society.

The surrender of the two former insurgents came following the capture a week earlier of two other communist rebels at sitio Sagpang, Barangay Datagan also in Guipos town.

The two captured NPA members were identified as Wilfredo Dalumos alias Nick or Tongtong and Edgar Cadilanza. They were captured following a brief firefight, according to Luzon.

The government forces recovered from the rebels  an Ingram M11 loaded with 46 live ammunition and a fragmentation hand grenade.

The Police Regional Office 9 (PRO) said the local prosecutor’s office has filed cases of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition against Dalumos and recommended P100,000-bail while Cadilanza faces charges of illegal possession of explosive with no bail recommended.

MNLF groups back OIC stand on CAB

From the Philippine Star (Jul 3): MNLF groups back OIC stand on CAB

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) factions have reunited and expressed support for the position of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that the peace agreement forged by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is a partial fulfillment of both the 1976 Tripoli and 1996 Jakarta agreements.

MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla said the “Jeddah Formula” presented by leaders of the different MNLF factions made them reunite and strengthen their political objective of self-rule.

Fontanilla, however, said their peaceful struggle would go beyond the autonomy issue toward total Bangsamoro independence.

MNLF leaders from various factions reaffirmed their unity under the leadership of founding chairman Nur Misuari during a meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last June 11.

In a statement, the MNLF leaders said the OIC welcomed the MILF acceptance of autonomy as a solution to the Bangsamoro problem, although they express reservation on some provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The MNLF leaders though are open to pursue collaborative efforts to build on common advocacies but urged compliance with the provisions of the 1976 agreement in Tripoli, Libya and the 1996 accord in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“The MNLF leaders hope that in the new autonomy law all the provisions stipulated in the 1976 Tripoli and 1996 Jakarta agreements shall be included in all the provisions of the CAB that strengthen and enhance self-rule in Southern Philippines,” the statement read.

The statement – signed by Ustad Abdullar Abubakar, Muslimen Sema, Habid Hashim, Yahodza Simpal Hatimil Hassan, Shakirrudin Bahin, Randolf Parcasio and Mashur Jundam – called on the government to consider the holding of a plebiscite in the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to finally determine the territorial boundaries stipulated by the Tripoli agreement.

The MNLF leaders also welcomed OIC initiatives to avail themselves of the opportunity to thresh out differences, if any, with MILF leaders to continue their coordination meeting held on Dec. 6, 2011 at OIC headquarters.

Earlier, OIC secretary general Iyad Madani, during the opening of the 41st conference of foreign ministers, renewed the call for the synchronization of the MILF, CAB and MNLF accords.

Madani said the OIC secretariat spared no effort in bringing the MNLF and MILF together to establish the stand of the Islamic body on the conflict.

‘Rebel’ surrenders

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 2): ‘Rebel’ surrenders

A self-confessed member of the New People’s Army operating in southern Negros Oriental surrendered to the Philippine Army joining his brothers and a nephew, who had preceded him recently.

Junie Boy Dacaldacal, of legal age, married, and a resident of Sitio Calangagay, Barangay Nagbalaye in Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental, said he surrendered to the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Army Monday morning after months of lying low from the underground movement.

He was presented to ranking Army and Philippine National Police officials from the Visayas and Region 7 during the Regional Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center conference at Camp Fernandez, Sibulan, Negros Oriental, yesterday.

Present at the RJPSCC conference were PNP Region 7 director, Chief Supt. Prudencio Tom Bañas, Brig. Gen. Romeo Labador, deputy chief of the Central Command in the Visayas, Negros Oriental OIC provincial police director, Senior Supt. Mariano Natuel Jr., and Col. Allan Martin, 302nd Brigade commander.

Lt. Col. Harold Pascua, 79th IB commanding officer, told members of the RJPSCC, that the latest surrender, from the Dacaldacal family ends the family’s active participation in the NPA.

He said the five Dacaldacal brothers and a nephew were popular among the “rebels” and well known to resident in Nagbinlod, Nagbalaye, Talalak and Milagrosa residents.

Those who had surrendered earlier were Jessie, alias Dukol, who, Pascua said was the alleged second in command of the NPA South East Front and who would have been the commanding officer of its Sentro de Gravidad Patrol; Jessie’s son, Romnick, an assistant squad leader; and Junie, who was physically challenged but was nevertheless active in the rebel movement.

