Sunday, July 6, 2014

Japan won’t start war, says consul

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 7): Japan won’t start war, says consul

Japan has no intention of waging war under its new security policy that will see its military defend the country and its allies if they are under attack.

Tetsuro Amano, Japanese deputy chief of mission and consul general in Manila, gave that assurance following the reinterpretation by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan’s pacifist Constitution that expanded the role of the Japanese military.

Last week, Japan’s Cabinet approved a resolution that allowed the country to exercise its right to collective self-defense, a move that has given a broader role for the Self-Defense Forces (SDF).

In essence, the resolution allows the SDF to help allies like the Philippines and the United States even if Japan itself is not under attack. It came amid tensions between Japan and China over a territorial dispute in the East China Sea, where both countries claim a group of uninhabited islands called Senkakus by the Japanese and Diaoyus by the Chinese.

“We do not want to wage any war,” Amano said, stressing that Tokyo actually aims to help keep the peace in the region under its new security policy.

Philippine support

In a talk with the Inquirer last week, Amano was thankful to the Aquino administration’s continued statements of support for Japan’s new security policy. It was during Abe’s meeting with President Aquino in Tokyo last week that the Japanese government announced the new security policy.

Malacañang said it would support any action that would move toward promoting peace in the region. The Department of Foreign Affairs described Tokyo’s new security policy as a “step in the right direction.”

Amano noted that Aquino pushed for Japan’s bid to reinterpret its American-drafted Constitution during his meeting with Abe.

Aquino said the Philippines was not alarmed by Abe’s bid to revisit Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution, which bans the right to collective self-defense. A reinterpretation would allow Tokyo to fulfill its international obligations and Manila would benefit as well, he said.

“This is a big contribution to international society and regional stability, especially in the Asian region,” Amano said. “We are ready to expand our contribution to international society in order to keep stability in the region by use of our self-defense force.”

Japan has a military force of 200,000, according to Amano. He said the Japanese forces had been limited to responding to disasters, relief and peacekeeping operations.

International links

The implementation of the new security policy also comes at a time when “Japan’s society is very connected to international society,” Amano said.

He said, however, that Tokyo still had to iron out details of the implementation of the new policy.

Once fully defined, the plan will be presented to the Diet (Japan’s parliament) for discussion, Amano said.

He said he did not know how soon the new security policy could be implemented, but expressed hope that it could be done within the year.
Amano said “current established regulations” would also be amended in order to implement the new security policy.

In 1947, two years after World War II ended, Japan wrote a new Constitution under the direction of the United States. The Constitution states that the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation.”

That clause was written in to prevent a repeat of Japan’s invasion and occupation of many countries in Asia, including the Philippines, during the war.

Abe, the first Japanese premier born after the war, pressed for an amendment, citing a deteriorating security environment, notably China’s aggressive rise as military power and the nuclear threat from North Korea.

More visitors

But as Japan expands its military role in the region, it is also opening up to more tourists and foreign workers and among the expected beneficiaries will be Filipinos.

Amano said Japan would relax its tourist visa procedures, specifically for multiple-entry and one-time visit visas. Tokyo officials are looking into the proposal to expand the duration of stay under these two types of visa, he said.

The current three-year stay under the multi-entry visa would be expanded to five years under the proposal, Amano said. For the one-time visit visa, the current 15-day stay would be extended to 30 days, he said.

There is also a proposal to simplify the visa procedures for visitors on package tours by dropping the birth certificate requirement, he said.

Amano said the changes were being worked out and the Japanese Embassy in Manila was waiting for instructions from Tokyo.

The new visa regulations will benefit both the Philippines and Vietnam, he said, adding that the changes signal Japan’s move toward a no-visa requirement for foreign visitors.

“This is a critical milestone toward visa cancellation, a step toward no visa, maybe in the near future,” he said.

Amano said Japan was preparing for the no-visa policy by stepping up its campaign against human trafficking. “[I]f we open up with a visa-free [policy], this might be used [by human traffickers]. So we need to make some preparations,” he said.

Philippine authorities renew commitment to respect human rights

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jul 6): Philippine authorities renew commitment to respect human rights

Human rights forum in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur province in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Jong Cadion)

Philippine authorities have renewed its commitment to respect and uphold human rights following a recent forum organized by Amnesty International in Pagadian City in the southern province of Zamboanga del Sur.

The forum brought together various law enforcement agencies, the police and military authorities, among others. The Philippine Army, the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology also vowed to implement fully the Anti-Torture Law.

