Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tension still high in Maguindanao villages after BIFF attacks

From the Philippine Star (Jul 23): Tension still high in Maguindanao villages after BIFF attacks

A worker of the Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team examines one of the 10 villagers trapped and wounded in Monday's crossfire between soldiers and members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters at the border of Maguindanao's Datu Piang and Shariff Saidona towns. JOHN UNSON

Three of the 10 civilians wounded in Monday’s crossfire between soldiers and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have been evacuated to a hospital while the rest refused to leave their homes for fear of being tagged as bandits by the military.

Laisa Alamia, executive secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said workers of the ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART) managed to convince three of the injured civilians to seek medical attention at a hospital in Cotabato City.

HEART workers on Tuesday facilitated the return of Andiale Gumandal, 35; Mohamidin Umal, 17; and Kingaw Umal, 40 to their village at the border of Maguindanao’s Datu Piang and Shariff Saidona towns, scene of Monday’s deadly BIFF-Army encounters.

The HEART said that the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has an office in Cotabato City, paid for the hospital bills of the three villagers.

The office of the ARMM Regional Health Secretary Kadil Sinolinding Jr. provided the injured civilians with free pain relievers and antibiotics for their wounds, according to the HEART.

Tension remained high in the surroundings of the adjoining villages of Barangay Damablas in Datu Piang town and Barangay Ganta in Shariff Saidona, since Monday’s clash.

The firefights erupted when BIFF bandits surrounded Army positions in the area.

Local government units in Maguindanao are bracing for possible diversionary attacks by the other members of the BIFF while the attackers of the Army detachments are being pursued by the military.

Meanwhile, a group of BIFF bandits had planted a powerful roadside bomb along a farm-to-market road in nearby Barangay Katiku in President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat province.

The explosive, fashioned from a live 81 millimeter mortar projectile rigged with a battery-operated blasting mechanism attached to a mobile phone, was promptly deactivated by Army bomb experts after learning of its presence in the area from farmers.

Rebel caught selling Shabu in Maguindanao

From the Manila Times (Jul 23): Rebel caught selling Shabu in Maguindanao

A MEMBER of Moro Islamic Liberation Front- Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF-BIAF) was arrested by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) operatives during a buy-bust operation in Maguindanao on July 19.

PDEA Director General Undersecretary Arturo Cacdac Jr. identified the suspect as rebel Racky Sarilama y Romindi alias Urak Salem, 34, of Barangay Nituan Parang.

Sarilama’s cohort, truck driver Ramalan Salazar, 23, was also arrested during the operation conducted by PDEA Regional Office-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao under Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz.

Sarilama and Salazar also yielded 13 pieces of heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing shabu, an improvised caliber .22 pistol, a black shoulder bag and two MILF-BIAF identification cards.

NDFP defers release of kidnapped policemen

From the Manila Times (Jul 23): NDFP defers release of kidnapped policemen

The planned release of the four policemen captured by the New People’s Army rebels on June 10 in Surigao del Sur has been called off following the refusal of the crisis committee, which included the military, to suspend military offensives for 10 days, a ranking officer of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Mindanao said Tuesday night.

NDFP-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge Madlos said the crisis committee’s refusal to heed their call for a suspension of military operations has compromised the safety of the four cops who were declared as prisoners of war (POW) since they were captured following the daring attack of the police station of the town of Alegria, Surigao del Sur.

Major Gen. Ricardo Visaya, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, said they do not have intentions to stop all pursuit operations against the rebels who launched a successive offensives in Caraga Region. Last week, 14 rebels were killed when it conducted simultaneous attacks in the towns of Prosperidad and San Francisco towns in Agusan del Sur.

Madlos has earlier said the ceasefire from July 22 to July 31 was meant to ensure the safety of the POW and those who will be involved in their freedom. Instead the crisis committee, Madlos said, offered a one-day ceasefire or the option for the NPA to just leave the four cops in an area convenient for them.

“This is an irresponsible suggestion, inhuman, and disregards the welfare of the POW and their families,” said Madlos.

The failure to release the POW, Madlos said, is something that must be blamed on the crisis committee.

“The crisis committee is now answerable for the failure to release the four POW because it refused to recommend the declaration of a ceasefire,” said Madlos.

Still, Madlos said they continue to remain true to their earlier commitment for the revival of the peace talks and expressed willingness to release the POW, a decision also latched on humanitarian grounds.

US ready to pay for Tubbataha damage

From the Manila Times (Jul 23): US ready to pay for Tubbataha damage

The United States government is ready to deliver a “satisfying” amount of money that will pay for damages caused by an American minesweeper when it ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef in January last year, according to US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.

The envoy noted that the still undetermined amount “will satisfy both sides.”

“The US government has received the request,” he told students of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila in Intramuros during a forum on Tuesday afternoon.

Goldberg said the incident involving the USS Guardian was a “terrible mistake” and that the American people were “sorry” for it.

The minesweeper got stuck for 73 days on a section of the Tubbataha Reef on the eastern coast of Palawan province. The ship was taken away from the area only it was dismantled piece by piece.

Filipino environmentalists placed the damage at $1.5 million.

According to Tubbataha Reefs Park superintendent Angelique Songco, the minesweeper damaged 2,345.67 square meters of the reef.