Another brother, Diosdado Dacaldacal, alias Aming, and his wife, Jocelyn, were killed in an encounter between rebels and government troops late last month in Tanjay City.

All the Dacaldacal family members who are reportedly involved in the insurgency are all accounted for, and are now on our side, Pascua said.

Junie said that after he had asked permission from the NPA to integrate with his family, he left for Manila to seek employment there. He returned recently after learning that his siblings had already surrendered and were being taken care of by the Army and provided livelihood assistance.

While with the NPA, he said he carried an M-16 armalite rifle nut had left it with his peers.

The Army is processing his papers to qualify him for financial and other livelihood assistance from the provincial and national governments.

Opinion--MNLF unity—a reality or a mirage?

Opinion piece posted to GMA News (Jul 2): MNLF unity—a reality or a mirage?

One interesting statement that came out of the Jeddah MNLF [Moro National Liberation Front] Meeting last June 11, 2014 following the OIC Foreign Ministers Conference was the alleged unity of all MNLF factions on a common agenda and a common leadership. The representatives of Chairman Nur Misuari (Uz. Abdulbaki Abubakar, Abdul Jabbar Narra, Dr. Mashur Jundam and Yahodza Simpal), the leadership of the MNLF Council of 14 (Muslimin Sema and Hatimil Hassan), MNLF-Islamic Command Council Chair Habib Muduahab Hashim, and Jimmy Labawan, Shakiruddin Bajin and Atty. Randolph Parcasio have all signed the unity statement.
No doubt, the MNLF unity statement is a concrete response to the OIC’s appeal for unity within the Bangsamoro in pursuing peace in the Southern Philippines. It establishes the continuum in the peace process between the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, and the 1996 Jakarta Final Peace Agreement between the GPH and the MNLF. Leaders of the MNLF acknowledge that the CAB is a partial fulfillment of the requirements of both the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Jakarta Agreement. 
The united MNLF leadership expresses some reservations on the provisions of the CAB that are inconsistent with the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Accord. However, it expresses openness to pursue collaborative efforts to build the communalities between and among the three peace agreements in order to strengthen and enhance self-rule in the Southern Philippines.
The MNLF unity statement shows to all and sundry that the MNLF is ONE in pursuing the MNLF-OIC-GPH Tripartite Review on the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Accord by resolving the three remaining issues, namely: (1) definition/sharing of revenues and strategic minerals; (2) transitory mechanism/provisional government/plebiscite; and (3) territory.
The unity within all the factions of the MNLF is based on the now known Jeddah Formula referring to the OIC-recognized MNLF leadership that was present at the first MNLF-OIC-GPH Tripartite Conference in Jeddah in 2007. 
These same leaders, meeting in Jeddah on June 11, 2014, now commit themselves to maintain unity among all the factions and groups of the MNLF on the common agenda and position of arriving at a political, just and lasting peaceful solution to the long-standing problem of the Bangsamoro people and Muslims in the Southern Philippines.  
In the same unity statement, they all acknowledged the leadership of MNLF founding leader and central committee chairman Prof. Nur P. Misuari. And they have also resolved that all the MNLF leaders on the ground shall work toward a unified leadership.
When I got wind of the said unity statement, I thought that this is it! Finally the MNLF leadership has come back to its senses and re-establishes the much-longed for unity among the various factions and groups. I am one of the early jubilant crowds that welcomed the MNLF unity. Seeing all the signatures of the who’s who in the MNLF that have become estranged for years is a marvel in itself.  
The joy remained until I was reminded that the ONE SIGNIFICANT signature is NOT in the said unity statement. My immediate answer to the observation is simply to state the fact that "he was not there at the historic meeting but definitely he was ably represented by his lieutenants." To my dismay, I was told that there were many occasions in the past when the "lieutenants," who do NOT carry full authority, could not commit the Chair to any unity agreement.
In short, the MNLF unity statement dated June 11, 2014 is the unity of all those who were present and actually signed the document. It does NOT, in any way, commit to the agreement the MNLF founding leader and central committee chair—Prof. Nur P. Misuari. 
Is the MNLF unity for REAL or simply a MIRAGE?