Antonio Bayamban, Amnesty International coordinator, said the law guarantees full respect for human rights. It also ensures the human rights of all persons, including suspects; detainees and prisoners are respected at all times.

Under the law, no person placed under investigation or held in custody of any person in authority or, agent of a person authority shall be subjected to physical, psychological or mental harm, force, violence, threat or intimidation or any act that impairs free will or in any manner demeans or degrades human dignity.

It also ensures that secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado or other similar forms of detention, where torture may be carried out with impunity, are prohibited. The law fully adheres to the principles and standards on the absolute condemnation and prohibition of torture as provided for in the 1987 Philippine Constitution and various international instruments to which the Philippines is a State party.

Lt. Col. Victor Tanggawohn, Jr, of the Philippine Army, said assured troops follow the strict implementation of law and the respect of human rights of every citizen. “The Anti-Torture Law has set direction to government troops be professional soldiers,” he said, adding, the military’s Oplan Bayanihan program showed transparency and good acceptance among stakeholders where military operation was remove to address insurgency problems.

Tanggawohn they continue to educate government soldiers and incorporate human rights in the conduct of training of troops.

Among those who participated in the forum were representatives from the City Prosecutor’s Office, Public Attorney’s Office, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and members of the media.

PMA entrance examination set next month

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 7): PMA entrance examination set next month

BAGUIO CITY, Benguet—Many applicants are expected to take the entrance examinations this August for cadetship in the Philippine Military Academy with the new 1.52-meter (5 feet) minimum height requirement and the school’s “no-maltreatment policy”.

Maj. Gen. Oscar Lopez, PMA Superintendent, said the qualifying tests will be held on Aug. 2, 2014 at 37 centers throughout the country.

“Being a PMA cadet gives an individual a noble privilege in serving the country by becoming a junior officer of the country’s military. One is able to avail of a free college education with a well-rounded curriculum, as well as, receive monthly pay and allowances,” he said.

“The lowering of the height requirement from 5’4 for male and 5’2 for female is expected to bring about increase in the number of applicants who will be aspiring to be one of the qualified cadets to compose the PMA Class of 2019.”

Lopez said the change is aimed at widening the base of selection in tapping the cream of the crop to pursue a career as an officer in the armed forces.

“With the previous height requirement, many Filipino youth, who have good educational background and are physically fit, were disenfranchised from the opportunity of being able to take the entrance examination,” he said. “With the adjustment, PMA will be increasing the pool where the best candidate for  cadetship will be selected.”.

Other requirements include natural-born Filipino citizen, physically fit, single and has never been married, at least high school graduate, no administrative or criminal case, and born during the period April 1, 1993 to April 1, 1998.

“The Academy is aggressively implementing a ‘No-Maltreatment Policy’ among the cadets,” Lopez said. “PMA adheres to the respect of human rights, and observance of the principles of International Humanitarian Law and the rule of law.”

Passers will compose the PMA Class 2019 who will be officially received in the Academy in the Oath-Taking Ceremony and Reception Rites on April 1, 2015.

Entrance examination forms can be downloaded from for online application. For more information, call (074) 447-3686, (074) 447-2632 local 6751, 6752, Smart – 0928-559-7651, Sun Cellular – 0943-705-6890, Globe – 0917-896-4299, or write the Office of Cadet Admission, Philippine Military Academy, Fort Gregorio H. del Pilar, 2602, Baguio City.

Bangsamoro review eyed: MILF wary of delay

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 7): Bangsamoro review eyed: MILF wary of delay

THE Palace legal team has found certain provisions in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law that need to be fine-tuned to ensure smooth passage of the measure when it reaches Congress, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said Sunday.

The draft BBL, once passed into law, will pave the way for the creation for a new political entity to be called Bangsamoro that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The draft was supposed to have been submitted to Congress in May, but the vetting process took longer than expected. The target date has been moved to July 28, when session resumes.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said Sunday that the delay in the draft law might be a sign that Malacañang was having second thoughts.

“Well, I think this a way of Malacanang by telling us that they have some reservations on some provisions of the BBL or they are telling us that they have different views on certain points of the BBL and they might be planning rewrite some of these provisions,” said MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar.

He said while the deliberations were part of the process, the MILF could not wait forever for the passage of the basic law.

“We’re not frustrated but we are concerned about the delay,” Jaafar said.

Earlier, Senator Miriam Santiago questioned the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, saying the peace pact between the government and the MILF was unconstitutional.

Santiago, head of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, said the CAB violated the principle of constitutional supremacy.

