Saturday, July 12, 2014

Washington pundits: 'Get tough with China'

From the Straits Times Asia Report (Jul 12): Washington pundits: 'Get tough with China'

Washington pundits frustrated with Beijing's actions in South China Sea call for show of force

WASHINGTON pundits are calling for tougher US action to counter Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, in a reflection of growing frustration after a high-level meeting in Beijing showed up the gulf in how both sides view the territorial disputes.

Speakers at a conference organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies here adopted a largely confrontational tone on Thursday, proposing that the United States conduct a calculated show of force and take measures to impose costs on China for any provocative acts.

Moves include increasing visible reconnaissance flights in the disputed areas, providing more equipment to allies, having military craft visit more ports in the region, and boosting the number of joint military exercises it conducts in the region.

The mood was set early on when the first speaker, Congressman Mike Rogers, described Chinese activities in the South China Sea as "gluttonous, naked aggression". He warned that a failure to act would bring "death by a thousand cuts".

"We need to be more direct; we need to be more aggressive. We need to empower our friends and our allies in the region to be more direct and more aggressive," he said.

The calls mirror a Financial Times report quoting unnamed administration officials as saying the Pentagon was contemplating new military tactics in the South China Sea. While this would not represent a drastic new direction - as Washington has been taking a firmer tone in recent months - it would put a dent in an already strained relationship.

At the end of the two-day Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED) in Beijing on Thursday, China rebuffed calls from the US to adhere to international law in dealing with territorial disputes while asking the US not to take sides.

Mr Rogers, who chairs the House committee that oversees US intelligence operations, says the US has thus far been too deferential to Chinese sensitivities.

"From a diplomatic perspective, we have overlooked things in China we wouldn't have overlooked for any other country."

Dr Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Programme at the Centre for a New American Security, similarly advocated more muscular diplomacy, saying the US appears now to be more serious about "cost imposition strategies" - moves designed to dissuade China against its strategy of "tailored coercion".

China's actions, he said, have so far been designed to appear sufficiently non-military while signalling to neighbours that those seeking good trade ties need to give China more control over security and resource issues, and telling the US "its pre-eminence is unsustainable and it must do more to accommodate a rising China".

At the conference, Beijing also came under fire for its reluctance to submit any disputes to an international tribunal.

After a heated discussion in which legal experts from China, the Philippines and Vietnam laid out the positions of their respective countries, East Asian law specialist Jerome Cohen boiled down the arguments in this way: "Can one country say I am so right about my position that the Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) tribunal has no jurisdiction, that I don't have to submit my argument to that tribunal at all?... Maybe those arguments will prevail, maybe the tribunal will say that China is right and we have no jurisdiction but China doesn't want to take a chance by doing what it is obligated to do."

But for all the criticisms of the Chinese and calls for a tougher US position, there was also significant doubt over whether the US can do more than just talk tough.

The limited options available to the White House were made especially clear during a simulation of the US response to a face-off between the Philippines and China in the disputed Spratly Islands.

In the imagined scenario, Chinese coast guard vessels formed a full air and naval blockade around the grounded Philippine vessel Sierra Madre in retaliation for the arrest of a dozen fishermen.

With academics playing the role of the US Secretary of State, Secretary of Defence and Secretary of National Intelligence, they debated for an hour over the options they would present to the President. There was care throughout not to do anything that China might deem aggressive. In the end, the proposed action was quiet diplomacy - telling Beijing behind closed doors that the US was prepared to use force to help its treaty ally resupply its vessel.

The outcome of the exercise dismayed some in the audience who felt that such a move would have little impact on the Chinese.

Said Dr Carlyle Thayer, an emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales: "Every time you see a joint statement from the SED in Beijing, both sides are emphasising military-to-military contacts and a new trajectory. I have a feeling the Chinese have hooked the US and the US is fearful of taking too strong a stand on the South China Sea."

Mistrust between China and US is getting worse, analysts say

From the South China Morning Post (Jul 13): Mistrust between China and US is getting worse, analysts say

Despite the positive gloss, talks in Beijing show mutual mistrust is deepening, observers say


For all their grand-sounding words, the gulf between the US and Chinese delegations last week was large, analysts say. Photo: Xinhua

China and the United States are finding it harder to accommodate each other, many observers believe, despite both nations putting a positive spin on the outcome of annual high-level talks.

Leaders from both sides used the talks to stress their determination to contain conflicts, and to highlight cooperation over economic, military and climate change issues. But political mistrust is worsening and new flashpoints could emerge easily, commentators warn.

"The talks ended with officials presenting their stances on critical issues but without convincing each other about their strategic intentions," said Sun Zhe, the director of the Centre for US-China Relations at Tsinghua University. "Neither side can present evidence that can change the mind of the other side."

Sun said it was unlikely frictions would escalate into a major confrontation, but mistrust was expected to deepen given the intention of the US to bolster its military alliances in Asia. Beijing would continue to strengthen economic cooperation with the US, but was prepared for a "struggle" against Washington.

"It is very difficult for the two nations to become partners in the aspect of strategic security," Sun said, adding the South China Sea was a potential flashpoint as both sides stepped up involvement in Southeast Asia. "Both nations are now at a point where they need to reset their ties."

Officials from both sides stressed neither power had the intention of containing or challenging the other. In his opening speech, President Xi Jinping warned of disastrous consequences if the nations could not manage frictions. US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US was not a rival to China.

The officials said they reached consensus on several issues such as North Korea's nuclear programme. The two militaries would also establish a notification mechanism, and discuss rules of behaviour covering military and maritime affairs.

Yue Gang, a Beijing-based military affairs commentator, said the notification mechanism and rules were aimed at preventing major confrontations.

The mechanism will probably include alerts about the timing and location of military exercises, as encounters between the two sides have become more frequent with China flexing its navy's muscle.

"China is expanding its influence, and the power of the established nation will be offset in the process," Yue said. "[Neither nation has a] proper understanding of the core concerns of the other side. The situation could improve if both sides saw the development of the other as an opportunity instead of a threat."

Although China stressed it had no plan to exclude the US in the Asia-Pacific region, Washington was concerned that Beijing was building a security structure based on an "Asia for the Asians" concept, according to a transcript on the State Department website.

On territorial disputes with its neighbours, Kerry urged Beijing to show restraint, while China's chief diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi , said the US should take a "just" position.

Graham Webster, a Beijing-based senior fellow at the China Centre at Yale Law School, said both countries had compelling reasons to resolve their differences. "The US and China have far more common interests than conflicting ones. Both countries need a peaceful Asia-Pacific region and a stable world economy if they want to thrive."

He said there was a looming risk of escalation if the two nations failed to develop confidence over cybersecurity.

The joint cybersecurity working group was suspended following the US indictment of five Chinese military officers for hacking into US companies. "A crisis of [large] scale is unlikely in the short term, but without real effort, it could become a real risk in coming years," Webster said.