The reef is home to hundreds of species of fish and corals, including 11 species of sharks, 13 species of dolphins and whales and 100 species of birds. It serves as nesting place for hawksbill and green sea turtles.

The US Navy sacked four officers including the ship’s commander after the incident.

The United Nations has designated the reef as World Heritage Site after it was ascertained that more than 70 percent of the world’s coral species grow there.

MILF: GPH appoints new CCCH Chairman

Posted to the MILF Website (Jul 23): GPH appoints new CCCH Chairman

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) appointed a new Chairman for the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) that works ceasefire accord with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
BGen Carlito Galvez Jr of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) assumed the GPH CCCH Chairmanship following a formal Turn Over Ceremony held at the 6th Infantry Division, Philippine Army Headquarters at Camp Siongco in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Gen Galvez replaced BGen Edmundo Pangilinan AFP who is now the Commanding General of the 6th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

Currently, Galvez is also the Commander of the 104th Brigade of the Philippine Army that is based in the province of Basilan. Buts his replacement in the brigade command will be appointed soon.

Gen Pangilinan served close to five months before taking the stewardship of the 6th Infantry Kampilan Division.

The MILF CCCH headed by its Chairman Abbas Salung who is also from the province of Basilan, and the Malaysia – led International Monitoring Team (IMT) graced the turnover program which culminated with the breaking of the Fasting tendered by the GPH CCCH and the 6th ID, Philippine Army.

Representatives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – Cotabato City Office, Nonviolent Peaceforce, United Nation High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) – Cotabato City Office, and mass media were also in attendance.

Both Gen Pangilinan and Gen Galvez reiterated the commitment of the government on the primacy of the ceasefire accord and the success of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which the GPH and MILF Peace Negotiating Panels signed last March 27, 2014 at Malacanang Palace.

The GPH CCCH Chairmanship lineage is as follows, MGen Jose Torrelavega AFP (1999 – 2000), MGen Romeo Calizo AFP (2000 – 2003), LTGen Rodolfo Garcia AFP (2003 – 2004), BGen Alexander Yano AFP (2004 – 2005), BGen Ramon Santos AFP (2005 – 2007), BGen Edgardo Gurrea AFP (2007 – 2008), MGen Reynaldo Sealana AFP (2008 – 2011), MGen Rey Ardo AFP (Jan – May 2011), BGen Ariel Bernardo (2011 – 2012), BGen Gilberto Jose Roa AFP (April 2012 – March 2013), BGen Cesar Dionisio Sedillo Jr AFP (April 2013 – April 2014), and BGen Edmundo Pangilinan AFP (April 2014 – July 2014), and BGen Carlito Galvez Jr AFP (incumbent).

MILF: MILF, MNLF join hands for peace initiatives in Cotabato

From the MILF Website (Jul 23): MILF, MNLF join hands for peace initiatives in Cotabato

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have braced up joint efforts for peace and solidarity that kick-off yesterday in Matalam, Cotabato Province.
Datu Dima Ambel, State Chairman of the MNLF 15 –Man Counc
il and Datu Demat Pedtamanan of the 108th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) - MILF led the launch of the peace and solidarity efforts held at Baranagy Manubuan.

A Joint Peace and Monitoring Task Force composed of 8-man equally representing the MNLF and MILF was also emplaced at Manubuan that was witnessed by and with commitment of support from the Provincial Government of Cotabato, GPH – MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, Philippine Army and Police, and the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Team (IMT).

Datu Dima and Datu Demat, who are close relatives, stressed that the launch marked the start of the implementation of the Resolution of the leaderships of the MILF and MNLF 15-Man Council forged during the Consultative Dialogue held at the 8th Avenue Convention Hall in Kabacan, Cotabato last week.

The Resolution sets the collaborative efforts with the MNLF and MILF at the helm in promoting unity, brotherhood and cooperation amongst the members of the two fronts, and peaceful amicable settlements of land-related disputes.

The two leaders of the MNLF and MILF said their efforts are direct offshoots of the agreements reached during the leadership dialogue in the Meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last month. 

“As brothers, we can work together with greater resolve to realize our common aspiration for lasting peace and development for the Bangsamoro,” the two leaders of the MNLF and MILF emphasized.

The MILF and MILF leaderships conveyed their gratitude to Habib Guiabar, Head of the Local Monitoring Team for the Province of Cotabato, and Kelly Antao, Board Member of the Province of Cotabato, for their continuing mediation and assistance for the MILF – MNLF joint peace undertakings in the province, particularly in the towns of Kabacan and Matalam.

DAF-ARMM trains former MNLF combatants on PAMANA livelihood

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 23): DAF-ARMM trains former MNLF combatants on PAMANA livelihood

The Program Management Office (PMO) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) sponsored a three-day orientation workshop on the implementation of livelihood program funded through the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA), officials said Wednesday.

The undertaking was participated in by some 30 farmer-members of the National Moro Liberation Front coming from the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao held in Cotabato City.

Engr. Dong K. Anayatin, PMO program manager, said PAMANA is a program of the Aquino Administration embodied in the Philippine Development Plan of 2011-2016 which aims to achieve just and lasting peace through reduction of poverty incidence, improved governance and empowerment of communities and strengthen their capacities to address issues of conflict and peace through activities that promote cohesion.

The program has three pillars, namely; building the foundation of peace; establishing resilient communities and addressing regional development, Anayatin added.