She said the agreement establishes not a mere autonomous region as provided for by the Constitution but a sub-state, which will exercise certain sovereign powers that should be reserved only for the central government.

The CAB puts together the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro; the four annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization, and transitional arrangements; the addendum on Bangsamoro waters; and the 1997 ceasefire agreement.

Under the wealth-sharing annex, the Bangsamoro will also enjoy 100 percent of resources from non-metallic minerals such as sand, gravel and quarry and 75 percent of income from the exploration, development and use of metallic minerals within the region. Only income derived from fossil fuels and uranium shall be shared equally by the Bangsamoro with the central government.

Under the annex on power-sharing, the Bangsamoro assembly shall have at least 50 members representing district, party-list, sectoral and reserved seats. The assembly shall be headed by a chief minister, who will be elected by majority votes from among the members of the assembly.

The national government will have reserved powers on defense and external security, foreign policy, coinage and monetary policy, postal service, citizenship and naturalization, immigration, customs and tariff, common market and global trade, and intellectual property rights.

The government and the Bangsamoro will have 14 jointly-shared powers, including social security and pensions, land registration, pollution control, penology, coast guard, civil service and maintenance of national roads and bridges.

The Bangsamoro, on the other hand, will have 58 exclusive powers, including tourism, creation of sources of revenue, power generation, ancestral domain and natural resources, and management of all fishery, marine and aquatic resources within the Bangsamoro territorial jurisdiction.

The Bangsamoro government will also have authority and jurisdiction over the exploration, development and use of mines and minerals within its territory.

Last month, President Benigno Aquino III and MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim discussed the delay in the submission of the draft BBL when the two met during the sidelines of a peace conference in Hiroshima, Japan.

After his 10-minute meeting with Murad, the President ended speculations that some provisions of the draft BBL were unconstitutional.

“As to constitutionality, I don’t agree with the premise that there is (a need) to make sure it’s constitutional. From the start, the Constitution was a guiding document in crafting the Framework Agreement so the Basic Law that gives the details should also be consistent,” Aquino said.

The President, however, acknowledged that “there’s a need to further refine the language so that it really states a meeting of the minds of both parties.”

Aquino expressed confidence that there is still enough time for Congress to pass the measure, hold the plebiscite in the proposed Bangsamoro territory, and put in place an interim government ahead of the 2016 polls.

“I can assure the Filipino people that we will be exerting all efforts to ensure that this measure is passed in a timely manner because the dream still is to give the new Bangsamoro government time to demonstrate its abilities and the time that they need as a minimum is a year and six months.
So, we’re hoping that all the steps will be done that they can sit already in office by January of 2015,” Aquino said.

Earlier, Jaafar called on Aquino to rally his allies in Congress to keep their earlier commitment of passing the BBL by December, after which the plebiscite will be held in the first quarter of 2015.

The plebiscite will cover the current provinces and cities in the ARMM, the cities of Isabela and Cotabato, six municipalities in Lanao del Norte, and 39 barangays in six municipalities of Cotabato province.

After the plebiscite, the government aims to put the Bangsamoro Transition Authority in place to serve as interim government until the elections in 2016.

MILF airs concern over ‘fine-tuning’ of draft autonomy law

From Business World (Jul 7): MILF airs concern over ‘fine-tuning’ of draft autonomy law

A LEADER of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said “there will be no peace” in Mindanao until the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is established before the end of the Aquino administration in 2016.

 “That is our concern. If it is not addressed by then, then there will be no peace. The Bangsamoro agreement is the negotiated settlement and was arrived at as a solution to the problem. If there is no Bangsamoro, [there is] no solution and no peace,” Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice-chairman on political affairs, told BusinessWorld in a phone interview.

Malacañang has yet to finalize and submit to Congress the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, the centerpiece of the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF that will put in place a Bangsamoro government in Mindanao.

The Palace said yesterday that executive scrutiny of the draft law continues.

In a news briefing on Sunday, Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said the Office of the Presidential Legal Counsel, headed by Secretary Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, is in “constant communication” with the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which is tasked with drafting the proposed law.

Mr. Coloma said the Palace acknowledges the urgency behind its passage at the soonest possible time.

“We are cognizant [of] the intricacies attendant to the drafting of the bill. The review by the Office of the President revealed that there is a need for fine-tuning certain provisions of the draft law,” Mr. Coloma said.

“This is to ensure that all possible questions and issues are addressed adequately and that the draft law will pass congressional scrutiny in both houses of Congress.”

Mr. Coloma would not confirm if the Office of the President had returned the draft bill with many revisions to the Transition Commission.