Military chief optimistic of communist insurgency’s defeat

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 12): Military chief optimistic of communist insurgency’s defeat

Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista says he is leaving the military service with high hopes that the communist insurgency, which dates back to the late 1940’s, will finally be defeated.

Bautista, who retires on July 20, said during a visit here on Thursday that a large number of provinces have already been “normalized,” meaning freed of communist rebels.

He credited the military’s Internal Peace and Security Plan, which was drafted under his tutelage as chief of staff, for the “downgrading” of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.

“We are midway [into the anti-insurgency campaign],” he said here on Thursday, adding that “we see big improvements in as far as urging the CPP-NPA to abandon its struggle.”

Bautista said that in Mindanao, for example, “a lot of communists had surrendered” and this was largely due to the Bayanihan concept, under which the military undertakes development programs in the countryside.

“Its top leaders have also been captured. We are hoping that this progress would continue,” he added.

Major General Domingo Tutaan Jr., Armed Forces spokesperson, said the military has “normalized 43” of the 75 provinces where the rebels had a presence.
AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista. PHOTO from AFP Public Affairs Office

He said by normalized he meant that these provinces had been cleared of communist rebels “and the threat posed by CPP, NPA and NDF had been degraded and we have seen them regressing to criminal acts.”

Military commanders in Mindanao said the NPA continued to carry out offensives but these were just part of its “last acts.”

But Isabel Fermiza, spokesperson of the NPA’s Mt. Apo Sub-regional Command, said such “successful offensives” as the July 10 assault on the police station of Alegria in Surigao del Norte and a July 8 ambush in Baracatan, Toril, Davao City, showed that the insurgency was alive.

“Up to now, the AFP has failed to wipe out any single guerrilla front in [Mindanao] and to prevent the NPA from forming more fighting and fully-armed platoons. The AFP has failed to stop Red fighters from persevering, prevailing, expanding and consolidating its mass base,” Fermiza said.

She said the NPA continues to gain the support of the communities because of its implementation of its minimum program of revolutionary land reform and revolutionary justice.

The mountains of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and Davao City are known hotbeds of the communist movement in the country and are the focus of the military’s counter-insurgency campaign, Capt. Ernest Carolina, spokesperson of the military’s 10th Infantry Division based in Davao City, said.

Tutaan said Bautista also “wants to leave behind a road map for the transformation of the AFP into a world class military organization.”

Born on July 20, 1958, Bautista is a son of the late Brigadier General Teodulfo Bautista, an Army division commander who was killed along with 33 other military officers and men in a massacre by Moro National Liberation Front rebels in what was supposed to have been a peace meeting in Sulu on October 10, 1977.

The massacre led to the collapse of a ceasefire and a peace agreement that had been concluded between the government and the MNLF the year before.

The younger Bautista is the recipient of various citations, including five Distinguished Service Stars and an Outstanding Achievement Medal.

He graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1981 and served as commander of various units before being named chief of staff by President Aquino in January last year.

One cop dead, another kidnapped after shootout on Pulau Mabul, say reports

From the Malaysia Insider posted to MSN News (Jul 13): One cop dead, another kidnapped after shootout on Pulau Mabul, say reports

Gunmen in army fatigues reportedly killed one policeman and may have kidnapped another following a shootout on Pulau Mabul off Semporna, Sabah, according to news reports.

The attack came as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrived in Sabah for a state visit earlier in the day.

Reports said eight gunmen landed on the island around 11.30pm last night, triggering off a shootout with the police just before midnight.

Divers staying in resorts on the island said they heard gunshots.

This latest intrusion comes on the day Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced several additional measures would be implemented to further strengthen the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) in addition to the recent administrative restructuring.

This, he had said, would include deploying Malaysia International Shipping Corporation Berhad’s (MISC) container freighter, the MT Bunga Mas Lima, to Sabah, where it will serve as “mother ship” for maritime assets and personnel near the Philippines border.

Reports quoting the prime minister stated that the vessel would be a forward operational base for intercepting cross-border criminals trying to flee to a neighbouring country after committing crime in the state.

Additionally, Najib added, two Petronas platforms were currently being modified and would be set up by year-end as the last line of defence between the Lahad Datu and Semporna waters.

The platforms will be equipped with modern radar that would enable the security forces to detect movements, day or night, in the area, he explained.

On July 8, Najib had said Esscom would be split into two main ‎components: the Security and Defence Management component, and the Enforcement and Public Action component.

Esscom's director of security and public order, Commissioner of Police Datuk Abd Rashid Harun would be appointed Esscom commander starting July 15, and would be in charge of the Security and Defence Management component.

Esscom covers 1,400km of the east coast of Sabah from Kudat to Tawau.
It was established in March 2013 by Najib following the Lahad Datu incursion by armed Sulu militants last year.

Its purpose is to strengthen maritime security in the eastern part of the state and to prevent terrorist activity in the waters off Sabah.

However, since its formation it has failed to stop a series of kidnappings on the islands off the coast of Sabah, drawing criticism from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) party and opposition Pakatan Rakyat.

Three weeks ago, a fish farm operator in Kampung Air Sapang in Sabah's east coast town of Kunak was kidnapped by armed men believed to be Suluks.

In May, Chinese national Yang Zai Lin, 34, was abducted by five gunmen from a fish farm in Pulau Baik.

Yang was the manager of the fish farm, which was owned by Wonderful Terrace Sdn Bhd, a Hong Kong-based company.

Despite engaging the police special action unit in a shootout, the gunmen managed to evade authorities and fled towards southern Philippines.

In another incident last March, 29-year-old Gao Hua Yun from Shanghai and 40-year-old Marcy Dayawan @ Mimi from the Philippines were abducted from the Singamata Reef Resort on Semporna island.

Both were freed after a ransom was allegedly paid to the kidnappers, although Najib said no ransom had been paid.

A number of BN and PR lawmakers have denounced Esscom as a waste of public funds following the string of security breaches that have happened since its establishment.

Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang said Esscom was a "white elephant", while Kalabakan MP Datuk Seri Abdul Ghapur Salleh said Sabahans were fed-up and angry with the government's promises to boost Esscom.

China reveals rare videos of its South China Sea territorial battle

From GMA News (Jul 11): China reveals rare videos of its South China Sea territorial battle

"We're here! The Huangyan Island! The national flag is raised!" a Chinese journalist exclaims after triumphantly hoisting China's red flag atop a coral stone jutting out of the high seas northwest of the Philippines.
Just off Malaysia, Chinese maritime personnel execute a snappy salute in a Chinese flag-raising ceremony on a ship deck to signify Beijing's control over the disputed James Shoal, about 80 kilometers from the nearest Malaysian coast. In a more dangerous development, a Chinese surveillance ship rams a smaller Vietnamese vessel in contested waters.
The gripping video scenes, including footage never before seen by many people, are culled from an eight-part TV documentary entitled “Journey on the South China Sea” that was aired in China by state-run network CCTV 4 from December 24 to 31 last year. With Chinese narration and English subtitles, the documentary has also been posted on CCTV's website for worldwide viewing.
In a communist Asian nation steeped in secrecy, the three-hour plus documentary provides a rare peek into how China works in the shadows to consolidate its territorial claims in strategic waters, spy on rival claimants, and gradually build an armed presence to thwart opponents who challenge its ancient claims and current expansion.
The whole story is told from the eyes of CCTV journalists, who separately accompanied Chinese surveillance personnel, maritime patrols, law enforcers, fishermen and marine experts in journeys across the troubled waters.