The implementation of PAMANA program was initially undertaken by the national line agencies and has been lodged to the Office of the Regional Governor last year (January, 2013) with a total budget allocation of P 1.5 billion (P1,494,694,000).

Almost one-half of the PAMANA funds was allotted to DSWD, (47.67 percent) or about P712,583,000 and more than one-fourth (27.29 percent) or P407,000,000 for both the DILG and DPWH.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) was allotted (17.54 percent) or P262,180,000; BFAR with 4.25 percent or P63,511,000 and DENR, the least at 3.31 percent or P49,429,000 only.

Anayatin said the PAMANA funds for ARMM this year has increased by 56.18 percent from P1.50 billion to P2.66 billion while the implementing agencies have been trimmed down to only three namely: the DSWD, DPWH and the Office of the Regional Governor.

Of the total funds for this year, more three-fourth (77.45 percent) or about P2,052,400,000 is allotted to the DPWH; 4.78 percent or P127,380,000 for DSWD and 18.06 percent or P480,330,000 for the ORG.

The appropriation of agency funds is based on the projects pre-identified by the Office of the President for Peace Process (OPAPP).

Resource speakers Taunting Abutazil, Tong Abas, Albaya Sagad, Norodin Musanip and Hadja Jalica Mangacop of the (DAF-ARMM) lectured on the following applicable production technologies: corn, rice, vegetable, livestock and perennial crops, respectively. The participants on the other hand, also presented their output on the following workshop: business planning and management; management policies and delivery plan. These were lectured by the PMO.

A Certificate of Participation was given to each participant during the closing ceremonies and various information, education and communication (IEC) material for production technologies as compliment of the RAFID-ARMM.

3 of 4 US-funded Samar road segments on track - MCA-P

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 23): 3 of 4 US-funded Samar road segments on track - MCA-P

Three of the four segments of a road project funded by the United States (US) in Samar Island are on track, raising confidence that the road network will be fully upgraded by 2016, the Millennium Challenge Account - Philippines (MCA-P) reported.

Contract package (CP) 1, covering a 16.3-kilometer road in Paranas, Samar as well as the replacement of Tabucan bridge is now 98.24 percent complete, MCA-P said in its June 22, 2014 status report.

The Php802-million infrastructure project was awarded on September 2012 to a Filipino consortium DM Consunji Inc. and CM Pancho Construction Inc.

CP 2, the largest in terms of value as it involves the reconstruction of a 63.68-kilometer road stretch from Hinabangan, Samar to Sulat, Eastern Samar is the only segment that is behind schedule. The target accomplishment as of mid-June is 16.34 percent, but actual completion rate is only 5.32 percent.

The Php2.5 billion road segment, awarded to Chinese firm Qingjian Group Co. Ltd. also includes rehabilitation of 20 bridges and reconstruction of five others.

Other activities include construction of slope stability measures on landslide areas, construction of new drainage structures, and installation of road safety measures.

CP 3 is now 40 percent complete with a negative slippage of only 2.5 percent. This Php2.45 billion segment covers 64.58 kilometers and the replacement of six bridges from the town boundary of San Julian and Sulat to Balangkayan and Llorente municipal boundary in Eastern Samar.

The road rehabilitation package that uses cold in-situ asphalt recycling technology, was awarded to a joint venture between a Filipino company, Mac Builders, and a Chinese firm, Qingjian Group Co. Ltd.

Ahead of schedule is CP 4, which covers rehabilitation of 77.5 kilometers of road in the towns of Llorente, Hernani, General McArthur, Quinapondan, Salcedo, Mercedes, and Guiuan.

The Php2.2 billion project, awarded to consortium of Hanjin and Yakal Construction is now 13.15 percent complete, ahead of 10.37 percent target for the period according to MCA-P report.

The US-funded USD214.4-million Secondary National Roads Development Project (SNRDP) in Samar Island started October 2012 and will be completed April 2016.

MCA-P is a Philippine entity responsible for managing the implementation of the USD 434-million US government’s grant. The Compact is focused on reducing poverty through economic growth by funding projects in tax administration reform, community-driven development and roads rehabilitation.

Contentious issues in draft Bangsamoro Basic Law reconcilable -- GPH panel member

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 23): Contentious issues in draft Bangsamoro Basic Law reconcilable -- GPH panel member

Government negotiators are positive that the outstanding and contentious issues in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) can be harmonized soon, noting that the indomitable commitment of the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to arrive at a mutually acceptable bill is the key to overcome the difficulties currently being faced by the Parties.

In a peace forum organized by the Ateneo de Zamboanga University on Tuesday here, government peace panel member Senen C. Bacani told participants that having a healthy communication line between the parties has helped them achieve consensus and breakthroughs despite the challenges relating to the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“Let me clarify, there’s no stalemate in the drafting of the BBL,” he said, adding that both sides are intent on finding mutually acceptable formulations.

“Once the president is comfortable with the draft bill, he will submit it to Congress,” Bacani said. He also explained to the audience the legislative process a bill typically undergoes prior to enactment into law.

Bacani said he is confident that the current differences in the draft bill are “reconcilable.”

He said some of the issues with the BBL that the panels are trying to solve involves finding the right legal language that will embody the principles of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that was signed by the Parties in Malacanan Palace on March 27.

Both panels, he said, are very careful as they went over from paragraph to paragraph.