On March 27 this year, the government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Both sides affirmed this document as a breakthrough for securing peace in Mindanao, which had been troubled by a secessionist conflict since the 1970s.

The peace agreement should lead to the activation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new autonomous government.

The draft law was originally scheduled for submission to Congress on May 5, but Malacañang said it needed more time to review it.

President Aquino said last month the draft law will be ready for Congress when he delivers his State of the Nation Address on July 28. He also expressed the hope that this proposal’s enactment into law will be completed by next year.

The government’s intended timetable is to hold a plebiscite in 2015 and an election in 2016, alongside the general election that year.

Asked how long the MILF is willing to wait for this process, Mr. Jaafar said, “Don’t ask me that question. We should ask the people of Mindanao. Are they willing to wait? How long are they willing to wait?

“We have done and are still doing everything we can to make this a reality. We have talked to people, [and] lawmakers about this.....But the government, up to now, has not submitted the draft to them.”

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal had expressed concern about Malacañang’s scrutiny of the draft law. He was recently quoted as saying that the Philippine government had “heavily diluted” the original proposal as drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

Mr. Iqbal had also expressed doubt that the proposed law can be submitted in time for the State of the Nation Address, unless the Palace reconciles its revisions with the Commission’s draft law.‘fine-tuning’-of-draft-autonomy-law&id=90442

Feuding Muslim clans agree to end hostilities as Muslim world observes Ramadan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 6): Feuding Muslim clans agree to end hostilities as Muslim world observes Ramadan

More Muslim families locked in long standing family feud ended their animosities as the Muslim world observes the holy month of Ramadan, officials announced Sunday.

The feud, locally known as “rido” had already claimed dozens of lives from the warring clans that Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu “peacefully settled” during the fasting month.

Leaders of the two more feuding Moro clans on Saturday swore over the Quran to end their decades-old “rido.”

Held at Buluan town hall in Maguindanao’s second district, the reconciliation rite was preceded by last month’s reconciliation of five rival ethnic Iranon families from the first district of the province, through the efforts of the inter-agency provincial peace and order council (PPOC).

The Utto and Kabugatan families from the towns of Sultan sa Barongis and Rajah Buayan, respectively, agreed to reconcile through the joint intercession of Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, and Brig. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commanding officer of the Army's 6th Infantry Division.

Mangudadatu said local government officials of Rajah Buayan and Sultan sa Barongis also helped convince the warring families to end their hostilities and amicably settle their “rido,” which means clan war in most Moro dialects.

Armed members of the warring families have repeatedly figured in bloody gunfights due to political differences and land dispute.

They signed a peace agreement and swore before the holy book in the presence of Mangudadatu, Pangilinan, Rajah Buayan Vice-Mayor Jonathan Lumenda, and Mayor Ramsondatu Angas of Sultan sa Barongis.

Mangudadatu said he was confident more Moro clans lock in long standing family feud will agree to settle their differences peacefully. Another reconciliation program is expected to take place by the middle of this month, he said.

Duterte holding talks with all rebel fronts to ensure a “peaceful city”

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 6): Duterte holding talks with all rebel fronts to ensure a “peaceful city”

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has been holding “barkada style” backdoor talks with all rebel fronts, including those perceived involved with the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Fighters (BIFF) to foster peace and create linkage with them.

“I can’t declare war against anybody -- a mayor promotes peace to protect the people,” said Duterte during his Sunday program “Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa”.

The mayor disclosed that he has been meeting a lot of people everywhere, shaking hands with them even with the BIFF and Abu Sayyaf, whom he believed are around the people he met.

As the August Kadayawan Festival nears, Duterte said he has been trying to reach out even to the extent of spending too much money, shake hands with them and grant them some kind of concessions.

Duterte explained meeting with them does not mean being afraid of them following reports of a terror threat in Davao City.

He said it was meant to approach everybody without really begging.

“Wala naman kaming kasalanan sa inyo (We never faulted you)…I don’t want to fight because it is not my job. I just want to talk,” Duterte recalled telling them. The mayor said he just wanted to talk in order not to jeopardize the safety of the people.

He emphasized that Davao City being part of Mindanao, is not spared from terrorism, which is true to other places. “Terrorism is universal in the Philippines and all over the world,” he stressed, citing that terrorism also hits powerful countries like United Kingdom, America, Nigeria, Indonesia, Thailand and China, among others. He named world’s terror groups like the Islamist Al Qaeda, Al-Sabaab –- the Somali-based cell of Al Qaeda, the Boco Baram of Nigeria.