‘A chilling message’
Carl Thayer, a prominent expert on the South China Sea disputes, said the video was intended for multiple audiences. The fact that it is in Chinese, with English subtitles, indicates its primary audience was domestic, but that it was also meant to serve as a warning to rival governments, he said.
"The video is a form of reassurance that the Chinese government is at the forefront in defending China's territorial claims in the South China Sea," Thayer told GMA News Online. 
The video, he added, is also "a chilling message to claimant states that China will use physical force such as ramming to enforce its 'sovereign rights.'"
"Since this video, evidence is emerging that the Chinese Coast Guard has introduced ship-to-ship ramming into its tactical repertoire," Thayer said.
Accompanied by soft piano music, the long documentary features panoramic scenes of the turquoise waters which it says harbors hydrocarbon resources and lush marine life, and faraway islands and islets with white powdery-sand beaches. The documentary was obviously designed to foster nationalism among Chinese viewers and drive home the urgency of defending the vast off-shore territory that lies beyond China's southernmost Hainan Island.
It's instilled with patriotism and emotions.
A Chinese soldier clad in camouflage uniform on a remote reef says he has been guarding that patch of contested territory in the middle of nowhere for 16 years. His extraordinary assignment was coming to an end, he says, and he breaks into tears.
"After this mission is finished, I might not have another chance to come to Nansha," the forlorn soldier says, using the Chinese name for what is internationally known as the Spratly Islands.
The string of mostly barren island, islets, reefs and atolls are disputed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Brunei. They're believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits and lie near major international sea lanes.
"I work hard to the very last second I guess. I came here when I was 18, an entire youth. After we leave this place, only this 16 years will be worth remembering," he says, explaining that his sacrifices were a way of showing love for country.
"Money is useless here. Relationships are simple. Your motive for coming here is simple too. It was just to give back."
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a footage dated April 13, 2013, is shown welcoming a boatload of tired-looking fishermen in Hainan's Tanmen coastal community after a long fishing expedition. "Congratulations on your safe return!" Xi says, smiling.
"I wish you a harvest every time you fish in the sea," he says, and later posed with the sunburned men for a souvenir picture. Then as if on cue, the Chinese leader and the fishermen applauded exactly at the same time before the camera to cap the upbeat scene.
Criticized by the United States and its western and Asian allies for territorial aggression, China used the documentary to air its side to the world.
"Since the Western Han Dynasty, basically, the areas of the South China Sea has been a part of China's territory," a Chinese map specialist tells CCTV.
Ancient Chinese maps are flashed on the screen, with a narrator saying that the South China Sea has always been part of all the territorial demarcations "with no exception."
"Based on a large number of historical documents as well as lots of serious and rigorous textual researches, South China Sea islands belong to China. Undeniably, it is a fundamental historical fact," a Chinese analyst says.
Sansha City
In a bid to project that it has political and administrative control over the disputed territories, the Chinese documentary highlights the emergence of Sansha City, which was established in 2012 with its main base in the Paracel Islands, or Xisha in Chinese. Although controlled by China, the cluster of island, islets and reefs are contested by Vietnam and Taiwan.
Xisha's largest territory, Yongxing Island (Woody Island), is depicted as the most developed piece of real estate in the contested region, resembling a small city.

It has a supermarket, a bank, a post office, a desalination facility for drinking water, low-slung buildings, and a main thoroughfare called the Beijing Road. There are mobile phones, Internet connection, cable TV with 52 channels, and a radio station called "Voice of the South China Sea" that continuously airs weather bulletins to fishermen. An aerial shot shows Yongxing's long airstrip.