NPA rebels wound 2 civilians, 2 soldiers in landmine attack

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 2): NPA rebels wound 2 civilians, 2 soldiers in landmine attack

Members of the New People’s Army detonated an improvised explosive device used as a landmine in Iloilo, wounding two civilians and two soldiers, a Philippine Army official said.

Major Ray Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Chief, said the rebels also violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, which prohibits the use of landmines.

He said the attack happened Tuesday afternoon at the boundary of Barangay (village) Calampitao, Miag-ao and Barangay Nalundan, Guimbal and injured two civilians and two Army personnel.

Sergeant Ruben Dimzon and Corporal Allen Chris Grapa suffered minor wounds from the shrapnel and shattered glass during the explosion.

The explosion hit Melvin Depositario and Dexter Herradura who were riding a motorcycle a few meters away from the military vehicle.

“We condemn this act in its strongest terms; this is a blatant disregard of the CARHRIHL which the communist group is a signatory,” Major General Aurelio Baladad, Commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said.

“Stop the use of landmines because it is illegal and they pose a significant threat to civilian populace,” he added.

NPA rebels Jonathan Emolaga and Carl Sernicula were behind the attack and were arrested in the same day.

Tiongson said the two attempted to flee the scene aboard a motorcycle parked 500 meters away from the incident.

Recovered from the two were a blasting cap attached to electrical wires, an electrical tester mechanism, a switch detonator with wire used to set off the IED, a Swiss knife, personal belongings, food items and a Yamaha motorcycle.

PH hails Japan’s defense policy shift

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 3): PH hails Japan’s defense policy shift

The Philippine government said on Wednesday that it welcomes the decision of Japan to end its ban on the so-called collective self-defense, saying it will redound to the country’s benefit.

“The basis for our support is to enable Japan to meet its international obligations and for that particular reason, we certainly support the idea of Japan revisiting their Constitution,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

“I think everyone who has a stake in regional stability would certainly support any action that would move towards promoting peace in the region. Clearly, our belief is that Japan by revisiting its Constitution enables it to meet its international obligations that is to - in the case of the South China Sea - to promote and to ensure peace and stability in the region,” he added.

But Lacierda acknowledged that the development will not immediately result in Japan fielding its powerful but low-profile military to the aid of the Philippines amid heightened tensions in the region over conflicting maritime claims.

“I think, we are looking into that (security) arrangements. We don’t have yet one because primarily of the limitations in the Japanese Constitution,” Lacierda said.

The Foreign Affairs Department also welcomed the new development, as it noted that “Japan will continue to play an important role in addressing our common security challenges.”

According to DFA spokesman Charles Jose, the Japanese government has recognized the need for the international community to address such challenges and the effort to clarify the constitutional basis for Japan’s role in this area is a step in the right direction,” he added.

Although some groups may have reservations on Japan’s defense policy shift, Jose said the government acknowledges Japan’s “valuable contributions” for global and regional peace and stability.

Jose’s statement came following a similar statement by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario who had said that he supports Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s move to reinterpret a US-drawn Constitution that would allow Japan to move from its Self-Defense Force to a “collective self-defense.”

Article 9 of Japan’s 1947 Constitution limited the use of force to defend Japan. It also stated that the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation.”

The article was drafted to prevent a repeat of Japan’s invasion and violent occupation of wide swaths in Asia during the war.     

In Tokyo, Abe has likened the relaxation of strict rules on the country’s military to the seismic shift of the Meiji Restoration—a moment widely understood as the birth of the modern nation.

The conservative premier, who has long cherished a desire to beef up Japan’s armed forces, faced massive opposition from a population deeply wedded to the principle of pacifism.

Abe had sought in public to play down the shift, which he said was a necessary update to better protect Japan in a region dominated by an increasingly assertive China and worried by an erratic North Korea.

But talking to senior officials of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) he said “collective self-defence is as significant as the Meiji Restoration.”

Marines to acquire amphibious assault vehicles

From the Manila Times (Jul 2): Marines to acquire amphibious assault vehicles

The Philippine Marines have announced plans of acquiring amphibious assault vehicles similar to the ones the United States Marines used in the Cooperation Afloat Readiness Training (Carat) that concluded here on Monday.