He said the Jemaah Islamiya in Southeast Asia is an active group in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. The mayor stressed JIs are “sleepers”, at times active that is why information (about their presence) is coming in.

While he considers them (Al Qaeda, JI) terrorists, Duterte said not the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as both have been fighting for dignity of the Moro people.

The mayor added that there is a problem in Mindanao – partly territorial and partly historical injustice committed against the Moro people – but, “we are trying to strike a compromise everywhere just so people can attain peace.

Duterte said the peace agreement with MILF, for example, the government practically gave them everything -- 70–30 -- in their favor, although some sectors did not favor it.

The mayor’s statement came following the reported terror threat in the city, although President Benigno Aquino III said the information was raw after come countries like UK and Australia issued a travel advisory to its citizens against travelling to the city.

Duterte said Aquino was right. “It is never wrong to be prepared and if you want to go err -– you want to err on the side of prudence,” he defended.

As the August Kadayawan Festival nears, Duterte said alert is still up in the city. Police checkpoints are still active.

The mayor is giving the police and the military a free hand in coming up with an operational plan for the festivities.

Malaysia asks PHL for help in tracking militants with Abu Sayyaf ties

From GMA News (Jul 6): Malaysia asks PHL for help in tracking militants with Abu Sayyaf ties

Malaysia has asked the Philippines to help it track down at least five militants with ties to the Abu Sayyaf bandit group who are believed hiding in Mindanao.

A report on Malaysia's The Star Online on Sunday said the five militants are believed to have ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) as well.

It cited intelligence sources who said the militants could be hiding out with the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo.

It added they may be associated with the Daulah Islamiyah Asia Tenggara (South-East Asia Islamiyah Network), which has links to Isil.

Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on Saturday was quoted in the report as saying Malaysia was working closely with the Philippine government in the hunt for the militants.

He said the Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division is now working with its Philippine counterparts.

“We are coordinating our intelligence with the Philippines counter-terrorism unit and Interpol,” he told The Star Online.

Ahmad Zahid said the Special Branch’s priority was to get the terrorists directly involved in recruiting and sending Malaysians to fight in Syria and Iraq.

“Those carrying out kidnappings in Sabah are also in our radar. Security is also being tightened at all major entry points in the country to prevent terrorists or pirates from entering our borders,” he added.

BIFF ties?

The report also noted the five could also be enjoying protection from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that recently signed a peace pact with the Philippine government.

Being tracked down are:
- Universiti Malaya lecturer Dr Mahmud Ahmad
- stationery shopowner Mohd Najib Husen
- former Selayang Municipal Council employee Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, 39
- Darul Islam Sabah members Mohd Amin Baco, 31
- Jeknal Adil, 30

Also, the report quoted its sources as saying the militants could be in contact with Zulkifli Abdul Khir a.k.a. Marwan, the region’s most wanted terrorist.

Zulkifli was last known to be hiding out with the BIFF in Mindanao, the report added.

2014 Pacific Partnership multinational humanitarian aid, relief mission kick off in Tacloban City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 6): 2014 Pacific Partnership multinational humanitarian aid, relief mission kick off in Tacloban City
The multinational humanitarian aid and relief mission of the 2014 Pacific Partnership (PP 14) officially kicked off over the weekend with close to 300 military personnel from United States, Japan, Australia and Malaysia now working side by side with their Filipino counterparts in the delivery of various services to typhoon hit Tacloban City and Palo, Leyte.

Capt. Brian Shipman, mission commander of PP 14 during the opening program held at Patio Victoria here said that this year’s mission is a big leap because it is the first time that a partner nation deployed a host ship to accommodate multinationals involved in the mission.

“The big difference this year is having a partner nation provide a host ship to go from country to country. That’s never been done before,” Shipman said.

Nonetheless, he stressed that the mission of the partnership remains the same.

“It direct involvement of improving conditions on the ground but it’s also in building capacity with all our fellow services working side by side so that we understand each other better, we work together better so that the next time there is a disaster we’re better able to hit it immediately, make an immediate impact,” Captain Shipman explained.

Mayor Alfred Romualdez, meantime, expressed that this mission is different because they were already able to put to use all their exercises when Yolanda struck November 8 last year.

When they came back he said that they were already able to see the improvement, they had their learnings and their relationship and cohesiveness became stronger.

“I’m very happy that this partnership started several years ago. It did not start during Yolanda that’s why the response was quite successful and saved a lot of lives,” he said.

The city mayor said that it would be “very hard to coordinate all those efforts if it was not thought of or practiced.” He added that the 2013 response was “one of the biggest and the coordination was very good; it was textbook.”