On Xisha's Yagong Island, about 70 Chinese fishermen receive 500 yuan in monthly subsidy.
People's Liberation Army forces are shown brandishing rifles and conducting combat drills in Yongxing but overall security of the disputed region has been delegated to a police force called the Qionghai Public Security Frontier Detachment. The Qionghai detachment oversees 110 "alarm service platforms" to monitor and respond to distressed fishermen anywhere in the region.
With the developments in Sansha, more young Chinese professionals and graduates are arriving to live and work in the city despite the great distance. Chinese tourists have also begun to visit, according to CCTV.
Battle for South China Sea control
The documentary tackles China's efforts to strengthen its grip across the vast sea where it says Beijing has lost 42 islands to rival claimant countries. A system of patrols and surveillance has been put in place across the South China Sea and forward-deployed bases have been established to defend Chinese sovereignty.
In a show of firepower, CCTV shows Chinese maritime surveillance personnel on the deck of a ship, pointing their assault rifles toward an imaginary target in a combat drill. There is no massive show of military force though, reflecting China's strategy of frontlining civilian paramilitary forces instead of its monstrous People Liberation Army, to avoid giving the US military and its allied forces justification to intervene militarily in the region.
While projecting its firepower capability, China dispels fears, often voiced by Washington, that its increasing presence would eventually threaten freedom of navigation in the region. It says its huge economy thrives in the open waterways where 60 percent of China's foreign traded goods and 80 percent of its imported oil pass through.
Instead of a threat, China is portrayed as the "guardian angel" of the disputed waters, where it has staged rescue missions even of foreign sailors. From 2007 to 2012, Chinese patrols have reportedly saved 18,000 people.
But the documentary sends a clear message that China would not hesitate to act when its interests are threatened.
In a footage of a 2007 clash in the Paracels, a Chinese maritime law enforcement ship was ordered to ram a smaller Vietnamese vessel accused of trying to sabotage a Beijing oil survey.
"We are relentless towards the vessels of any other party engaged in the acts of deliberate sabotage. As long as the commander gives an order, be it hitting, ramming or crashing, we will perform our duty resolutely," says Capt. Yong Zhong of the Haijian 84, which was involved in that face-off with Vietnam.
The documentary also cited a 1974 clash with Vietnam that killed 18 Chinese sailors.
Just off Malaysia, Chinese maritime personnel were shown in a video holding a flag-raising ceremony on April 23, 2013 to symbolically assert China's ownership and control over James Shoal. Malaysian officials have been angered by China's actions and have since deployed navy ships to guard James Shoal from what they call Chinese intrusions into the contested area very close to their coastline.
In the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal), which China calls Huangyan Island, the CCTV crew filmed how they hoisted China's flag atop a coral outcrop in November 2012. "We had a sign here," says a Chinese law enforcement officer. "The Philippines blew it up. They put a sign and we blew it up." A past standoff in the shoal was also depicted, showing a Chinese law enforcement ship protecting Chinese fishermen from a "foreign" frigate.
China also revealed a "top secret" operation it staged in August 1994 to erect structures in the Mischief Reef. Contrary to Chinese assurances at the time that they were just building fishermen's shelters, China admitted in the documentary that the structures were meant to serve as a depot for supplies and is now a military outpost equipped with satellite dishes and functions as a Chinese military forward base in the Spratlys.
Three objectives
China's patrols in the disputed areas have three objectives: Show the flag for deterrence, carry out surveillance on other claimant countries, and assert China's territorial control, according to Chen Huabei, deputy director general of the South China Sea sub-bureau of state oceanic administration.
"Only through our law enforcement making its appearance by patroling in the waters we ascertain jurisdiction can we best declare our sovereignty over the waters," Chen said.
Chinese patrol ships are shown spying on military outposts of Vietnam and the Philippines in the Spratlys last year.
Off a Vietnamese-occupied island in the Spratlys, a Chinese surveillance personnel took note of enhancements and new constructions made by Vietnam. They also watched Filipino soldiers in Flat Shoal, called Patag by the Philippines.
"This man is fetching water," a Chinese officer says, pointing to a Filipino soldier on a surveillance monitor. "The man just arrived by a small boat," adds a second officer.
"Take a look at the national flag. It's the flag of the Philippines," the first officer butts in. "What a mess of a house," his companion quips, looking at the dilapidated shacks of Filipino troops.
At the Second Thomas Shoal, called Ayungin by the Philippines and Re'nai by China, a Chinese officer noticed what looked like a new piece of wall on the side of the long-grounded Philippine Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre which hosts a small number of Filipino marines.
"This was built after the ship ran aground," a Chinese officer says. "It's like their living quarters," adds another surveillance officer.
The logic of it all: Oil, gas, resources, territory and China's security
The documentary describes the disputed waters as China's largest body of water crucial to its security and a key frontier for fuel and food.
It discloses that China has embarked on major oil and gas explorations but did not say where. Instead, it showed two developed offshore oil fields equipped with state-of-the-art equipment.
China estimates that some 23 to 30 billion barrels of oil and large volumes of natural gas lie beneath the South China Sea. Tens of thousands of tons of precious metals and minerals have been discovered, including manganese, nickel, copper and cobalt. Additionally, large amounts of what it calls "combustible ice" have been found and can be developed by China as an alternative energy source.
At least 1,500 species of fish and marine life are found in the contested waters, including giant manta ray, giant turtles, parrot fish, and flying fish. The waters teem with an estimated 2.81 million tons of fish, including 500,000 tons in the Spratlys.
China began its first scientific studies on potential oil and gas reserves in the Spratlys in 1984, covering 38 reefs, in a study called the Nansha Integrated Scientific Investigation. After it became apparent that the vast waters may be harboring huge oil and gas deposits, rival countries began grabbing Chinese territories, sparking conflicts, according to the documentary.
With all that gold, China has and will use its might to assert control over the contested region, analysts say.
"I think China's actions show that it is committed to utilizing the resources of the South China Sea, irrespective of the legal disputes," Singapore-based analyst Parag Khanna, professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School, told GMA News Online. 
Six months after the Chinese documentary was made public, the response from the international community "has been a resounding silence," reflecting many countries' reluctance to take on China, analyst Thayer said. But the whole region, not only China's current territorial foes, must take heed of the red flags in the video, Thayer warned.
"Privately, the video must be viewed as disturbing not only to the main claimant states, Vietnam and the Philippines, but to other maritime states in Southeast Asia," he said.

AFP to reinvestigate JSOG men’s death

From the Philippine Star (Jul 13): AFP to reinvestigate JSOG men’s death

Outgoing Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista convened a military panel on Friday to conduct a full-blown investigation into the death of six Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) members at the height of heavy fighting between Marines and the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul, Sulu last month.

Bautista, who is retiring next week, made the move after the Western Mindanao Command’s Board of Inquiry (BOI) submitted its finding to him on Tuesday that the elite troopers were killed by “friendly” artillery fire, not in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf as earlier reported.

“I just received the BOI report and I’m constituting a BOI from the level of the General Headquarters to look into this report and find out what we can do and what appropriate action that we need to take,” Bautista said.

 While it is not common, Bautista said “friendly fire” does happen even to the best armies in the world.

Prior to the Patikul incident on the early morning of June 19, elements of the Marine Force Recon headed by 1Lt. Roger Flores encountered a big number of Abu Sayyaf militants.

As fighting raged, Flores, the third top graduate of Philippine Military Academy Class 2009, was fatally hit while 11 of his men were wounded.

The Marines then asked for fire support from higher headquarters. This came in the form of 105-mm artillery fire, wayward rounds of which landed on the JSOG forward base.

“The first wayward round landed a few distance from where the JSOG men were gathered. The second round came in closer, and the third round was a direct hit, killing six and wounding 11 of (the JSOG men),” a military source said.

Bautista said he would not preempt the ongoing investigation when asked if military sanctions would be imposed against those found responsible for the incident.

Kidnappers threaten to sell Lingayan to Abu Sayyaf

From the Zamboanga Today (Jul 12): Kidnappers threaten to sell Lingayan to Abu Sayyaf

Kidnappers who are still holding captive Zamboangueño plumber Remigio Lingayan have given the family until 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon to produce the P1 million ransom or they will sell the victim to another group.

Analiza Lingayan, wife of Remigio, disclosed that the kidnapers called Thursday last night asking her to produce the money or they will sell her husband to the “laki laki” or “Laki 9” Abu Sayaff group who are more notorious.

She said her husband told her not to worry if she cannot produce the ransom demand as he has accepted his fate.          

According to Analiza, for five days she has been trying to reach Mayor Isabelle Climaco Salazar to beg for help but her secretary told her the mayor was always busy.

She also disclosed that at first, her brother in law Joselito Gonzales y Perez was said to have been killed during an encounter but after five days, the suspects told her Joselito was not killed in the encounter instead they beheaded him.

Analiza is again crying for help, calling president Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay to help them, adding that the government is only interested to help wealthy individuals who are kidnapped, and put aside if the victims are poor.

Remigio and Gonzales were kidnapped last June 4, 2014 in Maimbung, Sulu while doing pipe-laying work in the area.

The kidnappers at first asked for P20 million ransom but reduced it to P7 million, then P3 million and further went down to P1 million.

They also gave the family an ultimatum that expired last June 29 but due to the Ramadan period, they postponed the beheading of the victim.

MILF: JICA offers Training Program for Young leaders in the Philippines

From the MILF Website (Jul 12): JICA offers Training Program for Young leaders in the Philippines

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) offers training courses for young leaders in the Philippines this year age between twenty to thirty five years old who is working at government offices, duly recognized non-profit organizations, and development organizations.
In the JICA’s website, it said that, “Under the program, groups of young leaders, who will eventually become nation-builders in the future, are invited to enhance their specialties by experiencing and learning technologies and skills in Japan for a period of 18 days.”