Bacani said the tedious pace should not be seen as delaying the process, but rather, a characteristic of a process where parties would need to achieve common understanding and appreciation of their respective concerns so that the end product would be jointly upheld.

“I think a few days and a few weeks here and there should not matter too much as long as the end-goal is achieved,” Bacani said, justifying the time that the panels need in completing the review.

The BBL serves as the legal document of the CAB which is a result of more than 17 years of negotiations as the parties vowed to end the decades-old conflict in the south.

When passed into law and ratified in a plebiscite in the core territory, the BBL will establish the Bangsamoro government in Mindanao as envisioned in the southern peace deal.

For the past days, the peace panels have been diligently working to harmonize key provisions of the BBL following a resolution issued earlier by the 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission to elevate those contentious issues to the peace panels’ level.

Early this month, the panels achieved substantial progress during their four-day special meeting in Kuala Lumpur. The meeting allowed the parties to identify several consensus points on the contents of the bill.

As agreed, the panels continued their discussions from July 18-21 in Manila.

During the forum, Bacani sought the understanding of the public since the panels are bound by protocols for them not to disclose the details of the BBL to avoid confusion and prevent the derailment of the process.

He, however, assured the forum’s participants that once they have the final version of the BBL and when the President submits the bill to Congress, the document will be opened for public scrutiny.

Bacani said he is hopeful that Congress will see the genuine intentions of the peace pact and will retain the text and spirit of the CAB in the BBL.

“Hopefully, in the end, the expected outcome in terms of correcting historical injustices and uplifting the lives of our people will be achieved. There are two-million people out there living in poverty [in the Muslim-dominated areas in Mindanao]. I think we have a personal and collective responsibility to help them. The challenges, I think, can be daunting, but we should never get daunted,” he said.

Catapang says US to provide 2 C-130s to PHL

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 23): Catapang says US to provide 2 C-130s to PHL

Newly-appointed Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang announced that the American government will provide an additional two Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" to the country.

He made this disclosure during Tuesday's visit to the 1st Air Division headquarters in Clark Field, Pampanga.

Catapang said that this was revealed to him by his US counterparts.

"I just talked to our US counterparts (and) they told us they are making available another two C-130s to address our humanitarian assistance distance relief (HADR) concerns," he added.

The Americans made this offer after learning of President Benigno Aquino III's efforts to procure additional cargo carrying aircraft for the military.

The newly-appointed AFP chief did not give additional details as the process is still undergoing.

The Philippine Air Force, at the moment, has three flyable C-130s at its inventory.

Sources said that the country needs a minimum of 10 C-130s to allow it to address its HADR and cargo missions efficiently.

ISAFP head now commander of 10th Infantry Division

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 23): ISAFP head now commander of 10th Infantry Division

Philippine Army (PA) commander Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri on Wednesday announced that Major Gen. Eduardo Ano, the incumbent head of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), was appointed to command the Compostela Valley-based 10th Infantry Division.

Ano, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983, will be replacing Major Gen. Ariel Bernardo who will be retiring on July 25 at the mandatory retirement age of 56.

"I expect him (Ano) to do well, he knows very well the security situation on the ground, I expect him to focus on his area of operations (AOR) (and) I expect him to hit the ground running," Iriberri said in Filipino.

Ano's newly AOR includes Compostela Valley and Davao Provinces, known bailiwicks of the New People's Army (NPA).

"He has a good record while commanding the 201st Infantry Brigade (which is based in Quezon), I'm sure he will be bringing with him his style of leadership and his experience in ISAFP, it will come in handy, I expect him to perform outstandingly," the PA chief stressed.

Ano took over the helm of the ISAFP only last year.

DAP funded peace, dev’t projects in Cordilleras -- OPAPP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 23): DAP funded peace, dev’t projects in Cordilleras -- OPAPP

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on Wednesday said that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds received by the agency supported peace and development initiatives in the Cordillera region -- not rights abuses, contrary to media spins and allegations of certain groups.

“While it is true that OPAPP received DAP funds for peace and development initiatives in conflict-vulnerable and affected areas, it is malicious to say that it was used to fund lawlessness in the Cordilleras in the form of human rights abuses,” said OPAPP Undersecretary Maria Cleofe Gettie Sandoval in a statement.

OPAPP reports that nearly Php208 million were disbursed, out of the total Php1.819 billion DAP funds allotted to the agency, to support the implementation of the provisions of the Memorandum of Agreement signed between the government and the Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA)-Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) in 2011, namely: the groups’ transformation into a unarmed, socio-economic organization; final disposition of arms and forces; economic reintegration of profiled CPLA members; community development; and inter-municipal and inter-barangay development projects.

Cordillera for peace and development

Since the CPLA entered into a peace pact with the government, it has then transformed itself into a legal, socio-economic entity—the Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development -- contributing to peace and local development.

As part of the socio-economic reintegration component of the Closure Agreement, the fund covered for livelihood projects, employment as forest guards or as integree into AFP, farm-to-market roads, water systems, communal irrigation systems, and community infrastructures among others through the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program.

As to whether CBA-CPLA directly received funds for the said projects, Sandoval clarified that “no part of the fund, in any amount, was directly given to any group.”

“OPAPP is not an implementing agency. The funds were transferred to line agencies and local government units, who signed memoranda of agreements with OPAPP, to implement the projects,” she noted.