“We don’t even know about this partnership. I salute the leaders who have crafted this partnership because it definitely saved lives,” he added.

Activities for the 11-day mission were identified based on what the needs of the host country are, said Shipman.

”When we put the mission together we try to tailor our effort to meet those needs,” he said.

However, as early as middle of June, construction engineers of the United States Armed Forces and the Armed Forces of the Philippines already started the construction of four-classroom buildings and two-classroom science buildings at the San Fernando Central Elementary School here and repair one room of the orthopedic building at the Tacloban City Hospital.

They also constructed two classrooms at the Castilla Elementary School in Palo, Leyte.

The mission kicked off its canine castration and rabies vaccination on Saturday that will end this July 14.

A medical mission is slated July 7 at the Diit District Health Center and July 10 to 12 at the San Jose District Health Center.

During these missions they will be focusing on dental, women and children’s health, psychological counseling, optometry, pharmacy and nutrition.

From July 7-9, a U S Navy Rock Band will perform starting at one o’clock in the afternoon at the Robinsons Mall here.

Payment for Israeli upgraded APCs to be done in three tranches

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 6): Payment for Israeli upgraded APCs to be done in three tranches

The Department of National Defense (DND) announced that the payment for the P882 million upgraded armored personnel carrier (APC), bagged by Israeli defense manufacturer Elbit Systems Ltd., will be done in three tranches.

Dr. Peter Paul Galvez, Defense spokesperson, said first payment will be pegged at P405 million, the second will be P335 million and the third at P142 million.

Elbit Systems Ltd., formally announced the signing of the P882 million deal (roughly USD20 million) last June 22.

Upgrades include 25 mm unmanned turrets, 12.7 mm remote controlled weapon stations (RCWS) and fire control systems (FCS) for 90 mm turrets.

The APCs, which are 28 in number, will be supplied over a one-year period.

The contract marks a significant breakthrough for Elbit Systems, as it is the first one awarded to the company in the Philippines.

"We are very pleased to be awarded our first contract for the Philippines Armed Forces, which we hope will be followed by others. Our extensive portfolio and our vast experience enable us to offer our customers advanced solutions, answering the specific requirements of various combat vehicles, and this award further positions us as world leaders in the field of ground vehicle upgrades," Elbit Systems' Land and C41 general manager Udi Vered said.

The APCs are for the use of the Philippine Army.

The latter operates around 343 AFVs (armored fighting vehicles) and APCs.

Around 85 percent of these AFVs are on green status (fully mission capable) while another 10 percent are on yellow status (undergoing repair) and five percent are on red (beyond repair).

150 of these are the United Kingdom-built GKN "Simba" with the remaining AFVs consisting of US designed V-150 and V-200 APCs, M-113 "Bradley", Turkish made ACV-300s and British Scorpion CVRTs.

These vehicles give the PA its armor capability and are organized into a 14-vehicle mechanized infantry companion for deployment with regular units.

Secondary armament of BRP Ramon Alcaraz to be installed

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 6): Secondary armament of BRP Ramon Alcaraz to be installed

The Philippine Navy (PN) announced that the secondary armament of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the country's most modern warship, will be installed and completed within the year.

Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, Navy public affairs office chief, confirmed this in a message to the PNA.

"The weapons (are here) but not installed yet. Our timeline for the installation of her secondary armament is within the year," he added.

Fabic is referring to the two Mark 38 Model 2 25mm "Bushmaster" automatic cannon.

Installation will be done by a US Coast Guard team, he added.

The "Bushmaster" automatic cannons will be fitted to BRP Ramon Alcaraz's port (left) and starboard (right) side and will act as the ship's secondary armament.

The decision to seek US Coast Guard aid in installing these automatic cannons came in wake of the high cost of having the guns installed by a private shipyard.

The guns were supposed to be installed before BRP Ramon Alcaraz's Nov. 22 commissioning but the cost of having it done here was just to expensive for the Navy.

The weapon was commissioned by the US Navy following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000. It was designed to counter high-speed maneuvering surface targets and will be installed in almost all US surface ships by 2015.

The remotely controlled chain gun system can fire as many as 180 25m rounds per minute at targets as far as two kilometers.

Bangsamoro in transition (4): Capacity building, capacity mobilization

From MindaNews (Jul 6): Bangsamoro in transition (4): Capacity building, capacity mobilization

Last of four parts: Capacity building, capacity mobilization

DAVAO CITY – On September 9, 1996, exactly a week after the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) signed the Final Peace Agreement (FPA), MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari, backed up by the administration party and running unopposed because then President Fidel Ramos ordered his rival candidate to withdraw, was elected governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for a term of three years.