“JICA is implementing the program with the view of contributing to more sustainable capacity development for young leaders through greater emphasis on specialized technical training in various fields”, it furthered.

Ms. Marry Ann Bakisan, Senior Program Officer, JICA Philippines Office said “This year there are four courses available to young leaders who may want to apply.”

“These are Fishery Using Resource Management Approach Course, Rural Development Course, Small and Medium Enterprises Development and Promotion Course, and Economic Administration (Industrial Development and Promotion) Course,” she disclosed.

Ms. Bakisan, however, said that every year courses are changeable. “This year these are the courses, the following year there’s a possibility to introduce another courses to be offered,” she said.

“In every course there are JICA centres in Japan who handle the program,” Ms. Bakisan pointed out.

Among the courses strategies according to Ms. Bakisan are lecture type to be facilitated by JICA experts and its partner’s organization in Japan, interaction with Japanese youth, building networks, and actual exposure in the field by which it could have value added to the learning of participants.

“Part of the output of the program in each courses are the action plan or proposal made by the participants…either they can present it to their organizations for funding or to submit this to JICA for support,” she said.

The JICA has a program called ‘follow up cooperation scheme’ which provide funds for the proposal according to Ms. Bakisan.

“The JICA will assess it and if it’s found good proposal then there is a possibility that they will going to fund it,” Ms. Bakisan said. 

The Training Program for Young Leaders or TPYL is a technical cooperation program aimed at promoting human resources development and nation-building in developing countries.

For more details of the said program, the applicants can visit the JICA’s website link at

MILF: GPH-MILF Special Meeting in Kuala Lumpur yields “modest progress”

From the MILF Website (Jul 13): GPH-MILF Special Meeting in Kuala Lumpur yields “modest progress”

The special meeting of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Panels that started on July 8 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ended Friday, July 11 yielded “modest progress”.
The panels discussed in the four-day “workshop” the contents and final text of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and agreed to meet again in Manila “within the next few days” to come up with a “mutually acceptable BBL for submission to Congress”. The meeting was attended by six GPH panel members, 5 MILF panel members, BTC Commissioners and members of the International Contact Group.

In a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting, it said that, “They achieved modest progress and identified consensus language in the light of signed agreements” and “resolved to continue working together to come up with a mutually acceptable draft Bangsamoro Basic Law”. It also said that,” The meeting “provided the panels the opportunity to clarify misperceptions and affirm the intent and sincerity of the parties to abide by the signed agreements”.

The meeting held at the Bellamy House in Kuala Lumpur was prompted by MILF concerns on the “overhauled draft copy of the BBL which Malacañang returned to the BTC on June 21. On June 24, MILF Chieftain Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and BangsamoroTransition Commission Chair Mohagher Iqbal met with President Benigno Simon Aquino III at Hiroshima, Japan and the Front chairman raised the issue on the Malacañang-proposed revisions to the draft BBL. 

On July 3, the BTC held a plenary session; passed a resolution, elevating the “serious concern” to the peace panels on the revised BBL draft.

The consensus reached by the peace panels at Kuala Lumpur shall be brought back to their respective principals for consultation and approval.“modest-progress

CPP/NPA: Duha ka Detachment sa 1st Special Forces Battalion-CAA sa Bukidnon, Giharass sa NPA

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jul 11): Duha ka Detachment sa 1st Special Forces Battalion-CAA sa Bukidnon, Giharass sa NPA

Ariel Magbanwag (Inda)
NPA South Central Bukidnon Sub Regional Command
Wala pay semana human nabutyag ang kainutil sa 8th IB sa pagpanalipod sa gisilotang Mayor sa Impasug-ong, Bukidnon, duha na usab ka hugna sa harassment ang nahiaguman sa 1st Special Forces Battalion ug CAA gikan sa mga yunit sa New People’s Army ubos sa South-Central Bukidnon (NPA-SCB) Sub-regional Command.

Niadtong Hulyo 7, 2014, mga bandang alang 11:45 sa gabii, gipabusikaran og command-detonated nga eksplosibo sa usa ka tim sa Pulang manggugubat ang detatsment sa reaksyunaryong kasundalohan didto sa Sitio Malilong, Brgy. Zamboangita, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. Sa kakusog sa impact sa eksplosibo, dugay kaayo nakabalos ug naglisod pa og pamusil ang mga nabuthan nga sundalo. Luwas nga naka-atras ang mga kauban human sa maong harassment. Apan tungod sa kangitngit sa lugar, wala nasuta pila gayud ang kaswalidad sa AFP.

Pila ka minuto lang ang milabay human ang unang harassment, niadtong Hulyo 8, 2014, mga bandang alas 12:00 sa tungang gabii, giharass sa laing tim sa NPA ang detatsment sa 1st SF Battalion ug CAA didto sa Sitio Binungkasan, Brgy. Canangaan, Cabanglasan, Bukidnon. Usa ka elemento sa pasistang tropa ang nasamdan. Sa pikas bahin, paspas ug organisado nga nakawithdraw ang mga kauban nga walay unsamang kaswalidad.

Taliwala sa kaylap ug sunson nga mga gerilyang aksyon sa NPA, pagpasurender sa mga sibilyan ang giatiman sa mga reaksyonaryong kasundaluhan aron ipakita nga nagaani kuno sila og mga kadaugan sa Oplan Bayanihan diha sa malampusong pagdugmok sa rebolusyonaryong base, ug aron ihimulag ug puohon ang NPA.

Tulo ka hugna na ang dinaghang pagpasurender sa Cabanglasan ug San Fernando, Bukidnon karong tuiga. Ang pinakaulahing batch mao ang pagpapanumpa sa 54 ka mga sibilyan didto sa 403rd Brigade, sa Malaybalay City niadtong Hulyo 9, 2014 dala ang pipila ka mga armas. Grabe ang pagpasigarbo sa kasundalohan sa pagpalit sa rebolusyon pinaagi sa balik-baril program. Sama sa naandan, gihimo kining gatasan sa mga kawatang upisyal. Sa pagkatinuod, gamay ra nga bahin sa tinuod nga bayad sa mga gisurender nga armas ang mopadulong sa mga hingtungdang surrenderee ug ang mas dakung bahin niini gikawat lang sa mga upisyal sa militar.

Apan gibutyag na usab niini nga panghitabo ang tin-aw nga kapakyas sa AFP sa pagkabig sa kasingkasing ug hunahuna sa mga kabus sa kabukiran. Kung wala pay suportang masa, makaduol kaha ang mga tim sa NPA sa mga target nga detatsment nga dili mamatikdan? Ang kamatuoran, ang padayong pag-ilaid sa mga mag-uuma sa samot nga kalisud, mao ang nagahaling sa rebolusyonaryong kaisog sa katawhan sa pagpakusog sa armadong pakigbisog nga nagatubag sa ilang pangandoy alang sa matikad nga yuta ug sa paglingkawas gikan sa pagpahimulos ug pagpangdaugdaug.