Good and steady partners

Members of the CBA-CPLA share that the projects have contributed to fulfilling their ancestors’ dreams for better roads, improved irrigation, shorter routes to farmlands, steadier footbridges over rivers, and access to basic services, such as health and education among others.

The group has also actively participated in the process and contributed well in bringing the peace agreement and its commitments to a proper close.

“In the past three years of implementation, members of the CBA and the former CPLA have been good and steady partners in peacebuilding in the region,” Sandoval assured.

The OPAPP undersecretary likewise clarified that there is no Danilo Lalin in OPAPP's database of AFP integrees under the 2011 GPH-CBA-CPLA MOA, contrary to the claim of Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay.

AFP chief tells all military personnel to remain apolitical on DAP issue

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 23): AFP chief tells all military personnel to remain apolitical on DAP issue

Newly-appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang urged all officers and enlisted personnel to continue to remain apolitical as the nation is trying to resolve legal questions concerning the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

"Recently the nation has been preoccupied with this issue on DAP. Our President, our Commander-in-Chief, is clear that the DAP was a mechanism created by government precisely to accelerate services to the people," he said in Filipino.

Portions of the DAP has been earlier declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The government last July 18 has filed an appeal at the SC to reconsider its ruling.

"The government felt that it is unconscionable to close its eyes to the problems that can aggravate especially when there is no money made available," Catapang pointed out.

With these developments, the AFP urged all the personnel under his command not to be distracted by the on-going political dynamics in the country.

"The DAP has become a political issue. We should be reminded that as members of the AFP we should remain professional and non-partisan, we should allow the democratic process to take its course and let the judicial, the executive, the legislative branches of government deal with this," Catapang said.

President Aquino commemorates Apolinario Mabini's 150th birth anniversary in Batangas

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 23): President Aquino commemorates Apolinario Mabini's 150th birth anniversary in Batangas

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday led the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Apolinario Mabini, whose contributions strengthened the foundation of Philippine democracy.

"Si Mabini ang kumakatawan sa talino ng Pilipino—talinong ibinuhos niya sa pagpanday ng mga prinsipyo at sistemang nagbigay-hugis sa isang malayang lipunan," the President said in his speech at the Apolinario Mabini Shrine in this city.

He cited three concepts by Mabini that the present administration tries to follow.

First, Mabini highlighted the importance of following a mandate as the foundation of governance, the President said, noting that the strength of the state emanates from the people.

Looking back, he said Mabini spearheaded the conduct of the first local election in the country in August 1898.

Mabini also led the formation of the country’s first legislature in Malolos, Bulacan in 1898, he said, noting that this body elected Emilio Aguinaldo as president in January 1899 to replace the revolutionary government that declared Philippine independence in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898.

Second, Mabini instilled the concept of public service in the Filipino people's consciousness, President Aquino said.

"Ang paniniwala niya: Kung sa taumbayan nagbubukal ang kapangyarihan, dapat lang itong gamitin sa ikabubuti nila," he said.

And third, according to Mabini, public institutions were formed to serve the interests of the people, and as such, the government must not hold back in providing services to the people, he said.

"Sa harap ng Malolos Congress, idiniin ni Mabini ang pangangailangan ng ehekutibong maging mabilis, maliksi, at buo ang loob, dahil trabaho nitong matugunan ang pangangailangan ng taumbayan sa lalong madaling panahon," President Aquino said.

Pointing out that Mabini had once called on the legislators to work with the executive branch of the government in fulfilling its mandate to the people, the Chief Executive said that Mabini's concept on governance is relevant to modern times, such as in the implementation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

While parts of the DAP were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the President said the program has benefited the people in many ways.

As Mabini said, whatever power a leader possesses, he must always bear in mind that the people's welfare is his paramount concern, President Aquino said.

With the President during Wednesday's event were Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma, Jr., Congressman Sonny Collantes, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang, and Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Alan Purisima.

PHL remains committed to enacting Bangsamoro law

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 23): PHL remains committed to enacting Bangsamoro law

The government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) remain committed to enacting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that adheres to the Constitution, a Palace official said on Wednesday.

Presidential Communication Operations Office (PCOO)Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. stressed this amid points of differences between members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) which is preparing the draft law.

Coloma said some members disagree about changes on the BBL proposed by the legal team of the Office of the President.

“Batid natin na sa kasalukuyang proseso, nirerepaso ng Tanggapan ng Pangulo ito sapagka’t kinakailangang maging naaayon ito doon sa Konstitusyon at sa mga umiiral na batas bago ito sertipikahan ng ating Pangulo,” he said in a television interview.

Coloma said the discussion and consultation process on the draft BBL between the negotiating panels continues.

“At hindi naman natitinag doon sa layunin na kinakailangang makapagpasa ng isang Bangsamoro Basic Law na magiging batayan ng isang plebisito at ito ang hahantong doon sa pagkakaroon ng eleksiyon para sa Bangsamoro Political Entity sa 2016,” he added.

Citing GPH panel chair Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Coloma earlier said the BBL must necessarily be constitutional.

14-day curfew imposed in waters off Sabah

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 23): 14-day curfew imposed in waters off Sabah

The Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that a dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed by local authorities at waters adjoining six Sabah east coast districts as part of efforts to strengthen security measures in these areas.

The six districts where the curfew is in place include waters off Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Semporna, Kunak and Tawau.