According to the FPA, the law amending the Organic Act creating the ARMM was to be amended within two years — or by 1998 — to allow for its expansion and incorporate the other provisions of the peace pact. The date for passage was targeted for 1998 because Ramos’ term was ending on June 30, 1998.

Also within the three-year term, the transitional implementing mechanisms and structures, among them the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development and the Consultative Assembly, were to be set up, in preparation for the election of officials of what was envisioned to be an expanded, empowered autonomous region, by 1999.

Deliberations for what would become RA 9054 went beyond 1998, however, forcing government to appoint Misuari on holdover capacity after his three-year term lapsed.

RA 9054 was finally passed amid a transition in the national leadership brought about by the impeachment of then President Joseph Estrada and the assumption of Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as President in January 2001.

RA 9054 was passed on February 7, 2011 with Misuari and company protesting that the law rendered their future expanded autonomous government less autonomous than the ARMM.

Arroyo did not sign RA 9054. It lapsed into law on March 31, 2001.
Misuari had vowed in 1996 that he would appoint “the best and the brightest” to his Cabinet. That was not to be.

Assuming the leadership of the region on September 30, 1996, or only 28 days after the signing of the peace pact and 21 days after his election as governor, the MNLF, was thrust into a governance system it was not prepared for.

While he did appoint a few “best and the brightest,” the rest were through political accommodation, Misuari naming them to please their endorsers such as loyal rebel commanders, local politicians and even the highest officials of the land.

MNLF insiders often retell the story of how Misuari had to recall the appointment of a highly qualified person to a major Cabinet post, because a top national official endorsed someone else for the post.

Lessons from the MNLF

Learning lessons from the MNLF, the Moro Isamic Liberation Front (MILF) pushed for capacity-building mechanisms as the peace process – officially started in 1997 – moved forward.

These include the establishment of the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI), which was agreed upon in February 2006 by then government (GPH) peace panel chair Silvestre Afable and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal “as a capacty-building center for emerging leaders and professionals.”

The Arroyo administration, however, wasn’t able to deliver P5 million it promised to help start up the BLMI. It was only after the August 4, 2011 meeting in Japan between President Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim when the amount was released.

Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, ARMM Executive Secretary from December 2009 to December 2011, discussed in a public forum in late August 2011 the need to ensure that the that GPH and MILF peace agreement would not suffer the same fate as the agreement with the MNLF.

“To implement it successfully you need certain ingredients and one basic ingredient would be the capacity to govern. That’s important, Sinarimbo said, adding, “we had an experience in 1996, with apologies to the members of the MNLF… in 1996 the MNLF did not transition from revolutionary government to one now mandated to govern.”

What happened, he said, was that the guerilla experience was brought into the ARMM.

“What was the problem there? Of course, when you’re a guerilla, you don’t make proposals in writing and you don’t refer your proposal to a Provincial Planning and Development Office for assessment. Neither are you required to prepare vouchers that will be reviewed by everybody, the Commission on Audit. You don’t do that in a revolutionary movement. In an insurgency, you don’t do that because only two elements are important to you: the element of surprise and the element of secrecy. In government, it is transparency and accountability and adherence to processes,” he said.

“What happened before was pag di nakasueldo 15 days, barilin ang kaha de yero … di dadaan sa proseso.” (if they weren’t able to draw salary in 15 days, they would shoot the vault) and detain the personnel of the cash division in their office. “These were among the challenges experienced in 1996,” Sinarimbo noted.

The same experience will be repeated, he warned, “if you are not careful about transitioning from a revolutionary movement, from a rebel group into governance. If you don’t have the capacity, you have to find some other way of doing it. One year hindi ho sufficient to capacitate people… sa capacity development, overnight we cannot transform them,” he said.

Capacity mobilization
MILF chair Al Haj Murad himself had acknowledged the need to build “a strong foundation for the institutions” that will be created in the Bangsamoro and that the people who would run the institutions “must be competent.”

In his keynote address at The Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao (COP-6) seminar in Hiroshima on June 23, Murad said the MILF as revolutionary organization “realizes the fact that as we move towards the transition to governance and development, certain capacities need to be built. We may even boldly say that capacity building, given time constraints, may not even be sufficient for us to surmount the many challenges we would face in leading the Bangsamoro government and hence, capacity mobilization maybe a better option so that we can respond more timely and appropriately to the expectations of our people who’ve been deprived of proper governance for a long time.”