Busa, bisan sa kabangis sa dinagkung kampanya ug operasyong militar sa AFP, nagpabiling taas ang moral sa mga Pulang kumander ug manggugubat. Padayon nilang ginahuptan ang opensibong postura, ug ang ilang kadasig ug determinasyon nga suklan ang kaaway nagsumikad sa lalom ug lapad nga pagsuporta sa katawhan.

Land dispute triggers MILF, MNLF clash in NorCot

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 13): Land dispute triggers MILF, MNLF clash in NorCot

Land and territorial disputes triggered Friday morning’s skirmishes between rival Moro fronts in North Cotabato that left one farmer wounded, local officials said Sunday.

Captain Antonio Bulao, speaking for the military’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, said families identified with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have been fighting over vast track of lands in Barangay Manubuan, Matalam, North Cotabato.

“They traded bullets Friday dawn while our Muslim brothers and sisters were preparing to start their day with fasting,” Bulao said in a radio interview, referring to the clashes in Sitio Maligaya, Barangay Manubuan during the fasting month of Ramadhan.

Bulao said an Army backed by militia peacekeeping force had been deployed in Barangay Manubuan to prevent warring families from seeing each other and firing their guns.

Habib Guiabar, chair of the North Cotabato local monitoring team of the government and the MILF, said normalcy had been restored and that both sides agreed to a cessation of hostilities.

Farmer Oscar Matiagal, also an MILF commander, attacked the group of farmer Manu Sandab, also an MNLF commander, after the later and his men allegedly flagged down a truck loaded with farm products to be delivered to the market and attempted to hostage the wife of another MILF commander.

“They (Sandab) accused us of harvesting their farm products which was not true,” Matiagal said in Filipino.

“It was probably the reason why the followers of Commander Sandab destroyed our farm products we were to deliver to the market,” Matiagal said.

About 50 MILF forces, led by Matiagal, attacked the camp of Commander Sandab in Purok 6, Barangay Manubuan, Matalam, North Cotabato at past midnight Friday, according to Captain Bulao.

One farmer identified with Commander Sandab was wounded.

Before the dawn attack, Matiagal said the group Commander Sandab also destroyed the vegetables of his followers.

“Pinaghahagis nila ang mga gulay at ikinalat ang mais at palay sa kalsada (They threw off the our vegetables and scattered sacks of corn and palay on the road),” Matiagal said.

Not contented, the MNLF forces also took custody of a certain Kagi, truck driver and Bai Dido, wife of MILF Commander Pingkoy Timbulan, and briefly used them as human shields, Matiagal said. He named the MNLF group leaders as Tulisan, brother of Commander Sandab and a certain Kanapia.

“This is the third time the group of Sandab had been harassing our farmers,” Matiagal said.

Matiagal said “Timbulan was so angry that his wife was abducted by Sandab’s men so we decided to attack the base of Commander Sandab.”

Bai Dido and the driver were later released by Sandab’s men.

Guiabar admitted that several peace negotiations had been conducted but the group keep on violating them, thus, they clash every now and then.

Bulao said a team from the 7th Infantry Battalion, led by Lt. Leonard Lopez, had been deployed as peacekeepers in Barangay Manubuan and to secure portions of the Cotabato-Davao highway.

Brunei military chief visits peacekeepers in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 13): Brunei military chief visits peacekeepers in Mindanao

A ranking military official of the Brunei military on Friday visited its forces in Mindanao who have been serving as international monitoring of the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front ceasefire agreement, officials said Sunday.

Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) Commander Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Major General Dato Seri Pahlawan Md Tawih Abdullah paid an operational visit to Cotabato City over the weekend and met with Brunei personnel involved in the ongoing Mindanao peace-keeping mission,

In a statement, the Brunei Royal Armed Forces said the visit was part of the commander’s introductory visit.

Accompanying Gen. Abdullah in his visit were Commissioner Dato Seri Pahlawan Awg Bahrin Md Noor, comissioner of Royal Brunei Police Forces (RBFP) as well as senior officers from both the RBAF and RBPF.

Upon arrival at the Awang Airport in Maguindanao, the Brunei military officials were met by Philippine Major General Edmundo Pangilinan, chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and Brunei Team Site Leader, Lieutenant Colonel Khairil Hj Ismail.

Gen. Abdullah said the visit was aimed to enhance defense cooperation in existing fields and to strengthen relations between both nations.

Brunei Darussalam had been a long-time partner of the Philippines in seeking peace in troubled Mindanao region.

It also extended various peace and development assistance in Muslim Mindanao region, including the Grand Mosque in Cotabato City which was a “gift” of Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei.

After military honors, the Brueni military delegation proceeded to tour the Grand Mosque in the outskirts of Cotabato City where they performed Zohor prayer in congregation with the Grand Mosque’s Committee.

It was highlighted by the presentation of copies of the Al-Quran ‘Mushaf Al-WathiqBillah’ as a special gift from His Majesty the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and the Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and the distribution of dates to Muslim residents in connection with the holy month of Ramadhan 1435 Hijrah.

Gen. Abdullah delegation then proceeded to the International Monitoring Team (IMT) Headquarters in Cotabato City, where they were received by Malaysia IMT Head of Mission Major General Dato’ Abd Samad Hj Yaakub, Brunei IMT members and international members.

The Head of the IMT presented the monitoring assignment and situationer of the implementation of the GPH-MILF peace process.

Gen. Abdullah and his team also visited Team Site I Headquarters, where the delegation was briefed on recent developments of the IMT assignment – particularly those involving RBAF personnel.

Brunei has about a dozen police and military personnel serving in the IMT which is led by Malaysian military.

After sharing of information on the Mindanao peace and orde situation and the update on peace monitoring, the Brunei delegation handed over to IMT officers and personnel a personal gift from His Majesty the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and the Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, and Aidilfitri goodies from the RBAF Wives Welfare Committee.

Brunei and Malaysia are two leading Muslim countries helping the GPH and MILF attain peace in Mindanao.

Deployed in 2003, the Brunei and Malaysian unarmed military and police personnel have greately helped in preventing skrirmishes between Moro rebels and government forces.

Gen. Abdullah told Philippine military officials that his government will continue to provide assistance to ensure the success of the Mindanao peace process.

Eastern Mindanao Command, PNP sign joint operations order

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): Eastern Mindanao Command, PNP sign joint operations order
The Eastern Mindanao Command and PNP’s Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) signed a Joint Standing Operating Procedure Number 1 (JSOP No.1) on Condition Situation Response System Friday.

This took place at the unit's headquarter in Panacan, Davao City.

Capt. Alberto Caber, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman, said JSOP No. 1 prescribes certain minimum actions or responses pertaining to the counter-insurgency campaign by the PNP and AFP operating forces working under the Area Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center Eastern Mindanao (Area JPSCC-EM) within the territorial boundaries of Regions 10, 11, 12 and 13 in accordance with the established Condition Situation Response System (CSRS).