The curfew commenced on July 19 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and will last until Aug. 2.

Security forces could detain any person contravening the curfew during that stipulated period.

The curfew area covers the sea about three nautical miles outwards, totaling 362 nautical miles and involves an area of 121,270 nautical square miles.

“We would like to call the attention of our nationals who frequently ply this route to visit family members, for barter trading and other purposes to exercise utmost caution in going in these areas to avoid inconvenience. It would also be best if their trips would be done during daytime to ensure proper visibility, especially in cases of inclement seas,” Consul General Medardo Macaraig said.

Police officials also said that during the curfew times, anyone who needed to enter or pass through the area, other than the security forces, must first obtain a permit from the district police chief.

Anyone found violating the curfew area could be arrested under Section 3(2) of the Malaysian Police Act 1967 and charged under Section 94. Violators could be punished with a RM500 (around PhP 6,600) fine or six-month imprisonment.

Sixty-nine individuals, including 10 women, have so far been detained, as well as 11 boats reportedly impounded, for alleged violation of the curfew.

PH deports alleged Aussie jihadist supporter without charges

From Rappler (Jul 23): PH deports alleged Aussie jihadist supporter without charges

(UPDATED) Austalian police say ISIS supporter Musa Cerantonio will not be charged for his social media posts, but adds they will 'continue to monitor and assess' them

DEPORTED. Musa Cerantonio arrives in Manila after police arrest him in Cebu. File photo by Rappler
DEPORTED. Musa Cerantonio arrives in Manila after police arrest him in Cebu. File photo by Rappler

Suspected terrorist Robert Edward Cerantonio was sent back to his home country on Tuesday night, July 22, 11 days after he was captured by Philippine authorities.

In a statement, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Cerantonio took a 9:10 pm Philippine Airlines flight to Melbourne, Australia. Police said he would not be charged.

Escorted by 4 BI intelligence officers in his flight, Cerantonio arrived in Melbourne Wednesday morning, July 23. The city is also his place of birth.

"Cerantonio was met by Australian authorities upon his arrival this morning where he is set to undergo arrival formalities for deportees," said lawyer and BI spokesperson Elaine Tan.

The 29-year-old Australian national, also known as Musa Cerantonio, is a Christian convert to Islam. Using social media, he is said to have urged Muslims to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq.

A source earlier told Rappler that Cerantonio has been staying in the Philippines for nearly a year now. (READ: ISIS online cheerleader Musa Cerantonio spotted in PH)

The report was validated by his arrest in Lapu-Lapu City on July 11, a day after his deportation order was issued by the BI. (READ: Australian ISIS supporter nabbed in Cebu)

He was arrested for being an undocumented foreign national in the Philippines. He was later transferred to a Philippine Bureau of Immigration facility in the National Capital Region. Cerantonio's passport was cancelled by Australia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Mr Cerantonio's known social media postings are considered offensive and disturbing, however, have been assessed as not breaching Australian law to this point," Australian Federal Police (AFP) said in a statement.

Cerantonio is a Christian convert to Islam who’s using social media effectively to encourage terrorism and urge Muslims to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq.

Philippine and Australian sources earlier told Rappler that the Melbourne-born Cerantonio has been in the Philippines for nearly a year. He earlier tweeted he was leaving the Philippines to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Police monitoring

"The AFP will continue to monitor and assess this material for any breaches of Australian law into the future," the Australian Federal Police statement said.

Philippines officials have said Cerantonio was arrested at the request of the Australian government and was deported because Canberra cancelled his passport, making him an illegal alien.

Australian police said only that Cerantonio had been deported by the Philippine authorities "as a result of invalid travel documentation." He was served a warrant for deportation by Cebu regional police.

Philippine police said they had been monitoring Cerantonio's activities since February when he arrived in Cebu, the country's largest metropolis outside Manila.

The Philippines has a large Muslim minority in the southern region of Mindanao, a hotbed for a decades-old Muslim insurgency and where Islamic militants linked to Al-Qaeda also operate.

But Cebu's police commander, Chief Superintendent Prudencio Banas, has said there was no evidence linking the Australian to any terror act.

He lived with a Philippine woman and moved around Cebu until his arrest at a one-room apartment near the airport. The woman, Joean Navarro Montayre, from Candoni, Negros Occidental, was also arrested for estafa charges.

'Just a fraud'

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop however tagged Cerantonio as a fake jihadist, despite reports describing him as an influential propagandist. (READ: Jihadist supporter Cerantonio 'a fraud', says Austalia FM)

"It seems that he is just a fraud, because he was saying that he was fighting in Syria and Iraq when all the time he was holed up in a flat in the Philippines," she said.

Australia has expressed deep concern that about 150 Australians, some of them dual nationals, were learning the "terrorist trade" fighting alongside Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria.

The government has confirmed that two Australians, including an 18-year-old, have been behind deadly suicide bombings in the Iraq and Syria conflicts, without providing further details.

Military's top spy assigned to crush NPA stronghold

From Rappler (Jul 23): Military's top spy assigned to crush NPA stronghold

The military expects a lot from Major General Eduardo Año, incoming commander of the 10th infantry division

NEW POST: Major General Eduardo Año takes over the 10th Infantry Division. Rappler file photo

NEW POST: Major General Eduardo Año takes over the 10th Infantry Division. Rappler file photo

The military's top spy is moving to Mindanao to head a command in charge of one of the remaining strongholds of the communist New People's Army (NPA).