Murad said that as a revolutionary organization, “many of our skill sets that have proven effective in the days of combat may no longer be the ones that will be needed in this new phase of our struggle.”

He acknowledged the need to “learn new skills, challenge our ability to adopt to the changing needs of the time” and the need for inclusivity. He said they “welcome in our ranks those who are equipped with the needed skills and are committed to the cause of the Bangsamoro.”

“We must struggle to rise above partisanship and radiate the MILF agenda so that it may become the Bangsamoro agenda. We must continue to see the greater things beyond ourselves so that the MILF vision becomes a Bangsamoro vision. We must embrace the future so that we may honor our past,” he said.

The MILF will lead what is proposed to be a 50-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) that will govern a ministerial form of government when the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) shall have been ratified and the ARMM is abolished.

The plebiscite will determine how many of the core areas listed in the October 15, 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) will constitute the Bangsamoro. It could be more, or less, than the present ARMM’s five provinces and two cities.

Under the Annex on Power-Sharing, both parties agreed to “entrench an electoral system suitable to a ministerial form of government.”

The two parties are eyeing the synchronized national elections of May 9, 2016 as the day the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro is elected. Election campaign period will begin on March 25, 2016.

“Work in progress”
The MILF in an editorial posted on its website on March 16, 2014 said the BTA would have “daunting tasks” when it assumes power by 2015 as it has to “set up institutions, write the local government code, the administrative code, and the election code for the Bangsamoro.”

“More importantly, it has to provide leadership and unify the Bangsamoro people and rally them towards the vision set forth more than 40 years ago by the late MILF chair Salamat Hashim,” it said.

In his presentation at the COP-6, Guiamel Alim, chair of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society said the Bangsamoro is a “work in progress” and that “many things can still happen in between.”

He noted that while there are “hopefuls” and “pessimists,” there are also the “doubtfuls” who are raising so many questions, including the issue on constitutionality of the Basic Law.

He said the other questions raised by the “doubtfuls” are: “What will happen if in the plebiscite, other territories in the present ARMM, will opt not to join the Bangsamoro? Will ministerial form of government be a good alternative to what we have today?What happens if in the post-agreement elections the MILF is politically excluded? Will they still pursue the agreement on normalization, particularly the decommissioning component?Can there be two claimants of ancestral domain in the Bangsamoro?”

He cited a study by Barbara Walter titled “Committing to Peace” that one of the reasons why combatants return to war in a post-signing scenario is “when they are marginalized in a post-conflict government, when they become politically excluded in running the new government.”

Alim hopes this will not happen to the MILF.

“The challenge therefore is for the MILF not to be politically excluded in the post-BTA era. It is not enough to hand over the key of the new government to just anyone. The hard-earned political gains of the long peace talks should be sustained and the expression of self-determination manifested through government services,” he said.

MindaNews’ Patrico Diaz, who has been writing about the Bangsamoro struggle and peace processes since the 1960s proposed in a series of columns in March-April 2014 that the roadmap to peace be “readjusted” to allow for a three-year transition period reckoned from the time the BTA takes over from the ARMM, to give it enough time for a proper transition into the regular Bangsamoro government.

The MILF had earlier proposed for a seven-year transition period – one-year pre-interim and six years interim – but agreed to a compromise in July 2012 to cut it down to three years so that both parties can fast-track implementation of the peace agreement before the Aquino administration steps down on June 30, 2016.

“Boom or bust”

Diaz said the five tasks the MILF said the BTA was set to do will spell “boom or bust” of the Bangsamoro.

He said these are the keys to realizing what the government and MILF had agreed upon: that “the status quo is unacceptable” and that they would work for a new autonomous political entity that Diaz said should not be “just a new name for the ARMM.”

From the start of his administration on June 30, 2010, President Aquino had vowed to put an end to the cycle of peace negotiations that he inherited from past administrations, that he would not pass on the problem to the next administration and that he will commit only to what he can deliver.

At the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsmoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014, Aquino acknowledged that changing the status quo is “even more daunting” than being President.

“I do not want to just take my turn on a merry-go-round that goes nowhere but round and round—to perpetuate or even exacerbate existing problems. I would rather ride the horse that actually leads to a definite destination,” he said.

Serious problems are presently hounding the peace process, with the MILF complaining that the Malacanang-proposed revisions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will render the future Bangsamoro less autonomous than the present ARMM.

How the government and the MILF can come up with a Basic Law that President Aquino hopes both “can fully support and endorse” and resolve the other transition-related issues, will determine if, indeed, they can reach a “definite destination.”