Lt. Col. Jesse Cerbo, operations officer of 3rd Marine Brigade, revealed the plan during the closing of CARAT that featured amphibious landing of members of the Philippine and American marines.

“For 20 years of Carat, every year we have to level up, particularly this year that we have bigger participation, because we anticipate our acquisition of amphibious assault vehicles,” said Cerbo, the representative of the Philippine Navy’s landing force.

He said they are beefing up the capacity of their amphibious operations so they trained their men in the doctrines, techniques and practicing procedures on the AAVs.

“As marines, that is our corps competency and we need to improve that and this exercise gives us an opportunity to be able to straighten it,” Cerbo said.

“What we wanted to know are new tactics, techniques and procedures especially on amphibious operation,” he said.

Cerbo said that they were also interested in amphibious planning. To attain this, they have staff officers and other officers who embarked on the USS Ashland where 13 AAVs and two landing craft air cushions (LCACs) were on board.

Six AAvs and two LCACs were used in the landing exercise.

Female NPA rebel killed in clash

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 2): Female NPA rebel killed in clash

BUTUAN CITY – A female New People’s Army (NPA) rebel was killed while several others were wounded in clash with government security forces in Barangay Dona Telesfora, Tubay, Agusan del Norte, the Army’s 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID) spokesman said Wednesday.

Maj. Christian C. Uy, regional Army spokesman of 4th ID, said combat maneuvering troops of 29th Infantry Battalion (29th IB) of the 402nd Infantry (Stingers) Brigade were dispatched in Kamingawan area after receiving reports of the presence of the armed rebels.

“More than 15-minute gunbattle ensued following the operations,” said Uy.

He added that troops recovered some war materials including explosives and detonating wires, cellphones and personal belongings.

Malaysia hunts terror suspects hiding in Mindanao

From Business World (Jul 2): Malaysia hunts terror suspects hiding in Mindanao

Malaysian police said yesterday they were looking for a university lecturer and four others allegedly involved in terror activities and now believed to be hiding in the Philippine region of Mindanao as it cracks down on suspected militants.

The announcement comes as authorities express concern about youths in the Muslim-majority country being radicalized and recruited to fight in hot spots such as Syria.

Police said the five wanted men, believed to be in the southern Philippines, included an Islamic studies lecturer and a stationary shop owner at Universiti Malaya, one of the country’s biggest universities.

Three of the men are suspected to be involved in recruiting and sending militants to the group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has seized parts of Iraq and Syria, police said in a statement.

Two others are believed to have been part of an extremist group in eastern Malaysia and have now joined Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines, police added. They released photos of the suspects.

Universiti Malaya said in a statement that the 36-year-old lecturer, Mahmud Ahmad, had been absent and could not be contacted for four weeks, vowing “full cooperation” with the police.

Malaysian police have arrested more than a dozen people in recent months suspected of involvement in Islamic militant activities and intending to send fighters to war-torn Syria. At least one of them is suspected to have received armed training at a camp run by the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines but managed to sneak back into Malaysia.

Malaysia practices moderate Islam and has not seen any notable terror attacks in recent memory.

But it has been home to several suspected key figures in militant Islamic groups. In neighboring Muslim-majority Indonesia, dozens are also believed to have joined the procession of jihadists to Syria and Iraq, sparking fears they will revive sophisticated militant networks when they return and undermine a decade-long crackdown that has crippled the most dangerous cells

Muslims began observing the holy fasting month of Ramadan on Sunday with Islamic leaders again concerned about entrenched conflicts as jihadists issued threats from Indonesia to Somalia.

Ramadan is sacred for the world’s estimated 1.6 billion Muslims because it is during that month that the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.

Philippine troops capture Sayyaf camp in fierce battle

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jul 3): Philippine troops capture Sayyaf camp in fierce battle

Marines captured a jungle base of the militant Abu Sayyaf group following a fierce battle that left two soldiers wounded in the southern Filipino province of Sulu, officials said Wednesday.

Marine Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said troops recovered a huge cache of improvised explosives from the Abu Sayyaf base in Patikul town believed used by Radulan Sahiron, a senior leader of the group which is being linked by authorities to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya.

Quoting military reports, Muyuela said the militants were forced to flee - dragging their casualties - when more marine reinforcements arrived in Patikul, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf.