Eastern Mindanao Command head Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III and DIPO Eastern Mindanao Police Director Angelito N. Pacia (co-chairmen) signed the JSOP.

Pacia was represented by PRO 11 Regional Director Chief Supt. Wendy Del Rosario.

Area commanders led by the Army’s 4th and 10th Infantry Division with the PNP counterparts and representative from the AFP General Headquarters Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo witnessed the event.

Cruz said the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army commits terror acts or atrocities not only against PNP/AFP but civilian targets.

“NPA attacks are usually against those who refuse to give in to their extortion demands, like business companies involved in mining, transport, plantations and even against poor and low income individuals and families in the countryside," he said.

Del Rosario said the peace and order situation in Eastern Mindanao is greatly affected by the violent acts of the CPP/NPA which is considered a potent security threat.

“Their boldness in committing criminal violent acts against their chosen targets denotes that it remains a major security threat which poses a very serious challenge to the government in general and the AFP/PNP in particular," he added.

Atrocities made by the CPP/NPA include armed attack on government installations, ambuscades, harassment, abductions/kidnapping, IED explosions, arson, murder and other acts of terror are directed against the AFP/PNP and civilians.

NPA M-16 automatic rifle recovered in Kalinga clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): NPA M-16 automatic rifle recovered in Kalinga clash
Following a clash with 17th Infantry Battalion troopers in Sitio Anquid, Barangay Poswoy, Balbalan town, Kalinga, a M-16 automatic automatic rifle belonging to the New People's Army (NPA) fighters was captured Friday afternoon.

Government troopers were conducting routine security operation in the area around 6:45 p.m. when they encountered seven heavily-armed rebels.

A five-minute erupted and resulted in the immediate retreat of the NPA fighters who sustained an undetermined number of casualties.

Aside from the M-16 automatic rifle, also recovered was a magazine containing 10 5.56mm rounds.

Lt. Col. Resurrecion Mariano, 17th Infantry Battalion commander, said the military patrol and subsequent encounter stemmed from reports of civilians in the area who have grown tired of NPA extortion activities in Balbalan.

2 killed, 4 hurt as MILF forces attack Army units in LanaoDel Sur

From the Philippine News Agency  (Jul 12): 2 killed, 4 hurt as MILF forces attack Army units in LanaoDel Sur

An Moro Islamic Liberation Front sub-commander was killed along with an Army trooper following a clash at the vicinity of Barangay Bacayawan, Marantao, Lanao Del Sur Friday afternoon.

Also wounded in the encounter were two MILF operatives and two soldiers, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Franco Suelto said.

The clash took place around 4 p.m.

The slain MILF official was identified as "Cmdr. Javier Macagaan" while the name of the trooper killed in action was not released pending identification of his next-of-kin.

Suelto said the incident took place as elements of the 65th and 51st Infantry Battalions were assisting the crew of PTV 5 (Bitag) on their documentary in the boundary of Municipalities of Marantao and Balindong, both of Lanao Del Sur.

At this point, Macagaan's men fired on government security troopers, killing one soldier and wounding two more.

Return fire from the 65th and 51st Infantry Battalion troopers killed Macagaan and wounded two of his aides.

Suelto said that encounter lasted for an hour until MILF retreated.

The body of Macagaan and his two wounded men were retrieved by their relatives.

While the wounded soldiers were taken to the nearest hospital for treatment.

The incident was immediately pacified and resolved thru the support of the peace mechanisms particularly the International Monitoring Team, MILF-Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), civil society organizations and other peace-loving advocates in Lanao del Sur.

“This is an unfortunate incident and sad that our soldiers were ambushed while maintaining peace and security in the area. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those killed and wounded. The 1st Infantry Division is fully supporting the Peace Process on Bangsamoro. We gave much importance on this stage of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro and we will not let anyone spoil the gains of the Peace Process,” Suelto stressed.

Meanwhile, 1st Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Gerardo F. Barrientos, Jr., called on the MILF leadership in Lanao Del Sur to intensify the dialogue on their sub-commanders and communities to avoid similar incidents that resulted to waste of life and limbs on both sides.

“The 1st Infantry Division will actively support, advocates, and participates in peace-building in conflict-affected areas particularly in Bangsamoro communities. It will also hold consultations and dialogues with various sectors in the fulfillment of its support role in the government's peace thrust.

The immediate resolution of the Marantao Incident is the proof of the effectiveness of peace process mechanism. The Local Monitoring Team headed by Musa Diamla, International Monitoring Teams headed by Colonel Radzuan, the MILF-CCCH headed by Amerodin Usmanen, the 103rd Infantry Brigade and Civil Society Organization will continue its partnership in promoting peace and peaceful resolution of conflicts in this part of the region," he added.

Use Facebook to correct China's 'fairy tale,' Filipinos urged

From Rappler (Jul 11): Use Facebook to correct China's 'fairy tale,' Filipinos urged

'Facebook is a very effective tool for mobilizing and exchanging information,' says Rafael Alunan of the West Philippines Sea Coalition

ONLINE BATTLE: Former Secretary Rafael Alunan mobilizes Filipinos online. Rappler photo

ONLINE BATTLE: Former Secretary Rafael Alunan mobilizes Filipinos online. Rappler photo

How to put your social media skills to good use? Fight China's misinformation online and generate patriotism among Filipinos, Rafael Alunan of the West Philippines Sea Coalition urged Filipinos.

The media is bound to pick up hot issues in the social media, said the co-convenor of the West Philippines Sea Coalition, which has been mobilizing Filipinos online to join rallies protesting the aggressiveness of China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

"Facebook to me is the most effective social media site because Filipinos use it to reach out and to connect. I found that it’s a very effective tool for mobilizing and exchanging information," Alunan told reporters.

The Philipines is very active in social media with about 30 million users on Facebook and 10 million on Twitter.

Alunan, along with several personalities, are maintaining personal and group pages that are disseminating information on China's activities in the West Philippine Sea.

"To begin with, their (China's) claim of the South China Sea is very fallacious. There is no factual basis for it. I call it a fairy tale, the 9-dash line was thought of only in 1947," Alunan told reporters.

One of the weakest militaries in Asia, the Philippines wants a peaceful resolution of the sea conflict and is counting on its arbitration case against China. Despite support from various countries, however, sea tensions continue to escalate.

Alunan said the West Philippines Sea Coalition is organizing another rally this month.

New battleground? PH soldiers get social media training

From Rappler (Jul 12): New battleground? PH soldiers get social media training

In the selfie capital of the world, it's not surprising for soldiers to be all over Facebook. It's time to set the ground rules

GROUND RULES. The Armed Forces of the Philippines holds its first social media summit.

GROUND RULES. The Armed Forces of the Philippines holds its first social media summit.

Be cautious in in accepting friend or follower requests. Do not post field assignments of personnel. Only pre-approved posts for public viewing should be posted. Don't reprimand subordinates on posts!