Major General Eduardo Año, chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), will be installed as commander of the 10th Infantry Division based in Davao City, according to Army chief Lieutenant General Hernando Iriberri.

Año is replacing Major General Ariel Bernardo who is reaching the retirement age of 56. The turnover ceremony will be held on Friday, July 25.

The 10th ID area of operations include Davao region, Compostela Valley, and parts of North Cotabato which have seen encounters between the military and the communist rebels.

Iriberri has big expectations from Año, his classmate in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1983.

"I expect him to perform outstandingly.... He knows the security situation on the ground. I expect him to hit the ground running. He knows the security situation. With his sterling record in the 201st Brigade, I'm sure he wil be bringing with him his style of leadership and his experience in ISAFP," Iriberri said.

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), where the 10th ID belongs, is considered the remaining stronghold of the NPA. Military estimates put the NPA strength in the Eastmincom area at about 2,000 members.

There are about a thousand in the 10th ID area and another thousand in the area of 4th Infantry Division under Major General Ricardo Visaya, according to AFP spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala.

As ISAFP chief, Año was part of the group that oversaw operations in the March 2014 arrest of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chief Benito Tiamzon and wife Wilma.

The military has bragged that the arrest weakened the communist movement.

Año previously gained notoriety, however, when he was tagged in the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos. Edita Burgos, the mother of Jonas, tried but failed to persuade the Commission on Appointments to block his promotion in the military.

He was intelligence chief of the Army when Burgos disappeared.

FAST FACTS: The life and legacy of Apolinario Mabini

From Rappler (Jul 23): FAST FACTS: The life and legacy of Apolinario Mabini

Learn more about the man who helped shape the young Philippine Republic and inspired Filipinos to fight for independence

Images from Wikimedia Commons
Images from Wikimedia Commons

1. Mabini's mother wanted him to be a priest.

In his memoir, La Revolucion Filipina (The Philippine Revolution), Mabini wrote that his mother, Dionisia Maranan, aspired for him to be a priest.

But Mabini said that priesthood was not meant for him. He wrote, "I am, however, convinced that the true minister of God is not one who wears a cassock, but everyone who proclaims His glory by good works of service to the greatest possible number of His creatures."

In 1894, he earned his law degree at the University of Santo Tomas, and admitted to the bar the following year.

2. Syphilis did not cause Mabini’s paralysis.

Mabini was struck down by paralysis in early 1896. Perfoming an autopsy on Mabini's remains almost a century later in 1980, doctors from the National Orthopedic Hospital concluded that polio caused his paralysis.

According to historian Ambeth Ocampo, the syphilis rumor might have been started by Mabini's detractors in government, who called him "The Dark Chamber of the President" for having the ear of Aguinaldo as his adviser and thus being able to persuade him on certain issues.

3. Mabini was a member of the reformist La Liga Filipina before joining the revolution.

He joined the revived La Liga Filipina in 1893, and became the secretary of its Supreme Council. The group advocated reforms in society and sought the audience of the Spanish Cortes (legislature). It also helped finance the La Solidaridad in Spain.

Mabini also joined a lodge of the Philippine Masonry. Using the nickname Katabay, he became the Grand Orator of its Regional Grand Council.
MABINI. A statue of Apolinario Mabini can be seen in front of the National Library at Ermita, Manila. Photo by Michael Bueza/Rappler
MABINI. A statue of Apolinario Mabini can be seen in front of the National Library at Ermita, Manila. Photo by Michael Bueza/Rappler

In front of the National Library building in Ermita, Manila, are statues of two prominent Filipino intellectuals. On the right of the building's entranceway is the statue of a man who may not be connected with the National Library's history, but is nonetheless an important figure in Philippine history.

It is a fitting tribute to Apolinario Mabini, aptly called "The Brains of the Revolution" and "The Sublime Paralytic."

From his hammock and rattan chair, Mabini helped shape the Philippine Republic under president Emilio Aguinaldo. Unable to fight on the battlefield due to paralysis in both legs, Mabini instead used his brilliance through his written works to inspire Filipinos in pursuing the struggle for Philippine independence.

Born on July 23, 1864, in Tanauan, Batangas, Mabini is the second of 8 children of an illiterate peasant and a public market vendor. However, Mabini overcame poverty and became a lawyer.

In 1898, he became Aguinaldo's chief adviser during the Philippine Revolution. He was Prime Minister and Secretary of Foreign Affairs in Aguinaldo's Cabinet from January to May 1899.

He was arrested by the Americans on December 1899 during the Philippine-American War, and was exiled to the island of Guam in the Pacific in 1901. He returned to the Philippines in 1903, but died months later due to cholera. He was 38. (QUIZ: How well do you know Apolinario Mabini?)

In celebration of his 150th birth anniversary, here are more interesting facts on the life and legacy of Apolinario Mabini.

4. Mabini wrote significant presidential decrees, his own version of a Philippine constitution, and a code of ethics for Filipinos.

As President Aguinaldo's adviser, Mabini was entrusted with writing decrees for Aguinaldo's signature. Some of these decrees laid the groundwork of the new Philippine Republic.

The decree of June 18, 1898, for instance, reorganized the local governments in provinces already liberated from Spanish control. It also mandated the election of local leaders and representatives in Congress.