Brigadier General Martin Pinto, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade based in Sulu province, described the Abu Sayyaf camp as “well fortified.” “The seized camp is fortified with connecting trenches, well–established firing positions and with hundreds of improvised explosive device emplaced in all approaches,” he said.

He said the persistence of troops to capture the enemy base forced the heavily-armed Abu Sayyaf fighters to break into smaller groups and fled.

“Our troops had to breach the enemy’s defenses and squeeze themselves to the complex terrain to be able to get closer to the objective. Despite the Abu Sayyaf’s terrain advantage, the marines held their ground and returned fire as they inched their way to the camp, clearing several enemy satellite camps and the eventual capture of the Abu Sayyaf base,” Pinto said.

The persistence of the troops to push forward forced the heavily-armed Abu Sayyaf militants to escape and scamper towards different directions, taking along with them undetermined number of casualties - their dead and wounded members - while on the government side, we only have two marines who suffered minor wounds from the battle,” he added.
Officials said there were no indications that Sahiron was among the dead or wounded in the fighting which began on June 30, but there were reports that the Abu Sayyaf had fled with some of their kidnapped victims.

It was unknown whether the hostages were foreigners or Filipinos. The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several foreigners and local hostages in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. Most of the hostages were kidnapped in Sabah in Malaysia and Tawi-Tawi in southern Philippines and brought to Sulu.

CPP: CPP congratulates Filipino people for SC decision against DAP

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jul 2): CPP congratulates Filipino people for SC decision against DAP
Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today extended its congratulations to the Filipino people over the decision yesterday by the Supreme Court declaring the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional. which can serve to boost their struggle for the complete abolition of the pork barrel system and make the Aquino regime responsible for plunder and corruption.

The Supreme Court yesterday submitted to mounting opposition against the DAP and it as a violation of the 1987 Philippine constitution. However, in the hope of shielding Benigno Aquino III from possible impeachment and post-term criminal charges, the Supreme Court said its’ decision pertains only to “specific parts” of the DAP, which can be used as a legal workaround for Aquino to avoid culpability. There is also talk that the Supreme Court will declare that criminal liability over the use of the DAP is applicable only to future transgressions.

The DAP is a system concocted by the Aquino regime which gives Aquino the prerogative to disbursing hundreds of billions of public funds according to his discretion. The Aquino regime is accused of having disbursed several millions of pesos of unpogrammed funds to senators in the period following the senate vote removing former Supreme Court Chief Justice Corona from office.

“With the Supreme Court decision against the DAP, there is a growing clamor for the filing of impeachment charges against Aquino to make him culpable for large-scale improper allocation of public funds,” said the CPP. “It is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court resolution declaring the DAP as unconstitutional will spur the congressional impeachment of Aquino, knowing that both the congress and senate are dominated by political allies of the ruling Aquino clique who have benefitted from releases of the DAP and the PDAF under the Aquino regime,” said the CPP.

“Still, such filing of an impeachment resolution in the Lower House will help identify and isolate Aquino’s allies in congress who have long benefitted from the DAP and PDAF and who refuse to hold the pork barrel king responsible for crimes and congressional transgressions,” said the CPP.

The CPP further pointed out that “with the SC decision on the DAP, Aquino and his ruling political clique will more than ever seek to hold on to power in order to escape criminal prosecution, in the same way that the past two reactionary presidents were charged and incarcerated for crimes of plunder and corruption.”

“This further underscores the importance of exerting all out effort to expose, isolate and oust the Aquino regime before the 2016 elections by carrying out widespread people’s assemblies in communities, schools, factories, offices, churches and so on in order to serve as venues for the people to voice out their grievance against the Aquino regime and its lies under the illusory ‘righteous path’ and ‘good government’,” said the CPP.

“The Filipino people must consolidate their disgust over the Aquino regime and make it responsible for widespread unemployment, low wages, rising prices of food and medicine, landlessness and increasing cases of landgrabbing, national treachery in the signing of the EDCA and allowing all-out US military presence in the country, tuition increases in public and private schools, criminal abandonment of millions of calamity victims, continuing the policy of exporting migrant labor, increasingly large number of military abuses of human rights, waging all-out war against the peasant masses, corruption in the awarding of large government contracts to pro-Aquino oligarchs, the use of pork barrel funds to ensure political loyalties and other such crimes. "

“The Filipino people must wage massive political struggle to oust the Aquino regime and put an end to his puppet, rotten, mendacious and brutal rule,” said the CPP.