In the selfie capital of the world, soldiers, too, are all over Facebook. But those selfies in the jungle may be giving away troop locations to enemies, and those rant posts are putting the military in a negative light.
It's time to set the ground rules.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday, July 11, held its first social media summit to issue guidelines on social media. This follows the release of the Philippine Army's Social Media Handbook.
"'Control' is not the appropriate term. It’s just managing and balancing between the need for secrecy and transparency as well. We have internal guidelines in the use of social media," AFP chief General Emmanuel Bautista told reporters.
Bautista added: "Social media is a reality. We need a balance between transparency and the use of social media with the requisites of holding the confidentiality of information that will compromise the performance of our mission."
HANDBOOK: The Philippine Army sets the ground rules for troops' social media use
HANDBOOK: The Philippine Army sets the ground rules for troops' social media use
When are soldiers most encouraged to post? When they're doing civil-military operations.
One of the speakers in the summit is former interior secretary Rafael Alunan, co-convenor of the West Philippine Sea Coalition. It is a group that mobilizes Filipino netizens to protest the aggressiveness of China in disputed waters.
Alunan encouraged soldiers to use social media to inspire patriotism but cautioned them from posting sensitive information. (READ: Use Facebook to correct China's 'fairy tale,' Filipinos urged)
"They (soldiers) should maximize it in terms of morale welfare, informing their public about deaths, news reports, and weather reports. They can even use it for philanthropic causes, educating internal audience like their sons and daughters, employment opportunities," Alunan said.

Suspected Aussie terrorist to be deported

From Rappler (Jul 12): Suspected Aussie terrorist to be deported

(UPDATED) Previously identified as one of the two most influential voices inspiring and guiding foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, Cerantonino is charged for being 'undocumented and for being an undesirable alien'

ARRESTED. Australian Musa Cerantonio arrives in Manila from Cebu. He is being kept at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan. File photo by Edwin Llobrera

ARRESTED. Australian Musa Cerantonio arrives in Manila from Cebu. He is being kept at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan. File photo by Edwin Llobrera

A 29-year-old Australian citizen believed to be a leader of a group of Islamic militants calling for global jihad is now under the custody of Philippine immigration authorities.

Immigration chief Siegfred Mison identified the alleged terrorist as Robert Edward Cerantonio who was immediately arrested by joint elements from the Bureau of Immigration and the Philippine National Police in Cebu shortly after a warrant for his deportation was issued on Thursday, July 10.

Authorities immediately brought Cerantonio to the Immigration’s holding facility in Bicutan where he remains while waiting for his actual deportation to Australia.

On July 7, the Australian police informed Philippine Immigration officials about the cancellation of Cerantonio’s passport. The Australian Ministry for Foreign Affairs cancelled his passport after Australian intelligence authorities identified him as being the one behind messages sent to suspected terrorists calling for extremism.

Social media

Cerantonio, believed to be staying in the Philippines for about a year already, is a Christian convert to Islam who has been using social media to encourage terrorism and urge Muslims to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq. He has been identified as one of the two most influential voices inspiring and guiding foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.

Reports said he combined traditional media with new media: his radical teachings are on YouTube, and he engages and spreads the same ideology espoused by al-Qaeda on Twitter and Facebook.

With the Philippines as his haven, Cerantonio used the Internet to urge people to undertake extremist activities. These acts violate anti-terrorism laws, especially those of Australia and the Philippines.

According to a paper published by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) in April, one in 4 foreign fighters followed Cerantonio’s Twitter account. On Twitter, he uses highly inflammatory language. (READ: ISIS online cheerleader Musa Cerantonio spotted in PH)

Cerantonio was observed to be far more active on Facebook. His Facebook page was the third most “liked” page among jihadists and has been “explicit in his endorsement of violent jihad and support for jihadist organizations operating in Syria,” according to ICSR.


Cerantonio has been seen in Manila, Cebu and Zamboanga, Rappler sources said. His activities in the Philippines, according to Mison, “pose a risk to public interest.” He added, "Cerantonino was charged for being undocumented and for being an undesirable alien."

"Cerantonio will be deported to Australia when all the documents necessary for deportation are complete," Mison said. (READ: Online preacher Musa Cerantonio leaves Philippines to join ISIS?)

"Among the documents required for deportation is the NBI clearance to make sure that the subject has no pending case in our local courts," Mison added.


Senior MILF leader, soldier dead in fierce clashes

From Rappler (Jul 12): Senior MILF leader, soldier dead in fierce clashes

The incident happens amid unresolved issues on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, expected to pave the way for the establishment of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao

A soldier and a rebel field commander died as fierce fighting erupted Friday, July 11, between government soldiers and a band of Muslim rebels in Lanao del Sur.

This, amid unresolved issues over the government’s revision of the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, expected to pave the way for the establishment of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) in Mindanao.

Army Captain Frank Suelto, spokesman for the military’s 1st Division, said by phone Saturday, July 12, that two soldiers and two followers of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Commander Abdullah Macapaar (a.k.a. Bravo) were wounded in hours-long clashes around 4:00 pm along the national highway at the border of Marantao and Balindong towns.

Suelto said troops, who were requested to secure a news television firm, were waiting for the crew to finish an interview about cooperative operations when they were attacked by rebels led by Habier Macagaan, a sub-commander of Bravo.

Residents, including Bravo, according to Suelto, were alarmed by the situation and feared possible retaliation from both sides. “We were saddened. The incident is not intentional. We don’t want to ruin what we have achieved in the peace process,” he said.

“We called the attention of those involved in the peace mechanism right away to explain the real situation. As of now tension subsided and the flow of traffic has normalized,” he added.

The military official refused to identify their fatality but maintained they did not fire the first bullet.

“I think there was a misunderstanding. Our men were in the area not to (arrest) Macagaan, who has a pending arrest warrant. He is inside their territory and for that he is covered by the peace process,” Suelto said.

Bangsamoro Basic Law

The incident occurred while the government and the MILF are in the process of ironing out revisions in the 4 annexes of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. (READ: Timeline: The long road to the Bangsamoro region)

On July 11, both parties, after a 4-day emergency meeting in Malaysia, achieved modest progress. The parties resolved to continue working together to come up with a mutually acceptable draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The meeting provided the panels the opportunity to clarify misconceptions and affirm the intent and sincerity of the parties to abide by the signed agreements. They agreed to continue discussions on specific concerns in Manila within the next few days. Both parties also recognized the importance of these discussions to ensure that the draft law would be submitted to Congress at the soonest possible time.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law, if approved by Congress, would pave the way for the establishment of the BAR to be led by the Moro people.

The delay in the transmittal of the draft law to Congress prompted another closed-door meeting between President Benigno Aquino III and MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim in Hiroshima, Japan, earlier this month.

After the meeting, Aquino vowed that the BAR would be in place before he steps down in June 2016. The President earlier said he would certify the bill as urgent.

The Palace is expected to transmit the draft law to Congress when it opens after Aquino delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 28.