Another decree, issued on June 23, formalized the shift from a dictatorial to a revolutionary government, and provided for the creation of Congress, which was convened in Malolos, Bulacan in September. He also wrote that the republic should function properly so that it could obtain from all nations, including Spain, their expressed recognition of Philippine independence.

It should also be noted that in August 1898, Mabini presided over the ratification of Philippine independence by elected local leaders themselves. He believed that it better represents the will of the people, and has more bearing than just a declaration by Aguinaldo on June 12.

In addition, Mabini submitted a Constitutional Program of the Philippine Republic, but the Malolos Congress rejected it in favor of the draft created by Felipe Calderon.

El Verdadero Decalogo, or “The True Decalogue” was included in Mabini's constitutional program as its introduction. It was a code of ethics, a set of 10 values every Filipino should possess.

Finally, while in exile in Guam from 1901 to 1903, Mabini wrote his memoir, La Revolucion Filipina, where he pointed out the flaws of the Revolution and expressed his criticisms on Aguinaldo's leadership.

5. Mabini was buried in two other cemeteries before his remains were finally brought to his birthplace in Tanauan, Batangas.

After his death, he was buried at the Chinese Cemetery in Manila. But his remains were dug up and transferred to the Mausoleo de los Veteranos de la Revolucion (Mausoleum for the Veterans of the Revolution) at the North Cemetery years later.

In 1965, Mabini's remains were moved to a tomb at the Mabini Shrine in Tanauan, Batangas.

6. Mabini was once featured in the Philippine 1-peso note, and has been featured on the 10-peso bill and coins since 1968.

Mabini was first featured on a one-peso bill in 1918. He and Jose Rizal (on the 2-peso bill) were the only Filipino heroes featured on bank notes at the time.

Mabini (on the one-centavo coin), Rizal, and Andres Bonifacio were also the only Filipinos on the coins minted for the leper colony in Culion, Palawan, in 1927.

His visage remained on the 1-peso note after the establishment of the Central Bank of the Philippines in 1949. Mabini was featured in the 10-peso bill starting from the 1968 Pilipino Series.

Bonifacio joined him on the 10-peso note in 1998, and the pair has been featured on the 10-peso coin since 2000.

7. A bridge, a superhighway, a Philippine Navy ship, and a disputed reef in the West Philippine Sea bear Mabini's name.

Several places, institutions, and infrastructure have been named in honor of Mabini.

The Nagtahan Bridge was renamed the Mabini Bridge in 1967 by President Ferdinand Marcos through Proclamation No. 234. Mabini's residence used to be located at the foot of the Nagtahan Bridge on the north bank of the Pasig River but was moved to the south bank in 1960, inside the Presidential Security Group Compound in Malacañan Park.

In 2007, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act 9462, officially renaming the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) – running across Batangas from Sto Tomas to Batangas City – to the Apolinario Mabini Superhighway.

A Navy ship also carries Mabini's name. One of the most modern ships in the Philippine Navy fleet, the BRP Apolinario Mabini was acquired in 1997 after a 13-year service with the United Kingdom's Royal Navy.

Meanwhile, 4 towns in the country are named Mabini: one each in Batangas, Pangasinan, Bohol, and Compostela Valley.

In the contested Spratlys Islands at the West Philippine Sea, there is a reef called the Mabini Reef. Also known as the Johnson South Reef, it made news in June when the Department of Foreign Affairs filed a new protest against China for its reclamation activities on the reef.

In addition, at least 6 national roads, 19 streets in Metro Manila, 5 health facilities, 80 elementary and secondary schools, and 3 colleges nationwide have Mabini in their names.

The main campus of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) is also named after Mabini. Another Mabini Shrine is located there, featuring a replica of Mabini's residence in Nagtahan.

Sources: "History of the Filipino People" by Teodoro Agoncillo; "Mabini's Ghost" by Ambeth Ocampo, "Apolinario Mabini" by Leon Ma. Guerrero, National Historical Commission of the Philippines; Money Museum (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas); data from DPWH, DOH and DepEd;;; Wikipedia;;; various columns by Ambeth Ocampo and Randy David

Sayyaf frees last of 4 kidnapped Filipino social workers

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jul 23): Sayyaf frees last of 4 kidnapped Filipino social workers

Abu Sayyaf gunmen released the last of 4 social workers they kidnapped in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, officials said Wednesday.

Sulu police chief, Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita, said they recovered Robert Saputalo near the village of Kagay in Talipao town late Tuesday.

“His safe release was due to the pressure of law enforcement operations by security sector and the local government,” Orbita told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

He said Saputalo was brought to the provincial hospital for a routine medical check-up before being reunited with his family.

Abu Sayyaf militants also freed recently two other social workers, couple Nurhati and Mark Sicangco, in the village of Danag in Patikul town and were fetched by their relatives and brought to the house of the local vice mayor. It was unknown if ransoms were paid for their safe release.

The kidnappers had earlier freed another social worker Lerna Jurah. The four social workers were conducting a house-to-house survey on the government’s anti-poverty program for the Department of Social Welfare and Development when armed men seized them in the village of Upper Sinumaan in Talipao town.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding at least 10 kidnapped victims, including foreigners seized from the neighboring Tawi-Tawi province and Sabah in Malaysia.