CPP/NPA: NPA ambushes logging protector, abusive, anti-schools Army unit in Cateel

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jul 2): NPA ambushes logging protector, abusive, anti-schools Army unit in Cateel
Roel Agustin II
NPA Comval-Davao East Coast Subregion Subregional Command
Two kilometers away from its command post, a platoon-sized advance command unit of the 67th Infantry Battalion was hit by the command detonated explosives of the New People’s Army, at 10am June 30 in Brgy. Aliwagwag, Cateel, Davao Oriental. Killed were five fascist soldiers and injured were six other members of the Army unit that is known to protect the province’s massive logging operations.

Huge logging operations in the East Coast are also backed by Gov. Corazon Malanyaon, Cong. Elmer Dayanghirang, and Cateel Mayor Camilo Nunez. Under the pretext of “logs retrieval operation” from a cutting permit released by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, unabated logging has flourished in an already disaster-ravaged and denuded territory. Millions of profits have been amassed by the abusive officials and the military while the masses in majority villages in the East Coast continue to suffer from loss of livelihood, homelessness, and disrupted education for more than a year after Supertyphoon Pablo struck and washed away their farms and houses in December 4, 2012.

A survey in the typhoon-affected areas shows how the military intimidates the masses whenever they avail of social services by welfare private organizations. In Brgy. Taytayan, Cateel and in Brgy. Binondo, Baganga, Davao Oriental, the 67th IB soldiers force people’s organizations to sign waivers to prevent the establishment of schools which are sponsored by nongovernment organizations.

The same unit withheld funds and benefits under the cash-for-work projects that it is implementing on behalf of the Department of Labor and Employment and the International Labor Organization. Supposed beneficiaries were not able to avail of SSS, Philhealth and daily wages of P301 each as the AFP used the same program for its intelligence activities and civil military operations in the hinterland villages.

The same Army unit is also part of the corrupt and substandard housing project implementation in Cateel town. Some of the 1,179 family-beneficiaries who were promised each with P92,000-worth of housing failed to avail of the program and were, instead, asked to sign a waiver and P10,000 cash. Others who secured the poorly constructed sub-standard housing first paid P1,000 to village captains before their families occupied the houses.

As they meddle with and steal funds of GPH’s civilian agencies, the 67th IB soldiers also conduct psychological warfare and intimidation against the masses. When they are hit by the NPA ambush, they direct their ire against civilian masses, prevent them from attending assemblies of their organizations and prohibit them from enrolling their children to alternative learning schools.

Despite the glaring deprivation of education to school-age children in peasant and Lumad villages, the AFP campaigns hard to prevent them from attending schools initiated by private groups and religious institutions. The AFP’s counter-insurgency program is focused not in decimating the NPA through warfare but by interfering and controlling the educational system in the countryside. It is targeting legitimate basic education schools, vilifying teachers and parents who they wrongly accuse as supporters and members of the revolutionary movement.

NPA rebels execute pastor in Masbate town

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 2): NPA rebels execute pastor in Masbate town

A pastor of the Pilipinista Alpha and Omega Vigilantis Fighter was gunned down by suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels who confronted him on Tuesday morning in Barangay Panan-awan, Cawayan, Masbate.

Dead on the spot was Joel Guarina, 37, married and a resident of Barangay Libertad, Uson, Masbate.

A police report said the victim was on board his motorcycle with his wife and five-year-old son on their way to Barangay Mactan, Cawayan, at about 8:00 a.m. when the rebels fired at him.

Guarina's impulse was to increase speed and bring his wife and son to safety before returning to the scene of firing.

The report said he talked to the rebels who engaged him in a heated argument, and eventually shot him in different parts of his body that caused his instantaneous death.

It said the rebels confronted the leader of the Pilipinista Alpha and Omega Vigilantis Fighter whom they accused of being used by the military in its operation against the rebels.

Responding authorities recovered empty shells of M-16 armalite rifle and cal. 9 mm pistol bullets but failed to catch up with rebels that retreated towards an unknown direction.